The Sword of Jupiter - Cover

The Sword of Jupiter

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 15

Ky walked the courtyard the next morning by himself. He was confused that, during his walk, the one thought that kept returning to him was that he wished Lucilla was walking with him. They had not arranged to meet, and, as the Emperor’s daughter, she must have had things she needed to take care of. Since his disquiet over her absence was not because he expected her, the feeling was somewhat strange to him.

Considering the line of thinking, he assumed it must be because she had been helpful already as a partner he could bounce his thoughts off, much like Sara had been in his life before. Although the Emperor had agreed to his plan in principle, nothing had actually been put into place yet, leaving a lot for Ky to worry about.

Ky stopped his morning walk when he noticed Sellic, Strabo, and Carus, along with nine other men, walking towards him.

“Consul,” Sellic said, the other men falling in behind Sellic.

“I assume these are all of my new lictores?”

“Yes, Consul. We were informed by the legates that you asked for Carus and Strabo specifically. The rest were chosen by the legates personally.”

Ky noticed both Strabo and Carus puff up at the mention that they were specially selected. In Carus’s case, Ky knew this to be a fiction, meaning the man continued his role as a simple guard even in the little things like showing pride over place of selection. The reaction spoke wonders to the man’s ability to blend in and made Ky consider that, if Ramirus had not been truthful and Carus continued to work prominently for the spymaster, Ky might never know.

“Excellent. I thank you all for volunteering for my service. I will admit to you that I am not accustomed to having direct subordinates outside of a military hierarchy. Where do we go from here?”

“I assumed we would follow the same procedures Ursinus set up for protecting the lady Lucilla.”

“That’s probably fine, but what were they?”

“Keep in mind she has fewer guards - except for special occasions, such as her trip to the Oracle - than you are mandated by tradition. The rule was that two guards would be on duty at all times in eight-hour shifts. That will, of course, have to change in your situation. My brief from the legates made it clear we were to act as both personal guards and staff, should you find the need.”

“The Emperor said the same to me, and I’m almost certain I will find the need.”

“Then my suggestion is for us to also work in eight-hour shifts, in groups of four. We will split the most senior of us, myself, Carus, and Strabo, as the lead lictor on their shift. I ask that you keep at a very minimum, one man with you at all times. I would prefer two, if at all possible. This allows the remaining two to spell men for breaks, meals, and to be available for tasks as needed. I also ask that you allow us to maintain your daily schedule to ensure we are aware of anything that might require changes to our security arrangements.”

“That works fine for me. When will you begin your duties? I assume you will no longer camp with the legion, but I’m not sure what arrangements I need to make for you since you are now in my service.”

“You don’t need to make any arrangements, Consul. I have already spoken with the palace steward and secured quarters in the praetorian barracks for us. I would like for Strabo and the three men on his watch to start their duties immediately.”

“That’ll be fine. As it happens, I do need something immediately,” Ky said, turning to Strabo. “I need to visit the legions this morning. Could you arrange for horses and send a messenger to the legates to inform them?”

“Certainly, Consul.” the centurion said. “Durus, have the stable prepare horses, then ride ahead, inform the legates of the Consul’s arrival.”

The man slapped his fist to his chest in salute and marched off to carry out his task. Ky was somewhat uncomfortable with having men assigned directly to his service, but he could appreciate how much easier it would be to tell someone who already knew how Romans operated, to carry out specific tasks. So far, Ky had just traveled with the Emperor or soldiers and was not even sure where he would go to get a horse for the short ride to the legionary camps.

“If you’ll excuse the rest of us, Consul?”

“Yes, thank you, Sellic. I appreciate you agreeing to work with me and taking care of arranging all of this.”

Sellic answered with a salute of his own before the majority of his lictores walked off towards the Praetorian barracks. Ky headed back into the Imperial complex to retrieve some sketches he had drawn up the night before. Tracing over blueprints overlaid by the AI, Ky had put together a layout of the legion camps with the changes he wanted to be made. The sketch was not much, but considering the importance of what needed fixing, Ky wanted to make sure they got his instructions correct.

They soon arrived at the stables, which turned out to be a small outcropping of buildings on the south side of the imperial complex, close to the praetorian barracks. Durus must have hustled, as he had already given the stable master instructions and left to notify the legates.

The ride itself was short, only a mile and a half outside of the city gates. They arrived at the Seventh Legion to find not only Velius but also Aelius and the dispatched Durus waiting at the front of the camp.

“Legates,” Ky said, greeting each man. “I want to thank you for finding the men to serve as my guard. I hope I didn’t deprive you of too many valuable soldiers.”

“Their subordinates are excited about the opportunity to rise to their new challenges,” Velius said.

“Excellent. Let’s get down to business. When you gave me the tour the other day, I noticed several things that bothered me. Follow me please.”

Ky led the legates, his guards, and not an insignificant number of legionnaires, who took the opportunity to gawk at their leaders. Ky stopped just short of the stream that made up the far edge of the camp.

“This is my problem.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” Aelius said.

“This,” Ky said, pointing at the stream, “is your source of drinking water. I see the stream also used for bathing, washing clothing, and supplies.”

Ky pointed to several soldiers doing exactly what he described. He then turned forty-five degrees and pointed at a small, hastily constructed wooden structure just fifteen yards away.

