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Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum
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Topic Subject: The Shattered Spear Inn
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posted 17 January 2011 05:55 EDT (US)   
Welcome to the Shattered Spear Inn. Grab a table, or a stool at the bar, soldier, and accept this first horn of beer on the house.

You look like hell, son. Been in battle recently? I know, I know, been there myself once or twice. Or forty times. One loses count. So, soldier, have a tale to tell? Start talking. News here comes slowly, so the only entertainment we get these days is from soldiers passing through with tales to tell, or old Hamish there singing. Heard his voice? Rutting bulls are more pleasant.

So belly up to the bar, soldier, and leave us with a fine tale to drown out the bleating of old Hamish. Any short tale of battle may be told here. In fact, any short tale of any kind would be appreciated. Here's a beer to wet your whistle, and to help you get started.

|||||||||||||||| 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 01-17-2011 @ 06:20 AM).]

posted 21 May 2016 08:44 EDT (US)     51 / 61  
I have been in a very bloody war last night. It all started when an army of Austrians tried to break into our city (with about 15 infantry, 2 cav,2 art and a general).they had About a similar strength with about 3 more cav so we were not afraid. Boy were we wrong. In the heat of battle I was marching along with 4 troops of infantry. Suddenly we were charged from behind by cav. At the same time we were caught in crossfire of the 5 Austrian troops. Our general napoleon ordered all canons to fire at the beasts and sent all our cav (slightly lowering his own defense) and charged the Austrians from the side. Then they went into a panic as we started the counterfire. After they broke we regrouped and finished off the rest. Even though we had a close victory, we lost nearly half of our men and some Austrians lived to fight another day.

So there is your tale, now have you got a bed for a tired soldier? I must rest from the wounds suffered in battle.
posted 20 August 2016 12:32 EDT (US)     52 / 61  
There have been many tales told here of glorious victories or crushing defeats. I am going to tell you about a battle that was neither a victory nor a defeat, but a little bit of both.

My name is... Well, it's not important what my name is. Suffice it to say that I serve the Kingdom of Pontus. I am a man of the hills; my people, though poor, are tough and rugged, men made strong by a lifetime of hard work on hard ground. So when we are called to war, we are the backbone of the king's army.

What brought us to war was the Egyptian conquest of Tarsus. Our king feared the Egyptians, whose hunger for land and slaves seemed boundless, whose seemingly endless armies conquered one city after another. So when they reached the edge of our land, the king called his people to war and told us to push the Egyptians back to their desert before they conquer us too.

Our general was Prince Paerisades, the king's son and heir. He is young, but very intelligent and a capable leader of men. He quickly earned our respect after we fought our first major battle and destroyed an Egyptian army in the pass between Mazaka and Tarsus. This was not the battle I have come to tell about today, but it was an important experience. It was not only our first fight against a large army, but also the first time we faced chariots. The men were terrified by the sight of those blades swirling on the wheels, and often fled at the first contact with them, getting massacred in doing so. We won the battle, but at a high price, more because we outnumbered them than because we fought better. It was an experience to learn from.

After that battle, we marched southeast through the mountains, toward Tarsus. When the city came into view, we encountered a second Egyptian army, larger than the first. We expected to do well, now that we were veterans of a large and victorious battle, and now that we wouldn't be surprised by the chariots.

This time the Egyptians came to us. We formed up on a slight hill, facing east. We could see the city in the far distance. Between us and the city, a large Egyptian army slowly marched toward us. Us hillmen formed the first line. Behind us were the Eastern infantry, rabble with little discipline and less courage, whose job is to serve as a reserve and hit the enemy from the flank or rear while we hillmen were fighting them. We also had a band of Cilician pirates, driven from the sea by the Egyptian navy and forced to hire out as sellswords. They were eager to join us and help punish the pharaoh. Behind the infantry were two squadrons of light cavalry whose main job was to throw spears at the Egyptians, preferably at their chariots. Next to them was the prince and his heavy cavalry.

The Egyptians sent out the chariots first. This time we were ready for them. We sent the Eastern infantry forward. These men are poor fighters, but they do have their uses for a commander who knows his men's strengths and weaknesses, and Paerisades is such a commander. One of the things they're good at is fighting chariots; our hillmen do a poor job because we don't fight as a group, each man fights for himself. The Eastern infantry are drawn from the landless and propertiless who have no identity or pride, aren't out for glory, and just want to go home alive. So they huddle together, lock their shields and spears and hope for the best, and the chariots find it difficult to get through them.

Still, we paid a high price driving off the chariots. The Eastern infantry charged at them and the cavalry pelted them with javelins, but the chariots still managed to tear up a good many of our men. One of the chariot groups managed to hit our right flank where we were unprepared for them. Paerisades sent some reserve troops over there, but by the time they got there, the pirates had been slaughtered. After all the gold spent hiring them, they died within moments after the fighting began. At the time time, we were being pelted by enemy missile troops throwing rocks and javelins at us. The cavalry tried driving them off but had difficulty getting to them around all the enemy spearmen. There was also a squadron of chariot archers whom our cavalry couldn't get near enough to hit with their javelins, who harassed us throughout the entire battle with arrows. We lost many men to those cowards.

We drove the regular chariots off in waves as they kept coming back. Then finally the spearmen got to us too. The Egyptian spears are far longer than ours, and their units fight in a closer formation than our hillmen. It's impossible to beat them head-on; we have to surround them to win. So we spread out our forces, which made us more vulnerable to the enemy chariots but which was absolutely necessary in order to defeat their spearmen. And anyway we had already killed most of the chariots.

It was an incredibly bloody battle for both sides. None of our hillmen routed, but each unit lost at least half of its men. It took two or three bands of hillmen to defeat each unit of Egyptian spearmen. The Egyptians routed at a trickle, one or two units at a time, no mass rout. Whenever they routed, Paerisades sent the light cavalry to finish them. He and his heavy cavalry mainly fought in support of our hillmen, attacking the Egyptians from behind where he could.

But we forgot one thing: the chariot archers. We infantry were all so wrapped up in fighting the enemy spearmen, and the cavalry so busy fighting the skirmishers, slingers and deserters, nobody remembered the chariot archers, which had stayed at a distance from the fighting, preferring to shoot arrows at us from far away. Then finally they struck. As one of the cavalry squadrons was mopping up some Egyptian deserters, the chariots appeared as if from nowhere and tore right into them. They hadn't expected it, they were unprepared, far from the foot soldiers, and the chariots appeared too quickly to be able to flee. They never had a chance. Cavalry can't fight chariots, did you know this? The chariots can get between the horses, who aren't in close ranks like men. Those blades on the wheels mean death to any horse that gets near them. The entire squadron was lost except for two men who managed to escape and ran past us infantrymen and off the battlefield, shitting all over their horses as they went.

Then the chariots, after wiping out that cavalry group, turned and went after the prince. At that moment, Paerisades was at a distance from the main force of the army, killing some fleeing Egyptian foot soldiers. The enemy chariots saw their chance and charged at him. He couldn't run in our direction, because the chariots were between him and us. Nor could he attack and fight the chariots directly; that would be suicide. So he galloped the opposite way, to the east toward the city. But his horses were tired from running all over the battlefield, whereas the Egyptians' chariot horses were fresh because they had sat still and avoided direct combat for most of the battle. They were much faster, and as he and his bodyguards ran, the Egyptians got closer and closer. Finally they reached them. His bodyguard started dropping one by one as those blades cut their horses' legs. First the rear rank fell, then the third rank. Paerisades was in the front, the first rank. It looked to be the end. Then the other light cavalry squadron appeared and hit the Egyptian chariots from the side, sacrificing themselves to save the prince. Paerisades just barely escaped with his life. Had he died, I have no doubt that I too would be dead today, because our army's morale would have collapsed and we would have begun a mass rout, which the Egyptian chariots would take advantage of and slaughter us. Instead, thanks to the light cavalry, the chariots were the ones who routed, and most of them were destroyed. About half of that cavalry squadron survived.

After that terrifying moment, in which we very nearly lost the general and, with him, the battle, the rest of the Egyptians finally broke and fled the field. The cavalry killed as many of them as they could. Finally, there was no one left to fight. We were battered and bloody, but alive.

"But why wasn't that a victory?", you may ask. At the beginning of my tale, I said that this battle was neither a victory nor a defeat. It's true that we were the last men standing. But we couldn't take the city. We had defeated two Egyptian armies, but paid a high price in doing so, too high of a price to go on. Our army was in tatters, less than half its original size. Most of our units were down to 20 or 30 men. And while the garrison in Tarsus was small, there were still more Egyptian armies not far away, who would have attacked us while we besieged the city, and no doubt would have beaten us. So we had to retreat, with nothing to show for our victories, and go back home.

