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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron
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Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron
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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02-28-11 01:52 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron:

“We have come for our Eagle, priest. And to escort you beyond our lines, so that neither you nor your daughter shall suffer when your disciples attack.”

“I am safe enough here, Roman,” the old man retorted. “It is you, the trespassers, who shall die. Not I.”

“Will your god stop this grove from burning?” Cadorus asked gently. “I shall not order it, but those chaps outside... They might try to burn our supplies. A bad wind, and those fire arrows land in the forest surrounding this grove. Lots of pine out there, father, which will burn hot and fast when a fire arrow lands in it.”

“Wotan will protect his high priest,” the old man said with iron determination.

“And Andraste will grant her favorite son the victory,” Cadorus replied. “I do not wish a clash of the gods here. I will win, as I have a sword while you do not. In this case, Andraste has proven stronger in Wotan’s Grove than Wotan himself. Or, conversely, Wotan has granted a follower of Andraste privilege into his Sacred Grove, to escort the High Priest to safety where he can perform other services for the god. Two tales, same ending. Your choice.”

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Other parts of The Eagle and the Wolf series :
The Eagle and the Wolf Part I- Remember!
The Eagle and the Wolf Part II- Tyroes in the Forest
The Eagle and the Wolf Part III- Downs and Ups
The Eagle and the Wolf Part IV- Mushrooms and Murderers
The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf’s Jaws
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VI- Doom and Despair
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VIII- Broken Hearts and New Chances
The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
The Eagle and the Wolf Part X- Trials and Triumph
The Eagle and the Wolf Part XI- Return to Vetera

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 01-22-2013 @ 01:05 AM).]

AuthorReplies:
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02-28-11 01:56 AM EDT (US)     1 / 86       
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A raven soared above the flat countryside below. His eyes were open for meat rotting in the sun, or wheat left untended, or anything shiny to steal. These things interest a raven- the first two being a means of survival, the third a means to attract a mate. A movement of metal below caught his eye. He swept lower on unseen winds to investigate.

The raven saw a large, very large, circle of men clustered about in an open field. No wheat here, and the shiny things in their hands it knew for weapons. Death, it was, and where death was, was food. He circled.

An earthen castle rose from the plains inside the circle, harboring more men. These wore shiny metal shirts upon their backs, and moved as if they had a purpose. The raven knew these men as strangers in a strange land, for the men that lived in these parts lived as one with the earth. These metal-clad strangers ripped the earth apart to build upon it.

The castle was but one of four, it saw as it circled soundlessly upon the wind. Each was built the same- blocks of Mother Earth cut from the surrounding grass and piled upon it. A wide ditch lay before the walls, dug deeper by more strangers as the raven flew above, The dirt brought forth was cast as blocks and carried by more men who piled their walls higher. The walls rising from the plains were bristled with staves to repel climbers, and topped with a palisade that grew stronger for every minute the raven watched. Towers rose from the outer corners, into which men armed with bows kept a wary eye for danger.

Inside the square created by the four castles was a small forest. This was an old forest, but a dense one. So dense in fact, that none of the strangers had yet to enter its heart, only nibbling away at its outer edges to obtain wood with which to improve the castles.

The raven noticed in one nest, some activity was taking form. He flew lower to investigate, maybe even grab an eye or other easily-edible delicacy from what he knew would soon be a dead man. His attention on the action was so focused, so tempting, that he never saw the deadly hawk dropping on him from above, the talons ripping through his body until at last he lay still, clutched in the talons and borne away to become food for young hawks.

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“Legate, there is something you ought to see,” said the primus pilus of the X Gemina. He had not waited for his legate to answer the knock- he merely barged right in. It was that urgent.

“I come,” Cadorus said as he rose from his bed. He and half the legion were armored and awake for most of the night, guarding the others in case the Germans surrounding their camp tried to break in. Special attention was paid to the inner walls- those facing the camps of the other legions trapped as was the Xth. There was a forest blocking the view of the other camps, and while those trees would soon be gone, for now they presented a place for the enemy to hide. But that danger was slowly being erased. Wood from that forest was now strengthening the Roman positions, and more would be on their way.

Cador exited the tent and threw his helmet upon his head. A moment later, he whisked it back off. Before him stood a woman, struggling useless but held firmly in the arms of two legionaries.

“What in the names of Andraste and Mars is this?” he bellowed.

The soldiers did not know if he meant the woman, or those holding her prisoner.

“A patrol caught her moving through the woods between our camp and that of the VI Victrix,” the top centurion explained. He held out a dagger. “She had this, making her an enemy combatant. The rules are clear- she’s your slave now. Where do you want her?”

Cador cast a wicked eye at the top centurion. “Get me someone who speaks Germanic,” he ordered. “And bind her hands behind her back- I don’t want any soldier slain because they got near her and she picked a dagger from his harness.”

“I speak Roman tongue,” the woman said. Upon closer inspection, Cadorus saw she was older than he first thought- thirtyish instead of twentyish, and with darker blonde hair than was normal.

“You do speak Latin,” he admitted, “but not very well. Top, get me a translator.”

The centurion did so immediately, while his legate studied the prisoner some more. She was homely, but not uncomely, and had a fire in her he had not seen in a woman since Princess Camorra changed her name to Queen Julia Victoria. With a decent bath, some cosmetics, she could even be pretty.

An auxiliary approached with the primus pilus.

“Ask her what she was doing inside our perimeter,” the legate commanded. The auxiliary did so. She babbled back at him angrily, causing him to smile.

“She says she lives here, legate, and that we are trespassing on her property.”

“Ask her name.”

The stream of Germanic that shot back was rather unpleasant to the auxiliary, but Cadorus had picked up enough Germanic to identify expletives and curses- and this woman used none of them while still managing to make the auxiliary quake in his boots. Interesting.

“She says her name is Astrid, legate.”

She said a lot more than that, auxiliary. I picked out the names of several gods in her outburst, and more than one reference to powers. That, and the confidence the woman has in those gods reminded him so much of Tasca, who was now the High Priestess of Andraste back in Britannia...

The map is wrong.

“Top, gather your century,” Cadorus said with a smile. “We are going to bring this wayward daughter home to her father, the High Priest of Wotan, and exchange her for the bloody Eagle of the V Alaudae which is hiding in these woods between us and the Raptors.”

“What?!?”

“Marcus told us the Eagle was in the Sacred Grove,” Cadorus explained. “Our map says that it is over there somewhere,” he added, pointing to the west, ”but I think the map is wrong. It seems our legions are camped around that elusive forest, using sacred trees to strengthen our earthly forts. If the priest values his flesh over his worship, he will trade us the Eagle for free passage to his lines.”

“And if he does not?” asked the centurion.

Cadorus shrugged. “Then he dies, the daughter here becomes my slave, and we take the Eagle anyway. But I would rather trade, seeing as how this is holy ground. Some gods might object to blood being spilled in their temples.”

The primus pilus nodded at that wisdom, especially as the legion was surrounded and besieged by a lot of that particular god’s worshippers. He ran off, pointed a tribune or two to the legate, then rounded up his century.

Cadorus briefed Severus and Minucius in low tones before sending them on their way. Then he turned to the woman while the centurion mustered his men.

“Astrid, do you understand what is going to happen now?” he asked of her. When she shook her head at the auxiliary’s translation, he explained. “I am going to ransom you to your father for our Eagle.”

“We possess no Eagle!” she shouted in reply.

Cadorus laughed. “Lying to your captor is a bad way to start a relationship, woman. You said you speak our tongue. Did you not hear what I said to the centurion? We are going to exchange you for it, then escort you both out of our lines.”

“I heard you say kill my father,” the woman replied with a violent twist of her arms against the men holding her. She did not get far before being tugged roughly back into position.

“Only if he resists,” Cadorus corrected. “I have a healthy respect for the gods and their servants, woman. It matters not to me if the god is Mars or Jupiter or Wotan or my own Andraste. I promise you no harm will come to you or your father as long as neither of you tries to harm us.”

The woman glared at him, reading his expression and the honor in his eyes. The eyes were a clear blue- which matched her own- and she saw the truth in them. She also saw a slightly bulbous nose, a washed-out pink complexion, and light hair framing features that could never come from swarthy Rome. A barbarian, risen high in the service of Rome.

“We have no Eagle,” she said lowly, but with far less emotion in her voice. “It was donated to Wotan, the All-Father. It is his, now, never ours.”

“It was stolen in a massacre of unarmed men granted safe passage,” Cadorus replied. “That gift is tainted with shame and dishonor.”

The woman thought that over for a moment, then nodded. “I do not think the All-Father will mind you removing that sort of blight from his grove,” she added. “I will lead you to it, in exchange for safe for myself and my father out of this fortress you have built around our home.”

Cadorus gave his word.

“The word of a Roman counts for little,” she replied evenly. “Romans lie too often.”

“How about the word of an Iceni noble?” he countered, having felt first-hand the perfidy of Roman lies before a few good Roman men showed him that they too could possess honor. “For an Iceni nobleman was what I was born, and that is what my blood remains. A barbarian, like you.”

The woman nodded. He had passed her test. “That I can accept.”

In short order, the century was arrayed before the legatus by squad. Each contubernium was arrayed in a rank of four, with a rank of one, two, or three depending on casualties and transfers behind. Before each stood the decanus of the squad. This being a First Cohort century, it held twenty squads instead of the normal ten. Before the century was its signifer and cornicen, while behind stood the optio and tesserarius.

“Which contubernium has the honor of guarding the standard?” Cadorus asked.

“Seventeenth squad, lord,” came the answer.

Cador nodded, and had the guards bring his prisoner to the seventeenth squad.

“Decanus, I place this woman in your charge. Do not let her escape, nor allow her to draw a weapon. I wish to bring her unscathed and unharmed to her home. Understood?”

The decanus nodded. Cadorus returned to his top centurion before the century.

“First Century!” he called. “We are going on a little tour of the woods between us and the VI Victrix. I expect no trouble, but with the rude and obnoxious neighbors we have outside our little community here, I take no chances.” He let the few chuckles die down before continuing. ”We are going to visit a shrine to the gods. They might not be our gods, but they seem to be very popular in these parts, and are indeed gods. In respect to the gods, I command that none here desecrate the shrine or shed blood within it unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Do you understand, legionaries?”

“YES, LEGATUS!” the century roared.

“Good,” the legatus replied, satisfied. “Top, open the east gate. We are going on a little stroll now. I will march with the third squad out of the gate; you may march with whatever squad you wish. Severus is in command until I return. Now, move them out, centurion!”

The centurion called his century to attention, and called off the marching order. Cadorus would be marching with the First Squad, third in line. He himself would march with the Eleventh Squad, the fifteenth out of the gate. The prisoner and the signifer marched with the Seventeenth in the middle. Once into the woods and no immediate threats were identified, Top Sextus Sennius rushed forward, bringing the Seventeenth Squad and their charge with him, while the legatus dropped back to the third squad in line.

“Here is where it gets tricky,” he said to the primus pilus. “If those Germans saw us come into the woods, they might try something. We must not tarry, nor can we be too hasty in case some sneaked in during the night. Put five squads down here as a security ambush. Astrid,” he said, addressing the prisoner, “you promised to lead us to the entrance of the Grove. Do so now.”

She did. She led them through the more open part of the forest to the denser core, which led to a path only a man wide. Along the way the legate and primus pilus had been dropping squads in ambush positions. Cadorus unsheathed his sword here and bade the centurion set up a hasty defense. The entrance was so artfully concealed that it was invisible from five paces away and looked like nothing more than an indentation in the forestry from closer.

Astrid looked at the sword and frowned. “You promise safe passage,” she reminded him.

“Can you guarantee there are no warriors awaiting at the end of this dark path?” he asked. When she shook her head, he added, “I’ll keep my sword ready, woman. Just in case.”

Astrid led them along the path, which opened abruptly into a small, ovular clearing centered on a spring. Across from them hung the Eagle of the Alaudae, and surrounding the pool were twelve oaks rearing like pillars into the sky- a significant change from the dense pine and cedar surrounding the site. And beyond the bubbling spring, under the Eagle was an old man kneeling before it.

The older man stood up sharply at the approach of Romans into his Sacred Grove. He spied his daughter with them, and waxed indignant at her treachery and their arrogance.

“Why did you betray us, daughter?” he asked in German, before switching to a reasonable Latin, “and why do you desecrate this holy site with your presence, Roman?”

Cadorus put his sword away as soon as he determined that no warriors stood hidden in this shrine, not with the attitude of the priest. He pointed with an empty hand to the Eagle. “We have come for our Eagle, priest. And to escort you beyond our lines, so that neither you nor your daughter shall suffer when your disciples attack.”

“I am safe enough here, Roman,” the old man retorted. “It is you, the trespassers, who shall die. Not I.”

“Will your god stop this grove from burning?” Cadorus asked gently. “I shall not order it, but those chaps outside... They might try to burn our supplies. A bad wind, and those fire arrows land in the forest surrounding this grove. Lots of pine out there, father, which will burn hot and fast when a fire arrow lands in it.”

“Wotan will protect his high priest,” the old man said with iron determination.

“And Andraste will grant her favorite son the victory,” Cadorus replied. “I do not wish a clash of the gods here. I will win, as I have a sword while you do not. In this case, Andraste has proven stronger in Wotan’s Grove than Wotan himself. Or, conversely, Wotan has granted a follower of Andraste privilege into his Sacred Grove, to escort the High Priest to safety where he can perform other services for the god. Two tales, same ending. Your choice.”

The priest thought it over, while his daughter pleaded with him. She had seen, he had not. Now her vision of the massed tribes outside, led by Udo, surrounding the Roman forts was transferred to him through her words.

“Udo commands? Not Ricgard the Lion?” the high priest uttered suddenly. He cursed, and grabbed the Eagle down from its display. He thrust it rudely at the legate. “Here, Roman. Remove this stained trophy from our Sacred Grove. We will follow you shortly.”

Cadorus accepted the Eagle while the priest rummaged through the rear of the grove, seeking items he would need. Astrid took this moment to answer the unspoken but obvious question poised on the Briton’s lips.

“Udo was nearly killed this winter,” she related. “He was brought here, with his brother, likewise dying. My father healed Udo with the power of Wotan, yet the injuries to Ulfrich were grave. Udo threatened to burn this grove if his twin was not likewise brought back from Death’s Doorstep. My father and he do not get along well, but he did it. He would not put it past the king to let some fire arrows fly errant on purpose.”

“So both kings live,” Cadorus said with a nod. “This we did not know.”

The priest finished and came forward. “You seem to know about Sacred Groves,” he said bluntly. “Tell me, Roman. Show me the Grove.”

Cadorus pointed carelessly at the twelve oaks surrounding the spring. “These twelve, and no more,” he said. “The rest is but camouflage.”

“Correct,” the old man said with a gleam in his eye. “I will make a bargain with you. Your men can take as much of the camouflage as they wish, but I want your word of honor, Champion of both Andraste and now Wotan, that this grove remains untouched. In exchange, when you are captured and your men enslaved, I shall insist that the officers be slain cleanly, not tortured or roasted to Wotan in the Sacred Grove you spared.”

“I vow that none from my legion shall so much as touch a leaf,” he said solemnly. “And I shall do my best to prevent the men of the other legions from doing so as well.”

“I expected no less,” said the priest, “For you, if Andraste does somehow grant you victory over Udo.” He handed the legate a scroll. “Now lead on, champion.”

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
GeneralKickAss
Ashigaru
posted 02-28-11 02:17 AM EDT (US)     2 / 86       
Haven't given the first update a good read yet - just a skim through the excerpt (which brought about a very mysterious atmosphere "The Cauldron? Oooh...") Just thought I'd go ahead and grab the first comment

Now before you decide to hammer my Asian ass in anger (with the banhammer, I mean), here's promising to edit in a proper comment later tonight when I've got some time to read properly and quietly.

"The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for." -Homer
"You see, this is what happens when you don't follow instructions, GKA..." -Edorix
Guild of the Skalds, Order of the Silver Quill, Apprentice Storyteller
Battle of Ilipa, 206BC - XI TWH Egil Skallagrimson Award

The word dyslexia was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 02-28-11 10:35 AM EDT (US)     3 / 86       
And so the Romans recovered the final eagle taken so treacherously from them.

Now all they need to do is break the encirclement and defeat the German horde! Great to see you continuing this, Terikel!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.

[This message has been edited by Legion Of Hell (edited 02-28-2011 @ 10:36 AM).]

GeneralKickAss
Ashigaru
posted 03-01-11 09:39 AM EDT (US)     4 / 86       
A raven soared above the flat countryside below. His eyes were open for meat rotting in the sun, or wheat left untended, or anything shiny to steal. These things interest a raven- the first two being a means of survival, the third a means to attract a mate. A movement of metal below caught his eye. He swept lower on unseen winds to investigate.
Y'know, that was one of the best non-professional intro I'd ever read. Set me in the mood instantaneously. The maneuver commands were also very nice.

"The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for." -Homer
"You see, this is what happens when you don't follow instructions, GKA..." -Edorix
Guild of the Skalds, Order of the Silver Quill, Apprentice Storyteller
Battle of Ilipa, 206BC - XI TWH Egil Skallagrimson Award

The word dyslexia was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-03-11 01:52 AM EDT (US)     5 / 86       
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Gaius Roscius was waiting in the last post station before Mogontiacum. The former merchant and post rider sat quietly, rolled a little dice with the stationmaster, but drank little. He had been there a day, and expected to be there for little longer. Sooner rather than later a rider would return, and then he would be off.

Hoofbeats could be heard outside.

“I guess you’re off now, Gaius,” the stationkeeper said as he rose from the table. “That’ll be Pollax coming in with the post for Mogontiacum.”

“I’ll take it from here, Manlius,” Roscius said as he rose. “And thanks for the placard,” he added, lifting the plaque hanging from his neck identifying him as an imperial postal rider. “I’ll bring it right back, as soon as I am done.”

“No worries, Gaius, I have more,” the stationkeeper laughed. “And when Petrus here wakes up, he’ll thank you too for taking his route. Fellow never could handle his wine unwatered.”

Roscius nodded and exited. He greeted the incoming rider as he had once done many a time, then switched the bags to his own horse.

“Any special instructions?” he asked.

“A banker in Argentorate gave us a scroll for his cousin in Colonia,” the rider said as he dismounted. His legs were stiff from the forty mile ride. “Its already in the bag for Colonia- nothing more you need to do for that one. There are two more are bound for merchants here in town. The merchant ones you give to the postmaster, and he’ll sort it out. Just don’t forget to tell him.”

“Thanks,” Roscius said, and swung himself up onto his mount. He kicked his horse into a gallop, and off he went, doing what he swore he would never do again.

He dismounted before the gates of Mogontiacum and gained entry. From there, it was a short walk to the postmaster.

“Post from the south,” he announced.

The postmaster was a squirrelly-looking wight who looked as yellow and dingy as the parchment with which he worked. He nodded at the rider, noting the new face but the old placard, then gestured to the pigeonholes filling a wall.

“If you want to remain on your feet for a while,” he said to Roscius, “you can sort it yourself. Otherwise it’s off to the hostel and report back in the morning for the post going south.”

“I’ll stick around,” Roscius said gruffly, stretching his legs as he took his bags to the wall. The one bag for points north he set aside for the outgoing northbound rider. The other he opened and began pulling the items out. He read the names and addresses then put the scroll in the appropriate box. There was a box-hole was for an official in imperial service, and two buckets below for imperial servants on temporary duty in town. Within minutes the regular post was sorted by recipient, and Gaius Roscius knew all he needed to know. Then he got to the two for the merchants, and fished the one from Tullius out as well.

“What do I do with these?” he said, interrupting the postmaster from his own tasks. “Two are for merchants here in town, the third has no name.”

The postmaster came over and snatched the three scrolls. He glanced over them, noting the seals and names on the first two. Then the seal on the third, and tried to make out the name. Then he shrugged, and placed it into a pigeonhole, confirming what Roscius already thought.

“Throw these two in the dead letter bucket by the door,” the postmaster commanded. “I’ll handle them personally.”

“I am sure you will,” Roscius said. Then he exited, having found his traitor.

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While Cadorus was exploring the Sacred Grove, the Germanic kings were holding a council of war. Their victory had given them a bit of euphoria, but that euphoria was wearing off as they buried their dead. They had lost at least five men for every Roman brought down overall. The Bructeri had lost a thousand, and the Marsi two thousand. Ricgard lost two thousand as well, while the Cherusci had suffered the worst- when Otho went down, four thousand of his warhost went down with him. Together they numbered thirty two thousand, just over what was inside the four dirtpiles. What kept the Romans there, Udo was explaining to Horobard, was those thirty two thousand, plus the sixty-two thousand Horobard brought. Together they numbered almost a hundred thousand- enough to keep the Romans penned until they were too weak to defend themselves.

“That could take weeks, Udo,” Horobard scoffed. “We do not have weeks. We Chatti came, almost at the run, to help you drive the Romans from your lands as we promised we would. We too must eat- and a hundred thousand mouths will eat these forests bare in less than a week. Then it is we who starve, and they who are strong.”

“Your suggestion of leaving a token force here then overrunning the Roman province is flawed,” Ricgard said, standing proudly among this collection of kings. “While I do not disagree that we could easily overrun what little remains in the Roman province or even that beyond, I do violently disagree with leaving a token force here. It is suicide.”

“They are trapped,” scoffed Horobard. “They are going nowhere. They sit and eat their bread, while we sit out here and long for a bite of anything once running on four legs.”

“They are trapped now,” Ricgard reminded him. “But if you take your Chatti and Suevi to the Roman side of Father Rhein, those remaining will be too weakened to defend properly. The Romans, Horobard- their fortresses are not isolated. They can assemble in one and make a concentrated push. They can break out and destroy the remainder piecemeal. With overwhelming force, they cannot even make the attempt.”

“They do not have to,” Segestes of the Suevi said. “They sit in those dirtpiles and eat, while we out here starve. They will win by default. Horobard is correct- we have too many in one place. We must send some away. Where better to send them than across Father Rhein?”

“My Marsi and Ricgard’s Chauci are sending wheat and cattle,” Calor said with a sigh. “But Horobard and Segestes are correct- it is not enough. But Ricgard and Udo are also correct- if we decide to invade the Roman provinces now, we risk letting these men break out. That could be dangerous. But worse, holding them penned here gives the Romans time. They are clever, these Romans. We must not give them time.”

“We must not let them break out, either,” Udo reminded him. “We are all doomed if they do.”

Horobard was adamant. He had an itchy feeling about this, caused by his memory of what the witch in his court said. A quick dash up and back was fine by him, but dragged into a siege? He would be away for far too long. Was it this the Witch meant? That nagging doubt decided him. “To hell with a siege. You are right- we have too many mouths here. Mouths that belong to bodies who came to fight. So we fight! Let us attack on the morrow, and remove the threat their existence causes.”

“We borrow a ploy from Seval,” Ulfrich said suddenly. “We attack, as Horobard says. Two outcomes. One- we win and eliminate the Romans as a threat. Problem solved. Or two, we are driven off, with fewer mouths to feed thereafter. Maybe then the Chauci and Marsi food stores, plus our own, will be enough to outlast the Romans.”

“Or you could let the Romans feed you,” called a quivering voice from outside the ring of kings. The kings parted to reveal a cloaked figure stepping forward with a raven on his shoulder. Ricgard, Ulfrich, and Calor bowed their heads, prompting Segestes and Horobard to do the same, while Udo glared defiantly into the High Priest’s eye.

“Hello Eirik,” he said sharply. “Abandoned your Sacred Grove at the first sign of the enemy, have you?”

“I turned it over to another, one who is sincere about the gods and one I can entrust not to harm the Sacred Grove,” the High Priest replied evenly. “And I came here to ensure that you know I am no longer in it, and thus have no reason to try to burn it down ‘by accident.’”

“You mentioned letting the Romans feed us,” Segestes interjected. He did not know about this feud between a high priest and a king, but such matters bode only ill for this war. Best to keep that shunted aside. “How?”

“There are four legions in your noose, eh?” Eirik cackled. “Legions reside in stone castles, where they have their stores to last the winter. If the legions are here, who is in their castles?”

“They are empty,” Horobard replied, his head rising at the inspiration.

“Correct,” Eirik replied. “Except one- Vetera, across the water here and curiously, the closest. In it will be the summer’s stores for all four legions. It is guarded now by auxilia, and if you tarry, by all the auxilia in the province if that young chieftain commanding the province is any good. There, kings of the tribes, there you can strike a blow worthy of your titles. Take Vetera- the linchpin of the province, grab its stores, and destroy the last vestiges of armed force left in the province in a single blow. That will solve your problem- and you do not need to send so many either- maybe ten thousand, maybe fifteen- and the rest keep these cockroaches penned. After Vetera, take Noviomagus- it is not far. That is two storehouses in striking range, both relatively unoccupied. Strike swiftly, Ravens of Wotan, and victory shall be ours. The tribes shall rule to the seas, as Veleda once predicted.”

“The Priest speaks wisdom,” Horobard and Segestes agreed. Calor and Ricgard nodded as well, forcing Udo and Ulfrich to join in. It was unanimous.

Calor mustered his Marsi. He did not head west, though that would have been the quickest way had Father Rhein not lived where he did. No, he left the march west for Segestes and ten thousand Suevi and other warriors. Since Father Rhein did live where he lived, the fastest way to Vetera to the west actually lay to the south. Thus Calor marched south while Segestes marched west. They would both be at Vetera within a few days, and inside it in another.

Vetera shall fall. The prophecy shall be fulfilled. Germans shall rule to the seas!

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Gnaeus Pinarius Cornelius Clemens sat as his table with his stylus in hand. This being a formal occasion, he should have been wearing his toga, but since it was merely a formality, he dispensed with the unwieldy garment in favor of clothing more suitable for the climate. He duly granted the honorable trader Decimus Laetius imperial permission to travel through the hostile Agri Decumates for the purposes of conducting trade. Laetius, for his part, promised to trade fairly and to report any developments he noted among the barbarians. He was among the last of his clients coming to seek his patron’s services for the day.

Official business concluded, Clemens waved the applicant away and stared back down at the tablets before him. Two were reports from his legates that his orders had been executed and that they were where he wished them. The third was also from a legate, who reported by tablet he and his legion were at the postal station as ordered, and were officially reporting to the Governor of Germania Superior for duty. The fourth tablet made him laugh.

It was also a report from a legate stating that he was in position as ordered, but there was little pleasant about it. He smiled, and opened the tablet to read it once again.

Hail, governor Cornelius Clemens,

We are in the armpit of the province as you demanded. The river here stinks of shit and the natives here are not happy to see us. Gellius of the VII legion passed through not long ago, happy to be going to war. My men, however, are unhappy. They curse me- and you- for putting them on the roof of the world in the armpit of the province which stands high on the list of poorest duty stations. So thanks for sending us out of the way where nobody can get hurt on our arrowheads. We will hold an archery tournament in your honor, since there is little else here to do.

Titus Flavius Sabinus,
Legatus, I
Adiutrix

He laughed again. That little man, the nephew of the Emperor, thinks he and his legion of auxilia-turned-legionaries were uprooted from Mogontiacum and sent to southern Vindonissa to keep them out of harm’s way. He laughed again, harder this time. All I need, little man, is the word to go. Then your tour of duty in Vindonissa will become rather interesting, rather quickly.

As if the thought triggered the action, a praetorian cavalryman burst into the chamber from the atrium, sweat pouring off the man as if rain from a duck’s back. The smell of him caused Clemens’s nose to ruffle in disgust, but the praetorian paid him no mind. He simply marched in as if he owned the place, plopped a tablet down on the desk, and stormed back out, his duty accomplished. Only the brief nod he gave a waiting plaintiff on his way out was not perfect regulation.

The tablet was sealed with a praetorian emblem. Clemens opened the tablet cautiously. It did not say much, only a single word, followed by a brief explanation and a signature.

Attack!

All deployed legions are to attack no later than the Kalends of Julius into the Agri Decumates. Do not delay. Logistics and supplies are already in place clogging up the Via Mala. Move now! Resistance should be less than you expected- many went north to fight Cordinus.

Titus Flavius Vespasianus Junior
Prefect of the Praetorian Guard and Commander of the Expedition


There it was, the order for which he had been waiting. So, all the training and foolish movements have not been in vain after all. Clemens had originally been highly eager to charge into the Agri Decumates; it was why he so wanted this province and literally begged the Imperator for it. He got it and prepared his men to the highest level of readiness they had seen in five years. Then, he was told to sit pretty while that slug Cordinus got first priority of men and supplies and crossed the river to a debacle. He did it again this year, frustrating Clemens immensely. Now, just as it looked like Cordinus would be reaping all of the glory- again!- he gets the orders for which he dreamed. Just like that, out of the blue, with no warning. They did not catch him totally by surprise, but they did catch him off-guard.

Clemens was not a stupid man. He knew the Agri Decumates were a spearhead aimed at Rome. It was going to be conquered. And relatively soon, which was why he wanted this province and why he trained his men so hard. Yet time and again, something somewhere else- like Germania Inferior- came up and thwarted his plans. It was the lack of logistics that caught him off-guard and unprepared for the order- no attack can be successful without a firm logistical base, unless it is to feed off of the enemy, which in this case is poorly fed. He had the men and the readiness, but not the supplies. But crafty young Vespasianus had considered that, and clogged the Via Mala with caravans of supplies out of sight of German eyes, ready to support his attack.

I will get my triumph after all, he thought.

Gaius Roscius had enough of waiting. He stood and knocked on the door. He had his evidence. All he had to do now was present it to the provincial governor and the traitor would be both exposed and executed. He was feeling good- Publius Sollus and the others could soon rest in peace.

“Busy,” came the mumbled reply.

“Its urgent, lord, especially if you just got the orders to launch your offensive,” Roscius replied.

The door flew open. Gnaeus Cornelius Clemens stared at him. “How did you know?”

“I am the arcanus who told Praetorian Prefect Titus Flavius Vespasianus that the Chatti were on the move,” Roscius replied. “And I have some vital information for you, too.”

“Do you know the headwaters of the Danube, arcanus?” he asked of the scout.

Roscius nodded.

“Then take this scroll and ride like the wind to Titus Flavius Sabinus in Vindonissa,” Clemens commanded. “You personally, arcanus. And your mission is to lead him and his legion past the headwaters of the Danube, all the way to the Raetian defenses.”

