Want more Pictor and Bulbucus
Want more Pictor and Bulbucus
Chapter XX… The coins that bore the inscription of Rex S. Pap Cra appear along the roads towards Sardis. However obscure the history of the period may prove to be, we can decidedly draw the conclusion that at one point or another, the Kingdom of Ionia must have carried out, or at least attempted, a series of campaigns eastward to strike the Greeks in a dug-in position.
Excerpt from “Forgotten History of the Ionian Coast” by C. Krieger Ph.D and J. Connelly Ph.D
When Crassus had turned his own knights to face Mikon, half had already been run through with pikes. The black horses of the Praetorians kicked the air to bat away the spears while the stallions of Mikon rushed forward, oblivious to pain and blood.
"Protect the King! Let no man encircle him!" A rider cried as he dove before Crassus, letting Mikon's knights pierce his armor. Hung upon the spears like a skewered animal for the spit, he dangled and swung his sword at his opponents.
Meanwhile, Mikon snarled in rage. The false King of Ephesos was before him, he only needed to push forward and the Roman threat would be ended. The infantry that Crassus had attempted to attack turned, their spirits bolstered by Mikon's presence, and renewed their assault.
Off in the distance, the horses of Pictor and Bubulcus finally broke through the lines they assaulted and the Greeks fled the field. Spurred on by bloodlust, the two pursued and drove the Greeks before them like blind cattle in a stampeding herd.
"Shouldn't we return to Crassus?" Bubulcus bellowed as his sword swung through another Greek.
"Let him grind himself to death upon their pikes. Him and his precious Prince! After this battle, Bubulcus, you shall be king and I shall ensure that it is so!"
"How? We have barely enough Praetorians to maintain a majority power in the Court."
"Then I'll butcher every last one who oppose us!" Pictor charged forward, his sword catching men by the necks and severing their great veins, sending spurts of hot blood arcing into the air.
Through the chaos, Balbus had broken free from his predicament. The infantry before him had scattered too, but more from exhaustion than fear.
"Sir! The King! He's surrounded! Mikon aims to take his head!" A rider galloped forth, face still wet with blood and sweat.
"We ride to the King! Now!" Wheeling his horse around, Balbus led the charge towards Mikon.
His lungs felt like they were aflame and his vision blurred from the lack of water. The coppery taste of blood was strong in Balbus' mouth as he charged. He could not raise his war cry, nor could he inspire men with words. Instead, he waved his sword in the air, letting its glittering steel wet with Hellenic blood become the banner for his riders to rally around. His thighs had cramped and tightened around his horse and the pounding sensation of hooves against earth became a dull throbbing at his side.
Crassus turned and saw the black horses of Balbus tearing through the knights of Mikon. But the fight had become locked and neither side had the advantage. He needed to make room for his own riders to charge, but with the infantry pressed into his back, he had little options. Wheeling his horse around, he kicked it forward and bellowed.
"You men of Hellas! Of Anatolia! Of Sardeis, of Pergamon! Look before you and stare upon death! Stare upon death riding atop a black horse, bringing with it the plagues of old and the scourge of your gods! If I set foot within Sardeis, I will raze your gods' temples, burn them to the ground, and bury your priests and priestesses alive within those pyres. Idols will be smashed and those of you who follow your false religion will be crucified upon the remains of those temples! Abandon your weapons! Abandon your posts! Abandon your hope! Fall before me as supplicants and I shall spare your life, the life of your family! Continue your fighting and I shall send them to the Underworld marred, defiled, and unfit for the next life!
To his Roman troops, he yelled.
"And you men of Rome, bearer of the torches of Father Jove and Ancient Mars! Raise your last battle strength and cleave the enemy both body and soul. Show them the terror that Bellona has granted upon you! Let your animus become wild and your heart set aflame with rage. You have been given no quarter from your enemy and show no quarter to them. Pierce their throat and let them drown in their own blood, screaming in silence for absolution!"
The Greek infantry buckled somewhat at the voice while the Roman infantry surged. Crassus continued pushing, intent on securing his own position for a counter-charge against Mikon while Balbus had Mikon pinned.
Mikon found himself surrounded on all sides. His knights, caught unaware by the sudden charge, had attempted to rally around him, but to no avail. Crassus had been so close! He, Mikon, would have been the one who purged the Roman threat from the land and destroyed this foolish army for daring to challenge the might of Hellas. Pressing his horse forward, he leapt over a mislaid spear and charged alone towards Crassus. Swords flashed and the two Kings collided, but Mikon was faster. He plunged the sword down and felt with satisfaction as a spurt of blood rose up.
But to his dismay, he had merely pierced the horse's flank and not Crassus himself. The horse rose up and its hooves clawed at the air. The first hoof smashed Mikon's horse's nose and the beast staggered back into the ensuing fold that was the pursing Balbus.
His sword still bloody from the almost kill, Mikon turned to raise it, but two lances pierced him and hung him there. He watched a decorated Roman rider trot beside him. The sword was raised. He closed his eyes and saw the sniveling Roman girl beneath him in his chamber. The prize of Podaroes, how he would have enjoyed her had his commanders been competent. But no longer do those thoughts flow in his mind. His world went black and off he spiraled to the Underworld, lamenting all that his life had been.
Someone tapped Crassus' shoulder. He turned with a biting sword only to find Balbus' face, grim and horrible, staring at him. Balbus held up the shield of Mikon and the bloody helmet. Crassus smiled at him and yelled.
"Your King has fallen! Mikon of Segesta lies dead upon this earth! His body fit for only carrion birds and the beasts of the wild to feast upon. Fall back! Retreat to Sardeis and I shall not pursue."
"Lies for those with far less valor than us. We will stand by our King's body and fight to the bitter end." It was a Greek soldier who spoke broken Latin. He stood while his comrades ran; a single man against an army. For the briefest of moments, Crassus thought the man a Hellenic Horatius, willing to stand against an army for a single cause.