But we will return. Paerisades is gathering reinforcements even as we speak, and the king is assembling an army of his own. The navy is now sailing south, and once we do conquer Tarsus, we are to board the fleet and sail for Egypt itself, seize their land and their riches, and put an end to their expansion once and for all.
posted 13 September 2016 05:19 EDT (US)     53 / 61  
A tall, battle-scarred Thracian with a huge, blood-stained falx came up and slapped his hand on the bar.

"Barkeeper! Get me a beer to wet my throat, for I've a tale to tell!"

He took a swig of beer and launched into his story.

"So, it was three years ago the Macedonians invaded Thrace. We owned Byzantium, you see, and they wanted it for themselves, nice strategic location that it's in, the gateway between the Aegean and Euxine seas. A lot of trade flows through there. The Macedonians thought we'd be a pushover, remembering the days when Alexander subdued us. Ha! But they forgot one thing: Alexander is dead, and we had no intention of bending the knee to Macedon again. We Thracians never start a war, but when a fight is brought to us, we damn well see it through to the finish. So King Pytros sends his son Ziles and his nephew Gaidres to teach the Macs some respect. Ziles was our general, Gaidres his second-in-command.

We didn't think much of Ziles, frankly. Nor did the king, for that matter. He didn't seem to have any particular martial talent, nor was he a promising governor. He spent his days hemorrhaging gold on food, drink, gambling and women. So Pytros sent him to war in the hope of shaping him up. We weren't thrilled with our commander, but we're Thracians so we didn't complain. Whatever he was, he was our general, and we had a war to win."

He took another swig and slammed his tankard on the bar, spilling beer all over the place.

"There were two main Macedonian armies, one big one and one small, that were invading southern Thrace. The small one wasn't a real threat, so as we were the main army of Thrace, we went for the bigger one while the governor of Byzantium, Iptacens, sent a token force to crush the small one. We in Ziles' army marched west from Byzantium and met the Macedonian army on the border. It was under the command of a fellow named Aloeus.

We were about even in infantry, but they had a huge amount of cavalry, which was a worry to us. We had Ziles and Gaidres and their bodyguards, plus three squadrons of militia cavalry. The Macedonians had, in addition to their general's bodyguard, seven cavalry squadrons, all of them light lancers, which were superior to our militia cav. So, if we fought them on an open field, we'd probably have been massacred; they'd have slaughtered our cavalry first and then enveloped our infantry. So we needed to find some terrain we could use to take away their cavalry advantage and even the odds.

We went into the foothills right along the borderline between Macedonia and Thrace, and lured the Macs to us. Ziles' scouts informed him of the perfect spot to do battle, a hilly field with a cluster of giant boulders in the middle. We went and set up there, next to the boulders, which secured our left flank from the Macedonian cavalry. The militia hoplites formed the first line, we falxmen the second."

He took another swig of beer.

"Ziles sent our cavalry to harass the Macs while they were coming up the hill to us. We couldn't see what happened from where we were, because it was on the other side of the boulders, but we heard it from cavalrymen over our drinks the night after the battle. Ziles and all of his cavalry, and I mean all of them, went around the rocks and surprised the Macedonian cavalry, hitting them from the side. Completely shattered three squadrons of them! Ha! In one blow, the Macedonians' cavalry superiority was eliminated. After that, Ziles and his cavalry came back around the rocks to protect our right flank from the rest.

By this time the Mac spearmen had reached our lines of infantry, and hard fighting broke out. Our spearmen and theirs were about equal in numbers, but the Macs had longer spears so they started to break through in a few places. We falxmen then rushed in to plug the holes in the lines, hitting them from the flanks wherever we could. Meanwhile Ziles and his cavalry swung around our right and hit the rest of the Macedonian cavalry before it could encircle us. The militia cavalry also pelted the Mac spearmen with javelins. There was a dangerous moment when one of the Mac cavalry squadrons managed to get past Ziles and hit some of our falxmen from behind, but then our militia cav hit them from behind in turn and put them to rout before they could do too much damage.

That was a fight, I tell you! I'll give it to the Macs, they fought good and hard, gave us a hell of a battle. But none of our men ever broke, and our falxes cut through the Macs' armor like butter, so it was only a matter of time. Eventually the Macs finally started cracking. They only broke one unit at a time, but that was enough. As soon as our spearmen were rid of one enemy unit, they could turn and hit another from the flank, rapidly turning the fight against them. Finally the Macs had had enough and mass-routed, and our cavalry did the rest."

He slapped the bar again and let out a bark of a laugh. "Ha! We put paid to the Macs that day! Never again will they look down on Thracians as pushovers that can easily be conquered. We counted about 200 dead on our side, plus 1,200 Macedonian dead. We had a newfound respect for Ziles, whose tactical skill turned out to far exceed his reputation. We could have been massacred, up against that many horsemen, but Ziles won the battle handily by turning the terrain to our advantage."

He drained the rest of his tankard and slammed it on the bar. "More beer! Fear not, the story isn't over yet!"

"We wanted to go on to the Macedonian capital of Thessalonica then, which was virtually undefended, but just as we were about to head over there, a Thracian spy reported to Ziles that a massive plague had descended upon the city. So we returned to Byzantium instead, to replenish our troops and wait out the plague.

That plague ravaged Thessalonica for a long time, I tell you! We sat there for months in Byzantium, waiting it out. Eventually months turned into years, and that plague just wouldn't end. Meanwhile the Dacians invaded our north, so after two years of sitting on our butts in Byzantium, Ziles decided it was more important to head up there to fight off the Dacians. But we stopped in Tylis along the way, and before we could head further north, wouldn't you know it that we found ourselves under Macedonian attack again! This time the Macs went up via Bylazora, intending to strike right at Tylis in the heart of Thrace, thinking that we were all still down in Byzantium and Tylis would be undefended. Ha! They were in for a surprise."

He downed some more beer before continuing.

"The Mac commander, once again, was Aloeus! Ha! We were surprised to see him again, and we taunted him from the walls with greetings of varying levels of obscenity, but he wasn't pleased to see us. He was seething at his defeat in the south at our hands, and came up hoping to hit us where it hurts. And once again, he had cavalry superiority, but as this was going to be a city battle, that would actually turn out to be a disadvantage for him now.

This time our commander was Byzas, the governor of Tylis. But Ziles was there too, along with Gaidres and a fourth general named Bryzos. We ended up setting up in the square in the center of the city, in front of the palace, because the Macs had so many rams that we couldn't possibly defend the walls without overextending ourselves. We hoped to bottle them up at the two main western entrances to the square, where we could surround them with our hoplites. Once again, the hoplites took the front line, and we falxmen the second.

The Macs came in just like we hoped they would, all along the two main roads from the west. A couple cavalry squadrons tried taking a third road to get around us from behind, but Ziles and Bryzos went over there with their heavy horse and put an end to that plan.

What a slaughter ensued! Oh, I don't mean to say it was easy. The Macs fought hard. In the southwestern entrance to the square, where Aloeus himself was fighting, they actually broke through our lines briefly. But they never really had a chance, confined to a bottleneck and surrounded by our spears and falxes. We had the advantage all the way. Some of our cavalry went around the city to the west and came back up the same roads as the Macs had, trapping them and cutting off their retreat, killing anyone who fled. No one got out alive, not even Aloeus, who was killed by one of our falxmen. Poor bastard nearly got sliced in two; I saw it happen. Never play around with Thracian falxes! Ha!"

He drained his tankard again and slammed it down on the bar in satisfaction.

"That was it for the Macedonians. After those two defeats, their armies are depleted and their cities barely defended. And the latest word is that the plague in Thessalonica has finally abated. But little do the Macs know that their troubles are only just beginning, because Ziles is coming west with all his strength, yours truly included, and this time it will be Macedon that will bend the knee to Thrace!"

[This message has been edited by Kawada Shogo (edited 09-13-2016 @ 06:49 AM).]

posted 20 November 2016 07:12 EDT (US)     54 / 61  
The lost army of Cogidubnus

One of the most famous war stories in Gaul, known everywhere from Alesia to Patavium to Numantia, is that of the lost army of Cogidubnus. It has acquired such legendary status that some believe it to be only a myth. As it happens, I was in that army, so I can tell you that it was very real, and exactly what happened to it.

It began over ten years ago, when Germania treacherously attacked Gaul. We had lived in peace with them for generations, even helped them fight off the Britons and drive them back to their island. I was in that army too, under the command of Vindex, when we captured Samarobriva. I was there on the day a British diplomat came to Vindex and sued for peace, pledging never to leave their island again. The Britons haven't threatened Germania or Gaul since. So imagine our surprise, and our outrage, when our erstwhile allies expressed their gratitude by invading us and laying siege to Alesia!