“But lord, I have vital info-”

“I have no time for anything else,” Clemens replied urgently. “The Old Owl pulled a fast one on me, arcanus. I was asked to send auxilia to the north. He has me train and move my legions about, without a word as to why- leaving me to think it just a practice for next year’s invasion. Everything I had received was to make me believe the north was the main effort this year, then he orders me to crash across the border the day after tomorrow with four legions. Totally without preparation, totally without orders. Just go. Well, arcanus, I have this night to prepare an order and some semblance of command and control for this operation, and tomorrow to execute it. Now make yourself useful- report to Vindonissa and guide the Imperator’s nephew to the headwaters of the Danube.”

“But lord-”

“No buts, arcanus,” Clemens said sternly. “I have too little time. Now move it, son, or I will have you jailed for interfering with imperial business.”

“Yes, lord,” Roscius said dejectedly. He took the scroll and moved out sharply. Rome was going to war- and it was not with the lads up north. There was a traitor in the province, but it seemed he only set up the boys up north- not the ones here. Maybe a man who tried to make his own attack easier? A triumph...

Roscius had little time, too. He had a long ride to Vindonissa and a short time to get there. At least he could earn the trust of the Imperator’s nephew on this mission. Then the traitor would pay dearly. Especially since the Imperator’s nephew was supposedly such good friends with the boys getting screwed up North.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 03-04-11 12:59 PM EDT (US)     6 / 86       
Read this yesterday but forgot to comment. Great stuff!

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
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(dis ma house)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-04-11 02:19 PM EDT (US)     7 / 86       
So Roscius has to help Sabinus who are friendly with Cordinus/Rutillus' forces who are besieged by thousands of Germans?

Things are going to end bloodily. But that is why your stories are so epic, Terikel!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-07-11 02:04 AM EDT (US)     8 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“What the hell?” uttered Arturus as he spied the castrum at Vetera on its hill. Walking the posts were men in legionary armor, with others alertly manning the artillery posted upon the stone walls of the fortress. The sight startled him, causing him to turn to the ex-tribune riding beside him. “Where the hell did we get more legionaries from?”

Dieter shook his head as they continued forward. A few of the catapults turned sharply toward them as they rode, then returned to their original arcs as the gunners recognized the four riders as Roman auxiliaries. “I do not think they are legionaries,” he replied with another shake. “I think Marcus dreamed them up.”

“Dream up legionaries?” Arturus mumbled. “Is that even possible?”

“You’ll see soon enough,” the gruff Batavian replied.

The gates opened slowly. Dieter and Arturus, accompanied by two more Remi cavalrymen, entered the fortress at Vetera single file, under the scrutiny of very nervous men dressed in legionary armor. Dieter pointed out the faults with the men- primarily the swords being on the wrong side- to Arturus, who agreed. Arturus sighed at the lack of discipline. His decurion would never let anyone walk a post without every bit of their equipment in the proper position. These men never had a real centurion to be dressed so haphazardly- they had to be the vigiles dressed to be legionaries.

“I see what you mean,” he said to Dieter. “Marcus had indeed dreamt up some legionaries- at least men who could pass for such at a distance, and the Rhenus was wide here.”

The ex-tribune nodded. “That is all it takes to make the monkeys think twice, usually. But this case might be different. They know they have four legions trapped. They might think this a fifth legion, which would give them pause, or maybe they will see right through the illusion. Either way, Marcus needs to know what is really going on.”

The four riders stabled their horses, then Dieter led them across the muster field to the praetorium. There the vigiles were replaced with Batavian Guardsmen, who recognized their commander and opened the door for him and the Remi.

Dieter found Marcus in the main chamber, listening to Gnaeus Milus report that he could not get the supplies through due to Germanic interference.

“You are lucky they did not realize your cavalry screened wagons filled with food supplies,” Dieter said as he entered. “And you did extremely well in turning back and skedaddling here so quickly.”

“Why were there Germans on the supply routes?” Marcus asked with a sinking feeling. The presence of the man he detailed to command the unruly Galatians confirmed something bad had happened. “And why are you here with three riders- all Remi and not the Galatians you commanded?”

That feeling grew worse and turned his stomach into a knotted mass that someone struck with a sledgehammer when Dieter spoke.

“That little moron dawdled on attack after attack, bringing an entire legion to bear upon each and every tiny village,” the Batavian reported. “He moved like molasses, Marcus, while your old X Gemina slashed a burning path through the Bructeri. Cordinus reined him in, then brought the legions together. He took a long time to reach the civitas, Marcus. A long time.”

Rutilius knew what was coming. It did not lessen the impact in the least.

“The tribes came, my friend,” Dieter continued. “And they came in their thousands. The Cherusci were reported in the area with thirty cohorts, and the Chauci with twenty. The Marsi had been lured away by a brilliant raid into their homeland, but Cordinus moved too slowly to capitalize on the Germanic split.”

“He didn’t-” Marcus said, but the vigorous nod of his Batavian commander cut his words off in his throat.

“He did,” Dieter said. “He wanted to fort up. I advised him to fix the Cherusci with two legions while the other two destroy the Chauci, then have them fall upon the Cherusci and crush them. Then he would have had a chance.”

“That’s what I would have done,” Rutilius agreed. ”Fix the larger force, crush the smaller, then gang-rape the larger with everything.”

“I don’t think it will make much of a difference though,” Dieter continued, dropping the hammer. “Fifty thousand or more Chatti, Usipi, and Suevi came up from the south- which the fool left unguarded and unwatched. If he was smart, he would have been in position to utterly destroy that mass of warriors despite the size of their warhost.”

“He was not smart,” Arturus added. “He sacked Dieter, then tried to arrest him. After that, he ignored Dieter’s advice- and that of his legates, who said the same as him. He did send my turma south, though. We saw the Chatti, and broke into contubernia to bring him the word. If he was lucky he forted up, and is now surrounded by almost eighty thousand warriors. He is not bright, that man, but he has survived being both stabbed and poisoned. I count him lucky.”

“So do I,” Rutilius agreed. “Had the legions been slaughtered, the Germani would be here, not you. The fact that you four managed to come this far without seeing masses of men moving this way, then swim the Rhein, tells me those warriors are busy elsewhere- most likely with our legions.” He slammed a fist onto his table. ”Damn it!”

Dieter sat back, his locked spine holding rigid as he leaned against the wall. “So what do we do now, Marcus?””

“We do what we must,” Rutilius replied. “We go save them.”

“With what?” laughed Dieter harshly. “He took all four legions, man. He left you nothing!”

“He left me twelve auxilia cohorts,” Marcus replied. “And was kind enough to relieve you of duty to be by my side once again.”

“Thanks of the vote of confidence,” Dieter said sullenly, though he meant it. “Twelve auxilia cohorts, and me. What else do you need?”

“Those twelve are scattered throughout the province,” Arturus reminded him. “They are needed there, to keep the Rheinwatch.”

“Not any more,” Rutilius said, grabbing some tablets and his stylus. “The ones they need to watch against are all near that Bructeri Sacred Grove. There are two choices, Arturus. We let them stay in their little forts and the Germans slaughter them one by one when they come- and they will. Or we bring them all together and make a single larger force that can have a chance of dealing with the hordes- if they break up and we stay together.”

“That’s a lot of ifs,” Dieter pointed out.

“I will make it simple,” Rutilius decided firmly. “We gather the cohorts and try to relieve the legions. We will most likely all die, but maybe, if we attack the besieging force and do enough damage before we fall, we can give the legions a chance to break out of the death trap. Only one if in that one.”

Dieter nodded. “We will indeed all die. But nobody lives forever, and dying to free one’s trapped comrades… There are worse causes for which to die.”

“Are you serious?” Arturus exclaimed in shock at the calm settling over the three senior officers. “You go to certain death, in the off-chance that it will succeed in giving the legions a slim chance of breaking out?”

“That sums it up quite nicely, I think,” Dieter agreed.

“Figure it out yourself, Arturus,” Gnaeus Milus said bitterly, speaking for the first time since giving his own report. “Given upwards of eighty thousand warriors over there, and surrounding our legions. The legions have enough supplies for two weeks, three if they ration wisely. Over here, with but a river between us, are twelve cohorts in single-cohort castella. You have three choices. You sit pretty and do nothing. What happens?”

The Remi thought it out. It was a linear equation, needing little thought. “They would come and destroy us.”

“Think further,” Rutilius commanded. “Then what?”

“They would overrun the province, inciting more tribes to join them, and start a flood that would probably end only once an army was assembled to deal with them.”

“There is one legion in Gaul, four in Britannia involved in suppressing a rebellion, another in Hispana, and four more in Germania Superior,” Marcus informed him. “The rest are in the East- weeks if not months away, the closest being in Moesia and Pannonia.”

“Shit,” Arturus muttered. “Second choice?”

“Choice number two,” Milus continued. “You mass your forces and defend this castrum with it until help arrives. What happens next?”

“This place has bad memories for besieged Romans,” the Remi admitted. “They besiege us with a large band while the others do as I said earlier- overrun the province and most of Gaul as well- isolating the four in Britannia to boot.”

“He’s learning,” Marcus admitted.

Milus nodded in agreement. “Now, choice three- we gather the cohorts and attack the buggers besieging our boys.”

This one was more difficult, but it finally dawned on him. “By attacking over there, we keep them occupied over there, giving the distant legions more time to come. And by attacking, we give the trapped legions a chance to escape- thereby giving the opportunity to have those legions return and seal the border. It is a small chance, lord, but you are right- it is the best option.”

Marcus nodded. “Sometimes it sucks to be a soldier.” He pressed his ring into the wax of the tablets he had written then handed one to Arturus and the other to one of the two silent Remi auxiliaries. “You two,” he commanded. “You ride west to Matilo, and you, Arturus, go south to Bonna. Stop at every auxilia post along the way and inform the commander of the situation and show him these orders. Arturus, you continue on to Mogontiacum to inform the governor of Germania Superior of our predicament and actions.” Then he turned to the remaining Remi and handed him a third tablet. “You, Lucky, get to ride all the way to Britannia. Give this to Quintus Petillius Cerealis. Between him and Clemens in Mo-Go town, they have eight legions- enough to do something to help.”

He handed a fourth tablet to Arturus. This one was sealed on the outside as well, with both his personal signet and the governor’s official signet. “This goes in the post to Rome, marked urgent. It contains the same as the dispatch to Mo-Go, but with more detail and formal requests for aid.”

“We shall ride like the wind,” the three Remi promised solemnly.

Dieter laughed, despite the seriousness of the situation. “Better to ride like Batavians,” he said. “We do not ride like the wind- we ride the very wind itself.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-07-11 05:25 AM EDT (US)     9 / 86       
Very good installment.

We shall see if the Germans are able to besiege Vetera!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 03-07-11 01:06 PM EDT (US)     10 / 86       
I sense the climax of the series approaching...

Don't tell me if I'm wrong, I need to reinflate my ego a bit right now.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-10-11 02:46 AM EDT (US)     11 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Titus Piscius was in a pickle. He had thirty ships on the River Lupia in five squadrons patrolling to keep the Marsi on their side and the Bructeri on theirs, and not letting anybody cross in either direction. The Lupia was pretty straightforward as rivers go- up to a point. Upstream beyond the Witch’s Tower was off-limits. His river ships drew too much water to pass beyond the shallower shoals there, which effectively limited his ships to the lower half of the river. To complicate matters, the river was narrower than the Rhenus to which he was accustomed- making maneuvering an exercise in not getting stuck on the nearby banks.

Word had come through the supply boats that the army mule trains had turned back. Piscius was a veteran of sixteen years. He knew what that meant. Either the Germani had blocked the supply route, or the legions had run into their own Teutoburger Forest. Either way, his ships were now patrolling uselessly, yet he had no orders to cease, nor any valid reason to do so.

He glanced up the river again, looking beyond the Witch’s Tower. Forbidden territory, he mused. What is happening up there?

It took a moment to realize that the movement which had drawn his attention to that point was not a whimsy, but a flicker in the corner of his eye. There was movement- now a lot of it. He saw dozens and dozens of small craft descending on his fleet. He stopped counting at sixty- and there were many more coming.

A veteran of sixteen years knew well what could happen to a warship swarmed by smaller boats. He did not hesitate.

“Turn about!” he commanded. “All ships! Turn about and best speed for the Rhenus! Signal the others.”

His ships saw the movement and reacted to the order instantly. His flagship turned nicely about, apparently spinning in place, while the other ships attempted to do the same. He rowed past two of his ships that were halfway through their turns before catching up to one that had yet begun to turn.

“Horatius, you old goat!” Piscius roared from the bow. “Get that bucket of yours turned about, NOW!”

“They’re just fishing boats,” Horatius shouted back. “Smash them and be done with them.”

“That is several hundred, if not thousands of boarders coming at us, dumb ass,” Piscius shouted as he passed the stationary ship. He ran toward the stern as his ship passed the other, still shouting, “I don’t have any marines. Do you?”

Horatius paled. A relatively new man to the River Navy, he had twelve summers in the Regular Blue-Sea Navy, where size meant everything. No warship would ever flee from a pack of fishing boats- it was an embarrassment on par with legionaries running from a pack of peasants. One simply used the ram to smash them apart.

Now he learned from the fleet captain something he had not considered- the gunwales of his ship was not so much higher than those of the fishers, and those small boats were packed with warriors. Those warriors could easily clamber aboard his vessel and swamp it. He began his turn, backing water with one bank of oars while driving the other side forward, all the while holding his rudder locked as far as it would go. It would be a tight race.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“The fleet!” roared Horsa, one of Calor’s lieutenants, when he saw Roman ships around the bend of the river come into view. “The Roman fleet blocks the river.”

The Marsic king, travelling three boats further down, saw the ships his lieutenant was screaming about. Most were running away, with one commencing a tight turn in a narrow spot. That one was as good as dead- a worthy prize. He hollered back, “Then we take the fleet. Horsa! Take four boats and come along the Marsic side. I’ll take four more and come along its Bructeri side. The rest of you- pursue the fleet! Try to take as many ships as possible!”

Horsa acknowledged. Roman warships were prizes- and more. If one could eliminate the river fleet, the trapped Romans would have no means at all of escaping, nor ever invading again. The thrill of victory came quickly upon him, though yet earned. He ordered the steersman to follow the king’s order.

The German boats leapt forward. They came upon the Roman ship just as it had completed its turn, but before it could begin to make any headway. A volley of thrown axes made a mess of the oarsmen, fouling their oars and making headway now impossible. Then the boats swept in, the Germans using their shields to protect against flailing oars while others drew upon dead men’s oars to bring their boats closer. An a few enterprising young men climbed up the oars to board the vessel proper.

It was all over within minutes. Horatius knew his ship was lost, as did his officers. A few of the brighter oarsmen did as well, while the rest clung stubbornly to the doctrine ingrained in them that ships beat boats. These fought like madmen, but with no marines or armor or edged weapons, they were quickly overwhelmed by the warriors.

“I will not die a slave,” Horatius said stiffly with willpower of iron. He hefted the shield he habitually kept near his steerboard and drew the gladius his father had given him when he was commissioned. “I shall die a free man. Who is with me?”

The other officers and men hefted the weapons they had already drawn. It was unanimous. Horatius led the charge down the central deck, to either certain death or unexpected glory.

The Germans met them in a rough spearwall, which the Romans easily hacked their way into. Horatius dropped two Germans and pushed others back, beginning to feel invincible. He might just make it! He might free his ship. Then an axe crashed into his shield and another into his neck. He fell to the deck dying, but dying a free man. Around him his men put up a worthy fight, but crashed one by one to the deck until the final few were simply overwhelmed in a rain of sword and axe blows.

Piscius watched the Germans overtake then take over his friend’s ship. He watched helplessly as the Germans swarmed aboard, butchered the oarsmen, and cornered his friend and the surviving crew on the stern. Then Horatius made his charge, and Piscius’s heart leapt with pride. His friend died well; one cannot ask for better. A single tear fell down his cheek, then abruptly ceased as he saw the rest of the German fleet sail past the stricken vessel to approach his fleeing flotilla.

“By Neptune those buggers are fast!” he yelped, then ordered the hortator to double the speed of the oars. Further, he saw the ship of Bassus having difficulty- her steerboard had been fouled by river muck and weeds from one too many collisions with the shallow riverbed by the Tower. He saw no way for the ship to outrun those coming, but he did see a way to save the rest of his fleet.

”Bassus!” he yelled, running to the front of the ship bringing his cornicen with him. “Play the signal for Bassus, lad, then follow it with prepare to abandon ship.”

The notes flew out, grabbing the captain’s attention. The notes that followed destroyed his calm, until he saw the masses of German boats descending on his own. He nodded, then gave the orders to his men. “Ship portside oars.”

The oars on the port side rose sharply at the command. A similar command from Piscius caused the steerboard side oars to rise. The two ships glided together and ropes drew them tight.

“Move quickly, lads!” exhorted the navarchos. “Get aboard!”

The sailors hurried as the Germans closed. Piscius judged the distance- it would be close. The last sailor climbed aboard.

“Cut the ropes,” he ordered, “except for that one!”

Axes chopped, and the two ships parted, but for a single strand. That rope was pulled hard to one side, its other end bound fast to the rudder’s heavy handle and looped through a capstan. The towed ship slewed sideways under the pull of fifty oars, until Piscius cut the remaining rope.

“Double speed, you apes,” he ordered, “if you want to live. Anyone tiring sing out, and one of the passengers will jump in. The bastards have the wind, but we have a living engine. Get it moving, ladies, if you want to keep it living.”

The sailors pulled, and pulled. The flagship leapt away from the abandoned vessel- which now blocked a good portion of the river. A few Germans sailed around it, but the majority were moving too fast. There were multiple collisions on the far side of the ship. Though many maneuvered around, enough crashed to slow the German flood to a manageable trickle.

“Shall I order the flotilla to turn and engage, fleet captain?” the cornicen asked hopefully.

Piscius shook his head. “We slowed them, not stopped them. This battle is over, and they have won it. Though we could manage a draw if we reach the Rhenus first.”

The cornicen nodded. A draw would be acceptable, given the odds. More than acceptable.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
GeneralKickAss
Ashigaru
posted 03-10-11 08:59 AM EDT (US)     12 / 86       
There should be a regulation restricting Terikel's writing speed.

Action-packed, well-researched, gripping, and superbly delivered. Good to see you taking it to another level, Grand Master. /suckup

On a side note, I was tuning in to a few Gladiator tracks on YouTube as I read this, and the effect was just pure awesomeness.

"The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for." -Homer
"You see, this is what happens when you don't follow instructions, GKA..." -Edorix
Guild of the Skalds, Order of the Silver Quill, Apprentice Storyteller
Battle of Ilipa, 206BC - XI TWH Egil Skallagrimson Award

The word dyslexia was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-10-11 03:03 PM EDT (US)     13 / 86       
Good chapter. Never seen a river battle from you so its a new yet welcome addition.

I see you have been taking tips from my war story! :P

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-14-11 02:42 AM EDT (US)     14 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The attack came with little warning.

The sun rose as it always did, a fiery red meatball hovering low in the eastern skies, barely visible through the trees lining the eastern edge of the large meadow. Like the last few days, it revealed only mist, until such a time as the heat of the summer sun burned away that mist. Out of the mist came a horrendous thumping, the clatter of swords and axes upon shields. It began as a rhythmic rumble and rose to a crescendo. There was no veteran of the border legions who did not know what was coming.

The shouts of the sentries alerted the legions to the impending attack. Those legionaries not on guard reacted as if set alight- men hustled out of their tents slinging on their armor, or lifting shields if they were on the walls. Helmets were grabbed from where they hung useless and tossed onto their heads, the cheekplates fastened as they moved. Within minutes the centuries were forming outside their tents, with centurions and optios marching down the ranks inspecting their men and counting heads. Five minutes later, the cohorts were formed and marching to reinforce the cohorts already on the walls, while the legates and tribunes took up their stations to best evaluate the threat against them.

The same scene was repeated across all four Roman camps.

In the camp of the VI Victrix, Messala was watching the Cherusci form up. They were not easy to see- the sun was still low and right in the eyes of his legionaries. He wished he had his artillery with him, but that was left in the camp his men had built by Vetera. Still, he could have used their range to weaken the force about to charge him. All he had now were some archers, and not very good ones at that.

To his left rear, he saw the X Gemina through the edges of the forest between them. Arrayed before Cadorus were a host of Germans dressed in patterned cloaks and shirts of a sort he had only seen once to the south. He assumed they were Usipi tribesmen, but he could not be sure. To his right, facing the Raptors, were the Bructeri- what was left of them- with a strong Chauci contingent. In all, at least thirty thousand warriors.

What he could not see, Decius Paullus saw well. His camp was directly across the forest from the VI Legion, with its Sacred Grove and tight trees blocking Messala’s sight of him as it did his sight to Messala. But he did not need to see elsewhere to know he was facing the main effort. The Chatti were arrayed before him, their disciplined ranks in easy-to-count formations of five hundred. Older men stood in the front, with the younger men deployed beyond. Paullus felt that strange, as the younger men would last longer in a fight, then realized the cunning shown in the Chatti array. The older men, having lived long and hard, would die tiring his men out, so the younger men could kill his easier. The young veterans would then be able to go home and marry well, thus mate well to make more warriors. The old were making way for the young- against the natural order as he knew it but very effective for a warrior tribe.

He counted over twenty thousand men arrayed- forty wedges of five hundred. It was definite- he was the main effort of the Germans, or at least faced the tribe with the largest warhost. He smiled cruelly. The gods were not kind, but they had a sense of humor. The Germanic main effort would come from the west against his XXII Primigenia, to them a legion unseen before and thus easy meat, but to him a veteran legion who fought for a year straight in the last great tussle between German and Roman. Further, he had almost a cohort extra, if he counted the Samnite bodyguards of the general. He laughed cruelly. If we do go down, it will be my pleasure to see the cause of this mess go down with me.

The Chatti closed in, their pulsing beat still playing. They walked slowly, carefully, across the wide muddy field separating them from the Romans. The other tribes, seeing the Chatti beginning, also moved forward.

In the Roman camps, the legionaries readied themselves for the coming assault by checking their weapons and putting their pila easy to reach. The centurions were mostly confident- despite the number of Germans out there, the defenses were solid, the stakes sharpened, the tribuli strewn, and the men ready. Any German reaching the inside of the camps will do so over a pile of their own dead large enough to fill a longhouse top to bottom.

The rhythmic pounding grew louder as the men in the fields sensed the coming struggle drawing closer. They were calling in the Valkyries, the handmaidens of Wotan who chose only the bravest and best from among the slain to feast and frolic forever in the Halls of Valhalla. Then, with a sudden rush, the pounding became unbearable and the warriors hurled themselves across the remaining distance.

“Ready!” called countless centurions on the walls. Rank upon rank of soldier hefted their pila. “Wait for it... Throw! Rearm! Throw!”

The double volleys tore huge holes into the front rank. Men toppled, or caught the missiles on their shields, which then became useless. The second volley of pila caught more flesh than shield, and the tumbling men sinking to the ground tripped up those in the pack pressing forward. The entire formation was disrupted, and the Romans took full advantage of it.

In the camp of the X Gemina, Cadorus had the Arvernii come forward. At this range, the archers could not miss. They sent volley after murderous volley into the tight-packed ranks of tangled Germans, cutting down many. They withdrew only when the some dozen Germans came within throwing range with axes in their hands.

Paullus also had some archers. These, as the Arvernii, cut down dozens in each release of the drawstrings before withdrawing to avoid the melee. The legionaries had time to resume their positions when the first wave of axes came.

The Germans were seeking payback. Their axes were thrown hard, but the press of men from behind put the front rank of hurlers in difficulty. The barrage was ragged, and ineffective. What axes did manage to avoid thudding harmlessly into the earthworks simply landed on the tight wall of shields above it. The second wave fared little better, then the Germans started their assault rush.

They met a wall of shields armed with large thorns that sought exposed stomachs or flicked into unarmored chests. The impact and momentum of the mass of men broke upon the earthworks. Those few who leapt high onto the barrier ended up falling back into the press dead or dying, their life pouring out through wounds dealt from the second rank. Others tried to grab shields and pull legionaries out of position- these too died quickly. Anywhere a lucky blade brought a Roman down, the killer was quickly slain and a man from the second rank would move forward.

Messala watched the attack impassively. He was facing the Cherusci, who had already lost one king this week and were making a poor showing under their new one. The Cherusci had usually caused Romans to quail at their mention- vestiges of Varus. Messala snorted as he watched the brave but pitiful attack. The Cherusci had indeed fallen on hard times since Arminius.

“Tribune!” he called, signaling forward an officer. “Take two cohorts from the reserve and our Dalmatians and go out of the back gate. Come around and hit those bastards assaulting our front from their flank. Be careful not to kill their king- they won’t stop, then.”

The tribune saluted and ran to where four cohorts stood about behind the walls. These were the VI’s reserve- in case the Germans broke through. If the legate was releasing half to his command, it must mean the Germani are close to breaking.

Lucius Amensius, observing the Chauci attack on his own legion, came rapidly to the same conclusion. The Germans were flagging, not making any progress. A quick hit from an unexpected direction, and they would break. He ordered two cohorts of legionaries, two of auxilia, and whatever cavalry he had left to hit the Germans and hit them hard.

Cadorus was facing Suevii and Usipi. They fought hard, but it was obvious the Usipi had not faced Romans in over a generation, while the Suevi were less than enthusiastic in this attack. They were close to breaking, and even before his four reserve cohorts could even get into the battle. A quick glance about found a good use for them.

“Minucius!” he called. “The XXIId is going to be overrun! Take the III, VI, VIII, and IX and hit those bastards flanking them in the ass.”

Minucius saluted, then turned to the legion reserve. A quick orders brief with the cohort commanders and the four cohorts began moving. And not a moment too soon.

Paullus was getting desperate. The Chatti storm washed against his breastworks for a while, but now the disciplined German warriors were making headway. Already they had pushed his defenders from the walls, forming a German pocket that was struggling to break the ring of shields penning it in. Once the wall was weakened and then broken, the freed Chatti would swarm over the rest of the legion like wolves. And he had no reserves left- having already thrown them into the weakening wall.

“Runner!” he shouted. A legionary from his guard stepped forward. “Go to tribunus Herulius on the south wall. Tell him to send anything he can spare!”

“Second runner! Go to the east wall- tell Caesius to send half his force here. And that if he does not, we are all doomed!”

The two runners sped away. Paullus hoped they would bring help on time. It did not look like it would help much- he could see both Herulius and Caesius embroiled in bitter battles of their own.

The dam began to break. The right flank saw a sudden surge when six warriors wielding axes knocked over eight legionaries. The wall was thin there- a single line- and though the six were soon felled, it was not quick enough. They had fallen forward, and sixteen took their place. The wall parted, and the Chatti flooded through.

“Vibulus!” Cordinus shouted. He pointed with his sword to the gap. “Follow me! We shall seal that gap ourselves! And no backtalk! We will all be dead- including me- if we do not move at once!”

Vibulus looked to the breaking Roman wall. Shit, the governor is right! He shouted to his Samnites and lifted his swords. The General’s Guard knew that signal. As a wall of shimmering steel they moved toward the growing gap, following and then overtaking the man they swore to protect against all enemies. The Chatti, crumbling the shoulders of the wall facing them, poured through the expanding zone into what they thought was the soft innards of the Roman fort.

They ran into the charging Samnite wall instead. The ex-gladiators did not fight as did the legionaries- side by side and with sword and shield as a team. These were fighting angels, each with sword and shield and out to prove themselves the better than their peers, not their foes. In that respect, they fought very similar to the men they faced. They fought individually, tearing into the Chatti warriors as they drove deep into the diffusing Chatti ranks, hacking men down as they whirled and danced with flashing swords in their hands. Many Chatti were slain trying to stop them, but the gladiators suffered too- and far more losses than the legionaries had in battling the same foes. They fought well, though, and earned Chatti respect the hard way for every wound and death they suffered. The Chatti breakthrough was blunted in blood.

The Chatti outside the fort of the XXIId had eyes only for the diminishing Samnites, the broken legion wall they were currently plugging, and the man in the general’s cape leading them. The ex-gladiators fought well for sell-swords, but they were still showcase warriors and not veterans. They were also fighting individually, and though better than any single Chatti warrior with a sword, they were far outnumbered and numbers began telling. Engrossed as they were with the breaking wall of warriors before them, they never saw the four cohorts of the X Gemina closing in behind them until Minucius ordered the pila to be thrown. With no shields facing them, the javelins bit flesh and much of it. Then it was swords and shields into men who barely had time to register the attack.

Paullus rallied his flagging cohorts, and used the Samnites as an example. The Roman reinforcements from the other walls arrived, were formed, and thrown into battle in support of the general. The disciplined, veteran legionaries stopped the Chatti cold. The flood ceased pressing forward, and at the sound of a ram’s horn in the distance, ebbed. Chatti warriors streamed from the fort, and across the field as four cohorts of the XGemina came over the north wall.

“Compliments of Quintus Cadorus,” Minucius said as he reported to Decius Paullus. “We beat off the attack in our sector, but he thought you might need some help over here.”

“My thanks,” Decius Paullus replied. The Chatti were retreating in earnest now, with the Galatian cavalry hurrying them along. “Can you stay until my centurions get reorganized?”

Minucius looked about. A good bit of the legion was still standing. This should not take too long. “As you wish.”

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“That was not pleasant,” Ricgard said, addressing the council of kings that evening. “I lost two thousand good men, and never even made it into the fort.”

“Likewise,” agreed Boirix of the Usipi.

“We did not lose so many, maybe a thousand,” Othgar of the Cherusci said proudly. “Then again, the ones we faced had no bowmen.” He cast a wicked glance toward Horobard of the Chatti. “Your men made it over the walls and into the fort, Horobard. Then you ordered the retreat. I had thought you wished to kill the Romans.”

“I retreated when you did,” said Ulfrich to Horobard. “I am puzzled, though. Your men made it into the fort, as Othgar saw, yet you retreated while Romans there still lived. Why?”

“You all lost a thousand or two thousand each,” Horobard replied. “We lost far more. The bodies were piled so high before our Romans that the surge which broke through did so by marching over a bridge of our own slain. True, our men made it inside and pushed the Romans from their wall. We were enjoying success. Then my son was slain by Romans from your fort, Boirix, which came to help those I was fighting. Our men were in danger of being pressed into a cauldron from which few would return. We had lost. There was still a chance of victory then, but I judged the price too high. So I ordered the retreat while I still had a warhost that could obey.”

