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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
Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron
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Terikel Grayhair
(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...|||||||||||||||||
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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 01-22-2013 @ 01:05 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-09-11 02:41 AM EDT (US)     51 / 86       
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The Suevi before him rallied behind their breastworks, forcing the Roman cohorts to deploy further and further from their supporting comrades. This was what the thane had been waiting for- a moment when the cohorts spread to a thin line, one his warriors could breach. He raised a warhorn to his lips to signal.

Titus Flavius Sabinus sighed as he heard the ram’s horn bleating from his right flank. Finally, the stupid Germans thought his legion was deployed sufficiently thin for their cavalry to come into play. He looked at his men with worry. Maybe the Germans were right. His lines did look awfully thin. But he had his auxilia and knew of the Suevi horsemen, while the Suevi did not know of his auxilia and thought their own horsemen well-concealed. He signalled his own cornicen, who blew the notes for ‘ready spears’, and his tribunus commanding his reserve cohorts to ready bows.

The two reserve cohorts stood their shields on end and unslung the bows they carried over their shoulders. As one, each man pulled the string away from the stave and stepped through it. Planting the end of the stave on the ground against their right foot, they threw their left hips against the staves and pulled down the upper ends until the bowstrings could be brought into their notches. Seconds later, they stepped out of their bows and nocked arrows, awaiting the order to draw.

To their right and rear, rustling could be heard in the undergrowth and the auxilia there sheathed their gladii and gripped instead their spears. These men had been toting these things for over a hundred miles now- it was time for the bloody things to earn that passage. That time would come when the Germans emerged from their positions to attack the seemingly defenseless men on the right flank.

Thunder rolled across the open forest as the Suevi horsemen charged. Centurions ordered the bows drawn, and the tribunes gave the order for volleys to be loosed. Sheaves of arrows whistled through the air to land upon the arrogant Suevi, who merely lifted their shields against the falling arrows in scorn. They learned a powerful lesson in that moment when the naval arrows punched through their shields to pierce the flesh behind. Then the auxilia surged forward with spears in hand. Two of every three men on the front aimed his spear high to kill or unhorse the riders, while the third man speared the horse- just to make sure. The rear rank of auxilia had swords in hand- their task was to follow the spearmen and take on any infantry that came along, but they did not mind ending the suffering of any fallen German the others left alive. In short order the Suevi cavalry charge was broken, and the real battle began.

Sabinus signaled, and the tribunes commanding the auxilia drove forward through the remnants of broken cavalry to turn the flank of the Suevi defense. The spearmen let the swordsmen through, while drawing their own swords. Four cohorts did quite a lot of damage to the defenders, who turned to face this new threat and thereby left themselves open to a flood of legionaries.

It was all over soon after. The Suevi force was destroyed, its men either killed, wounded, surrendered, or fled. Given the violence of the assault and the shock of seeing the noblemen so easily handled, most fell into the killed or fled categories. It did not matter, though. There would be no prisoners taken today. Those who surrendered were slain, and the wounded put out of their pain. All that remained breathing were Romans.

Sabinus looked about and took in the situation at a glance. The Suevi force had not really had a chance of stopping a legion, so why was it here? The breastworks were hastily made- a few trees felled and limbed to create a blockage, but the flanks were exposed- poor planning. Nor were their hidden forces effectively hidden- the scout Roscius had found them easily enough on his reconnaissance. It all pointed to a hasty defense to keep the Romans away for a short while- but away from what?

His centurions were already doing the post-battle drill. Pila and arrows were recovered, the dead piled for cremation, squads and centuries cross-leveled to bring most up to strength, and the wounded taken by the stretcher-bearers to the medici and surgeons. Other men- who had not seen battle this day, were scouring the dead for loot or taking up defensive posts in case another group came to investigate. Among this buzz of activity, he heard very little else in the forest. Until Roscius came over to him.

“Did you hear that?” the scout asked. When the legate shook his head, Roscius continued, “I heard a horn blowing- over that way. A Roman horn.”

Sabinus looked in the direction Roscius had pointed. A Roman horn... Or horns...That meant another legion- or the rest of the army. He knew that Cornelius was somewhere over that way somewhere, with the XI Claudia and VII Gemina. Horns meant battle. It all suddenly made sense.

“Tribunes! Form up your cohorts for battle,” he commanded. “Light Cavalry- go scout in that direction,” he added, pointing to where the horns came from. “These bastards here were a blocking force- to prevent us from reaching a battle. Therefore, for victory, we must reach that battle! We move in ten minutes, following the cavalry.”

The orders created a flurry of activity as centuries switched from post-battle duties to pre-battle checks. Pila were distributed, men were redistributed, gear and armor checked, and formations formed. A veritable hive of activity, but unlike insects, each and every movement was clear, concise, and had a purpose. The legion and her auxilia were ready within the allotted time. Sabinus pointed, and started moving in the vague north-westerly direction from where Roscius had heard the faint horns.

They had not been marching twenty minutes when the cavalry came flying back.

“There is a large force of Suevi engaging Cornelius Clemens,” the decurion reported. “Two hills further up, maybe two miles. The general has two legions in the valley, but is assaulted by a larger force, maybe twenty thousand. It was hard to count, but it appeared more of them than of ours, and they are pressing hard.”

“Then we fall on the Suevi flank as the Germans tried to prevent,” Sabinus ordered.

“You’re coming out of one battle to land in another, legate,” Roscius pointed out. “And in between you are marching about five miles in hilly terrain. You might not want to do that.”

“What would you suggest?”

“Come up behind the legions,” Roscius advised. “Then send a runner forward. You’ll have time to rest and reform after crossing the hills, and provide a reinforcing legion for the general if he needs it- you’ll have the room to maneuver there.”

He knew it was the safer move, and probably wiser. “Guide us to the rear of the legions,” Sabinus ordered the scout. “I want to form a blocking post behind which our legions can reform, or be ordered forward in formation.”

Runners carried the orders to the tribunes, on request of Roscius. “If there are enough Germani around to have two legions in battle already, you might not want any hornsman drawing attention to your own little force. ” The legion responded by deploying on line once they approached the crest of that final hill. Sabinus, his second-in-command, and Roscius went forward.

The battlefield had moved, they saw at once. It was plain to see where their scouting horsemen had approached and viewed the battle below less than an hour before. Now there was naught below but a carpet of Roman and German bodies dotting the meadow below. To their left, they could see the legions formed in a square, resting now after rallying, with the Suevi ten paces or so from their ranks on three sides. It appears the Suevi push ran out of steam, so their king penned the legions in and gave his men a breather. It would not last long, Sabinus knew.

“Looks like we get to go directly into the attack anyway,” he grunted. He looked at the slope below. It was steep- too steep for cavalry, but infantry could manage. “Roscius, take the cavalry to our right and see if you can find a way for them to get down there. The slope tails off that way, so there should be a way. Publius, bring three cohorts here that have plenty of arrows. They are to cover us. I will be leading the other seven cohorts down this hill and into the enemy rear. Tell the officers to move quickly- I don’t know how long our boys down there can hold out once the Suevi regain their wind.”

The two men moved off, leaving Sabinus lying alone on the treeless, grassy ridge. He studied the battlefield, including the dead that lay strewn across the very slope upon which he stood. These were auxilia- evidently a band to protect the flank, but got driven away from the flank. They sought haven in the high ground, but the Germans pursued and ended their existence in a raw and powerful storm. He heard his men moving up behind him and glanced back- seven cohorts more or less on line, with three more following. They were almost half-way up the slope now. The cavalry was skirting right, looking for a way down, while the rest of the auxilia formed a ragged line to his left.

Below the Suevi began beating their weapons against their shields. They were gearing up for an onslaught. The XI Claudia, the legion closest to Sabinus, could be seen dressing their ranks and readying pila. The final assault was about to begin. Sabinus turned over and pumped a fist in the air, a signal to move quicker. He stood as his cohorts picked up speed. Then they were upon him and the I Adiutrix crested the ridge and began moving down onto the Suevi.

The legionaries below saw the movement and began cheering. The sudden shift in attitude startled the Suevi for a moment, but they put it down to battle lust. Their fault. They charged into the waiting Romans.

The impact of the first attackers drove the legionaries back a step, but their formation held. Stabbing efficiently between their almost-locked shields into the exposed bellies of the men facing them, the legionaries became a wall of death. Even so, here and there a German managed to cut down the man facing him, or force him back through brute force before dying. The resulting hole was quickly closed with the death of the German and a rear-ranker stepping forward, but the loss still drained the legions of a trained soldier while the Suevi could afford the losses.

The Germans pressed hard. Centuries began withering as more and more men fell. Sabinus saw the effect as he led his legion down- they might be too late. He needed the Germans to relent- and that meant leading their attention elsewhere.

“Cornicen!” he ordered. “Sound the Attack!”

The horn blared, and the signal was repeated throughout the cohorts as the other cornicines echoed the command. The I Adiutrix picked up speed.

The Suevi heard the blaring of the horns behind them. Suddenly. Sabinus hoped for a moment that they would break at the unexpected attack, but their king was a hoary veteran and his warhost disciplined. He peeled off a mass of warriors to face the new arrivals while ordering the rest to keep the pressure on the legions before him. It would be a race against time now- would the Roman reinforcements be held off long enough for him to finish off those before him, or would they break through his quick screen to crush him? It was in the hands of the gods.

The king pointed his bodyguard at the Roman general behind the legions. As luck would have it, a Suevi wedge was inserting itself in the gap between the two legions, pressing them apart. That opened an avenue to the Roman commander. Kill the head, and the body dies- an old German battle tactic. He tried it now.

Clemens saw the wedge splitting his legions apart. His reserves were almost non-existent- having been used previously. His choices were clear at this moment- he could stand and fight, or flee and live. He chose the latter, and ran for the protection of the XI Claudia, it being closer to the fresh troops streaming down the hill.

Sabinus and his legion impacted onto the Suevi screen like a hammer. The pila storm went too quickly and too deeply to affect the front ranks, but did wonders among the crowded warriors behind. Then it was swords and shields. Sabinus cut down two Germans at the points of their small wedges and drove in. His VI cohort, directly behind him, fought like madmen to catch up to their legate before he got himself killed. The others broke upon the Suevi screen of mini-wedges and began tearing them apart.

A centurion went down next to him. Sabinus barely noticed him as his attention was fully on the weapons around him that were aimed his way. When that aim switched to the wounded centurion who tried to regain his feet in the press, Sabinus switched from attack to defense. He stood before the centurion, shielding him with his body, while slashing and stabbing those about him until two legionaries came up behind him to help the centurion back onto his feet. Then the men pressed forward, absorbing the legate and cutting down his foes before pressing beyond.

On the slope above, Publius was directing the fire of the three remaining cohorts. Their arrows whistled overhead to fall among the rear ranks of the Suevi screen. Now he lifted their aim to the backs of those fighting the legions. Eight volleys was enough. The screen broke, and the ex-marines were through to crush those assaulting the XI Claudia and crush them in an iron vise.

Somewhere in the mess, the Suevi king fell, an arrow through his eye. The I Adiutrix joined with the XI Claudia and began turning the Suevi mass in on itself. Roscius and the cavalry came in like a hammer then, slamming the only hope of escape in a crushing charge. A pocket formed, then tightened, and then it was over.

A few thousand tribesmen threw down their weapons when they saw the hopelessness of their situation, while others went berserk and died in a last flare of battle. As a last useless token of Roman victory, Publius Quirinius Pius and the VIII Augusta began lining the hill nearest the VII Claudia, having finally fought their way through a second Suevi blocking force to the north to reach the battle minutes too late to participate.

The prisoners were bound and sorted, and the battlefield cleared as per standard post-battle drill while the VIII Augusta took up security. This was centurion-level work, best left to the professionals. The legates, not being needed at this stage, reported to the generalis.

Clemens was in euphoria when Sabinus reported to him after turning his legion over to his second-in-command. The command tent was set up, and upon entering, a goblet of unwatered wine was thrust into his hand by a gruff bodyguard. The atmosphere inside was festive, with Clemens showing unusual glee and joy at every count of the booty read off by the aides. One hundred forty armbands of silver, twenty of gold, thirteen talents of hacksilver, ten thousand swords of various patterns, eight hundred fine horses, and over three thousand slaves for the markets.

“This was their last stand,” he cried joyfully. “The remaining warhost. Nothing stands in our way now of complete conquest. Legates, our quest has been fulfilled! The Agri Decumates no longer stands as spearpoint aimed between Italia and our possessions in Gaul.”

He spied Sabinus, and his grin grew even wider. “Here comes the man of the hour! Titus Flavius Sabinus, commander of ex-marines, who first established contact with the Danubian legions, then doubled back in time to help crush the last of the Suevi resistance. Well met, young Flavius!”

Sabinus nodded at the acknowledgement. He was lifted by the pleasant atmosphere of the tent, but soured at its obvious taint of drunkenness. He waived the praise away and spit out his report instead.

“I Adiutrix reporting,” he said seriously, in direct opposition to the festive mood. “One hundred thirty killed in action, another two hundred wounded. Four thousand two hundred ready for battle, generalis.”

Edepol!” Clemens grunted, but his face expressed joy at the numbers. “You got off bloody lightly! Legates, hail our hero- who also has the strongest legion of us all at the moment!” Then he turned serious. Deadly serious. “The XI Claudia and VII Gemina suffered heavily before you arrived, Titus Sabinus. Have your primus pilus pick out one cohort to be transferred to the XI Claudia and another two to go to the VII Gemina. Pius, your primus pilus is to select you weakest cohort to be broken up to fill the centuries of the other three legions. That will bring all legions up to seven full cohorts.”

“As you command,” Sabinus replied. Three cohorts gone, and not even in battle! “I will have them resupplied with arrows and pila before sending them over.”

“Your men will be joining true legions, Sabinus,” the general scoffed. “In true legions we use legionary weapons- gladius and pilum. I let you keep those naval bows as token of your men’s former service as classi, but today, this day, they earned the right to discard those awful things and take up the gladius as true infantry. Your legion may keep its bows since it prides itself on rising from its lowly past, but those cohorts joining real legions will be armed as real legionaries.”

“They will not like that,” Sabinus grumbled. After seeing firsthand many times what a bow can do on the battlefield, neither did he. Then Clemens said something which raised his mood.

“A centurion stopped by earlier,” the general said. “I was going to save this for when we go into winter quarters, but I think this will mollify your men. It is not often this is done, mind you, but it is well earned.” He pulled from a chest a circlet of oak leaves woven together to form a crown. “I will replace this with one made of gold from the spoils, but until then, young Sabinus, this is yours. The Corona Civica, the highest award a legate may earn, for your gallant stand over the fallen Centurion Sextus Cornelius Rufus. You stood before him and shielded him from the Suevi, then held your ground for the rest of the battle. In saving his life and holding the ground, you saved us all, and earned by that act this crown.”

He wobbled forward to where Sabinus stood shocked, and placed the oak chaplet gently upon his head.

“There, a hero,” he said, opening his arms wide to present the crowned legate to the others. “His men will admire him, and pride themselves that their legate has been so honored. They will realize that they are honored twice, in fact- by being assigned to two legions with such a rich and genuine past.”

That’s what you think, Sabinus thought, though he allowed himself a smile as he glanced up to where his crown sat. Rutilius won one of these at Gelduba, saving uncle Quintus Petillius. Now I have one as well.

