When Suetonious Sabinus, used his father's political influence to be immediatly promoted to a high rank in the Reserves of a Roman Republican Legion, he never would of expected to see his legion slaughtered and his fellow roman's retreat, leaving him for dead. Suetonious, trapped behind enemy lines must quickly grow up and learn that Rome is not everything it might seem.

The second the Ships Landed Suetonius knew that this place would be worse then Hades itself to fight in. All around for mile after endless mile were heavily wooded hills. A nightmare for a Roman Legion.

“Centurion!” Marco’s voice span him round and to attention faster than he could manage on the uneven ground and Suetonius fell in an ungracious heap.

“when you’ve finished dancing around like a drunken whore, you can advance your men onto that peak” pointed his superior , trying to stifle a smile. Suetonius glanced at where he was pointing, a low hill about half a mile away.

“I thought we were setting camp once landed, and waiting for the 2nd to reinforce us” he motioned back out to sea.

“well it would seem our good friend Drychos has decided to fight us here, with our backs to the pond, it seems like madness to me, his Phalanxes will be even less use here than our bunch of women”

Suentonious could not agree with more with his superiors comment. The uneven ground and webs of branches would spoil the Legion’s formation slightly and make them less likely to spot an approaching force, but they would undoubtedly ruin any assault by Epirion Pikemen with their 16-foot Sarrisa pike’s.

The moment of reflection was brought to a sudden end by the legion Concicern’s sounding the battle call.

“By the Gods!” Exclaimed Marco, “Their already attacking, jump to it lad! I want to see your end of the manniple on that hill by the time I reach the second, then the men can form in the valley between them, out of sight, like the legate asked for” Suetonius turned and began to trot up the hill followed by his century of 60 men,

“form on my right!” he ordered and was pleased to see that, although the tree’s seemed eerily close, his men still moved with the enthusiasm of veteran legions, who knew that this was the last battle before returning home.

Lost in his thought’s Suetonius reached the summit far quicker than he anticipated and ordered his men into line across the small patch of low-ground between tohe two hills, while Marco did the same from his side, in no time at all the men were stretched from summit to summit and all around them the legion prepared for battle.

Although the forest meant that it was difficult to see individual soldier’s he could feel the presence of the first and foremost of Rome’s mighty Legions. He knew from the legate’s briefing aboard the flagship that the normal order for the battle would not be adhered to. The terrain would mean that they would lose all contact and control with the young, impetuous Hastati. Instead, the Principes would form the main battle line, formed close together to allow easy command and communication, whilst the hastati would be the 2nd battle line.

Suetonius Decided that he liked the new legate, his decision to forgo the tried and tested deployment had drawn immediate distrust from some of the more experienced officer’s but, stood their, in the midst of the gigantic forest anybody could see it was the right choice.

“good day to relax, eh?” Marco sat, ungraciously on one of the lower braches of a pine. “what with our lot just got to sit and watch the show” Suetonious was irritated by his commander’s nonchalant way of speaking about the slaughter to come, but he didn’t show it as he stared out across the trees in to the distance. He knew his superior was right to be complacent, the Triarii were only ever used in the most direst of circumstances, indeed, it was now a popular saying “going to the Triarii” when something was fought to the bitter end. But, there was something about this forest that unnerved him.

“what sort of number’s are we facing sir?” he asked, trying not to let his unease show.

“nobodies really sure. The Epirot’s have about a 3,000 strong standing army, of phalanxes and Greek cavalry, but they wont be much use in this. It’s the native tribe’s that are good in here.” Marco glanced around making sure his men weren’t listening before continuing “nobody knows how many there are in this area, or how many will choose to honour their king’s call, you know what it’s like with petty tribal cheifs.”

Suddenly, out of nowhere one of the hired slingers ran up to the two officer’s and Saluted grandly before pressing a piece of parchment into Marco’s hand “Casualty reports sir!”

“eh?” questioned The centurion, “what’re you giving me this for?”

