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A Manifold Man


By Tomos JacksonPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 7 min read

Tiberius limped down the Via Senatorum as fast as his crippled leg would allow, using his shield in his left hand more like a crutch rather than a tool of war and in his right he gripped his sword tightly, newly drawn throughout all this long siege and glinting in the setting sun. Ahead of him a young messenger boy lead him through the streets. Yet further forward, Tiberius would see the occasional rock or bolt from the enemy siege engines cresting the marble columned buildings of the city for which the Republic had been named as the Poenicians and Atlans vied against each other for control of the city.

It all seemed so different down in the streets themselves. From above the Plebian Hill, the Northmost facing quarter of the city that faced the brunt of the Poenician assaults', the city had been aflame and ruined in sections, but the distance had given it the appearance of a game board upon which Tiberius had gazed down to strategize his portion of the city's defense. Now walking down the hill into the lower portion of the Plebian quarter hunks of stone and marble from broken and cracked buildings lay scattered across the street, clogging the already narrow roads further making defense and attack alike more difficult.

What had he been thinking! a messenger from his sector of the city's defense had come for reinforcements. They were being overrun, the boy had said, and soldiers had begun fleeing from the front, seeking safety further inside the city. Fools. hadn't they realize that they were the safety of the city. But Tiberius had had no more reserves to use and had been about to say so when he realized that this wouldn't have been entirely true.

So it was that behind him tramped a troop of one hundred of the reenlisted veteran troops found in the city, assigned to him as his personal bodyguard before the siege started. The centurion leading these men, Flavius Drusus, a grizzled old veteran, was not happy about the situation, and he had no qualms in voicing his concerns.

"Tribune, I implore you no further. The battlefield is no place for a cripple, your death will serve nobody and then who will lead the men? We must retire and see to your safety."

Tiberius ignored him and carried on down the street towards the sound of fighting. The cries of the dying and the clash of steel were close now.

"Tribune..." the centurion tried again but Tiberius stopped and turned to the man silencing him.

"Centurion," he began, calmly but firmly, his tone that of a tired parent to a nagging child, in stark contrast to the sounds of battle in front of them, "this is not a battlefield. This is the city of Atlas. The heart of the Republic. My home. I called on every man to lay his body before that of our enemies to save it and I will not shy from that duty now myself."

He looked up into the eyes of the big veteran, "If you wish to leave now, then I will continue without you, alone if necessary, but my duty as an officer is clear. To stand with my men."

Flavius held his gaze a moment, before giving a single nod of acceptance. "Forgive me tribune, I spoke out of place."

Tiberius straightened as best his crippled leg allowed trying to match the man's height. It wasn't even close. but he nodded in return. "Very well centurion, then let us be on. Our comrades need us.

Tiberius turned back towards the street and the messenger boy, who had waited for them continued to lead them.

By this time the sound of fighting seemed to be all around them. The screams of pain, the snarls and curses of the melee and the clash of steel filling the air around them. The cacophony deafened Tiberius and he had to resist trying to cover his ears with his hands. The histories and stories he read didn't quite tell of the sheer noise of a battle. As they turned the final corner Tiberius finally saw the fighting up close.

Just ahead of them straggle of the newly levied Atlan legionaries fighting ferociously with a band of Poenician Confederate Guard. Even as he arrived, the legionaries, if such green troops deserved the name, began to break before the methodical slaughter of the Poenicians and scatter down the street. As they did so the strain grew greater on those who had not fled and Tiberius saw a Confederate thrust his spear into the neck and up the jaw of one man while simultaneously driving back his shield brother with his own shield, opening a crack in the ranks.

That did it. The legionaries broke and scattered as one now, many being stabbed in the back and trampled by their pursuers. Tiberius took a fetid breath and nearly gagged as the stench of sweat, blood, vomit and feces hit him all at once, but he pulled himself together and stepped out into the middle of the street, directly before his panicking soldiers and the pursuing guard.

Raising his sword high to be seen he called out "To me Atlans! Citizens of the Republic stand with your tribune, or be branded as cowards who let a crippled boy, an alius no less, stand before the enemy while you flee in terror."

Hearing these words and seeing this boy and the body of snarling legionaries before them, the levies gathered around them. The Confederate guards were not expecting resistance to stiffen again so soon and this sudden turn around caught them disorganized. Tiberius lowered his sword at them, "Forward! Advance brave sons of Atlas! scions of Yehua! My brothers! Chaaarge!"

The soldiers rushed forwards with renewed vigor. Tiberius let them pass him by but he tried to keep up with them as they flung themselves at their foes, crashing into their broken ranks and scattering them back down the street and around another corner.

As he approached where they had clashed, his eye fell on a man in Poenician regalia trying to sit up. He was badly wounded. A slash had cut his left eye, his right leg was bleeding profusely and his whole right arm seemed to have been crushed beneath the boots of the melee. Tiberius slowly limped up to the man. The man saw him coming and began to back away, kicking and grasping at the cobbles as he tried to get away from Tiberius. Even at his slowed pace, Tiberius easily caught up with him and stood over the man. beneath him the soldier whimpered and begged in a language that Tiberius didn't understand, holding his broken arm protectively over his battered body. His crippled body. Like Tiberius. He stood over the man thoughtfully for a moment. The guard probably had a family back in Poenicia. Waiting for him to return laden with treasures and glory. His children would run up to him and cry out for their daddy as he handed out the treasures to his loved ones.

Tiberius thrust forwards with his blade and pierced the mans throat. Atlan treasures. Plundered from Atlan cities and stolen from Atlan corpses. The man's eyes bulged and a gargling sound came from his throat as Tiberius withdrew his blade and he began spewing blood all over the himself, some flecks flying into Tiberius's face, but he didn't flinch, instead he just stared at the man as he struggled and spasmed until finally he stopped and the light slowly fled from his eyes.

"You should have stayed at home." Tiberius said quietly.

Turning from the corpse he caught Flavius Drusus looking at him from where he had returned from the pursuit of the other guardsmen. Tiberius merely began to wipe his sword clean on on his cloak as he limped towards where Flavius stood.

"Centurion, gather the men back together I would like you to organize them into a patrol and lead them to the nearest danger points. You are to be mobile from now on, hitting the enemy as suddenly and as quickly as you can. From now onward we will use our better understanding of the city's layout to try and cut the Poenicians' into smaller, more manageable chunks for the levies."

"Yes tribune. It won't work for long, we will need to make a stand at some point."

"Indeed, but we aren't trying to defeat them here, we just need to by the general time to fortify the rest of the city. We will do that better throwing them off balance than trying to stand toe to toe with them."

"Yes sir." Drusus saluted and ran back to rejoin his men.

As Tiberius watched the centurion leave he shook his head. A change in strategy might throw Turnus off for a short while, but not for long. The wily Poenician would quickly adapt and Tiberius would be on the run again. He needed more men. More than men. He needed those that the city had discarded for so long. Tiberius felt that he could get what they had wanted, it just depended on whether they wanted it badly enough to rally to him now. If any could pull them to Tiberius's side it would be Felix. Tiberius only hoped that he was still safe and active in all this madness.


About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

Stories have always been a source of inspiration. I aim to reproduce that in my own writing. Developing ideas of one's potential by reading it in the lives of others can be a powerful force to encourage bettering ourselves in the real world

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