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Halla and her handmaidens were exhausted. For the last few weeks they have been riding south, away from the large Roman force and toward safety. Halla had to stop often and long once they were outside easy reach of the Romans- her abdomen was just starting to swell, and being over forty winters, she knew that heavy exertion now could kill her baby. So the trip took longer than expected, but the thatched timber roofs and solid walls of the Chatti stronghold were now in sight. With a sigh, she dismounted her donkey and led it on foot.

The stronghold was garrisoned, but not very heavily. Halla sighed- this was not a good sign. It meant that the king was away campaigning. She had hoped to encounter him coming north, to provide guidance, but the king must have taken a parallel route north. Such was life, she thought. She had hoped to see her former lover one last time before becoming so pregnant with another man’s child that she would lose his interest.

She led her entourage through the open gates, but was halted by a sentry.

“What is your business here, foreigner?” the guard asked.

“I am Halla of the Marsi,” she replied. “I come seeking Horobard, your king, to ask for hospitality and sanctuary.”

“Horobard led our warriors north,” the guard replied bitterly. Halla knew his bitterness was at being left behind. “You may ask his brother Odo for hospitality.”

Halla nodded, and led the two girls inside. She was impressed with the absence of men- Her former lover must have taken almost all of his housecarls with him. No wonder the gatesman was so bitter! The great battle in the north- and he would miss out on it.

Horobard’s hall loomed before her, blocking the sun with its height and majesty. It was half-timbered and painted in the Suevi style, though had an architecture all of its own. Few kings could claim to have a more fitting hall from which to rule. The girls stabled the animals in the nearby stables then joined her before the main door. She knocked once, and entered.

Odo was younger than his brother, but one could easily see the family resemblance. She bowed her head before him, then rose without waiting for his command.

“You are arrogant for one seeking hospitality,” Odo rumbled in mirth.

“I am a vala,” Halla reminded him. The last time she had seen him, he was using wooden swords combatting other boys in play. “Your brother knew me well, and heeded my words concerning the campaigns. He should be earning a legendary victory about now.”

Odo squinted, then rose and kneeled. “Halla! It has been a long time.”

“My tribe was invaded as a diversion, forcing my flight,” Halla replied. “May I have sanctuary among the Chatti until the Romans have been driven from our lands?”

Odo nodded. “Of course, Halla. But the invasion of the Bructeri is no diversion- we have four legions trapped. It will be a battle of annihilation.”

Halla laughed. “It has been too long since we have spoken, Odo,” she said. “I have been among the Marsi for the last fifteen years, abandoning the Bructeri after the rise of Veleda, to whom the kings favored more than myself. In the halls of Calor, I found the respect I lacked, and have since become Marsic. It is the Marsi who were the diversion.”

Odo nodded. He snapped his fingers, and a maiden came forth with a leathern scroll.

“You are the second vala to come calling,” Odo said. “The first left this for you.”

Halla sat down at the regent’s bidding, and opened the scroll. It did not take but a second to recognize the writing as that of her fabled rival. The cord had been cut and retied- but she knew the words inside were undecipherable to any but her and their writer. Veleda always wrote to her using Scandic runes to transcribe Bructeri words with Latin syntax- a combination that had defeated the best of minds every time they were read. From the interest shown by Odo and the warriors crowding closer, her code had defeated them as well.

“Hallo Halla,
Once again, I was right and you were wrong. Horobard set the tribes’ future back three full centuries. The fool, I knew he would, but I had to try. It is a good thing for the tribes that he lies dead on the same battlefield where that slug Udo perished. Had he followed my advice, we would now be dining in a villa overlooking the sea. But instead he ignored mine and followed yours, and our tribes are decimated as a result.

Your Ulfrich will not see the end of another summer- be glad you carry his child now. When our descendants mate, a new line of chieftains will be born. A grand line, lasting a thousand years, and replaced by another of our lines for another thousand.. Well done, sister.


Halla dropped the scroll and clasped a hand to her mouth in shock. Horobard dead? Udo dead? Ulfrich soon dead? She had seen the legions penned like cattle. Victory was assured! The shock was total, consuming robbing her of conscious thought, yet she pushed through it. The vala cursed herself. She had seen the tribes victorious, yet Veleda had seen further. What had she seen? What disaster had befallen the tribes, at her words?

She used her trance to invoke the Smoky Realm, to see what she had missed seeing earlier.

What she saw numbed her.

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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
Legion Of Hell
posted 05-09-11 05:47 AM EDT (US)     52 / 86       
A wonderful two chapters. The Bructeri leaders were decimated and so was Horobard and his men.

I shall look forward to the next chapter!

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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-09-11 07:05 AM EDT (US)     53 / 86       
Horobard has not yet been engaged.

Sabinus is part of the operation of Germania Superior invading the Agri Decumates; Horobard is the Chatti commander who went north to trap Cordinus.

Udo is dead. Horobard is seething at being betrayed into this fight, but will not back down when presented with such a gift. Remember that the Chatti had launched two raids into the Roman provinces of Germania earlier. Both were wiped out, of course, and those captured sold into slavery. The mother of Rutilius was one of them.

In the next update, we will be going back to the desperate battle in the north where Rutilius and his ad-hoc army face off against a Chatti warhost outnumbering him over four to one...

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-09-11 02:14 PM EDT (US)     54 / 86       
Could be could be Udo who has been violated by Rutillus on two occasions and now lie dead.

I enjoy your work immensely, 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.
posted 05-09-11 05:07 PM EDT (US)     55 / 86       
Finally caught up, wonderful tale thus far.

Honor aside, I don't trust the Frisii, their arrival was just too convenient. The upcoming battle should be quite interesting, looking forward to reading it!
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-12-11 01:52 AM EDT (US)     56 / 86       
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“Wait for it!” Rutilius admonished forcefully. Behind him, the auxilia and Ubian allies were impatiently pleading to move to their positions. Before them, the Chatti warhost was deploying into thousand-man wedges- ten across, with another twenty or thirty thousand forming a loose crowd behind them. Rutilius smiled- his small force would eat up those swine’s head array quickly, deleting ten thousand from the Chatti order of battle. Thank you, Horobard, for that wonderful present. You may have just given me the victory I so desperately need.

Horobard figured that out, too. He ordered his wedges to part, calling forward a block of six thousand. The speed and precision with which his men reacted to the orders was impressive. This would be no simple battle. Sixteen thousand Germans against ten thousand Romans was usually a predetermined result- in Rome’s favor. Yet these warriors moved as if they were legionaries, while the Roman force consisted of four thousand auxilia and two thousand Ubian militia- most greener than the grass in the field upon which the Chatti now stood. Given the situation, Rutilius could very well understand the Ubian and auxiliaries wanting to depart the frontal screen they were providing and assume their usual positions on the flanks.

“Wait for it,” he commanded again. His remaining four thousand were cloaked by the front ranks, and he did not want them exposed until the proper moment.

The Chatti moving forward picked up speed. They were now three hundred paces away halfway across the meadow. It was time to unveil one of his surprises.

“Wagons!” cried Rutilius. “Wagons... Uncover!”

There was movement among the wagons to the Roman rear. Tarps and coverings were hauled down, revealing scorpions and ballistae. And the Chatti paused.

Rutiius smiled at the Chatti piling up. “Artillery! Fire at will!”

The catapults and ballistae spoke under the command of their centurions. Each machine was deadly in itself, but fired in volley, they were devastating. Yet the Chatti took their bolts and stones with stoic bravery, moving slowly to bend their flanks to refuse their left.

Rutilius understood immediately that his display of artillery had not fazed the Germans in the least. They had not halted in awe of his power. They had halted to redeploy to face a new threat. Already men were moving from the rear mob to form up for battle. Rutilius looked to his right for confirmation. He saw it as rank after rank of Cananefate warriors emerged from the treeline to deploy for battle, facing the enemy.

“Sorry we are late,” Jorgen called from the near flank. Oddmund, senior cavalry commander, would be commanding the cavalry on the right. “We ran into some foragers. They are no longer foraging, nor will they ever.”

“You are more than welcome, despite your tardiness,” Rutilius shouted back. He turned his horse to face the Chatti. “My army grows, Horobard! Look at them- men of the tribes like yourself, yet they stand here by my side against you. It is not too late for you to do what is right- go home with your honor intact!”

The Chatti king did not reply. Instead, he bellowed commands and pointed with his spear where he wished his warbands to go. The Chatti advanced resumed. They would be committed at two hundred paces. And that was when he too would be committed.

The Chatti came on.

“Auxilia! Ubians! Deploy to your positions!” Rutilius commanded. He withdrew from his own position before the army by riding through the parting ranks to assume a post behind the ranks of cloaked men revealed by the movement. The auxilia took up positions on the right flank, tying in with the Cananefate, while the Ubians assumed a position to the left and behind the left flank.

“Archers!” Rutilius called. ”Ready bows! Loose in volleys!”

Two cohorts behind the exposed ranks raised their bows and drew back the strings to their cheeks. Upon the command to loose, they released, sending clouds of thick naval arrows mixed with long Cretan shafts over the heads of the warriors to impact into the approaching Chatti. More commands followed, and the swarms flew again and again.

The Chatti at first raised shields contemptuously against the arrow storm, but reacted violently in surprise when the arrows they so disdained punched deep through the devices. It was a tribute to their discipline that they did not break ranks and scatter right then, but the power of the falling shafts did demand action. Horobard, bleeding from arm and shin, ordered the charge early, to get his men inside the minimum range where they would be safe from the deadly rain.

“Legion!” Rutilius cried now. “Disrobe! Lift Standards! Ready pila!”

At this command, the ranks of exposed men shed the Germanic cloaks they wore, and lifted the proud standards they had carried low all day. The shapeless mass of men shifted slightly as the cloaks fell away, and from the movement emerged a clear and defined Roman legion in battle array, its armor shining in the sun, its standards held high, and a bright Eagle perched to its fore. Another ripple, and shields came off their backs to be gripped ready for battle while pila were lifted into position for throwing.

The I Rutilia was ready for battle.

In less than a minute, Horobard’s warriors saw a shapeless mass of mere militia transform into the thing most feared by German warriors- a Roman legion in battle array. The rapid transformation was too much to comprehend, its shock value a priceless asset.

The Chatti froze, a hundred paces from the ranks.

“Legion!” Rutilius ordered. “Kneel! Artillery and Archers- loose at will!”

Shocked and still as they were, the Chatti were easy targets for Kalos and his III Sagitarii. The Cretans loosed arrow after arrow by the gross into the perfect targets, while Decimus Nigidius and his marines loosed from ideal range and almost flat trajectory. At that range, wicker shields did not matter, nor did thin wooden ones. The naval arrows punched through both with ease, to penetrate the man beyond. The scorpions, mounted on wagons, were also at optimal range. At each bolt, three Chatti fell dead.

“Charge!” ordered Horobard. He kicked his horse forward. “They are but men! Move forward! Attack!”

The Chatti responded to the order. Warriors shook the shock from their minds as age-old obedience to orders took over. The Romans were right- discipline was the key to battle. Still, the unexpected sight of a Roman legion in battle array- after being told for weeks that all Roman legions within four hundred miles were inside their ring was devastating. It was akin to lightning from a clear sky- striking deep into the brain and destroying the Tree of Reason, causing doubts to emerge that plague the one struck. If this one is loose, how many more are about? The thought troubled the Chatti even as they advanced, and that distracted them.

It occupied Horobard’s mind as well though in a different way, even as he urged his men onward. The fact that the horde was not the green militia he thought but a battle-hardened and discipline legion changed his view of the battle. This was no longer a pushover with which to blood his young men. It would be a slugfest worthy of the gods, and he had foolishly put his freshest and least-trained men in the forefront. Those who live would gain much experience, but many, many more would die.

Horobard cursed righteously. The Roman had gotten him good! His wish to blood his rear-rankers had them leading, while his veteran front-rankers followed them up from behind, completely opposite normal Chatti doctrine. In effect, he was going into battle backwards. Halting under that deadly rain of missiles to correct his deployment was worse than folly. Still, his raw rear-rankers outnumbered the enemy force by a large margin. He would simply lose more men achieving victory than he had anticipated, but the outcome would never be in doubt.

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Ricgard cursed as a small band of riders blew past his Chauci encampment heading for the Bructeri. He thought he recognized Ulfrich in their midst, but the riders neither stopped nor told him of the goings-on over by the Chatti. He nodded to two of his guards, who followed the Bructeri warriors, then called over two more. “Aelfrick, Hagdor, ride to the Chatti and see what is happening over there. I think Segestes has returned, judging by the wagons, and that the Chatti are taking first pick of the spoils. Aedelbrecht, rouse the warhost, in case I am correct.”

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The man wearing Segestes’s helm shouted again, and the withering archery ceased. Horobard smiled- his men were close now. The Romans would now stand- and they did- and cast their pila. He winced at the effect the little spears had on his young men, but they took the brunt of the volley well. Holes in the ranks that were made were quickly and eagerly filled. To his left, a rain of francisca from the Cananefate did the same, and his men withstood the barrage as well. Now it would be sword to sword.

And it was. The Chatti covered the last few dozen paces at the run, colliding into the solid Roman wall with such power that in places men were knocked over and down. But the Romans rebounded well, and cut down those eager young men who penetrated too far into their ranks. The wall of shields ebbed then steadied, presenting once again a solid defense.

Those assaulting the Cananefate ran into trouble, which Horobard certainly did not expect. He knew his main threat was the hardened, armored Roman legionaries- the bane of Germanic warriors everywhere. As such, he considered the Cananefate little more than glorified militia. He had evidently not heard of their successes in the last war- and that hurt and surprised him now.

Niall held his spearwall solidly, his lieutenants Ragnar and Asle holding the flanks. The men of the spearwall- who had faced armored legionaries and crushed them- waited with disdain the Chatti onslaught. When it came, it was ridiculously easy for them to spear down the oncoming warriors with quick thrusts and prepare to stab the next man. Where the front ranks missed, the second ranks caught and killed. And any who came through that found themselves at the business end of an axe. Glam of the Silver Axe and his men roamed the backyard of the spearmen, aiding where needed, steadying where necessary, and giving encouragement everywhere they went.

Worse for the Chatti, each and every Cananefate warriors wore a shirt of metal- either a legionary lorica segmentata taken from one of the many legionaries killed on Cananefate soil, or a lorica hamata- the chainmail worn by the auxilia who had died in droves. Chatti sword slashes were easily turned by those metal garments, while Cananefate steel easily pierced the fur and skin covering the Chatti.

Behind Glam’s axemen, Klaus and his hunters were shifting their volleys to those men facing the legion. This was a nice payback, since the classi and Cretans could no longer shoot at the men plaguing the legion, they had shifted their volleys to the horde before the Cananefate. Thus both sets of archers could continue the deadly rain without hitting their own men.

Horobard watched the battle unfold with a draining sense of hopelessness rising within him. The pushover Germani on the Roman Right stopped his men cold- and any attempt to flank them was crushed by those awful heavy horsemen. The legionaries to his front repulsed his wedges. Between the two, the auxiliaries fought with the same tactics and discipline as the legionaries, stopping his men solidly. Their battle was difficult to determine- holes would appear in their shield wall, and his men would surge through. Then the hole would close with no sign of his men. After a few minutes he figured out what the auxiliaries were doing- they were deliberately opening a hole, then slamming a century on either side of the salient. His men there learned fast- and stayed out of opening gaps. It kept them alive, but stalemated their advance. They did not trust an opening not to be a trap, thus stymieing their efforts to break through.