A man, however, is a single man. His thought to die beside his King was granted and he fell where he stood, sword in hand and wounds only in the front.
As the Greeks retreated towards Sardeis, the Kingdom of Ionia, previously beleaguered by the enemy from all sides, now stood unmolested and free of threats.
Mikon's camp was in an uproar. The army of Ephesos was coming and they had little time to take their equipment and gears. The town was abandoned when Crassus and his army entered.
They entered each house and found nothing but death and destruction that the Greeks had left behind. Titus Rufus was with the cohort that entered the chambers that Mikon himself had resided in.
"Look at this, at least a few sesterces worth of loot. This isn't some frontier town's loot. This is real treasure. Think about it, Titus, we'd be rich." One of the legionnaires rubbed his hands and practically drooled as he looked upon the treasures.
"Swords out. Mikon may have left men ready to die here."
"Mikon's old news. He's dead, and all of his followers are either scattered in the forests or crying in Sardeis. I'm telling you, what we find are our spoils. Our riches." His expression turned dark. "Our prizes."
"I'm not so interested in those. I just want to sleep."
The other legionnaire stopped. "Wait, you smell that?"
He sniffed. "Yeah, it's blood!"
"I find it disturbing to know that you can smell blood now."
But Clemens had already run off, pursuing the scent of blood like a hound hot on the trail of its prey. Cursing to himself, Titus chased after him. The two came upon a door that led to a chamber. It was unmistakable, the smell of blood was coming from this room. But so were other smells of death. Titus kept his sword pointed at the door and nodded at Clemens. The two slammed their shields in the the door and it buckled.
Again. And again.
The door swung open, splintering wood across the room.
Clemens was the first to notice the naked girl cradling a dead one in her hand. Sheathing his sword, he strode over and tilted her chin. She tried to kick him away but to no avail. Dropping his shield to the floor, his other hand fondled her breast while she shook her head and cried.
"What? I'm just having a little fun." Clemens turned back towards the girl and lifted his tunic. "Open your mouth, girl."
His lust had got the best of him. His sword was still dangling by his side and this one action had exposed himself. The girl grabbed the pommel and unsheathed the sword. Pushing with all her strength, she plunged it into his thighs and cut the vein there. Spurts of blood reddened the walls and Clemens howled with pain. Reaching for his dagger, he did not get a chance to extract it when she plunged the sword into his throat and ended his life.
Rufilla stared at the other soldier who stood at the door. They spoke Latin, but still they tried to rape her. Pointing the sword at the other soldier, she said. "Back away, or I'll kill you too!"
"You... speak Latin. Fluently." He was astonished.
"Of course I do! I am a Roman!"
Titus looked at her and suddenly everything made sense. The nude body, the ferocity of her assault, and the tears. He dropped his shield, sheathed his sword, and pointed at the other girl beside her. "Friend of yours?"
Rufilla broke down crying, the sword clanged on the ground. Titus unfastened his cloak and dropped it at her feet. "Here."
"I'll need the cloak back. I'll be outside." Titus said gently, picked up his shield, and stood at the door like a sentry. There would be time for introductions later, but now he simply let her have her own moment, knowing that her nightmares are over.
Within the hour, the Court hastily convened at the town's center. Pictor and Bubulcus sulked in the back, choosing to not speak as they watched Crassus decide the fate of their campaign. The results of the battle were not good. The enemy had a strong advantage on them, and much of their own had been whittled down to a handful. Worse, many of the senior men--centurions and other officers--had fallen during the battle. The army could no longer continue raising men at a quick enough rate from Ephesos. They needed help, from wherever they could get.
Suggestions rose up about bargaining for peace with Sardeis, but it died as soon as it was raised. The men were out for blood, not for peace. The thirst for vengeance was strong and no amount of blood could quench it.
"There is one more hope." Pulcher stood up. Having been brought back as a rider for Crassus, he had been quiet throughout the campaign. But now, he had found his voice once more.
"The boy Aebutius Drusus, he had came to this Kingdom with over two thousand men-at-arms. Though he suffered a defeat, he still has enough troops within his army to supplement us."
Balbus leapt up. "You cannot be serious! This Aebutius Drusus was prompted to rebel against the previous King of Ionia and nearly led to the destruction of the Kingdom when he was supposed to have brought forces to bear against the Greeks! We cannot accept his help."
"We need the men, Balbus." Crassus sighed.
"Then we shall petition Rome, for fresh horses, for fresh men. But to find a traitor, that will spell doom for this army and for our Kingdom."
"Petition Rome?" Pictor sneered. "Remember how long it took us to arrive at Ionia. By the time reinforcements from Rome should come, we'd be dead long before that. I say we reach out to this Aebutius Drusus. We need all the help we can get."
"Pictor is right, we cannot afford to dally like so." Crassus said.
"Please, King, I beg you. Reconsider your decision. Aebutius Drusus is a plague, a disease that should not be a part of this Kingdom. Leave him out of our army and we will avoid a coming disaster."
"Leave him out of our army and we will all be carrion food within the week!" Pictor rounded on Balbus.
"I will not have him in this army! His rash actions have led once to a crushing defeat, no more!"
"If I may speak." Pulcher stood up. "I was the one who had influenced Aebutius Drusus into his foolish march towards Noturia Ponta."
The Court became silent and stared at him.
"It was years ago, when the Coward King had refused to move beyond the gates of Ephesos. The Legates, much like yourself now, find themselves divided between cautious maneuvering and rash attack. I headed the second opinion, firmly believing that the gods would favor our attacks. I told Aebutius Drusus that were he to succeed in this attack on Noturia Ponta, he would become next in line for King. Little did I know of its consequences."
Balbus shot Pictor a dark stare.
"But that is beyond the point now. The boy bears no malice. He is a fool, an honest fool but still a fool. He will obey us and provide us with men. That is all we can ask for."
"So it is decided. Send word to Noturia Ponta, tell the boy Aebutius Drusus to bring his own men-at-arms to here. We will need those men now more than ever before." Crassus instructed a runner.