“You threw half of your warhost against the Romans,” Udo pointed out. “You could have thrown in the other half and slaughtered a legion, breaking their defenses, and giving Germania its greatest victory ever!”

“At what price? You were not there, Udo Scar-throat,” Horobard replied evenly. “There were more men there, but they were either too far away, or on the wrong side of the little fort. I had thought throwing four times the amount of Romans against them would be sufficient to overwhelm them, as it had in the past. In this I was wrong. These Romans are fighting for their lives- they would not break. I put the weight of my men on Roman right, to bring the Roman attention there- and allow the Tencteri cavalry to slam into the open Roman left. We got into their fort by sheer mass- but the Tencteri never showed. The arrival of four cohorts from the other fort turned our salient into a death-trap. As it was, my chieftains said we lost one in three. Had we not pulled back, we would have lost two in three, and maybe even then not have the victory.”

Udo wisely held his tongue. Horobard was right about one thing- Udo had not seen the Roman move. Everything else was conjecture- but it fit. Penned Romans fight like demons. He smiled inside. This was what he had said earlier.

“Our horsemen ran into stakes, which caused the horses to balk,” said the Tencteri king in his own defense. “The Romans covering the obstacle chose that moment to unleash a storm of arrows and javelins. Our formation- our strength- was shattered. I pulled back to regroup, but by then Horobard had given the order to retreat.”

“Have your foot-borne warriors clear away the obstacles next time,” said Othgar of the Cherusci. “Then your horses can charge and leap over the wall to shatter the Roman formation- their strength.”

“There will be no next time,” Horobard muttered.

“So what do we do now?” Udo asked slyly. He already knew the answer.

Horobard rose to the bait by throwing the bone upon which he had been gnawing into the fire. “We starve them out,” he said bitterly, glaring at the Bructeri king. “As you had originally advised.”

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-14-11 06:38 AM EDT (US)     15 / 86       
Looks like the fierce Germanic attack was blunted by a fiercer Roman defense.

Another great installment, Terikel!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
GeneralKickAss
Ashigaru
posted 03-15-11 01:44 AM EDT (US)     16 / 86       
I agree. The last few updates have been very exciting.

And Samnite Gladiators for the win!

"The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for." -Homer
"You see, this is what happens when you don't follow instructions, GKA..." -Edorix
Guild of the Skalds, Order of the Silver Quill, Apprentice Storyteller
Battle of Ilipa, 206BC - XI TWH Egil Skallagrimson Award

The word dyslexia was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-17-11 02:54 AM EDT (US)     17 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The primus pilus of the X Gemina was directing his subordinate centurions in the after-action routines when Cadorus joined him. A screen of Remi were circling before the fort, providing cover for the cohort detailed for battlefield clean-up. Under Top’s watchful eye, the men of the III cohort had gone out and began working their way back to the fort- making sure the dead were indeed dead, stripping them of food and weapons, while others harvested arrows and other missiles for use the next time they come.

“Think they’ll find any food among them?” Cadorus asked the centurion.

The top centurion shook his head. “Most likely not, but you never know. Some might be carrying a pouch of dried meat, in case they get hungry during the battle.” He turned to face the legate directly. “I don’t know what Tribunus Minucius lost, but the rest of us have two hundred twenty dead- mostly guys caught holding their shield too low and having their throats cut, or getting clobbered over the head by cudgel or axe. Another hundred or so wounded- mostly arms. We did good, legate.”

Cadorus nodded. He saw at least a thousand bodies sprawled before his fort, most likely more. “As soon as the clean-up crew is finished, have a second cohort reset our obstacles and drag those bodies away from our ditches. No sense in making the next time easier for them.”

“Aye, legate,” the centurion replied. “Will you be picking up Minucius and our four cohorts soon? We may need them. I’ll have six turmae of the Remi escort you- in case any bloody monkeys are hiding in the woods.”

“That will do,” Cadorus replied with a nod. “Tell Severus he is in command until I get back.”



There were no Germans in the woods, making the four hundred pace trip tense but uneventful. What few Germans were about were eight hundred paces away- across the clearing, staring sullenly at the earthwork forts so many had died trying to take. The sentries of the XXIId opened what passed for their gate to let the legate in. Had they not, he would have simply gone over the walls as his four cohorts had done earlier.

“You need to fix that ditch,” he pointed out to the tesserarius at the gate. “It’s not deep enough by far, and no stakes remain.”

The tesserarius wanted to grumble a low curse toward the legate who had had it easy all day while the XXIId was fighting for its life, but one look into the ditch changed his mind. The ditch was indeed too shallow, and the bloody Germans- or the four cohorts of the Xth that had saved the XXII’s collective ass- had pulled what few stakes there were out of position. So instead of grumbling, he promised to correct the deficiency.

Cadorus left the Remi to find Minucius while he went to report to the generalis. As he suspected, the other legates had likewise gathered in the coming darkness to give their reports as well.

“You first, Gnaeus,” the generalis said, nodding to the VI Victrix legatus. The generalis was lounging on his couch, but favoring his left side. The dark stains in the dark fabric he wore spoke of wounds. He acknowledged the arrival of the Gemina commander with a small nod, then gestured for the Victrix legate to begin.

“The Cherusci came at us in strength, but their king did not press his attack as hard as he could,” Messala reported flatly. He tried not to let the leaking blood of the general distract him, but it was hard. The general had fought! Maybe he wasn’t the pansy we took him for, or maybe he learned something else here in the pit of Hell. “Either that, or the lads did extremely well fending them off. We had three hundred killed, and counted at least two thousand bodies.”

“I believe they did not press,” Lucius Amensius concluded. “We too faced stiff resistance, but not a thorough press. We drove them back rather quickly, and even had men to spare for a flanking attack. The flankers ran into some enemy horse, but took care of them rather handily. Two hundred dead, half that wounded. That’s across the entire legion.”

“We faced Usipi, in the least, maybe others mixed in,” Cadorus added. “They seemed pumped for action, but winded rather quickly. I drove them off, then saw the XXIId about to be overrun, so I send Minucius and the reserve I no longer needed to relieve Paullus. We lost about two hundred twenty dead, not counting Minucius’s losses.”

“His pilus prior reported less than ten men killed,” Paullus chimed in. “The Chatti never saw him until it was too late. He had it the easiest of us all.” The legate turned to the general. “As you know, sir, we were hit the hardest. It was obvious that we were the main target based on the amount of Germanic warriors deployed against us. The others faced holding attacks to prevent reinforcing us. In the case of the Usipi attack on the X Gemina, it was too weak and thus easily driven off. Tribune Herulius on the South wall managed to throw the coming cavalry charge into disarray, but we were pushed off the west wall and our north wall defenses were overrun. You led your praetorian guard into the battle on that flank and stabilized it for a while, but we still would have been dead meat had not Tribunus Minucius and four cohorts of the Xth come.”

“Vibulus and his men died well,” Cordinus agreed. He sighed, then looked up in remembrance of the fallen. He fixed his gaze upon Cadorus. “We lost fifteen hundred men. Had your cohorts not arrived when they had, we would have lost another six thousand. It seems I and this army owe you a debt.”

“The Germani will not come again soon,” Decius Paullus interrupted, trying to bring the governor away from the loss of most of his guards- many of whom had served him long and well- as well as his own wounds. “Not after that thrashing. I figure maybe a week before they try again.”

“You said it would be a week before they even try an assault,” Messala reminded him. “You said that yesterday.”

“That Chatti king must have pushed for it,” Paullus replied easily. “The others supported him to keep us occupied, but their hearts were not in it. The Chatti came in force- and were definitely intent on killing us. They were also the largest warhost- and one which had not faced us in many years. They had lost the respect our ancestors drilled into them. So the Chatti Bull pushed for the assault, thinking us weak, and now that he got his ass kicked and branded, he will simmer with the others.”

Cordinus snorted, and was about to make some asinine comment when Amensius coughed and said quickly, “I agree, Decius. He thought he could beat us in a fortified camp, but got taught a lesson. He will chew on that for a while before coming again.”

Messala was looking out into the darkening sky to the west. The bodies were still piled high where they died- at least those outside the fort. “You might want to let the Germans take care of their dead, Decius,” he said suddenly. “You don’t want putrifying bodies on your doorstep, leaking crap into your water supply.” Water triggered the thought of food, and the bodies added a new component to his mental soup. "Did your men scavenge any food from the buggers when you searched them?“

“Hardly a loaf of bread,” Paullus replied.

Messala nodded, as did Cadorus.

“They had too many mouths to feed,” Cadorus said, picking the thought from the head of Messala. "We have food; they do not. So they attack while they are strong. If they win, we die and they can go home to dinner. If they lose, then there are fewer mouths to feed during the coming siege- and the Chatti did not throw their entire host against you.“

“So,” said Cordinus, thinking aloud as he pondered this information upon which his legates seemed to agree. “We wait a week, heal our wounded, then attempt a breakout when they are weakened. I like it. Yes, that is what we shall do. We will beat back their next attack, then follow them and destroy them once and for all.”

“That will get us all killed,” said the legates in unison. The general sat back, stunned at the unanimous reply.

“How so?”

Messala pointed to the German camps. “There are still sixty thousand out there. If we win, we kill maybe ten thousand and drive the rest off, right? Driving off is not the same as driving away.”

“Semantics,” Cordinus snorted.

“Not semantics. Two very different things, generalis,” Messala corrected. “Today we drove them off. Look outside. See the campfires? We did not drive them away- they are still there. The fact that they are not here inside with us is because we drove them off.”

He paused to let the difference sink in. Then he began anew. “So we follow your plan, yes? They attack, we drive them off again, and follow it up with a rousing victory. Then we move. These Germans, Cordinus Gallicus, are not like the Armenians who flee to their high mountain homes when whipped. No, these men might flee, but they will regroup and come back to redeem their lost honor. Fifty thousand against us on the march, and us with no camp into which to duck? I do not like that at all.”

“Shades of Varus,” Amensius added. “In these very woods, too.”

The generalis nodded as the lesson sank in. These men knew the Germans well- he did not. His poor knowledge of them led him to lead them here- in the middle of a Germanic cauldron. Better here then out there in the fire, he thought. “Then we stay put until they go home. Or until our supplies run out.”

“Marcus will rescue us,” Messala said cheerfully. “He has a dozen auxilia, and legions on the way. Plus he is Marcus Rutilius. His best friend is a centurion in this camp, and Cadorus is his protege. We and he are Roman soldiers, and Roman soldiers never let other Roman soldiers remain trapped.”

Cordinus thought back to the unsent scrolls he found in his baggage. There are no legions coming. If they knew that, they would be far from confident. I need them confident to survive, so I must keep that secret to myself.

“I will consider it,” the generalis decided. “So how do we keep the men occupied and disciplined now? Doing maneuver drills outside the camp I would assume would be foolish.”

“Suicidal,” Messala agreed.

“We fortify,” Cadorus said. “When in doubt, fortify. That was one of the first things Marcus ever taught me.”

“That will indeed keep the men too busy to worry,” Lucius agreed. “I’ll have my boys start cutting down trees.”

“I’d rather my boys cut down the trees,” Cadorus interjected. “Yours and those of Gnaeus have spent the last two winters planing and shaping, mine chopping firewood. We cut them down, your men lop off the branches and shape them.”

Messala nodded. His legion had become wizards with woods, building boats and barges and bridges for the assault crossings. Amensius nodded as well- his Raptors were woodworking gods. Chopping was the easy part- the X Gemina could handle that easily enough.

“I’ll have my boys help too,” Decius Paullus added. “As soon as we are done rebuilding the ramparts and fixing our ditches.”

“You concentrate on your earthworks,” Cadorus said with a pushing wave of his hand. “I’ll chop the trees.”

Paullus shrugged with an unspoken ‘as you wish’, but Cordinus was more interested in the reason the Gemina legate wanted to handle the axes himself.

“You seem rather eager to have your men do menial labor,” he said in an amused tone, “especially for a man whose actions have made himself and his men the heroes of the hour. Tell me, Quintus Petillius, why this is.”

“A promise I made, lord,” Cadorus explained. He left it at that.

But Cordinus did not. “Elaborate,” he commanded.

Cadorus sighed. There was no escaping it now. He was about to mention Astrid and her father, but realized the futility of that. He decided to keep it simple. “The map is incorrect, lord. The Sacred Grove of Wotan that the VI Victrix was to assault is not over there beyond the Usipi campsite. It is right here. We built our camps around it.”

“Is that so?” Cordinus asked with much more amusement.

“Aye, lord,” Cadorus admitted. “I encountered its High Priest outside our encampment and escorted him outside our lines. He bade me promise to guard the grove. I made that promise freely, and he allowed all other trees to be felled.”

“You fool,” Cordinus shouted. He lunged up, only to fall back from the pain in his wound. When he spoke again, it was with the same level of anger, though the volume and intensity was seeping out through his bandage. “You captured their High Priest, and let him go free?!? What were you thinking? I should have you cashiered and thrown in chains for such blatant stupidity! We could have used him to bargain our way out of this!”

“No priest or king would ever bargain us away,” Messala scoffed. What an ass this generalis was! “Cadorus bought us some good will- the best he could get.”

“Better,” Cadorus said with a nod. “He promised none of us would be sacrificed to Wotan should the Germani be victorious. A clean death- no torture for the officers, no roasting in wicker cages. Wotan’s thanks for sparing his High Priest. Enslavement for the men, of course.”

“You bargained well,” Amensius noted. “Roasting officers is one of their favorite pastimes.”

“I am surprised he agreed to it,” Paullus added. “Most want to roast as many as they can to appease their awful gods.”

The ambience of positive reactions made an impression on the man who led them into this mess. He was not stupid, though some lessons took a lot longer to sink in than others, but was rather ignorant of the local customs. Roasting in a wicker cage was not his idea of a worthy end to a Roman senator- and it seems that was exactly what was in store for a man who could not even fall on his sword properly. Cadorus had changed that fate to a clean death- something admirable and worthy.

“I apologize, Quintus Petillius” Cordinus said after a moment’s reflection. “You acted well in accordance with piety and dignity in releasing their High Priest.”

Cadorus nodded silently.

“But now that we have their Sacred Grove, maybe we can use that to our advantage,” Cordinus continued.

“No,” Cadorus reminded him. “I shall do all I can to preserve the Grove itself. I gave my word freely, which was why we were offered clean deaths. Destroying the Grove would erase that. Plus erase my honor.”

Cordinus knew well how barbarians felt about honor, even ones with a Roman veneer. He was about to speak when Cadorus brought forth a large, heavy packet.

“The priest gave me this,” he said as he unwrapped it. “It was taken by treachery, a blight upon his honor and that of his god. When he heard how, he gave it to me to purify his Grove of the taint it carried. The Germans will want this back, and ours as well, of course, but honorably. I made a promise to a priest that I would watch over his trees as if they were my own, in exchange for clean deaths and the possibility of felling other trees. My honor is as strong as any German’s. He kept his word; I would keep mine. Your mission is now a success, as soon as we leave, which should be in a week or two.”

Cordinus stared at the silver Eagle unveiled. It was the Eagle of the Alaudae, the second of two lost in the Batavian Revolt. His objective, handed carelessly to a legate by a priest who no longer wanted it. He’ll probably take it back honorably shortly anyway, he thought callously. Still, he would die with his task accomplished. Both Eagles recovered.

“The Grove is sacrosanct,” he promised at last. Silver icons given freely tend to make a man think of honor. “Quintus Petillius, you are in charge of the felling of trees. Gnaeus, Lucius, your men plane and shape. Decius, yours dig. I want our forts linked into a gigantic castrum by the end of the week.”

Cadorus nodded solemnly. He had given Cordinus success. The scroll in his belt, also a gift of the priest, would remain where it is. It would be a fitting gift to Marcus when he relieves the army.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-17-11 08:32 AM EDT (US)     18 / 86       
And so the Romans plan to achieve victory.

Great installment. Although Cordinus eying up the Sacred Grove is worrying.....

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
GeneralKickAss
Ashigaru
posted 03-17-11 10:48 AM EDT (US)     19 / 86       
Cordinus' presence does add a nice balance - on one hand you're worried for the legions' entrapment by the Germani, on the other you are fretting over when that great imbecile of a generalis will pop up with some fresh stupidity to further endanger his men's situation.

Thus I particularly enjoyed the part where he spoke up and was promptly slapped back down by his legates in unison.
“Roasting officers is one of their favorite pastimes.”
LOLed at that.

"The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for." -Homer
"You see, this is what happens when you don't follow instructions, GKA..." -Edorix
Guild of the Skalds, Order of the Silver Quill, Apprentice Storyteller
Battle of Ilipa, 206BC - XI TWH Egil Skallagrimson Award

The word dyslexia was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.

[This message has been edited by GeneralKickAss (edited 03-17-2011 @ 10:51 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-21-11 03:18 AM EDT (US)     20 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Aulus Caecina was receiving a visitor, which he usually did at the noon hour of a warm summer day, but this visitor was one he did not expect. The visitor was a nobleman but had come alone, which was unusual in a time where the definition of abject poverty was the inability to own at least one slave. And on a day like this every man owning at least two slaves would have one carry a shade and another fanning him to keep him cool. This man had neither. He was wrapped in a white shawl over his bleached toga- also unusual for a nobleman not performing official duties.

“Gaius Helvidius!” Caecina exclaimed upon recognizing the visitor. “I thought you to be in Armenia by now.”

“I was dawdling in Athens,” Helvidius replied coldly, “awaiting word of my household goods when I received a disturbing letter from Titus Burrius. Would you prefer to discuss it out here in your atrium, or inside your study?”

“By all means, Gaius Helvidius, the study of course,” Caecina said graciously. He had his attending slave fetch wine and water, then gestured for Helvidius to enter his study. “No slave? On a day like this?”

“I freed my slaves,” Helvidius answered, “upon going into exile. I do have a few freedmen with me, but I preferred they set up my house for residence than accompany me here.”

“How very Republican of you,” Caecina said, hiding his smirk. “Catonian. Now, my friend, welcome back to Rome.”

“I would rather not be here at all, Aulus,” Helvidius replied coldly, though his tone seethed with anger. “I would much prefer to be dawdling in Athens before moving east to Kotais. Yet this ado with Burrius- it calls me back.”

Caecina was the very epitome of innocence. “Which ado is that?”

“Do not toy with me, Aulus Caecina,” Helvidius replied stiffly. “He sent me a letter. He says you told him that both he and I were targets of an imperial investigation into something very treasonous, so treasonous that true evidence would not be required. He said nothing further, other than to flee. I would know what he was about, but he seems to have disappeared into the woodwork. As you told him, coming to your house was the next logical step.”

Caecina nodded. “Ah, now I remember.” He smiled broadly. “I had been so overjoyed at seeing my old friend so unexpectedly, the unpleasantness had slipped my mind.” He poured some wine, and left room for the Republican to add water, should he so desire. Of course, he did. “Dreadful business.”

“Enlighten me,” Helvidius said with a smile of his own. Unlike that of Caecina, his smile was more a baring of fangs than a grin of pleasure.

Caecina told him of the intercepted letters- how they were sent, and how they were sealed, and most of all, what they contained. Helvidius listened in growing horror as the espionage and treason was casually laid out- and especially that Burrius had thought him involved in such perfidy.

“I see,” said Helvidius. “And because this traitor’s signet bears such a remarkable resemblance to my own, you duly warn him out of friendship for me. He then flees, which you knew he would, and in fleeing making his patron- me- look even more guilty. Well played, Aulus. I assume you chose my signet to forge because you thought my departure for Armenia would provide a sufficient alibi for me if it was discovered?”

Aulus gasped in feigned indignity, then sputtered angrily, “I forged nothing, Gaius. Nor did I send those plans. Pluto’s Frozen Sac, Gaius, how would a political exile like myself have access to such secret documents?”

Helvidius snorted. “I have sat here in this very room and watched you pour wine for sotted son of Titus Flavius Vespasianus many times now, Aulus. You might be a political exile and outcast, but he is not. And he has access. It would be rather simple for him to steal the plans, or have them stolen, and for you to use my business to transport them.”

Caecina raised his right hand. “I swear before Jupiter Optimus Maximus and any god you prefer, Gaius. I did no such thing!”

Helvidius read the play of thought across his erstwhile friend’s face and merely said, “But you knew. And in knowing, you knew I would be implicated.”

“How?” Caecina wailed. “You were enroute to Armenia- safe from palace intrigue. You could not be implicated!”

“Then why warn Burrius?”

Caecina deflated. “Out of respect,” he admitted. “The Imperial Investigator came to my house, looking for help. I noticed the seal immediately, of course- it was indeed that of Burrius. The second seal- on the incriminating documents- was a ringer for yours, Gaius. I gave the investigator no cause for alarm, nor any help that was true. I did slip him a few false leads, which he wandered off tracking down and wasting precious time, which I in turn used to warn Burrius.”

“How very noble of you,” Helvidius said haughtily.

“The investigator was Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus,” Aulus Caecina informed him. “One lies to that fat pig at one’s own peril. Yet I did it, Gaius, in order to give your man fair warning. Now, why would I do that- put my own neck at risk- if I had anything to do with the sending of those plans to Germans?”

Helvidius rummaged through his memories. Such discussions they had held here in this very room, many of which concerned ways to force Vespasianus to give Caecina a commission and an army, which he would then use to overthrow the Principate and restore his beloved Republic.

As if reading his visitor’s mind, Caecina continued. “I do have my own agenda, Gaius, as you well know. I want a political life again. I want to be a generalis again. I went along with you in restoring the Republic as I saw that goal as one that would further my own- Vespasianus killed my career through his personal hatred of me. The People may see my service and reward me. I stand to gain if we win. But Gaius- I gain nothing by destroying the army with which I would restore the Republic! Think about it. Handing military plans to the Germans? They would butcher the very tool I need!”

Helvidius relaxed a bit. “That is very true, Aulus.”

“I have absolutely nothing against sacrificing a pawn or two to achieve my goals,” Caecina continued. “Rutilius Gallicus can be discredited as a governor- fine, he will be replaced. Maybe by me. Rutilius the quaestor? Let him die- he stands in my way. But let the army upon which our plan depends get itself massacred? It serves no point, and is directly opposite of my goal.”

“Then we have a bigger problem than the musings and conniving of political exiles trying to regain stature,” Helvidius determined. “Someone used my man to pass treasonous materials under my name.”

“Which is exactly why I risked my life to give your man warning,” Caecina completed. “And he risked his to warn you, or you would not be here now.”

Helvidius thought this over. It made utter sense. Somebody was out to discredit him, and him alone. Caecina and Mallius were small fish with no voices in the halls of power- even if they tried, it served no purpose. It had been his long experience that men most willingly do those things that help them achieve their goals. Further, he did have one very large enemy- the man who had prosecuted his innocent father-in-law into suicide. Eprius.

“I think Eprius is behind this all,” Helvidius stated factually. “He has every reason to hate me- I have hounded him incessantly since the death of my wife’s father. I would not put it past him to forge those documents to have me slain as a traitor- it exonerates him totally of the charges against which Vespasian shielded him.”

“I saw the documents, and the signets,” Caecina admitted. “Eprius brought them to me. I recognized your seal at once, but sent him on a false trail chasing shady slavers anyway. I had thought the seal real, and the perpetrator you, to be honest.”

You do not know the meaning of the word honest, Helvidius thought viciously. Yet the words and attitude of the man spoke volumes. In this case, he did appear to be telling the truth. He had no motive, nor did he shy away from sending word of the coming persecution.

“Slavers?” he said at last. “I sell slaves, too. One of my side-businesses. And I have sold slaves to the Flavii as well- mine are highly-prized. But this seal... Are you sure the signet was mine? I have been on the road to or in Athens well before these ‘plans’ were sent. It could not be mine!”

“I know, which was why I warned your man. Somebody has a forgery of your signet- and access to military plans- or the Imperial Household- or both. And that someone wants the blame for this to fall upon you, if they get caught.”

Helvidius thought that over. It was just bad luck- and some very good spying- that had found the incriminating documents in the first place. They were not meant to be found. So, following that train of thought, someone wanted the Army of Germania Inferior to be destroyed or severely hurt in battle. That was totally against the aims of Caecina, who would arrange things so that the commander was deemed incompetent and thus relieved of command of his very capable and intact army. That fully exonerated Aulus Caecina from this mess.

“And Eprius did not recognize my signet? At all?”

“Have you ever written to the man?” Caecina replied.

Helvidius shook his head. Of course not.

“Then he has no way to know what your signet looks like,” Caecina reasoned. “His ignorance in the matter was complete.”

Nor could he forge that which he did not know, Helvidius realized. Eprius is not the culprit. That realization hit him like a ton of bricks. The Boar was not his only enemy. There was another.

Caecina had come to the same conclusion.

“I see,” said Gaius Helvidius Priscus, who saw nothing at all. The entire affair was a mass of confusion. The only thing he did see was the only way out of this mess.

“It looks like I must pay a visit to Titus Flavius Vespasianus and discuss this with him personally,” Helvidius said lowly. “He is the only one in the government not tainted by spite or greed in this matter, besides being reigning consul.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Calor and his Marsi chased the Roman fleet out of the Lupia, maintaining the pressure on Piscius the entire length of the river. Piscus, seeing the Marsi still coming even after his ships cleared the mouth of the river, turned his fleet upriver.

“That’s against the wind, navarchos!” bellowed the steersman. “We’ll be slowed, and then taken like Horatius!”

Piscius threw his weight against the rudder, forcing the ship to head upstream, against the protests of his steersman who stood helplessly by.

“True, we will be slowed with the wind against us,” the grizzled fleet captain replied bitterly. “But those commandeered fisher boats are sailboats with few oars- we will be slowed, but they will be stopped.”

The steersman looked aft and saw the Germanic fleet turn to follow the Roman fleet- then stop cold in its wakes and be blown downstream by wind and the current. His panic receded, and he apologized.

“You will learn, kid,” the veteran replied easily. “We’ll get some distance between us and see what those monkeys are up to.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Calor watched the Romans retreat faster than he could chase.

“Let them go,” he ordered with a confident shout, then signaled the rest of the fisherman fleet to maintain station on Father Rhein. “They will not come back anytime soon. Has anyone seen the Suevi?”


Segestes and his men were marching hard. They reached Father Rhein a day later. He greeted the Marsic king on the bank, overlooking the Roman rockpile further downriver. He could not help noticing the Roman fleet sitting prettily on the West Bank far upstream.

“Will they give us any problems?” he asked of the Marsi.

Calor shook his head with a laugh. “We captured two of them on our river, and chased the rest upstream. They shall not interfere with what we do now, or risk losing the rest of their tiny fleet. Do you know they have no marines onboard?”

“No soldiers?” wondered Segestes. No wonder the Marsi had been able to capture two. But why not more- the boats were evidently faster than the lumbering ships? Then the impact of the first statement struck him. No marines meant a lack of manpower. “This might be easier than we thought.”

“Aye,” laughed Calor. “Let your men rest, Segestes. We shall occupy ourselves with drink and merriment tonight, then capture the food for our warhost in the morning. Shall it not be a grand sight, my friend, to have the Roman grain delivered to the Germanic warhost in Roman ships?”

Segestes laughed heartily. “Aye, Calor. A grand gesture, one worthy of our conquest.” He would rest easier, later that night, when one of his men reported the Roman fleet had moved further upriver and out of sight.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-21-11 06:48 AM EDT (US)     21 / 86       
Helvidius might rue the day his signet was forged.

I think Caecina is lying though.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-24-11 03:01 AM EDT (US)     22 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Across the river, Rutilius watched the forest with a sense of doom. So many campfires. There had to be at least ten thousand warriors- probably more. They would not stay there long- tomorrow at the latest. After that, more would come. He had exactly one night to come up with and execute a plan to defeat them.

He had four thousand five hundred auxilia in the fort, eleven of his twelve auxilia cohorts- but many were cavalry and quite useless on the walls. He also had the artillery of two legions. He had enough supplies to last a legion of six thousand eight months. With rationing and his lower numbers, he could withstand the siege for a year. On the surface, that sounded like a Roman victory, but he remembered well the winter and spring of five years ago. Two legions were trapped in the old castrum a few hundred paces from here. They held out for eight months before surrendering. By that time the closest Roman haven was in Massilia. If Cordinus was trapped and could not be rescued in a week or two, then this fortress would be the only thing between the Germani and the coast. Any legions coming would have to fight through hundreds of thousands of Germani to reach this post. In other words, a year might not be long enough. Then again, he could not abandon the fortress or its supplies to the enemy and maneuver on the battlefield- if there was even a wisp of a chance of the legions still existing, he had to defend this place. His decision was therefore already made.

“Centurion!” he called, summoning the commander of the artillery. “How far from here can your scorpions and catapults reach?”

The artilleryman judged the distances and wind. “Maybe half across the Rhenus for the closest, to that patch of scrub for the farthest-placed piece.”

“Emplace as many scorpions as you can on that wall,” Rutilius ordered, pointing not to the wall facing the river, but the one facing south. “Make sure there are plenty of projectiles ready, but also make sure there is enough room between the pieces for men to defend them.”

The centurion saw the Germans and their boats, then looked to the wall facing the river. “Not on that wall, lord? Where we could shoot them in the river before they ever get dry feet?”

Rutilius turned to the centurion and spoke plainly, as a tutor to a pupil. “There are two types of Germanic commanders I have encountered. One type, the most common, throws everything he has at you in one fell swoop, hoping to overpower you before his own men tire. The other kind relies more on craftiness and wile. A balls-to-the-wall commander would assault from the river, storm up the small slope, and hit our walls with everything he has. Your artillery, while good, will not even come close to depleting his forces, even if they could hit a boat on the move. The wily commander, though, will rest his men thoroughly before the attack, then cross over there,” he pointed to the south, where the embankment was not as steep, “and form up. Which kind of commander do you think we face?”

The centurion looked out at the Germanic encampment, with its fires roaring and its men settling in for the coming night.

“A wily one, lord,” he admitted. “But a wily one might think to land north of us, where the embankment is lower still and the land suitable for forming up for battle.”

“A wily commander would also know that scorpions can range much of the river, and our onagers can plaster the far side from here. It would also take those boats three or four lifts to get the army across. Now, if you were a wily commander, centurion, would you run an artillery gauntlet five to seven times for a better location, or stick with the landing zone you know is out of range?”

“I will emplace the scorpions on the south wall,” the artilleryman said, admitting defeat. “And have the onagers set their aiming stakes to cover the ground by that landing zone as well, with secondary fields of fire covering the river- just in case.”

