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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 19

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Of course, Galerius quickly realized that this rescue would be more difficult than the ones that he’d done before, but it was also an opportunity. After all, if he killed Kavadh, then the Sassanid force would be left without a commander and lose almost all of its organization. That would make an Eastern Roman victory far easier.

He drew his sword, but he didn’t do anything with it quite yet. As far as he was aware, none of the Sassanids knew that he was near them, and he intended to keep it that way.

If they didn’t know where he was, then he could surprise them. Surprised enemies were always easier to defeat than enemies that knew where you were.

At first, this idea worked perfectly. He managed to get to the very small gap in the Sassanid lines without being spotted by either side. Unfortunately, his plan quickly lost its viability after that.

The first people to spot him were the people he was trying to rescue. That wasn’t the problem. He put his finger to his lips so that they didn’t accidentally alert the Sassanids of his presence. Thankfully, the commander of his fellow Eastern Romans seemed to get the message.

He began to attack the Sassanids. Unfortunately, Kavadh quickly noticed that some of his soldiers around the small opening were dying. Galerius was quickly faced with an onslaught of Sassanid attacks from both sides.

Galerius cursed. Of course! This was a trap for the Eastern Roman forces if they ever attempted to escape, but it was also a trap for any Eastern Romans who attempted to rescue them. That meant that he’d been outsmarted, and he was now surrounded. If he didn’t do something, then he would perish in battle. He didn’t want to do that, especially considering that his death would likely harm the Eastern Roman war effort overall.

How did he get out of this, though? He was trapped in an ambush, and, at the moment, he only had one sword drawn. That meant he would have to focus on one of the two armies currently attacking his position, at least until he had breathing room to draw another weapon. That was going to be difficult, but, if he could kill or capture Kavadh, then the Sassanid army would become disorganized. This portion of it would be especially disorganized, which would allow him to rescue the army trapped here and then escape.

Where was Kavadh? He frowned. Commanders were usually near the center of their armies, so that was his best bet as to where Kavadh was. The small “gap” was on the army’s right, so Galerius decided that he would focus his attention on the soldiers who were attacking him on his left.

He quickly realized that his idea was… not great, to say the least. Just because he had decided to focus on one direction from which his enemies were attacking didn’t mean that his enemies that were attacking him from the other direction would stop attacking, or even that they would attack with less ferocity.

As such, his back didn’t feel great. He gritted his teeth. “Ignore the pain, ignore the pain,” he chanted to himself. That was easier said than done, and he didn’t get used to the pain, exactly. However, it did stop affecting him as much as it had been initially. Still, he desperately wanted it to stop.

The quickest way he figured that this goal was achievable was by getting the Sassanids that he was focusing on to retreat, at least for a small while.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 20

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At first, his plan didn’t succeed. The Sassanids had apparently figured out that he couldn’t go on much longer, so they continued to attack him relentlessly. He cursed under his breath. He couldn’t keep going on like this for much longer. Eventually, he would die of his wounds. He wasn’t Achilles.

He doubled his efforts. He attacked the Sassanids with as much ferocity as he could, and he killed many of the Sassanids in front of him. Thankfully, this apparently had an effect on the Sassanid troops who momentarily called off their attack on him. Despite this, he was still being attacked from behind, but he had slightly more time. He had managed to buy enough time to draw another weapon at least, which he did immediately.

He quickly turned around and attacked the Sassanids who were attacking him from behind. They were taken by surprise, and they moved back a small bit. Galerius smiled. His plan had succeeded, at least partially.

However, he knew that this was merely a brief respite. Soon enough, the Sassanids would realize that they heavily outnumbered him, and that he was badly wounded. They would attack, and he wasn’t sure if he could survive that - or that if he did, he could ensure that he wasn’t forced to surrender.

Still, a brief respite was enough to get to his comrades who he was trying to do so. He quickly did so, and then he breathed a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, he had forgotten one key fact. Namely, that he was attempting to rescue a group from the Sassanids. By crossing the line, he’d just managed to trap himself… while almost fatally wounded.

He sighed. This situation would be hard to escape, but he could do it. First of all, he needed to ensure that he survived long enough to be able to continue rescuing the remainder of the Armeniaca. If he didn’t, then all of his efforts would be for nought, and a Roman legion would be leaderless. That would be a horrible situation.

