Over time the community around the staging post grew, and despite changes to the garrison Marcus stayed on. He even managed to extend the range of his medical skills. He could not admit it to any of the Romanised military units, but he had picked up a few tips from the local, somewhat eccentric, wise woman and had a notebook full of plant drawings and descriptions of their efficacy.
Soon after yet another change of personnel at the fort Marcus entered the local alehouse. He preferred the tepid malt brew drunk by the sturdy natives to the fort’s cheap wine that had joggled all its way up the Great North Street from Portus Dubris, especially when the ale was fortified with a dram of the amber distillation that the locals knew as chwisgi.
“A pot of your finest brew, fair lass, and a chwisgi chaser if you would be so kind. The barmaid was new to him, slender with wild hair as had black as a raven’s chuff and haunting, sad eyes.
“Owt to eat with that, your ‘ighness? We got toast and dripping on the go.”
She was not local, drawing out her A’s and dropping her H’s.
“I can’t think of anything finer. Two thick slices please. You’re not from round here? I’m Marcus.”
She turned and shouted through to the back:
“Two mucky fats. Door stops, for this ‘ere gent.
“Nah, I come up with the army, part of some legion or other, from Londinium. Names Queenie.” She wiped a hand on the front of her skirts and held it out, “Pleased to meet you, I’m sure.” She glanced down at his army issue tunic worn over woollen tartan trousers, “You that Medicus I been ‘earing about? Yer not really a Briton?”
Yes he was Marcus the Medicus and no he was not a native Briton. Though he had been in the army so long he could barely remember his homeland.
“Long story. I’ll be over by the fire when that toast is done.”
As the seasons passed and the monotonous routines of Army life behind the walls of the castra followed one on another, as ever plodding, unchanging through a mundane eternity an intimate relationship developed between Marcus and his barmaid in the cosy native alehouse. He moved his surgery into the Snug and from the pub’s doorway he could see straight through the gateway of the fort where soldiers on Sick Call would line up at six o’clock each morning and march across the street for his attention and a nifty pint. The couple set up home, first in a spare room in the attic, eventually in the landlord’s apartments. One winter the proprietor had contracted a terminal case of the ague and Queenie inherited the business. Now officially married they had a child, a girl, Priscilla Alastríona, indistinguishable from the other village urchins, except that her Latin was somewhat more fluent. Life, for Marcus and Queenie was proceeding along a surprisingly satisfactory path.