“That is exactly what I thought, too,” Rutilius admitted.

Good plan. The centurion acknowledged the order.

Rutilius then summoned the prefects and tribunes of his auxilia and explained the situation and his orders. Each understood what was asked, though a few gave advice on the proper use of their own specialty troops. Much of that made sense, and was incorporated into the defense plan. And as a fail-safe, one contubernium of auxilia was to stand near the storehouses with lit torches and amphorae of oil- just in case the Germanic assault carried the walls anyway.

Decimus Nigidius was less pleased with the orders he received. His marines were looking forward to standing on the walls as equals of the infantry, or showering the enemy with naval arrows. Instead, he was given marching orders.

“This is a long march, and one which could turn the tide of the coming battle,” the quaestor had pointed out. “Few cohorts can do it, fewer still accomplish the mission at the end of it. But you can, Decimus. Your men can.”

Nigidius accepted the praise and his shoulders sank. He too knew the importance of his mission. Rutilius had been neither wrong nor prejudiced in issuing them to his cohort- his men were truly the only ones in the castrum capable of correctly executing them. So with a heavy heart he returned to his men.

Rutilius stood in the tower alone and watched. His plan was made, and explained. Sentries were set, the towers manned, and the orders given. There was nothing more to be done, so why did he feel so bloody useless?

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The morning saw the Germanic attack on Vetera.

At first the heavily laden boats appeared to seek the northern landing area, but a firm rain of rock dissuaded them from that idea. More likely the outlying boats had merely drifted towards the fortress in the current, or the Germani were testing to see at which range the Roman artillery would start its awful hurling. A wily commander would want to know these things, and Rutilius already knew he was facing such a man. He knew it since the Germans first appeared on the bank- the hundred thousand facing Cordinus were too many in one spot with no logistics, so the wily commander split his forces to get some food while reducing the load on his vestigial supply system. Smart. And the closest storehouse of food was inside these very walls. Yes, kamerat, you are very wily indeed, which is why you will land to my south.

The German boats collided with the bank, vomited their load of warriors, then shoved off to pick up the second load. Calor, leading the first wave, had his men form up into warbands to secure his landing zone from immediate attack. He was puzzled as a black plume of smoke went up from the Roman rockpile, but nothing untoward happened. If anyone was waiting to attack the Marsi at their most vulnerable, they missed the opportunity. The beachhead was strengthened, and ready for the next wave.

Rutilius watched them form with almost Roman precision. Someone has been practicing, he thought glumly. Then his attention was drawn back to the boats, which were tacking with the wind toward where the next load stood ready to board. He glanced down the river, then up. His mind drifted to Nigidius and his men, and he hoped they had managed to find the fleet, or the four thousand in the fortress would be hard pressed.

The second wave crossed and landed. Rutilius could make out the tribe of that bunch. He was surprised. They were Suevi, from far to the South. He had expected a few, but not the thousands he saw, with a second load of Suevi on the far bank awaiting the return of the boats. Squinting, he could make out the Suevi commander.

“I should have known,” he muttered to himself. “”Segestes. As he promised.”

The third and final load was loading now, to bring the German force back up to its full fifteen thousand. Fifteen thousand! Twice as much as he had figured- and confirmed!- remained of the Bructeri.

Muted shouts dragged his attention from the Suevi and back toward the river. Relief flooded through him as he watched the thirty ships of the Rhenus Fleet come rowing down the river in wedges- pulling like champions. Never had he been so happy to see the navy as he was at this moment.

The Germans were less happy, but not as crushed in spirit as the Romans had hoped. They had taken two Roman ships upon the Lupia and were now being handed thirty more. To them, a gift. The boat captains turned their ships upriver to swarm the dangerous ships that would become sitting ducks at first impact.

The Germans seriously underestimated the speed and momentum of the Roman fleet, and the resulting effect of that mass of warships impacting on boats built more to keep fish inside than warships out. The Roman galleys plowed through the first impacts without hardly slowing. Warriors were thrown into the air and river as boats were smashed to splinters in less than a heartbeat. The next wave of crashes slowed the Roman galleys down some, and the effects of the impacts were less spectacular. The third batch slowed them even further and simply broke the laden boats in twain. The fourth series of impacts had the Romans stopped in the water.

But only for a moment. Piscius ordered his cornicen to play “back water” and the galleys lurched backwards as oars dipped into the water and pushed. The wreckage of the German boats, helped by the current, slid from the rams to sink into oblivion. The movement brought the Roman ships closer to the remaining boats who were both stunned and shocked by the ferocity and power of the Roman attack. But that attack was now slowed, and its perpetrators now surrounded by a swarm of angry, vengeful warriors. That is when Piscius played his trump card.

Nigidius and his men stood up, the powerful naval bows in their hands with arrows nocked. On command, they pulled their strings back and released, sending a swarm of angry wasps to sting the Germans intent on boarding. Men fell back into their boats with arrows sunk to the fletchings in their chests and necks, or missed the boat to disappear forever into Father Rhein. A second volley followed, then a third. By the time the fourth volley was nocked, the ships were out of immediate danger and pulling hard downriver.

“Turn about!” Piscius commanded. “Build speed and hit them again! Every boatload emptied is so many fewer warriors to hit the fortress.”

The Germans figured the Roman plan when they saw the warships come smartly about. They also saw their only chance of survival. As a man, they set a fast course for the west bank, trying to gather as much wind as possible.

The wind was blowing downriver. This hindered the Romans a bit, but as their sails were furled and their oars pulling a stroke per second, it had little effect. It had more effect on the light German boats, heavily laden with warriors. Both current and wind pushed them toward the Roman ships. Again the impact was devastating, and boats broken like toys under an angry hammer. A third of them made it to the shores, where eager warriors helped their brothers out of the water and helped haul the boats ashore and out of harm’s away.

Piscius defiantly sailed his ships back and forth by the landing zone, making a six mile loop, as if daring the Germans to take to the river again. At every pass, the marines launched volley after volley of naval arrows into the startled mass of warriors, until they finally retreated out of range. His cornice played a light tune in victory, while he himself kept one eye on the boats and one on the flotsam moving slowly downriver. Over half of the German boats were now splinters, at least, and many others were damned near emptied by the marines. It was warfare as Horatius was accustomed. He wished his dead friend could have seen this. In all, a victory that more than made up for the loss of two ships and their crews- including his friend.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“No marines, eh?” Segestes cursed as he pulled yet another body from the river. Like most of the others, this one was dead, too. “They slaughtered us, Calor, like sheep!”

“They must have picked some up somewhere,” The Marsic king replied lowly. Like the Suevi lord, he too was stunned and angry at this sudden turn of events. The Roman attack.... It was like dragons among wagons- powerful, unstoppable, and devastating. He had never seen the like.

“Half of the Quadii are drowned,” shouted Segestes, pulling yet another corpse from the river. This one, however, began sputtering when he kneeled upon its chest. “I got a live one here!”

Two men rushed to help the Suevi prince get the man to safety. They got about fifty paces from the bank when the Roman ships glided past, sending everyone scurrying for cover. Arrows fell, then the ships were gone. The two men and prince came out from under their shields to find the survivor writhing with an arrow in his chest. A few seconds later the writhing stopped, as did the bleeding.

“Three thousand we lost, Calor, half of the third wave!”

“There is nothing more we can do here, except lose more,” Calor said with a resigned sigh. “If we go any further downriver, those blasted catapults from the fortress can skewer our rescuers before they can rescue anyone. What we have, is what we have.”

“We have twelve thousand, no food, and are trapped on the Roman side of the river,” Segestes summed up. “And I suggest we get those boats on land as soon as possible before the navy comes and wrecks them, making our task of freighting the grain we shall capture to the rest of our warhost impossible. And of course, trapping us here for good.”

Calor nodded, and detailed off a few men to spread the word. Bring up the boats. Then he turned to Segestes.

“Do you see that rockpile there?” he asked, gesturing toward the fortress to the north. “That is the fortress of Vetera. They can withstand a siege, while we cannot. But once we take that vital piece of ground, this province is broken in half. That fleet over there,” he gestured to Piscius and his galleys, “will have no safe haven between here and the sea. They will be forced to return upriver- far upriver- and that will allow us to succeed. Granted, freighting the food across will take longer, but by then we shall have time and the Romans not.”

Segestes considered that. He found that he was forced to agree. Once this fortress was in German hands, the fleet would have no havens between here and the sea. In fact, the closest safe place would be in Mogontiacum- just north of Suevi lands. So this loss today, while painful, was not critical to their success. The assault tomorrow would be.

“You are correct,” the Suevi acknowledged. “Let us ready for the assault. This evening we examine the fortress from every angle and make our plans while our men rest or make siege gear.”

“Ah, a thinking man,” Calor said with a nod. “It is always good to work with such.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-24-11 11:42 AM EDT (US)     23 / 86       
Looks like the Germans suffered badly on their third wave. Be interesting to see if Vetera holds. Great installment!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-28-11 03:11 AM EDT (US)     24 / 86       
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The Germans were not the only ones readying for the coming assault. Roman eyes had seen nearby trees falling, and the sound of axes sinking into wood was unmistakable. Rutilius needed no scouts to tell him the enemy was preparing rams and ladders. If his hypothesis concerning the German logistical situation was correct, then the Germans would waste no time besieging- they would assault. A siege would be in their strategic interest- it holds the legions in the forest until they starve, and holds the supplies they would normal receive trapped within these walls. But if the legions had their full supply before getting boxed and the Germans had none... They would need to assault and do it right quick before the men holding the legions trapped withered.

Segestes had proven rather wily so far. He had assuredly seen the batteries of scorpions arrayed on the south wall by now, and knowing what they can do, decided to attack elsewhere. Rutilius examined his position once again. If he were the enemy commander, from where would he attack? The east wall put the forces between the fortress and the river, subject to intense artillery and archery from both fortress and fleet. The south wall was too obvious, leaving the north wall and its wonderful parade ground, and the west wall with the forest just over a bowshot away.

“Centurion Verrus!” he shouted, calling over the artillery commander again. “Move your engines,” he ordered, explaining what he wanted, where he wanted it, and why. Verrus fairly beamed as he acknowledged the order.

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It was light long before the sun rose, though neither the Germans nor the Romans cared. Both knew what this day meant- victory, or death. There was no middle ground for those inside, and fairly little for those outside. With a rousing roar emanated from the forest to the west, the Germans poured forth in their thousands.

Their force split into two uneven parts. The smaller force consisted of about five thousand Marsi, preceded by a covered battering ram that must have cost them all night to put together. The larger force, seven thousand Suevi and Quadii, carried ladders as they scurried quickly to the north in an attempt to avoid the rain of missiles they knew was coming.

“Verrus- at your pleasure,” Rutilius commanded. The artilleryman acknowledged with a wave of his sword and gave the order. The artillerymen lifted the canvas coverings from their weapons- which had moved during the night from the south to the west wall, and began loosing deadly bolts into the tight-packed masses of Marsi before them. The onagers began their rain, and stone fell out of the sky to squash men and equipment into intermingled jelly. Rutilius had hoped one of the falling rocks would smash that battering ram, but no luck. The covered ram made it unscathed through the lethal rain to within the minimum range- where no rock can crush it.

It was however, within throwing range of the wall. Lucius Palla, once the primus pilus of the X Gemina and now prefect commanding the IV Nervorum infantry auxilia cohort, gave the order to his men. Twenty men rose up with earthen flasks in their hands and hurled them down onto the siege engine below. Another bellow saw the flasks- which broke on impact- be followed by a rain of ignited torches. The thick straw matting that covered the ram effectively from archery burned away in minutes, leaving the men manning it horribly exposed to the rest of the IV Nervorum.

The attack on the gate effectively stopped dead in its tracks.

On the north wall, however, the Suevi and Quadii had made it through the obstacles and had their ladders against the wall. Rutilius wasted no time in calling two runners over and giving his commands.

“Tell Kalos and his III Sagitarii to fall back to the northern part of the west wall. From there he can pour arrows on both contingents,” he ordered the one. To the other, he said curt, “Tell Titus Faenius to have his infantry protect the Sagitarii. And have his cavalry ready to move or dismount, depending on the situation.”

Both runners repeated their orders and ran off to carry them out. Rutilius leaned from the tower where he was observing the battle and waved a sword toward Publius Ulpius on the west wall. When Ulpius waved back, Rutilius pointed his sword to the north wall, which would soon be vacated by the archers of Kalos. Ulpius pumped his sword into the air twice that he understood.

“The archers have done their bits, lads,” the Spanish prefect announced. “Now it is swords and shields- our job. VI Brittonum, slide north to take over the defense of the north wall!”

The auxilia surged forward along the walls, following the departing archers and assuming their positions. The Germans below already had their ladders against the wall and were climbing when the Brigante auxiliaries arrived. Shortly the ladders were caught on forks and shoved from the walls. But there were many Germans, and many ladders, and few forks. The law of physics made it impossible for the forks to be in more than one location at a time, and some forks were grabbed by Germans even as they were heaved from the wall. Their grips tightened on the things pushing them into open air, and when they fell, some took the forks with them.

The Germans gained the wall and began pushing the auxilia back with sheer mass of numbers. The Sagitarii, having taken position where they could shoot down at the Marsi, found they could turn about and shoot into the unprotected backs of the Germans pushing three centuries of Britons east.

The Quadii and Suevi, taking arrows from all sides, were not happy.

“Ragnar! Jump down and attack those bloody archers from the ground!” ordered one noble. Sixty men dropped to the hard ground below in response. The nobleman followed a moment later, a Greek arrow through his neck.

Faenius saw the Germans land and recover, then start toward the west wall and Kalos. They had axes in their hands and mayhem on their minds- and no eye for the Vascon cavalry.

“Charge!” the former tribunus laticlavius ordered. One of the two ala of the VI Vasconi lurched forward. Spears came level, and a few seconds later the Germans on the ground were no longer standing. A few Vasconi stabbed into those bodies they did not think were totally dead- just to make sure.

That action sealed the fate of the Suevi attack. The auxilia, fighting side by side in the old Roman sword-and-scutum drill, closed the gap slowly but surely, aided by the arrows of the Greeks.

Then Rutilius had a stroke of luck. Verrus had given the orders to his crews- shoot enemy archers first, then any threat to the gate, then any leaders. The Germans had few archers, and these were quickly neutralized. The ram was now ablaze, ending the threat to the gate, which left them open to skewer German commanders. One of the crews spotted one such. An older man, he was in the middle of his mob, waving his sword about. Men followed to climb where he pointed, which identified him as a leader. The bolt punched through the man’s shield to pierce his chest and exit to kill the man behind him as well. When Calor of the Marsi fell dead, his attack on the west wall evaporated. And when the west attack failed, it was only a matter of minutes before the north attack would also fail.

They did. The Germans withdrew, leaving over two thousand bodies littering the fields outside, with another five hundred or so leaking on the walls above, or dead inside the fortress.

“We drove them off,” Kalos said to Rutilius. He reported his archers suffered few casualties, and requested permission to go outside and harvest arrows. “We will need the extra supplies when they come back.”

Rutilius nodded. “They will come back- and soon. There are still ten thousand of them, or more. Go, Kalos, but be back before dark. And have Milus see to the repair of the gate as far as possible. He may use the remains of the ram for struts if he likes.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 03-28-2011 @ 07:28 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-28-11 07:14 AM EDT (US)     25 / 86       
And so fell Calor of the Marsi. Good installment although the Germanic assaults on Vetera have been bloody failures so far!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-28-11 07:29 AM EDT (US)     26 / 86       
A tribute to the excellent construction and siting of their castra, is it not?

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Aftermath
HG Alumnus
posted 03-29-11 05:18 AM EDT (US)     27 / 86       
Agh I'm still finishing reading Doom and Despair!

I shall comment my thoughts once I'm fully caught up again, no doubt it continues your tradition of excellence.

A f t y

A A R S

:: The Sun always rises in the East :: Flawless Crowns :: Dancing Days ::

"We kissed the Sun, and it smiled down upon us."
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-31-11 01:55 AM EDT (US)     28 / 86       
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Titus Flavius Vespasianus Junior rode into Rome at the head of his Praetorian cohort. He dismounted at the Imperial residence and turned his horse over to the cohort’s commander. The praetorians, in turn, waited until their prefect was inside the home and under the care of those praetorians guarding the place before turning away to return to their own barracks.

Titus was greeted warmly by the freedmen and slaves running the house. The head steward escorted him into the study, where the father of Titus- the Imperator- was relaxing on a couch while being fanned by Nubian slaves.

Titus waved the Nubians away, but his father countermanded the order. “They cannot speak, my son. No vocal cords. Nor do they understand anything but the most basic of commands. They are fan-wavers, handy on a day like this. You may speak freely.”

The Praetorian Prefect and dutiful son shrugged. “I have just come from the North, father. It seems your plan worked.”

Vespasian shot upright. He gripped his son’s face with both hands and stared deeply into his liquid brown eyes. “It is already underway?” he asked pointedly. “I was not informed.”

“I made the decision, father,” Titus replied. “An arcanus reported to me just south of Mediolanium. He confirmed the Suevi and Chatti were heading north in numbers. I gave Cornelius Clemens the command to invade the Agri Decumates. The first reports of the invasion are promising- little more than local skirmishes so far.”

“And Rutilius Gallicus? He was informed of this mass movement heading his way?”

Titus nodded. “The same swift rider carrying the orders to Cornelius carried a second set to Gallicus. Cornelius was given two days to plan and execute, giving the rider that much time to get to Gallicus, whom I ordered to return immediately to his bases. The order was handed to his quaestor, who forwarded it by light cavalry to his governor. I received a letter from Gallicus a few days ago saying he acknowledged the order and will comply.”

Vespasian sat back with a smile. “Devious, eh son? Sending Rutilius Gallicus across as a diversion to draw the Germans upon himself, while we sneak in the back door and conquer the empty Agri Decumates. That irritating spearhead of land is no longer aimed at our guts, and the Via Mala is now a secure route.”

“Cousin Titus is doing well, too,” Titus continued. “Cornelius Clemens forwarded me a letter Titus Sabinus wrote him, demanding action and deploring being sent to the back doorstep of the province. It was rather humorous reading. I think cousin Titus is singing a different tune now. His is the lead legion in the assault. He has fought several battles on his own now, and the reports positively glow.”

“His father- my brother- was a good general as well,” Vespasian said sadly. Titus Flavius Sabinus was the older brother of Vespasian, and died in the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus at the hands of Vitellian praetorians. Vespasian had them all slain once he was in power. His own son and Titus Flavius Sabinus Junior- the legatus in Germania Superior- had also been in that temple, but an agent of Mucianus had gotten them out. The agent kept them safe until Primus had captured the city. Bad days, those, but vital to his success.

“Then the praise is earned,” Titus said proudly.

Vespasian snorted. “Of course it is, son. Cornelius Clemens gives it. That man and I have never gotten along, and he makes little secret that he thinks we stole the Julian throne. He would not praise any of our family unless it was earned in blood. It seems young Sabinus is doing just that.”

Titus cocked his head to the side in confusion. “You do not like the man, yet you made him a governor and gave him four legions. Strange.”

Vespasian took on the owlish expression that gave him his common nickname. “We clash, but I would not let a man’s personal convictions get in the way of what is best for Rome. He was the best man for the job. He earned it, and I am man enough to give a good man his due.”

Titus considered that and had to agree. The interests of Rome take precedence over personal squabbles.

“So that settles the North,” the Imperator declared.

“Mostly,” Titus continued. “There is still the matter of the plans intercepted heading north. I have a few leads here in Rome I wish to check out, and the arcanus was sent to Mogontiacum to check out that end. Hopefully between the two of us we can find this traitor and put a stop to his treason.”

Vespasian waved his hands as if the matter was rubbish. “It no longer matters. Gallicus will be back before the Germans arrive- you saw to that- and the plans did not arrive anyway. Even if they had, they would have been useless- or even worked in our plan’s favor.” He paused, then reconsidered. ”I would like you to investigate the matter anyway, though. Though neither you nor I have further plans in the Rhenus theatre, making the spy network moot, a traitor working for gold may find a new paymaster. Future plans may be compromised, and that I cannot allow.”

“I have a name with which to start. Titus Burrius, a knight. It was he who forwarded the stolen plans. From him I will learn who handed him that plans, and from that person, I shall learn how he acquired them. Our secrets will be safe, father.”

“Yes,” Vespasian admitted. “A good plan. Eprius Marcellus said something about slaves or freedmen being the evil-doers. Ridiculous, of course- our slaves are foreign and cannot read, while our freedmen are well-treated and cared for. They know crucifixion awaits a traitor, and know I would not hesitate to hang them up either. Nor do they have access to our personal post, which is how Gallicus sent us his plans.”

“Maybe I should talk with this Marcellus,” Titus mused.

Vespasian cut him off. “No! Do not encourage him- you will never hear the end of it. He is my friend, son, but long-winded and vicious like a dog. He would find your culprit and destroy him utterly and publicly- which may be detrimental if the traitor is a friend or servant. Worse, he does not let a thing go once he has his teeth into it. No, leave him out of this. Do it yourself. You know how to handle such things privately, avoiding the embarrassment of public trials.”

Titus followed his father’s gaze to where his sword hung upon his right hip. He nodded. That sword had silenced quite a few men whose deeds ought not be made public. This was no Neronian palace alive with conspiracies, wild parties, and sycophants. The Flavian dynasty will be remembered as one of enlightenment and a throwback to the days of Augustus, when good emperors ruled. Good emperors disposed of their foes quietly, and privately.

That night, while Vespasian entertained his guest at dinner, his younger son drank himself senseless, and his older son again consummated his relationship with that delightful Jewish princess Berenice, the sky clouded over. The stars were blotted out, and black clouds rolled in off the sea. Lightning flew and thunder boomed, then the sky dropped its load upon the land below.

Summer storms were welcomed. Their rain brought life to the fields, and cooled the cities. They hardly lasted long, and seldom did any real damage. A few hours, maybe a building struck, and then it was gone, over, leaving a cooler city behind. This storm was different. It burst upon the city like a flood, saturating its fields to the point where mud flowed into the sewers. The river rose with the influx, threatening to close off the exit of the mouth of the Cloaca and drown Rome in her own excrement. Jupiter struck three buildings on the Capitoline- one of them being his own temple. It savage lashings lasted all through the night, before its power finally ebbed. It was a storm to remember.

Worse, the stifling heat that preceded the storm remained. It had refused to be washed away, though many other things had. The augurs were consulted- but without any success. Everyone knew the storm was a portent- but of what?

Nobody knew, until the imperial rider brought the Imperator his daily post. Among the many scrolls and tablets was one from Moesia, and another from Pannonia. Both of these told of barbarians stirring across the Danube. War was on its way, and the tribes were more restless now, knowing the fate of the Suevi in the Agri Decumates. They knew Rome was busy there, but once she finished with the Suevi, she may turn lustful eyes eastward. Several local kings had decided it would be better to strike first, and thus the warhosts were summoned.

Britannia had just suppressed a rebellion, but the peace was tenuous. Four legions were there, and the place was still not fully pacified. Add to that the problems in Hispana, and the storm was beginning to make sense. Then Vespasian opened the last two tablets. He did not recognize the signet, but that mattered not. The words inside did.

The handwriting was bold and clear- a soldier’s style. Inside, the writer identified himself as the quaestor of Germania Inferior. Vespasian recognized that as the man who had tried to poison his governor during the winter and threw the disgusting tablet away. Nothing that weasel had to say was worth reading!

Junior Consul Lucius Junius Vibius Crispus picked up the fallen tablet, and after a single glance, thrust it back into the hands of the Imperator.

“Gods above, lord!” Crispus exclaimed, pointing to the first paragraph inscribed after the introduction. “Four legions, trapped!”

Vespasian snorted. “My ass!” he bellowed, reaching for some wine. “There is no way Gallicus would or even could get four entire legions- with their supporting auxilia- get boxed in by mere barbarians. Four legions can and have destroyed whole hordes of them. This quaestor makes noise, the bleating of a guilty goat, nothing more.”

“I beg to differ,” Crispus continued. “Your son the Praetorian Prefect reported just last night that two Germanic tribes were moving north, and that he had duly ordered Gallicus to evacuate. You told me this yourself, when I arrived. You were pleased- as if the Germans had been dancing to your tune all along. If Gallicus did not move fast enough, getting trapped would be the logical outcome, would it not?”

Vespasian thought hard, and agreed. He re-examined the tablet. There were numbers and locations- none of which fit the scenario he knew to be true. Eighty thousand? There were not even eight thousand in all of those woods! No, there had to be another explanation. “It could also be an ambitious man over-reacting to the news of the Germanic approach. Or one trying to win more power by declaring his governor incapacitated. This man poisoned his governor- nothing he bleats now against Gallicus can be taken seriously.”

“He was also acquitted of that charge,” the advisor reminded him. “By the poisoned man himself. The miscreant was a Gallic trader’s wife.”

Vespasian grumbled, but would not budge. “Opportunist, Eprius called him. It fits.”

The advisor shrugged, and opened the final tablet. He handed it to the Imperator. “He is himself besieged, in Vetera, along with all remaining Roman forces in the province. All twelve auxilia cohorts. He vows to hold out as long as possible, but urges help to be sent immediately.”

Vespasian laughed. “What a wonderful excuse for inaction on his part! He claims his superior is besieged, and to prevent himself from having to go rescue him, claims to be besieged himself. This is wonderful fantasy, ”

Crispus threw his hands in the air. “It may indeed be fantasy, Imperator, and your divine sight may be true. But what if, lord, what if this man is not a poison-dealing opportunist seeking to empower himself while doing nothing? What if, gods forbid, he is an honest Roman reporting true events?”

Vespasian snarled at the sarcastic tone the junior consul had used. “Talk to Eprius, consul. He will set you straight. The quaestor is a liar and an opportunist. No doubt we will hear in a few days that Gallicus has returned and disciplined his ambitious quaestor. You shall see.”

Crispus took his leave, and went indeed directly to Eprius who told him exactly what Vespasian had said he would. Then, not satisfied, he went to the other power-brokers in Rome or those with known ties to the area- Gaius Mucianus, Quintus Saturninus, and the newly-returned Gaius Helvidius. All three accompanied the consul back to the Imperator.

“What is the meaning of this?” Vespasian wondered harshly. His eyes narrowed, bringing his eyebrows down toward his nose in that owlish parody. “Gaius Mucianus- my trusted friend. Quintus Saturninus, ripped from your retirement, I see. And you, Gaius Helvidius? Should you not be off sulking in self-exile in Armenia?”

“I have brought these men here, Imperator,” Crispus said. “Despite your divine conviction that the reported situation in Germania is an overreaction by an ambitious pleb of the Third-Class, I and these men have a different opinion of the matter.”

Gaius Helvidius stepped forward. “You and I do not always see eye-to-eye, Titus Flavius. I am a Republican, and you an Imperial. You claim this quaestor is a mushroom, a bungler, and an ambitious turnip trying to steal away a province. That sounds like the words of Titus Clodius Eprius, who would think that of any man operating above his station- especially one he unsuccessfully tried to prosecute for treason. The quaestor wiped the floor with him, Titus Flavius, and did so in a manner that made Titus Clodius appear a boorish fool. He did so by being honest.”

“I remember your speeches in the Senate and have heard of those from the rostra,” Vespasian said. “You are as biased toward this boy as Eprius is against him.”

Helvidius bowed his head. “I had a spy in the retinue of Eprius. When I learned his plans, I did my own research into his intended target. I found much to admire, and little to criticize. Eprius is a prosecutor who sees evil in everyone, thus his opinion of the man. A hazard of the occupation, I guess. He was going to prosecute yet another innocent man to shield the blunder of another. My speeches prevented that. I look upon it as a public service.”

“That boy worked under me for almost two years,” Quintus Volusius Saturninus said as he hobbled forward to take the place of the retreating Helvidius. “I have never seen a man so devoted to Rome. I should have made him my quaestor, but he wanted to stay on the border, which he would be forced to leave when I left. He likes it there, and would have served me as a privatus should I so desire. He is a loyal man, that one, and a good one. If Marcus Rutilius reports that his governor is trapped, then by Jupiter’s Brass Balls, Titus, he is!”

Mucianus nodded. “He might think you stole the throne from Vitellius, or seized it because you felt it your right, or even anything else you can think of, old friend. And it would not matter. He acts in Rome’s best interest, regardless of who considers themselves Imperator. Always has, probably always will.”

“Another Republican? And I should accept his word, when no other evidence exists of this catastrophe?”

Mucianus held out his hands to his friend. “He cut through my guards and into my tent to bring me word that Germania was falling apart five years ago. I too had heard nothing, and did not believe him. A month later, he is a legate leading a newly-recruited legion north to relieve the siege of Mogontiacum. In between, he infiltrated Vitellian Rome to pull your son and Titus Sabinus from the burning Capitoline and hide them until I and my forces could come down. Whether he was a Vitellian, a Flavian, or something else, he was always a Roman. And an honest one.”

Vespasian leaned back, shocked. This quaestor, who was accused of poisoning a governor. Whom he had sent into Germania Magna with but an ala of Thracian Cavalry to be killed as a result. Who so neatly evaded the spiked net of Eprius and forced it back upon the caster. Who rescued the army of Germania Inferior last year from certain disaster. This man... He was the same man who had rescued his son and nephew from the blood-mad praetorians?

“I did not know,” he muttered. He stared at Mucianus. “Are you sure this is the same man?”

Mucianus nodded. “We exchange letters now and again. He is like a protege of mine.”

“To me as well,” Saturninus added.

“I know him only through the research I have done and the information my spy stole from Eprius,” Helvidius said. “Even I did not know he was your son’s rescuer.”

“Then it is true,” Vespasian muttered. “Gallicus got himself trapped, despite the timely warnings of Titus to evacuate. And now Vetera, linchpin of the province, lies under siege. And of course we will not know about it for another week or so when news from other than imperial sources arrives.”

“If he swept all auxilia to Vetera, which I would have done,” Mucianus said, “then there are no others to send the news until the sutlers and traders bring it.”

“He will have to hold out,” Vespasian decided. “And hope Gallicus can free himself.”

Mucianus went white as a sheet. “You cannot mean that, Titus!”

The Imperator nodded. He gestured to Crispus to repeat the morning briefing. Crispus did so, telling of the troubles brewing in the east, on Britannia, in Hispana.

