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The Alea of Atlas

Lucius Veronius

By Tomos JacksonPublished 2 years ago Updated 7 months ago 9 min read
"I feel that the next few days will see the course of history change for our two peoples."


A soft breeze rustled through the valley at the edge of the Atlani border. The sun warmed the air, even as it descended from its apex in the clear blue sky. Its gentle rays bathing the golden fields and lush green grasses of the Northern Pleiades peninsular, before climbing up the Viridi mountain range that formed as the natural barrier that separated the Atlan Republic from the various states and nations of Campania, a land under the control of the Orochai, or more commonly known simply as, orcs.

Tribunus Augusticlavius Lucius Veronius of the VI Legion led a small patrol of Atlan Alae cavalry down into the final valley that rested before the Viridi mountains. The beauty and tranquility of the afternoon mixed with the gentle warmth helped him to relax in his saddle. To his back, the patrol of thirty of Atlas's disciplined light cavalry corps remained silent on the ride. They were armored in a scaled lorica squamata that glittered blindingly in the open sunlight and a lorica petasum helmet rested on their heads, an armored cap with cheek guards to either side and a large nape guard at the back, to more fully protect the head, face and neck. They were armed with a short lancea in one hand and spatha double-edged broadsword at their hips, while grasping a long oval clibeus in the other hand.

Lucius grinned as he felt once more the stirrings of pride that he was the commander of these men. He had served with them as their Tribunus Augusticlavius for a few years now and in that time he had garnered a great deal of respect for them and with that, a feeling of comradery. They were not widely considered Atlas's finest however. They did not have the staying power of the more famous legionary infantry that made up the core of the Atlan Legions, nor the sheer shock of the heavier Clibanarii knights that formed as the legion's cavalry of choice for the battlefield. In spite of their strengths however, these units generally only saw action in the larger engagements. In contrast the Alae cavalry often saw more action in chance encounters during scouting missions or in preliminary skirmishing before a battle. Even when battle was joined, the Alae horse served a crucial, if secondary role, often being used to circle around the powerful charge of the Clibanarii to surround their opponents, or come in behind to clear up stragglers. And when things went wrong with a charge, it was more often than not the Alae horse that were called upon to dislodge their heavier Clibanarii comrades from their predicament.

So it was that in the Alae cavalry corps there was the stubborn pride of men who feel that they carry more than their weight but only a portion of the glory. It meant that those in the Clibanarii were often scorned as preening fools while the Alae were the real men doing the real work. It did not help that there was often, but not always, a class separation between the two cavalry corps. Due to the expensive nature of the Clibanarii cavalry equipment and the prestige that came with belonging to that unit, it was often the rich young men of prominent families that made up this wing of the army, while the Alae made up of those less affluent members of society. As for the infantry there was more respect between the two corps, although for the Alae horse it was tempered by a sense of pity for the poor footsloggers that just didn't have the good fortune to be in the cavalry, while for the legionaries they still saw the Alae as soft bagmen, that did the odd jobs and cleaning up of the campaigns.


The voice of one of his men pulled him from his reverie.

"What is it... Costa right?"

Costa nodded and pointed towards the distant mountain range that filled the horizon, "Just there sir, I think I see something breaking from the treeline at the base of the mountains."

Lucius squinted in the direction the man was pointing. "I can see nothing. Are you sure?"

Costa nodded emphatically "Yes sir, I am sure. I can't quite make out what it is, but its definitely there, and moving fast."

Lucius sat up and drew his blade. "Very well. Checking things out is what we're paid for anyway." Turning to the rest of the patrol he raised his voice to be heard, "Fall in men, we ride for the base of the Viridi range!" Lucius turned back to Costa, "lead on soldier, its your eyes we're following." The man nodded and took off at a gallop down the road with Lucius and the rest close behind.

As the wind whipped past his face and the green grasses and golden fields flew by with greater and greater speed, Lucius felt his earlier lethargy at the day's gentle warmth and beauty fall away in a growing excitement. Riding fast always did this for him, it was one of his favorite past times, even when he was not on duty. But doing it with a body of armed men filled one with a sense of strength as the thunder of hooves and the sound of the wind filled the ears and the smell of dust rose into the air. The more cavalry moving together the better, and nothing quite beat the thrill of a cavalry charge in battle.

As the patrol flew down the winding road towards the mountains Lucius saw what had caught the attention of Costa. Now some distance away from the trees that covered the Viridi mountains, Lucius could make out several figures clumped together. He could not tell for certain, but he was fairly sure that they were fighting each other. Cries went up from some others in the patrol as they too caught sight of the scuffle and the whole force picked up their pace.

Thundering around the last bend down the hill Lucius could now see clearly that the figures were in fact orcs. None of them were mounted, which would have been unusual for orcs in any case. Their towering size and above average strength meant that most orcs were faster and stronger than all but the most powerful human and so rarely had need for beasts to carry them. They would have struggled to find beasts capable of holding their weight in any case. Other than grey skin, jagged pointy ears and a pair of small, barely perceptible tusks jutting from their lower jaw, they looked fairly human. That was until one was roaring at you enraged and hungry for your flesh, then all pretense at humanity disappeared from the perception of the mind and only fight or flight remained.