Only on his right was he having any success at all. The Roman had his weakest troops over there- the untrained, poorly-disciplined rabble of Ubian thrill-seekers. He had met Ubians in battle before- they were worthless warriors, like the Bructeri: they would fight while things looked good, then crumble against a rank of solid men. These men would be no different. He knew where he had to attack now. He lifted a sword and pointed to his right.

Rutilius gazed over the battlefield and saw the same things as the Chatti king. His lines were holding well, and the Cananefate were killing Chatti even faster than were his legionaries. Oddmund, commanding the Cananefate horse on the Right, was a threat that kept the flank secure. Palla, commanding the auxiliaries in the center, was everywhere along his section, shouting orders, giving strength, and keeping discipline. His cohorts were allowing Chatti warbands to enter, then mousetrap them with reserve centuries from each flank. The penetrators were dying in droves, teaching the rest to avoid breakthroughs. He smiled at the tactic- Palla was indeed a worthy tribune. He even had the VI Vasconi alae edging to the center of the legions, while the foot cohort was already in place. Do not be too obvious, Rutilius thought swiftly.

Behind the left, in the treeline, Quintus Didius and his I Gallorum Tauriana awaited their own entrance into the battle. With him waited the III Gallorum Treveri and the I Longiniana Gallorum- all three ala being heavy Gallic cavalry. Their horses were pawing the ground angrily- they knew there was a battle on, and were unused to waiting. Theirs was always the first strike, driving off the enemy horse, then falling onto the hapless foot. But not this time. This time the battle was occurring without them, and the warhorses did not like that one bit.

Dieter, commanding the Ubians, was proud of the way the volunteers were holding out. They had suffered the most in battle, fighting in the same manner as Germans everywhere, while the Chatti fought in almost Roman tactics. Yet they held, and fought, and died awaiting his signal. The arrival of Chatti reinforcements to the wing, beginning their curl around the Ubian flank, was the signal the Batavian was awaiting. He lifted a horn to his lips, and blew three blasts.

The Ubians broke at the signal. Of the two thousand that had stood, there were only eleven hundred left on their feet. These turned and ran, leaving the Chatti flatfooted for a moment. Then the Chatti realized the enemy was breaking, and threw themselves into the pursuit.

The Ubians were quick, but they were also armored. They were not used to the armor, most of them, having just received it from Roman stocks just before crossing the river. While they could run as swiftly as ever, their endurance- already tapped from the heavy fighting- faded away long before they reached the safety of their assigned post. Most realized this, and turned to fight where they were. Dieter was among them- he was unused to groundwork, but being a Germanic himself, he was the ideal commander for the raw Ubians.

The Chatti chased, and caught, the Ubians. A circle formed, or a rounded square if you will, with the Ubians on the inside and the Chatti on the outside. The shieldwall held, but soon became a shrinking island of battle as more and more Chatti came.

Cacat, Rutilius thought viciously. His Ubians were plugging the gap instead of letting the disorganized pursuit of Chatti stream through it. He would have to commit his cavalry now, and in a disadvantageous spot. He cursed, then gave the signal as he knew he must. Better a few thousand dead Chatti than a few thousand dead Ubii. He himself led his Guard toward where their commander struggled.

The Gallic charge was everything he had hoped for. It was fast, hard, and furious, ripping into the Chatti swarm and scattering it like a glass goblet thrown upon a marble floor. The Ubian shieldwall had broken, and the Chatti swordsmen were entangled in the mix of tiring Ubii. Rutilius leapt his horse upon one, then reached out to sever the arm of a man about to strike down Dieter from behind before stabbing forward to impale a Chatti nobleman through his thick brow.

The Chatti streamed away, but were regrouping fast. More and more were coming this way, and the cavalry was drawing back to reform for another go.

“Get your ass out of here, Dieter!” Rutilius ordered. His horse reared back and took a spear in its chest, dumping him to the ground. Three Guardsmen nearby raced to protect their lord, who himself rose to stand by his Guard captain.

“Looks like I am doing a piss-poor job of protecting you, Marcus,” Dieter said. “Now we both are going to die.”

Marcus smiled bitterly, and echoed words the Batavian had used against him many a time since assuming his position: “Not on my watch.”

The Ubians were moving now, and Marcus and Dieter raced to their position. The threat of the cavalry kept the infantry at bay, though both men knew that the Chatti would soon bring over spearmen and that would neutralize the cavalry. The battle would be a foregone conclusion then.

Glam procured two horses from dead riders and brought them over. Dieter and Marcus mounted, taking in the changes to the battlefield the last minutes had wrought. It was not a pretty sight. The Chatti were fully deployed, and maneuvering. Spearmen were heading to the flanks, while the masses of swordsmen and cudgel-wielders kept the infantry pinned. But the worse news was from the far rear of the Chatti. Both Dieter and Marcus groaned as they saw the Tencteri cavalry approaching in formation, while from the north, Usipi and Cherusci warriors could be seen streaming from their camps.

Their gamble had failed, and now they were trapped by the pressure before them and no reserves left with which to parry the thrusts of these new reinforcements.

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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
posted 05-13-11 04:52 AM EDT (US)     57 / 86       
Oh no! The Chatti may be decimated but the Tencteri cavalry supported by the Usipi and Cherusci are a formidable opponent.

I can't wait what will happen next. But one thing I do know that more blood shall be split before the night is out!

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.
posted 05-13-11 08:08 AM EDT (US)     58 / 86       
I believe Rutilius has one more card to play in this gamble. I wonder if anyone trapped in the fort has caught on yet as well.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-16-11 02:14 AM EDT (US)     59 / 86       
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Ricgard heard all that he needed to know within a half hour. Udo was dead, Ulfrich was humiliated and fled, and the Romans had gathered an army out of nothing and were attacking. They were pinned, those last Romans who once blocked the Rhein barrier, and this would be his last chance to get into some serious combat before the tribes expanded into the more fertile lands of northern Gallia.

“Chauci, there is a battle going on over there. We were not invited,” Ricgard the Lion roared. “But I don’t think that should stop us from going, eh? To battle, for Wotan and Donar! Tyr and Vidarr! Balder and Loke!”

A ram’s horn blew a mighty blast, and the warhost replied with a titanic bellow. The Chauci marched forward to war, one last time while there were still free Romans to kill.

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“Something is going on over there,” Decius Paullus said, as he gazed into the crowded meadow beyond the Chatti encampment. He could not make out exactly what it was, but there was an awful lot of it going on. Horns could be heard, but so faintly as to be unidentifiable.

Cordinus came from his tent and stood on the ramparts beside his legate. He too looked into the distance, but his eyes saw nothing but a mass of Germans moving about. “Some sort of festival, I imagine.”

A horn blew, a deep-throated German ram’s horn, and horsemen could be seen streaming from another encampment to join the ruckus. Cordinus sighed then, and turned to leave.

“It will be over soon, this mess we are in,” he said as he climbed down. “I saw what looked like an auxilia standard waving in the wind. That much noise and celebration… It means but one thing. They have taken Vetera from Rutilius and slaughtered him and his men. Now they have grain, while we are on our last kernels. Tomorrow, or the next day maybe, then they will come in earnest for us.”

Paullus nodded. He saw more Germans streaming to festivities. Whatever it was, it was huge. A tear slid down his dusty cheek. His friend was surely dead, and in a day or two, his legion too would be dead.

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Horobard welcomed the newcomers and directed them to the weakening Roman left, where the remnants of the Ubians still screened and three ala of cavalry could be seen hovering beyond. He sent the Tencteri there, using horse to neutralize horse.

Rutilius saw the movement and pointed it to Dieter. “We’re screwed now. So close, yet too far away.”

Dieter nodded. “I will meet you in Valhalla,” he replied. “And if your Pluto tries to drag you to his Underworld, I will make sure my Wotan puts a claim on you first.”

“Thanks,” Rutilius answered. “But we are not dead yet.”

The VI Vasconi was now stiffening the Ubii, but with the mass forming across from them, it would only delay the inevitable.

The Chatti horns sounded, and the mass of men and horse surged forward to bring the struggle to an abrupt and premature end.

Or so they thought.

They came forward, and in doing so, their flank and rear came under sudden and very unexpected pressure. The Tencteri, in the lead, knew nothing of this as they charged headlong into the Gallic cavalry, who countercharged. The two met in a titanic collision of flesh and steel, of man and mount, and turned the battlefield into a swirling mass of individual duels. But behind them, the Usipi and Cherusci infantry were assailed.

Feyke had finally found the battlefield.

The Frisii came upon the field far north of where they should have been, and spotting the Usipi, mistook them for the Chatti and waited for the Romans to make their move. When the horns of battle sounded to the south, Feyke realized his mistake. But it was far too late to do ought about it. The Usipi numbered the same as did he, which would put him in a vise between them and the Chatti should he move. Yet now, with the Usipi leaving their camp to join with the Cherusci from further over, he was freed to move. And move he did. The Usipi thought the approaching warriors more Cherusci, and the Cherusci mistook them more Usipi. Neither had thought the advancing men were Frisii, until warcries were sounded and swords shed blood.

The effect was contagious. Assailed from the rear by what they thought were comrades, while the front was still in turmoil, with a legion out of nowhere now in the mix, nothing was sure anymore. Panic ensued, and spread like wildfire. The flank where once almost six thousand were forming to overwhelm the Romans was now a river of Germani pouring away from the battlefield- screaming and yammering.

Horobard raced forward to try to stem the tide. He caught a scorpion bolt through his chest for his trouble. He held on for one surprised moment before toppling from his saddle. His fall triggered the panic to spread to his own ranks. The Chatti began fleeing in earnest now, with the Romans and their allies marching forward in pursuit. The light cavalry of Kaeso Ignatius’s I Moesica followed, keeping on the pressure as the rest of the Roman cavalry began sorting itself out for the chase.

Rutilius grabbed a hold of a legionary centurion as the Germans began melting away. “Have your cornicen start playing ‘Advance to the attack’ and repeat it. Send runners to the other cohorts- I want every cornicen we have playing a concert of ‘Advances to the Attack’!”

The centurion watched the panicking Germans- who still heavily outnumbered the expeditionary force- flee and understood. There was more to this than just chasing a defeated foe, especially one who could regroup given time and space. His eyes lifted to the castra beyond. If they could hear the signal.... He executed his orders.

Feyke brought his warhost to join ranks with the Roman legion. What was left of the Ubian and VI Vasconi infantry fell back to become reserve cohorts. A few minutes later the horns sounded, and the Roman Army stepped off to the attack, its cadences called by the centurions suddenly filled with confidence and success. They had taken the best the Germans could throw at them and kicked it back into their teeth.

Ricgard and the Chauci met the fleeing Chatti by their encampment. The sight of a living king, even if not their own, restored some order to the Chatti. The rank upon rank of Chauci warriors gave a better sense, especially when they bellowed a cry and with a few good spearmen chased off the cavalry harrying the Chatti.

There was not much time for Ricgard to organize the depleted remnants of the warhosts into his own as the Roman cavalry withdrew. The Roman infantry- including a legion, by the gods!- was marching forward. He merely bade his guards place the recovering men on his flanks, with the Tencteri to regroup in his rear to be used later. The blaring of Roman horns interfered with his orders somewhat, but that could be overcome. Still, it was a desperate moment.

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“That cannot be!” cried Paullus as he watched the Germans form for battle- and doing it facing the other way. “By Jupiter’s Brass Balls, it cannot be!”

Cordinus and some soldiers gathered to his side. Paullus pointed to the far away battlefield. “Look! Listen!”

Cordinus looked, and listened. He could hear it over the din of German yammering. ‘Advance to the attack.’ And beyond the Germans, standards could now be made out, including one rather brassy-looking Eagle.

“Its frikking Rutilius!” he cried. “Gods damn me if I am wrong, but that has to be Marcus coming to relieve us!”

Cordinus stared at the distant ranks. The men were armored, but that meant little.

“It is a trick,” Cordinus announced. “Rutilius has no army, only scattered auxilia. No, he is dead, and the Germans have taken his men’s armor and standards. They are celebrating the victory, and our imminent death.”

Paullus glared at him. “And they learned to play Roman horns with Roman battle commands in that short time?” he asked cynically. “No lord, that is Rutilius, bringing German attention upon himself and giving us a chance at life.” He turned to his primus pilus. “Ready the legion for battle, Top,” he ordered. “We are going to do as the horns say- and advance to the attack.”

“Belay that!” shouted Cordinus. He turned to Paullus. “It is a trick to get us to leave our fortifications. We are safe here. We would get slaughtered out there. You said so yourself.”

“That was when we were alone here in the wilderness, with no support,” Paullus reminded him. “The situation has changed. Now we have a Roman force not a mile away. That changes things. This is our opportunity to escape this deathtrap. I for one am not going to let this opportunity pass. Top, carry out the order.”

Cordinus drew his sword for emphasis. “The goings-on over there change nothing, legatus,” he said bluntly. “We are still surrounded by foes outnumbering us greatly, foes that now have more food to sustain their numbers than we have rations with which to wait them out. Going out there now will rob us of what few days we have left.”

“Going out there now, supporting Rutilius, will ensure our survival, you moron,” Paullus shouted. “Staying here, while the full weight of the army besieging us falls upon him, will ensure our death. For after they finish him off, there will be absolutely nothing left to get us out of this. It is literally now, or never.”

“Are you so sure it is Rutilius?”

“Who else could it be?” Paullus shot back.

“The warband that disappeared a week or so ago,” Cordinus reminded him. “Ten thousand strong if a man, heading west. They return now- enough time to have gotten to Vetera, storm the place, kill Rutilius and whatever garrison of auxiliaries he had with him- they were mostly cavalry, those auxiliaries- and return. Face it, Decius. The odds are long that it is Rutilius out there, but very short that it is a triumphant Germanic army returning with its treasure, and forcing captured musicians play Roman battle commands to lure us out. Very clever, these monkeys.”

One of the soldiers near the governor lashed out with a fist. It connected, and the governor fell to the ground. Marcus Salvius looked up and rubbed his fist. “I’d rather die fighting out there than starved to death and slaughtered in here.” He looked down at the general, sleeping peacefully, and thanked the gods that the man did not have the sense to tie his cheekflaps in place. “He is no longer fit for command, legatus. It is up to you now. I’ll take my lumps after the battle, though, if you please. And you can take my vinewood stick as well then, but first I want to go save my friend, to repay his attempt to save us.”

Paullus glanced at the centurion and smiled. “I think you may have earned a corona civica, Salvius, for saving us all. Top, get the men into ranks and moving. The XXII Primigenia is going to join that ratscrew over there and lend what help we can to those who wish to be our rescuers.”

The primus pilus marched over and slugged Salvius, knocking him down then helping him up. “There, centurion, you have been suitably punished for striking a superior officer. Not the first time, I hear. But as primus pilus of this legion, discipline is my realm. You have been punished accordingly- you struck a superior; a superior struck you. Now get your century ready for battle.” He turned to the legatus. “I’d let the matter rest with that, sir. Either we go out there and die- in which case none of this matters, or we go out there and break this bloody siege- in which case the lad just saved our asses. Either way, any further action would be moot.”