The slinger looked confused as he glanced around at the men, before his eyes registered his understanding

“you thought I was the bloody legate didn’t you?!” Marco laughed as he clapped the young man on the back. “The Legate’s somewhere near the cavalry, he’s keeping them out of the way until we know the enemy aren’t planning a surprise for us.

His face looked suddenly grim as he turned back to Suetonius. “get the men up, if the skirmisher’s are taking casualties then they can’t be far away.” As his subordinate set to organising the Triarii, Marcus saw the fist sign of battle, down the slope to his front, he could see the first two lines of the Roman Legion as they waited for the enemy to assault. Marcus could make out through the trees the first wave of The Epiron army, “seems like some tribes were stupid enough to fight for Drychos after all!” he boomed to his men, as the fist wave of tribal irregulars crashed into the study shield wall presented by the Principies. From his vantage point Marco could make out the form’s of the tribal levies as they crashed into the wall and were dispatched by quick spear thrusts. The Principies were men in the prime of their life, with experience and a sturdiness to match it. And they crushed the futile assault with the same cold-blooded efficiency that Marco had become accustomed to in his time with the Legions. With the first wave wavering, Marco heard the concicorn blow the advance, “THIRTEENTH MANIPLE….. ADVANCE!!” the phalanx obeyed his command and they marched inexorably down the hill.

Quintus Aurelius Cotta, was not having a good day. He had been ordered to land his men on the worst terrain imaginable, after three day’s of terrible weather at sea and, now he was engaged in a battle that he couldn’t see, with a force that he had no idea about the strength of. His mind raced with the reports he had just received. Enemy cavalry were shielding the hills in order to minimise his effective control. Without high ground he could not see the battle, and had to rely on his scouts and runners from commanders further forward. But, even then the forest was causing problems with messengers running in completely different directions and getting lost and arriving late, so that the many of the reports conflicted with others or contained obsolete information.

All the Legate knew for certain was that his principies had smashed the first wave of tribal levies, just like expected. What was not expected however, was the advancing roman’s to then immediately be confronted by a bristling Phalanx of sarrisa pikemen, formed up in a specially cleared area of the forest. His men had done their job though, and with high casualties’ they had broken the phalanx.

“sound the hastati to engage” he ordered and a man turned to the concicerns to blow the requested call.

Half-way up the slope in the rear right of the Roman Army, Marco and Suetonius were watching, enthralled by the performance in the Centre of the field. The Epriron King, Drachyos had arrived on a fine Macedonian stallion and was shouting insults and order’s to his men as they broke in the face of the Roman assault,

Many simply ignored him and streamed past, but most turned, and rejoined the new ranks that were being formed.

“he must be a bloody generous king!” laughed Marco as they watched the core of the enemy re-form in the face of the now reinforced roman assault that crashed into the still wavering rank’s of phalanges. Many, of the pikemen had abandoned their sarrisae as they fled and now fought on with short swords. It was a brutal scene as both sides crashed together, swords flashing red as the blood spilled with renewed vigour.

“report for the legate! New enemy on the right flank!” reported a panicky voice as another slinger ran down towards the roman cavalry. Marco raised his eyebrows as he prepared for the inevitable. It came.

“But why us sir?” Suetonius asked as the maniple marched obliquely to meet the new threat.

“because we’re here lad, as simple as that”

“but surely, the legate needs a reserve, and the front will be to wide to control in these trees!” argued the younger of the two.

“I agree lad, but orders are orders and ours are to engage the threat to the right flank and to contain it until the centre breaks through and comes to our aid.”

“I still don’t think they should send us” Suetonius persisted

“well they have, now keep your voice down, your scaring the women” Marco smiled as a few legionary’s in ear shot laughed.

It didn’t take long to find their objective, arrayed ahead of them was another phalanx, arranged just like the one the principies had smashed earlier.