He couldn’t focus on that right now, though, because he needed to focus on his current task. He could plan for his death once the Legio I Armeniaca was reunited in the Eastern Roman camp and no sooner.

He grabbed a few pieces of cloth and used them to cover up the wounds on his back, but that was a stopgap solution. He would still die very soon, and that was inevitable. Still, he had probably bought enough time to finish rescuing the rest of his legion - this charge had been his idea, so it was his responsibility to ensure that most of the soldiers who had participated in it survived.

Now that he was in a somewhat safe position, what was he going to do? He needed to find a way out of the trap the Sassanids had set for his comrades that had caught him as well. He wasn’t stupid. He knew that he was trapped. The question was: how would he get out of this trap? He could kill many Sassanids, but that plan was unlikely to succeed. These men had a commander, and so it was far less likely that they would retreat…
 
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The Grim Reaper's plan will trump Galerius' plan! Are the other two legions sitting on the sidelines and clapping their hands like trained seals?
 

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Oh jeez that didn't go too well for Galerius
No, it didn’t. He can survive a few more days or even weeks, but, in that time, he needs to finish rescuing scattered groups of soldiers and make a plan for who will lead the Legio I Armeniaca once he dies...

The Grim Reaper's plan will trump Galerius' plan! Are the other two legions sitting on the sidelines and clapping their hands like trained seals?
Technically this was a charge by a few members of the Armeniaca only, which was meant to thin Sassanid numbers. The other two legions are certainly unaware of Galerius’s impending death.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 21

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Galerius had managed to get into a (relatively) safe haven, but that wasn’t enough. He collapsed almost as soon as he could. He didn’t end up dreaming in this unconscious state.

As such, he felt a shock when he was “woken up”. It seemed as if some of the soldiers he was initially planning on rescuing had found him. He smiled, for this was good news for him. He followed them, but he had no clue where he was going. He knew that he wasn’t going to the main Eastern Roman camp, as access to that was blocked by the Sassanid troops led by Kavadh, and also the entire rest of the Sassanid army.

Where was he going, then? He asked this question to his new companions, and their reply was very cryptic. They simply said, “you’ll see”. Why were they being so secret?

He sighed. He could be patient. He wanted to know where he was going, of course, but these were his comrades. He could trust them - he couldn’t even trust the entirety of the Legio I Armeniaca, but he could trust these men. Only those whose loyalty to the Empire he was certain of had been allowed to participate in his charge, though, so it was highly unlikely that this was a trap. These men hadn’t betrayed him - and the Emperor - at Siscia.

“What would you trying to do anyway?” one of his new companions asked. “We’re fine. We can hold out for many weeks yet.”

“Just because you can doesn’t mean that you want to,” Galerius replied. “I was - and am - trying to rescue you. A portion of our legion has managed to drive all Sassanid presence away from a portion of the battlefield. I have been rescuing the scattered groups of my comrades from the Sassanids - the plan is to meet at this safe house and plan how we’re going to return to our tent. Once that is achieved, all we have to do is wait and hold the line until our reinforcements arrive.”

“That logic makes sense,” the man said. “You can plan our temporary commander. I’d quite appreciate an end to this fighting - even if it is only a brief respite. If I can survive until the end of the war, that would be preferable, but I know that this battle is far from over.”

“True enough,” Galerius commented. “What will you do when this war is over, assuming you survive it? You’re a soldier during wartime, yes, but many people - including myself - are soldiers during war. What are you during peace?”

The man smiled. “I have my own plans, my commander,” he said. “But you are my commander during wartime - not my ruler when peace reigns. And, what will you do once the Sassanids are defeated once more? And why do you still fight?”

Galerius pursed his lips. He fought for revenge, of course - the shame of Siscia needed to be avenged. The Eastern Romans had lost Pannonia and some of Dalmatia through treachery, and that could not be allowed to stand. Ultimately, his response was simply, “I fight for revenge,”.

“Ah,” the man - who was starting to look familiar to Galerius - said. “I suspected as much. Many have stayed in the Armenian Legion because they are ashamed of Siscia, and I don’t blame them. Siscia was a disaster. But, if revenge is your reason to fight now, why did you fight at Siscia in the first place?”
 
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Galerius sighed. How was he supposed to answer that? He didn’t know why he fought at Siscia - he didn’t even remember most of his life up until Siscia. And why was the man he was speaking with beginning to look familiar?