"But!" Balbus raised his voice.
"I have made my decision, Legatus. Now we must enforce it."
The runner, as luck would have it, was Titus Rufus. He chose the fastest horse that could still ride and called upon Brennus and Polybius to come with him. The three rode out from the army, their horses still caked in blood and foaming at the mouth.
Aebutius Drusus proved just as Pulcher described: a fool. By midday, the army of Ephesos had been swelled in rank with the men that had once thought themselves doomed.
But the story that Pulcher told chilled Balbus' blood. He gazed at Pictor and Bubulcus with even more distrust. Their situation so mirrored the previous one and he feared what would happen should he fall before Crassus and the Kingdom's future left undecided once more.
That night, before he went to sleep, Balbus felt a sharp pain at his side.
Chapter XXI… Excavation around Sardis became particularly difficult. The Romans had re-designed the city in the second century AD, completely stripping down the ancient walls and rebuilding a new one beyond its perimeters. Therefore, if any sign of siege had been left from that time period, it would have faded and replaced within a few years of the Roman occupation.
Our evidence for a possible Roman assault on Sardis lies primarily in coins and the fervent call to war by Mikon of Segesta. However, much like the rhetoric of rogue states in our modern world, Mikon’s words can easily be taken as sabre-rattling. If we were to assume that every single threat made throughout history was true, then the world would have been under constant, non-ending warfare since the dawn of civilization. It is perhaps more fitting that small skirmishes might have occurred and nothing more.
Excerpt from “Forgotten History of the Ionian Coast” by C. Krieger Ph.D and J. Connelly Ph.D
The Pilgrim Road
On the second day upon arrival to Dyrrhacium, the soldiers began their march towards Apollonia, tracing the path of Quintus Macedonicus when he had first set up his base during his decisive push in the Fourth Macedonian War. But the soldiers would not go north once they reach Edessa, instead, they would head east, to Athenai--the port to the Holy Kingdom.
A host of pilgrims had also gathered in Dyrrhacium, eagerly awaiting the soldiers who would accompany them to the Holy Kingdom. They came from all walks of life, bakers, farmers, blacksmiths--yet each one had committed a sin so unholy, so unspeakable, that they felt only this pilgrimage could erase. To them, the Holy Kingdom was a beacon of hope that anchored them to the bleak life they led and a single thread dangling above Tartarus that they clung upon.
The path that led to Apollonia had once been a dirt path beat out by the oxen carts bearing their goods that led from mainland Hellas to the ports in Tarentum and Brundisium. During the wet months, the dirt became mud that sucked travelers' feet into the viscous puddles. In the hot summers, men entered city gates completely caked with the dust from the road. It was for this reason that the road had been paved by the engineers of Quintus Macedonicus' army. They left behind relics--mostly tools and other broken instruments, but on occasions a broken helmet peeked up from the side of the road while bright flowers bloomed around it--testaments of the labors and blood and toil that had been poured into the cobblestones of the road.
The pilgrims walked rather than ride, as horses were relegated only to official army couriers and officers. On occasions, they passed by oxen carts laden not with stones or bales of wheat or amphorae of goods--both wet and dry. Instead, these carts hauled people across the road, sometimes fitting as many as fifteen upon a cart meant for no more than four. Children rode atop their parents' shoulders, their feet dangling in the warm air. The oxen lowed at the added weight and shook their head in discontent while their drivers cracked the whip in the air, spurring them on.
Still, the pilgrims walked on.
The road stretched forth, crossing through the Hellenic countryside. The soldiers and their blood-red shields formed a wall around the pilgrims. The slaves working the fields stopped and stared at the column, both from resentment and from awe. They had been landowners and honest citizens before the brutal reversal of their fortunes inflicted by four wars between Rome and Macedon, as well as the endless poleis squabbles.
Atia drew her traveling cloak closer and lowered her eyes to the ground, silently counting each smooth stone on the ground. Merricus still has not returned from his mission to deliver Quintus Fabius his charm. She wondered if he had been caught. She tried to search for him, but underneath their iron helmets with angry nodding plumes, it was impossible to tell faces.
Did her father travel this path too when he had first left for the Holy Kingdom? Did his feet step on these stones? Had he been counting the same stones as well?
Someone tapped her shoulder. It was Merricus.
Rufilla had not moved from her corner in the room and luckily she had been left alone. Night descended and drew veiled shadows across the Holy Kingdom, but her mind still raced. The darkness of night brought their own demons with them. Silence replaced the shrieks and screams of horror. Mela's body had attracted flies greedily sucking at her dried blood and Rufilla remained still. A fly landed on her finger and she did not bat it away. Images of the spurt of blood from the pasture, the heaving man atop her, and the Roman soldier flashed through her mind. A tear rolled from her empty eye and she sat there.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway. They came closer. Her hands balled into fists.
"How are you?" It was the soldier who had gave her his cloak.
She did not answer.
"Do you want something to eat? Drink?"
She turned away and wrapped her arms around her knees.
She stared up at him and saw no malice in his eyes. "Rufilla."
"I'm sorry for your loss."
"You know nothing of loss."
"You know nothing of me."
"Then why are you here?"
"Because I believe that what I do here in the Holy Kingdom will impact my life, both this one and the next."
She let out a mirthless laughter. "You're a fool."
"Maybe. I'll be outside."
He closed the door behind him as he left. Rufilla wondered about his words. An impact on his life? Do people put such faith into these lands? She had grown up here all her life and had seen nothing but endless warfare. The graves of sons far outnumber that of fathers. But never before in her life had something this catastrophic happened, never before had she been the victim of the violence.
She knew of women who were captured by both sides and abused. She always counted them as cursed by the gods. Her mind turned to her own home, burned and charred with nothing but a husk remaining, and she thought: was she cursed?
The door did not budge and she drifted to sleep.