I was still in Samarobriva at the time, where my army was still based in case the Britons ever tried to come back to the mainland. Vindex had gotten too old for war and went to govern Alesia, so Cogidubnus came up and took his place. It was shortly after that that we got our orders from King Eporedorix: march on the German town of Batavodurum. So on we went. We marched on Germania with five warbands, two skirmisher warbands armed with javelins, one pack of light cavalry, and our general Cogidubnus. Not the largest force we could and probably should have mustered, but a much larger force under Mandubracius was marching from Alesia to Trier, and Cogidubnus figured our own force was adequate to play a secondary role, capturing the small towns in the north while Mandubracius and his bigger and better-equipped army took care of the larger cities and armies in the German south.

The campaign started well enough. We won two small-scale battles along the frontier. Then when we got to Batavodurum, just outside the city, we encountered a German army much larger than ours. There took place a large and bloody battle that we just barely won, losing many of our men in the process. Those long spears the Germans wield really cut us up, but we overcame them through better mobility on the battlefield. Our army was reduced by about a third, but we won, so we laid siege.

But then came another army, as large as the first, down from up north. This time we decided it would be better to retreat than to give battle. But that army cut us off from the way we came, so we had to retreat east, deeper into Germania. This was where our troubles began. At first we tried to go southwest to Trier, where Mandubracius was fighting the bulk of the German forces, but we found ourselves cut off from that too by yet another German army too large to engage. They attacked us, but we retreated rather than give battle. This was not cowardice, but prudence; we had been battered severely in our last battle, our numbers depleted, and to engage another large army in that condition would amount to pointless suicide, which would be useless to anyone. So we retreated.

At this point we had a decision to make. Cogidubnus talked to the troops and laid out our options. We could go west and fight that huge army we'd just retreated from, or we could go north and try again to take Batavodurum from the army that was defending it, or we could go east and south, and try to reach our city of Patavium on the other side of the Alps, where we would be able to regroup and gather a larger force to invade Germania. Considering the condition of our army and the forces arrayed against us in the west and north, we chose the third option: we would go east, deeper into Germania and the unknown.

And so began a long journey, longer than any of us imagined it would be, of hard traveling through unknown country, far from home and any support from Gaul, in the hope of reaching safety on the other side of the mountains. Hunger was our constant companion: we only survived by thoroughly looting the German countryside. The winters were terrible, marching through knee-deep snow, and sometimes higher, in the forests and mountains. Many of us froze to death, or lost fingers, toes and ears to frostbite. We were constantly on the move in order to stay ahead of enemy armies. We did encounter a few small armies, which we engaged and destroyed, but we had to avoid larger ones that would overwhelm us. Because of this, we took a winding, circuitous route to Patavium, often going in the exact opposite direction from our destination.

At some point, far in eastern Germania, near a place called Lovosice, we encountered a massive German army. We couldn't for the life of us understand why they had so many troops there, in the middle of their country and far from any war zone. Either way, we had to avoid it. But it gave chase. Three times they nearly caught us, and we just barely escaped. In order to get away, we had to march through rugged country far from roads, cities and any human presence of any kind.

Eventually, after two to three years of traveling through Germania, we ended up on the eastern fringe of the Alps, somewhere west of another German-ruled town called Aquincum. We were heading south, to the town of Segestica, which was ruled by our allies the Macedonians. There's a river in the area that we had to cross in order to get to Macedonian land. Once we got across, we would be safe, beyond the reach of that German army, and we could stroll to Patavium. But before we could get to the river, fate intervened again in the form of a Thracian army, itself far from home for some unknown reason, that was positioned right at the bridge we needed to cross to get to Segestica. That army inexplicably attacked us. Perhaps they were at war with the Macedonians and knew us to be Macedon's allies. Either way, we were in no shape to fight, so we retreated once again, and began marching back north into Germania, along the foothills of the Alps.

At this point, despair began to set in among the troops. We had gotten so close to safety, and were suddenly driven from it by an enemy we didn't even know we had. Now we were marching back into German land, with no idea where we were going. Some of us came dangerously close to mutiny, which is the part that the bards leave out when they tell this story, and Cogidubnus had to use severe methods to keep discipline among the troops. Additionally, with no clear idea of our direction, different opinions began to form in the army. Some wanted to fight that Thracian army, not caring if we died trying, because we were clearly going to die anyway and we might as well do it trying to get home. Others advocated that we should become mercenaries, selling our services to whomever would pay us and give us food and shelter. Still others advocated that we should abandon all thought of home and just go far to the east, forming a country of our own by settling some uninhabited land or conquering an inhabited one. Some even felt that we should just disband and try to assimilate into the German countryside.

Then one night, Cogidubnus assembled the army and told us that we had another way home: the small German town of Iuvavum, just north of the Alps, which sits on the opening of a pass in the mountains that leads to Patavium. We couldn't go that way before because we were too far north of it and cut off by both harsh and rugged country and enemy armies, but from where we were now, we could get there. We would go to Gaul via Iuvavum. It was a dangerous course, but no more than the way we had already been going. Anyway we seemed to have escaped that large German army that was after us, so we readily accepted the new plan, and set off for Iuvavum along the edge of the mountains.

It took us several more hard and painful months to get there, but finally one day we saw Iuvavum. We also saw a small German army of four spear warbands marching toward us. By this point, we had been reduced from five warbands down to four understrength warbands, plus one half-sized skirmisher warband (down from the two full ones we had started with), the general's bodyguard and a half-sized light cavalry squadron, so our army was about even in size to theirs. In any case, we couldn't afford to turn back again. This German army was blocking the way to Iuvavum, and we had to fight it to get past. If we once again refused to give battle, we would have to go east again, deeper into German land, and risk running into that large German army that had been tracking us before, or the Thracians if we tried to get to Segestica again. Besides which, we were in no mood to turn back into the unknown again. Doing so would cause our army to disintegrate. We had gone too far and endured too much to turn back one more time.

As we lined up to face this German army, a great rage against the Germans and all the hardship and suffering they had put us through began to boil through our veins. No longer caring about anything but destroying the army that stood in our way, we roared out a war cry that shook the heavens, and we charged. We were on top of a hill, with the Germans marching up toward us, so we had the advantage. Our skirmishers threw their javelins down the hill and killed dozens of German spearmen, while we warbands surrounded the first German unit and slaughtered them. They began to break as soon as we enveloped them, and it turned into a massacre. We repeated the process with the other three German warbands. They moved slowly and we were able to divide them from each other and surround each of them in turn, at which point we cut them all down. They must have been green conscripts from local villages. Only the last unit, the one that contained their captain, gave us any trouble. In all, we lost about 40 men while we killed the entire German army, numbering almost 500 men.

After that, Cogidubnus called an assembly of the army as he did every time we had to make an important decision, and proposed that we lay siege and take Iuvavum for Gaul. Previously this was unthinkable, considering the depleted condition of our army and the state of mind of our troops, but destroying that last German army had reinvigorated us. Furthermore, it had left the town vulnerable, because that army was more than half its garrison. A Gallic spy who lived in the town came out to our camp in the forest and made contact with us, and from him we learned that, following the recent battle, Iuvavum was defended only by two spear warbands, and that the governor was a prince named Othelhildis, who happened to be the heir to the German throne. In light of these circumstances, after a short debate we overwhelmingly decided to attack Iuvavum. So we immediately laid siege and set to building a ram.

Once the ram was completed, we marched and attacked the gates of Iuvavum. It was a bright, clear summer morning, the perfect day to bring our long hardship to an end. My warband broke down the gates with the ram. Standing on the other side was one of the German spear warbands, so we moved out of the way and let our skirmishers up to the gateway. While we bashed down a second hole in the wall, the skirmishers killed scores of German spearmen with their javelins. The Germans panicked and ran, and three of our warbands stormed through the gate. The Germans had gone to the right, toward the main road to the center of town. We knew they'd be back, so our men set up just to the left of the gate, and lined up for the coming fight. The Germans marched on us. The warband I was in had stayed outside, having been busy breaking down the wall with the ram, and now rushed in behind the Germans. Our entire army swarmed and attacked the German warband from all four directions. They didn't stand a chance. Every single spearman was slaughtered.

After that, we marched up the main road to the town center. There we found Othelhildis and his bodyguards, with the last German warband, in the square in front of the Warriors' Hold. Othelhildis charged at us as we lined up in front of the square, thinking to drive us off in one powerful cavalry charge. It had little effect. We surrounded him and killed every last one of his cavalrymen, himself included. Then two of our warbands marched around the Warriors' Hold to the other side of the square while our skirmishers softened up the last warband with their remaining javelins. Once the javelins were finished, we all charged. The Germans fought viciously for a short while and killed many of our men, but after we drove them off the square, they lost heart, threw down their spears and surrendered, preferring a life of slavery to a pointless death in a battle that was already lost.

