The Rose Bush When Marcus takes command of the cohort at Isca Dumnoniorum, he notices a rose bush, just beginning to bloom, that was planted years ago by some predecessor. The pot-bound plant reminds him of his family's farm in Etruria, which was sold after his father's and mother's deaths, and also links him to the past and the Romans who came before him in the frontier fort. Through the months he commands Isca Dumnoniorum he watches the rose bloom; but after the native British uprising, when Marcus is told that, due to a bad wound to his leg, he is being discharged from the Legions, winter is coming on. As Marcus watches his career - and the only life he ever expected to follow - slip away, the rose loses its last petal.
"Now that he could sit up, he could look out into the courtyard, and see the rose-bush in its wine-jar, just outside his window. There was still one crimson rose among the dark leaves, but even as he watched, a petal fell from it like a great slow drop of blood. Soon the rest would follow. He had held his first and only command for just as long as the rose-bush had been in flower..."Cub Cub, the wolf pup that Esca brings home to Marcus after a hunt, does not at first glance seem to come into the story much; he is left at home when Marcus and Esca set out to find the lost Eagle, after all. But Sutcliff draws parallel between the collared wolf-cub and Esca the slave, the Briton of the tribe of the Brigantes who was taken captive and made into a gladiator. The time comes when Marcus has to take Cub's collar off and give him the chance to return to the wild; and the time also comes when he has to give Esca his freedom, and allow him the chance to return to his own people.
"And watching him, Marcus remembered suddenly and piercingly the moment that afternoon when he had taken off Cub's collar. Cub had come back to him; but Esca?"The Signet Ring Marcus' clearest memory of his father is of him standing in the courtyard of the farm in Etruria, the sunlight glinting on the flawed emerald and dolphin of his great signet ring, the ring that links many of Sutcliff's novels together over generations. Like the Eagle itself, it is a bond between Marcus and his father, a bond of family and honour, of strength and loyalty.
"Looking back across the years, Marcus remembered that his father's eyes had been very bright, like the eyes of a man going into action; and the light had caught suddenly in the great flawed emerald of the signet-ring he always wore, striking from it a spark of clear green fire. Strange how one remembered things like that: little things that somehow mattered."The Olive-Wood Bird On the farm in Etruria there was an olive tree with a gall, which Marcus, as a child, cut off and carved into a bird and has carried with him for years as a reminder of that beautiful place. It is his last physical tie to the farm, which he had hoped to buy back after he earned enough in the army, and in the long days and nights where Britain feels cold and foreign to him, the olive-wood bird is a sign of home. When Marcus burns it as an offering during the hunt for the Eagle, his old life seems to be burning away as well.
"But a new life, a new beginning, had warmed out of the grey ash, for himself, and Esca, and Cottia; perhaps for other people, too; even for an unknown downland valley that would one day be a farm."