Oclatinius went over and sat beside him, resting the back of his head against the cart wheel.
“Feeling better?” he said.
Bricius turned to him. The pustules on his face had formed sheets, in some places oozing , in others scabbed over. Oclatinius winced.
“Does it hurt?”
“Only when I laugh,” said Bricius.
“Well that never happens.”
“And when I talk. And breathe.”
Oclatinius fell silent for a moment.
“Is there anything I can do?”
Bricius reached around his neck and untied a leather string, then fished out a pendant that had been against his chest beneath his clothing. It was a bronze penis, anatomically correct with helmet and balls, except for the two aquiline wings spreading out from the shaft.
“Please give this to my mother. She lives in Colonia Nemausus.”
He handed it to Oclatinius, who took it solemnly.
“This is a Roman good luck charm.”
Bricius nodded. “My mother was half Roman. That was her father’s. She gave it to me as a child and I have worn it ever since.”
“You should keep it. You will see her again yourself.”
“Look at me, Oclatinius. Between the pox and the Parthians, what are my chances? I wouldn’t feel so bad if I could go out fighting, with a sword in my hand, rather than rotting away here.”
Oclatinius looked at him with sadness. “You want to die in battle?”
“I’m a Gaul, Oclatinius. Vercingetorix, Gergovia, all that. It’s still in my blood.”
Oclatinius touched his friend gently on his shoulder. The sky was turning red in the east. He got up stiffly. “My watch starts again soon. I’ll come back when I can.”