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Salve! Part 4 of the Border has arrived, and features the first clash of arms between our makeshift Roman defenders and their surprised barbarian adversaries. Enjoy!

Odiscus cursed as the barbarians ran towards the approaching cavalry.

That damn fool is going to get his cavalry wiped out in one charge. Amateur.

“All right, boys! Speed it up! Looks like we’ll have to save the cavalry.” Odiscus motioned forward, his trumpeter sounding Advance, double time. The limitanei trotted forwards, picking up speed gradually. They knew better than to exhaust themselves before battle. The downslope of the hillside sped them along. His men swung north, the right flank moving through the village proper. Odiscus slowed his motion, taking in his surroundings. His units were reforming along a narrow road.

“Subtribune Corsis, take your unit and move east. At the far side of that barn, turn north and attack. I’ll do the same from here.” His subordinate nodded, leading his five hundred limitanei down the lane. The tribune turned back to his own unit. “Men, it appears we’ll have to save the westerners. Are you with me?”

His men slammed their spears on their shields in response. That will do. Odiscus nodded, then turned his attention ahead. The Quadi were ranging over the stone walls and branch livestock enclosures. They were disordered from the rear as the cavalry pulled their attention up-valley.

“Advance!”

His men moved forward at a steady walk now, shields set with spears held underarm. From his vantage point, Odiscus could see motion along the eastern flank of the valley. Lumari’s western archers were scrambling along the crest, repositioning. Probably out of range since the Quadi moved to engage Perula.

But that was not something to worry about now. A small warband sat astride their advance, their backs to the advancing Romans. Odiscus pulled his sword and charged, his men running behind him. As they closed, one of the barbarians turned, his eyes widening in surprise below thick, bushy eyebrows. He shouted a warning to his allies as the Romans closed in. Odiscus slammed his shield forward, bowing over his foe and landing on his wriggling body. He stabbed downwards, hiding behind his shield as his men pushed forward, dispatching the Quadi fighters. The clash of blades rang loudly in his ears. Shields were shattered and blood fountained into the air.

Quickly, it was over. A little over a score of barbarians eliminated. One of his men called to him.

“What is it?”

“Sir, looks like they were stopped around him.” The soldier pointed to a dying barbarian nobleman, notable for his intricate helmet and newer tunic of chainmail. Two arrows had pierced him, one through the thigh, and another through his lower arm. The wound on his thigh was dark with arterial blood. The nobleman’s eyes were glazed over, although he fought to stay conscious, blinking rapidly. His lips were moving. Odiscus knelt and leaned over to hear.

“Give…sword.”

Nodding with understanding, Odiscus carefully pulled the man’s sword from his scabbard, admiring the handiwork on the formerly Roman blade. He placed the man’s fingers around the grip, and moved his arms to his chest, blade pointing down. The nobleman looked at him in gratitude, before his eyes finally closed. Odiscus spared a moment for a whispered prayer, bowing his head. To be struck down without a chance at vengeance. That is a fate I do not wish, oh Lord. He stood.

“Get the men moving. We’ve still got the Westerners to save.” His men reformed and advanced again.

Odiscus lead them, sparing not another thought on the dead Quadi. There would be more dead to mourn, perhaps his own, soon enough.


Like this? Check out my published novellas for more Roman adventure!

Roma Aeronautica – Learn about Rufius Alexandros’s history, and how he came to lead the Scioparto.

Antioch Burns – Waiting to read Iron Tribune? Meet some of the characters and see how the empire’s second largest city fell in only a few short weeks.