“The legion in Gaul is supporting the attack of Cornelius Clemens,” Vespasian concluded. “He is currently subjugating the Agri Decumates, which is poised like a spearhead into our lands. A strategic area, that- invasions into our lands have always erupted from there. We have been wanting to reduce it for decades now. He has five legions reducing it, and needs them all. Gallicus was but a diversion, a sideshow to attract German attention. He was not supposed to get trapped.”

“Well he did,” Saturninus said with a shudder. “Four of my old legions are there with him, and the province bare. Do you realize the value of that province, lord?”

“I do, but it is not of more value than the Agri Decumates. Germans can attack Italia or Gaul through the Agri Decumates. Italia... Rome. Germania Inferior guards Gaul. We can afford to lose it temporarily.”

“If we lose Germania Inferior, we lose Gaul shortly thereafter,” Saturninus continued. “And with Gaul gone, the four legions in Britannia are trapped. Four more legions, lord, on an already-hostile island, cut off from Rome.”

“Leaving us with legions on the Danube. One in a brewing Hispana, and precisely dick anywhere else,” Mucianus concluded brutally. “The Rhenus kept those bastards at bay, with little cost in manpower. It is not like the huge expanses in the East, where our legions are needed to fight the Parthians and very frequent rebellions that spring up. Think, Titus. Rome loses eight legions in the West. How long do you think it will be before the Jews or some other tribe decide to try their hand again? It took six legions to quell the Jews. How many if the Egyptians decide to rise? Or Pontus? Or if the Greeks decide to be Greek instead of Roman? All of our forces are deployed East, with the exception of Britannia and Germania. When those two are gone...”

Vespasian remembered the desert and the people of it. He shuddered. That had been a brutal campaign. He did not want another such. Mucianus was correct- something had to be done. There was just no forces with which to do it.

“There is nothing I can do,” Vespasian decided. “Not yet. I will not risk losing the rest of the Empire to save four legions trapped by their own stupidity. But I shall issue orders. Once Cornelius Clemens has secured the Agris and established a defensive line tied in with the upper Danube, he is to reconquer Germania Inferior.”

“That will take months!” Saturninus cried.

“Feel free to raise your own legions and head north,” Vespasian invited with a hefty bite of sarcasm. “But I have none that can get there before spring of next year, no matter how much I would like it. Five years ago, when Germania was overrun, we had just finished dealing with Aulus Vitellius, who had dealt with Otho, who had murdered Galba, whose revolt forced Mad Nero to suicide. There were eight legions here then, in Italia. We sent them north under Quintus Petillius. But since then those legions had been sent to where they were needed. Recalling them to Germania will wreck the Empire- we are hard pressed everywhere. Even if I send the word out today, it would still take months before a force could be assembled and transported to Germania. It is a simple matter of logistics and time. We don’t have the time. Rutilius is on his own. If he can hold out until then I would appreciate it.”

“And the legions across the river?” asked Helvidius.

Vespasian shrugged. “They got themselves trapped in an area where no Roman force can possibly relieve them. Foolish, and tragic. But there is nothing anybody can do. They are lost, and we will have recruit new ones to replace them- if there is any manpower left in the Empire; we are still recovering from Otho and Vitellius.”

That is the way it sometimes is, thought Mucianus. He could see on his friend’s face that the decision was not made lightly, or in spite. You do your best, and still fail or die. Titus Vespasianus is correct- there is absolutely nothing they could do.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-31-11 12:41 PM EDT (US)     29 / 86       
And so the Imperator left Cordinus' surrounded army and Rutillus' besieged force at Vetera to rot and possibly die.

But will they die? Another great installment!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-04-11 01:57 AM EDT (US)     30 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The morning saw the Germanic warhost arrayed in battle formation facing the north wall. They stood still, just out of range of the scorpions Rutilius had moved to the north wall. It seemed Segestes, as acting commander, was eyeing his target and pointing out the weaknesses of the fortress to his subcommanders.

Rutilius did not mind the delay, nor did Verrus. Both were pointing out the Germanic commanders to the scorpion crews. It was rather nice of Segestes to identify these men for the artillery.

Rutilius turned to Verrus. “They are out of scorpion range, yes?”

Verrus nodded.

“What about the onagers?”

Verrus smiled.

“I do not like them looking at us with no respect, as if we were meat,” Rutilius muttered. “Earn us some respect, Gaius Verrus.”

The artillery centurion grinned and bolted off. A few minutes later several large thumps were heard, and the German warhost squealed suddenly. Another rain, and they displaced backwards a few hundred paces, where no rocks may fall.

Rutilius nodded in approval. Now he had the space he needed to be able to move his men and engines about should it be necessary.

This move was not as smart as it appeared, despite the extra room and respite it gave the beleaguered Romans. The Germans resumed their study, now from afar, then began positioning their tribes and clans for the assault. Then, to the Roman surprise, the Germans faced about and began deploying to the northwest, where a second warhost- at least thrice as large as the losses sustained the day before, probably four times- came onto the field. And from the south, a second band was approaching- this one two thousand strong.

“My my,” Rutilius muttered. “It seems like everyone is invited to this party.”

Milus looked over the growing swarm of Germans. There was no uncertainty the two mobs closing in were tribesmen. One could see it in their clothes and weapons. “It looks like the Flood has begun,” he said.

“No doubt Novaesium and Bonna are captured or in flames,” the quaestor added. “It looks like Arturus was correct. We should have run.”

“You made the right decision, Marcus,” the camp prefect said honestly. “And besides, it is a good day to die. The sun shines, and Rome will avenge us.”

“Aye, a good day,” Rutilius replied. He looked to the edge of his sword. It was combat sharp, no nicks. He was as ready as he ever would be. “And Rome might even avenge us before our flesh is completely rotted away.”

A band of horsemen broke from the northern group and galloped toward the fortress. They were ignored by the invaders, as was the group of Germani coming from the south. Rutilius turned his gaze from the horsemen to the southern group, and swore softly.

“I must be going mad,” he said lowly. “I was wishing I could see my wife one last time before I die, and now my eyes see her. Crazy, eh?”

Milus looked south. “Your eyes do not deceive you, quaestor,” he said, with a bit of humor in his voice. “Those fools there are indeed led by a woman. A good-looking one, too.”

Rutilius took a second look. It was Claudia, and the colors of the warband with her was Chatti, but with a splash of red through the stripes- Ubians!

Then the horsemen were within shouting distance. The crews cranked their engines over to waste the stupid horsemen, but a shout from the tower stopped their deaths.

“Let them speak!” Rutilius ordered, noticing the white rag tied to the leader’s spear. He also noticed the armor the man wore- it was Roman-made, and in good order. And the man on the white-blazed horse- his horse, lent to a friend a few weeks ago- could be none other than Jorgen Niall’s Son.

“Are you coming or not?” Jorgen shouted to the fortress. “My father gave me five minutes to inform you that we Cananefate honor our vows. Then we attack these invaders. It would go much better for us if you sallied.”

Rutilius laughed. “We’re coming! Don’t start the battle without us!”

The first cohorts- infantry- were already exiting the fortress. This was a do-or-die day. The fate of the province rested on this battle. Segestes could probably take on the Cananefate and Ubians and win, or maybe not. But if he did, then the Romans would have abandoned their allies and then died themselves. In unity is strength, and the Allies were giving his men life. There really was no choice. Such an opportunity would not come again.

Jorgen pointed to the warband now only two hundred paces from the fortress. “Will you be taking care of this lot first?”

“Look at their commander,” Marcus replied. Jorgen did so, and swore softly with a laugh.

“I guess Ubians are good for something!” he laughed, speaking with the same disdain the Batavians had for other tribes, to the amusement of his guard. “I told you she was a good woman, my friend.”

Segestes watched with consternation as the Germanic warhost from the north did not send heralds out to arrange a joining of forces. Instead, the Germanic warhost deployed for battle- facing the Suevi. That forced his hand, and he had to deploy to face them. He detailed a few warbands to keep an eye on the Romans, then summoned the Marsic and Quadii commanders.

“This can’t be happening,” the Quadii prince wailed. “These are Germani facing us- our own people.”

“Cananefate,” said the Marsic chieftain. “They fought Rome in the last war, now they fight for Rome?”

Segestes remembered a Cananefate trader from the winter, whom he had met in Chauci lands. The man spoke of many things, but traded among other things good Roman products. One of the things of which he spoke was the Cananefate relationship with the Romans- Friends and Allies. It seemed these men were honoring that trader’s words.

“I will speak to them,” he decided. “Maybe they will see reason.”

He galloped forward, holding his spear with the head down. The Cananefate halted.

“Hail, men of the Tribes,” he said, doffing his helmet to allow his pale blonde hair to show. “I am Segestes, a prince of the Suevi, and leader of the first wave of our Grand Invasion! The Romans are trapped- all four legions are penned in six day’s travel beyond Father Rhein. I have the rest penned in that rock pile. Rome is finished in these parts!”

“It is not,” replied one of the two tall horsemen coming forward. “I am Niall, King of the Cananefate. By my side rides Tiberius Labeo, King of the Batavi upon whose land you trespass. We both come to stop you, and tell you to depart. Go home, Suevi, and leave these parts.”

Segestes looked the man over. He seemed forlorn, and not happy to be commanding forces against those of his own blood. Maybe this can be used to good effect. ”Brothers!” he cried. ”My men are just the first wave of the Great Flood! The Germans of the Forests have united, to defend the Bructeri from Roman aggression. We succeeded, beyond our wildest hopes! Rome lies bare, finished! Join us, brothers, and our victory is complete.”

“We have no love of the Bructeri,” Labeo called. “They tried to murder our friend in my marketplace. What you call Roman aggression is Roman vengeance for the slaughter of two unarmed legions to whom my predecessor gave safe passage. The Bructeri have dishonored themselves.”

“Do not share in their taint,” Niall continued. “Go. Now. Or we will destroy you.”

Segested donned his helm. “So be it.”

He galloped back toward his warhost. “The fools wish to fight,” he announced. “Grown soft under a Roman boot. They should be easy meat. Let them get almost set up, then hit them hard! No mercy, and no prisoners!”

The Suevi echoed the battlecry, with the Marsi and Quadii joining in. Then the warriors of the Dark Forests ran against their chosen foes.

The Cananefate archers rained death upon the surging mass- there was no way to miss. As the attackers came closer, the first waves of Cananefate rushed forward to throw their axes. They were faster than the Suevi, and unexpected. Their axes crashed into the front ranks and dropped many. The hurlers darted back into the safety of the lines, whose spearmen hunkered down shoulder-to-shoulder with spears held firmly.

The Quadii in the east could not get around the end of the Cananefate line, so they had to go through it. Swords beat spears in close quarters, but the Cananefate spearmen killed many, many Quadii before the attackers managed to break in to where the spears were useless. Here they found themselves engaged by swordsmen and men with axes. The right flank became a right-good rumble.

On the left, the Marsi were curling about the Cananefate lines when Oddmund and the cavalry slammed their sides and drove them back. Oddmund hovered just out of range, a threat that could not be made to go away. Elsewhere the line broke down as it had on the right, into a swirling, chaotic mass of individual combats.

The center was having the best of luck. The Suevi had their spearmen evenly matched with the Cananefate there, but the Cananefate wore armor while the Suevi had but furs and leather shirts. The Suevi were disciplined veterans, but then again, so were the Cananefate. It was an even match, one where the men on the flanks would determine the outcome- and those flanks were favoring the invaders. There were simply more invaders than there were Cananefate.

And then a wave of horsemen struck the center from behind. Armored horsemen, in formation. They retreated immediately, and the brutalized formations of Suevi were hit by a rain of pilum and then a storm of swords as the Roman infantry closed. Again came the horsemen, this time the heavy cavalry of the I Gallorum Tauriana and the I Moesica. The horsemen hit the gaps between the Roman infantry cohorts to shatter Suevi resolve, and were followed by screaming Ubian warriors.

The Suevi buckled, but did not break. Oddmund hit the Marsi one more time and they did break. Then he and the Roman I Gallorum et Thracum light cavalry wheeled about the battlefield to hit the unsuspecting Quadii with the full fury of horsemen on a charge.

The Quadii shattered. Not a bit, but like pottery on a marble floor- totally and irrevocably.

The Marsi found themselves cut off from the Suevi, the phalanx of the VI Breucoum in their flanks, the swords of the VI Britonum in their backs, and the axemen of the Cananefate under Glam of the Silver Axe in their faces. They went down, almost to a man.

The Quadii were being chased from the field by the Lucius Albius and his I Longiniana Gallorum ala. The Marsi were dead or dying, leaving Segestes and about three thousand Suevi left in a Romano-German pocket. He fought well, the target of many men, but a lion of a warrior does not let mere wolves bring him down.

Rutilius reveled in the victory, so far. His outlook from the morning was dim and full of despair, now he was alive and thriving against all odds. Niall had his warhost had given him life, and his wife had added to the spice. He was thrilled, and invigorated.

Then a cold thought pierced his veil of victory. Cordinus and the legions. They too were trapped, with no hope of rescue. The army that could give them life was fighting and bleeding here, withering in a battle against men already consigned to Pluto. He had to cease this if he was going to have any chance of doing anything worthwhile for Cadorus, Salvius, and the trapped legions.

“Fall back!” he shouted, “Romans and Allies! Fall back fifty paces!”

“We have them,” Niall replied in a hoarse shout. “Why relent now, and let them gather their strength for the end?”

“We are dying in doing so,” Rutilius countered. “We have archers who can deal with them if need be. But I cannot afford to lose any more men in this mop-up. I need my men alive.”

Niall nodded. “As do I. Cananefate! Fall back as Rutilius says. Fifty paces, but no more. Archers to the front, but hold your arrows.”

Rutilius nodded in agreement, and signaled Kalos to do the same. Then he rode to the forefront and dismounted once the lines separated. The Suevi formed a tight square under the watchful eyes of their enemy, but other than kneeling during the break in fighting, they did not move.

“Segestes!” Rutilius called.

The Suevi prince muscled his way to the forefront to face the Roman general in the silver cuirass and red cape, but utterly plain infantryman’s helmet.

“I am Segestes,” he said in decent Latin. “How do you know my name, Roman?”

“We shared a table in the land of the Chauci three moons ago,” Rutilius replied in Germanic, doffing his helmet. “My bodyguard almost challenged you to a duel over his dinner growing cold due to your incessant talking. Now I would use your penchant to conversation to prevent further bloodshed.”

“Marek the Merchant?” the Suevi prince gasped, then fell into a fit of laughter. “I have been bested by a merchant?”

“You were bested by Rome and her allies,” Rutilius corrected. “There is no shame in your defeat. But I would end it here, with honor. Thus we speak.”

“You offer slavery for me and my men,” Segestes pointed out. “There is much shame in that.” He donned his own helmet and raised his sword. “Or death upon cowardly arrows. I choose death. It is at least with honor.”

“I said nothing of slavery.”

“You need not,” replied the Suevi. “All know that is the fate of German prisoners in Romans hands.”

Niall stepped forward. He saw now the wisdom of Rutilius in trying. It was worthy of his support. “I destroyed four legions in the last war, me and my people. Yet we are no slaves now, nor have been.”

“Yet you come to fight and bleed by his side,” Segestes muttered. “Like a lackey.”

“Like a Friend and an Ally,” Niall corrected. “He did not order me to come with my warhost. I doubt he even knew we were coming. I came once my son told me of the Romans gathering their cohorts here. I felt I would be needed. And judging by what I see, I was correct.”

“You came, without a summons?” Segestes asked in wonder.

“He is my friend,” Niall retorted with a natural shrug. “Would you do any less?”

“No,” the Suevi admitted. His gaze dropped to the ground, then rose with fire in his eye. “But would he do the same for you? I doubt it.”

“He is my friend,” Niall repeated. “He has come to the aid of myself and my tribe several times over the years. We live, thanks to my friend. We merely repay one of the many debts we owe him.”

“The Batavians as well,” Labeo said, joining Niall to stand at his side. “Without him, we would have fallen to the Frisii years ago. He trapped their warbands as he has done yours, and let them go free afterwards, on their honor not to come again. I think he intends to offer you and your men that same parole.”

“I do indeed,” Rutilius said. “We outnumber you by four warriors for every one you have. I could slaughter you all, but to what purpose? Good men shot down by arrows, or carved with steel? I would lose many, and I cannot afford such losses, not with four legions on the other side needing rescue. So I would prefer a surrender, with immediate parole, though I must ask you to remain under guard nearby. I cannot let you return home just yet.”

“Surrender?” laughed Segestes. “Suevi do not surrender!”

“They may do so now,” Rutilius said. “Have you not heard? Cornelius Clemens assaulted the Agri Decumates less than two weeks ago. Your tribe, Suevi- it is being conquered while you die here. You may be all that is left of your tribe- which is now Roman. Living ambassadors of Roman mercy do much more good to conquered lands than dead meat we would have to burn or bury. I cannot let your return there in strength and under arms- not yet. But I will not hold you prisoner either. Your lives will have been won with honor, and kept with honor. Or you can die. Your choice. A Roman friend, or a corpse. Which will you be?”

Segestes pondered that. His homeland, under siege by the legions of Germania Superior. Half of the Suevi already lived under Roman rule. Now the other half shall as well- or be slaughtered. The Agri Decumates... The Ten Cantons of the High Hills, all gone. The Witch was right. Horobard led us north while the Romans stabbed south. We may win the north, but the Romans would recover that and soon. Our tribes have been set back hundreds of years. There was nothing to do now but live with it, or die upon it. He sighed, and chose.

“You have treated me with honor, Marek,” he said. “And you show that even Romans know of honor. Thus I will have your word. If I give mine to lift no sword against you or your allies, will you offer the same?”

“If you sheath your sword, Segestes, remain within this province until the war is over, and swear to wage no more war against Rome or her allies, I will accept your word and give you mine that Rome shall not wage war upon you or those men here. We will have peace.”

“And your allies?”

Rutilius smiled. “I cannot speak for them, as they are Friends, not subjects.”

“I give the same word as Marcus,” Labeo said. “Peace.”

“As do I,” said Niall. “Peace.”

Segestes sheathed his sword. Around him, his warhost lowered their spears, or wiped their blades and secured them. “Peace it is. Now what? We cannot go home, by your terms...”

“You are a free man, as are your men,” Rutilius promised. “You can camp out in those woods, but you will starve there once the game is exhausted. Or you can go to the lands of the Cananefate and help in the fields- they will need the help since the men are here.”

“We are warriors, not farmers!” Segestes sneered.

“Warriors, eh? Mercenaries?” Rutilius asked. He laid no smear in the word.

Segestes saw where that was going. “I will not join your warhost to fight against my brethren over there,” he said. “I cannot.”

“But if they come over here?”

Segestes shrugged. “I gave my word not to wage war against Rome or her Allies. You offer hospitality. Should my brethren come against my host, honor dictates I must defend my host.”

“Then I would hire you to defend, not to attack. Would you be willing to accept shelter and food, in exchange for defending Rome’s assets?”

Segestes twisted, but nodded. “We would serve as warriors, but only if what we guard was attacked. Honor would then be satisfied.”

Rutilius held out his hand. Segestes shook it. It was the same grip they had shared in that Chauci village.

“Put a thousand in this fortress,” Rutilius ordered, “and the rest in the empty fortress at Noviomagus. Use what food you need and sleep in whichever barracks you prefer, but defend both to the best of your ability against all Roman enemies. Do that for me, prince, and you will have both honorable employment and earned your freedom.”

Segestes nodded. “So shall it be. And what shall you do, Marek?”

Marek pointed across the river. “Four legions of my friends are over there, penned by your brethren. I intend to free them.”

“Horobard is there, with more than sixty thousand under arms! You have no chance!”

Rutilius shrugged. “He has probably assaulted at least once now, probably twice. He has less than sixty thousand. And I have my friends and allies. Together we have fourteen thousand. Count the legions, and the odds are about even.”

“He will have more than sixty thousand, despite any losses,” Segestes insisted. “The tribes are rallying to Horobard’s successful action. Four legions penned and trapped. That is greater than Hermann! They are sending food by now, and flocking to his standards in droves. I was sent to pave the way for the Grand Invasion. I failed, and now must fight against it. But you have a choice.”

“They are my friends,” Rutilius repeated. Segestes nodded. He understood.

“Then tonight, after we help the Cananefate burn the dead and I have settled my men into our old camp, I shall come to you and tell you where your friends are.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-04-11 06:11 AM EDT (US)     31 / 86       
So the Suevi and Marsic contingent are destroyed. I think Horobard will be surprised when he learns his homeland has been invaded.

I can't wait for the showdown near the Sacred Grove!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 04-04-11 03:49 PM EDT (US)     32 / 86       
Way to make a sick warrior feel better, Terikel, just go ahead and slaughter all my Germanic cousins... well, these Eaglemen shall pay dearly for every drop of barbarian blood they spill in the next life...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-07-11 02:19 AM EDT (US)     33 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The survivors settled into their own camp late that evening, though they never dropped their guard. Nor were they alone. The Cananefate camped on the northern plain, just south of the battlefield with Oddmund and the horsemen keeping a wary eye on the Suevi, just in case. Curiously to Segestes, the Romans took no further precautions to guard against a treacherous Suevi attack other than to prudently crank a few scorpions in their general direction. It seems Marek accepted his word of honor and felt no other precaution necessary. Segestes kicked the ground. Damn it all, he thought bitterly, and he is right to do so. Honor is as strong in this one as it is in me.

He knocked upon the gate and was allowed entry. The Romans were mostly to bed, with only a few sentries alert and a lot of noncombatants packing wagons. He was amazed at the number of horsemen in the Roman fortress- there appeared to be more horsemen than footmen, almost two of every three cohorts was of horsemen, according to the standards he saw. Horsemen move fast and hit hard, but are nothing more than tall infantry in melee. Horobard and his men have more than enough men to swamp them and trap them in melee. Rutilius was on a fool’s errand.

Segestes was escorted into the center of the fort, where a large bonfire was lit and a spitted pig roasted over its coals. Whenever a dollop of fat melted and dropped into the fire, a small flamespout spewed up to lick the pig.

A cluster of Germans surrounded the fire, though no other Germans were inside the fortress. Just the chiefs- and the General’s Guardsmen. Segestes recognized a few of them- Amalric and Glam for sure. Both men kept their right hands free and near their swords, but otherwise greeted him genially enough.

Marek was in conference with Niall and Labeo, with Jorgen the Brave standing between Marek and Niall. Segestes laughed as he remembered the young merchant guard- now a Cananefate prince. Jorgen was ready to slice his throat because his roast pig was getting cold. Well, he will offer no such offense to the young prince now. He made his way to the pig, sliced off a few choice pieces that were ready, and made his way over to Jorgen.

“Warm food, Jorgen,” he said, handing the plate to the prince. “As compensation for that which I made grow cold in Chauci lands.”

Jorgen accepted the plate with a confused expression, before remembering the Suevi prince. He laughed then, and held out his hand to the Suevi. “I am glad you survived the battle.” It actually sounded like he meant it.

“Thanks to your Roman friend, I may even survive the war,” Segestes replied.

Jorgen nodded. “That depends on you. He gave his word- he will not break it. But if you break yours, he and I would race to see who catches and kills you first. I would prefer not to- despite our exchange in Chauci lands, I rather liked you.”

Segestes laughed. “And I you, young Jorgen the Brave. So, Marek,” he said, turning to the Roman commander. “Do you know the little town where King Udo holds his court?”

Holds?” spurted Rutilius. “He is dead. I watched one of my guards slit his throat just before I stabbed down his twin.”

“He lives, though speaks very lowly and only then with a patch over the opening,” Segestes said. “You opened his throat, but not deep enough. And his brother lives as well- minus an eye. Now his hall, do you know where it lies?”

“I know where his hall used to be,” Rutilius replied earnestly. “You could say I know its rafters intimately. I shed no tears when Dieter here burned it down.”

A rather large Batavian with an impossibly straight back came from the shadows behind Rutilius. Segestes remembered him from the fighting. And the blonde woman who stayed out of battle but directed the killing. She sidled up to the Roman, who introduced her as his wife, and the Batavian as his bodyguard commander.

“About a half-day’s travel west from that hall towards this castrum lies the Sacred Grove. Your general built his camps around the grove, thinking it elsewhere. There is where your legions are, Roman, and there over sixty thousand of my people, the Chatti, the Usipi, the Tencteri, the Chauci, the Cherusci, the Quadii, and other tribesmen hold them in check. The Suevi and the Marsi used to be there too, but the Marsi lie now dead upon the plain where your horsemen trampled them into the mud, intermingled with most of the Suevi. The rest slumber to the south, under wary Cananefate eyes.”

“I told you he was honest,” Rutilius said to the Batavian behind him.

“You knew?”

“I helped build those camps,” Dieter said. “And got out before Horobard and his Chatti came upon the field of battle. I had told the bastard of a general to get out while he could, and to keep an eye to the south, but the fool would not listen.”

That was the kind of bigoted Roman to which he was accustomed. The kind before him, who accepted German ways easily, was not.

“Just as your kinglet did not watch his south, I did not watch my north. You Cananefate took me by surprise.”

“Me too,” Rutilius said. “I remember sending word to them concerning mobilization- but that was for their own defense should we go down.” He turned to Niall. ”How did you know we would be in battle?”

“We had received word from traders traveling from Frisian lands,” the king said. “They were calling a warhost. I was told it would be prudent to call my own together to dissuade them from adventurism. When I heard that the Eagles were crossing the river, I knew it was indeed a prudent move. So I kept the men under my banner.”

“And bringing them here?” Rutilius asked.

“That would be my doing, Marcus,” Jorgen said. “I saw the auxilia moving towards Vetera. I asked where they were going- Lucius Palla and Titus Faenius had trained often with us. He told me of the danger, and you had taught me how to read between the lines. I used my judgment after that.”

“The same thing to the south,” Claudia added. “Prefect Cingetix was leading the III Gallorum Treveri ala north. I saw that, and asked Caius Avitus what was going on. He told us of Cordinus, and the legions. I went to the council at once, and together we raised two thousand volunteers to help defend the province. I led them north, to be with my husband.”

“You could have been killed, if the Cananefate were not here, woman,” Rutilius said lowly, and with care and concern covering his voice.

“You would have been killed, had the tribes not rallied to your Eagle, husband,” Claudia replied sweetly. “Life without you is not worth living. If you died, I would avenge you.”

Segestes watched the exchange with interest. This Roman looks German, speaks German, married a German, and treats all with respect. Shit, he thought to himself. It looks like the words we exchanged will not be broken. I am his man now, whether I like it or not.

“So what will you do with this knowledge of your legions?” he asked of Marcus.

“I have little choice,” Marcus said honestly. “I must attack this Horobard. I must keep him occupied over there for as long as I can, to give Rome the time to get more legions here. Maybe, if we are wildly successful, we can even break the legions out.”

Segestes thought that over. The Germans here had risked their lives to free him out of loyalty, just as he must throw that life away to keep them free. It was epic, the camaraderie he saw and felt around that campfire. And it moved him.

“There is a trail,” he said suddenly. “It runs almost straight from the crossing there to the Sacred Grove. It took me four days to march my warhost there, but I march in the Germanic way. You Romans could probably do it in three.”

“We would do it in seven,” Rutilius replied. “It is folly to move swiftly in those woods. We shall go north, and cross there, following the legions. If Horobard or Udo send more forces, they will come upon your route, no? Mine was cleared by legions.”

“Your legions scoured them pretty good,” Segestes admitted. “I doubt there is a man remaining between here and the Eagles. Those who remained are now with Udo. You may indeed move swiftly along that route, without fear. And your force is mostly horse- you can move very swiftly indeed.”

“We will have many wagons with us, for carrying food to the soldiers and the wounded out. Your trail starts there, where no wagon can ford and we have no barge to cross with. I will move swiftly, but over the ford to the north which the legions had secured. Maybe I can meet and destroy that lingering Frisian threat along the way to keep the Cananefate and Batavians free from their threat while we are gone. Seven days.”

“We can keep up,” Niall said. “Segestes is correct- you are mostly horse. You will need infantry. We can provide it. We can march swiftly for seven days.”

“No,” Rutilius said determinedly. “You are needed here, defending your lands. Rome made this mess over there. It should be a Roman who fixes it. If I fail, you will be needed here more than ever.”

“More than sixty thousand,” Niall repeated. “When you fail, not if, we will not be able to stop the Flood that comes, especially with the Frisii acting up. If we go with you, you will last longer, giving Rome that much more time. Thus if you go down, so go we all. Friends and Allies, Marcus. Always, not just when it is convenient.”

“We Ubians go with you too,” said a Ubian commander. “Together we have done much. If the price of that is to die by your side over there, then we pay it gladly. As the Cananefate says, Friends and Allies.”

Rutilius nodded. “Then we shall stand and fight together one last time. For our lands, our families, and our friends.”

A single tear fell down the cheek of the Suevi prince. He had deeply underestimated the power of a single man to erase years of Roman oppression.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-07-11 06:54 AM EDT (US)     34 / 86       
That was very moving to read, Terikel!

A wonderful installment!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 04-07-11 11:22 AM EDT (US)     35 / 86       
Would have been better for Segestes to die... not even the noble Terikel's brilliant pathos, Lord of the Rings rip-off quotes and a heroic hopeless quest can stir me to sympathise with a Roman today.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)

[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 04-07-2011 @ 11:23 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-11-11 03:23 AM EDT (US)     36 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

A horseman approached. The forest was otherwise silent, even the birds were still. Nothing moved. It was as if Death had strode by and smote every animal. Yet there was life yet among the trees, especially in the small dry streambed. Forty horsemen lay there across the necks of their horses, while a single set of eyes peeked above the edge of the bank to watch the approaching ride.

He was alone. Brown tunic with green stripes, and a bulging clump of hair tied ritually to the side of his head. A Suevi. Not a warrior due the placement of the knot on the side of the head instead of on top, but a man with weapons nonetheless.

“You are well-hidden, you bastards,” the rider called into the woods. The voice was rough, but the language was Latin. “We are alone here. The apes are all two miles ahead, preparing for battle.”

The cavalrymen rose up off the necks of their horses, who leaped to their hoofs. The riders mounted swiftly upon their rising steeds. The rider, noticing the movement, swore and kicked his horse toward the scouts.

“It is good to see you are still with us, Gaius Roscius,” the decurion commanding the turma said by way of greeting.

“Stuff it, Laconis,” laughed the arcanus. “And call me Roscoe when I am in this get-up. I am used to it, and it prevents you from screwing up in a situation that could get me killed.”