As they drew closer, what Lucius saw confused him. He had expected to see orcs chasing down run away human slaves. Such an occurrence was fairly common so close to the border, but there was not a single human among them. Orcs fighting each other on Atlan soil just didn't make sense. What were they hoping to gain? What were they fighting over?

Lucius got a partial answer as soon as the orcs caught sight of them. Immediately a cry went up and the smaller group heaved the larger one back with a great effort and one of the smaller group broke and ran towards, but just aside from, the galloping patrol of Alae cavalry. This furthered Lucius's bewilderment, but he had not time to think anymore. Calling back to the men behind him, he gave his orders, "Afranius, Metellus, Loquanius, seize that orc! The rest of you ride down that mob!" The patrol voiced an affirmative and the three horsemen broke off while the rest formed into a wedge on the gallop, Lucius taking the point.

The final orc defender fell just as Lucius reached about hundred meters from the melee. The remaining orcs tried to form up into some formation, but it was too little too late. Lucius's cavalry smashed into their ranks, his spatha neatly slicing off the head of one and the lanceae of the Alae speared the rest, some of the less experienced soldiers losing their lanceae in the bodies of their foes. Passing through the now demoralized survivors they patrol wheeled around and formed a double line, now drawing their own spatha blades before kicking their mounts back into a gallop to once more enter the fray. By this point the orcs had had enough and tried to make a break for the treeline again. They were indeed faster than most men, but still no match for a one mounted on a horse. The Alae horse cleaved through them, their blades rising and falling, downing orcs left and right until the job was done.

Looking around at the corpses of his enemies Lucius felt another foolish grin creeping at the corners of his mouth as the elation of victory coursed through his body. Spotting that Afranius, Metellus and Loquanius had surrounded the lone orc as ordered, their lanceae pointing at him, Lucius rode over to him. The orc Turned towards him at the sound of the approaching hooves of his horse and Lucius halted in front of him, bloodied blade held out towards the orc's neck.

"Ave Orochai," Lucius began, "tell me what has transpired here and I will consider letting you leave with your wretched skin still attached to your body."

The orc looked up at him his hands out to his sides unthreateningly, "Ave tribune of Atlas," the orc's accent was thick, but otherwise he spoke perfect Atlani, which surprised Lucius. Orcs were not generally considered the learned kind and even if they were, they did not often take the time to learn the language of their enemies.

The orc continued, "I am called Orodran and I have come to speak on behalf of my tribe, the Cadoci as you call them, to seek aid from your senate."

Lucius couldn't believe his ears, a smile crossed his lips at the audacity of this creature, "Oh really? And pray tell before I have you butchered like a pig for your insolence, why would you believe our senate would deign to grant you an audience, let alone your request? Your people have raided and butchered my people for centuries. The very armies you now face on the field of battle, were forged in the fires of defeat by our ancestors to repel you from our lands. And have succeeded in doing so for many years now. Why should we now turn these forces to your aid?"

Orodran looked down ashamed as he spoke, "My people are at war with neighboring tribes and have been defeated. Our foes are not forcing tribute upon us as is tradition, but goes from town to town slaughtering our people. Soon we will be no more."

Lucius raised a questioning eyebrow to this, "And where in what you said is there reason for anything but celebration for us?"

Orodran's gaze rose again to meet Lucius's, a hint of their infamous fury burning behind his eyes. A sliver of primal fear ran down Lucius's spine and he was concerned that he might have pushed too far and the orc would pounce at him. Instead, holding his gaze Orodran continued in his accented Atlani, "I have come to offer your senate our surrender. Send your legions to save us and we will be forever your servants in both peace and war."

Lucius blinked, his humor and fear of a few moments ago both vanished like a flame in a strong wind. He was no historian, but to his knowledge no such offer of surrender had ever been made by an orc to another race, let alone a whole tribe. Looking to his men he saw his shock echoed in their own faces.

After a moment of hesitation he made a decision. "Patrol fall in!" Lucius addressed the three men around him, "take up a position in the rear of the patrol and have this orc before you at all times. If he runs kill him." Looking back down to Orodran Lucius gave a half smile, "can those long legs of yours keep up with us?"

Orodran huffed, "I could easily outpace these four legged beasts."

"Well I would not advise it." Lucius responded as the patrol reformed around him, "I feel that the next few days will see the course of history change for our two peoples. I would not wish that responsibility on myself, so if you could stay alive until you are somebody else's problem I would be grateful to you."

Without waiting for a reply Lucius raised his blade up, "We ride for the Castra!"

With that, the Atlan patrol of Alae cavalry pressed onward leading Orodran back to the camp.

Short Story

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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