Expanding the Kingdom
Within the makeshift meeting chamber, the Legates had gathered alongside Crassus. A single man knelt in the middle, stripped of his armor and weapons--appearing every bit like a slave. Crassus was the first one to speak.
"Numerius Aebutius Drusus, when you defied the orders of King Sulpicius Camerinus, you took your men-at-arms and nearly destroyed this Kingdom. Now you kneel before this court, of Nobles and King of the Kingdom of Ionia. The sins that you had committed with your foolhardly attack is neigh unforgivable. What punishments will you merit?"
Aebutius Drusus did not look up, nor did he speak.
"The King has asked you a question. Speak!" Balbus stamped his feet.
"I have nothing to say. Do with me what you will. My soul has already been destined for perdition."
"Perhaps someone else can persuade you to loosen your tongue?" Crassus motioned at a figure in the shadows. The figure did not move but began speaking.
"When you had first come to Ionia, when Decimus Sulpicius Camerinus had been King, you were goaded by a man to retake Noturia Ponta. You were goaded and you believed him. He said you would be King one day, and in your lust for power, in that moment of ambition, you marched forward. You deprived the Kingdom of desperately needed manpower and much needed victories. Had Servius Papirius Crassus not shown up to this kingdom, your one act would have spelled its doom. Can you name the man who had goaded you into this?"
"Pulcher, Maximinus Pulcher."
"Look up, Aebutius Drusus. Stare into the eye of the man who was more responsible for these affairs than you." Pulcher stepped into the light, his scarred face and tired eyes drilling into Aebutius Drusus'
"How? How do you live yet we stand here debating my impending death?"
"When a man truly repents for his sins, be it at the end of his life or at a point when he can still do something with that life, that is when the man will be granted salvation. The gods have seen fit to grant me salvation, and so they shall give it to you."
"Me? I don't understand."
Crassus stood up and drew his sword. "What that means is simple: I need your allegiance. I need your infantry."
"You already have them."
"And your own oath of fealty?"
"I shall fulfill it."
Crassus nodded and tapped both of Aebutius Drusus' shoulders. "Be free of your fears, let it not master you. Be swift upon your horse, and deadly with your weapons. Be honorable in battle, for the gods will love thee for it. Let the enemy shake in fear when they face you, a rider of Ionia. Fear not death, for when we are, death is not. And when death comes, we are not! Now rise a new man, Numerius Aebutius Drusus! Rise as a rider beside me!"
As Aebutius Drusus now stood up, he noticed that all of the noblemen still had their armor on. They looked rested and fresh. He turned to the King. "Now what?"
Crassus sheathed his sword. "We march to expand the Kingdom. Mikon's death has left the Kingdom of Sardeis leaderless. We take the city and we shall have doubled the land under the Ionian banner." He turned to all of his legates. "To your stations. We march in the morning."
Expanding the Kingdom?!?!?!?!? AWESOME!!!!!!
Get the sexy Phyrgian Cavalry!!! You NEED them
Long live the Khan
Chapter XXII… The newest discovery was a broken piece of papyrus, obviously part of a roll that belonged to a much larger work. The few preserved words shed light on the precarious political state, with phrases like “political instability” being practically ubiquitous throughout the fragment.
However, we cannot say whether or not this is indicative of a power grab by a perhaps overzealous Legate or simply by Crassus himself. The only certain thing is the instability of the Kingdom. Once again, we draw our attention back to the earlier presumption that when power is thrust into the hands of military rulers, an inevitable vie for power will surface.
Excerpt from “Forgotten History of the Ionian Coast” by C. Krieger Ph.D and J. Connelly Ph.D
They called him Vir Tristissiums, the saddest man. And for many years, he had been. The youngest of three brothers and the sickliest one of them all that he required a personal physician to follow him at all times. He had his bouts with illnesses that many would not even imagine. When he was ten, he had succumbed to the dreaded disease of leprosy. Ironically, it was the disease, a curse from the gods, that had saved him. For it prevented his ability to carry weapons and journey across the Aegean to the fated Ionian coast. It prevented him from being drawn into the First Pilgrimage to the Holy Kingdom when the Greeks were driven from the ancient lands of Troy.
It saved his life when he watched each of his older brothers sail across the sea with promises of return only to hear news of their deaths. He watched his eldest brother sail with his father in jealousy, wondering when his turn would come. But no such time ever did and he remained in his bed, pining his life away with each laborious breath. His second brother had bathed him in cool waters and dressed his degenerate hands with care until one day, he too succumbed to the disease.
But he had survived while his brothers did not. He defied even the words of his physician, who predicted him of living no more than the paltry age of 25--battling the sickness that ravaged his body until now. He could not carry his sword, but he could still ride. And it was he who stood before the soldiers who've recently arrived at Apollonia.
He saw their faces of horror and disgust at his disfigurements and thought nothing of it. His eldest brother was called a Coward, and his father a Murderer. So what if they insulted him?
"Quirites!" His voice rasped under the Aetolian sky made glittering blue with the calm winds.
"You have come to Hellas, seeking an absolution that lies across the Aegean. You have your reasons, your fears, your homes, and an assorted number of motives that drive you to undertake such a pilgrimage, be you a soldier or a citizen.
"You have been called forth by the Pontifex Maximus to defend the Holy Kingdom of Ionia. You have been called forth by the families in power at Rome, by the Legates who ride in Ephesos, and by the spirits of Trojans seeking their vengeance upon those who had pillaged and raped their ancient City.
"You bear with you, the symbols of Ancient Mars and Father Juppiter. But I ask you to cast those away today. Today, you march beside me. Today, you will find deliverance and absolution. Today, you will make headway towards the Holy Kingdom of Ionia. You have one more night remaining in Apollonia. In the morning we leave for Athenai, where you will board the ships to Ionia--the proud kingdom that my family built, that my father and brother have died to defend.
The proud Kingdom that is rightfully mine."
He paused and looked at the assembled men, ironclad and resolute, demanding a challenge. When none arose, he nodded.
"So be it, may Mars and Bellona protect you."
