Sandals of a Soldier
This distinctive pair of ancient footwear is a battered pair of antique caligae (military sandals), their aged leather embossed with the golden motif of a soaring eagle. Ragged stubs of what must once have been decorative feathers dangle from the each of the sandals’ knotted leather straps. Although the caligae are obviously of great antiquity, their leather is still as supple and sturdy as when they were made, and the worn iron hobnails on their soles are free of rust and dirt.
Fall of the Eagles
In their heyday, the Eagle Legion was feared by all the Empire’s enemies. No other force traveled half as quickly or fought as hard. While they had little mercy on their foes, they had less on themselves: Relentless training transformed them into unstoppable fighting machines, men of iron resolve. The Eagle Legion was generally the first force to face the enemy and invariably the last to leave the field.
This flawless record lasted for centuries, as the military juggernaut that was the Eagle Legion won victory after victory. Once they took the field, it seemed that no foe could stop them.
In the end, the treachery of the Emperor’s seneschal, Virlaeus Ruas, brought their doom. The legion had gathered in the fortress of Bellae Concordae to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday (an important celebration for the politically-ambitious legionary commanders), when they were set upon unexpectedly by the troops of the would-be usurper in the opening attack of the Palis War.
Virlaeus Ruas was amazed that the Eagle Legionnaires refused to surrender, even though they were clearly trapped. The Eagles turned on their attackers with savagery more like tigers than eagles. The seneschal’s troops, expecting a nearly bloodless coup d’etat, instead found themselves fighting for their lives against desperate soldiers armed with improvised clubs, knives, and trophy weapons from ancient victories. Instead of surrendering, the Eagle Legion fought to the last man, wreaking so much carnage in their struggle to fight free of the trap that they decimated the traitor’s best troops.
When the victorious rebels stripped the bodies of their fallen foes, the eagle-embossed sandals of the soldiers were a popular memento of their grim battle. Scores of the caligae were taken, trophies of the once-great legion’s fall.
The Spirits of the Legion
Most of the Eagle Legion’s equipment was lost or destroyed long ago, but through some fluke of Fate, several pairs of their sandals remain. This footwear is supernaturally well-preserved, and is easily adjusted to fit a variety of feet. Some might wonder why these items remain, when so much else from that distant period has been lost?
The answer is rather bizarre: These sandals are haunted. Few other items were as carefully tended and maintained as the hard-marching soldiers’ sandals, so several of their restless spirits retained a hazy awareness of what happened to their footwear after they died. Troops that thought nothing of marching 40 miles in a single day, they keep track of what happens to their sandals.
If the current wearer is someone that the spirit takes a liking to, this is a good thing: The owner will discover that the sandals never seem to wear out, always give supernaturally good traction, and allow the wearer to walk for mile after mile without blisters, discomfort, or fatigue.
On the other hand, if the ghostly legionnaire decides the wearer is unworthy of his footwear, he is likely to play an increasingly deadly series of practical jokes upon the hapless victim. Not allowing the wearer to remove the caligae (that would be no fun!), the ghost will surprise the wearer with unexpected trips into manure piles, down stairs, or off embankments. The sandals will retie themselves to be too tight or too loose, hobnails will get stuck in the cracks of floorboards or flagstones, and sore feet will become a daily ordeal.