“I agree,” Paullus said with a nod. “Get the men ready, Sextus.”

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“Come quickly,” said a voice.

Eirik, High Priest of Wotan and Keeper of the Sacred Grove now within a Roman circle, did not even bother to turn from the battle being fought two miles away. He had an excellent view, and wanted not to miss single drop of Roman blood spilling to enrich the earth.

“I have a wonderful view of the battle,” the priest replied. “I would fain miss a single stroke.”

“Then you will die here, priest of Wotan,” the voice replied.

That got his attention. He turned to face his attacker, only to see an rather unkempt girl standing behind him. She had a dagger, but little else- and that dagger was sheathed.

“Get your daughter and come with me, now, if you wish to live,” the girl said. “Dally or tarry at your peril. I leave in two minutes.”

Eirik scoffed. “The Roman relief force is heavily outnumbered now,” he cackled. “It will not be long until they are no more, their officers bound in wicker cages to be roasted before Wotan’s altar.”

“What you say is true, to a point,” the girl replied. “The relief force is heavily outnumbered. How do you think it got that way? Look about, old man. The camps are deserted, with our warriors streaming to join the Chatti. In less time than it takes to squat, the legions we have penned will be marching out. It is death to wait here!”

Eirik shot a brief glance to the girl. There was something familiar about her...

“Katja, daughter of Halla, by Horobard,” she said as if reading his mind. “I watched my father die this day. I have no wish to join him.”

“Halla of the Second Sight?” Eirik said, startled. “Astrid! Grab our things. We are leaving. Now.”

He no longer cared to watch the massive movements of the tribes against that pitifully small force.

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The movement of the Germans to the southwestern corner of the plain caught other eyes as well. The cornu notes did not reach the fort of the VI Victrix, but they did not have to. Messala had no idea of what was going on out of his sight, as the Sacred Grove stood between him and the Chatti. He merely watched as the Cherusci forces besieging his camp moved off for the first time in weeks. And they did not come back, marching off out of view far to the west. A small portion of what once locked him in remained. A better opportunity had not existed for weeks. He gave the same orders to his officers as Paullus had to his.

“Make ready to move out,” he ordered. “The monkeys are leaving their encampment uncovered. It is time to make a sally and wreck their home while they are away. Six cohorts.”

In the camp of the XXI Rapax, Lucius Amensius watched as the Chauci abandoned their encampment and moved west, leaving the weak Bructeri alone. It was a chance for some payback long overdue. He ordered his legion ready for a sally, and waited until the Chauci were out of sight.

“Raptors, seven of our cohorts are going to storm the Bructeri- who stand alone over there. They have taunted and toyed with you for weeks now, with their more numerous Chauci allies at their side. Now they stand alone. One solid rush, cavalry leading then encircling, and one threat is gone. Who is with me?”

The legion cheered at the thought of vengeance. It was a mighty roar.

“Then off you go, lads. Follow me. It is time to balance the books, and these fools owe us talents!”

The X Gemina had a better view of the battlefield. They had seen the Chatti move off, and the Usipi as well. The Cherusci left their encampment facing the Victrix to pass before them, turn south to join the Usipi, and move off together to the Chatti encampment to the south. Then others came from the woods- Frisians, he mumbled, which was confirmed by a centurion- and joined ranks. Then the Frisii attacked the Usipi boldly and with no warning whatsoever.

Cadorus, who knew the Frisii well from their many raids into his native British Isles, was caught by surprise by the sudden and vicious attack, as were the Usipi and Cherusci. He watched them melt under the Frisian heat, and then he heard the faint signals. ‘Advance to the Attack.’

It suddenly all made sense. Marcus was out there. Only he could weld a handful of tribesmen, leavened with a few auxiliaries he himself had recruited, and turn them into a single army to attempt a relief. He would need help. He ordered his ranks formed. He did not need to wait for the men to arm and armor- his legion was always ready for battle when in a combat zone. He gave the command, and cohort by cohort the X Gemina climbed over its walls and deployed for battle.

“Cornicen,” he ordered. “Play Form a Line. Repeat it twice then send ‘Advance to the Attack’.”

The X Gemina responded to the signals. To their south, the XXII Primigenia was emerging from its castrum. Paullus halted his legion to allow the X Gemina to join him, then presented a solid line of cohorts to the enemy- who was more concerned with the army before it than the one forming up behind it. Paullus had his cornicens echo the ‘Advance to the Attack’ played by the oncoming relief army.

The effect was spectacular. Horns blaring from the I Rutilia, who had almost made contact, had covered the noise and horns of the X Gemina and XXII Primigenia well. The sudden blaring of a second and third set of horns- from behind!- shattered the Germanic resolve. No longer was this a battle against intruding forces- this was now a battle against three legions and supporting allies- all of whom were in much better positions than they themselves were. In an instant the jostling ranks of Germanic warriors disappeared, replaced by a frantic scattering of men reminiscent of ants deserting a kicked-over anthill.

The cavalry prefects and tribunes did not wait for the order. They saw their moment, and ordered their own alae to pursue. They would pursue the fleeing warriors all through the day and into the night.

The Battle of the Sacred Grove was finally over.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-16-11 04:07 AM EDT (US)     60 / 86       
Excellent! The Frisii turned out to be the ace up Rutilius' sleeve.

Edit: I was also glad to see someone put fist to face where Cordinus is concerned. He seems the type of officer who's killed by the men he leads because he's totally incompetent. The sad thing about him is I don't think he can help it. I feel for him, because I'd like to see him finally wise up and succeed. Yet he continues to be an idiot so I dislike him and wish someone would just kill him already. IMO a good bit of writing on your part Terikel to create a conflict in this reader concerning the character.

[This message has been edited by Krymzon74 (edited 05-16-2011 @ 06:11 PM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 05-16-11 11:24 AM EDT (US)     61 / 86       
Of course! The Frisians! I completely forgotten about them. Poor Horobard getting a scorpion embedded into his chest.

A 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.
posted 05-17-11 03:43 PM EDT (US)     62 / 86       
I'm still thoroughly enjoying your tale.

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do.
Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen." -- Jerome K. Jerome

"Some people become so expert at reading between the lines they don't read the lines." -- Margaret Millar

ERADICATE CONDESCENSION! (That means don't talk down to people.)
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-19-11 01:52 AM EDT (US)     63 / 86       
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“Gaius Helvidius Priscus, you are to come with us,” announced a praetorian centurion leading a detail of sixteen men. “The Imperator requests your presence.”

Helvidius stood stock-still as the centurion spoke, his mind racing. So this is how it is to be. “I would like to change into my formal toga, if it may.”

The centurion nodded. Helvidius went into his bed chambers and returned a few minutes later. “Lead on, centurion,” he said, exiting his house for the last time. He looked back only once, a last glance of the home his great-grandfather has built in the days of Augustus. He spied the house slave departing and smiled inside. At least his death would now not go unnoticed- or unpunished.

The walk down the hill to the home of Vespasian was a short one. It was pleasant in the afternoon air- sunshine on the tops of the houses, comfortable in the shade in between, and dry enough to keep sweat from forming under the armpits. One wanted to be proper when one was to be slain, and showing up to your execution in a sweaty, dirty toga was considered poor form. For Helvidius Priscus, a nobleman of a long and proud line, it was unacceptable. Thus the changing of the toga in his home, and the slow, gentle walk to the home of Titus Flavius Vespasianus.

The centurion ushered him into the atrium, and then on through to the garden behind, where Vespasian sat on a bench by the fountain. Across from his was another bench. It was to this bench Helvidius was guided and bade sit. The haughty nobleman gathered his toga and sat. A slave brought forth wine and water, and at a nod from his host, took a goblet, filled it one third with wine, then filled the rest with water, in the proper manner. His host, however, split his goblet two third wines, one third water.

“Your invitation said little except to come,” he said, addressing his host. “I dared not refuse, seeing as it was delivered by a praetorian centurion. I assume it is urgent or serious business which made you summon me?”

Vespasian nodded. “The most serious kind, Gaius Helvidius. Treason. Maiestas, to be exact. I would hear your defense.”

“Treason is a rather large charge to defend against,” Helvidius replied. “You will need to be more specific. Then again, maybe not. I am innocent; my defense is easily handled. I have broken no laws, thus I have not broken this one either. The defense rests.”

“This is serious, Gaius,” Vespasian warned. “None of your flippancy now, please. Republican or not, this charge is serious.”

“Then be more specific, Titus Flavius,” Helvidius replied. “So far all I know is that I am ordered here by a praetorian officer and told by a man who fancies himself both Imperator and Princeps Senatus that I am accused of treason. I could say the same of you, Titus. You are a fourth generation senator whose origins lay in the middle class while my ancestors were consuls for centuries. You have no Julian blood in you, thus no claim to the inheritance of the Julio-Claudians. That makes you a traitor for usurping those powers at the points of your legionaries’ swords instead of earning them in open and fair elections. So simply accusing me of treason, and then demanding a defense when I know nothing about the charge, is both silly and senseless as me accusing you of treason. I had thought better of you.”

“As you say nothing in your opening arguments that I could use to dismiss the charge against you, I am forced to bring in the advocate prosecuting you and hear the case as a iudex.” With those words and a nod toward the far door, Vespasian turned his courtyard from a reception to a trial.

Helvidius snickered when he spied the Imperial prosecutor. He had originally been frightened that it might be Titus Caesar, whose style and findings were unknown and whose honoring of Roman traditions was found lacking, considering his current bedmate. Berenice was lovely, but she was still foreign. But luckily for Helvidius, the prosecutor waddling into the courtyard was both familiar and inferior. He was none other than Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus, the man who had prosecuted the innocent father-in-law of Helvidius under Nero to gain his fortune. Helvidius grinned- this was a chance to embarrass the oaf before his puppeteer.

Eprius laid out the charges and evidence as Domitian had predicted- a love of money led to a cunning plan to cause the destruction of an army so that Helvidius could profit from arming the recruits raised to replace the dead men. He finished with a flourish, and a defiant look that screamed ‘Gotcha!’ at the defendant.

Helvidius sat through the tirade silently, absorbing the entire case. Then he looked at Vespasian, who nodded. Helvidius did not rise, but sat calmly and held up a finger.

“This sounds very bad,” he admitted. “A charge of treason, dressed with greed, and garnished with so much innuendo that it reeks of fiction. For that is what it is, and what I expect from a man like Titus Clodius.”

He turned to Vespasian, who at across from him. “When you assumed command over our city, you took among other things censorial duties. All contracts to be let by the city and her territories thus require your say-so before they can be valid. You know my foundries- they are in my name- and you also loath me for not acknowledging your assumed powers and offices. I doubt very highly that any of my businesses would be granted an imperial contract. So the chance of my benefitting from this wild accusation is severely limited.

“Second, this scenario assumes greed is my motive. While it is true my foundries are now turning out high-quality horseshoes and metal stanchions now, they are still profitable ventures. I have a knack for making money. I do not, however, have a consuming lust for the stuff. I live modestly as a proper senator should, and run my businesses well, as a hobby. You will note that any profit made by my ventures has been donated to Rome’s public works, among them the restoration of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, where your brother died during Primus’s Assault on Rome. A man who loves money does not voluntarily give it away, while I do exactly that. Thus I am not greedy, and therefore have no motive.

“This sounds rather bad for poor Burrius, who is my business manager as well as client, but he too lives modestly as a client of mine should. Thus while he excels at running businesses, he is not consumed with greed either. In short, you have no motive for me or my client to commit this act, nor do you have more than conjecture from the twisted mind of your old friend. I am innocent of this accusation.”

“You have been seen and heard speaking ill of the Imperator! That is treason!” bellowed Eprius after watching his careful case be crumbled by a few well-chosen and utterly verifiable words.

“I have spoken of the illegality of the office, not ill of the man himself,” Helvidius relied calmly. “As I have done since the days of Nero, when I first rose to the Senate. This is well-known and documented. Please, Titus Clodius, do inspect the records and interview the witnesses.”

“We can still trace the documents intercepted in Germania through you,” Eprius reminded him. “A slave copied them, and Burrius sent them. The link between slave and Burrius is you- you visited a nobleman where Titus Domitianus was also visiting. His slave, bought from Burrius and obviously under pressure, gave the copied plans to your slave. You forwarded them to Burrius, who sent them north.”

“Preposterous!” Helvidius laughed. He again faced Vespasian. “Please do not tell me you are actually entertaining this notion?”

“I beheaded a slave this morning who was caught rummaging through my papers,” Vespasian said curtly. “In his final breath, he declared he was under orders from Titus Burrius to deliver copies of my papers to your personal slave.”

Helvidius went pale. “He lies.”

Vespasian shook his head. “I witnessed it. Dying men always tell the truth.”

“Burrius sold foreign domestics,” Helvidius stated. “Exclusively. They can neither read nor write. Most barely understand Latin, but do not need to speak to dust a room or sweep or cook. If a slave confessed to being a plant from Burrius, I counter that said slave was pressured to lie about it- by holding his family hostage or the like. Dying men would lie to save someone they love.”

Vespasian shrugged at the logic, but Eprius turned a shade of red. How could he know! Then Helvidius, on the verge of victory, committed a fatal blunder.

“So you see, Titus Flavius,” he said, “there is not a single shred of evidence in this entire accusation linking me to any crime whatsoever.”

Vespasian gestured to a slave, who brought forth a red candle and a blank tablet. “Affix your signet to this,” he commanded. Helvidius did so, with a questioning look upon his countenance. Eprius smiled and held forth the plans intercepted in Germania.

Helvidius glanced at the seal and at his own, held up so that both he and Vespasian could compare the two. Both men saw the leaping dolphin with a fish crossways in its mouth on both seals. They were nearly identical.

Helvidius paled, and Vespasian nodded a final time. Helvidius continued to stare at the seal that looked so much like his own, even after the sword of Titus Caesar erupted from his chest. He glanced down at the jutting blade, then to Vespasian, who dared not meet his gaze. His final thought- my signet has the fish’s head on the other side! went unspoken as his heart ceased beating and he slipped into darkness, never to return.

“Shall we announce the results of this trial, father?” Titus Caesar asked, wiping his sword on the dead man’s toga, then sheathing his sword and arranging the garment to cover the man’s legs. “It is known that he was brought here.”

“How many praetorian cohorts are in the city?” The earlier memories of the discussions concerning the German quaestor ran through his mind- the same warnings there could easily apply here.

“All nine are currently here, Father,” young Titus said. “They are the only troops in Italia at the moment,” he added. “But the ludi Romani are still a few weeks away and with this heat, not many are frequenting the Forum. We have enough to keep a lid on any rowdies.”

“Then have his death announced in the Forum,” Vespasian decided. “Gaius Helvidius Priscus was charged with treason, tried, and found guilty by his own words and sealed with his own signet. He lived a lie, and died a failure.”

Titus Vespasian Junior nodded. “As you command.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-19-11 04:39 AM EDT (US)     64 / 86       
It looks like Helvidus has been framed. Poor man. But who set it up? Epirus or someone closer to the Emperor?

A short yet very intriguing chapter, 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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-23-11 02:18 AM EDT (US)     65 / 86       
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The legions spent the rest of the morning chasing fleeing warbands, then regrouped by mid-afternoon for battlefield clean-up and a well-deserved sacking of the abandoned German camps. That was performed under the watchful eyes of centurions and tribunes, while the legates wandered over to where the relieving army’s commanders were directing their forces in providing battlefield clean-up and security near the ruins of the Chatti camp where the fighting was fiercest.