Atia knew nothing of this for she had remained at the quarters set aside for pilgrims. Before arriving in Apollonia, Merricus had finally returned to deliver her the news that Quintus Fabius Pictor had encased her token to him within the folds of his scarf. Her heart had leaped to her throat when she heard, but now her mind has calmed and she only prayed that her small token would truly bring him the blessing she wished upon him.
As she sat in her room, her minds turned to her father. How had he fared? How would he greet her when she arrived at the gates of Ephesos?
Ephesos. The thought of the city set her mind ablaze with wondering. Would it be as she had been told by the Pontifex Maximus? A city made of shining ivory, where the streets were paved with gold and the souls of Old Heroes whisper in your ears. An oasis of peace in a desert of religious strife and terror, where the streets were lit by torchlight even through the blackest of nights.
Someone knocked at her door.
It was Quintus.
"W-we're leaving to-tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? Why so soon?"
"I don't k-know. I j-just came to s-say..." He looked away, hiding his burning face.
"Say what, Quintus?" She rose from her seat and stepped to him. He avoided her eyes.
"I..." His hands shook by his sides. "Th-thank you."
Without another word, he turned and left from her room.
Beneath Walls of Bricks Lighter than Air
... and the Kingdom, much to my own dismay, has been nothing but a hotbed of political instability, infighting, and lack of moral fortitude that I find myself growing increasingly disillusioned by the message of salvation promised me by the Pontifex Maximus. The previous campaigns undertaken to restore the Kingdom's limited borders already proved that we cannot possibly hope to survive here. The Greeks outnumber us, and unless divine miracle should occur, we will inevitably fall and our names fade forever to the dust of history. This Holy Kingdom of Ionia will never be remembered, our exploits will be forgotten, and I shall receive nothing but an ever growing list of sins to the already hideously long one: greed, ambition, violence...
Crassus sighed and placed his stylus down. The death of Mikon brought with him, the ordeal of managing the captives of Mikon's army. Most of these captives were women, enslaved to the Greek men. Some of them were still children. He could not risk sending them to Ephesos, for the roads were still plagued with remnants of Mikon's soldiers, and to send these women--many of whom could only stutter after the atrocities they've witnessed--would be subjecting them to horrors they did not deserve.
And so, he turned to writing his own personal collection of his time in Ionia. Already, scrolls have piled up, and each one told a story more gloomy than the last. He gazed outside of his tent. The Kingdom was dying, there can be no denial of that. Each day of marching east meant less men were available to protect Ephesos. The Kingdom could no longer muster up forces at will, and weeds have replaced crops in the fields.
The oil lamp burned dimmer and dimmer while the air grew denser. He must sleep soon. Handing the tablet to a slave for copywriting, he stood up and rubbed his eyes.
A flutter of cloth told him that someone had entered his tent. When he opened his eyes, he saw Pictor staring at him.
"King, we are ready."
"We wait til morning."
Pictor had changed after the discovery of the captives. The images of the shocked women and children imprinted an odd sense of protectiveness within Pictor. There was much less verbal defiance of his words. Now, the man was silent.
They had all grown thin over the course of the campaign. Food became scarce when in the past, the fields would be rich with grain. An indescribable chill had descended upon Ionia and the men whispered of a failed campaign, and of the death of the Kingdom.
All of which Crassus could not disagree with.
"I strongly recommend you rethink this decision. Each day our supply grows lower, and each day the Greeks will reinforce the walls of Sardeis."
"We will break through, I promise you of it."
"Your promises have never meant for anything. Before the plains of Colophon, before the gates of Ephesos, and now."
"What are you suggesting?"
"I am suggesting nothing, merely pointing out your poor decisions."
Crassus nodded. "Are you quite finished?"
Pictor did not respond and left. Outside, a lark gave a mournful note that echoed over the plains beneath the walls of Sardeis.
Crassus sighed and sat down in his chair. The sun would be up in a few hours. He needed his rest. In those few hours of sleep, his mind was tortured by images of bloodied bodies, mangled women and frightened children. He dreamed he rode atop his horse past the ruins of a proud city overrun by the trees that it once uprooted.
As he rode through his dream, the city repaired itself and he found himself gazing upon the wondrous buildings, the magnificent temples, and the broad streets. He reached out to touch them and felt the hard stone touch him back. The smell of the city was that of Ephesos. But as he continued to ride, the city started to shake and a darkness descended with hails of flames and stones and death until he rode through a city encircled by fiery Phlegethon--utterly devoid of life save the dancing tongues of fire that snatched up men, women, and children.
He was unable to wake from his nightmare, unable to abandon his horse, who had reared up in fear. It clawed at the burning air and kicked away soldiers who had been set ablaze by the inferno. A tongue of flame wrapped around his sword and left a scorching burn on his hand. He screamed, and his voice evaporated in his throat while fire filled his lungs.
"Sir?" He awoke to Balbus shaking him. The oil lamp had been extinguished and the sun's rays peeked through the fluttering cloth at his door.
"What time is it?"
"First light, sir. We are ready."
"So be it. Let us proceed."
He would tell no one about the dream. He cannot afford to speak to anyone about the dream. As he strapped his armor on, he felt a sharp sting shoot through his sword hand. Gazing down, he saw a small burn mark in his palm.
But he could no longer recall his troops and retire to Ephesos. The ram had touched the walls and the Army of Ionia rolled forward towards Sardeis.
wipe them out....all of them.
[RS AAR]: The Ishtar Gate to Alexandria
What is best in life?
To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!
"Cur ante tubam tremor occupat artus?" (Why should fear seize the limbs before the trumpet sounds?) - Virgil
"Sikelia; Island of Ares" [Hegemonia City-States Syracusan Story/AAR]
The Crannog of McScottish; a list of all my AAR's in one place!
Proud beta tester and member of the Roma Surrectum development team.
Be careful what you wish for, you won't like the consequences
nobody notices that the Coward King's brother just came into the scene?