And so it was that the long march of the lost army of Cogidubnus came to an end. We never made it back to Gaul, as such, but we brought Gaul to Iuvavum. Once we took Iuvavum and Cogidubnus installed himself as governor, he sent word to Lugotorix in Patavium informing him of our victory and asking him to send reinforcements to bolster the defense of the town. By all accounts, Lugotorix was stunned to learn of our long journey. During the several years we spent marching across Germania, the fate of our army had been a great mystery in Gaul, as we had seemingly vanished without a trace. Some thought we deserted. Others thought we joined the Germans. Most thought we all died deep in the forests of Germania. Few imagined what really happened, that we spent years marching halfway across the known world, through hostile land, freezing and starving and escaping every army sent to destroy us. The bards came up to Iuvavum from all over Gaul so they could hear our story and tell it to the world. And from that day, we have been famous.

[This message has been edited by Kawada Shogo (edited 11-20-2016 @ 01:55 PM).]

posted 20 November 2016 09:37 EDT (US)     55 / 61  
"A toast, barmaster," called the Viking from the corner. He had a horn of ale lifted to the ceiling in one hand, and a stout blonde woman with a thick braid in the the other. "To a tale well-told, and a journey coming to an end."

Others raised their horns in cheers and praise, then drank deeply of the draugghts within.

"An excellent tale," a long-moustached Gaul agreed. "But me wonders, in all those travels, why Cobidungus never hired a few spears along his way to flush out his shrunken warbands?"

"He had no access to treasure," cried a Spaniard. "You know the rules of the Sellsword- no cash, no clash."

The other mercenaries nodded at the old adage. No pay, no play. It was the Golden Law of Warfare: he with the gold can make war.

"I remember one fellow, A German prince," the Viking said, dismissing the blonde with a wink meaning he intended to bed her later. Now was the time to tell a tale. Later would be the time to claim rewards.

"Let us call him Klaus. I do not remember he real name, but that matters not anyway. Klaus was told to take his warband and cover the East from attack by the Scythians and Thracians and Dacians. The King wanted to concentrate his entire warhost in the West, to overrun fair Gaul and conquer the Rainy Isles. Klaus was to prevent the King from losing any territory to the other barbarians.

"He had a tough job, that Klaus. He had his comitatus, his Bodyguard, and that was it concerning manpower. But he had somthing else. He had the Fabled Gold of Tolosa, a king's ransom, donated by the King himself.

"Klaus puffed his army up with spearmen and some of that useless barbarian cavalry, and then he made a great discovery- a Viking Warband or two on a winter's romp. He bargained well and good, and expanded his army by two keels of good Vikings.

"He soon decided the best defense for him was offense. So when the Scythians crossed the river, he set an ambush for them. Horse archers can't fight for shit in the woods, and soon we had them scattered and running.

"Of course that brought the Dacian dogs sniffing at the bloodtrail. We ambushed them as well, then chased them back down across the southern river and into the mountains beyond, where we took both of their prized cities.

"By then the Scythians had returned, and we were weakened by battle, so Klaus once again opened his fabled chest of gold. Sellswords were coming out of the woodwork now to serve him, and he was paying well. He gave and paid well for good service, I tell you. We smashed four armies and took two more cities before the King decided to send a real army to guard his East, under the command of a new princeling.

"And Klaus? He was sent to lead the Hordes into Italia. It seems the Romans had taken offense at our ownership of the west, and decided to meddle. He inherited a veteran army from his brother, lots of silver-chased spearmen and noble-cavalry. But us, sellswords and mercenaries, the lowest of the low?

"You can bet every drop of your precious blood he kept us by his side. We were combined and outfitted as if we were House Troops themselves, and were among his vanguard when he marched into the city of Roma herself.

"Now," said the Viking with a toast. "To Cobidingus, may he have the savvy and sense of Klaus!"

He cast his eyes about, grumbling more to himself than to the crowd, "Now where did that wench get off to. . .?"

|||||||||||||||| 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 11-13-2017 @ 03:06 PM).]

posted 13 November 2017 03:25 EDT (US)     56 / 61  
"Will this damnable snow never end?", muttered the man as he navigated his way through the dark wintry streets with the wind blowing snow in his face. It seemed that wherever he turned, the wind would change direction so it could blow in his face again. Most of his head was protected by his Syrian headscarf, but he still needed to see. Fortunately he carried a long pike, which he could use much in the manner of a blind man walking with a stick. He rounded another corner and, in a brief moment where he was facing downwind and could actually see in front of him, he spotted his destination up ahead, the Shattered Spear Inn. "Thank the gods", he grumbled as he marched through the drifts to get inside.

As he stumbled inside, accidentally bringing with him a gust of wind which blew a fresh wave of snow right in the face of a man sitting near the door, he removed his scarf and gratefully took in the warmth of the fireplace. He hung his frozen winter cloak and scarf by the fire to thaw, made his way to the bar, and laid aside his pike which was stained with the blood of a hundred battles. He sat with a weary sigh.

"Get me something warm. Anything, I don't care what it is so long as it's warm. I'll also be wanting a room. I'm not going back out in that tonight."

The innkeeper presented him with a hot beverage and he gulped it down gratefully.

"Gods, that hit the spot", he said as he felt it warm his insides. He reached into his purse and pulled out a fistful of coins, and poured them out on the bar. He raised his cup to the other patrons and declared, "I'm buying everyone's food and drinks for the remainder of the night!"

As the other patrons cheered and raised their cups back, the innkeeper refilled his drink, scooped up the coins and said "What's the occasion? I know it's cold out, but I've never seen a single drink spark such a display of generosity."

The man took another drink and replied, "The occasion, my good man, is the victory over the Seleucids in Antioch. Those are Antiochene coins, taken during the sack of the city."

A noisy Gaul on the other end of the bar called for beer, and as the innkeeper was preparing it for him, he asked "So, you were in the battle of Antioch?"

He shook his head. "There was no battle in Antioch. The battle was on the bridge just north of the city. By the time we finished, there was no one left to defend Antioch. They threw in everything they had, the fools."

He took another sip, set his drink down and said "I'm from Pontus. I was in the army of Eupator of Gangra. The kingdom of Pontus, as I'm sure you know, is in its ascendancy. We rule all of Anatolia today. The Seleucids were stupid enough to attack Pontus right after we conquered Pergamum, when we began becoming truly rich and powerful. Perhaps they sensed that we were eclipsing them and wanted to stop us before we crushed them, but it was too late, we were already stronger.

I come from Mazaka. Eupator was building his army there while King Pharnaces was conquering the Seleucid and Greek cities along the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. Our army was to march south and conquer Antioch. We first took Tarsus and fended off a couple of Seleucid attempts to retake it, stayed long enough to establish a permanent garrison in the city, and then marched to Antioch.

When we got there, we laid siege to the city. But before we could attack it, a Seleucid army came from the east and marched against us from behind. Then the Seleucids inside the city, led by King Demetrius the Cunning, marched out to attack us. We were attacked from two directions. They hoped to crush us between two forces by sheer weight of numbers.

Eupator set up our army on the south side of the bridge. We faced north with the city behind us. The reasoning was that the larger army was the one coming from the north, so we would benefit most from confining that army on the bridge, as it outnumbered us greatly. The king's army coming from the city was smaller than ours, so we could afford to face it on the open field south of the bridge without being encircled.

Our army consisted of six phalanxes of pikemen, two units of archers, two squadrons of heavy cavalry, and General Eupator and his force of bodyguards. Eupator ordered three phalanxes to surround the end of the bridge, and the other three to stand in the field just south of it and face the Seleucid king coming from Antioch. The archers were positioned on either side of the bridge facing north, and the cavalry all faced south, because King Demetrius was bringing a significant cavalry force with him which could easily flank our few phalanxes.

I was in one of the phalanxes facing the bridge. Our job was the hardest by far. The army coming across the bridge was gigantic. The vast majority of them were militia hoplites, but they also contained a large number of light and heavy cavalry and chariots. They even had a dozen elephants, which were what worried us the most. We had our long pikes and our iron discipline, but we were only three phalanxes and our lines were a bit thin compared to what we were facing. If they broke through, they would hit our comrades from behind and we would be done for. The stakes were high; we could not let them open a hole in the lines."

He drained his tankard, asked for a refill and continued the story.

"We formed up surrounding the end of the bridge and we waited. Eventually we heard the Seleucid captain give the order to march, and we saw the enemy begin pouring onto the bridge towards us. Our archers fired volley after volley onto the bridge.

The first to reach us were the elephants. This was the most crucial moment of the battle, because they were the biggest threat which had the best chance of breaking through. If they got through, the battle would be over before it began. But they didn't get through. They charged us and we fought back fiercely with our pikes. They did push into the middle of our phalanxes, but never made it out the other side. The line didn't break, and we successfully killed them all.

The next to reach us were the chariots and then the cavalry, both light and heavy. Cavalrymen charging directly against a wall of pikes may be insane, but it was their only chance after the elephants, and it could potentially succeed, though they would take heavy losses in the process. There must have been two hundred horsemen charging at us. Some of them did get through the lines of our first two phalanxes, only to get skewered by the third. This was the part of the battle where we took the highest losses. But we stopped the cavalry charge.

