Short Story Series: The Border, Part 1

Part One of the Border, the beginning of a short story set in the late Roman Empire.

So while I wait for the kickstarter, cover art, editing, and everything else to fall into place, I found myself inspired by some miniatures that I’ve been working on. This story doesn’t fall into the world of the Steam Empire Chronicles, but maybe I can blend it in later (depending on the response).

Let me know what you think below! All commentary is welcome. 

The Border

Praefecti Ampio Perula shook his head. Water droplets fell from his dark hair, plastered to his face by the incessant drizzle. He turned to look at the column of men behind him, straggling along in the early spring rain. The clop-clop of hooves from his own unit of equites merged with the rhythmic pounding of feet on the flagstones. We’re lucky they still maintain this route, I’d hate to march along the country roads in this weather.

Behind his equites, two units of limitanei marched in column formation, winding their way along the frontier road. Between them, a unit of auxilia archers marched, bowstrings carefully wrapped against the damp. The few wagons of their baggage train were spread amongst the infantry, their creaking wheels adding to the noise of an army on the move. Finally, another detachment of equites brought up the rear. Eighteen hundred men, scrimped and scrounged from every fort and town around these parts.

Tribune Taulos Odiscus cantered up. His breath was steam in the crisp air.

“You’re certain about this, Praefecti?

“Yes, tribune. If the scout’s report is accurate, then the raiders must have crossed somewhere north of here.”

If is a loaded word.”

“I trust my scouts. Especially Gainus. The man’s never let me down before.”

“There’s always a first time.”

Perula glanced at his compatriot. The tribune was nominally in charge of the Eastern Empire detachment, although Perula was in overall command of the division. And as arrogant and annoying as Odiscus was, Perula needed him. Odiscus spat to one side, then broke the silence.

“Regardless, sir, if your man is as good as you think he is, then it seems like the Quadi must have forded the river somewhere ahead.” Perula nodded his assent, while Odiscus continued. “It is good to get the men out of winter quarters. Too much feasting during the winter, you know.” Perula nodded, lost in thought. Finally sensing the mood, Odiscus relented.

“I’ll be with my men, should you need me.”

“Very good, Tribune.”

He kicked himself, annoyed at his own comments. We need to keep the easterners happy. There’s no way we could tackle the Quadi otherwise. Both units of limitanei were from the eastern province of Moesia. Dragged from their warm winter quarters in Singidunum, the men had grumbled incessantly all the way to Bassinae, where they had been met by the hastily assembled cavalry alae under Perula.

If only the Dux was not practically comatose from wine in Sirmium, we could have handled this ourselves. He had not wanted to ask the easterners for help, but without the Dux’s official seal and presence, the reserves and heavier comitatenses could not be mustered, and it was left to the Praefecti and this handful of soldiers to stop the looting barbarians from the Quadi lands across the Danube.

Screw the Dux. Screw the Emperor. It’s not like he’ll be around next year.

He frowned. Perula couldn’t even count how many emperors there’d been in the last couple of years. At least they tend to stay further west. Pannonia is just too far east for the rebels to bother coming here.

And I get to stay, near my dearest Flavia.

The forty year old sighed, daydreaming of his wife’s smile. The thought warmed him, warding off the chill.

“Sir! Sir!”

A scout galloped up, his horse blowing hard.


“There’s a Quadi raiding party hitting the village in the next valley. If you hurry, we can catch them before they escape!” The praefecti turned to his officers.

“All units forward at the double.”

Now we’ll have a chance to even the odds.

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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