Decius Paullus and Quintus Cadorus met up and came over together, a small escort with them in case of unexpected trouble. Further away, parties of men from Messala’s VI Victrix and the XXI Rapax could be seen coming as well, their legates leading the bunch. All four would arrive at nearly the same time.

They approached the three Germanics who somehow managed to battle the Chatti warhost to a standstill and give the Romans their chance at victory. One was a tall, lanky, morose man. Cadorus recognized him at once as Niall, King of the Cananefate. Another was recognized by the blue in his clothing- a Frisian. His kind had been a menace on the border in the past, though remaining strangely quiet these last five years. Now they came out of their woods and lakes to make mincemeat of the besieging force. The third German, however, was more difficult to identify from afar. He wore a black Suevi cape, but silver armor. His brass helmet shone like the sun, its glare marred only by the white wings attached to its sides, and a long warsword was in his hand. On the whole, a striking combination. Only when the legates came closer did they see the splashes of blood marring the shine of the armor and helm, and as they continued to approach, could they identify that man as Marcus Rutilius.

Rutilius was listening to the reports of his commanders as the legates approached. The legionary cohorts had fared well- one in four killed or wounded, but it could have been far worse- many of the casualties were wounded expected to survive. The auxiliaries reported about the same though their killed-to-wounded ratio was much higher, while Niall lost less than one in five. Feyke, coming into battle last, lost less than one in seven.

“The Chatti are finished,” the Frisian was saying. “Such a devastating defeat for them so far from home... I doubt a single one of them will come north ever again.”

“It would have gone better had you not gotten lost,” Niall chided. There was only a hint of irritation in his voice.

The Frisian shrugged. ”These are not our woods,” he said apologetically. “And when we came upon the encampment over there,” he said, gesturing north, “we thought you were the ones who were lost. So we waited. When the ruckus began, we realized our mistake, but by then we had crept very close to them. Moving then would have brought them down upon us, with no support. A tough battle, that would have been, and to little purpose.”

Then he straightened his back. “And from where we lay in wait, we could see the Romans standing proud- and alone. We were not the only ones lost and drawn in after the battle.”

“Foraging party,” Niall admitted. “A large one. And as you said, these are not our woods.”

“It worked out well,” Rutilius reminded both men.

“By the gods, it is you!” roared Decius Paullus. He was finally close enough to see that mysterious general and recognize him. “We had thought you dead at Vetera, when that warband went off.”

Rutilius doffed his helmet with a broad smile. “The one led by the guy who used to wear this? In the words of the Divine Julius, He came, he saw, he failed. You can thank Niall of the Cananefate that we defeated him, and not vice versa.”

Decius held out a hand to the Cananefate, who shook it in the Roman fashion. Cadorus was more friendly and less formal, clapping the tall, blood-covered king on a meaty shoulder. Then both men turned to face the third commander, the Frisian. Rutilius explained the blood-debt in a few short sentences, and how that debt was now paid in full.

“So we go back to an active border,” Cadorus replied brutally. “My replacements coming in could use the training.”

Feyke cocked his head to the side. “Who said anything about resuming warfare between us? We have shared a border in peace for five years, allowing both of our peoples to prosper. Why should we ruin a thing from which we both profit?”

Cadorus grinned evilly. “Your people still raid across the water, in Britannia where both Briton and Roman rule. That does not make us peaceful toward each other.”

Feyke shrugged. “Ach. That must be the West Frisii. I am king of the East Frisii. We raid nowhere, having only this warband with which to defend our fens. A warband, I might add, that I would not have, had not Rutilius spared it five years ago when my son stupidly tried to begin a raiding tradition of our own.”

There are two Frisian tribes. One that raids, one that defends. And this king is the one that defends. That changes things. The face of Cadorus reflected the change in thought as the hardness faded. He extended a hand to the Frisian, who clasped it in the Germanic manner. “I think we can have peace, you and I.”

Messala and Amensius arrived, and after introductions and congratulations were exchanged, marveled at the battlefield. The bodies were being moved, but the course of the battle was still easy to see. Messala whistled, and pointed to a corpse with a gladius stuck through its chest. Three legionaries were working over it, trying to remove it. One of them was using a Germanic axe.

“Your work?” he asked of Rutilius, pointing to the German sword in his hand and the empty scabbard for a gladius at his waist.

“My allies were late,” he said with a shrug. “So I challenged their war king to a duel to buy time. My gladius got stuck good, so I took his as there was still a battle to fight. Luckily Niall and Feyke showed up at exactly the right time to save our collective asses.”

“Jupiter!” Paullus exclaimed. “That qualifies you for spolia opima!”

“Spolia what?” Amensius and Rutilius asked in tandem.

“When the commander of a Roman army defeats in single combat the commander of the enemy army, and then strips his body,” Messala explained, “he qualifies for spolia opima. It is a very old- and very rare- thing. I think only five generals have ever qualified for it- the first being Romulus, the most famous being Marcellus, and the last being Marcus Crassus, namesake grandson of the Crassus of Carrhae fame. It is the highest honor there is!”

Amensius and Rutilius looked at each other. “Never heard of it,” they said in unison, while Rutilius added, “I killed him to buy time, and took his sword because mine was stuck. And still is.” He jerked a thumb toward the three legionaries trying to cut the blade from the Bructeri’s spine and shield.

“No matter the reason, Marcus, you earned it,” Paullus said. “However, it might not be wise to accept the honor. Crassus Junior refused his honor, as it would have put him above Augustus, who was awarded the Corona Graminea for saving the Republic. Since then, no Roman commander had even attempted to win the award.”

“I did not know about it, so I do not care about it,” Rutilius replied. “I am content to still be breathing, and that most of my men still live.”

“Good,” Paullus said. “We know you are already on this emperor’s shitlist. Winning higher awards than his boy will likely lead to a short and very interesting life, or a long and very dull one in either Dumatha or Ancyra.”

After the initial welcomes, the discussion turned to the battle, with a summary of the maneuvers and fighting. Cadorus grunted at the moves Palla had made- mere auxilia, fighting better than legionaries? Impressive! Paullus and Amensius were intrigued by the cavalry sting set up on the Roman left, and how it came to fizzle instead of shatter. And of course all four legates were impressed with the rest of the army- maybe not so much their fighting style, but the fact of their presence on the battlefield. It spoke volumes of the relations the quaestor had built during his tour.

A cavalryman approached from the castra. He relayed the orders of the general to report to the praetorium. The legates acknowledged, and with Marcus in tow, began their return to the forts from which they were now freed. Marcus left Niall in charge of the Chatti camp, and requested that the Frisii take up a camp over where the Usipi used to be. Both kings agreed, and Rutilius hurried to catch up to his colleagues.

“Wait a moment,” he asked as they entered the fort of the XXII Primigenia. He climbed up onto the breastworks, and gazed off toward the forest between the four forts. The forest was much depleted, but was still a tight knot of trees. “So that is the Sacred Grove of Wotan...”

“It is in there,” Cadorus agreed. “But hidden from casual view. I promised to keep it that way. Untouched, and unharmed.”

“A good promise,” Rutilius said as he hopped down. “Why anger gods we do not need to anger?”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-25-11 06:50 AM EDT (US)     66 / 86       
Very nicely done, Terikel!

I know of the award Marcus is in line for and it is indeed a old tradition dating back to the days prior to the Second Punic War when the Romans made expeditions to Northern Italy against the Ligurians and Alpine tribes.

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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-26-11 01:51 AM EDT (US)     67 / 86       
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Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus was in a quandary. He was elated that his legions had been relieved, but furious that it was his quaestor who did it. Marcus Rutilius had orders to defend the province, and twelve cohorts of auxiliaries with which to do it. He disobeyed those orders, raised a private army which he equipped from Roman stocks, and marched across Germania Magna to free him and the legions. A hero, but one born of disobedience. Thus his quandary- does he praise the hero of the hour for the relief, or punish the man who risked everything- Germania Inferior, northern Gaul, basically all of the Empire north of Italia- for his blatant, intentional disobedience and dereliction of duty. And for stealing the thunder of this expedition. Nobody will remember Cordinus Rutilius Gallicus now, except as a footnote to the great victory won by his quaestor.

“Enter,” he called, dreading the moment, He still had not decided whether to be grateful, which he was, or angry- which he also was.

Rutilius entered.

“Report,” the general commanded.

Rutilius stood at attention, in shock. The whole right side of the general’s face was a massive bruise. No wonder he was so cranky.

“I fell,” Cordinus explained, embarrassed. Then he repeated, “Report.”

Rutilius filled him in on the battle, then concluded, “The Germans are scattered now, being chased by six alae of cavalry and a few squadrons from the Cananefate and Frisii. We brought supplies- enough food for a legion for six days, and medical supplies to bandage or treat up to three thousand men. These should be already distributed to the camp prefects. The primi pili were issued orders to break camp at first light. The Frisii will escort one legion- the XXII Primigenia to the ford, cross with it, then return home. The Cananefate will escort the XXI Rapax to where Piscius and the fleet are waiting- by Vetera, and cross with them on their way home. Messala and Cadorus will remain over here with you to continue our mission.”

“You would leave me here with two legions?” Cordinus was immediately suspicious. “I don’t think so. We are all leaving tonight, while the Germans are still scattered. I want all four legions to be halfway to the crossings before first light.”

“You would kill your wounded and get lost moving in darkness,” Rutilius reminded the general. “The Germans here are finished. Two legions and supporting auxilia are enough to finish your expedition now, and the other three can resume garrison duties to prevent incursions.”

“So, in the face of the confirmed one hundred thousand Germanics in the area,” Cordinus summarized, “your advice is to split our forces, leaving neither capable of fending off a determined thrust.”

Jupiter this man was dense! Did he not yet realize that situations change? “There were one hundred thousand Germanics in the area, generalis. There are now less than thirty five thousand, and most of them are running away- no problem for two legions.”

“Thirty five thousand?”

“Fifteen thousand left here to come to Vetera,” Rutilius reminded him. “The navy killed some in the crossing of the Rhenus, and the Cananefate and I took care of the rest. That left eighty-five thousand. Paullus tells me they assaulted once- losing an estimated twenty thousand, if not more. That leaves sixty-five thousand. I killed between twenty and twenty-five thousand outside this afternoon, while the legions accounted for another five thousand. The cavalry is still chasing the fleeing warriors, and as you well know from your time under Corbulo, the majority of kills occur in the pursuit phase. So, yes, lord, there are less than thirty five thousand left- all headed as far away from us as fast and far as they can get.”

He took a deep breath. “That’s why two legions here will be sufficient to continue our mission, while the other three would be sufficient to protect the Rhenus.”

“Two legions are not enough,” Cordinus said.

“Jupiter’s Brass Balls!” Rutilius roared. Enough was enough! “You left me twelve cohorts of auxiliaries, claiming that was enough! Now you say thirty cohorts of legionaries and fifteen of auxiliaries are not enough? Plus you will have the Cananefate, and I settled the Frisian Question. The other tribes we face- the Marsi, the Usipi, the Tencteri, and the Chatti- have all gotten their teeth kicked in here, this day. We have killed five kings in the last five days, four of them today. The threat against the province is small now- we have legions again. Three of them will be going to the castra. The other two legions here against the Bructeri remnants, the broken Chatti, and remaining Cherusci are more than sufficient.”

“That is the third time you have mentioned we have five legions here. I thought you misspoke the first two times, being tired, but you did it again now. Where did the fifth come from? Are they more Germanics in Roman armor, pretending to be soldiers like your Cananefate friends?”

Rutilius controlled the urge to reach out and slap the man across from him, but just barely. Instead, he went ice cold. “The I Rutilia is composed of eight cohorts of Roman legionaries from Britannia, as I requested before you had departed, and one cohort of Batavian evocati veterans who had been granted the citizenship for completing tours of duty in the auxilia.”

Cordinus barked a laugh. “I Rutilia? By the gods, you really do have a death wish!”

Rutilius was taken aback by the comment. “It was their idea. The Eagle as well.”

Cordinus shook his head. “Vespasian is already poisoned against you. Thank Helvidius and Eprius for that- the one bragged about you to the Senate, the other wants to hurt me through you. Both are heard by Vespasian, who considers you an opportunist, and a dangerous one. He thought you had poisoned me- so he sends you to be killed over here. Remember the discussions we had? Now you go and let a legion name itself after you. That is an Imperator’s prerogative! Julius Caesar could do it, Augustus did it, the Claudians as well, and now you join the club. Arrogant, ambitious, and extremely talented- you are a danger. He will see your success, and be afraid. He will lay charges against you for disobedience of orders and dereliction of duty.”

“He cannot, for I have done nothing wrong.”

“You denuded the province of fighting men, and against my explicit orders to defend the province, you left the province undefended to come here.”

“I did not.”

Cordnius flew into a frustrated fury. “You had twelve cohorts. I see twelve cohorts here. Plus the Cananefate, with whom you are friends. That is every fighting man in the province, all here. So explain how you did not denude the province and disobey orders?”

“You forgot the cohort of Batavians, eight cohorts of legionaries from Britannia, and four cohorts of Ubians in your tally.”

“Great, more wood for your crucifix,” Cordinus shouted. “Even you admit you stripped the province of fighting men.”

“I do not,” Rutilius corrected. “You did that, when you took all four legions across, leaving twelve cohorts to guard a province two hundred fifty miles or more long. Then, to top off that gargantuan error, you get the four legions trapped. Germania Superior invaded the Agri Decumates- all four of their legions were tied up, including the VIII Augusta from Gaul. Britannia just polished off a rebellion, and was still volatile- be glad they spared us eight cohorts! And there is nobody else north of Italia. The only way to restore the border and give Rome time to react was to bring the battle to the Germans and try to rescue you. And that is exactly what I did- with an army scraped from thin air. You should know as well as I do that Roman soldiers never leave their comrades in the shit. I had no choice- I had to come.”

Cordinus deflated as if punctured. “You are correct, as usual. I put us in this mess, and I could not get out of it alone. But do you see how Rome- and specifically the Imperator- is going to react? You will be sentenced and killed for abandoning the province.” Then he looked up. “You said those legionaries were from Britannia?”

“Quintus Cerealis sent them at my request. He could not spare a legion, but he could spare two cohorts from each of his four legions, so he did. Publius Arrius, my former tribunus laticlavius from the Deuce Adiutrix, commands. It was he and the primus pilus that came up with the name. The Cananefate came up with the Eagle.”

Cordinus rummaged a bit in his baggage, and came up with two scrolls. “You were correct about there being a spy among my guards. Two, actually. One was receiving pay from Eprius, while another worked for Helvidius. Both died fighting off the German assault on this camp. I found this in my bags- evidently one of them had removed it from the outgoing post and put it into my baggage.”

Rutilius looked over the scrolls. He recognized his own seal immediately, and the other as that of Cordinus. He read both.

“This is the scroll I asked you to forward to Britannia!” he exclaimed. “And this is your letter to Rome asking for a legion or two to cover the border.”

“Exactly. Now if this letter is here, how did Quintus Cerealis know to send you cohorts? Had you written a second letter behind my back?”

Rutilius shook his head. “Just the one. I had written later to Rome when it became clear you were trapped- Gnaeus Milus reported it. I asked for help, and then got besieged myself. I got a letter after the Cananefate helped break the siege- Rome said I was on my own. And being on my own as per the Imperator’s orders, I did what was necessary: I came across to rescue you, as the only way to secure our province was to relieve the legions.”