Meanwhile behind us, the Seleucid king had reached our fellows to the south. I didn't see any of what happened there because I was facing the bridge, but I learned about it later after the battle. The Seleucids from Antioch had only two phalanxes with them, but they also brought archers, peltasts and cavalry. The cavalry were the biggest concern. Our phalanxes marched on theirs and destroyed them, while Eupator and the Pontic heavy cavalry attacked King Demetrius and his cavalry. Our men routed theirs easily. Then our cavalry spread out and attacked all of the Seleucid archers and peltasts, finishing them off. The dead king's bodyguard, which had run, came back and decided to honor his memory with a suicide charge against our heavy cavalry. Needless to say, there were no survivors.

While this was happening behind us, the hordes of enemy hoplites poured against our pikes from the bridge. I don't know how many men I skewered on my pike", he said as he nodded to the bloody pike leaning on the bar, "but it was just an endless tide. Hundreds and hundreds of men pouring onto our pikes. What a pointless waste of men's lives. They had no chance at this point, but charged against our pikes regardless. They tired us out, but that was all.

When the dust settled, not a single Seleucid soldier was still alive. A mere three phalanxes of pikemen had slaughtered over 1,000 men on that bridge. After the battle, when we counted the dead, we found that there were 1,700 dead Seleucids. We lost only 35 men. 35 against 1,700! It was the greatest military victory in the entire history of Pontus. Eupator became a legend that day. Of course we pikemen did most of the work, but we might not have won, or at least we might have taken much heavier losses, if he hadn't been there to stop the Seleucid heavy cavalry coming from the south. If they had hit us from behind, we would have been done for. So he deserves his fame.

That was the day the Seleucid Empire died. In one afternoon on one bridge, we broke the back of a military machine dating from the days of Alexander. They still hold a few cities in Syria, but those will soon fall, as they have few men to defend them now. Antioch was their stronghold, and it was left defenseless after the battle of the bridge. We took it without a fight and stripped it to the bone. Damascus, Sidon and Hatra will soon follow."

He raised his drink, "To Eupator of Gangra, conqueror of the Seleucid Empire!"

[This message has been edited by Kawada Shogo (edited 11-13-2017 @ 03:32 AM).]

posted 27 February 2018 11:25 EDT (US)     57 / 61  
Any of you folks ever been to Salona?

It's a little town just across the water from Italia to the east, in Dalmatia. The area is populated by Illyrian tribes. The town is nestled between a mountain range just to the east and the sea to the west. Pretty little place, and nice climate too. Good place for a man to settle down. It was once a pirate den, but we Romans conquered it a few years back and stabilized the place. Now it's a peaceful little farming community.

It's not the kind of place where you expect a great battle to happen. The Julii regarded it as something of a backwater, just a place to set up a frontier with the Brutii to prevent them from expanding further north.

Publius Macrianus was the general who conquered Salona. Not everyone was happy with our presence there, especially those who had profited from the heyday of the Illyrian pirates, so four squads of town watchmen, myself included, were sent from Ariminum to garrison the place and keep order. Apart from that, the town was defended by the four centuries of hastati legionaries and one squadron of equite cavalry with which Macrianus had conquered it.

Part of the reason why we were sent was because it was thought that the legionaries would be departing soon, and Macrianus with them, to go campaign for more important places. Macrianus expected this too, and grew impatient as time went by and Rome dragged its feet on reassigning him. He suspected his rivals in Rome and Arretium were intervening to keep him in de facto exile in the remote frontier in order to isolate him politically.

But looking back, it was a good thing, at least for those of us who would have been left behind, that Macrianus and his hastati stayed in the town. Because one day the Dacians came calling to claim this land.

Their leader was a warlord by the name of Duras. The army he fielded wasn't especially large, only about 700 men, a medium-sized force, but it was big enough to seriously threaten the town and its little garrison. Half of the garrison was our four town watch militias, whose job was to keep civilians docile, not to fight off armies. We weren't trained for that. And those Dacians are nothing to sneeze at. The falxes some of them carry can cleave a man in two. They're hardened warriors whose lives are spent fighting tribe against tribe. What chance did our little band of headknockers have against them?

All told, our garrison in Salona was 636 men, just slightly outnumbered by the Dacians. Normally a Roman army does fine against a bigger force, but only half of us were actual soldiers, whereas the Dacian army was entirely comprised of hardened warriors. So our chance of victory wasn't any greater than theirs. It would hinge on luck.

We were besieged for a long time. Luckily, Salona being in a nice fertile region but without a large population to feed, we had plenty of food stored. But as time went on, the rations grew tighter and tighter. We began to grow impatient for the Dacians to hurry up and simply attack us. We would taunt and insult them from the walls in the hope of provoking them. We couldn't possibly sally out and attack them, because on an open field they would massacre us. Our only hope was to fight them in the town, where we would have the advantage.

Finally the day came. We saw the Dacians lining up behind their rams outside the walls. We all felt a mixture of relief and trepidation. At long last the siege was over, but what would happen now? Was this the end, were we all going to die here?

The Dacians had four rams. We had four hastati centuries and four town watch militias. So General Macrianus put the hastati at the four spots the Dacians were going to break through, and he put our town watch right behind them. Each of our groups would be fighting two to three Dacian warbands. The group at the actual gate would be facing not only warbands but cavalry as well. The Dacians had one light cavalry squadron and two heavy cavalry squadrons including their general's companions. It was not looking good.

Our little towers along the wall shot fire arrows at the Dacians and their rams, but it did little good. None of the rams burned. So we were going to remain dangerously spread out.

The Dacians attacked along the north wall. My unit was in the northeast corner, the far right of the battle from our perspective. Luckily for us, this was the Dacians' weakest point of attack; they were focused on the central area around the gate, and I suppose all they intended to do in this front was keep us spread out. I didn't mind, because I wouldn't have to be fighting heavy cavalry.

Initially the battle went as well as could be expected. Once the rams broke down the walls, the legionaries threw their pila. Dozens of Dacians were killed along the line. They came charging in and we were able to hold them for a while. Eventually a victory was achieved. The Dacians attacking the east-central point, between the north gate and my unit in the northeast corner, began to rout. The hastati and town watch there charged through and chased them out the hole in the wall. The general and the equites followed.

At this point Macrianus became over-optimistic, I believe, and made a fatal error. He seems to have assumed that, since the Dacians broke in one area, it was inevitable that they would break everywhere else as well. So he and his cavalry left the city to chase down the runaways that were fleeing to the northeast, rather than moving to support our troops on the weaker fronts.

To his credit, he did order the hastati and town watch from the east-central point to move to the main gate. Our troops there were extremely hard-pressed by the Dacian cavalry. The reinforcements ran along the outside of the walls and charged in the gate behind the Dacians to surround them. This was tactically sound. But it was too little, too late.

Disaster struck. The defenders of the gate broke and ran. The reinforcements who had charged into the gate from the outside to surround the Dacians ended up being the ones who got surrounded themselves. They were massacred to a man.

Now the entire battle began to fall apart. We were still successfully holding in two areas, the northeast corner and the northwest corner. But we were only just, barely, holding. We needed support to turn the tide, we needed General Macrianus and his cavalry. But he was far away, to the northeast, thinking the battle had been won and hunting down a handful of Dacian runaways. What happened instead was that the Dacians, who had captured the north gate, moved west to attack our men at the northwest corner. Those men were surrounded and slaughtered.

Finally the general realized what was happening when he didn't see any more Dacians fleeing, and noticed that there was no more fighting at the gate. He then charged back to the town.

At this point, our men in the northeast corner were the only Romans still holding the line. So the general came and crashed into the Dacian warbands we were fighting. They immediately broke and were slaughtered by the general and his heavy and light cavalry.

The hastati were virtually eliminated by this point, though. The only infantry unit we had that was even remotely intact and capable of putting up a fight was my town watch militia. The other three town watch units and all four of the hastati legionary centuries were, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. We had held the line in the northeast at heavy cost, had won a brief victory in the east-central point, but lost everywhere else along the line, and our army was practically annihilated. One town watch unit, the general's cavalry and the equites were all we had left to hold Salona.

Fortunately for us, the Dacians had suffered badly too and lost hundreds of men. But they still had two or three warbands strong enough to take us on, in addition to most of their cavalry. We could still win, but the conditions of the battle were against us.

I was sure it was over and I was going to die that day. I'm not a soldier. I came to Salona because I heard it was a pleasant little posting where nothing ever happens, and I was promised a farm upon retirement. My job was to keep the peace and stop riots. I wasn't trained for this. Everyone around me felt the same. Men were visibly shaking, and some were emitting distinct smells. But General Macrianus got up in front of us, looked us all in the eye and told us that we were all that was standing between victory and death, that we were now soldiers and had to fight and act like soldiers, that he would see to it that we were all rewarded as heroes if we won, and that he would be with us to back us up to the end, whatever end that might be.

