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The Reins of Command

Sertorius - Castra Custodia

By Tomos JacksonPublished 5 months ago 11 min read
A work made by Legionary Quintus Tiberius Artifex of Legio IV

"Are you sure that he is the correct choice Imperator? Tribune Longinus has done little of real note as far as I can tell. He does his duties well enough, but spends the rest of his time amongst his books rather than mingling with the men and officers. In fact, he seems rather unenthusiastic with the whole army life."

Sertorius Marius, Imperator of all of Atlas's legions stood besides Aemillius Servillius. As Camp Prefect of the Castra Custodia, the Praetorium in which the two stood was technically Aemillius's office, However, upon Sertorius's arrival there had been no question that he would move in. The Praetorium was a large room, though it was also 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. The Legate and the Prefect stood around a map spread over a table in the center of the room which depicted the territories of the Atlani Republic and its surround enemies.

When looked from the perspective of the map, it was easy to see how many viewed the Atlani Republic as being within a state of siege. To the East was the Morean Empire of the Dryads, an enemy of the Republic since its inception, the Empire of Khan'um to the South, an empire that had long since desired to expand Northward, and to the North, recent rebellions had thrown the old ally of the Republic, Count Aimeric of Coetiria, had been exiled with his followers with a Morean backed noble replacing him. The map itself was covered in figurines representing armies of the various nations involved, and the numbers that represented the legions seemed far to few and thinly spread to pose serious opposition. However, it had sufficed for the entirety of the Republic's history, and so the legion would continue to do what they did best. Defy the odds and defend the Republic.

"It is entirely possible that you are correct Aemillius," Sertorius responded, looking up from the map, "but even if you are, for the Legion to continue in its current tradition of strength in the field it will need competent leadership. No officer within my legions will be allowed to coast through their career, I want dedication and ambition. But I think that young Tribune Longinus will surprise us yet. There must be some use behind all those books after all."

Aemillius nodded slowly at this. His narrow, hardy weathered face from years of Legion life and campaigns and rather prominent hooked nose gave him the look a bird of prey, very apt for a man who served beneath the standard of an eagle. His expression however, betrayed his remaining doubt on Imperator Sertorius's decision.

"Speak up Aemillius, you know you have my ear and my respect on such matters, I'd rather feel the sting of your rebuke than the loss resulting from not hearing you out."

Aemillius inclined his head, "My thanks Imperator, but if you are wrong, will you not be potentially leaving a weakness in our defenses?" Aemillius gestured to the map, "One that we can ill afford to risk."

"I think not. The intelligence we have received indicates that this quarter will be safe at least for the short term. Besides, I will be leaving him in the care of you and our exiled Count should things turn for the worse. If what you say is true about him, his problem will be that of inaction or over caution not arrogance, and so should the worst come to the worst you will find it relatively simple matter to take de-facto command."

Aemillius grimaced, "Do you really feel it necessary to leave the Count here? His heavy horsemen would be a great asset for you in the South than here with the walls of the Castra."

Sertorius gave Aemillius a serious expression, "I know you have your issues with the Count, but you will act according to the needs of the Legion and the Republic and work with him to help young Marcus in his duties."

Aemillius nodded reluctantly. Sertorius continued, "The cavalry will be able to provide scouting potential to ensure you are easily informed of movement in the area should their be any, and given that we face the Dryads in the South, your most likely foe will be the false Count from Coetiria, against whom Aimeric's experience should provide you with much needed experience against this foe."

"Do we wish the experience or wisdom of the defeated in such a situation?" Aemillius countered.

"Prefect, you will accept your duty as an officer, and perform them with the skill and professionalism that such a position implies. Is that understood." Sertorius allowed an edge creep into his voice. He felt no ill will towards the prefect, but he needed to convey the importance of the order.

Indeed, Aemillius seemed somewhat chastened by the hostility in the voice of his commander and friend, but looked fully into Sertorius's gaze as he replied with determination, "Yes Imperator. I will not let you, the Legion or the Republic down."

"Very good."

At this point a knock on the door took the attention of both men, and a clerk poked his head through, "Imperator Sertorius Marius, the Young Tribune Marcus Longinus is here as you requested."

Sertorius moved to take a seat in front of the maps, "Very good Flavius, show the tribune in if you would." He gave Aemillius a nod and the Prefect saluted and headed for the door, passing, as he did so, a young man in the armour of a tribune of the Atlani military, a narrow sash across his chest plate indicating him as one of the lower ranking augsticlavii tribunes as opposed to the broad sashed laticlavii. Tribune Marcus Longinus saluted Aemillius respectfully as soon as he saw him and stood aside to allow the camp Prefect past him, the Prefect acknowledging Marcus with a wave of his hand in a half-salute.

The door closed behind Aemillius and Marcus moved closer to Sertorius before stopping in front of the table, saluting sharply and standing at attention. "You called for me Imperator?"

"I did tribune Longinus. I take it that you have heard the rumors of the Dryad's planned attack on the Republic?" The Imperator said without preamble.

"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 port city of 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."

"Earlier this morning 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 Aemillius 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 seemed to take this all in thoughtfully, nodding in agreement. The area Sertorius had pointed out 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 Sertorius could see that there was something that was on the tribune's mind as he looked down at the strategic situation.

"I concur with your assessment of the South Imperator," he replied, he stopped clearly unsure as to how to ask his question. Sertorius just waited silently for the boy to speak. Finally Marcus continued, "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?"

This pleased Sertorius, it seemed to confirm in his mind that the young tribune had an analytical mind and the will to apply it.

"I can't say for certain tribune." He responded, "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, intent and thoughtful as he considered his reply. "Honestly tribune," he started finally, "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."

Sertorius gestured to the map and the various scattered reports on the desk, "I cannot ignore the evidence I am presented, however, neither can I doubt my own instincts that have served me so well." Looking up from the maps back to Marcus now, Sertorius continued, "So it is that my decision has been made. I will take seven of the ten cohorts of the IV Legion 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 remained rigid in his stance as Sertorius carried on.

"You however I am leaving here with the three remaining cohorts, as well as the Alae cavalry from Coetiria to guard and patrol the border here. Aemillius will remain also as his duty as camp Prefect means he is needed here, and so you will be privy to his advice as and when you need it, but you will be in command. Understood?"

Marcus gave a curt nod in acknowledgement, though Sertorius thought he detected a faint drain of colour in the young man's face. His voice however remained steady, "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, content with the response. "I wish you to understand tribune that I give this command to you for strategic reasons... and also political ones." Sertorius couldn't help but let slip a note of disgruntlement at the mention of the word 'political'.

"Political Imperator?" Marcus asked quizzically.

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."

Sertorius saw the look of understanding begin to appear in Marcus's eyes, "You wish to keep me safe to maintain his support?"

"Indeed. 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, 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." Sertorius said as he sat at his chair and took up his pen once more, "Once those legions are raised you will find that many more demanding duties will be set before you, so consider this to be a test of your capabilities. Success will see you rising, failure, stagnation. At best. Do you understand tribune?"

"Yes Imperator."

"Very good. Dismissed."

Marcus saluted once again, turned, and strode towards the doors of the Praetorium.

Once he had left Sertorius put down his pen and stared at the door which the tribune had just passed through. Yes, he had a good feeling about this young man, but it was best to be cautious with such matters. How affairs shaped out in the next few weeks would mark the future of Republic for decades to come, and he had just placed a goodly portion of its responsibility on the shoulders of an as yet untested tribune. He could only hope that his instincts had not lost their sharpness over the years, for a slip here could signal a slip into chaos.


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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  • Test5 months ago

    Well done! Keep pushing forward with your excellent work

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