“Okay, Roscoe,” the decurion said. “How many warriors are up ahead?”

“About eight cohorts worth in a front line, a few more in a rear line. There is a clearing ahead, about five hundred paces across. They are at the far end of it.”

“Archers and horsemen?” asked the scout commander.

“Mostly footmen with axes and spears. Many swords. I didn’t see many archers, though- but then again, I did not circle their position. Maybe two ala of horse- but their mounts are small and stocky. More pony than horse. No problem even for your beasts.”

The Greek decurion laughed again. Greek and Thracian cavalry was lightly armored, and mounted on dapper, agile horses that could turn on a denarius and leave you three sesterce’s change. Excellent for scouts, chasing down fleeing men, or fighting in woods, but horrible for true combat. Busting barbarians who wore little armor themselves... Well, even Roscoe knew that Greek cavalry could have its uses.

Titus Sabinus knew it as well. Though he would have preferred to have some of that heavy Thessalian cavalry, or even Gauls, he accepted the Greeks with relish once Roscius had told him of their value in forested areas. Rutilius had mentioned something of a Thracian detachment in the woods during the spring- he praised them highly. And the Breuci auxilia he had- spearmen who trained with swords, and their sister cohort who were swordsmen trained with spears, were also welcome. Both cohorts were of mountain-dwelling folk. They could go where his legionaries could not. In a land where two thirds stood on its end, it was definitely a good advantage to have people familiar with the terrain.

Sabinus heard the report together with his tribunes and top centurions. Roscius sketched a map in the dirt, showing location and deployment of the Suevi. It was pretty straightforward. Move forward, hit the clearing, and deploy. No chance for fancy maneuvers.

“Cavalry?” the legate asked.

Laconis informed him of Roscius’s opinion and sightings.

Sabinus scratched his beard as he looked over the map. He hadn’t shaved in days, and the hard, prickly hairs were itching as they grew. The tactics would be pretty simple for this one- the terrain demanded it. Breuci on the flanks, the legion in the center in quincunx, cavalry to the flanks of the second line. Then he paused, and saw a better way.

“Deploy as per standard battle drill once we reach the meadow,” he ordered. “But keep the horse centered in the rear line.”

“Alexander at Gaugamela?” said Ianias, the prefect of Laconis and the rest of the Greek ala, thinking over the deployment. “You think their center will shatter? We are not Thessalians or Macedonians, you know.”

“I know,” the legate retorted. “But you will be visible over the front rank. It may make them reorganize their lines upon sighting you, which we could take advantage of. It will also draw their archers to shoot at you, identifying them for our own second line to fire upon. And third, they may launch their own cavalry early- onto the spears of the Breuci. So no, Ianias, I do not think their center will shatter. But I do think the unorthodox deployment would cause them concern and problems.”

The prefects and tribunes nodded at the plan. The centurions took a few seconds longer, then smiled and also nodded. If the professionals agreed, then it was a good thing, thought Sabinus. He gave the order to move out.

It was not a large band by Suevi reckoning, but the six thousand were all that the thanes could muster from a tribe once hundreds of thousands strong. Many were north under Segestes, while still others were northeast under Ido fighting off an immigration of Burgundians. The rest were involved with staving off the unexpected Roman advance until Ido could get back with the main warhost- or Segestes returned from the north with his. Until then, the thanes were on their own and making a poor showing of it so far.

This battle would be no different. The Romans found the battlefield meadow and deployed laterally across from it. As Sabinus had predicted, the deployment of the Greek ala in the center caused some consternation among the tribesmen. The thanes shrugged, knowing at this point there was little they could do except keep their men in position and hope the Roman horses threw themselves on Suevi spears. To this effect, they rotated several bands of warriors armed with swords and axes to the rear, and brought forward men armed with spears. Other than that minor adjustment- happening too far away for the Romans to take advantage- they did little. On their flanks, however, joy was seen and undisciplined and eager horsemen lowered their spears and charged the weaker auxilia on the flanks. They launched with reckless abandon, keen to destroy the flankers without having to worry about horseborne avengers swooping in after them.

And as Sabinus knew it would, the Breuci auxilia grounded spears in an age-old drill to catch their charge. The two legionary cohorts nearby- former marines, though the Suevi did not know that- grounded their pila and strung their naval bows for the coming target practice while the front line continued forward.

The Suevi shied away from the steel hedgehog of grounded spears, making them standing targets for the ex-marine bowmen. Thick naval arrows propelled by strong naval bows tore through wicker and wood shields to taste the flesh behind. The auxilia waited for the third volley then rose and charged as they had been trained.

Within the space of ten minutes, the Suevi horse were no longer a threat. And a considerable gap had opened between the second line and the third line of cohorts on each flank. Through this gap shot the Greek cavalry angling to the left, whose charge was preceded by a hail of arrows once they cleared the rear cohort’s line of fire. Now Sabinus had cavalry positioned on the Suevi flank, and the Suevi with no spearmen reserves. His second line swung into the gaps of the front line to form a solid wall. That wall pinned the spearmen down with pila volleys before clashing with swords.

The battle was over before it started. The Suevi had been outmaneuvered and outgeneraled on the field- leaving them vulnerable to the solid Roman professionals. A few broke and fled, to be chased down by Ianias and the Greeks. Most of the others fought on until knocked out or killed. By the end of the day, three thousand Suevi prisoners were bound and sold off to the slavers following the legion and another three thousand burned, sending their souls back to Wotan.

Sabinus counted less than a hundred of his own dead and counted that a victory. So would it be reported to Cornelius Clemens, and from there to Rome. And he was still far from his objective- the headwaters of the Danube- but he was now confident he would make it. And when he did, he would finally shave his itching, awful beard off into its waters.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Rome was a seething, sweltering pool of sweat. Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus was a large man, rotund with the excess caused by living large, and was melting in his own juices in the heat. And he was furious, further raising his internal temperature. He was not furious at the man sharing the pool with him, but very angry with the news he brought. Eprius looked once again at the sleek, powerful form of Aulus Caecina and shook his head wearily.

“I don’t understand how you do it, Aulus,” Eprius said, dipping his hands into the cool water and bringing the liquid to his forehead. The change of topic might help cool his raging ire, as would the glistening drops. “You eat as large as do I, drink far more than I do, and relax all day while I scurry here and there searching for evidence. Yet you remain sleek as you were when a cadet, while I grow ever larger.”

You eat far more fatty food than I do, and drink your wine unwatered while mine is more water than wine, Caecina thought in reply. And I exercise every evening to remain the epitome of a general while you munch your way through tubs of oysters. Those words ran through his mind, but what exited his mouth was, “People are different, Titus. The gods bless some with muscle, and others with bounty.”

A very diplomatic answer, Eprius noted. He smelled something hidden behind the words, but in this heat, he really did not care.

Caecina relaxed in the pool, letting his legs float before him while his arms stretched out to grip the side of the pool. “I hear young Vespasianus is back in town,” he said lightly. “And he is asking after a knight named Burrius.”

Eprius sat upright with a start. The water washed from his moving mass to inundate his companion. The rage returned with a vengeance. “That bastard! He refuses to let me investigate- me, a professional prosecutor, yet he allows his precious heir to do so? Titus is a warrior, or attempts to be. An investigator he is not- nor does he even pretend to be. Methinks the Imperator sincerely does not want the miscreant caught.”

“Of course he doesn’t,” Caecina replied, stoking the fury. “A slave in the Imperator’s own household betraying the Imperator? Why, such a thing would ruin the people’s faith in having a single man rule our vast Empire. If he cannot control his own house, how can he control our empire? That sort of thing. Very bad for the Imperator. No, my friend, Vespasianus in unduly wise not to let you create such a scandal.”

“So you approve of this cover-up, Aulus?” Eprius blustered. “I had thought you more of a man than that.”

“I do not approve,” Caecina said calmly. “Merely that I understand his motivations and would probably do the same if I wore his toga.”

Eprius sat stunned for a moment, then laughed. “As would I, dear friend. As would I. Still, we do not wear his toga, and his protection covers more cretins than good men.”

“Have you found Burrius yet?” Caecina asked placidly. The tone he used showed a bit of casual interest, but nothing remarkable. “He was a slaver once, you know. Still dabbles in it. He might have coerced one of the Imperial slaves or freedmen to do his bidding. Find him, and you will not need to interrogate the imperial staff. And Vespasian can do nothing.”

Eprius thought that over. He would not need the red hand of the caught spy, if he had a confession from the spy’s master. Very shrewd. But alas, Burrius had fled hard and long. He was nowhere to be found.

“Burrius is in the wind,” he finally admitted. “Gone. No, Aulus, the only chance to catch the spy is to interrogate the staff- the one thing my old friend refuses to let me do. And probably for the reason you said. But Aulus, this is Rome we are talking about. It should be larger than a single man’s ego or ambition!”

“That’s why we had a republic,” Caecina reminded him. “Until the senators got so greedy that they forced the Divine Julius to crush them and put his blood on a throne.”

“We overthrew the Kings six hundred years ago,” Eprius reminded him.

“Aye we did. And now we have a new king of a new dynasty. The great circle, Titus, it moves constantly but what went before comes again. Including kings.”

Eprius eased closer to the lithe ex-general. “And those who overthrow kings,” he said lowly.

“Them too, I suppose,” Caecina said, easing away from the larger man, as if not sure of his intentions.

“We should discuss this further, inside,” Eprius said. He touched a finger to an ear.

“Discuss what, exactly?”

“This deal of a great circle, of course,” Eprius retorted. “I have been sent north to find facts. I find them in a crime so huge that it is baffling- but cannot do anything about it as the perpetrator is under Imperial protection. I find another crime here, and again I am stifled. I tell you, Aulus Caecina, I am getting quite frustrated of being given tasks that are then made impossible or moot due corruption at the highest level. I cannot begin to imagine how you must feel. You made him Imperator, and he has scorned you ever since.”

You are right about that. You cannot begin to imagine how much I loathe your old friend, Caecina thought. And again, his mouth translated this as, “One must accept one’s fate.”

“That is horseshit and you know it, you old wolf,” Eprius sneered. “A man makes his own fate. Come inside. We shall discuss this further.” He threw a towel to his guest, who caught it deftly.

As if resigned to listen to bluster and blabber, Caecina rose and followed.

No man saw the hidden smile behind his placid countenance.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-11-11 04:00 AM EDT (US)     37 / 86       
Hmm, I wonder what they are planning.....

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-14-11 01:56 AM EDT (US)     38 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Rutilius was a very busy man. Planning and executing a march to contact was never easy at its best, and this move was complicated by the fact that the army performing it was a hodge-podge of auxilia contingents with a large allied component that outnumbered the auxilia. And then there was the Ubian militia- sturdy volunteers with little training, poor weapons, but the hearts of lions. Fourteen thousand men- only five thousand of whom were Roman soldiers- marching to do battle against sixty-to-eighty thousand for the fate of an empire none of them really gave a rat’s ass about. To them, it was buying time for the legions to come and protect their homes.

Faenius and Palla were invaluable in getting the cohorts ready- a former legion second-in-command and a former primus pilus are exceptional men to have at moments like this. They were working out the march units and order, and analyzing the intended route for obstacles or choke points other than the ford.

Gnaeus Milus was busy readying every wagon he could find- some to be laden with food, others empty for the carrying of wounded back, and other to bring some sort of artillery to give the tiny force an edge. Jorgen helped him, giving the numbers and types of Cananefate in the force, as well as tracking down the supply officers of each cohort to get their numbers. Verrus the artillery centurion was breaking his weapons down for storage- and mounting some on the wagons Milus gave him for good measure. Niall was keeping an eye on the Suevi, whose prince was in the castrum learning from Rutilius exactly what he was to defend and how best to do it given the weapons available. The Cananefate had their weapons- the armorers worked to sharpen and repair those that needed it. Those Ubians not armed with true weapons- many had but pitchforks or spears warped with age- were outfitted from the armories, also reducing the risk of some disappearing into sticky Suevi hands. Labeo was getting briefed on how to run the lower province in his absence, and Dieter was whipping the Ubians into a true warband. Everybody was busy, and a lot had to happen in a short period of time.

It did not help when a marine ran up to the fort and demanded to see the commander. The gate watch let him in, and within minutes Rutilius had yet another problem. A fleet was coming upriver, from Frisii lands.

“Cacat,” Rutilius muttered. “Just what I need. More hindrances.”

“The Frisii attack,” said Segestes, who had been the shadow of Rutilius for the last day and a half. “I am sworn to defend this castrum and the others. I can do that best from the woods from where we struck earlier- and with you in this castrum and myself outside, we can crush these interlopers fairly quickly. Just give the word.”

Rutilius thought that over. Two thousand Germanics striking from the forest might indeed bring the element of surprise. Better with nine thousand. “Take Niall,” he commanded. “His men are encamped where the enemy can see them- and where I want the enemy to land. Putting him in the woods with you clears the fields for the Frisii to come in and get slaughtered.”

Segestes grinned. He hustled off, looking for the Cananefate king, with Dieter at his side for confirmation.

Claudia came up to the praetorium where her husband was sending warriors about in preparation for battle.

“More fools coming to die upon your sword, husband?” she asked, noticing the preparations and understanding their meaning.

“Yes,” he replied curtly. “This is not a good place to be, woman. Are the children safe?”

“Have you become so German that you think a woman is for nothing more than Kinderen und Küchen?”

Rutilius smiled wanly at the old saying. Children and Kitchens. “No,” he said. “I have seen you in battle, Claudia, and we went over this last night. I know better. But there is a lot of activity going on right now, with more to come. They might wander out into some of it and get hurt.”

“Milika has them in our quarters,” Claudia responded with a slight blush. They had indeed had a discussion about women and battle- and she had come out on top as she had in the bed later. “They are scared, but safe.”

“Has anybody heard from Claudius Victor?”

She shook her blonde curls. “We passed him on our way here. He was headed to your farms around Gelduba. Knowing him, probably to recruit some warriors there to join your force.”

“I’d rather he took you and the children to where he put Publius last time I was away,” he said with concern in his voice. “You can be a normal woman there. In Colonia, you will be the woman of the quaestor- a valuable target for our foes. You know what those men can do to a captive woman and children of Roman magistrates...”

She placed a finger across his lips. “Hush, lover,” she said. “I shall have him take us there to await your return. And you will return. I know it.”

“Are you become a vala?” he laughed. Then he smiled. “My own vala. That can be very handy to have.”

She kissed him. “Some things I do see clearly. You will return. And we shall be a family again.”

“This battle should not take too long,” Rutilius said suddenly. “A few thousand Frisii. Good warriors, but out of their element and under attack from all sides when they come against us. It will not even be close. But over there, woman, it will be the other way around. It will be we who are outnumbered and out of our element, despite the vast majority of the army being allies. I can make no promises, but I will try to fulfill your prophecy, my vala.”

Claudia kissed him again and returned to the quarters to warn the maid and children. Rutilius made his way to the ramparts. The Cananefate were in the process of disappearing into the forest- only a few hundred remained breaking down the last of the tents. Upriver, he saw the fleet under Piscius disappearing around a bend of the Rhein. Good man. His attack last time was devastating. A repeat of that would not be amiss now.. Downriver he saw nothing, but knew it was coming.

He looked again to the northeast. At least sixteen ships were coming up the river, pulling oars against the wind and current. Then twenty, then thirty. It was a large fleet, Roman galleys. He breathed a sigh of relief, until he remembered that Civilis had captured a Roman fleet during the war- and those ships had never been recovered. Had they been hiding among the Frisii? That triggered another thought. Were they being led by Julius Civilis- once a Batavian king, now seeking to become king again? It would not matter. He would land north of the castrum and be slaughtered. This was not five years ago.

The ships pulled in to the bank to the north of the castrum, as predicted. Men rushed out and took up battle positions, as predicted. But the cohort standards and segmented armor they wore was not predicted. In short order eight cohorts were lined up and marching for the castrum in column formation.

“What the hell is this?” Rutilius thought wildly as he watched the legionaries approach. Roman legionaries. The discipline of the ranks was evident to see even from here. These were not men dressed as legionaries- these were the real thing.

“Dieter!” he cried. “Get to Niall and Segestes- Now! Those are not Frisii! They’re ours, by the gods!”

Dieter came out of the stables with horse in hand as the castrum gates opened. Running beside his horse, he hopped once, twice, while hanging onto the saddle. Then he was up in that saddle and out the gate at the gallop. He had to inform the Germanics hiding there before they attacked the legionaries- or vice versa. Rutilius was already running toward the Moesian cavalry- his reaction force for the day, where he too did the Batavian hop into the saddle. Unlike his bodyguard, Rutilius rode toward the oncoming Romans with the Moesians on his tail.

He reined up short of the column and rubbed his eyes as he got a closer look at the Romans. There were four different patterns on the shields of the eight cohorts- and one of those patterns was very, very familiar- the leaping Pegasus. And at the head of the cohort...

“Publius Arrius!” he cried, seeing their commander. “And at least two cohorts of the II Adiutrix! My old boys!”

“Hail, Marcus Rutilius!” Arrius shouted in reply. “I heard you might be having German troubles, so Quintus Petillius sent me and eight cohorts over to help out.” His eyes raised to look beyond the quaestor, where Germans were emerging from the woods in large numbers. “Cohorts! Form line!” he shouted, then to Rutilius, “it looks like I was just in time.”

Rutilius looked behind him to see the Cananefate and Suevi coming out, knowing now the invaders were not hostile. “Belay that!” he shouted, then to Arrius, he added while he pointed to the ash pits in the west where the dead had been burned, “you are a few days too late.”

Arrius looked about. He could see the signs of battle. Rutilius filled him in on the battle and its aftermath, and how the Cananefate had come to honor their Allied status. He also told him of the Suevi, and how he had hired them on honor.

“I would never have done that,” Arrius replied. “Wouldn’t have thought of it,” he added with a smile.

“I’ve got five thousand auxilia in the castrum,” Rutilius said. “And another nine thousand Germanics in the forest there. The Cananefate were camped here, the Suevi to the south. You are welcome to the encampment by the river to the south- you might have to fix it up a bit, but it is not the same as building a new one from scratch.”

“I’ll take the old encampment,” Arrius replied. “Is it still muddy getting there?”

Rutilius laughed, a true laugh. Last time they had been here together, Arrius was the acting legate of the II Adiutrix while Rutilius took over the battle for a wounded Cerealis. Civilis had flooded the area between the two armies, creating a morass that gave him an edge on the first day, and proved a death-trap for his men on the second.

“No floods,” he finally said. “Come to the praetorium. I need to explain the situation to you and what we are going to do about it.”


That night, Arrius dined with two kings, two princes, a quaestor, a fleet captain, and twelve prefects and tribunes. He listened with horror as Rutilius explained how Cordinus had crossed the Rhenus with all four legions, denuding the province while leaving Marcus and twelve cohorts behind to cover the entire province. And how Cordinus got himself trapped beyond the Rhenus, and with Germania Superior on the march, no legions anywhere to help until later.

“We have only one shot before this goes completely to shit,” he summarized. “The Cananefate and I are going across to do battle. We do not expect to win, but we do expect to tie down the Germans for a while. If extremely lucky, we might even be able to get to the legions and break through to them. We will have wagons of rations with us, and more for the extraction of wounded if feasible”

He turned to Arrius. “You are the first of the legions to come. There should be more on the way. Cordinus sent a contingency warning to Rome, and I sent a further message affirming its need. Rome knows the value of the Rhenus- they will send aid. It is our duty here to give Rome the time she needs. And it is our duty as Romans to do our utmost to rescue our colleagues.

”You, Publius, will remain here. Segestes has sworn to defend our castra, but will not cross the river to attack his former comrades. He can be a mobile reserve for you, patrolling with Batavian guides to keep an eye out for the Frisii, who are reported to be making noise and gathering a warhost. When Cornelius Clemens gets his act together and sends a few legions up, you will be able to keep the border and Rome safe.”

“You can forget about that merda right now,” Arrius said, rising. “We came here in reply to your request for aid. We have problems of our own on Britannia and could not free up a legion, but Quintus Petillius himself allowed me to bring two cohorts form each legion to aid you. I had to break up more than one fight among my cohorts over who was going. We came to serve once again with you, Marcus. If you are going off to battle, we are going to battle at your side. Otherwise we came for nothing.”

“You will be needed here to slow the Flood until the legions come,” Rutilius reminded him.

“We would not even slow a horde that size long enough for them to piss,” Arrius retorted. “Suevi or not at our side. No offense, Segestes. We are legionaries, Marcus- strongest in the attack. I am sure the auxilia and Cananefate are good- but we are professionals and probably the best troops in this hodge-podge army. You would be foolish to leave us behind.”

“Roman legionaries do scare those fools across the river,” Segestes added. “They think the entire army trapped. Imagine their fright when you come with yet another legion.”

“Arrius is right, Marcus,” Niall said. “You would be a fool to leave the best troops here. I understand your intention- but you are wrong. These are too few to stop the Flood- as Arrius says. But with us, they might help turn the tide.”

A brief look around the room confirmed this viewpoint. Marcus was about to lay down the law as his position demanded, but then remembered Cordinus doing the very same thing- ignoring all about him and demanding his own way. What Publius Arrius and the others said made sense- the appearance of a near legion outside the trap might be the edge he needs. And leaving his strongest asset behind was pure folly, despite the reasons to do so.

“Do your cohorts from the II Adiutrix still have their naval bows?”

Arrius laughed. “You can’t pry that damned thing out of their hands, as you well know.”

“We have plenty of arrows, even naval ones,” Milus added. “The fleet often puts in here for resupply.”

“You really should have consulted me before deciding on this plan,” Piscius said, speaking up for the first time. He noticed now how this quaestor was open to suggestion- unlike the prick he whose province he was currently running. “Segestes here mentioned to me earlier your plan of heading north because of the wagons. Did you really think we couldn’t get wagons across this river, sir? We do that all the time with the traders- military wagons are no problem at all.”

“And the path I showed you is used often by merchants,” Segestes added. “My cousin Aethelric mentioned it to me several times, and that slug Udo reminded me of it when he sent me down that path.”

Rutilius thought that over. It would save four days, and avoid any chance of meeting the Frisians- a delay he could deal with but would rather avoid if possible. A lightning strike up that path... His army could put a real hurt on the Germani then, giving the legions their chance to break out. It could work.

“It seems we have a new plan,” he said finally. “Milus, get with Piscius and see what he needs to get our wagons directly across onto Segestes’s trail. Verrus, go with him. Publius Arrius, return to your cohorts. Tell them of our plan, and the odds. Leave nothing out. Then tell them I will only accept volunteers for this. See how many of them will come. Tiberius Labeo, guide half of the Suevi to Noviomagus, and ensure they stay in the fortress. Segestes, you will command the other half here. Niall, make sure your men know the odds as well. Nothing can destroy morale faster than going into battle against huge odds and not knowing it until you see the warhost arrayed before you.”

Niall laughed. “We Cananefate know our fate, or we would not have volunteered the first time. Nothing you have said this night has made us change our minds.”

“Nor ours,” said Gregor, the Ubian commander. His men were still the rattiest bunch of warriors Rutilius had ever laid eyes upon, but since Dieter started working on them that morning, their weapons have improved and they could now form a double line. What a difference a day could make!

“We will meet again here tomorrow night for finalization,” Rutilius decided. “The morning after that, we march.”

The meeting the following evening was in a much better atmosphere. The boats used by the Suevi and Marsi would ferry the infantry over, the Romans- all of whom were indignant that the quaestor even considered leaving them to guard a province he himself was departing- would cross in their own transports. Piscius had all the extra boards he would need to bring over the wagons, and as a bonus, donated Nigidius and the marines back to the army.

“So, with the infantry marching in the order just given,” Rutilius concluded, “the cavalry will be riding at a distance on either flank. That should keep our cohorts unseen, to be revealed at the final battle. Surprise will have been achieved, for whatever good it does us.”

“The cavalry can chase down any hunters or wanderers who see them anyway, despite our precautions,” Niall added. He turned to Oddmund. “Can your men ensure we are properly screened?”

Oddmund laughed viciously, then abruptly ceased when he considered the ramifications- and the abilities of hunters to slip between horseborne patrols. “We can kill any we see,” he vowed.

“It may not be good enough,” Segestes said. “You will be moving fourteen thousand men through their woods. A force that size... It will definitely be seen, and reported. No matter how thorough your patrols. Count on it.”

“You think my horseborne incapable of slaughtering Bructeri?” Oddmund challenged. ”Think again!”

“You think again,” Segestes countered. “If the Frisians took these same precautions and moved against your chief village, would you find out?”

“They would not make it within a week’s march unseen,” Oddmund boasted, then abruptly shut his mouth as realization hit him. “The Suevi is correct- there are always some you do not see, but who see you. No matter how effective the screen, some eyes will always pierce it.”

“Then he gets word,” Rutilius said, accepting the verdict. “It will not matter. He must still come against us, and in doing so, give the legions a chance to break out. He must come with at least double our numbers to ensure success- that cuts the force holding the legions penned by half. They can break out. Mission accomplished.”

“If they know,” Jorgen reminded him. He was beginning to see a plan forming in the Suevi prince’s mind. “The legions think they are alone, and the Germans surrounding them as well- especially if the Germans are just sitting back with intermittent patrols to keep up appearances. But the Germani there... They are expecting a large force to come up that road, aren’t they?”

Segestes nodded. “They are expecting Calor and me to come up that road with the supplies captured from this fortress.”

“So if they see a large force coming, they will assume it is yours,” Niall completed.

“Especially if that force was German, as Marek has displayed by putting your Cananefate first in the line of march. But the auxilia and cohorts that follow... There will be no doubt that we were defeated.”

Rutilius saw a glimpse of that forming plan as well. “And you have an idea about how to let them convince themselves that our army is your warhost?”

Segestes nodded again. “Niall and I burned the dead. Six thousand Marsi, six thousand Suevi, and a few thousand Quadii. Each one was borne to the pyre, stripped of goods and weapons, and respectfully placed with his brothers upon the pyre before sending them to Wotan. They are now ash, the Ubians have good weapons, and we have more than ten thousand cloaks. You have eight or nine thousand Romans. Put the one in the other, and from a distance, nine thousand Suevi and Marsi return- with wagons bearing the spoils of a fallen fortress.”

“They would not think otherwise,” Oddmund agreed.

“They cannot think otherwise,” Niall agreed. “The mind accepts what the eye sees, and they will ‘see’ Segestes returning with his warhost- successful. They will not even dare to question their own eyes.”

“And we can come right up to the encampment and catch it unawares,” Rutilius noted. He saw no flaws, but a golden opportunity. Hope blossomed. “I think we can do this.”

“We can, if you were me,” Segestes said. “They would expect to see me leading the warhost. Thus you must be me.” He picked up his helmet from where he rested it. It was of shining brass, deep on the back and sides like a Greek helmet, but with a nasal guard and no cheekplates. Two wide, eight-inch white wings sprouted from the sides, reaching for the sky. “My armor would change with the spoils taken, but this helm was my grandfather’s, passed on to my father, who passed it to me. It is famous on our side of the river. Horobard knows it well. If you wore this and my cloak, he would think you me until you gutted him.”

Rutilius thought it over. He normally wore a legionary’s helm, the first he had ever been issued. It fit well, and always reminded him of his days in the battle line. The cheek flaps fastened under his chin to keep the helmet firmly in place, and the neck guard kept the back of his neck from sunburn as well as swords. It had become his lucky charm, that infantryman’s helm.

“That identifies you to them,” Niall said. “All in these woods know the man in the silver cuirass of a general but the helm of a lowly legionary is Marcus Rutilius. It is your trademark- a common soldier risen high.”

“They know you, and your forces,” Segestes added. ”These are known foes. With this, you are no longer Marcus Rutilius identified from far away. You are Segestes, a returning hero. You will be welcomed, until they come so close as to see your eyes.”

“Take the helm, Marcus,” Dieter said, coming to agreement. “It is a gift, thus no honor is tainted. And if the monkeys over there fool themselves into thinking you are someone else... That is on them, not you.”

“Take it,” echoed Niall and Jorgen.

“Those wings will look really smashing in battle,” Arrius added. “A winged helmet, for the former Pegasus Legate. Makes me wish my armorers would make something like that for me.”

“All right,” Rutilius said, taking the proffered helmet and shaking the Suevi’s hand in gratitude. “Thank you.”

The final act of the meeting was the presentation of the package Jorgen and Milus brought. The Cananefate prince had a headless spear shaft in his hand. While the camp prefect had a box wrapped in burlap. This he placed on the table before the quaestor.

“The gifts are not finished yet,” Arrius said. “I think you will not hesitate to accept this one.”

“The cohorts of Publius Arrius suggested it last night,” the camp prefect reported, ”and the Cananefate smithed it up this morning. My boys put the polish on it, so you can say that this is a group effort, lord.”

Rutilius opened the box carefully. Inside was a statue of a bird of prey, a think bronze bird with wings outstretched, and a covering of thin silver overlaid atop. Its talons clutched a branch, but it was missing a shaft. He pulled the eagle out of the box to examine it to the applause of the gathered men. He held the bird up for their view, as well, though most of the men there had seen it already. Across the branch was a Roman numeral I and the word Rutilia.

“Its a light legion at only eight cohorts, this I Rutilia,” Arrius said, “and a mix-matched one. But I am willing to bet it is going to frighten the living shit out of a lot of foes before it ceases to be!”

Rutilius was speechless. A legion, formed of nothing and now a reality, has named itself after him, once a Third-Class legionary. It was extremely touching, and almost brought a tear to his eye.

“I have enough Batavian veterans with me to fill a cohort,” Labeo said softly, “And Milus has armor for them in the storehouses. You could have then nine cohorts.”

“Would they serve?” Rutilius asked.

“Their families and loved ones will be slain when the legions are no more,” Labeo reminded him gently. “Of course they will serve.”

Rutilius nodded. “Then we march tomorrow. Pack light, lords- we will be moving swiftly. There are a lot of men at the other end of that trail needing us, and a lot more in between who will try to stop us.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-14-11 05:19 AM EDT (US)     39 / 86       
That I Rutilla was a really nice gesture. The plan drawn up is a good plan. But we shall see if this can deceive the Germanic tribes.

Another good installment!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-18-11 01:59 AM EDT (US)     40 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Clodius Eprius was often compared to a boar- due to his pudginess, his whiskers, his porcine face, - and not least, his temperament. But a better comparison might be to a warhound. Once he had his teeth into something, the prosecutor in him would not let him let it go. And he had the taste of a traitor fouling his mouth.

