Magnus was an extraordinary boy. He was the son of the loyal servant of a Roman Senator. The Senator, Septimus was fond of the boy, so he let him study. For him, it was an investment to have an illustrated servant who could read, write, and even speak some other language.
Magnus's father was pleased with this situation. He knew his son would have a promising future. Magnus was very talented, he did not only learn to read and write, he learned Greek, Philosophy, Cosmography, and drawing as well. Septimus was very proud of the boy.
Magnus was often sent to deliver messages to other senators, and the military.
One morning, Septimus sent a very urgent letter to Tiberius. He was the Commander of the Pretorian Guard (Praefectus Preatorio). Upon entering Tiberius's house, Magnus was mesmerized by Aeliana's beauty. Aeliana was the eldest daughter of Tiberius. He gave the letter to a servant and left.
He couldn't get the image of Aeliana out of his mind. He sketched her beautiful face. During the following nights, he did several drawings of Aeliana. When he had some time, he went to her house to see if he could see her again. He found a perfect spot on a tree branch outside Tiberius's villa. He spent hours there memorizing every delicate detail of Aeliana's figure, the at night, he drew her in full detail.
Magnus knew he couldn't elude his studies and house chores. He also knew that a servant could never dream of a girl like Aeliana. He needed to become someone respected to gain her love and be accepted by her famous father, Tiberius.
He focused on his studies and asked for help from one of his teachers. Unfortunately for Magnus, he didn't have many options. As a servant, he couldn't join the army. And that was the only way he could change his status as a servant. By that time only the sons of noble families or mercenaries could join the army.
Magnus felt defeated but he wasn't willing to give up on his love for Aeliana. He had to find a way. He developed a plan to make his dream come true.
From time to time he went to Tiberius villa to see Aeliana. He disappeared for two or three hours every day. Nobody knew where he went.
Years went by but Magnus never forgot his dream. One day when he was watching Aeliana he learned that Claudius, a Praetor (Pretor, general) was interested in courting her. He could tell that she didn't like Claudius.
One day, Septimus held a party at his villa. Very important people were invited, including Tiberius. Magnus helped the other servants with the food and drinks. Septimus introduced Magnus and told everyone how intelligent he was. He claimed there was no problem he couldn't solve if he put his mind to it.
One of the guests, Claudius, the Pretor who was now courting Aeliana took the chance to have some fun. He told Magnus about a conflict a legion was having somewhere in Africa and asked him what would he propose to solve the conflict and victoriously claim that piece of land for the Empire. Tiberius wasn't paying attention in the beginning, but when he heard about the situation, he scolded Claudius and said the boy wasn't a trained soldier. It would be humiliating if the boy could provide the solution he wasn't able to.
Septimus intervened and thanked Tiberius. He was very protective of the boy. His only son died. He didn't have any children, he treated Magnus as if he was his family.
Magnus asked for permission to talk. Tiberius told him to speak freely. Magnus asked if he could join the legion if his answer granted them victory. Everyone laughed. Tiberius told him that having bright ideas was not enough, he needed to know how to fight.
Magnus wasn't about to give up easily. So he went on and asked what if he solved the problem and in less than a year he made himself known for his fighting skills. There was another round of laughter. Tiberius looked at him and solemnly promised that if he provided the solution and he proved himself as a fighter he would be accepted as a legionary and be taken under his wing.
Magnus smiled, he said he would be back in a moment. He went to look for some maps of the area in conflict. He came back and asked Claudius to fully detail the position of the legionaries and African warriors. Claudius made some marks on the map. Magnus asked some questions about the weapons they both had, the tactics they had used, how long had they been fighting, and the approximate number of legionaries and Africans still able to fight. He then excused himself. He told them he had an answer for them before the party ended.
Magnus went to his room and started working on the problem. He wrote several approaches to defeat the Africans, he also drew some maps detailing the positions the legionaries should take, and how to employ their weapons to be more efficient. He also wrote another plan and drew the maps for another attack if they decided to send more troops, but he thought that the number of legionaries was enough to defeat the enemy. He also made a full assessment of what Claudius had done wrong.
Magnus returned to the party. He took his notes and drawings with him. Claudius was surprised to see him so soon.
Magnus asked for permission to display that map. Septimus nodded. He displayed the map on the table. All the guests gathered around to listen to the boy. Magnus explained why the legionaries had not succeeded so far. He made his best effort to annoy Claudius.
Claudius laughed at the boy and said that he had to provide a solution not evaluate his performance. Furthermore, he said that he wasn't right. Magnus asked Claudius what he considered wrong about his evaluation. When Claudius provided the answer, Magnus took his notes and made some changes. Then he thanked Claudius for providing vital information he forgot to tell him before. He cleared his throat and proceeded. He corrected his assessment of what Claudius had done wrong. He showed some drawings explaining what he was saying. Tiberius was listening carefully and laughed. He reminded Claudius that he would be humiliated if the boy was right. Claudius replied that Magnus hadn't come up with a solution. Everyone looked at Magnus.
Magnus smiled and said he had two different solutions, one that could be implemented without any delay and that would guarantee victory within a week and another one that would take time to implement but they could defeat the enemy in less than two days.
Claudius was livid. Tiberius was curious. Septimus was proud. The boy had made everyone congratulate him for making Magnus study.