Heartened by his words to some extent, and accepting that in any case we had no choice but to fight, we hardened ourselves for the last fight. The Dacians were on the move. Some of them were marching up the main road to the town square, where the tattered remnants of the other defenders of the wall had gathered. The others, led by Duras and his heavy cavalry, were coming towards us.

General Macrianus knew that town watchmen had no chance against heavy cavalry no matter how many bold speeches he gave them, so he led the way against Duras. He and his equites charged and crashed into Duras and his heavy cavalry at full force. We town watchmen ran to play a supporting role by attacking the Dacian cavalry from the flank. A Dacian warband then arrived to support Duras's cavalry, and we town watchmen did our best to keep them from getting to our general.

This was where the entire battle would be decided. It was a terribly close thing. Some of us began to waver and looked like they might rout. General Macrianus saw this and rallied us, yelled for us to hold the line, we were this close to victory. But his own cavalry was doing badly too. If our town watch fled, the cavalry would have been swarmed with the Dacian infantry, and the battle would be lost. The entire tide of the battle hung on whether our headknockers could hold the line against a Dacian army.

Then it happened. Duras fell dead. The Dacians, when they saw this, panicked and flew into a rout. I couldn't believe it. We had won. We town watchmen and the cavalry slaughtered every last one of them. As my fellow Romans around me cheered and danced and waved their spears in the air, I stood and felt the sun on my face and let it sink in that I was still alive.

It still wasn't quite over though, because there was one more Dacian warband on the road near the town square. It was still possible for them to win, if they kept their nerve. Fortunately for us, they did not. They had expected their fellow Dacians to come support them as they attacked the few dozen Romans defending the square. Instead they saw their comrades slaughtered and the Roman cavalry coming up the road behind them, brandishing Duras's head on a spear. A barbaric tactic to be sure, but it worked. Upon seeing this, the Dacians began to rout without even putting up a fight. Not a single one of them survived.

With that, the battle finally ended. We had won. Against all odds, we had triumphed. In terms of numbers, it was only a medium-sized battle. 636 Romans against roughly 700 Dacians. We counted 682 Dacian dead in total, against 397 dead Romans. It would have been much higher, but many of the casualties were able to be saved. Approximately 70 badly wounded men recovered and were able to return to duty. At the end of it, after the dead were counted and the injured were healed, 239 Romans remained in control of Salona.

Publius Macrianus decided to stay in Salona, at least until the Dacians are no longer a threat to the town. Another legion is already on its way to Segestica to push the Dacian frontier back. In the meantime, he requested hastati reinforcements to be sent from Italia to securely garrison Salona. Since he has now been hailed a war hero in Rome, his enemies will likely no longer be able to prevent him from being given a command of his choice next time he requests it.

He called our town watch the heroes of the hour, without whom victory could not have been won, and rewarded all the survivors of the battle, with special emphasis on the one unit of town watch that held the line and never fled. Our little company of town watchmen were decorated as though we were soldiers of the legion. The Senate criticized Macrianus for this, but he responded that the circumstances justified it, and he won the argument.

And so that was the day that a little band of town watchmen turned the tide of battle and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
posted 05 March 2019 14:23 EDT (US)     58 / 61  
Barkeeper! Wine, if you will. Carthaginian wine! I won't have any other, neither Gaulish nor Greek nor, above all, Roman! For I am here to drink to Carthage today. I am a Spaniard in the service of that great city, and I wish to regale you all with a tale of Carthaginian power, how Carthage overcame the Roman menace.

Several years have passed since the Romans treacherously attacked Carthage, with the aim of conquering all Sicily and Sardinia. Initially the war went badly. Not that we lost any ground, of course not, but our forces were spread out too thin and it was all we could do to hold the line. Carthage is the greatest civilization in the world, but any Carthaginian will freely admit that Rome is as near to being her equal as any other. Some of us held Sardinia against the Romans who landed there, while others held the line in our part of Sicily, and others still tried to maintain Carthaginian control over the sea. Neither we nor the Romans were able to gain the decisive upper hand for several years.

It was in Sardinia that we began to break the deadlock, when our great king Hasdrubal landed with an army that contained elephants in order to drive away the Romans that were besieging Caralis. I was in that army. We were outnumbered and out-armed, but the elephants were our trump card. Besides the elephants, we had six companies of Iberian infantry, my own included, two squadrons of Numidian cavalry, one of Carthaginian cavalry, and Hasdrubal himself. I don't recall how many men the Romans had, but it was more than us. Most of them were hastati, and there were two or three units of velites and at least one of archers, as well as, I believe, one squadron of equites and their general.

The Romans lined up in a wooded area and waited for us to come. Hasdrubal sent forth the Numidian cavalry first, to harry the Romans with javelins and try to draw them out. Two companies of the Romans took the bait, but most stayed where they were. The two who were drawn out and isolated from the others were massacred by our Carthaginian cavalry. Next we sent in the elephants. This was risky because the Romans had a great many missile troops, both archers and velites. Hasdrubal knew we would probably lose the elephants, but it was still necessary to use them to shatter the Roman lines. And shatter them they did. The elephants threw the Romans into chaos, and we Iberians charged in to finish them while they were disorganized. In the process, the elephants ran amok, panicking as a result of the Roman javelins and fire arrows. Many of our own men got trampled. But we suffered far less damage than the Romans did. They broke rapidly, and our cavalry tore them to shreds. Few of them escaped with their lives.

After that, we boarded our fleet and returned to Carthage to fill out our ranks with new recruits. After a short stay there, we sailed for Lilybaeum. We had to do without the elephants, for only one of them had survived the battle of Sardinia, and Carthage had no other elephants to replace them with yet. We also left the Carthaginian cavalry behind to bolster the defense of Caralis in case of future Roman incursions.

After arriving in Sicily, we marched for Syracuse, which was lightly defended. We were just outside the city and about to lay siege, but then came under attack by a small Roman force. The Romans faced us with two units of hastati, reinforced with the Syracusan garrison of two hastati and two principes. We had eight Iberian infantry units, two companies of mercenary peltasts, the same two Numidian cavalry squadrons and Hasdrubal's personal guard.

There was a large rock jutting up in the middle of the otherwise flat battlefield. The initial two Roman units were just beside it, and Hasdrubal's objective was to wipe them out before they could link up with the Syracuse garrison that was approaching the field. He sent forth the Numidian cavalry to harry the Romans, and once they were divided from each other, we Iberians charged. They broke instantly, and our cavalry massacred them.

Now we lined up, with the rock protecting our right flank and our cavalry on our left, facing the Syracuse garrison. The Romans approached, and stopped to throw their pila at us. We charged before they had time to throw. Our cavalry swung around and crashed into them from behind. They never had a chance. There was not one single survivor.

Unfortunately, a new garrison of principes had been raised in Syracuse during the battle, so we were unable to march into the city immediately as we expected. We laid siege. But then came a much larger Roman force from a fleet just off the coast. This one was enormous, much larger than the Roman army we had faced in Sardinia. Hasdrubal concluded that we were in no position to face such an army, and we lifted the siege and retreated. But the Romans caught up with us and forced us to give battle.

We lined up, every man of us expecting to die. We in the ranks only hoped we would hold the Romans off long enough to give Hasdrubal the chance to escape back to Lilybaeum and raise a new army to replace us with. We never thought we would win.

The Roman force arrayed against us this time was enormous. There were eight units of hastati and principes, about half and half. With them were three velites, one unit of wardogs, four equites and two generals. We had eight slightly understrength units of Iberian infantry, two of mercenary peltasts, two Numidian cavalry squadrons and Hasdrubal. We Iberians lined up in two rows of four, with the peltasts in front to soften the Romans up for us.

It looked hopeless. To us, at least. But Hasdrubal had faith. He felt we could win if he took the offensive. So he and the two groups of Numidians charged ahead, with the rest of us ordered to stay behind and hold our ground.

Hasdrubal and the Numidians crashed into a Roman unit of equites and shattered them in moments. They then withdrew and charged into one of the two Roman generals. He died almost instantly and his cavalry fled. The Romans, alarmed, divided their forces, with half still marching towards us and the other half responding to Hasdrubal. Hasdrubal and the Numidians used their speed and mobility to their advantage, running the Romans all over the field. One unit of hastati would get too far from the others, and then would be surrounded and destroyed by our cavalry. The cavalry would then withdraw and repeat.

The most dangerous moment was when the Roman general, Quintus Scipio was his name, some important senatorial magistrate in Rome, he charged with his heavy cavalry into our lines. Hasdrubal and the Numidians followed right behind him. Good thing they did, too, because we could never have held off a force like that, even if we weren't already busy fighting their infantry. It was touch and go for a bit, especially when some Roman equites attacked Hasdrubal from behind, but eventually someone killed Scipio. After that, the entire Roman army broke. We massacred them. Some got away, but over a thousand died there that day.