“I don’t know,” he finally admitted. “I can barely even remember what I did before that disaster happened, let alone why I was present there.”

“Ah,” the man said. “That is the answer of many men in this legion when I asked them why they stayed in the army. Many men want revenge, but few remember the circumstances that led to the event that they wish to avenge.”

Galerius sighed. He knew what this man meant, but he didn’t know what he was going to do with his knowledge. It wasn’t like he could just undo Siscia, and he couldn’t remember what he had forgotten. He had tried to remember, but that knowledge was lost to him forever.

If he somehow survived the war, what was he going to do? Revenge was why he fought. Revenge was why he lived.

Just then, his back flared up in pain. At first, he had to struggle a small bit just to walk. Then, however, he realized something. Revenge was why he lived, but he was far from the only person who wanted revenge on the scoundrel Odoacer. Others could get revenge on his behalf - as well as their own.

The pain was good. It meant that his death neared. It meant that he would never have to figure out what he was going to do once he finally had revenge. Oh, he regretted that he would never get his revenge in person, but he didn’t envy those who would live a meaningless life - those who continued to live their life for revenge and then achieved it…

That raised a question, though. Why was the man asking him these questions. He looked familiar, so Galerius was almost certain that they had met before, but that meeting could have occurred at any number of places. Well, he might as well make small talk.

“Why do you serve in this legion?” he asked. “I - and many others, apparently - serve for revenge. However, you seem to think that this isn’t a good reason, so what is your reason?”

“Oh, revenge is a perfectly good reason,” his companion said. “It’s bad if it’s the only reason. For what do you do after you’ve achieved your revenge? Revenge isn’t as satisfying as it first seems, either. As for why I fight… I suppose that I fight because I want to.”

Galerius raised an eyebrow. “I fight because I want to,” he pointed out. “I just want to fight because it allows me to get revenge. And why, exactly, is fighting because you feel like it - if that is truly why you fight - better than fighting for revenge? For that matter, why do you want to?”

The man smiled. “You’re asking good questions,” he said. “I’ll tell you exactly why I want to once we’re closer to where we’re going.”

“And where are we going?” Galerius asked. “You’ll see is an annoying answer.”

“I’m aware,” the man said dryly. “This is confidential for some reason, though.”
 

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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 23

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Galerius raised an eyebrow but said nothing. There were plenty of reasons why things were being confidential, although it was… unusual that they would keep information from their commander. He figured that they must have their reasons.

He internally cursed. He needed to figure out a way out of here. These troops were welcoming, but he knew that they didn’t truly want to be here. Nobody liked being under siege.

In addition to that, this wasn’t the only group of people under siege. He wanted to save everyone in his legion, but he knew that was impossible. People died. He couldn’t save his entire legion - or even the remnants of the Armeniaca that had survived Siscia, and he knew that. That didn’t mean that he had to like it.

Still, these people were worth saving. Anybody who could hold out for so long against what was arguably the main Sassanid force deserved to be saved from death. They could be extremely useful later.

Galerius finally realized why the man he was chatting with looked so familiar. They had indeed met before, but he still didn’t know where. He hated not knowing - and he hated forgetting than never having known things. He decided that studying the man with whom he had been talking with would make it easier for him to figure out who he was.

But first he had overlooked one very obvious question. “What’s your name?” he asked his companion.

His companion smiled. “I haven’t heard that question in a very long time,” he said, looking at the sky as if remembering better times. “For that matter, I haven’t heard my name in a long time, either. War makes such things almost meaningless. Regardless, I still remember my name, despite all of that. It is Eroton.”

Galerius frowned. That name sounded familiar, but he still couldn’t place it. He would have to study the man in order to figure out where he’d met before, and why he cared about that fact at all.

The man was relatively short, but he looked muscular as well, so his height didn’t really matter. Galerius had seen him use a sword before - he was quite skilled in that department. He blinked. Wait, where had that come from? He was certain that he had indeed seen this man use a sword, but he hadn’t recognized his companion for hours. His conscious mind still didn’t, but he was beginning to think that his unconscious mind might have.

Why now, though? The only new thing he had learned about his mysterious companion was his name.

