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Best Laid Plans

Marcus - Castra Custodia

By Tomos JacksonPublished 10 months ago Updated 4 months ago 13 min read
Castra Custodia


Marcus strode quickly through the Castra Custodia, quickly turning from the Via Sagularis that ran down the left side of the military camp down the Via Principalis towards the entrance of the Praetorium that sat in the center and acting as headquarters and residence for the senior staff of the Legion stationed there. He travelled without his usual tribune armour even though it was almost time for his rounds to check on the guards. The messenger summoning him to the Praetorium to meet with the Imperator Sertorius had caught him while on his way to pick up his armour from the Fabricae where it was being repaired after a recent skirmish and near miss involving one of the many Dryad cavalry patrols that often attempted to cross into the Atlani side of the Furca river, the boundary between the Atlani Republic and the Dryadalis Imperium on the North Eastern border of the Republic's territory.

Marcus had deemed it more necessary to not keep the commander in chief of all of Atlas's legions waiting on the pleasures of the camp's smith at the Fabricae and so decided to go straight to the Praetorium instead.

Marcus nodded to the legionaries that stopped to salute him muttering "tribune" as he passed by. It was not required, but Marcus thought it prudent to acknowledge the men who he was required to lead and upon whom he would be required to place his life. He had yet to see a full battle, but had endured enough small scale encounters and close scrapes, such as the one that had his armour in the Fabricae, to have learned that a little good grace on his part to the men went a long way in their opinion of him. Though if the rumours were true, then it seemed that Marcus might be seeing his first battle very shortly, and the thought of it sent tremors of excitement and dread through his body.

Arriving at the Praetorium, Marcus took a moment to collect himself outside before entering the large gate-like Groma and nodding to the legionary on sentry, who obliged and pushed open the door into a corridor lined on both sides with doors leading into small offices for the functionaries of the legion to run and administer the affairs of the legion and the camp. Dozens of men in the light blue tunics of those who served in the administrative branch of the legion rushed too and froe carrying scrolls and tablets of all kinds shepherding information from office to office as was required.

Marcus manoeuvred his way through the press towards the far end of the corridor where a man sat behind a desk curved in a semi-circle around him. This one had a white sash going from the right shoulder to left side and it marked him as a man of rank in the office. Looking up at Marcus approaching him and seeing Marcus's own narrow white sash around his waist that signified him as one of the Tribuni Augusticlavii of the camp, he put down the scroll and pen he had been studying and marking and gave Marcus his full attention.

"Good morning tribune, what can we do for you here?"

"Tribune Marcus Longinus of the IV here to see the Imperator at his request." Marcus replied.

"Ah very well tribune, I will just go and see if he is ready to see you."

The man left and Marcus waited for a short while, watching the hustle and bustle of the administrators all around him, occasionally dodging the odd clerk here or there that wasn't paying too much attention to their surroundings until the man returned.

"The Imperator will see you now tribune."

"My thanks... uh..." Marcus hesitated realising he didn't know the man's name.

"Festinius Maro, tribune."

"Yes... thank you Festinius." Marcus smiled apologetically before quickly leaving and making his way around the corner to a rear room of the Praetorium where a large double door separated the camp commander's office from the rest of the building.

Pushing open the doors, Marcus stepped inside to the room within. It was a large room, though tightly packed with shelves containing maps and scrolls with logistical information as well as draws stacked with equipment for writing and setting out of correspondence. In the center of the room was a wide table with maps of the Republic and its surrounding nations covered in figurines representing armies of the various nations involved. Marcus noted how there seemed to be far too few figurines depicting Atlas's legions, spread across the entire coastline of the Republic's peninsular to guard against both land and naval incursions on its territories. On the far right side of the room, almost hidden was a desk at which Imperator Sertorius Marius himself sat.

Marcus stiffened to attention hand seeming to come to his breast in salute almost involuntarily.

"Ave Imperator. Tribune Marcus Longinus of IV legion as per your request."

"At ease tribune Longinus." Sertorius responded, not looking up from the correspondence he was leafing through.