We couldn't believe it. We expected a fight to the death; we didn't think we would actually win. But we did. It was slightly bittersweet, in fact, because we had retreated from Syracuse and lifted our siege; had we stayed there and fought outside the city, we would have taken it in the battle. The one unit of principes garrisoning the city wouldn't have made a difference. But that's how the cookie crumbles. We were just happy to be alive. We had shattered the majority of the Scipio forces and now had free rein in Sicily. Syracuse fell soon after, and Messana after that. Sicily is now Carthaginian at last.

Hasdrubal has tried negotiating peace with the Romans, but no matter how many defeats they suffer, they won't hear of it. So be it. We will march into Italy and take Rome itself. And Carthage will assume its rightful place as sole ruler of the known world.

[This message has been edited by Kawada Shogo (edited 03-05-2019 @ 02:29 PM).]

posted 26 August 2020 09:00 EDT (US)     59 / 61  
Wine, innkeeper. Roman, if you would. Falernian, to be more specific. Fear not, I can afford it. I've looted enough Roman corpses these days to buy my own vineyard, which I just may do when we conquer Italy. And unlike some of my fellow Carthaginians, I don't mind the taste of Roman wine. It tastes like victory.

As everyone knows, we Carthaginians are perennially at war with our great enemies, the Romans. I'm sure plenty of tales have been told here from men of both sides, no doubt each of them convinced that they've just won the war for good and all. Myself, I'm a realist, and I know this struggle will go on for quite a while longer, though Carthage's victory is assured in the end.

But enough about that. How about I tell you the story of the latest battle in our long series of wars, which took place, as others have before, on the island of Sardinia?

I was posted in Caralis, capital of Sardinia, when not one but two Roman armies landed on our shores and surrounded our city. The two armies represented different factions. The one camped just north of the city sported the red flag of House Julius, while the flag that flew on the camp to the south was the blue banner of Scipio.

Unfortunately, our garrison was ill-equipped to deal with this threat. The dominion of Carthage is rather spread out. Our main armies were in Sicily and southern Italy. We also had a fair number of troops in the African heartland, to fend off attacks from the Numidians. Sardinia was the second-lowest priority for troop deployments, above only our isolated little town of Palma in the Baleares.

That's not to say we were entirely defenseless. After all, Sardinia controls the approach to Carthage from the north. But compared to the elite troops in Carthage, Sicily, Italy and Cordoba, our troops in Sardinia were a mishmash of whatever could be scraped together. Most of them were light infantry, with a little bit of light cavalry. Our best troops were four units of Libyan spearmen, but they were badly understrength, remnants of a previous battle against a Roman invasion of our island. We did, however, have a unit of elephants. That was where we placed our hopes.

All told, we had about 800 men, against approximately 1300 Romans surrounding our city. And the Romans were fielding their best troops, against our scrapings of light infantry. I'm not such a small man that I can't admit they had the better army. Carthage is the better city, but our best troops were far away. Bomilkar sent word to Carthage asking for an army from Sicily to come aid us, but unfortunately none of our fleets were near enough to pick up the reinforcements and get them to us in time. We were completely and utterly on our own.

Soon the fateful day came, when our men on the walls reported that the Romans were preparing to storm the city. They had at least six sets of ladders, two towers and three rams.

Bomilkar decided that there was no point even trying to defend the walls. Our light infantry had no chance of winning that way; they would just be routed and cut down one by one. Our entire army was gathered in the square in the center of the city. The only way we could possibly win was to concentrate all our forces in one place from which it would be impossible to retreat. This way our troops could support each other from nearby instead of individually fighting each and every attack on the walls and cut off from each others' aid. Even with this strategy, victory was a long shot, but it was all we had.

The southern gate was broken first. As the Scipii streamed in from the south, the Julii in the north were still setting up their ladders and towers and banging against the northern gate, while another Julii unit in the west was preparing to attack the western gate. Bomilkar decided to focus on the Scipii for the moment, and try to rout them before the Julii could get into the city.

The elephants were sent on the road to the south gate. Bomilkar and our two light cavalry squadrons (one Carthaginian and the other Numidian) took another road to the south, planning to hit the Roman infantry after the elephants disorganized their ranks.

It didn't go well. Elephants need room to move, and narrow city streets just don't allow them sufficient space. Furthermore, these Romans were no green recruits; they were hardy veterans, many of them principes. The elephants disorganized them somewhat, but they had trouble moving and were under attack by Roman light cavalry, and the Roman infantry was well-disciplined and just would not break.

Our cavalry attacked the Romans again and again. Charge, retreat, charge. Finally some of the Romans broke. Bomilkar ordered the elephants back to the main square, as they were getting agitated by the stress of the battle. Before they got there, though, they went out of control, panicked and began to run amok.

Bomilkar and us cavalrymen were now trapped in the southern part of the city, with the Romans to our south and the rampaging elephants to our north. Two Scipii generals and their heavy cavalry were now coming in the south gate. There was only one thing to do. We kicked our horses into a gallop and ran, pell-mell and screaming, to the square.

We had to run through the elephants. It was a gamble. Bomilkar could have been killed and then we would have been truly lost. The elephants slaughtered many of us as we ran through their ranks. Then the Romans hit us from behind. All told, when we finally made it to the square, we had lost the great majority of our cavalrymen. The Numidians were down to 10 or 12, we Carthaginians down to 19 or 20. Bomilkar's personal guard was reduced to half a dozen men.

The good thing was, the Scipii were now trapped in the south, blocked from the square by the rampaging elephants. But now the Julii infantry were arriving in the square from the two roads from the north gate, surrounding us. I thought 'this is it, this is the end'.

But Bomilkar took charge. He ordered the Libyan spearmen forward, with the Iberians at their flanks. They attacked the Romans on the right, while the four squads of town militia stood guard to the left, protecting them from being flanked. The Libyans surrounded one unit of Hastati and massacred it before the other Romans could even get there to help them. Then they spread out. The Libyans pinned Roman infantry units in place while the Iberian infantry wheeled around behind them and hit them from the rear. I couldn't believe how well it worked. The city square was large, so our troops had room to maneuver here. It wasn't long before all the Romans on the eastern part of the square collapsed into a rout. We light cavalry ran forth to finish them off, while the Libyan and Iberian infantry turned around to face the Romans on the left.

On the western end of the square, our town militia were hard pressed, under attack by the Julii. Moreover, the last of the elephants in the south were dead, so the Scipii were now entering the square with all their heavy cavalry. Bomilkar again took charge. He sent two units of Libyans to hit the Scipii cavalry with their spears and hold them at the entrance to the square, while the other Libyans and the Iberians crashed into the backs of the Julii fighting our town militia. It was touch and go, but finally one by one the Julii routed. Bomilkar personally charged in and started cutting them down, while the Libyans swung south and hit the Scipii cavalry in the backs.

By this point the situation was so chaotic it was hard to follow what was going on. Some of the routed Julii had come back, and there were fights all around the square. Our Balearic slingers were slaughtered by Julii infantry, and most of our town militia got killed by both the Julii infantry and the Scipii cavalry. No one seemed to know what happened to our skirmishers, but they were mostly dead. Some Julii velites launched a desperate melee attack against Bomilkar himself, but he was saved by the town militia.

But Baal was with us this day, my friends. Of that I'm certain. The town militia and Iberians dealt with the remainder of the Julii infantry, while the Libyan spearmen massacred the Scipii cavalry. The Roman generals lived, but fled the city with only a few guards. Our light cavalry were down to a bare handful, but we charged and charged again and cut down any Roman foot soldier we could find.

Finally, I looked around and the battle was over. It seemed as if we had been in a fog that suddenly lifted and we could finally see clearly. All of our men seemed surprised, not only that the fighting had ended, but that we had actually won.

All told, about a thousand Roman troops were dead, while we had lost around 400, half of our strength. Our little army of light infantry managed to beat back a force more than half-again the size of our own of the best troops Rome could put on the field.

Carthage declared an official celebration of Bomilkar's victory, and quickly approved the deployment of six units of Libyan spearmen to Caralis to reinforce our depleted garrison. Furthermore, an entire new fleet was immediately put under construction, in addition to the five fleets we already had, to patrol the waters between Italy and Sardinia and try to stop the Romans from landing any more armies on our island.

Yes, my friends, this war will undoubtedly go on a long time. But all those who dismiss the power of Carthage do so at their own peril. For even the lowest of Carthaginians, when backed into a corner, will strike down his foes with the strength of a lion.
posted 17 December 2020 12:40 EDT (US)     60 / 61  
Ragnulf entered the gates of Aquincum under the gibbeted body of the former Roman governor. Next to the former governor was another body, hung upside down. Ragnulf sighed as he recognized the bloated body of Aulus Arrentius.

He made his way past the mobs still roaming the streets in the aftermath of the successful revolt. Who would have thought such a piss-poor burg would revolt against their Roman masters, much less succeed in such a revolt? Yet these hardy mountain people did just that.

