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By Eric Flint, David Drake,

Merely 3 issues stand among the Malwa and the conquest of Earth: Byzantium, the empire of Rome within the East; a crystal that urges mankind to struggle; and Belisarius, common of the Byzantine Empire, and arguably the best commmander the Earth has ever identified.

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Good. ” Once Mark was gone, the three Thracians at the back of the tent relaxed and resumed their normal casual pose. In public, the members of Belisarius’ personal retinue of three hundred cataphracts maintained certain formalities. Most of them, after all, held lowly official ranks. Even Maurice, their commander, was only a hecatontarch—the same official rank as the Syrian youth who had just left the tent. In actual practice, the Thracian bucellarii served Belisarius as his personal staff. They had been carefully selected by him over a period of years, and the devotion of his retinue was fully reciprocated.

Gregory nodded, and exited the tent. Belisarius resumed his seat. For a moment, he listened to the sounds of a busy military camp filtering into the tent, much as a musician might listen to a familiar tune. He thought he detected a cheerful boisterousness in the half-heard vulgarities being exchanged by unseen soldiers, and hoped he was right. In the first days after his arrival, the sounds of the camp had been sodden with resentment. A different sound drew his attention. He glanced over at the desk in the corner of the tent where Procopius, his new secretary, was scribbling away industriously.

It’s one thing for an army to share in the spoils of a campaign, fairly apportioned in an organized manner, after the campaign’s over and the victory is certain. It’s another thing entirely for soldiers to get in the habit of plundering and stealing and generally taking anything they want whenever the mood strikes them. Let that happen, and pretty soon you don’t have an army anymore. ” He eyed Maurice. ” “Hung ’em yesterday, sir. All four. The girl’s surviving brother was able to identify them, once he got over his terror at being here.

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