I am, how you say, le disappointe
You no notice my reP?
Why still no Phyrgians? They ARE the knights templar of this age
Long live the Khan
Flaming bolts flashed and slammed against the mighty walls of Sardeis, raising plumes of dust and smoke into the air. Cries of panic sped from the city as the forces behind the walls desperately reached for water to extinguish embers that had broken from the projectiles and embedded themselves atop thatched roofs. But when the dust settled and the smoke extinguished, there were only scratches on the stony fašade—barely noticeable and hardly destructive to the walls. The ballistarius roared at his crew and they quickly loaded up another round. The sinew groaned and twisted with each agonizing clank of the winches. Ever so slightly, the arms of the lithoboloi bent back until it could go no further. A runner delivered the torch and set the missile aflame. Another bark from the ballistarius and the lithoboloi kicked forward with a noise that sounded as if the sky itself was ripping apart. The flaming missile exploded against the walls once more, leaving bits of themselves embedded within the wall that glowed with the sighing breeze until finally they faded to black ashes.
Still the walls remain undamaged. Perhaps scratched here and there but structurally sound.
The Army of Ephesos had drawn itself up for battle, but now many men wonder if they would even see a hint of action. The officers and Legates kept their men in loose formations, but even then the majority of them milled about at the foot of the walls, waiting for the lithoboloi to breach them. With little reason to draw their weapons, most of the men sat down and broke out their daily rations. Visitations between various cohorts were permitted and even encouraged to facilitate better relay of information.
This meant that Titus, Brennus, and Polybius found themselves sitting beneath the flowers of a blooming Kerkis tree. The constant clanking and whistling crack of the lithoboloi faded into the background as the three men watched the unwavering walls of Sardeis.
“Do you think they’re scared?” Polybius asked.
“Why wouldn’t they be? There will be retribution for what Mikon had done to the countryside.” Brennus coughed and spat into the ground.
Titus said nothing. Instead, he reached for one of the lower branches and plucked a flower from it. Its white pedals were stained with streaks of red veins. It was almost as if the flower had bled. His deft fingers twisted and worked blades of grass into a small rope and he carefully attached the flower to the rope. He reached up and plucked another flower to add to the collection.
“What Mikon had done to the countryside is nothing compared to when Sulpicius Camerinus first arrived here.” Polybius shook his head. “Entire cities were leveled, never heard of again. Ionia bled for years following the first invasion.”
“I suppose you are to say that the Romans introduced the barbarity of warfare to this place?” Brennus sneered.
“Not at all. Just that to perpetuate violence in return will never bring peace to this place.”
“And how, Polybius, would you propose to bring peace? Peace comes not from words of Kings and messengers, but from the sword—“
“Of course, you, a Gaul, would say that.”
Brennus laughed his mirthless laughter. “Do you suppose all Gauls are bloodthirsty savages? You have much to learn about those around you still, Greek, even after all these years.”
“I did not mean to offend—“
“Of course you didn’t.” Brennus looked at the walls. “Not when all that you’ve been told of Gauls had been lies propagated by these so-called civilized nations who would much rather destroy one another over the existence of their gods and wants.”
“And you? Did you not enlist with the rest of the Gallic men within our ranks as mercenaries? Were you not swayed by the gods of Greed and Want?”
Brennus nodded and smiled as he continued to watch the flaming rocks pound the unyielding wall.
“Well, what, Polybius?”
“My question. I think it deserves an answer.”
Brennus sighed and stood up. “The answer is yes, if that is all you’re interested in. But for once, Polybius, entertain the possibility that there may not be logic in the world. Men are not moved by such concrete things as you Greeks would believe. Some men are mad, others are infirm, what they choose in their moment of weakness or strength is different from what you or I would. I move for Greed, but can I not say the same for you? Is my Greed for money not the same from your Greed for recognition, acceptance?”
“You what?” The smile on Brennus’ face grew smug.
“You are unbelievable.”
“Don't let it get to you. It is only a matter of time before you understand my way of thinking.” Brennus sat back down. He noticed Titus with the flowers and asked. “Who are those for?”
Titus did not look up. “These? Nobody.”
“Nobody? That's an attractive name.”
“Polybius is right.” Titus chuckled. “You are unbelievable.”
Dust settled again and the walls stood resolute against the onslaught. The sun moved across the heavens in its fiery chariot, peeking down at the men who thought themselves masters of the world. Here and there, cracks could be seen on the outer face, but the walls remained intact.
Atop his mount, Crassus looked on as the lithoboloi continued their fruitless assault on the walls. He called the ballistarius over, demanding an answer and receiving only a cryptic shrug in return. He wanted to run the man through with his sword but knew that there was nothing to be done. Pictor had been right, the city had fortified itself sufficiently within a single night. To further complicate matters, the day was fast slipping by and soon darkness would envelope the earth. Camps needed to be made, and they knew not if the Greeks would attempt an attack under the covers of night. He gave orders to the ballistarius to cease fire and relayed the order to set up camp.
He will resume the assault in the morning.
Night brought with it, a certain calmness that Ionia had long begged for. The sky remained clear as ever, marred only by the occasional star streaking across the inky blackness. Men rotated guard duty, dragging their tired and stiff limbs from the warmth of bed and into the cool night breeze. Those atop the towers rubbed their eyes and stared sourly at the impregnable walls of Sardeis. Horses pawed at the ground, snorting at their cramped conditions and dying to satiate their need to gallop. At every hour a man would go around the camp and rouse a section from slumber to continue their construction of siege engines powerful enough to sustain the hail of missiles from behind the walls of Sardeis. Piles of dirt were thrown up unceremoniously as breastwork around the camp and behind the walls as well, but even the men digging them felt the work was aimless and often sought rest when they could.
And beyond the walls of the camp, the petals of the Kerkis trees fluttered and leaped atop the flowing currents of air, floating towards the heavens and settling upon the ground growing moist from dew.