He turned it over in his mind several times. He knew the facts: the plans of Cordinus Rutilius Gallicus were found enroute to the Germani. Cordinus, though a thoroughly disreputable general, was also a prig of an honest man. He had no need to send his plans to the Germans, thus logic dictated another must have. The plans originated in Rome, thus the traitor was here. The plans were sent through the network of Burrius, but Burrius had vanished. Burrius had no contacts with the Imperial family, except for the sale of slaves to them. The slaves cannot be interrogated. Dead End.

There were so many questions regarding this that it spun in his head making him dizzy with the effort of trying to keep track of it all. Who sent the information to Burrius? Was it indeed a slave, or a free man acting for the enemy? Why did Burrius send this damning information anyway? Who else knew what it was? How did it get intercepted- and why? And why send Roman plans to a German anyway? It made little sense. Eprius knew he was only seeing glimpses of the puzzle, but the amount of missing pieces was staggering.

It was too much and he was getting nowhere. Titus Junior, with his praetorian bulldogs, would sniff out the traitor well before him, through use of judicial torture and other means not available to the ordinary man, and thus steal his thunder. That he could not allow! Not only was Vespasianus favoring his son militarily, he was now doing so politically as well- to the detriment of other good men. He had even heard Vespasian previously say in the Senate that his son would be princeps after him- or nobody would. Helvidius called him on that, asking if that meant a return to the Republic. He was ignored, of course- no man with absolute power would ever voluntarily relinquish it, except for Sulla. Vespasian was no Sulla- he would keep his power in the family.

Therefore more experience was piled upon young Vespasianus Junior while more chances for bestowing imperial favor upon the senators were wasted. Eprius snorted in contempt. He would find this traitor and bring him to justice himself. And he would do it because it was right, not for a reward. He cackled. What reward? He would never be consul again- Junior would be named every year- and he had just returned from service as a governor. He was too fat to be a generalis, so that left only his own honor to serve. Vespasian can shove the rest right up his owlish arse.

Finding the miscreant through tracking the movement of the plan appealed with its simplicity, but the amount of missing links was too frustrating. He needed a new approach. It was clear the objective of the plans was to have the Army of Germania annihilated. Why else send advance warning of impending attack, with precise details? No other reason made any sense, thus it had to be true. So, who gained from this?

Surely not Cordinus. Nor his lowborn quaestor. Both men would be dead in a matter of days anyway. The quaestor had few friends in power, being lowborn, with similarly few opportunities to make enemies of those in power. Cordinus had Imperial protection. His only true enemy was Eprius himself, and even that enmity was fading with the puzzle of finding this high-placed traitor. Thus the motive is not personal revenge or vendetta. Vespasian loses four legions and half of the western empire with this move- something he might risk if it bought him a big gain elsewhere, but he also ordered the assault into the Agri Decumates. One does not take on the Suevi in their homeland while leaving northern Gaul completely open to attack. Junior is his father’s heir- he would not risk his empire. So the Imperial House was cleared.

Who in Rome gained if Rome lost a few provinces? Nobody, as far as he could see. Nobody gained if four legions died, either.

So it was back to what he knew. The initiator of the damning evidence was Titus Burrius. Burrius was a knight, and a businessman. He was a client of Helvidius. But a businessman would lose his connections if the provinces fell, so that made no sense. Unless the businesses he ran were heavy into foundries and metalworking... Four dead legions meant recruiting new ones, which would require equipment to be bought, which meant money for those who could produce the needed items. Money and lots of it, paid here in Rome. That was indeed something worth sacrificing four legions in a faraway province. That was the motive. Burrius did it for the money! Now, to prove it.

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“I am concerned,” Helvidius was saying to Caecina in the latter’s house. “I have not heard from Titus Burrius in quite some time. That is not like him.”

“He must have been spooked by the inquiries,” Caecina allowed, reminding his guest of just who was conducting those inquiries. Titus Flavius Vespasianus Junior was not exactly known for his compassion when interrogating a suspected traitor. “The investigation by Titus Junior is still ongoing. Titus Burrius must be lying low to avoid it. Eprius is after him as well- he seems to think a slave wrote the incriminating document.”

“A slave?” scoffed Helvidius.

“Burrius sold slaves to the Flavii household,” Aulus reminded him. “It is a matter of public record. And slaves have access to the entire house- including the places where correspondence is kept. They are like moving furniture, but the little bastards can think and pry their inquisitive noses into anything without even being noticed. It is a plausible conclusion.”

“Absurd!,” Helvidius retorted. “Burrius deals with domestics- housekeepers, cooks, chambermaids and the like. Most are foreigners, and all are illiterate. Not a one could read, much less write.”

“Still, someone from the Flavian household fed your client the damning information, and that someone was not the Flavii. That information is proven to have gone through Burrius, who had a slave connection, and went north to the Germans, with whom he has business connections. On the surface, he is damned.”

Helvidius looked up sharply at that.

“You would be wise to do the same,” Caecina continued. ”Burrius is your client, after all. The trail may lead to you.”

“Bah,” scoffed Gaius Helvidius. “I am loyal to Rome and her magnificent fighting men to the last iota of my being. Investigate me all they wish- they will find nothing, for I am not involved at all.”

“They already have your signet on the damning document,” Aulus pointed out. “They have not yet made the connection, but they will. And they will not look any further once they pin it on you.”

Helvidius turned successive paling shades of grey. “I had better begin my own investigation to counter theirs,” he concluded bluntly, rising to depart. “Thank you for the support, Aulus. I think we shall soon see just how dead our Republic is, unless you manage to wrest it back from the power-mad hands now ruining it.”


Clodius Eprius was still stuck in his rut. Mentally, at least. Physically, he was moving up the clivus toward the Aventine home of Caecina, who had given him good advice in the past. He rounded the corner to see the house, and noticed the door closing and a man walking away. Tall, slender, with a graceful stride, and dressed in a toga on a day when no official business was being conducted. There was but one man who fit that description.

Eprius backed away to let his arch-enemy Helvidius put more distance between them, not wanting a confrontation here and now. He pressed up against the hot wall of someone’s garden, while his slaves positioned themselves so that their shades protected their master from the terrible sun. As he did so, his mind ran over the near-encounter.

Gaius Helvidius was an outcast senator due to his obdurate and outdated stance on the Republic. The leave-taking was cordial- he and Caecina were thus friendly. That made good sense in hindsight- pariahs befriending one another. And a third pariah was known to frequent that house as well- a very high-placed pariah. Titus Flavius Domitianus, the former consul and twenty-four year old drunken son of the Princeps Imperator. Ah, now I see. Slaves of Domitian, working for others, bring the information to the home, where they give them to slaves of Helvidius, who later give it to their master. Slaves make the exchange, so that the masters remain untouched! That was the missing link. Now to prove it.

Helvidius was ten minutes away and walking in the other direction when Eprius banged a meaty fist on the portal of Caecina. Aulus himself opened the door minutes later, surprised at his new guest.

“Come in, Titus, please,” he said in a friendly voice. One could almost not sense the utter surprise lurking beneath his smooth exterior. “What brings you here in the times of the worst heat of the day?”

“I remembered your wonderful fountain,” was the reply. “I wondered if we could bathe in it for an hour or so. This heat is bloody dreadful.”

“Of course,” Caecina replied smoothly. “I was just going for a soak myself. Come, join me.”

Eprius gestured to his slaves. “I will not be requiring you for an hour or so. Aulus, do you have a place where they may rest until needed?”

Aulus nodded to his steward, then to Eprius. “Of course,” he said. “They may wait in the slaves quarters, where the slaves of all my guests await their masters.”

Eprius nodded, and waddled over to the fountain with his hot. Both men stripped down and entered the cool water with sighs of relief. A slender auburn-haired chambermaid brought a decanter of wine and a carafe of water. This was placed on a small table between the two men before she made her exit.

Eprius admired her form. “Cappadocian?” he asked.

Caecina looked again at the departing slave and shook his head. “Gallic, I think. Somewhere northern. Good looks, strictly behaved, but a horrible accent.”

“She was quite attentive,” Eprius remarked as he filled the glasses. As usual, Caecina motioned to stop pouring at a third of a glass, while Eprius filled his full of the thick liquid. Caecina topped his off with water. “I am thinking of buying one for housework. One like that one. From whom did you acquire her, if I may ask?”

“That one was from Quintus Spurius Escalinus,” Caecina replied easily. Nice try, Eprius. As subtle as the boar you appear to be. “He has good domestics, decent enough. The others in the house are by far better, though- hardly a trace of accent, more attentive to their looks and manners, and well-trained. Disciplined? They don’t even think of doing wrong. Lovely slaves, really.”

Eprius nodded in appreciation. “That sounds more like what I was looking for,” he said. “From whom may I purchase such wonderful slaves?”

Aulus laughed inside himself. From a dead man. The attempt to fish for information was so obvious it was almost painful. Suddenly he tired of the game. As you wish, you dullard. I’ll play your little game and even feed you some tidbits. “From Titus Burrius, actually. His products are highly recommended. I hear that even the Flavii purchase their domestics from him.”

“I have heard this too,” Eprius reminded him. “I am currently investigating that man, as you well know.”

“I do,” he admitted. Why do you think I mentioned him? “But I have neither seen nor heard about him since. Have you tried asking Gaius Helvidius Priscus? He was the man’s patron, after all.”

“Ach, last I heard he was on his way to Armenia.”

Caecina shook his head. “He came back. In fact, he popped by to ask me if I knew anything about his client, Burrius living down the road as he did. He departed a few minutes before you arrived. I had thought he had forgotten something when the knock came, but it was you at the door. Did you not see him?”

Eprius shook his head. Caecina smiled inside. Sure...

They passed another hour with idle conversation in the fountain before the servants reported a late lunch had been prepared. Aulus had a steward lead the other senator into the dining hall while he went to change into a clean tunic, smiling to himself at his cleverness.

Eprius dried himself and followed the slave, who stopped before the dining area and gestured within. Eprius went in, and the slave continued on her way. The food looked scrumptious, but was soldier fare. No delicacies or other luxuries on the table- merely bread, fruit, and some cheese. Still, for such a hot day, filling enough. He picked up a plate and began filling it.

When he turned to sit on the couch, he noticed the small table with opened post behind. Evidently Aulus Caecina liked to do some administration while he dined. Curious, Eprius went over and glanced at the contents. He saw a few letters, a lot of demands for payment, and a testament to be lodged with the Vestals. He picked up the testament and glanced at the seal- a dolphin leaping over waves with a fish in its mouth. He put the thing down and read the letter in which it had been wrapped. Suddenly thoughts solidified in his mind and the chaos ordered itself...

Aulus entered his dining hall to find it abandoned. He sighed at his good fortune and sat down to lunch. Alone, at last. The food brought water to his mouth, tantalizing him with its simplicity and quality. He noticed nothing amiss as he began to relax and devour his meal.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-18-11 09:38 AM EDT (US)     41 / 86       
Aulus is in for a world of hurt!

A great installment detailing political machinery in Rome.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-21-11 04:28 AM EDT (US)     42 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The crossing of the Rhenus was flawless. But then again, when there is no opposition, even the most haphazard of plans would meet with success. The auxilia went first, their horses providing a roaming wall of spears to guard the beach head, followed by the Cananefate and six of the legionary cohorts The other three helped load the wagons onto the ships and unload them on the other side, then the rest crossed.

Rutilius crossed on the last boat, ceremoniously handing the keys to the fortress to his Suevi mercenary.

“You are the only Roman presence in the province now,” he said; the seriousness was literally dripping from him.

“Once you get on that boat, lord, there will be no Roman presence in this province,” Segestes reminded him. “I am not Roman. I do not serve Rome. Rome has little honor. But I serve you, who has. I will do my best to guard your castra as I have sworn, until you return.”

Rutilius smiled wanly. “I hear that so often I think it may be true. Okay, then, Segestes. Until I return.”

The Suevi smiled and the two shook hands in the German style. Then Rutilius embarked. Ten minutes later he was at the head of the army, moving east along the path. It was just as the Suevi had said: wide, straight, and good enough for wagons- a merchant’s path. The Cananefate were marching well, sandwiched in between the auxilia infantry, with the legionaries bringing up the rear. These he wanted to keep hidden from prying eyes- what good was a surprise if it was known? Screening the legionaries were the Ubians- tall men, and marching well, they concealed the legionaries well. So well, in fact, that they were giving Rutilius an idea for the coming battle.

All day they marched at the quick-step, pausing only once to eat and again for water. That evening, the legionaries made a rough camp, not regulation, but enough of a fortification to slow any casual or hasty attack. The cavalry took turns patrolling the perimeter while the infantry slept, then with the sunrise the army rose and continued, repeating the process.

That second evening, however, saw the cavalry come racing back.

“A large group of Germanics are coming from the north,” Lucius Albius reported. His
I Longiniana Gallorum heavy cavalry was assigned that sector. “Looks like ten thousand, all infantry except for a few scouts. They should be here within two hours. They appear to be Frisians.”

Rutilius looked about. He was in the deep woods, a thick canopy overhead that kept undergrowth to a minimum. No bushes left little concealment, but then again, it was nice for defense where no attacker could come close unseen. Now that worked against him. Maybe it will work against the Germans too?

“I trapped a warhost of them just north of Noviomagus five years ago,” he said bitterly to Albius, ”and let the buggers walk free. They stayed away, but now that we are weak, they come out from under their rocks. Well, I am going to teach them a lesson they will never forget. Lucius, get your cavalry together and hide back there a ways. Wait for my signal- three blasts- then come and kill anything with a beard.”

“Glam!” he commanded. “Find the Cananefate commander Niall. Have him deploy in a line there, to the right of our encampment, but offset back fifty paces.”

He called two more Batavians from his guard forward. “Aelwyn, tell the Roman commander Arrius to put four of his cohorts behind the Cananefate, and have the other five cover our encampment with brush and leaves so that it blends in. He is to garrison it. Ragnar, you ride to the other auxilia cavalry and have them join Albius far back to our left. When I sound the horn thrice, they charge into the flank.”

“Hide the horses, await three horn blasts,” the Batavian repeated, then was off.

“And us?” asked Nigidius, the marine commander. “And the other auxilia infantry?”

“You men stand before the fortifications,” Rutilius ordered. “The enemy will concentrate on you, and ignore the fortifications behind. When they close, peel away to the right. With any luck the fools will ignore your paltry numbers and concentrate on the Cananefate, giving you the room needed to fall upon their flank. Failing that, they get hit by the cohorts in the camp, with your support. You will only have to hold on a few minutes- charging cavalry comes quick.”

“A no-lose scenario,” Nigidius replied with a smile. “I’ll pass the word.”

The warhost came on. One could see that they were Frisii from their standards, braids, and colors. They were large men, with arms made strong from travelling the watery land upon which they lived. And they were ready for war if the weapons in their hands and bits of armor among their warriors spoke true.

Rutilius awaited their approach with the auxilia infantry. His orders put them as prime targets, so he felt it right to be in among them, sharing the danger. The Frisians came on as the sun dipped unseen below the horizon, casting a single beam through a gap in the canopy above as it settled in for the night. That beam fell upon a lightning-struck oak, which had died long before any man there had been born. It lit it for ten seconds at least, before the sun moved and the beam was once again intercepted by the leaves above were its brethren.

The Frisii stopped, murmuring about that single beam. Some began moving sideways- deploying for battle, or for a better view. A chieftain by his golden armbands and jewelry rode forward, his spear held head-down in the Germanic gesture. He was a tall man, thick in the chest, with arms like logs. He had both a long sword and a battleaxe tied to his belt, and a long shirt of chainmail under that. He wore a black iron helmet that shot two large bullhorns into the air, and two thick braids of blonde-gone-gray hair framing his craggy face. This man came forward, slowly, but with purpose. He stopped a hundred paces before the auxilia.

“Rut-ee-lee-us?” he shouted to the Romans.

Marcus cursed. A challenge- just what he needed with so many Germanics in his army. Honor was the glue holding it together- should he refuse to honor the challenge, he would lose his army. He stepped forward.

“I am here,” he replied in Batavian.

“I am Feyke, King of the East Frisians,” the warlord announced. “Five years ago my son had come south, looking to take women and spoils from the Batavians who were weakened by war. You trapped him and his warhost north of Batavodurum.”

“I remember,” Rutilius said.

“You freed him, when you could have slaughtered him,” the chieftain said. “I could not understand why you did not end him and my line when you had the chance. Yet you did not, and instead showed him mercy. You gave him his life back, where you once held it like an egg in your hand.”

“And now you come to take mine, now, at this time? It shall not be as easy as you think, Frisian.”

The old man cackled. “I have studied you since that day. My men have been to your towns and terps, and seen that you are indeed an honorable man. You did not free him out of pity, or kill him like the bandit he was trying to be. You spared him out of honor, and thus put our tribe into your debt.”

“He was misguided,” Rutilius said bluntly. “And had yet done no harm. I merely showed him the folly of his ways, as I shall do to you.”

“I come to repay his debt.”

“With a warhost at your side, deep in foreign lands?” Rutilius scoffed.

“You set my son and his warhost free,” the old king repeated. “I come to help you to set your own trapped warriors free. Then the debt is paid in blood.”

Rutilius was stunned. “You come to fight by my side?” he asked ponderously. “To free the very men that had held your son and his warband at the point of their spears?”

The old man laughed. “It is not so difficult to understand,” he said. “A debt incurred, a debt paid.”

“And afterward we are at war again,” Rutilius finished. “How long after will we resume our hostilities, once this debt is paid?”

The king shrugged. “Maybe never. I have studied you, as I said. You do not seek to expand Roman territory at the expense of the tribes. You do not favor your own over the tribes, nor them over your own. You are fair. The tribes come to your aid, to judge by the Cananefate and Ubians in your warhost. I cannot promise Frisian warriors in your warband in the future, but maybe, if Rome stays on its side of Father Rhein and does not come north, maybe we Frisii will cease to come south except in peace.”

“As they have done these past five years?” Rutilius asked.

Feyke nodded. “A continuance of the last five years,” he echoed. “Both of us have profited from this, have we not?”

Rutilius allowed that they have. “But before that, we have been foes, since long before your people successfully rebelled against Caligula.”

“Ah, that crazed turd. Yes, we have broken from Rome, though once we were proud to be a part of that realm. Now we are not.”

“You give me little cause to believe you truly come to fight at our side,” Rutilius said bluntly.

Feyke nodded. “We have no love of the Bructeri,” the king said just as bluntly. “They are quarrelsome and raided our lands as often as they have yours. In the time after we broke free of Rome, we battled them within sight of your fortress. I was just a toddler then, but I remember well the cheers of the Romans who watched from their ramparts as our men and the Bructeri fought. Sixty thousand fell that day- though more of theirs than of ours. My grandfather and father fell in that battle. So there is very bad blood between them and us, especially now that I am king.”

Rutilius remembered tales of that battle. The Alaudae and the Primigenia legionaries had spoken of it often back when he first came to the border, groaning about it every time they were ordered on patrol. ‘Why can’t the bastards just kill themselves off and save us the effort, like they did last time?’ they would moan, before donning their gear and heading out. The memory brought a smile to his face. Good times. Good men. Now dead, like the others if he fails to reach them in time. That made his decision easy.

“I would be proud to have your warriors at our side.”

The king nodded, and dismounted. He walked the last few paces to where the Roman stood. He held out his hand. “Tomorrow we fight as brothers. Afterwards, may we remain as close. My word on this.”

“I cannot promise on Rome’s behalf,” Rutilius replied. “But for my own, and for what influence I do have among the rulers in Rome, I promise to do my best to see that Rome does not cross north of the Rhein.”

“I have seen to what lengths you go in order to keep your word, Roman,” Feyke replied. “I have no doubt you mean every word. I accept it, as a brother in arms.”

“Bring your men to our camp,” Rutilius invited. “Tomorrow night we rest, and the next morning we attack. Your men, King of the Frisii, they bring us a good chance of victory where before we had only hope of drawing the enemy away from our trapped men. No matter what shall pass on that second day, I will have been honored to have such a tribe as yours at our side when we go to battle.”

“It has been long since our men have fought side by side with Romans,” Feyke allowed. “This time will be different. Before we were forced by your Eagle Kings. Now we do so by our own free will.”

Niall and Jorgen encamped the Cananefate between the newcomers and the auxilia, leaving the Frisians isolated from the Romans. The legionaries would remain behind their temporary breastworks, one man in three awake while the others slept. Among the Cananefate, those nearest the Frisians also kept one in three awake throughout the night, though the mingling of men by the fires went without trouble. The king and his son were invited into the Roman camp to discuss the next day’s march and make any contingency plans in case more warbands were roaming about. It was decided to have the Cananefate cavalry roam outwards to the south and east, while the few Frisians rode on the north flank, aided by the Moesian cavalry which would remain further back to keep themselves unrevealed.

Feyke regaled the officers and chiefs with stories, though the tribunes understood not a word of it. The Frisian did not mind- he learned what he needed to know. Most of the tribunes and prefects did not understand Germanic except for a few, while the commander indeed spoke both Batavian and Cananefate.

Rutilius drew him aside after the council ended.

“You tell wonderful tales,” he said. “And learned much of us through your telling of them in several languages. I would know why.”

He is indeed shrewd, as I was told. “A test, lord,” the Frisian replied. “To see if the commanders shared your knowledge of our tongue, and to gauge their reactions to tales told in tongues they did not speak. Your officers were not rude, though I was, and that spoke volumes to me.”

“So you tell tales in tongues to reveal our nature, not our knowledge,” Rutilius summarized.

“Correct,” Feyke replied. “And you are also correct in suspecting me. I come to you unexpected from the forest, with a large warband at my side, and pledge to fight at your side. If you came so to me, I too would be suspicious. Yet you accept, and while careful, are not overly suspicious or on guard. Nor are your officers. I find that strangely reassuring, but suspicious in itself.”

Rutilius smiled. “You came claiming to pay a debt of honor,” he replied. “Had I no honor, I would indeed be very suspicious. But many years in this land have taught me the value of a man’s honor. I need proof before I can declare you without such honor- and I have yet to see any, despite the rudeness of your tales.”

“You do know that a pledge given to an enemy is worthless?” Feyke asked in all seriousness. “And can be used as a ruse in war?”

“Pledges, and even oaths sworn before the gods,” Rutilius agreed. “But debts of blood and honor... They cannot be used as a ruse.”

Feyke nodded. “You have indeed been here long. What you say is true.”

“And we are no longer enemies, as these past five years bear witness,” Rutilius reminded him. “I can take your word at face value, unless you care to give me cause to think otherwise?”

Feyke shook his head rapidly.

“Then we speak as equals, commander to commander, and man to man. I would know how you came to be this far into Bructeri territory with a warband almost as large as my own, to join us precisely where you did. We were on the march- and avoided your lands. You could not have known.”

Feyke smiled broadly, revealing long teeth that well dingy with yellow and age. “But I did know.”

“Explain.”

“A Bructeri vala came to my terp,” the old Frisian related. “She sang of glory and honor, and how Udo had stolen his uncle’s throne and since brought the tribe to the brink of extinction. And she sang of his cleverness, his trickery, and how a young Roman lion almost ended his reign. She sang well, this vala, of many things of which we knew. And then she sang of things we did not, including how the lion had been caught and crucified, to be freed by men of the tribes, and how his armored warriors would be caught in a wolftrap. She sang of how an army would arise from nothing and sweep into that cauldron of battle, led by that kingslaying lion. And she sang that if the Frisii wished to wipe the stain of debt from their lodgings, they must gather and march east along the Road of Souls, until such a time as Wotan reveals a single tree struck by Tor. At that time, call the name of Rutilius, and all will be well. We did as the vala asked, and here we are.”

“Vala? A prophetess... of the Bructeri?” Rutilius gasped. “Veleda sends you to join us- against her own people?”

Feyke nodded. “There has been a falling out among the royals,” he explained. “She may care for the tribe, but not for either Udo or his brother. Did you know she was once considered a queen among them? Or that Ulfrich gave the order to slaughter the legions of Vetera, in order to capture the kinglets as a dowry for Veleda? She refused him then and did so again. Then the twin kings threatened her in her own home, and have since destroyed her tribe.”

“So she stands to gain much power if Udo and his brother are destroyed,” Rutilius said, finally understanding.

“She lives in the shadows now,” Feyke said. “And comes forth only to give prophecies that further her own aims. So far she has done so three times in the past five years- and each time her words were against Udo and Ulfrich, who stole her throne and her power. And her tribe has suffered each time the words were ignored, or twisted. Methinks it pains her to see her people suffer. Many, many have died since her grandfather passed- almost four of five men are gone, with few to replace them. The Bructeri are finished, unless saved from their own kings. Methinks she intends you to end that horrible reign.”

Rutilius thought on that. “Methinks you are correct. Udo and Ulfrich had brought much dishonor and death to the Bructeri.”


The next day the march resumed. It was again a pro-forma camp- Rutilius did not wish to have the sound of axes at work carry through the evening air and alert the enemy of their presence. So far they had been lucky- every village they encountered had been empty- either abandoned by the Bructeri, or the inhabitants carted off by the legions. No bands of hunters had been encountered, nor merchants. Segestes was correct- every swinging pecker in those woods had gone to swell the horde besieging the Romans at the Sacred Grove.

“I spotted the enemy,” the Frisian Feyke reported. He had led the few mounted Frisii to scout ahead, the reasoning being the Frisii would be seen as curious tribesmen, not the eyes of Rome. “They surround the Sacred Grove. Your men have built an earthen fortress strengthened with wood around it, and the tribes are encamped in five sites around them. You may be able to slip in between them.”

“And join them in being trapped?” Rutilius asked. “No. But the Germanic camps... spread apart... That gives me an idea. Call a chief’s council. We have much to discuss.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Krymzon74
Ashigaru
posted 04-21-11 11:13 AM EDT (US)     43 / 86       
Been away for a while so I've started reading back at chapter 1. Still catching up but quite enjoying the read!
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-22-11 12:53 PM EDT (US)     44 / 86       
That was a good chapter. Looks like the Frisii are going to respect their vows for once!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-26-11 03:21 AM EDT (US)     45 / 86       
Only one update this week (very busy.)

Either later today, or tomorrow.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-27-11 02:31 AM EDT (US)     46 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

To sum up, my client Titus Burrius is being hounded by these uncrowned kings, with no evidence other than their own desire to illegally persecute an innocent man. A rich, innocent man- bringing back memories of Sulla, and Nero.

And thus, Fathers of the Senate, I do implore you to consider this motion. Titus Flavius Vespasianus is our princeps, our Imperator, and has been consul for many terms now, including senior consul this year before he stepped down to allow a suffect consul to handle the
drudgery of running Rome. But each and every time, he has assumed the powers by his own will, not once endowed with them by an election in the Centuriate Assembly. His persecution of my client is as illegal as his offices. The days of the Kings have indeed returned.

Caecina put the draft speech down. It was typically Helvidius! Temperamental, fiery, staunchly Republican, and persecuting the Flavii for taking liberties with Roman rights. He had not a leg to stand upon, but that did not matter. The Republic was dead, and the Flavii firmly entrenched in the Halls of Power. Nothing the blithering fool could say would change that.

His eye dropped to the seal he broke to open the draft speech. The dolphin leaping from the waves eyed him eagerly, almost challengingly. It was a seal he had seen many times, and even commissioned a copy to be made. A seal that was also affixed to another letter- one that may damn him.

Aulus stood abruptly up. He did not care that Eprius had stolen the letter of Helvidius previously. If the fat slob wanted to crucify the Old Prig he could do so with his blessing. But the seal... It had been in the Tiber since this episode began. He knew that for a fact- he had put it there himself. Yet he had seen a similar signet before. Everything became suddenly clear. The fool!

An hour later he was standing before a pleasant Quirinal house. It was modest by the standards of the Aventine, but classy enough for the middle-class Quirilis. The sound of shrieking women and a crying baby could be heard inside. Caecina smiled and waited, admiring the lung power of a creature so small. Within minutes a slender man with tight, dark curls emerged from the house and started heading toward the Aventine.

“I am not home,” Caecina called out from behind him.

Domitian spun about, almost knocking a curl out of position. Aulus gave the young man credit- he almost did not show off his surprise. “Who said I am going to your house?”

“Angry wife, crying baby, middle of the afternoon,” Caecina enumerated. “Those things bring on an urge to drink, complain, and be heard- all of which are only found in my study.”

Domitian smiled. “You do know me so very well.”

Aulus joined him and both men began walking toward the Aventine. Caecina motioned for the slaves to keep their distance, so that the two senators were walking alone.

“I found the traitor to your father,” Caecina said bluntly. “It was neither Burrius nor his patron Helvidius. But you knew that, did you not, Titus?”

Domitian’s head was spinning from the inside out at the raw and uncoated statement. He could barely mumble anything, with his throat so suddenly parched.

“You need not worry,” Caecina assured him. “I am not going to tell your father, or Eprius for that matter. I would simply like to know why. Why did you switch out the letter of Mallius warning the Bructeri of the summer plans and replace them with the plans themselves? Sacrifice four legions? Open the entire northern empire to the barbarians? I must admit the motive escapes me. Why do you want to destroy your father’s empire and sacrifice your own client in the process?”

Domitian shook his head. “Quintus Julius Cordinus changed his plans without informing me,” he said. “He was supposed to send his quaestor across with two legions, not lead four across himself. I have nothing against killing the quaestor- the man has no respect for me.”

“You lie to me now, showing little respect for me,” Caecina said in a voice as hard as tempered steel. His message was received. “I have seen the plans. It took a while, but I also recognized the hand that wrote them. You copied them. You sent the plans. You want your mentor to die, along with his entire army. I want to know why.”

“Oh really, Aulus?” Domitian replied. “Why indeed would I do such a thing?”

“If I knew that, I would not have asked.”

“I gain nothing by antagonizing you,” Domitian said after a long moment of silence. The home of Caecina was just ahead. ”So if you bring me wine, I will talk. You bring me the good stuff and I will give you the good stuff. Deal?”

“As if I have a choice.”

A few minutes later they were seated in the study, wine in decanters furnished, and the slaves banished to the rear quarters. They were utterly alone.

“Now talk,” Caecina demanded. “Why? I notice you do not deny doing it.”