“alright lads,  let’s show these Greek bastards how Romans fight.” boomed Marco’s voice from further down the line. The Epirion’s had far longer spears than the Romans, but the trees were proving a nuisance for them, and many simply gave up trying to manoeuvre their clumsy weapons down from where the point had got stuck in the trees and drew their short swords whilst the Romans pushed a wedge through a gap in the spears and pushed into range of their own. Suetonious was at the point of the wedge, his centurion’s plumed helmet and irregular Scutum shield made him an immediate target for the enemy and he parried a blow from a sword to his right and immediately counter-trusted with his own weapon. Warm blood sprayed everywhere it felt like warm rain on his face as the man went down, clutching at his throat. Suetonius stood, dazed by the sight of so much blood, as it sprayed all over his armour.

“centurion!!” he looked, around “Centurion, are you listening to me??!” Suetonius shook his head and found himself looking at Pryrax who was desperately shaking him, it took Suetonius fully 10 heartbeats to notice the blood running down Pyrax’s muscled chest-plate and realised he needed to act. This was real.

“centurion we need to fall back but we can’t disengage with these tribes around, they’ll cut us to pieces if we let them isolate us.”

Suetonius gathered his thoughts as he took all of this in “where’s Marco?” he wondered.

“im not sure, everything’s confused, the cavalry are all over the place, they saved the left from annihilation, but now their phalanxes are being pushed back the tribal levies, keep streaming around us and surrounding individual units. The concicorns stopped blowing order’s about 10 minuets ago .” Suetonius blinked at that. 10 minuets? Surely he had only been dazed for a few seconds at most. 10 minuets was surely impossible. An arrow whizzed past his head and he remembered that they were in the middle of a battle field, and he was in command.

“Optio, I want a runner to run to whichever unit that is and request that they re-form with us, we need to concentrate our forces to prevent these irregulars picking us off.” he watched as a man sped off towards the mass of struggling figures.

“do we know where anyone else is?” he asked

“no sir, we’ve had loads of hastati flee back past us, but the triaii seem to beholding this flank. but Without order’s or concicorns to give any, nobody has a clue if we’ve won the battle or if the left and centre have collapsed and the main enemy force is marching over here now.”

Suetonius paused for a moment as he took this in, and started when another arrow whizzed past his head and lodged itself in the throat of the optio.

He could only watch in horror as the veteran tried to speak, which merely caused a strange gurgling sound and then he slowly slumped to the floor, blood pouring from where the head of the arrow protruded from the back of his neck.

Suetonius stood, dazed once again, his shield and sword held limply dragging in his hands. As he stood motionless he vaguely noticed soldiers infront of him fleeing the carnage, throwing weapons and equipment down as they ran streaming back past him towards the ships. He heard a shouted order to hold the line but as he watched more and more triarii turned and fled back away from the Epiron army. One man in particular caught his eye, Publious Mento, one of the new additions to the maniple ran past him pulling his chain mail shirt over his head as he fled. It was a mistake, as Suetonius watched, powerless to the slaughter around him a javelin launched from the ranks of enemy cavalry (crashing through  the depleted ranks of the few that refused to flee) hit Publious squarly between the shoulder blades and he crashed down, head-first and landed screaming at the point of the javelin protuding from his chest.

Most of  the fleeing romans had past  Suetonious as the staggered Centurion struggled to pull himself together again. But, before he could decide whether to join the rout or try to reform some form of defence, the enemy cavalry had broken through the last stand and  were bearing down on the retreating soldiers. One noticed the blood-covered centurion and urged his mount into a charge towards the motionless Soldier who refused to flee when all of his men had already abandoned the battle.

Suetonius barely had time to recognise the threat before the huge Thessalian horse that bore the snarling warrior crashed into his half-ready shield arm and as the impact knocked the Roman backwards he lost his footing and fell to the muddy, blood smothered ground and the plume-slide on his helmet caught on a rock, pulling it off. He tried desperately to roll away from the huge stallion that was dangerously close to crushing him. As he did so, he felt a sharp pain in his head.

And everything went dark.

The End

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