Tiberius asked Magnus to give him his notes and drawings of what he had just explained and took a look. He was impressed by Magnus's knowledge of war strategies and the understandable way he drew the battle scenario. Tiberius asked Magnus to explain the difference between the two solutions. Magnus explained that the first was designed to be carried out by the legionaries that were already in place and the latter implied taking reinforcements.
Magnus displayed the drawings describing the first option and carefully explained every move the legionaries had to make. Then he gave Tiberius the drawing and his notes. He displayed the drawing of the second option and explained it. He also handed his drawing and notes to Tiberius.
Tiberius congratulated Septimus for letting such an extraordinary boy study. He told Magnus that his solution was perfect and that he would give his men orders to execute them. Claudius was furious.
Magnus asked for something else. He asked Tiberius to send another Pretor or Centurion to carry on his orders. He felt that to win the bet he would lose the battle. Claudius felt offended by his comment. Magnus didn't pay attention to Claudius, and he reminded Tiberius that if he could prove to be a good fighter he would be able to join the army and be under his wing.
Magnus felt satisfied. He looked at Tiberius and declared that the only thing left was to prove he was a good fighter so he challenged Claudius to fight him at the Colosseum. They all were shocked. Septimus tried to apologize for the boy's behavior but Magnus told him he knew what he was doing. Claudius laughed at him. He stated that a boy couldn't defeat him. Magnus looked at him and asked him if that statement meant that he accepted the challenge or not. Claudius didn't answer. Magnus insisted.
Tiberius was curious, he asked Magnus why was he doing this. He asked why it was so important for him to join the army. Magnus looked at him and said he was doing it for love. He loved someone that could never be allowed to marry a servant and at the same time, he had to protect her from the man who was interested in courting her. Tiberius was unaware of Claudius's interest in his daughter. But Claudius knew Magnus was talking about him.
Claudius laughed at Magnus and told him he would never defeat him. He asked for a condition. If Magnus wanted to fight him, he had to defeat his best man first. He was not willing to waste his time with a pitiful boy. Magnus smiled and asked if he wanted him to defeat Rufus first. Claudius was at a loss for words. How could a servant know who was his best man?
Tiberius told Magnus that even if he found his solutions to be good, he was amazed by his knowledge of Rufus's expertise, he couldn't defeat him. He had never trained.
Magnus smiled and calmly explained that for the last ten years, he had visited the Colosseum daily, he had trained with the best gladiators, and he learned about every military strategy from the former centurions and legionaries that were there fighting to win back their freedom. He also learned how to assess his rival. He knew how to defeat Claudius because he studied his weak points. He also learned about Rufus's weak points. He had watched them train. He also knew Lucius a former pretor who knew Claudius and Rufus very well and he had told him how to defeat them. Lucius also told him that Claudius would refuse to fight or would ask Rufus to fight in his place because he is a coward.
Septimus looked at Magnus. He asked him if that was the secret place where he went every day. Magnus smiled and nodded. Septimus asked if the girl was worthy of his sacrifice and Magnus nodded. Septimus asked if the girl loved him too and Magnus said he hadn't told her about his feelings because he had to become worthy of her love first. Septimus asked who the girl was, Magnus looked at Claudius then he looked at Tiberius, and then he said he loved Aeliana, Tiberius's daughter. He said that he had loved her for years, that he knew of Claudius's intentions, and that he also knew that she didn't like Claudius.
Tiberius looked at both Claudius and Magnus. He remained in silence. Everyone looked at Tiberius. Claudius tried to say something but in the end, he could just utter that he was a better suitor than Magnus and that he didn't even deserve to be killed by him. Magnus laughed. He looked at Claudius and called him a coward. Tiberius smiled and asked Claudius if he was afraid of fighting the boy. Claudius didn't answer. Tiberius turned to Septimus and told him that if he considered Magnus his son he would consider him for his daughter. Septimus smiled and nodded. He patted Magnus's shoulder and declared before everyone present that Magnus was to be treated as his son.
Claudius couldn't believe Tiberius prefer a servant instead of him. In the heat of the moment, he accepted Magnus's challenge.
Magnus smiled and told him he shouldn't make decisions in the heat of the moment or he could end up dead. Magnus explained he carefully planned every move he had made before challenging him. He had watched him train with Rufus but he didn't know how Lucius and the other gladiators had trained him. Claudius laughed.
Tiberius said he would make the arrangements for them to fight at the Colosseum the following Sunday. He decided Magnus had to fight Claudius only. After all, Rufus wasn't interested in his daughter. Aeliana would be present watching them.
The next morning, Magnus told Lucius and the other gladiators about his fight with Claudius. He trained hard every day. Lucius helped him improve his techniques.
On Sunday, the Colosseum was full. Septimus took Magnus's father to watch him fight. Tiberius and his daughter Aeliana were there next to the Emperor.
Magnus and Claudius went into the arena. Claudius tried to ambush Magnus, but he knew all his dirty tricks. Lucius taught him everything he needed to know about Claudius's way of fighting and cheating. Magnus anticipated Claudius's every move and in no time defeated him without getting any serious injury. Magnus was declared victorious. Claudius stood up and tried to kill him. Again, Magnus anticipated his move and hurt him badly but not deadly.
The Emperor was not pleased with Claudius's undesirable behavior and demoted him.
Tiberius asked the Emperor to let Magnus join the army. After learning that Magnus provided the strategy to defeat the Africans, he couldn't deny Tiberius's petition. Magnus joined the Roman Legion and was under Tiberius' wing. He also married Aeliana.
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