“No, I admit it freely,” Domitian replied casually. “I copied the plans. I had also stolen your forged seal, so that it could not be traced. I returned the seal last time I was here. You really were careless in leaving that thing in your study where any drunken fool looking for a fresh decanter might wander in alone and secrete it in the sinus of a toga...”

Caecina cursed lowly. “So much I have figured out when Eprius asked if I recognized the seal. Which led me to your home and my question. Why?”

Domitian laughed. He almost spilled his wine, but managed to slurp up the few thick drops that escaped his goblet. “Self-preservation, of course.”

“I do not follow,” Caecina admitted. “Our plan was to cause turmoil in the province- but leave the army intact. I would be assigned to rectify the situation, but instead I would march down and restore the Republic.”

Domitian laughed in earnest now. “Really? And you think my father would simply roll over and let you do that?”

“His nearest legions would be in Pannonia, where there is currently unrest. He would have no choice but to roll over.”

“No, he wouldn’t have a choice but to fight using the praetorians. And you with your army would sweep into Rome, slaughter the praetorians, and depose him. Peacefully? Of course not. He would be butchered to prevent his being able to gather legions to his cause.”

“That is a possible outcome, yes,” Caecina admitted. “Or he could simply abdicate and avoid all bloodshed, as Vitellius tried to do.”

Domitian laughed again. “You do not know him very well. He would never do that. Nor would my brother, forcing you to slay him as well- to prevent the provincial legions from rallying to him. And of course, you would have to slay me, the last of the Flavii, to completely extinguish any hope of our restoration to power. You see, Aulus, if I give you command of four legions, you would do to my family-and me!- what we did to your Vitellius.”

“I would not!”

“Yes you would,” Domitian retorted. His voice grew deadly serious. “You might even be forced to do it, but I think you would do it on your own. I do know you well, Aulus Caecina Alienus, and have learned much from you. And about you. If you seized power, you would not restore the Republic. That much power, in your hands? It would take Charon to pry it from your cold, dead hands. You would no more freely relinquish the power than would I, or my father. We would die, my family and I, and this time there will be no ‘Rutilius’ to save my...”

“What?” exclaimed Caecina.

“Never mind,” Domitian demanded. “The point is, I betrayed the plans of your little circle to prevent my own demise, as you yourself would have done. No army equals no revolt, which equals my survival. It is a simple mathematical equation.”

“So you betray us all to save your own skin? That tells me much of you, Titus.”

“I betrayed your plans out of self-preservation,” Domitian corrected. “I did not betray your circle. You are still quite safe.” He gazed out of the tiny window that brought fresh air in from the shaded portico. “Eprius thinks quite highly of you. He even said so to my father once, which led to my action. You might again be consul one day. But you shall be consul on my terms- with no army with which to murder me.”

“You are a friend,” Caecina reminded him. “And a client, or patron if you will. I would not harm you. Worse, you know that!”

Domitian sighed. “You might not want to, but you may be forced to, as I already said. I have a child now, Aulus. I cannot risk Flavia- no matter how much she cries- on the word of a man intent on becoming Imperator by his own hand. Besides, done is done.”

“I no longer have that seal,” Aulus pointed out. He smiled that winning smile of his. “But when you used it, did you even bother to look at it?”

“Of course. I am not stupid. It was a very good likeness to the seal of Helvidius, whom I assume you chose due to his dealings in the North?”

“I did,” Caecina admitted. “And also because his seal is very much like your own.” He held up a theatrical piece from the young man he had received earlier this year. The signet impressed in the seal was almost identical to the mark left by the forged signet. ”This will create confusion and doubt with any Imperial investigators.”

Domitian smiled. “Well played, Aulus. Well played. You have ensured my silence.”

Domitian rose, and grabbed the candle illuminating the decanters. He dribbled some hot tallow onto the incriminating letter, then pressed his signet into the hot wax. A moment later he withdrew the ring.

“There,” he said politely. “Whoever wrote that did a wonderful job. I personally approve his request to perform this play in the opening ceremony of my Father’s Flavian Amphitheatre.”

Caecina grabbed the play and stared at the seal. There was a long-horned bull glaring back at him. “My official signet, dear Aulus. Not the cheap one I had made for use only in our own, private correspondence. You will notice our exchanges never mention our names- only signets? No chance to leave damning evidence about to be stolen by prying thieves. Like by your boorish buddy Eprius. No, Aulus, we are quite safe. Unless I choose to say otherwise.”

Caecina laughed. It was not often someone could out-think him, but this drunken lush had done exactly that- and soaked up much of his expensive wines while doing it. He applauded.

“So what do we do now?” he asked of his houseguest. In that moment of realization, command of his little venture passed from himself to his guest.

“We sacrifice a pawn,” Domitian replied. “The northern army is gone by now. Eprius will see soon enough that Burrius ran many businesses up there dealing with arms. He will assume money is the motive, because he himself so loves the stuff. Burrius has dealings with Helvidius, who both owns the businesses and is the patron of Burrius. Eprius will suspect him, and armed with the signet evidence, will try to seek an audience with my father to denounce the both of them. That will end the matter.”

“Burrius will not be found,” Caecina noted. “And Gaius Helvidius is an outspoken member of the Senate. He cannot be tried for treason without a trial, which he will most assuredly win. Even if he loses, he will have won.”

“Then we do not have a trial,” Domitian replied easily. “No trial, no defense. A few simple words and Gaius Helvidius is no more and this matter rests. Can you live with that?”

Caecina thought for a moment. There really was no other way out. Any accusations aired in public would burn down to his word against that of Domitian. A man hated by the Imperator versus the word of the Son of that same Imperator, judged by the Imperator himself? It was really no contest at all. He had been cleverly mouse-trapped by the smirking drunk before him. But the reward... Consul.

“I can live with that,” Caecina admitted. “All I really want is a return to political life. Make me consul- legally- and I am happy. The rest- plans, intrigue, spies, grandiose plans of power- all of that was a smoke in the wind, delusions with which to pass a boring afternoon. It would never amount to anything, but it did help relieve the tedium of inactivity.”

“I will get you returned to favor,” Domitian promised. “And you will support me in everything. Do we have an agreement?”

Caecina nodded. “We are in this together.”

Domitian smiled faintly. “I am glad you see that. We are indeed.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-27-11 01:40 PM EDT (US)     47 / 86       
So Caecina forced to rat out a friend so to further his own interest after being out-thought by Domitian.

Something tells me this does not add up.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Zardozhotep
Ashigaru
(id: Kahotep)
posted 04-28-11 09:46 PM EDT (US)     48 / 86       
I'm curious, Terikel, do you plan your stories beforehand or do you prefer to write them as you go? I've found that a mix of both approaches works best for me: I write the first scene not knowing how the rest of the story will unfold, but once that scene is written, I create an outline in my head for the remaining scenes.

Everything is better with dinosaurs.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-29-11 02:33 AM EDT (US)     49 / 86       
A mix, like you. I write some parts out, following a shadowy line, then go back and fill in parts in between and edit them so that they flow together. Other times I outline with detail what is to happen. And other times I simply free-write, letting the ideas come bubbling out and then see if any of it is any good. Some interesting scenes emerge that way!

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-02-11 08:48 AM EDT (US)     50 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus Rutilius was riding his white horse this day.

If one was going into battle with a foe who considerably outnumbered your forces, it was in your interest to be as imposing as possible. Pegasus, his white horse he had loaned out to Jorgen, was an imposing beast, perfectly colored to draw the maximum attention away from his paltry numbers. His armor was well-polished, his gladius meticulously sharpened, and his short cape shone with the brightest red possible. The winged helmet on his head shone like the sun, matching his golden hair. He was very imposing.

He had given his final briefing to his officers that morning, before the army split up. He explained his plan, and all the details. Now he rode at the head of two thousand Ubians and two thousand Roman auxilia infantry marching due east. Lucius Palla and his IV Nervorum, the Nervii auxilia, were on the far right. To his left marched Gnaeus Vorones and his VI Breucoum, a cohort of Dalmatians who had practiced with spears until they could fight in the phalanx of old, but who fought with either sword or spear as needed. To his left, in the center of the line, was Publius Ulpius commanding the VI Britonum, Brigantes from the lands north of where Cadorus called home. Behind them was Kalos and his Cretan III Sagitarii. On the far left of the Ubians, tucked back a bit, marched Decimus Nigidius and the I classica, a cohort once again and bows in their hand. Flanking the small army were four ala of Gallic heavy cavalry in battle array, two to each side, with another three- including Titus Faenius’s VI Vasconi Mixed cohort, trailing.

If one was going into battle with a foe who considerably outnumbered your forces, it was also in your interest to get as close as possible to the foe without them realizing it. Thus Rutilius, with his shining armor, white horse, and winged helmet was the epitome of a Germanic warlord returning from a successful conquest wearing the spoils of victory. His army, too, was similarly clad. The Ubians on the left were dressed in their tribal cloaks and breeches, close enough to the Chatti to be recognized as such. The auxilia had their armor concealed under a mix-match of Marsi green, Quadii brown, and Suevi black. Those auxiliaries who were fair of complexion- Ubian, Nervii, Treveri, Cugerni, or others, walked in the front ranks with helmets tied to belts. Those larger than their fellows but were of dark complexion marched with helmets on- captured helmets where possible.

This was the army as seen marching toward the largest of the Germanic encampments- six to seven thousand strong, all clad in Germanic colors and showing Germanic complexions- conquering heroes returning from Vetera with food and spoils. The Chatti outnumbered them heavily- eight to one, if not more- but they would have to be deployed and armed to be effective. One does not greet returning heroes bearing food with weapons in hand- one greets them with open arms. Thus they would come as an unarmed gaggle to welcome back the returning heroes. Lambs to the slaughter...

But if they decided not to follow the Roman plan...

It would be a gallant but futile gesture to offer battle if the ruse failed, one which Rutilius knew would not be taken seriously- or with full force. The Germans would see his few numbers, laugh, and send a smaller force to deal with them. That force is going to get buggered by the professionals under the captured cloaks, bringing the rest of the warhost upon them. But by then the warhost will be halved, and then annihilated- and with it, the German superiority. This was his plan, and why the Frisians and Cananefate were trailing to his flanks- out of sight until the Chatti committed. And also why his most potent force was skulking behind the Ubians and auxilia with weapons and standards carried parallel to the ground. To the appraising eye, those men were simply more Ubians- if they could be seen at all through the tall men of the front ranks.

There was a clearing ahead, a large swath of former forest that had burned after a lightning strike ages ago. The burned trees had died and rotted, leaving fertile soil upon which invading grass laid a thick carpet and jealously prevented any other seed from growing. Or maybe the locals had used the old burn for planting, and the blades of green reaching skyward were wheat in the making, and not grass. It mattered not. The thick green velvet reached barely above the knees of a walking man, providing little concealment. And beyond that, after a thin belt of trees, was a further clearing, where a low earth-and-wood wall could just barely be made out. Precious glints of sunlight reflecting from steel could be caught moving about.

Rutilius’s heart leapt. The legions! They were still there, still alive! Then his eyes narrowed. Between him and the legions, in that thin belt of forest, was a rather large group of Germanic warriors enjoying the shade. The Chatti encampment, home of the Germanic war-king. He halted his warband at the forest’s edge. As yet, the Romans were unseen, but that would change shortly.

“Segestes said the Chatti king is Horobard,” Dieter reminded him, riding up next to him. “And from the looks of it, he has guests.” Even from here, a group of high nobles could be seen in the shade of a large tent. A gathering of kings. The two twin kings of the Bructeri were identifiable by their war shirts, braids, and wounds. One still wore a wide bandage around his neck, and the other had a patch where once a blue eye peered out at the world. Both men’s faces had been indelibly burned into his memory.

“Udo, and Ulfrich,” he said, squinting at the distant figures. There was no mistaking that patch covering the eye Rutilius had ripped out a few months before, nor the fidgeting of the other from a Rutilian arrow in his buttocks. He turned to Dieter and asked, “Any word from the Cananefate or the Frisians?”

The bodyguard shook his head. “Niall and his men followed a streambed to avoid detection by a small farmhold. He was not seen, but it will be a short while before he is in position. The Frisii have not been seen at all. To be honest, I do not trust them, blood debt or not.”

A shout erupted from the Chatti camp. The kings looked up, and could be seen shouting orders.

“You command the left wing,” Rutilius reminded his guard captain. “Palla commands the right. Arrius has overall command and of the center. Now take your post. The show is about to start.”

The Chatti saw the Ubians, and the cloaked auxilia, and a great cry of joy went up. Men began standing up, or if they were already up began walking toward them. Some had their swords were belted on, but some did not and almost all axes and spears were left behind. It was as predicted- you do not welcome your victorious friends with weapons in hand.

“They seem to be buying it,” Rutilius said to himself. “Now if my allies would just come up on time, we can end this farce.”

The Germans came closer, and not just a few. As the word spread, more and more dropped their heavy weapons to come welcome the returning victors.

Yes! thought the Roman with joy. He had a gaggle of thousands flowing out of the camp, unarmed, many thousands. He might not even need the Cananefate or Frisians!

“Horobard!” cried Udo, hoarse with the effort. He pointed to Dieter, to the right, and the armor that could now be seen on the men to the left. Only one sort of man wore that many metal shirts on this side of Father Rhein. “Armor! Romans!”
.
“Udo!” the Chatti king mocked, pointing to the warrior in the winged helm. “Segestes. His men wear trophies taken from dead Romans.”

“Then why does Segestes have his returning warriors spread out for battle, and stand there in the sun instead of coming forward to greet us and show off his trophies?” Ulfrich asked. “His lines are drawn well. My brother is right.”

Horobard looked again. Segestes was indeed drawn up as if for battle. He had thought it a dramatic ploy of the Suevi prince, to come out of the woods and let his warhost see the welcome it would receive for such a victory. Yet the lines are indeed straight, the men standing proud and tall, with slaves behind to tote the grain for which he was sent. Then why does he not bring that grain forward?

“Get back to camp,” he ordered his housecarls. “Have the men get their weapons. I know not what game the Suevi plays, but I do not like it. Prepare those men still in camp for battle. Harald, Haakon, and Olaf should still be there. Their twelve thousand shall come forward, in case Segestes plans mischief. It will do them good to be blooded in battle, and taking on a turncoat Suevi would be by far easier than tackling legionaries. And order the others back- now! We cannot afford to leave the camp unguarded with four legions penned in less than a mile away.”

The orders were obeyed. Those who were nearest the Suevi did not hear the order, and thus continued forward. The younger men of Harald, Haakon, and Olaf’s warbands came forward with weapons in hand, eager to demonstrate their expertise in Chatti discipline the older veterans had drilled into them. The others faded back, readying themselves in case they were needed. They would be.

The men closing in on ‘Segestes’ now saw the horsemen closing up the on the flanks. A lot of horsemen. And Segestes had no horsemen.

This was not Segestes.

The foremost Chatti fled as realization hit them. These were no returning victors- they were desperate men- the last of the Romans, and victorious over Segestes and his warband to take from his cold, dead body that famous helmet and those familiar cloaks. The fleeing men passed easily through the Chatti warhost forming up to face the intruders.

“They have much cavalry,” Udo wheezed. “You have only the Tencteri, and they are encamped further away. Three to one, against heavy cavalry while your men have axes and swords? They will slaughter you!”

“They are Gauls,” Horobard scoffed. “They will flee when we smash their footborne.”

“They are Roman Gauls- they will not flee,” Udo retorted. “Look at them! They are desperate men- and by their numbers, all that remain of the Army of the Lower Rhein. Desperate men go down hard. But do as you wish- I remember how that turned out last time.”

The jab hit home. Horobard remembered his attack- and how he had lost his son and a third of his warhost.

“Aegthorp! Othgar! Ulric!” he cried to his noblemen, waving his sword for attention. “Deploy the warhost. The rest of it. It is time to crush these beetles once and for all.”

He glared at the Bructeri king. “It seems once again I fight on your terms, doing your dirty work. Watch and learn, Bructeri.”

The warhost deployed, a vast array. A literal sea of warriors, deep and wide, and seeking Roman blood. Per the king’s wishes, and the relative small size of the intruders, the unblooded men of the tribes formed up first, backed up by a second block of veterans to form the sea. A sea thrice the size of the force facing it.

Rutilius knew that that sea, once it was deployed, would sweep over his small force and exterminate it if it got to him before his allies arrived. Niall he knew was on his way, but where was the Frisian? Had he joined, simply to abandon him at this crucial moment? No. Honor was strong in that man. He would come. He needed time, and so did Rutilius. Desperately.

Thinking of the Frisian brought up the memory of two days ago, when they had first encountered the warhost. He remembered his reaction when he heard the Frisian call his name, and what he thought would occur. Honor, and challenge... It could work, and buy the time so desperately needed.

Rutilius bade his guards hold their position and rode forward.

“What is this?” wondered Horobard as the opposing commander rode forward. He was not Segestes- that much was sure. He saw a man on a white horse, with a red cape and the silver cuirass of a Roman general, but the helm the Suevi prince. It must have been taken in battle. His friend must be dead. But who was this man?

“Udo, you slug!” Rutilius shouted in Batavian, which was close enough to Chatti that the warhost would understand him. “Hiding behind an army of another, yet again? That is so typical of the Bructeri!”

“Rutilius!” Ulfrich said in surprise. “Brother, it is Rutilius.”

“Come and meet me man to man, Udo!” Rutilius challenged. He rode closer to the Chatti, but kept an eye on them in case an archer decided to try his luck. “Or do you lack the courage?”

“Who is this Rutilius?” Horobard demanded.

Rutilius did not halt his tirade for any man. He rode up and down the middle of the area separating the two armies, shouting for the coward to come out and fight him man to man. “Here I am! You have sought my death by spy, by assassin, by poisoner, by betrayal- all failed! Even now, you are probably beseeching some archer to kill me from afar, safe within the ranks of these brave warriors. End the challenge by murdering the challenger- so typically you!”

Udo shivered and dropped his attempt to gain the attention of an archer. Instead, his ears turned red in the frustration of it- no Chatti warrior would dare lift a bow against his nemesis now. Rutilius had covered himself in the armor of honor.

“You hired mercenaries to murder me on the road,” Rutilius continued. “They failed. So you send your brother to knife me in the market of my own town. He failed. And then you wonder why the Romans came to punish you? Idiot! Coward who has others do his killing for him! Come out now, and face me like a man!”

There was little response except for a growing murmur among the warriors- who ceased encroaching upon the smaller force- and a reddening of the faces of Udo and Ulfrich.

“You planned your actions well, I must admit,” Rutilius continued. “You had Rome dancing to your tune. You made war upon me personally, then try to bring all of Rome into it. We Romans came, at your call, and you had two other tribes absorb the brunt of the damage while you skated away relatively unharmed. You did do battle once, though, I must admit. Do you still sit uncomfortably, where my arrow hit you in the ass while you fled from that battle like the coward you are?”

A wave of laugher rocked the Chatti lines.

“Then you arrange for me to be sent alone into your hand, yet I walked freely about cataloguing your land instead. The Sacred Grove, the Bructeri pride? It is right over there! Your hall, where you had your warhost finally catch me and crucify my on your wall? It was four hours walk that way- until I burned it down and ripped your brother’s eye out after a friend of mine slit your throat. You tried to have me poisoned, but you missed again, and only made a few of my friends sick.

“Always, whenever we two meet, I get the better of you in the end. This time shall be no different. The only question is, will the Chatti let you sit safely on that wounded ass of yours while they die upon my blades, or will you face me like a man, and settle this debt you have incurred face to face first? Well, coward, I challenge you! Come out, or forever be a nithing!

The evil word evoked a collective gasp from the watching warhost. The murmuring grew. Horobard looked askance at his fellow king.

“If any of what he says is true, Bructeri, then you must answer his challenge,” he said coldly.

Udo shot him a vicious glance in reply. “He lies.”

“He knows where the grove is, and where your hall stood,” Horobard noted. “And he knew about your wound. I too have seen how you fidget when you sit too long. How did you get injured?”

Rutilius knew nothing of the two kings’ discussion. He continued his rant and enumerating the times he had bested the Bructeri. “You have brought war to me, coward, not I to you! Forces I have led have nearly slaughtered your tribe- the first when you brought them across the river to Vetera. It was my legion which decimated your warhost and slew your king. That was battle, and understandable. But then you sent murderers- a far cry from honor. When they failed, you sent your twin and another. I killed one of your assassins and forced that bitch brother of your to flee squealing like a pig. Then we came across under orders, and you had two more assassins strike down my governor. You attacked me at the outpost- and I put your horse down. You attacked in the forest, and I put an arrow in your ass. You sent three times the number of warriors I had, and I handed them back to you slaughtered and butchered. I tallied your tribe on my walk through your lands, coward. You once had over eighty thousand warriors. I doubt you can muster eight thousand now. The rest you had brought against me. You can no longer do so- they are dead. So now you have others fight where you no longer can.”

Udo groaned. The tribe was dead, as Rutilius said. Damn that man for taking the time to learn to speak his foe’s tongue!

“I beat your precious warhost thrice now,” Rutilius continued. “Four times if you count Vetera. I crushed you every time in the past, and will do so again. I shall wallow though heaps of Chatti bodies to wring your opened neck... But then again, coward, you would run away while they die, to try to poison me again another day. I say be a man! Come forward, and let us settle whatever problem you have with me honorably, as one warrior facing another. No more daggers in the dark, poison in the soup, arrows from the woods, or others in the way. Man to man, little king! Man to man!”

“Man to man!” shouted Dieter. It finally dawned on him what Rutilius was doing. He was not an angry man seeking vengeance- he was a calculating man trying to buy as much time as possible for the allies to arrive. “Man to Man! Come on, you bastards! Man to man!”

The Roman warhost took up the chant in the foreign tongue. “Man to man! Man to man!”

Then the Chatti host, who understood every word the angry Roman said, took up the chant. Angry eyes peered daggers at the Bructeri king who sat funny, and even now fidgeted with his honor in ruins.

Scheisse,” whispered Udo. There was no other option now that the Chatti had taken up the chant. Rutilius had him as neatly trapped as he had the legions. No longer would the Chatti fight for him, unless he earned it. And when the Chatti depart, so go the Tencteri and Usipi, and maybe even the Cherusci. He would be alone, with what was left of the Chauci, whose slain king’s body he had so humiliated. There was no love there. He was indeed trapped into a duel of his own making. His decision was thus already made, as the Roman well knew. “ Give me a horse. I will face him, on equal terms.”

Horobard nodded, and waved over a cavalryman. He dispossessed the man of mount and shield, handing both to the Bructeri king.

“On your honor, Udo,” he said sternly. “You must win, and you must do it fairly, or all respect you ever had from my men will be gone like dew before the rising sun. Do you understand?”

Udo nodded. But Ulfrich took the reins of the horse.

“We are twins,” the warrior of the two said urgently. “But I am the lion with a blade- you the thinker. Let me go in your place- none will ever know.”

Udo snatched the reins back. “The bastard marked us,” he said, pointing to his bandaged neck wound and staring into the one eye of his brother. “Before none but Mother could tell us apart- now the world can. I must face him, and do it honorably.”

“He favors the shield,” Ulfrich said. “He fought me with two blades- and used the larger as a shield. But beware that little pigsticker of his- he is lethal with it.”

Udo grabbed a spear from a nearby soldier. “He will not even get close.” He mounted, and rode to the front of the warhost.

Rutilius saw the movement and smiled to himself. Udo was coming, alone, and armed with a spear in hand. Now for the final stroke.

“Ah, the mouse tries to be a man,” he cried. “You will notice that my bow is in its case, so you can rest easy. I have no spear, but do not need one.” He raised his sword, the infantryman’s gladius issued to him thirteen years ago. “I have this. I need nothing else. I am a man.”

“You call me a coward,” Udo replied, his hoarse voice barely carrying over the short distance. “I refute this insult in the only manner you leave me after tarnishing my honor so thoroughly- in a trial by combat, before the gods!”

Udo worked his horse into line with his accuser, but it was not easy. Rutilius was on that big imposing white stallion, while Udo’s borrowed gelding was both smaller and missing some balls- literally and figuratively. It was also unused to the rider on its back. The fidgeting of the horse was taken by some to be fidgeting of the man upon it- lending credence to the Roman’s accusations. Udo could not even begin to let that happen, so he kicked the beast in the ribs and lowered his spear to his opponent’s heart. The two men would pass to each other’s left, shield to shield.

Rutilius kicked his horse into gear and lowered the top edge of his shield until it was an almost-horizontal surface. Leaning forward, he presented a very small target for the Bructeri king. Udo’s spear ripped a furrow in the wooden device, but failed to penetrate. The passing slash Rutilius threw missed cleanly, being far too late. The two horses galloped on a few steps before turning to face each other again.

“You did not keep going, Udo,” Rutilius mocked. “I am impressed.”

“I am going to impress you by killing you once and for all,” Udo hissed in reply.

“And why is that, monkey?” Rutilius retorted. “You have been after me since well before I even knew you existed.”

Udo did not reply other than kicking his horse again. The beast lurched forward, and Rutilius replied in kind. Again his shield took the impact and deflected the spear, though this time his sword was quicker and drew a line of red across the shoulder of the king as it neatly sliced the top of the wicker shield off. Had that device not been in the way, Udo would have lost his arm.

“Veleda said you would kill my brother,” Udo hissed, whipping his horse about. “I wanted you dead to stop that prophecy.”

He charged.

Veleda again, Rutilius thought. That was yet another time that evil little minx has nosed into his life. This ends now. With that thought, he galloped toward the oncoming warrior. His battered shield took the spearpoint again, but this time the thing lodged in his shield and ripped it from his hand. His own strike missed horribly, leaving him defenseless. Both men rode on a bit before turning about to charge again.

Udo felt the exhilaration of impending victory. His foe was shieldless, and with only that little knife in his hand, easy meat. His honor would be restored. Eager for the victory, he kicked his horse harder.

Rutilius saw the horse gain speed as it approached, his own matching the acceleration. He had no shield, and thus only one chance- do the deed first. He leaned lower, guiding his horse with his knees before whipping the horse about to bring Udo down his right side- no longer shield to shield, but weapon to weapon. Udo panicked at the sudden change of direction, and lifted his spear over his horse’s head to bring it down on the right side instead of turning his horse to match. The spear was quicker, but it still took precious seconds. Rutilius swung low under the descending spear and with all the power in his body, thrust out with his gladius directly at the center of the Bructeri king’s chest. The shield moved ever so slightly, and interposed itself between blade and breast. The impact tore the gladius from the Roman’s grip as the two horses completed their passing.

Udo let out a ‘whoof’ at the impact of the gladius on his shield. An incredible pain wracked him in that instant. His face screwed up into a prune for an awful second, before going blank. He managed to stay in the saddle, but his hands and legs no longer worked. He looked down, but saw nothing amiss, until Rutilius circled back around. He was no longer holding his gladius. Udo knew instantly where it was. It had pierced his shield and body, pinned his shield to his belly and his belly to his spine, and jutted a foot out his back. He coughed once, twice, and the great vessel coming from his heart ruptured. Torrents of blood poured down his body, and he finally, slowly, fell out of the saddle.

Rutilius cantered back and dismounted to stand over the king’s body. This time there was no doubt. Udo was very dead. He placed a foot upon the king’s chest and laid hold to the gladius with both hands to pull. He arched heartily, but alas, no luck. The gladius was stuck inside the shield and dead king. Cursing, he unslung the king’s scabbarded sword from his corpse and buckled it on before he remounted his own steed.

“Udo has been slain in a trial by combat,” he shouted to the stunned Chatti. He drew and waved his new sword on high. It was very much like the one he took from the dead king in the spring, enough so that he would have no problem wielding it. In lifting it, he could survey the Chatti reaction- as well as searching the flanks for the Cananefate and Frisii. They were still conspicuously absent.

“The gods have granted me victory, proving my words true!” he cried. The show must go on- I must give my allies time. “Now there is another matter of honor. Ulfrich! You dressed as a peasant to knife me in the market. Murderer! You hired poisoners and assassins. Coward! And when Civilis promised the Alaudae and XVth safe passage, you broke a king’s bond for a witch’s heart and slew those starving, helpless and unarmed men as if they were chattels. You dishonored your gods, and your kings. I challenge you, murderer and coward and breaker of oaths, evil-doer, to face me man to man, sword to sword. If you dare!”

Ulfrich was already frothing at the mouth upon seeing the gladius jut so far out of his brother’s back. His twin did not even twitch. There was no doubt- Udo, his twin, was no more. He heard nothing else.

But Horobard did. He turned to Ulfrich, and shook him out of his trance. “Is it true, what the Roman now says?”

He had to repeat it for the Bructeri, who scoffed and snorted. “Of course I slew them. They were Romans. It was foolish to allow them to go home and rearm.”

Horobard smacked him once, then twice. “Fool! You broke a king’s word! Your foul act has brought the Romans upon you. Had your brother’s envoy mentioned the true state of things, I would never have brought my men here to die for you.”

Ulfrich sneered. “But he did not, and now you are here. Rutilius stands before you, with all of eight or ten thousand while you command fifty thousand. He is nothing!”

Horobard smacked him again. “Oh, I shall kill him all right, but it will not be done to defend you. I curse you for making me kill such a man, you nithing. Get out, and never let me see your face again.”

Rutilius was still parading up and down the army, enumerating the crimes of Ulfrich and demanding satisfaction, and waving Udo’s sword to rub salt into the fresh wound. Horobard stepped forward from his line to stand before his men.

“Ulfrich is gone, banished for his perfidy and lack of honor,” he cried. “He is no longer a king, but a common outlaw. Your honor has been satisfied, Roman. You may depart in peace.”

“I cannot, for his treachery and evil has led to my comrades being penned in yon fort,” he replied. “Return mine to me, and I shall lead them from these lands, and ensure none chase you back to yours. We will be as before, as if those two evil men had never been.”

Horobard shook his shaggy head. “We have the entire garrison of the province penned there, and the rest deployed here,” he replied. “The way west lies open, the Rhein barrier is broken. Such a chance will not come again for a hundred years, if ever. I would be a fool not to take advantage of this situation, no matter how it came about. And Roman... I am no fool.”

“Then meet me man to man to decide this fate you decree,” Rutilius challenged.

Horobard laughed. “I will not let you challenge your way through our kings, or whittle my
warhost down one by one. Go back to your province, Roman, or I shall slay you all.”

Rutilius backed his horse toward his own lines. When he was close enough, he called out to the Chatti king, “Bring it on, Horobard. If you dare!”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
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