“Get Arrius in here,” Cordinus ordered. “I think we may have a third spy in our group.”

“This one got us troops,” Rutilius said. “That puts him on our side. I say we let this one be.”

“He might not, next time,” Cordinus replied.

Publius Arrius knocked and entered. He glanced at the governor, then turned to Rutilius. “Our men will be forted up with the Cananefate over in the Chatti camp as you ordered, Marcus. Will these guys be ready to move in the morning?”

“I am Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus, the commanding general,” Cordinus said bitterly, introducing himself. “You will direct all inquiries and reports to me.”

Arrius laughed evilly. “So you are the incredible moron who got four legions trapped in the depths of Germania? I think I’ll direct my reports and inquiries to the man who got your arrogant ass out of this mess instead.”

“I am the governor!”

“So? I don’t work for you,” Arrius reminded him. “I work for Marcus Rutilius, as my governor, the esteemed proconsul Quintus Petillius Cerealis, so ordered.” He turned back to Rutilius. “Well?”

Rutilius looked to Cordinus, who shrank into a shell of himself. The man nodded, and he nodded back. “Yes, Publius, we break camp at first light. Have you heard from the cavalry yet?”

“Scattered squads are trotting in,” Arrius reported. “Many kills, few losses. But with the horses tiring and the chase spreading out, the tribunes are bringing their alae in.”

“Do you have the letter summoning you here?” Cordinus asked. He had regained a bit of his pride after the brutal shock of such an easy- and truthful- dismissal. The fastest way to restore his pride completely was to get this man out of his sight, and the fastest way to do that was to finish the business that summoned him.

Arrius shook his head. “No, it was a personal letter addressed to Cerealis. I did have a look at it, though, when Quintus Petillius bade me read it.”

“Was it from Marcus?”

“He had a new scribe, but I recognized his oratory,” Arrius affirmed. “And it had his signet sealing it. I’ve seen it often enough when those two correspond.”

Cordinus handed him the scroll. “Explain this.”

Arrius read the scroll. It was written in Marcus’s own hand, yet the words were almost identical to what he had read in Britannia. “How did you get this?”

Cordinus told him how Rutilius had handed it to him before the march, and how an unfaithful servant had put it in the baggage. Arrius was at a loss.

“If someone put that in your baggage, they could very easily have taken something out and sent it to the Germani,” he said. “No wonder there were so many of the monkeys here! They knew you were coming.” His appraisal of the governor changed a bit with that revelation. “Sorry, lord, for earlier.”

Cordinus brushed off the apology. “No need, legate- your outburst was well-deserved.” He turned to Marcus, and lifted an eagle from the bags. “Our mission is over,” he said, handing over the Eagle. “Cadorus found this in the Sacred Grove, right after Titus Vespasianus Junior ordered us back to winter quarters. It is time to call this expedition a success and get out while we can.”

Rutilius shook his head. “Recovering the Eagles was one part. Punishing the Bructeri a second. And capturing the witch who ordered the deaths of those two legions the third. You have the Eagles, and the Bructeri are but a shadow of themselves. Veleda still runs free, and we have learned that she did not order it, but rather one Ulfrich. He and his twin have plagued me greatly, lord. The twin lies dead outside, killed by me this very morning. But Ulfrich runs still runs free. And its personal. Only his death remains to satisfy the ghosts of the V Alaudae and XV Primigenia, and conclude our mission.”

“Thus your decision to remain here with two legions,” Cordinus said thoughtfully. It made sense, and though it was against the orders of Vespasian Junior, it was in line with the orders of his father, the Imperator. “Which ones?”

“I was thinking of the X Gemina and the VI Victrix,” Rutilis replied. “I trained Cadorus, and Messala is just as good as I am. Between us we can erase the Bructeri and bring this Ulfrich to Roman justice.”

“What about us?” Arrius asked in shock. “Your own legion! These men fought long and hard to be selected to serve under you again- and you send them to garrison duty?”

“Actually, I was going to send you back to Britannia, with my thanks,” Rutilius replied. “But if you want to stay, and have no orders to return, you are welcome to stay and fight.”

“Yes!” shouted Arrius, his voice soaring with glee.

Cordinus shook his head in wonder, then looked with brimming eyes to his quaestor. ”I wish I could instill that kind of devotion. But I cannot. As Arrius pointed out to me not five minutes ago, I could not fight my way out of a rotten canvas sack. But I refuse to let you usurp my expedition, and leave my legacy as that of a failed general. So we stay, you, myself, the X Gemina, the VI Victrix, and the I Rutilia. You command the forces, Marcus, but in my name. I will not have you play Sulla to my Marius, so I will stay here with you. As commander.”

Rutilius nodded. “I could really care less who gets credit for what, lord,” he said honestly. “But I would have to work at it. Publius Arrius served as my second-in-command before going off to command a legion for the last five years. He will be your tutor, explaining what I do and why. As to the rest- watch and learn, lord.”

Lucius Palla knocked, and entered when bade. He nodded to the general and legate, then turned to Rutilius. “A squad of cavalry just pulled in. Message from Milus- the route is clear and supply lines open. The I Frontoria ala will be escorting the first wagons starting tomorrow afternoon. In light of that, I would like to have the supplies you brought in redistributed- the majority favoring the legion that will be going to the northern crossing and thus not be on the supply line. The rest of us will be supplied by Milus.”

This time Cordinus did nothing about the slight of being ignored- he knew it was not intentional. Rutilius was calling the shots now, at his own command. It was only proper that the officers reported to him.

“A change of plans, Top,” Rutilius recounted. “The XXI Rapax will be marching down the supply route back to their winter quarters. Tell Amensius to ensure his camp prefect has a day’s rations with him, and to give the rest to the XXII Primigenia who will return to base via the southernmost ford of the Nabalia. Amensius will be supplied by Milus, while Messala, Cadorus, and Arrius here will be staying on. We need to finish our task here by killing or capturing Ulfrich and Veleda, or it will never end.”

“Sounds to me like you have a personal thing here, Marcus,” his former primus pilus said. “Three legions mucking about chasing down two peons most likely fled to another tribe’s territory? I doubt you would have ordered this last year.”

“Last year was a different situation, Top. Germans were coming in their thousands, and we were unprepared- no objective, no intelligence, and no supplies. This time we have the manpower, the logistics, and a map of the area- plus having defeated the tribes in their entirety, there are fewer left to hinder us.”

“True, but you still did not answer the question. If we had this same situation last year, would you order this same course of action?”

Rutilius stopped cold, and thought it over. A lot has happened, personally and professionally since then. He did not think he took the actions of Ulfrich personally, thought the man had ordered and led several attempts to murder him. He had received orders to punish those responsible for the deaths of the surrendered legions- Ulfrich was that man. That determined what was personal and what was professional, when it came down to it. “Yes, Top, given the same situation, I would still order it.”

Cordinus, of course, snickered. “For all your righteous and well-earned honor, Marcus Rutilius, you are still human. This is personal to you, as it is for me. You want that man dead, and would risk three legions to do it. Eprius and the others are right about you in one respect- you are an opportunist. You have the opportunity now to chase him, and you are taking it.”

“We have orders from the Imperator to do so,” Rutilius replied evenly, “though they have been countermanded by his son. Still, this Bructeri kinglet has participated in three campaigns against Rome, two of which he instigated, and has slaughtered the legions of Numisius Rufus and Lupercus who had been granted safe passage by the commanding officer of the hostile army, the Batavian King Civilis. Vespasianus Junior countermanded the order in light of the Chatti moving north. The Chatti are no longer in the north, thus we may continue.”

“You are nitpicking,” Cordinus laughed. “Our mission is over, yet you wish it to continue. Face it, Marcus, it is personal. You are jeopardizing our forces to follow a personal vendetta.”

“To be honest, lord,” Palla interrupted, “There ain’t a swinging dick outside this tent that would not follow Marcus Rutilius on this personal vendetta right now, even if the Old Owl himself ordered the legions to their winter quarters.”

Cordinus sighed. “I know. His victory rightfully earned him their love and respect. My words against it would count little.”

“Your words against him would get you lynched like Flaccus,” Arrius reminded him. “I agree with Marcus. This Ulfrich guy has been asking to be brought down. We have the upper hand now- I say we continue with the Imperator’s directive and end this once and for all- personal or not.”

“So you would support this vendetta, against orders?” Cordinus asked.

Arrius shrugged. “Its get this bastard now, or wait until he gathers a new force and creates more mischief. And Rutilius here, while careful, is still a target. How well do you think you could do without him, should the next assassination succeed?”

Cordinus nodded. “Good point. Against my better judgment, we will continue with the Imperator’s orders and treat those of his son as temporary and now no longer valid.” He turned to Rutilius. “So you will have your way. Make it count- for if you fail, there is no way the Imperator will not have your head on a lancea.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 05-27-2011 @ 01:33 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 05-26-11 05:13 AM EDT (US)     68 / 86       
It always seems that Cordinus wants Rutillus to be arrested and executed. However, I am pleased that this will end soon!

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.
posted 05-26-11 06:37 AM EDT (US)     69 / 86       
Typo! Should say "though the man"
He did not think he took the actions of Ulfrich personally, thought he man had ordered and led several attempts to murder him.
Sorry, couldn't resist.

Calling all new people. USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION before asking a question. Thank you.
Alert the APOCOLYPSE is coming!!!!!!!

"TWH Guild Award (Best Duo/Trio) -Ischenous/IJ"- Tryhard. Why he chose that nomination, I don't know...
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-26-11 07:27 AM EDT (US)     70 / 86       
Hey, it proves your are reading my stuff. Thanks!

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-26-11 09:28 AM EDT (US)     71 / 86       
I really need to catch up with this tale. I missed an awful lot in my absences last year, and now I am far behind on the plot. I had better go back to part I and read from the beginning. As I just finished the novel I was reading, now seems a good time to make a start on that!
posted 05-26-11 04:29 PM EDT (US)     72 / 86       
Another good chapter, still reading with interest.

picking nits:
The primi pili have gotten orders to break camp at first light.
I don't like the word gotten in this sentence, it could be totally removed or replaced with their.
And that is exactly what I did- with an army of scraped from thin air.
Of? I assume extra word, just pointing it out.
The twin lies dead outside, killed by me this very morning. But Ulfrich runs still runs free. And its personal. Only his death remains to satisfy the ghosts of the V Alaudae and XV Primigenia, and conclude our mission.
"And it's personal." seems shoved in there and later you write:
Rutilius stopped cold, and thought it over. A lot has happened, personally and professionally since then. He did not think he took the actions of Ulfrich personally, thought the man had ordered and led several attempts to murder him.
Again, just pointing it out and picking nits.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-27-11 01:38 AM EDT (US)     73 / 86       
Fixed the nits. You may rest easy now.

The bit about personal- it is personal to Ulfrich, not Rutilius in that segment. True, Rutilius would like Ulfrich dead- he was the one who stabbed the Roman down in the market of Noviomagus, if you recall, and other evil events. But the man is a troublemaker who will not stop. The man has to die for there to be peace. And on the professional side, killing or capturing the ones responsible for the massacre of the V Alaudae and XV Primigenia were among the objectives of the expedition. Imperator's orders, recall. That makes it a duty. A very satisfying one, but a duty nonetheless.

Ulfrich is acting on a prophecy- that Rutilius will kill him in some awful manner. This makes it very personal to him.

The fool does not realize it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. His actions are what brings the Romans upon him. So to him, it is personal (he is trying to save his own life), while to Rutilius it is actually business (bringing the peace).

Sorry for the confusion. I thought it panned itself out in context.

|||||||||||||||| 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 05-27-2011 @ 01:43 AM).]

posted 05-27-11 05:45 AM EDT (US)     74 / 86       
Ah yes it's clear now, I remember the words of Veleda to the two kings.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-30-11 02:26 AM EDT (US)     75 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Rutilius left the praetorium a bit confused, and with a lot on his mind. Was his feud with Ulfrich personal? It was to Ulfrich, who wanted him dead because he believed Rutilius was going to kill him. I am now. You should have left well enough alone. But was he letting his own personal feelings intrude upon his duty to Rome? He thought it over, and came to realize the concept had some merit, but Ulfrich had built his own cross when he slaughtered the surrendered legions. It was time for him to hang on it.

A group of men approached, lit by torchlight. He recognized a few of them from the X Gemina and the VI Victrix, with a sprinkling from the I Rutilia and a few others he did not recognize. All centurions, and top ones at that. They stopped before him, blocking his path. Arrius came up on his side to demand the centurions clear a path and stop hindering the general, but the words hung in his mouth. The lead centurion, the primus pilus of the VI Victrix, held forth a large, thick ring of woven grass.

“It is a tradition, general, that goes way back in history,” the Top Centurion said. “When a commander delivers, by personal action and bravery, a beleaguered legion or an army from certain destruction, the centurions of that army may present their savior with this. Few men have ever earned one, though those few who have were rightfully famous- Scipio Africanus, Decius Mus, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Quintus Sertorius. And now Marcus Rutilius joins that elite brotherhood of generals presented with the Corona Graminea, the Grass Crown.”

Rutilius stood silently in awe. The Corona Graminea! This award he did know. And it was only awarded in the circumstances described, which was rare enough, but also by acclamation of the relieved army. His boys were praising him. He had let the spolia opima pass. But he would be damned if he was going to let this award- given freely by men whom he respected- slip away.

“It is made from the grasses and plants growing where you killed that uppity sumbitch,” a centurion from a British cohort called. “Some of his blood might even be in it. A fitting crown, lord!”

Rutilius bowed his head. The primus pilus placed the crown upon his head, to the bursting and explosive applause of every legionary in eyesight. Rutilius enjoyed the moment, though the back of his mind ran through an evil cycle- what would be the Imperator’s reaction to this? Nobody has earned a Corona Graminea since the Senate awarded it to Augustus. Did that make this too a purely Imperial award? Then he cast the evil thought from his head and savored the praise of his men. To hell with Vespasian. If he could not deal with his officers earning high awards honestly, then all of Rome was in much bigger trouble than he had even imagined.

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

Cordinus spent the next four weeks learning the meaning of “move swiftly, strike hard.” Rutilius threw his legions on a warpath, Messala and Cadorus up front, with his I Rutilia between the two. The auxilia were scattered ahead, to the flanks, and to the rear in a large circle, with at least one unit- most often cavalry- escorting the supply convoys. The legions marched south, chasing away the last of the Chatti, and sweeping up those who fled too slowly. A few thousand tried to make a stand by the river, hoping for Marsic intervention and rescue, but Piscius and the fleet showed up instead, dashing their hopes. After that, there was very little resistance.

Messala took the VI Victrix along the river, heading east parallel to but five miles north of the river itself. It was familiar terrain, though north from where he had marched previously, and here there were scattered villages. He took them one by one, with nominal loss of speed, now that he could do it his way without gubernatorial assistance. Many had been abandoned with the advance of the Romans after the crushing defeat by the Sacred Grove, but a few die-hards preferred to remain. These fed the slavers with new meat for the markets.