“That is your latrine. This is my problem.”

Both legates looked at Ky, confused.

“You said the largest source of casualties and loss of manpower was from disease. This is one of the biggest causes of disease you have. Many of the things affecting your men, most notably the flux. The main cause of this and several other diseases is drinking water contaminated by human waste. Your latrines are close enough to the river that runoff from the waste pits is getting into the water. There only needs to be a tiny amount of waste to make a man sick. Even amounts so diluted in water that you can’t see them anymore could be enough. Then there’s the cleaning and bathing in the water the men are drinking. All of these factors together are a recipe for sickness.”

“I’ve always understood the men were being made sick by bad blood and air.”

“I know, and I plan on talking to your doctors as well, or at least as many as will listen to me. Compared to many of your neighbors, your knowledge of the body and diseases is remarkable. Much of that knowledge is also wrong.”

“What should we do to fix the problem?”

“For one, your latrines should be located on the opposite side of the camp from your source of water, be that a stream or a well. The water is still most likely contaminated even without your latrines making it worse. You need to make sure the water is cleaned before you let your men drink it. The easiest way to do that is by letting the water boil for several minutes. Boiling will kill most things in the water that can make you sick. There are other precautions to take, but I will take those up with your doctors. For now, keeping your latrines as far from your drinking water and boiling the water before drinking it, are the biggest changes you can make to keep your soldiers from getting sick as often.”

“We will, of course, make the changes you request.”

“Also, make sure your men dig a deep enough pit for the latrines. The goal is to keep human waste away from your men.”

“Then we should also keep an eye on men shitting as they please when they don’t want to go to the latrine,” Carus said.

Both legates gave the centurion a look but then gave a nod in agreement.

“That is also true.”

“Good. Next, I’d like to talk to your medics.”

The group moved away from the latrines and stream, towards the largest tent in the camp. Opening the flap, the smell that hit Ky’s nose was overwhelming, forcing the AI to lower his sensitivity to compensate. The smell was distinctive, that of festering wounds and rotting flesh.

The soldiers made faces, but otherwise did not have a comment about the smell. This was, clearly, a fact of life for wounded soldiers.

Ky stopped and talked to a man here or there as he went through the tent, offering words of encouragement. He finally stopped at a sleeping man who, even while unconscious, was sweating profusely. The man had a nasty gash just above the knee, the skin around the wound already turning black.

Several medics followed the procession, gathering close as Ky began to talk.

“This is the second problem. I will say you have some things right here. You sewed up the wounds then applied vinegar, turmeric, and honey. For now, those are good options for fighting infection, but you are missing some key steps. When you first treat someone with an open wound, there are steps you need to take. The first thing you need to do is wash the area using boiled water and a cloth that you’ve boiled for fifteen minutes. As with the water for drinking, it’s important that this water has been boiled for a goodly amount of time. Using rags from one man to another, or using uncleaned water, will cause the wound to be infected.

One of the medics opened his mouth to say something and stopped as Velius held up a finger to silence him.

“Let him speak,” Ky said, overruling the legate.

“I don’t understand. Why is boiling everything important? While there is clear evidence that water must be drunk from free-flowing sources instead of standing water, what does that have to do with cleaning the outside? How does boiling a rag affect the patient’s humors?”

“Those are all good questions, and in a few days, I will be calling together as many surgeons and doctors as I can find to give a lecture on the causes of disease. I will make sure any medics from the legions are included. For now, I will say you need to takes these steps because, while you have made some correct observation on the results, you are, in many cases, wrong about the causes. Disease is not caused by an imbalance of humors, by bad air, or by bad blood. Sickness is caused by tiny living things, so small you can’t see them. You can pass these from one patient to another, making the illness move. Soaps, boiling, and fire can remove many of these, keeping the patient from being infected.”

“In this man’s case, the blackening skin is actually dead or dying, including the muscle underneath, as the infection eats away at it. If the infection reaches his blood, it will travel to his organs, shutting them down and killing him.”

“You’re saying if we do these things, we can cure him?”

“I don’t know. By this point, the infection may be too far along for the remedies we have available to help. I have plans to introduce more sophisticated medicines that will be able to help even after infection has set in, but that will take time. For now, the best course is to prevent infection from setting in at all.”

“I’ve heard the men tell about the things you can do, and the priests say the gods have sent you with knowledge to raise our people back up. I find the steps you suggest strange and have difficulty seeing how it can help, but if you say they can, then I will believe you. I do look forward to hearing you expand upon the topics, although I warn you many of the doctors in the city will not be as accepting.”

“I understand I have an uphill battle. Now, as I was saying, you need to wash the area with a cleaned rag that you have boiled using clean water. To be clear, when I say clean water, I mean water you have recently boiled. Before you go to each patient, any medic needs to wash their hands using very hot water and soap. Not hot enough that you injure yourself, but as hot as you can stand. This shouldn’t be a pot everyone sticks their hands into. Instead, have an aide slowly pour the hot water over your hands as you scrub with soap and then rinse with the same hot water that was previously boiled. Any instruments you use, including needles, should also be boiled, and thread for binding wounds should be treated with vinegar if it isn’t strong enough to stand up to boiling. Keeping everything that touches a patient clean is key to keeping them from becoming infected.”

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