Marcus did as he was told and relaxed his posture slightly, though he still remained facing the wall in front of him. Sertorius said nothing and the silence dragged on as the Imperator continued to go through all the information that seemed to lay strewn across his desk, occasionally writing, underlining, or marking the scrolls and tablets before setting them aside to pick up something else.

As the silence continued Marcus could help his eyes shifting impatiently to his commander in chief as he continued to be ignored. His mind flitted back to the Fabricae, wishing he had chosen to stop by there first if he was going to have to wait so long anyway. He wondered if he would get into trouble with Corvus Perennis, the legatus of IV legion and Marcus's superior officer, if he was late for his shift, or appeared without the proper equipment ready.

Finally he couldn't take it, "Ummm... Imperator?"

Sertorius stopped sorting through his work and looked up. "Yes tribune? Is there something I can do for you?"

Marcus frowned slightly in confusion, "Umm... You sent for me sir?"

"Indeed I did tribune." Sertorius responded, "I sent for you, and so you will await my convenience, understood?"

Chastened, Marcus managed to clear his throat enough to respond with a "Yes sir, I'm sorry for disturbing you."

"Apology accepted tribune." Sertorius said looking back to his business.

Marcus felt his face redden a little at the shame. Shame for sure, but a little anger too. It was the prerogative for senior officers to make their juniors await their convenience, but Marcus had seen his father shuffle work around enough to suspect that Sertorius was paying less attention to his scrolls and tablets than he was trying to let on. Was he enjoying watching his underling suffer?

Nonetheless Marcus was not going to suffer another rebuke and managed with straining patience to maintain his silence as the minutes ticked by and the sound of shuffling scrolls and clacking tablets continued from the desk of the Imperator.

Just as Marcus was getting fully immersed in an imagined rant at his superior officer for treating him so, the Imperator rose from his desk, causing Marcus to reflexively blink away the vision as his senses refocused on the real world, and Sertorius walked around the room to the table on which the figurines stood in station.

"I take you have heard the rumors of the Dryad's planned attack on the Republic?"

"Indeed Imperator, though they have remained unconfirmed."

"Well consider them formally confirmed." Sertorius replied gazing at the map. "Our spies in the Eastern principality of the Imperium reported that the new Prince, Aeropas I believe he is called, gathered his fleet together for what appeared to be an amphibious landing. He seemed to be attempting to hide this fact by keeping his armies muster and supply chain away from the the city port in Dytikopolis, but although there are little to no sign of the army he couldn't hide the ships, which appear to be numerous, even gathering together merchant ships in order to accommodate greater transport capacity faster."

"The latest report has just come in" Sertorius continued holding up one of the scrolls he had been scanning over, "confirming that this fleet has now set sail with full force aboard and seems to be heading South West." Sertorius stabbed his finger at the Southern tip of Atlas, "I have discussed with Perennis and he concurs that the best landing point is here for an a navy heading South is here, just below the city of Maia."

Marcus took this all in, nodding in agreement. That tip did offer the best landing points in the South of the peninsular, with most of the rest of the South of the peninsular being made up of cliffs easy to defend and difficult for a landing force to assault. However he couldn't help but ask what seemed to him to be an obvious question.

"I concur with your assessment of the South Imperator, but, respectfully, for what reason is Aeropas heading South at all? Surely it would be far better to use his fleet to support an assault across the Furca river, keeping our legions at bay allowing his army to cross for a pitched engagement?"

Sertorius was staring intently at the map, and even as he said it Marcus knew that the same thoughts were running through his superiors mind.

"I can't say for certain tribune. Perhaps his inexperience is coming into play? Maybe he hopes to throw us off guard with this unorthodox strategy, whatever the case the report states that the army and navy have sailed and are heading south. The few ships we have report seeing their sails and confirm their Southern bearing, though they could not get too close for fear of being caught and boarded by the enemies faster ships. All the information speaks of an amphibious landing to the South."

"Forgive me Imperator, but you seem to be trying to convince yourself of the accuracy of these reports?"