Ragnulf came to the former palace. It was not much, even in its glory days. Squalor and poverty oozed from its walls to infect the city with despair. Now that despair was replaced with riotous joy as the populace celebrated its victory with glee.

Inside the palace, the new chieftain of the city drank his wine unwatered and took his pick of the slave girls- each the daughter of some Roman big-wig who had lorded it over the people of Aquincum. The men had been slaughtered during the revolt, leaving these lovelies in dire need of a strong hand to protect them. For a price, of course. Those unwilling to pay such a price would find themselves sold into slavery and pay that price any time their new master had urges.

“What do you want?” Argestes, the local ruler demanded upon seeing the Germanic envoy.

“Doubtless you know of the rather large Roman Army down the road, heading this way?” Ragnulf said quietly. “They are intending to make this burg Roman once more.”

“They can try,” Argestes spat. He chose a dark-eyed woman and signalled her to him. She moved slowly, reluctantly, but obeyed. She already knew the fate of those who displeased her new master.

“They will,” Ragnulf assured him. “And should they fail, another will come. You know the Romans- defeat to them is a temporary setback, a challenge to be overcome. They will not stop until Aquincum is bathed in the blood of its citizens.”

Argestes cursed. He knew this. Victory is fleeting. Romans are eternal. His victory- no matter how sweet- would be washed away in a sea of blood. Maybe not this month, but the next, or the one after that. Rome had an almost endless stream of men filling its warhosts. He had only what this city could raise.

“Why are you here?” he demanded.

Ragnulf shrugged. “I offer you options.”

Argestes perked up at that. “What options?”

“This city will be Germanic by the end of the year,” Ragnulf said bluntly. “It is your choice how that will happen.”

The warlord laughed bitterly. “You wish to hang beside that blubbering fool Arrentius?”

“I assure you, no,” Ragnulf said deferentially. “I am merely stating the obvious. The Romans come. Two possible outcomes: one, you succeed and drive them off. The result? They come again. How many times can you withstand their might? The second result is far more likely- they smash through your walls, seize this city and all in it, drown your revolt in an ocean of blood and climb to your throne over a mountain of skulls. They will exterminate every male and send the females and children off to slavery.”

“How does that make this city Germanic?” Argestes wondered.

“While there is a Roman army gathering at the southern end of the road leading here,” Ragnulf continued, “there is a Germanic army forming at the northern end. We will come to this city and take it from the Romans after you have weakened them. The result is the same- you die, your people are massacred or enslaved, and this city ends up under our horsetail standards.”

“You spoke of options,” Argestes spat. “I see little I would choose so far.”

Ragnulf shrugged his elderly shoulders. “There is one way to avoid bloodshed. Join us. The army we have will protect you and drive the Romans off. All you need to do is swear fealty to us. And, if you wish, accept this purse of gold coin to sweeten the deal.”

“Why do you wish this city so sorely?”

Ragnulf smiled. He had him now. “We do not. We like the idea of a buffer state between our forests and the stone burgs of the Romans. Alas, the Romans will not permit that. Thus to protect our fecund forests from their hobnailed sandals, we wish to bring your realm into ours to provide that buffer. We will supply men and means for you to fight to protect our new borders. You have the word of my lord.”

Argestes ran through his options. It was as the old German said. Die under Roman sandals either this season or the next, or the one after that, or join the Roman’s foes and gain their strength of arms.

“I will remain as lord here?” he asked.

Ragnulf nodded. “You may remain as lord here as long as you wish,” he affirmed. “As long as you remain loyal to our mutual lord.”

Argestes smiled. “I hope that is a large purse. It seems you have bought yourself a buffer province!”

Ragnulf smiled and nodded. He just hoped his pigeon reached his lord in time to dispatch an army here to back up his words. Aquincum was now Germanic- but for how long?

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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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 06 October 2023 07:20 EDT (US)     61 / 61  
“Ah, the Shattered Spear Inn is still in business I see,” said the auxiliary officer as the wind slammed shut the door behind him. “A pleasant place as always.”

The innkeeper looked up and nodded at his new guest. “Ah, Fulvius. Haven’t seen you about lately.”

“I’ve been on the Dacian border,” Fulvius replied. He winced at the off-key singing issuing from the inn’s far corners. “Get Hamish a leg of lamb, will you? He can’t sing if his mouth is full of meat.”

“He can’t sing with an empty mouth either,” laughed the innkeeper. “But since you are buying… So how was the border?”

“Do you remember Helvius, my fellow centurion?”

The innkeeper nodded. “I always kept my wife and daughter locked upstairs when he was in town.”

That gave Fulvius a chuckle. “That’s the one. He became prefect of the cohort when Perennius died. A nice promotion, eh? Anyway, Our auxilia cohort and two others were patrolling the eastern border when the praetor Oppius Scato ordered us to join him.”

“He’s that little shit Rome foisted upon you, right?”

Fulvius nodded. “Yes, him. Anyway, we were there when the towers to the north set off black smoke- a Dacian army was approaching. And Scato did what Scato does- he took the cavalry and headed south, leaving us infantry alone in the town. I’ll tell ya, Helvius did not like that at all. We, the Greek auxilia under Glyppo, and the mercenary spearmen under Heilgor were left to defend the town alone, while Scato ‘went for help’. Yeah, right.”

“I assume from the dents in your armor that you acquitted yourselves well?” asked the innkeeper.

“You can bet your ears against the singing of Hamish we did,” Fulvius affirmed. “So there we were, three infantry auxilia cohorts in a town of about two thousand civilians and a shitload of sheep with a Dacian army descending upon us. The scouts came in from the north. There were five or six bands of Dacians coming. Not much, but twice our numbers.”

“Scato ran from that?” The innkeeper whistled lowly.

“And took our cavalry with him,” Fulvius said with a grunt. “Half our strength… He ran so fast he left his wife and two daughters behind. Anyway, Helvius took command. And you know Helvius.”

The innkeeper grinned. “Helvius was sleeping with the daughters?”

Fulvius nodded. “And the wife as well. He is quite the lover boy, our Helvius is. You know how he feels about bedmates. They would not be able to keep up with our march on foot since Scato took every horse in the burg with him. Nor could he leave them to the mercies of the Dacians. So he decided to make a stand.”

“Outnumbered two to one and he decided to sortie?”

“Three to one- our cohorts were not up to full strength, but we were veterans.”

“Since you are here telling me the tale, I assume he won?”

Fulvius grunted. “I did not run like Scato. Of course we won. Now you went and spoiled my story. Do I still get a free goblet of wine? The good stuff, not that piss you serve the peasants?”

The innkeeper poured the drink. He hesitated before handing it over. “Only if you tell my how.”

“Agreed,” Fulvius said and took a quaff of the wine.

“Helvius deployed the Greeks and our cohort in a line abreast, with Heilgor’s mercs in reserve,” Fulvius recounted. “Normally that would be a death trap, with the enemy wrapping around our flanks and end of story. But no, we did not advance directly into the mass. We advanced obliquely- sliding right as we advanced so that our two forward cohorts engaged the enemy left.”

“Leaving your own left open to envelopment,” the innkeeper pointed out.

Fulvius nodded. “We ignored that for the moment- Helvius still had some tricks under his toga. He sent Heilgor around our right to envelop the Dacian left. Their right began enveloping ours. Then two cohorts of Legionaries show up out of the blue and fall upon the Dacian right and rear with a mighty shout. The Dacians broke at once at the very sight. I tell you, Heilgor’s men and our own made a race of chasing down the broken Dacians! We chased the survivors all day.”

“Legionaries?” the innkeeper grunted in surprise. “You didn’t mention anything about legionaries!”

Fulvius grinned widely. “Because we didn’t have any.”

The innkeeper was perplexed.

Fulvius enlightened him. “I told you the town had two thousand people and a shitload of sheep. They had wool in abundance- and lots of cloth. We dyed the cloth red and decked out the menfolk in red capes. The Dacians thought them legionaries and broke.”

The innkeeper broke into laughter. “You were saved by the Charge of the Peasant Brigade!”

Fulvius nodded.

“There is an epilogue to the tale,” Fulvius continued. “Scato, in running away, ran into a second band of Dacians and got himself killed. Word of Helvius’s victory reached the ears of Rome, who declared him the Man of the Hour. Helvius was granted the governorship, told to marry one of the daughters, and became a duly-adopted scion of the House of Julius.”

“Helvius? Married?”

Fulvius nodded. “And a praetor.”


Fulvius grinned. “Married to Laetitia, the prettiest one, but you know Helvius. He never let a ceremony get in the way. He let Scato’s widow and other daughter remain in the governor’s manse. He is happily doing precisely what he did before only without having to sneak about doing it!”

“Your wine was well-earned,” the innkeeper admitted. “Here, another, on the house.”

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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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
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