Hi all, and yes, I’m back. Life happened, between my primary job, my weekend job/volunteer activity, and simply surviving the first two months of school have left me worn out. But I’m back, and finally in the mood to write. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with where some parts of the story were going. Or not going. Or something like that. So I skipped a few chapters. I’ll come back at the end, when I see how the story flowed and how I can build upon it/shore up some foundations.

In other news, it appears I’ll be part of another Steampunk Extravaganza! Super pumped for this! Last time I dropped the price on Brass Legionnaire to 99 cents for a few weeks. I’ll have to see what I want to do this time ;-).

1920px-The_Roman_Empire_ca_400_ADIn the meantime, enjoy this ‘rough cut.’ PS If you closely examine the picture above, you’ll be able to find the location of our current scene 🙂The Mongol patrol cantered along the western route of the Via Aegyptus. To their left lay the Mare Mediterranean, to the right rose the eastern branch of the Tarsus mountain chain, neatly dividing Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The familiar clop-clop of horses’ hooves reached their ears as they approached a bend in the road.

Their war leader stopped for a moment, quickly motioning his men to fan out. Horsemen cantered into the trees, while others quickly loaded their wicked recurve bows. A rider appeared in the moonlight from around the bend, dressed in the same hybrid of Persian and Nomadic styles of clothing.

The war leader chuckled for a moment, calling out what was probably a greeting. The rider waved and spurred his horse ahead, waving his hand and pointing behind him, calling out in Persian. The Mongol cocked his head and asked another question in slow, rusty Persian, no doubt mistaking the man for one of the many new recruits in their army. Babbling in Persian, the scout rode closer, until he was no more than a few feet away from the war chief.

At that moment, the man pulled out a hand-repeater and shot the warchief in the chest. With an oof, the man slumped to the side, his feet still stuck in his stirrups. All around them, Roman scouts and legionnaires launched the ambush, arrows appearing from the darkness and slicing into men and horses. Cries of alarm and battle arose, and then, just as quickly, ended. A few grunts or low murmurs of pain were all that remained as the Romans dispatched the few surviving wounded Mongols.

“Did any get away?” Constantine asked from his viewpoint a few hundred feet away. He handed his spyglass to an aide, who carefully secured it.

“We cannot be sure, my general.” The scout centurion replied. “Most likely, at least one got away. We probably won’t be able to pull that trick on them again.”

“That’s true, but it should still slow them up. In the meantime, we’ll press ahead with the legions I have here. Do we have any word on the situation in Alexandria?”

“No sir, the telegram appears to have been cut, and they haven’t responded to wireless messages.”

“Very well. Push your scout screen as far forward as possible. We’ll bring up my legions and encircle the city from north to south. The Mongols will either be trapped against the walls or find themselves under siege.” Constantine laid out a string of orders to his messengers, who galloped off into the night.

“Oh, and centurion? I want new procedures in place for identifying our own scouts and messengers. I do not want our own tricks finding their way into the Mongols’ manual.” The officer saluted and trotted away. Besides him, Commander Murtes stirred slightly.

“Commander, if your body could talk, I’m fairly certain it would have been screaming in frustration by now. I already know how you feel about my choice to split our forces.” Murtes made an abortive gesture with his arm in response.

“My Primus, are you certain it was wise to split our army? We’re already outnumbered by an enemy by at least three to one, and that’s being generous with whatever local levies, militia, and surviving legion units we can locate.”

Constantine smiled at the older man.

“Logistically, it’s the best move we can make. We needed to secure Germanicea and Cyrrhus. With those locations locked down, especially Cyrrhus, we control the grain reserves east of the Tarsus mountains. Second, we also remind the local populace that we are still in control, raising spirits and gathering militia and the local tagmata.”

“The tagmata have not been called out in years.” Murtes interrupted his commanding officer unabashedly. “How many of these local cataphracts actually have the proper amount of training?”

“It doesn’t really matter at this moment, Andronikos. We gather then and dispatch them to Tarsus for training. Between them and the additional Fertrata V and Fulminata XIX legions joining us from Pontus and Armenia, plus our own newer legions still being trained, we should have a sizable third army ready by this time next year.”

Murtes sallied forth again.

“Sir, the Mongols must know of our plans by now. Their skill at taking the eastern forts indicates an extremely well informed and skilled espionage force.”

“I am aware of that possibility, but also foresee another possible reason for the Mongols striking success in that area. Greed and corruption. I would strongly bet that the governors of Phoenice, Osrhoene, Euphratensis, and Syria Salutaris were probably bribed, extorted, or perhaps simply had their entire administrations infiltrated. If I had to bet, I would surmise that the governors of Euphratensis and Syria Salutaris are the most likely candidates. Both Edessa and Damascus are still resisting Mongol sieges, and are the northern and southern flanks, but not directly in the path, of the invasion.”

Murtes draw dropped for a moment. “I knew there was corruption, my lord, but this goes beyond anything I can imagine.”