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Opening Moves

Fire and Fury

By Tomos JacksonPublished 3 years ago Updated 7 months ago 8 min read
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Fire of the Ogodai

OBSOLETE

Marcus sat atop his horse and surveyed the battlefield. He could see the Ogodai making preparations for their first assault on the positions the legions had set up around the small town of Altai. The Ogodai host was an imposing sight. Thousands of grey-skinned warriors clad in furs, mail or armor, depending on their status, began gathering beneath their clan banners. They clearly had Marcus outnumbered, their camp stretching from the cleared ground around the town, back into the forest that surround both armies. The terrain of the battlefield was an open area cut diagonally by a river that flowed through the town of Altai. The surrounding forests indicated to Marcus that this place had not always been open, but in fact had been cleared by the residence who, presumably, had used the wood to build their homes and sell to their neighbor's. Now the whole town was a bastion to be held against the oncoming tide of vengeful Ogodai warriors.

Marcus noticed that a few of the Ogodai milled aimlessly among their ranks, no clear leader or banner under which they could place themselves, Marcus supposed that those were the survivors of the Atlan raids performed while fleeing Lur's main army, and so had not yet been integrated into Lur's warbands. Aside from the odd group here or there, there was very little cohesion among the army arrayed against the Atlans', and Marcus new that this would be one of his few advantages in this coming fight.

Taking a moment to scan his own defenses Marcus couldn't help but be proud of his legion. The preparations that his legionaries had set up were impressive even by their standards. Having spent every night for the last month or so constructing the camps that kept them safe while they slept, even great dullards among the legionaries had become competent in basic fortification skills. Top that with those that specialized as engineers under Galvinus, and Marcus was left with all he could have asked for.

And he had asked for it all. On the Northern side of the river a trench had been dug around the town's perimeter up to the shore of the river, which ran fast and deep as well as being deathly cold this time of year. The subsequent soil had been piled up and fortified with ramparts and a trench was dug and filled with stakes and smaller hidden metal spikes to make the climb to the top of the ramparts more difficult for attackers.

Further inside the town buildings had been empty of all items that could be made into makeshift barricades and were assembled between the buildings along the streets. these would serve to slow the Ogodai down if the outer perimeter was breached and allow the legionaries to fall back with minimal casualties. In the center of the town the bridge that linked the two halves of the town had been fortified as well. Such a valuable choke point would minimize the enemies numbers allowing Atlan skill to take its toll on the enemy. The Southern half of the town was barricaded strategically in a similar manner to the Northern half, again to allow a safe withdrawal. A few hundred yards from the town Marcus had ordered that a standard legionary camp be erected. This would serve primarily as the supply camp for the rest of the battlefield while the main fight dragged on, keeping their supplies secure, but also as a last stand if the defense of other positions proved to be untenable.

Marcus had also ordered the construction of several bridges that could be lifted and placed into positions across the river. This would allow him to attack where he wanted when he wanted, without giving Lur an option to strike back. The legionaries could be covered by velites and slingers as they placed and staked their bridges into the ground and would quickly be followed up by cavalry who could then reek havoc on the back lines of the Ogodai before retreating and uprooting their bridges to prevent their use by the enemy. Yes things seemed to be getting together nicely.

"Legatus!"

Marcus turned. Riding up the hill, tribunus Theodosius Constantinus cantered up from where he had been organizing the final positioning of the legion.

"Legatus," he began again as he drew closer, "all our forces are positioned as you have ordered and stand to await your orders."

Legatus wasn't Marcus's actual title, he was still just tribunus laticlavius, but since the decision to stand and face the Ogodai in battle, the other officers had begun calling him by this title. Something of a battlefield promotion Marcus thought amused. "Very good tribune, we will await the enemy to make the first move I think. As it stands I see no opening for aggressive action on our part. We only need for Lur to attack our position. I think that it is likely he will, there is enough outrage in their ranks to force Lur into attacking or risk angering his own warriors."

"If I may legatus, perhaps there is something we can do to assure this? May I suggest we send out some of our Alea riders to bait the enemy. A few of those look leaderless and angry to my eyes, perhaps we can draw them away from their forces and slaughter them, or perhaps force Lur into making an attack of his own?"

Marcus considered this for a moment. He may be senior to Theodosius, but that was partly because of his father's wealth and partly Theodosius's own drinking habits, but there was nothing wrong with his tactical thinking. On the other hand he didn't want Theodosius to think himself more capable of command than his senior else it undermine Marcus's own authority.