In the center portion of the Bructeri lands the X Gemina and I Rutilia went systematically from village to town to village, capturing each in turn, searching for the fleeing Ulfrich, then plundering the burg thoroughly, enslaving those foolish enough to remain, and finishing by burning the village to the ground in their wake. Here the map Acilius made came in very handy- Rutilius knew where to strike and how hard, allowing him to move faster than the refugees could flee.

Cordinus watched and learned. What he saw here was vastly different from the campaigns led by his mentor Corbulo. Whereas Corbulo was a genius, he was also a set-piece genius. He would stage, plan, confirm, then attack. He knew where he was going, and where he would strike, and who would be at his target. Rutilius and the legates of Germania knew where they were going and thanks to the auxilia screen before them, roughly how many would be defending. The rest- the planning, the staging, the confirmation- was pretty much ignored. Plans often went into the fire at first contact, and staging only gave the fleet-footed Germans time to escape or prepare defenses. Confirmation was the same- to Rutilius, if the scouts or his legates reported something, then it was so. Speed and reaction were critical to this campaign, something Corbulo knew but had not shown his protégé in Armenia- where it was not needed.

Four weeks saw over twenty thousand slaves heading to the markets, and enough plunder to make this campaign well worth the risk. The army would receive a share of the booty, but the governor would be able to retire a wealthy man from the money made on the slaves. This, of course, he would be forced by honor to share with his general.

“I expect two million sesterces, minimum, from the slave sales,” he boasted one evening. “More likely three. A portion of this shall go to you, Marcus, for achieving what I could not.”

Rutilius shook his head. “I want half,” he said. “Not a portion. And I do not want it for myself. Share it out among the legions, to reward them for their courage and endurance which let them stay alive to be rescued. Besides, it will do much to bring up your reputation among them- if you announce the split.”

Cordinus thought on that as he rubbed the fading bruise on his jaw and eye. It was true what his quaestor said- his reputation among the troops was savagely low. They fought as lackluster militia under his command but like lions under Rutilius, who had earned a reputation as a crafty general over the past five years. Plus Rutilius trusted his legates, something Cordinus had not done.

“You have a valid point, Marcus,” he said grudgingly. “It shall be as you say. Half for the commanding general, me. And half for the troops, as compensation for what I put them through.”

“That will help,” added Palla. As an evocatus primus plius turned auxilia tribune, he was assigned commander of the infantry auxilia attached to the army. Lucius Albius, the tribune of the I Long Gauls, performed the same function for the cavalry. Both men were invited to every “command and staff” meeting. “Though not much. It will be known that Rutilius suggested it, and you merely repeated his words.”

“I will say nothing of it,” Rutilius said seriously. “And I expect none of you to repeat it either. I may have suggested it, but Quintus Gallicus decided it. For all intents and purposes, it is in fact his decision.”

Palla waved an accusation away vigorously. “We will say nothing, of course,” he said hastily. “But you know the troops, sir. And they know you. And him. He has ridden a high horse since day one in the province, and hasn’t trusted a single manjack of the lot except for two Bructeri- and you saw how that turned out. So the men will know that any generosity coming their way will not originate with the governor who neither loves nor trusts them, but from the quaestor who does both.”

Cordinus nodded at the truth, however painful it was. But Arrius looked up sharply at the comment. He turned to the governor and asked with incredulity dripping from his voice, “You trusted nobody? Not even your legates?”

“Especially not the legates,” Cordinus admitted.

Arrius through his hands in the air. “You incredible moron,” he wailed. “Did you learn nothing in the Senate? Governors come to a province for a year, maybe two. They always come from somewhere else- mostly Rome. The only thread of continuity in the chain of command is usually the legates- most serve two or three years or so before rotating. Here, in Germania, you were blessed with legates who have served five years in this province. You should have been leaning on them for advice and support from the moment you arrived.”

“Instead, he took their advice and support and discarded it,” Palla added.

Arrius looked sternly at the governor. “I see one of two possibilities for such foolishness,” he said bluntly. Like Rutilius, he never sugar-coated the truth. “Either you are incredibly stupid, or someone has poisoned you against your legates before you came; someone who wishes you to fail utterly, for that is the only outcome of a governor with little experience commanding a border province without the support of his legates. I have watched you since we met, lord. You are incredibly ignorant of the ways of Germania, but are not innately stupid. Thus I think the latter.”

“So do I,” Rutilius agreed. “Your background made you impeccably unsuited for command on this border, and you resisted any offers of advice and support from your legates. Verily, you seemed to go out of your way to antagonize us. You came around slowly, and your performance these past four weeks has shown you are indeed not stupid. Someone poisoned you against us. Eprius?”

“He has no reason to love you,” Cordinus admitted. “But he is my enemy, not yours. He merely tried to use you to hurt me. No, it is not him. But I agree- someone has set me up to fail, and to distrust the ‘scheming legates out for their own gain’ stationed here. Maybe several someones. No matter. I will handle them.”

The ravaging of the Bructeri continued for another four days. Any nobleman or exceptional warrior encountered now was drawn aside and interrogated by Dieter, in the presence of the two magistrates. Veleda was not found, nor Ulfrich, but much had been learned or confirmed. Ulfrich had indeed given the order to murder the surrendered legions. He did so on his own, wishing to deny the Romans the chance to use those men in a future push, as well as to capture the legates. There was some tie-in to the seeress, but none of the prisoners knew exactly what. For them it was enough that she had set Ulfrich onto the path of murder and war- nothing which improved his or her esteem in the eyes of the tribe. They fought for survival, not for their kings or queen.

No mention was made of who in Rome supplied the information the Bructeri used, or who infiltrated the assassins in as guides. It was a shadowy man in Rome, referred to by the kings themselves only as “our friend.” None of the captives were privy to the kings’ inner circles, not even one who claimed to have been in the kings’ hall before Rutilius burned it down- much to the pleasure of Cordinus, who now had independent confirmation that Rutilius had indeed done all he had claimed.

Nor was Veleda found, though every female captive was inspected. And of course Ulfrich himself was neither among the fallen nor among the prisoners. The one-eyed coward had simply vanished.

“A warhost up ahead,” reported Albius. “Eight thousand give or take, decently armed and formed.”

Rutilius looked at his map, then at the terrain around. They matched, as did his memories. The ruins of Udo’s hall lay behind him, and this trail was the one where he first encountered the sly Bructeri king. That meant the warhost ahead was not Bructeri.

“Are they dressed in brown, with topknots in the Suevi style?” he asked of the cavalryman. When Albius nodded, he turned to the governor. “We are nearing the borders where Bructeri lands end and Chauci lands begin. The two were allies; Ulfrich may be hiding among them.”

Cordinus put his newfound knowledge to the test, as Rutilius so dearly implied for him to do. “These Chauci have suffered greatly, but are numerous, correct?”

Albius nodded. “As far as we can tell, yes, lord. It is believed their lands run all the way to the sea.”

“Then we shall deploy for battle, but speak with them first,” Cordinus decided. “We want only that Ulfrich bastard. It will be up to these Chauci to decide if he is worth their lives.”

Rutilius nodded at the wisdom. “You have learned well,” he said. “Each tribe is different, and none are permanent allies. We might well have them hand over the Bructeri without a battle, unless Ulfrich has become kin to the Chauci king. It is worth a try.”

“I want the X Gemina deployed facing the Chauci, with the cavalry on the left, and the I Rutilia trailing on the right, out of sight behind a screen of auxilia,” Cordinus ordered, copying a tactic from Rutilius. “The VI Victrix is marching north now. They will be here by noon. So we deploy at an hour before noon. Marcus, you shall approach the German lines for parlay at that time. If they attack- retreat to the Xth. We will hold their attention for that hour and let Messala fall upon them from the flank.”

Rutilius nodded. It was what he would have ordered, for the most part. As a final touch of deception, he had the two legions share a single camp, in case prying eyes came in the night. Cordinus approved- it was a very old Roman tactic but one which still threw enemies off-guard.

He need not have bothered. When the X Gemina came upon the field of battle, they found the Chauci lined up for battle, but with a single man standing well before the lines. Rutilius rode out to speak with him.

“You are approaching Chauci land,” said the waiting man. “If you turn back here, there will be no reason for bloodshed this day.”

“You phrase it well,” Rutilius replied. “We have no war against the Chauci, only against the Bructeri, to whom the Chauci are allied.”

“We are no longer allies,” the man replied. “Udo and Ulfrich sought our alliance against Roman aggression. My father, Theobard, sought to aid a fellow tribe. He died at Udo’s hand, though in truth he had drawn steel first. I, Ricgard the Lion, continued the alliance as Rome did indeed come against the Bructeri as predicted. I thought I was defending a tribe and a fellow king from the aggression of Rome.”

“But now you know better,” Rutilius completed.

Ricgard nodded curtly. His words thereafter were tainted with the bitter taste of a betrayal he had felt. “Had I known then the circumstances of the massacre, or of the treachery that flowed within the kings’ veins, I would have left them to rot. But I did not know, and saw only the caligae of Rome marching on Germanic soil. I felt a duty to defend a brother tribe.”

Rutilius accepted the explanation without the need to force it into an apology. “We have no quarrel with the Chauci, who were misled into this war between Rome and the Bructeri. We have recovered our Eagles, that the ghosts of our men may find rest. All that remains now is to find Veleda, who gave the order to massacre our men, and Ulfrich, who carried it out. If the Chauci give us these two, then we shall indeed turn back. Otherwise we must continue our quest to find these two and bring them to Roman justice.”

Ricgard laughed. “If Ulfrich was in our lands now, his head would be here on my spear to greet you.”

So Ulfrich did not flee east... “And Veleda, the seeress?”

Ricgard shook his head. “So she is hunted by the Romans now, too. She is a ghost herself, that one.”

That caught Rutilius by surprise. “What do you mean?”

Ricgard stared blankly for a second, then laughed. “She has been hunted by the Bructeri kings for two summers now, at least. Ulfrich wished her for his wife. It was he who ordered and carried out the massacre of your legions- in order to deliver the two legates as a dowry to Veleda. They cast themselves- still armored- into Father Rhein, denying him his dowry. Veleda laughed the poor fool out of her tower. Later, she saw you, Rutilius, killing Ulfrich most horribly. That put Udo on the path of murder and war, which I am glad to see that you survived.”

Veleda gave no order...

“She has been seen in the south, in Chatti lands,” Ricgard continued. “Far from here. Horobard spoke of her visit to his hall. If you seek the witch, look there. But neither she nor Ulfrich are in our lands.”

“Then Rome has no cause to advance further east,” Rutilius said.

Ricgard nodded. “And as a token of our earnest regret for this situation, we Chauci shall not advance west to fill the void left by the destruction of the Bructeri.”

That was something Rutilius had not considered. What would happen with the land, once the Bructeri were erased? Surely another tribe would move in- it was the way of the forest. Would that tribe be friendly to Rome, as the Agrippensi and Cananefate, or hostile and belligerent like the Bructeri, or neutral like the Chauci?

“And if the Bructeri are not destroyed, merely humbled?” he asked. I need time to think this through!

Ricgard had evidently thought this through. “If the Romans make war solely upon Ulfrich and Veleda, then the Chauci will aid the Bructeri in rebuilding and repopulating, as we would any tribe. If the Romans wish the Bructeri destroyed, then the Chauci will stand aside and defend our own lands, as I have stated. They reap what they sow.”

“Roman vengeance is terrible,” Rutilius said. “But your words confirm others we have heard. The tribe fought for its survival. There is no shame or dishonor in that. Its kings sought war and murder for private gain- there is much shame in that. Thrice now Bructeri kings have brought war to Rome, while the tribe suffers under their misrule. Methinks this war that rages now rages between Rome and Ulfrich, not Rome and the Bructeri.”

Ricgard nodded. “Methinks you are correct. Return across Father Rhein, Roman. If we of the forest find Ulfrich, he shall be delivered to you. You have taken care of Udo Openthroat already- all that remains is Ulfrich One-Eye as a blot upon Germanic honor. He is outlawed from his own tribe now, and from the Chauci. He is foes with the Frisii, unloved by the Marsi, and hated by the Chatti who lost their king to his false words. None will have him. So if he yet lives and breathes the clean air of Germania Magna, we will find him and deliver him.”

Rutilius nodded. A king’s word was law, and this king was known far and wide for his honor. “Fair enough. I shall order the legions home, and leave the northern reaches of the Bructeri untouched. With that remnant, they may rebuild. Remind them, King Ricgard, that Rome now leaves these woods due to Germanic honor appealing to Roman mercy. If they renege on that honor, or seek again to make war upon Rome, so too will that mercy disappear.”

Ricgard nodded solemnly. “It seems much shall depend on whom the Bructeri elect as their new king.” He shuddered. “That is one title I would not wish upon anyone.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-30-11 07:03 AM EDT (US)     76 / 86       
So where are Ulfrich and Veleda? Moreover, who will be elected Bructeri king and what will his policy be towards 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.
posted 05-30-11 10:45 AM EDT (US)     77 / 86       
I haven't summoned the will to dive into this again yet, but from what I've glimpsed in between the paragraphs the last few updates seem neck-deep in epic-osity. Please keep up the good work, Terikel.

"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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-02-11 07:42 AM EDT (US)     78 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It was a triumphant return to Castra Vetera. The empty woods made it easy to the troops to ferry across to the Roman banks on the decks of the Rhenus fleet. The captives went easily as well, into the waiting cages of the slavers already onsite and expectantly counting the new meat. The cavalry was a bit more difficult, as they had to stable their horses on the barges, but even that went off without a hitch.

Rutilius crossed last, spending one last, long minute at that damned forest. Then he spit symbolically on the soil one last time before spurring his horse to the waiting flagship. He had had enough of Germania Magna to last a lifetime. If he never had to cross this river again, it would be too soon. He sighed, though, as his horse mounted the plank onto the barge. He had made a lot of memories on this side of the Rhenus- and not all of them were bad. Still, he wanted no more of conflict and battle for a while. He wanted to raise his sons in peace.

Unfortunately, Lady Fortuna thought otherwise. No sooner had he stepped off the pier than he heard the sounds of battle. He rushed to the fray, his Batavians closing in about him in a combat wedge. But they were not needed- yet. The clash of steel and wood were a gang of Suevi beating their shields. These armed men attempted to free a large group of their chained and bound comrades as the armed guards of the slavers- and backed by four cohorts of auxilia- closed in about them.

“Roman honor!” spat one of the leaders. Rutilius recognized him as Aethwyck. “This is Roman honor, as worthless as dirt.”

“Stand down!” ordered Rutilius as he arrived. He directed his command to both groups. The auxilia complied, but both the Suevi and the slavers maintained their weapons at the ready- the one defending their freedom, the other intent on taking it away.

Rutilius repeated the order, directing it at the slaver captain. “Stand down. Immediately!”

The slaver captain backed a bit away, but maintained his ground otherwise. “These men were lawfully given over to my master, the honorable Sextus Petrius Rufus, for sale by the governor, Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus. They are our property, and we may do as we like with chattels.”

“These are free men, hired by myself to guard the castrum while we were away,” Rutilius replied. “They are not prisoners, nor captives. They are free men, and good ones at that.”

“No matter what you say, magistrate,” the captain replied stupidly to the man who was hero of the hour, “the governor gave these men to us, and we are going to take them- alive or dead.”

“So you believe in the enslavement of free men?” Rutilius asked.

The captain nodded. “When so commanded by the governor.”

