Welcome to Novel PASTimes! If I may, I’d like to ask some questions to get to know you.
Very well. As long as you are not a spy of Maxentius.
First, please tell us something about where you are from.
I am the son of a warrior, King Chrocus of the Alemanni. Our homeland is far away along the Rhenus frontier with the Romans, in the region they call Germania. My mother is an innkeeper in Britannia – beloved to my father, though not his queen. For some years, I sojourned in that rainy land at Eboracum, near Hadrian’s Wall. But then I entered the legions, and my parents were lost to me.
Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
My name has two parts—one Germanic, the other Latin. My father named me Brandulf, predicting that I should have the skill of a swordsman and the character of a wolf. Many friends have agreed with that—and some enemies, too, as the light dimmed from their eyes.
When Constantine sent me to the army school to train as a speculator for the legions, the other cadets learned that my father was a king in Germania. So they called me Rex, which means ‘king’ in Latin, more to make fun of me than to affirm me. But perhaps some day they shall bow before me and recognize my lordship in truth!
Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?
I am a soldier of Rome, yet no ordinary legionary. The speculators are the scouts who operate behind enemy lines. We are elite forces who know the ancient art of pankration, the Greek method of fighting and wrestling that no man can withstand. We are expert with the lance and the sword and bow. The most skillful burglars are spared from crucifixion so they can teach us to infiltrate buildings unseen. We are masters of disguise and experts in the assumption of secret personalities. No army in human history has had elite operatives like us. That is why Rome rules the world. And Constantine is its rightful lord.
Who are the special people in your life?
There are none. I let no one draw near.
Surely there must be someone.
Well, I will admit that Lady Junia Flavia has become a friend. A kind of confidante, I suppose you could say. Perhaps like a sister. Yes, like a sister, and nothing more.
Not a romantic relationship?
Surely not! Although, I will say—
Go on . . .
She is beautiful. That, I cannot deny. She attracts me. No man thinks that way about his sister.
Tell me about her.
Flavia is the daughter of a senator, descended from an ancient and noble family of Rome. Her wealth and status are the opposite of my own humble background. Yet between us, that does not matter. Our friendship transcends such things. The same is true of our religions. I am a follower of Hercules, a mighty hero and conqueror. Hercules is the Roman form of our god, Thor. But Flavia follows the Christian god. He is called Jesus, and his way is peaceful. Clearly, such a god could not be for a man like me. Yet he fits well in Flavia’s world. The Christians are good people, wrongly hated by the Romans.
But you would never convert to Christianity?
I think not. It would require bowing my knee to Jesus the Christ. You know what the Christians say? “Jesus is Lord.” Well, I will tell you this: Brandulf Rex has no lord but himself! Christianity is a religion for a different kind of person than me. And yet . . .
There is something that I like about their Jesus. I cannot define it. He intrigues me. I shall say no more.
What is your heart’s deepest desire?
I would never reveal that to someone unknown, lest it be used against me.
Just give me a general idea.
Fine. To serve Constantine as a faithful soldier. To rise in the ranks, gain victory in battle, and retire with military honors. Then I shall live somewhere along the Rhenus, perhaps along its upper reaches near the Alps. I shall marry and have children, and be happy.
What kind of woman would you marry?
Someone like Flavia, I suppose. Someone with her sweetness, her wise insights, her bravery in the face of adversity. Beautiful, as well. Captivating, one could even say. But not Flavia herself, of course. That would be strange. She is noble, and I am merely a common warrior. It could never happen. She would not want such a thing.
What are you most afraid of?
I do not understand your question.
Alright, let’s move on. Do you have a cherished possession?
Look at this pendant around my neck. It was given to me by Constantine when I embarked upon his mission. Do you see the sign of the cross? It is a Christian symbol. Because I wear this amulet, I believe the god Jesus protects me, along with Hercules, too. They are the same god, I suspect. Perhaps also Apollo. And Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun.
The Christians would never agree with what you just said.
Definitely not! Flavia would rebuke me for such a statement. I surely do not understand those Christians. Everyone knows there are many gods! How can there be just one? Only the Jews believe such a thing. I am very curious about this new faith. I think it will benefit many people, except those of us in the army, who need a the patronage of a victory god.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?
As the years go on, the name Brandulf Rex will be one of renown in the empire. My sword is strong, and the arm that wields it is even stronger. Yet I am no tyrant! My sword is not to be used for domination. I will be known as one who fights injustice, who protects the downtrodden and the weak. These things I believe about myself—and I know them to be true even more so now than in years past.
Because Flavia has affirmed them in me. She says that she sees these traits too. She wishes that my abilities could be brought into the service of her catholic church.
But that will never happen?
No one knows the future except the gods.
Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!
Farewell. And as you go, let me advise you: you can read more about me and my story in The Conqueror, releasing October 2020 from Revell.
Bryan Litfin is the author of the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently an acquisitions editor for Moody Publishers. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at www.bryanlitfin.com.