Marcus angrily pushed such thoughts away, now was not the time to stamp his authority. Did they not already call him legatus? He needed to think of the battle now. "Very well tribunus, but send some velites along with them. If we sting them hard enough Lur will either have to assault now, or risk angering his forces with what may look like incompetence for his inaction. He's a wilier commander than any of us, so it is best to make him dance to our tune by pulling the strings of his lesser followers."

Theodosius nodded his agreement and gestured for one of the gestator messenger riders that stood nearby.

"Ride to draconius Baculus, tell him to gather his Alea squadron and a force of velites and begin harrying the enemy. His specific actions are at his discretion."

Marcus watched the gestator ride off in the direction of the bridge. "Perhaps you should have given the draconius more detailed orders. Our moves will need to be precise if we are to beat a larger army."

Theodosius shook his head, "draconius Baculus knows his business, he's done this sort of thing before and has lived to tell of it. Besides as senior officers we have enough to deal with as commanders of a legion without picking at the details of each contubernium."

Marcus nodded, but inside he was beginning to get alarmed. Shouldn't he know all this already? "Not really, that's why you were still a tribune instead of a legate when all this began," he thought to himself.

Off into the distance, Marcus saw the gates to the now fortified town begin to open. Out of this rode a squadron of Alea horse, approximately 100 strong followed by about 150 velite light skirmishers. Marcus heard a roar rising from the Ogodai ranks as they sighted their enemies approaching, but even so they maintained their position.

If they didn't move then that could mean that Lur had tighter control than Marcus was gambling on for this battle. If he could keep his forces reigned in long enough he could just starve out the Atlans and force them to engage the Ogodai on unfavorable terms. The legion was in enemy territory after all, with only the supplies they had looted on the march.

"Come on ya little buggers, move." Theodosius muttered. Marcus said nothing and just watched as the horsemen and skirmishers approached the Ogodai.

Finally, as Baculus's small force drew to about half way between the town and the enemy, Marcus saw a small figure break from the enemy ranks and sprint at the Alea and velites. It was all it took. Like a burst dam a surge of hundreds of warriors, probably those without leaders to direct them otherwise, surged towards the Atlans. The Alea horsemen withdrew a little allowing the velites to sprint forward and hurl missiles into the enemy ranks killing a few before the velites broke and scattered across the field in multiple directions. The enemy broke up to pursue, and fragmented into smaller chunks. Seeing this the Alea cavalry charged, their heavy armor and long lances carving through and around these small groups of warriors cutting them to pieces. Behind them the velites regrouped and darted in to finish off those who had not been killed by the horsemen.

It was a swift and brutal engagement from which only a few Ogodai returned. Marcus and Theodosius shared a grin at the success and they could just hear the cheers of their men as they reformed to return to the safety of the town, careful to avoid any other counter attack by the Ogodai, who were roaring in outrage and impotent fury as their chiefs struggled to keep their various warbands in line. The Atlans in the field jeered at their opponents, cutting off the heads of the fallen and throwing them at the Ogodai trying to bait more of them out.

Marcus fully expected this to work and anxiously waited for the flood of warriors to once again surge towards the town. Instead two figures strode out in front of the enemy lines. One, a tall commanding figure in furs and the other, a bent creature in more flowing robes. The tallest one turned towards his ranks and began gesturing towards them and they quieted. The Ogodai warrior continued to gesticulate at himself at Baculus's men and the other figure that stood with him. Clearly finished speaking he turned towards the second smaller figure who himself began gesturing, though not in any way that suggested exhortation like the previous figure's had.

The Atlan's silenced as they saw the figure and began to slowly withdraw, clearly uncertain of what to make of this. Finally the creature stopped gesturing and through his arms out, two points of green light shimmered beneath his hood and a green fire suddenly burst out in the midst of the Atlan ranks throwing soldiers and horses all around, screaming as the shock threw them or as the flames clung to them and seared their flesh. Some tried to roll in the snow to put it out, but without success.

Finally Baculus seemed to regain control and withdrew his forces to the sound of cheering and jeering Ogodai warriors.

"Demon Magic!" Theodosius hissed.

Marcus's expression was grim as he replied, "It appears our enemy has some tricks of his own for this upcoming battle."

The two were silent after that as they contemplated the reduction of their already slim chances of survival.

Although the two armies stood at the ready for the rest of the day, there was no more fighting to be done. That night, as he readied for bed Marcus considered the day's events. The death toll of the legion had not been near as high as their enemy but the shock of seeing magic used and the horrific manner of their comrades deaths had been a blow to the moral of the men. All things considered Marcus couldn't help feel that this first day had been a victory for Lur, despite Marcus having seized the initiative. It did not bode well for the battle to come.

Fantasy
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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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