“So be it,” Rutilius said, to the immediate disgust of Aethwyck and the Suevi. Then he turned to Dieter, “How much do you think this one will fetch in the markets?” His gaze fell upon the captain.

“He’s strong, but stupid,” Dieter replied. “Five denarii, maybe.”

“What?” cried the captain.

“Sold,” declared Rutilius. “IV Nervorum, take this man and any other bearing arms to the slave pens. He believes in enslaving free men against our laws? I declare his sentence to be to suffer the same.”

He lifted his gaze to the other cohorts. “Auxiliaries! Any guard who does not immediately release the Suevi is to be sold in the markets to Greek mine owners himself. The guards have to the count of twenty to comply.”

“Aye!” echoed the centurions. The guards got the message. The cutting of rope and opening of locked chains began immediately, freeing those Suevi who had not been as quick as the others at donning their battle gear against those they saw as comrades..

Cordinus was drawn by the battle as was his quaestor. He saw the superb Suevi specimens being freed, and at least four of the slaver guards being disarmed and chained themselves, while the auxiliaries actively aided the slaves.

“What is going on?” he demanded.

“I am settling accounts, lord,” Rutilius replied easily. “Some idiot decided that the mercenaries I hired to guard this castrum were better paid by being sold into slavery. That same idiot used your name to lend weight to his foolish notion of enslaving free men.”

“But these are Suevi warriors,” Cordinus wailed. “Prisoners! How can you release them to again make war upon Rome?”

“Catch up on your post, sir,” Rutilius advised. “Start with the Battle of Bedriacum five years ago, the second one, actually. You will find that Italicus and Sido, two Suevi kings, fought for Vespasian there. And more recently, the Suevi homeland in the Agri Decumates has fallen to your colleague Cornelius Clemens. The Suevi there submitted- they are now peregrini- free residents within the Empire. The law forbids the enslavement of free men, and honor forbids the enslavement of men honorably serving Rome.”

“But... they are worth a thousand denarii apiece!” Cordinus wailed.

“My honor is worth far more,” Rutilius replied icily. “What is yours worth?”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember when you chastised me for leaving the province unguarded, and I replied I had not?” Rutilius reminded him. “I had defeated the Marsi who had attacked this fortress and crushed them, but the Suevi were a harder knot. I negotiated a peace with their prince- one that ended the fighting with honor. I then gave him a job- on his honor, protect our castra from all who come. In return, he gave me the cloaks and his own helm, which allowed us to get so close to where you were trapped without raising suspicion. Thus he guarded the province, while we were away. He was no prisoner, nor were his men. They are employed by Rome, and some IDIOT tried to enslave them for it.”

“I see,” Cordinus said. He felt like a horse just kicked him in the stomach. He nodded to the tribunes to continue freeing the Suevi. “I shall have this matter cleared up.”

“It is already cleared up, lord,” Rutilius said bluntly. “These men were never prisoners, thus are free men. Their lands are within the Empire, making them peregrini. I negotiated a peace with them, making them equals. The law clearly forbids the enslavement of free men. Matter solved.”

Cordinus caught the hidden message. “Ah, I see. Very well. Carry on, Marcus.” And with that, he disappeared back toward the fortress.

“Aethwyck!” Rutilius called. He lifted his winged helmet high. “Where can I find Segestes?”

The Suevi pointed toward the castrum and the disappearing Cordinus. “They took him somewhere in there.”

Rutilius thanked him and turned to Dieter. “Cut the guard captain and his hold-outs loose in a few hours, unless they give you any trouble. I am going to see Segestes and return his helm, and try to make up for this awful mess.”

Dieter shook his head. “I don’t see how. This is a hard blow from which to recover. Wotan’s One Eye, what a fustercluck.”

Rutilius smiled. “I think I know a way.”

He headed for the fortress, streaming his guards out and tasking a few of them to do errands as they approached the gate. A few quick inquiries led him to the brig, where he gazed in awe at the near-naked body of a raging Suevi prince.

“Marek!” Segestes roared. His muscles rippled and tensed against the chains binding him to the floor. “I had expected better of your word. I trusted you, damn you, and the payment for my service is this?”

Rutilius opened the bars. “This was not my doing, Segestes,” he replied, using the man’s tongue. “Consider it a temporary inconvenience.”

Temporary inconvenience!” the Suevi shouted. “I am chained, to be sold as a gladiator for your damned arenas, while my men are being carted away to work Roman farms and mines in the earth.”

“No, to both,” Rutilius replied. His guards hustled in, bearing new clothing and boots. He took the garments from the one and placed them on the floor, then unchained the prisoner. Another guard came in bearing a Germanic warsword. This too was laid by the freed prisoner. “Your men are waiting outside, guarded from the slavers by my men and their own arms.”

Another Batavian came in, bearing a golden armband. He handed it to Rutilius, who held it out to the Suevi. “This was a misunderstanding, but I accept the blame and fixed it. As a token of my apology, I would give you this and ask that our friendship be restored.”

“What is this?” The Suevi’s tone was less harsh now that he had a sword belted on. He glared at the armband.

“This is the armband of Bructeri kings,” Rutilius replied. “It was part of my spoils taken when I killed Udo. I wish for you to have it, and all that goes with it.”

Segestes took a step back. “You offer me... kingship over the Bructeri?”

Rutilius nodded. “They are all but extinct, but I have exacted a promise from the Chauci that they shall not expand into the vacuum left by their neighbor’s demise. I do not want another hostile tribe moving in, which means I have to reconstitute my former foes and provide them with a firm ruler, one which would help me keep the peace on the border. I could think of none better suited than yourself.”

“The Bructeri had two kings. You slew only one.”

“The other is outlawed by the tribes,” Rutilius informed him. “The Bructeri are kingless. A bold adventurer, with the backing of two thousand veteran warriors, would be welcomed by the tribe which has less than five thousand farmhand warriors.” Then he grinned as he added, “but more than thirty thousand women.”

Segestes grinned as well. “It would be hard, rebuilding a tribe from almost nothing.”

“Ricgard of the Chauci pledged his aid, securing your east. Feyke of the East Frisii wishes naught but peace, securing your north. The Marsi are almost as bad off, so your south is also safe. And if you keep the peace with Rome, you will have a safe border along Father Rhein, and whatever aid I can give.”

Segestes thought it over. “And if the Bructeri do not accept me?”

“Their women will kill those who oppose your leadership,” Rutilius laughed. “Or oppose the two thousand potential husbands you bring.”

The Suevi laughed. He knew that part to be probably more true than joke. The tribe was more than decimated, and many women escaped to the north and east while the men fought. Those women would be seeking mates, and there were none to be had, unless he infused them with some good Suevi blood.

“I want a king there who I can trust to keep the peace,” Rutilius continued. “I will do what I can to support you- including supplying your people with grains, animals, and tools, whatever I can spare. And if they are so stupid as to reject this... I will raise my own forces and help you pound it into their skulls until they accept.”

Segestes eyed the Roman quaestor in a new light. He had no doubt that Marek would do exactly as he said, even if it went against the will of Caesar himself. A peaceful border served Rome far better than a tumultuous one, even if the Eagle King did not know it himself.

“I accept, Marek,” Segestes said. “And forgive, though you did not do what needs to be forgiven.”

Marcus led him out of the dungeon. Once outside, he had a guard bring over the winged helmet he dropped off before entering the jail. “Thanks for letting me borrow this.”

Segestes drank in the warm sunlight with a sigh. The helmet he tied to his belt, then turned to his friend.

“I think you are going to have one boring border to defend, my friend,” he said, affixing the armband to his right humerus. “So tonight, you must liven it up with tales of what went on over there in my future kingdom. Tell me all; omit nothing. And the beer is on you.”

Rutilius laughed. “Tonight a feast, to celebrate friends and victory.”

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

Titus Caesar was preparing once again to march cohorts of praetorians up the road to Mediolanium. This time he would be taking five cohorts- half a legion. His goal was to prevent any Germani readying to assault Germania Superior from slipping about and plundering a defenseless Italia. His plan was still in its initial stages when a rider burst in to the praetorian headquarters.

Titus immediately feared the worst. The news of the death of Helvidius had been met with shock and horror- but no actions worth mentioning. Now he knew why. Helvidius had sacrificed himself to prove his point. The shouting outside the castrum confirmed these fears. Men were gathering, and yelling. Vengeance was afoot. He grabbed his sword and made his way through the praetorium toward the gates, with his guards closing in about him- also with swords drawn.

A breathless runner stood on the parade ground, hands on his knees and bent over trying to catch his breath. The noise outside was reaching a fever pitch- an attack was imminent.

“Clear out, soldier,” he ordered the runner. Already the other praetorians were taking up positions along the walls and in the towers. “You are safe now.”

The runner waved away the concern and drew in a deep breath. “Your father, prefect,” he gasped. “Great news from the north! Victory on all fronts!”

“What?” Titus exclaimed.

The runner finally caught his breath. “Victory in the north, sir! The Suevi surrendered! Cornelius Clemens has completed his conquest of the Agri Decumates, removing that spearhead from Italia’s gut. The people are celebrating his victory- as you can well hear!”

Titus put away his sword. It was true. The noise surrounding the castrum was one of joy, not anger. He smiled broadly. “So Clemens did it. My father’s plan worked. Too bad it cost us four legions.”

The runner shook his head. “Victory on all fronts, lord! A message came today just after the dispatch from Cornelius was announced. It was from Cordinus Gallicus. He and his legions are back in their castra, safe and sound. Better still, he has with him the two lost Eagles your father sent him to retrieve.”

Titus almost sagged with relief. The Rhenus border was once again safe. “Verginius, assemble an escort. It appears I must go to the palace. Congratulations are in order, it seems.”

Titus arrived as his father was making ready to address the Senate. At his father’s side were Eprius Marcellus, his crony, and his brother in law, Cerealis, newly returned from Britannia. Both men were helping him drape his toga to best effect.

“A formal sitting?” Titus asked, noting the men’s dress. His own attire was his praetorian armor- unfitting for a formal session.

“I feel it is appropriate,” Vespasian replied. “We have joyous news to discuss, and much other, less-interesting things to put forth.”

“I heard Cordinus Gallicus and his legions were home safe. A miracle of arms, based on the last situation we heard.”

Vespasian grimaced. “Yes, it seems our poisoner scraped together an army of rabble, and backed by eight cohorts sent by Quintus here, managed to distract the Germans long enough for Cordinus Gallicus to break out and destroy the enemy. But that news, like the news that the army was trapped in the first place, shall remain between us few.”

“Marcus Rutilius is no poisoner,” Cerealis grumbled.

Titus Junior agreed. “He was framed, and later freely acquitted by the very man who wrote the original accusation.”

Vespasian shrugged. “Whatever. This action remains closed. We are going to announce the victory of Cornelius Clemens in conquering the Agri Decumates, the personal heroism of our cousin Titus Flavius Sabinus- he won the corona civica when his Adiutrix that fought through a blocking force and fell upon the force attacking Clemens to destroy it. That forced the surrender of the Suevi. Of less exciting news, we must discuss the recent treason resulting in the death of Helvidius Priscus, and appoint the consuls for the rest of the year.”

“I have been consul three times now, father, and you five,” Titus said with a sigh. “Let someone else have the titles and honors for a change.”

“We will both be consuls in the new year,” Vespasian said sternly. “Although we can appoint suffect consuls for the rest of the year if you so desire. For today, though, I am going to retire Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus for his miserable handling of our defense, and replace both him and Lucius Junius Vibius Crispus, who died in office, with these two noblemen.”
Cerealis and Eprius both dropped the toga in amazement.

“Us?” mumbled Cerealis.

“You, Quintus, had sent the eight cohorts to Germania which saved four of our legions. For that I would reward you with being honored as our senior consul. And you, Titus Clodius, uncovered a viper in our own circle, one which made the actions of Quintus so necessary and desperate. You I shall reward with the honors of junior consul. I feel being appointed consul for the remainder of the year a fitting reward to the two men who saved our empire years of trials and tribulations.”

“As do I,” Titus Caesar agreed.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Here ends Part VII.

Part VIII will most likely begin in August. Too many long breaks in between to post regularly, and lots of other things going on. I have a few articles to write, a Sepia Joust entry to work on, and several weeks here and there offline and in the boondocks in between.

2011 is going to be one busy year.

On the bright side, I am currently working on Part X, which may grow to Part XI as well. Interesting twists there, but the thrill of working it all out is fading. I shall try not to disappoint, though.

|||||||||||||||| 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 06-02-2011 @ 07:44 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 06-02-11 12:14 PM EDT (US)     79 / 86       
An excellent end to a excellent part. I've enjoyed it immensely.
Wotan’s One Eye, what a fustercluck.
I see what you were trying to do there, 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 06-02-2011 @ 12:14 PM).]

posted 06-02-11 02:22 PM EDT (US)     80 / 86       
Well, now I'm full of disappointment.

I'm disappointed I have to wait a couple of months before reading any more of this.

And, I'm disappointed in LoH's final comment. Usually, he reminds me of the narrator for the old Batman TV show with Adam West.

'And how will Cordinus get out of this one? Will Rutilius arrive in time to save the day? Will his ruse fool his enemies? Can his ragtag army stand up to the thousands of Germanic warriors that await them? And what of Helvidius? What nefarious ends lay behind the machinations of Roman politics?'

All he usually needs is to end it with, "Tune in next week, same Bard time, same Bard channel."

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do.
Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen." -- Jerome K. Jerome

"Some people become so expert at reading between the lines they don't read the lines." -- Margaret Millar

ERADICATE CONDESCENSION! (That means don't talk down to people.)

[This message has been edited by BastWorshiper (edited 06-02-2011 @ 02:23 PM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 06-02-11 03:05 PM EDT (US)     81 / 86       
And, I'm disappointed in LoH's final comment. Usually, he reminds me of the narrator for the old Batman TV show with Adam West.
Well, slip over to my story and you'll not be disappointed and entertained until Terikel's next volume.

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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-03-11 03:10 AM EDT (US)     82 / 86       
slip over to my story and you'll not be disappointed and entertained until Terikel's next volume.
Should this not read: slip over to my story and you'll not be disappointed or entertained until Terikel's next volume.

(Sorry Legion, but I could not resist bashing the blatant, shameless personal advertising in the conclusion of one of the better chapters in this tale)

|||||||||||||||| 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 06-03-2011 @ 05:38 AM).]

The Bald Eagle
posted 06-03-11 04:15 AM EDT (US)     83 / 86       
Thanks Terikel for another great epic tale.
As you work ahead on your stories, I´ll be out chopping wood for when you return to tell your tales at the fireplace.
posted 06-05-11 06:13 PM EDT (US)     84 / 86       
Hello everyone, it's been a while.
I'm excited to see that this saga is still continuing! Looking forward to catching up with 'The Eagle and the Wolf'.

RTW Vanilla/BI/Alexander

[This message has been edited by JohnWoo (edited 06-05-2011 @ 06:14 PM).]

posted 06-24-11 08:00 PM EDT (US)     85 / 86       
Just got around to reading the finisher, been busy lately. Good end to the chapter, seems Cordinus finally learned his lesson. Will be watching for the next installment, can't wait to see what becomes of Ulfrich and Veleda.
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 07-22-11 07:14 AM EDT (US)     86 / 86       
Terikel, after reading all this and the past chapters that I've missed i can see your going stronger than ever, this story is so enchanting. Patiently awaiting the next Chapter, keep it up.

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
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