In a separate section of camp, Crassus housed all of the captives made homeless by Mikon's destructive swathe through Ionia. He would relocate them in Sardeis if necessary, assuming he could take Sardeis. Stars continued to streak across the sky and Crassus pondered if there stood even the slightest chance that he could breach the walls. The victories of the past felt so hollow compared to his current predicament now. Drumming his fingers against the wooden post of his tent, he gazed with the rest of the men at the walls—imagining them tumbling down.
A messenger arrived from the towers with news that a Greek man stood outside of the camp, bearing no weapons save for his own two hands. The presence of the Greek invoked fresh energy amongst the men. Swords were buckled, shields were hitched, and hardened helms sat atop men's brows once more.
Crassus personally attended the gate, accompanied by his own riders and his Legates. When the door opened, the single Greek man stood before him and announced his name.
Chapter XXIV… It is more probable that an ever-dependent relationship emerged between the Kingdom of Ionia and her Greek neighbors. With Ephesus holding the primary port of Anatolia, the Greek communities both inside and outside the Kingdom of Ionia would have turned to her to ship their goods westward.
Arguably, this is very flimsy evidence, but the discovery of coins that bear Rex S. Pap Cra in most cities of the region suggest that a flourishing trade route must have been established amongst the region.
Excerpt from “Forgotten History of the Ionian Coast” by C. Krieger Ph.D and J. Connelly Ph.D
The Greek man sat down within the middle of the tent, his black eyes expressionless as he gazed back into the entire Court of Ionia. The Legates stood at the posts, fully armed. Balbus' hand rested on the pommel of his sword, worn out and battered from constant use. Pictor propped himself on a beam with crossed arms rippling with power and from wounds in the past. Crassus sat down in front of the Greek, his personal retinue of riders stood behind him like sentinels. In the shadows, Aebutius Drusus watched the proceeding without a single word while Pulcher played with the dagger in his hand--never taking eyes off the Greek.
"An Athenian by birth, I found myself on the shores of Ionia after my ship was marooned and wrecked by a storm. For months I trekked through all of the coast, seeking for a city that spoke my tongue." The Greek said.
"Any city would do, why Sardeis?" Crassus asked.
"I had arrived when Sulpicius Camerinus had leveled Assos and rebuilt it with the fortress that stands there now, when the walls of Pergamon were breached and its inhabitants slaughtered. When Halikarnassos closed its gates to all who approached it."
"More than ten years ago." Pulcher interrupted him.
"But how could I leave? My beloved Athenai groans under the brutal hands of the false Polemarche installed by the Romans. I yearned for freedom, to seek the last bastion of Greek liberty."
No one noticed Aebutius Drusus unsheathing his sword.
"Then why help us?" Crassus held up his hand before Pulcher could ask the same question. "Why breach the same walls that protect you now?"
"I come to demand mercy for Sardeis. Walls will crumble and foul flames fan the thatched roofs already. The city sits upon a bedrock of death and despair, of doom and defeat. We have not the food to last a siege, nor the manpower to endure an assault."
"Then wait. Wait for the rest of Asia to come to your aid. But ask not your conquerors to spare you."
The Greek smiled with a tired, fatalistic grin. "I had thought I came to speak with civilized men."
Aebutius Drusus stepped from the shadows. The jeweled sword given to him by his father glittered in the candlelight. Its whetted edge thirsted for blood that never spilled on it. It had been a treasure of Athenai before Quintus Macedonicus' assault. Crafted by years of re-forging, hardened by the soils of the Acropolis, and sharpened each time the city was threatened. Placing the tip of the sword on the hard earth before the Greek, Aebutius Drusus turned the sword so that the jewels and the crest of Athenai was visible.
"You come with words of aid for us, yet you insult my family. You come to beg for mercy, and you insult our King." He leaned down and his eyes bore into the Greek's. "I think you are a spy, sent here to tell the defenders of our number, of our siege engines, and of our morale. The gods do not look favorably upon spies, whatever glory they may bring to their people."
"Men such as yourself do not understand that survival is more important than an obscure eternity when we have faded to mere dust. I bring you the gift of information in exchange for mercy. Is that not sufficient for you?"
"I fear Greeks, even when bearing gifts."
"Then toil forever under the walls of Sardeis."
Aebutius Drusus roared and raised his sword, intending to plunge it into the Greek's neck. A flash rose up and sparks flew into the air, landing by Crassus' feet and singeing his robes. Pulcher had drawn his sword too, still decorated with the seal of a Legate of Ionia. Another flash and Aebutius Drusus' sword was knocked from his hand, clanging to the floor.
"We hear his proposition."
The Greek turned his eyes away from Aebutius Drusus back to Crassus, and for a brief moment a sliver of anger and indignation shimmered in his eyes.
"The north wall. It is hollow. Breach the north wall and the city is yours."
Crassus nodded. "And your demands?"
"Save the women and the children. Subject them not to the horrors of war."
This time, Pictor drew his sword. "I will not agree to this. The city's fate is to be decided by her conquerors. Such was the decision made by Mikon, and Sardeis will bleed for her sins."
Balbus looked at Pictor. "I agree with Pictor. Mikon's actions have stayed our hands of mercy."
But Pictor seemed not to have heard. His face was ashen and his bleached white knuckles gripped his quivering sword. An implacable anger seemed to pound behind his eyes, threatening to burst forth. He took a step forward, keeping the point of his sword at the Greek.
"Enough." Crassus held up his hand. "By morning we will resume the assault on the north wall. But we must move the army, an undertaking that will draw their attention."
"And the Greek?" Pictor asked.
Crassus closed his eyes. "Your judgment will not be questioned."
"So be it." Pictor stepped up to the Greek and raised his sword. "May the gods forgive a traitor."