Sertorius looked up from the map at Marcus eyes intent and thoughtful. "Honestly tribune, every instinct I have is screaming at me that something is not right. But all the information I have is telling me to go South."

Another silence fell. This time Marcus said nothing as the Imperator deliberated in his own mind. Finally though he seemed to shake himself awake.

"I cannot ignore the evidence I am presented, however, neither can I doubt my own instincts that have served me so well all this time." Turning to fully face Marcus now he continued, "So it is that my decision has been made. I will take seven of the ten cohorts of the IV Legion along with Perennis to support the VI Legion in Maia and the III Legion coming from the reserve headquarters in Atlas to counter the threat from the sea."

Marcus felt a dread overtake him as he saw what was coming next before the words even left Sertorius's mouth.

"You however I am leaving here with the three remaining cohorts, as well as the Alae cavalry to guard and patrol the border here."

Marcus's mouth went dry and he felt sick with disappointment. It seemed he was to wait still longer for his first battle. At first he thought to object, and opened his mouth to do so, before he saw that the Imperator was looking at him intently. So Marcus swallowed his objection and simply nodded.

"As you command Imperator. I will discharge my duties as best I may and will ensure the security of this Northern border."

Sertorius nodded back, seeming content with the response. After a moments silence once more Sertorius seemed to have decided something. "Understand tribune that it is not out of a lack of faith in your abilities that I give command to you, rather than Perennis as might be custom. This is for strategic reasons... and also political ones." He said this last bit with a sigh and looked away.

"Political Imperator?" The question slipped from Marcus's mouth before he knew to stop it.

Sertorius looked back to him. "Yes tribune. As you may be aware, I am petitioning the senate to increase the number of the legions by an additional four, paid from my own purse.

"Yes Imperator, it seems a most reasonable suggestion, one our current predicament seems to bare out."

"Quite." Sertorius agreed. "What you may or may not be aware of is that my most powerful supporter within the senate at the moment is your father."

Marcus began to understand, "You wish to keep me safe to maintain his support?"

"That is it exactly. I cannot quite see that returning back to the capital with news of his son's death would endear your father to me or my cause. This way I can keep you safe and give you an honourable appointment in one go, keeping your father on side. Do you understand?"

"Yes Imperator." Marcus responded with military stiffness.

"Good.". Sertorius made his way around back to his desk. "While I expect you to obey my orders without question, I hope understanding my reasons will make it easier to bare the disappointment I know you are feeling right now. Rest assured," Sertorius said as he sat at his chair and took up his pen once more, "once those legions are raised you will see plenty of battle, more so than I suspect either us can stomach when all is said and done." He waved his hand towards the door, "Dismissed."

Marcus saluted once again, turned, and walked out back through the still bustling offices and out of the Praetorium, not paying much mind to the clerks this time around.

Understanding had made it a little easier, but he still felt the disappointment in his gut as he made his way down the Via Principalis on his way to the Fabricae to collect his armour.

"Tribune Longinus!"

Marcus almost jumped at the shock the cry caused and he turned to see legatus Corvus Perennis walking towards him, eyes cold with anger and annoyance. Marcus stood to attention and gave his superior officer the salute, which Perennis ignored, "Tribune Longinus as I understand it you were supposed to be on duty a quarter hour ago, and yet I find you out here loitering and not even in full dress for duty. Well perhaps taking the evening and dawn shifts will hammer procedure into that thick skull of yours young tribune, and teach you to pull your weight around here. Your not in Atlas now with servants to wait on your every whim now boy, this is the legion, and senior officers of the legion are expected to pull their weight as much as the lowest legionary. Now get your gear and get on duty at once tribune, before I have you hauled up before the Imperator for punishment. Dismissed."

Marcus saluted once again and started back to the Fabricae. The day it seemed, was only going to get better and better.


About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

I love how inspiring stories and character can be. I try and replicate that in my own writing to not only give inspiration, but also to encourage the reader to consider important matters through a more enjoyable and digestible fantasy lens.

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