The Greek continued to smile, as if he knew the answer to the world's questions and had already seen his end. The smile did not fade as the sword plunged into his neck and sent spurts of steaming red in the air. There was no scream of pain, no grimace of hurt, and no uncontrolled spasms. The Greek merely adjusted his clothes so that he looked more dignified. His lips became blue and his eyes opaque. Calmly, he covered his gaping wound so the blood would not dirty the ground further. Lines of crimson ran down his arms in rivulets and dripped swirling patterns on his clothes. He turned his gaze upon each man and began speaking as his life drained from him.
"You." He looked at Aebutius Drusus. "Will travel to the edge of the world for salvation, only to die unmourned and uncared for in the desert, with carrions your final companion."
His eyes lingered on Pulcher. "You are already dead. Though you may not recognize it."
To Pictor. "You will lose all that you hold dear, all you once cared for, and all that you have worked for. You sought absolution for your sins but you will die before you can see the fruit of your labors. Alone, you will stand against a sea of spears and descend, despondent, into gloomy Hades."
To Balbus. "You, in a moment of bloodlust, will throw yourself headlong into an obstacle you cannot budge. As you lay dying, you will cry out a name that will weep tears you shall never see."
With the last drops of his life fast expiring, he turned to Crassus. "And must I speak for you as well, King of Ionia? You will lose your kingdom, and Pretenders will take up the throne, debasing everything you've done, everything you have controlled in your reign."
Rocking from the loss of blood and with only a rasp of a voice, the Greek continued. "This is my final gift to you. Now, horrid beasts and daemons of Hades, accept my lingering soul a sacrifice offered by these men so tainted with sin. Shrieking Allecto, raging Megaera, and unyielding Tisiphone, rise from the inky black depths that you had been chained to and bring your horrors upon these men. Do not rest until their bleached bones burn under the brilliant sun."
Even in death, the Greek still did not fall down. His seated corpse remained where it was, with only drops of blood falling from the tip of his elbow. But his words were true, and when the army resumed its assault, the north wall collapsed
Still, unease settled into the hearts of the men as they marched down from the northern hills and towards Sardeis. Birds chirped overhead and ghosts of children's laughters echoed in the streets.
Entering the City
The first wave of defenders were men who had simply grabbed whatever instruments they can to fend off the coming Romans. The northern quarters of Sardeis were inhabited by largely Easterners: Jews, Chaldees, Armenians, and even the occasional Parthian who was merely resting before resuming his caravan path with his camels. Bricks and tables substituted javelins and shields. Thick linen replaced armor, and a few men seeking to defend their homes stood against the implacability of the Roman troops. Futile souls singing their sorrow to silent Dis.
The streets were deserted when the Romans entered. The same thought ran through each man's head. Where were the defenders? Where were the horses? Where were those who will stand ready to defend their homes? Gone were the shouts of war. Gone were the clanging of armor.
The infantry rolled forward, their synchronised steps tapping against the hollow walls. Sardeis seemed to them a husk of a city, a shell that housed nothing and hosted no one. Devoid of life, deserted of hope. Burned rooftops and littered bricks among a city that no doubt had thrived so much.
They entered the tower that preceded the great gates, unbroken for centuries. Titus Rufus was with those men who had first entered the city. The door barring the tower was a rotting piece of wood that yielded with a single kick. Taking time to let his eyes adjust to the sudden darkness, Titus hesitated before taking that first step into the tower.
Mold and dust caked the walls. Cobwebs hang from the exposed rebars and beams that criss-crossed in the vaulted ceiling. Parapets stood within the tower, a reminder of a time when the walls had been lower and the enemy further away. Bones crunched underneath, sometimes of bats and other times of forgotten men. His eyes spotted a sliver of pink and only after stepping on it did he realize it was the petal of a flower from the Kerkis tree. A figure rose up from behind one of the parapets and threw a missile at him. Titus raised his shield instinctively and heard a jar shatter against the curved wood.
Quickly striding over, he knocked the figure down to its back and plunged his sword into its heart. The cry of a boy, no older than eleven, pierced his ears and reverberated in the hollow chamber, echoing forever and ever. In the boy's other hand was a tiny pouch holding no more than ten tiny stones, hardly large enough to break skin let alone kill. The boy's wide eyes brimmed with tears and his throat gurgled. Realizing his sword was still embedded in the boy's heart, Titus set his shield aside, closed the boy's eyes, placed his hand on the boy's mouth, and twisted the sword.
The tiny body trembled and thrashed from pain. The muffled voice shrieking underneath Titus' strong hand while fragile arms beat uselessly against the mail shirt, grabbing for something to hold on to, clinging desperately to life even as the soul was fast fading deep into the sluggish waters of the Acheron.
Overhead, the sky murmured and wept.
The bodies of the men who had died remained in the rainwater as the Romans entered the city. The northern ramparts were secured and the empty houses became temporary quarters for the men to dry off in. Families huddled in corners and watched whimpering as the Romans dragged the men from within and executed them in the streets. The tower was manned and projectiles made ready for the Greeks that now marched from the center of the city.
Titus sat at an upper parapet atop the tower while the rainwater dripped from his helm. He had carried the boy's body to a remote corner of the tower and covered it with his own red cloak. The silver coins that his centurions handed out to each man before a battle did not enter his purse this time. He had placed them on the boy's eyes. Eyes that refused to shut and instead gazed at Titus while a line of salt ran down from them to the boy's ears.
A hand rested on his shoulder and he found himself looking into Brennus' eyes. The Gaul said nothing as he sat down. He remained silent even as the rain came down harder and harder while winds whistled. The sky continued to murmur and the Greeks that came only saw the headless bodies of men and the smashed bricks that the Romans now hurled at them.
Something was itching against Titus' body. Reaching into his tunic, he extracted a tiny wreath that he had made from the Kerkis flowers. The flowers have started to wilt, and petals fluttered down from raindrops. He looked through the storm into the city and felt only emptiness inside him. Standing up, he dropped the wreath into the streets, where it landed on a body washed clean of blood and grime. The body's eyes were closed and the wreath landed in the corpse's open hand.
The rain continued to fall.
Day-time scary visions? A distinctive possibility
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