Anyway, his new companion also had a clean face, and his hair was very short. Suddenly, Galerius realized exactly why he recognized this man - and the real reason why he had agreed to come with him.

Eroton had been childhood friends with him, but, as they grew, they had become interested in the military arts. They had both joined the Legio I Armeniaca, and both of them had made a name for themselves. That was why Galerius was chosen to lead the Legio I Armeniaca in the aftermath of Siscia - he was already a well-known soldier, and he had distinguished himself once and for all at Siscia.

What had Eroton done there? Well, he’d saved his friend’s life.
 
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Galerius figured that he should probably acknowledge that that event had happened. “Thank you for my life,” he told Eroton.

Eroton smiled. “You remember, then?” he asked. “That is good, that’s very good. Why did you forget in the first place, though?”

Galerius sighed. “Why do you think?” he asked. “I forgot because the need for revenge consumed me. I wanted to - indeed, needed to - avenge Siscia. When you live for one reason alone, then anything that didn’t matter to that reason becomes useless to you. I didn’t remember because I didn’t need to remember… at all.”

Eroton turned around to look at him. He looked Galerius directly in the eye, and he asked, “if that is truly the case, then why do remember now? If you forgot because it wasn’t useful to your goal, then why is it useful now?”

Galerius smiled. However, this smile looked unnatural on his face, and he knew it. “It still isn’t,” he admitted. “But, deep down, I don’t think I ever forgot.” At Eroton’s disbelieving look, Galerius rolled his eyes. “Oh, I didn’t recognize who you were initially, but, deep down, I did remember your name and you did look familiar. I just couldn’t figure out why.”

“That makes sense,” Eroton said. “Well, we’re here at least. You assume you wish to chat with our temporary commander?”

Galerius blinked. He did want to chat with whoever had managed to hold this long against the best of the Sassanid army, but he needed to know something else far more pertinently. Where was “here”?

The area was filled with tents, so it looked like a camp. The terrain was flat, but this area looked different than the rest of the area where the remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca - the original Legio I Armeniaca - did. There were many fires. Galerius wondered why - the sun hadn’t set yet.

So this was where they were going. It seemed as if these men had managed to set up their small camp. Of course, Galerius knew that they couldn’t hold out forever - it didn’t matter that they had their own camp, they would eventually surrender. Or the Sassanids would figure out that they had a camp and attack it.

These were resourceful people, though, so he had a reason to save them. First, though, he would need to talk with their temporary leader. He wondered who that was.

Eroton made for a tent, and Galerius followed. “You’re going to the tent of your temporary leader, right?” Galerius asked.

“Yes,” Eroton replied. “I am. All three of us need to talk about what we're going to do next. And then we will finally have a plan.”

They were walking toward a tent slightly bigger than the others. From afar, Galerius hadn’t noticed that the tents weren’t all the same size at all. They entered this tent, and Galerius looked around it. This tent was plain, but that was to be expected. After all, this tent had to have been constructed very quickly, so the tents probably functioned as temporary living areas and nothing more.

Weirdly, the tent appeared uninhabited right now. “We should wait outside,” Eroton said. Galerius quickly agreed, and they did so.
 
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Unfortunately, as soon as they stepped outside, it started to rain. Galerius cursed. Of course. This was absolutely fantastic.The rain hit his back, and his pain increased tenfold. He grit his teeth. He knew that waiting was the best course of action, but he hated waiting. He was running out of time to finish rescuing the rest of those who had participated in his charge. In addition, he still needed to figure out what he was going to do about the Legio I Armeniaca.

All of these thoughts occurred to him in quick succession, but he never got to think on them further. Darkness began to assault his vision, and, then, he saw nothing at all. He no longer saw the camp surrounded by enemy soldiers, and he wondered, briefly, if that might be a good thing. Then, even his thoughts stopped.

Before that, though, for the briefest of moments, he saw a skeletal being. He seemed to motion him away from its position. He didn’t have time to think on this, of course, but he would later wonder if this being was death, rejecting his soul.

In the immediate moment, though, that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. He was unconscious, and he might as well have been dead.

His senses returned quickly, and he figured that someone had revived him. That was good. He looked around, and he noticed that he was in a tent. He wondered which tent it was, though. Had the leader of this small encampment returned to his tent, or was this Eroton’s tent? He highly doubted that it was a medical tent. The legions didn’t include doctors, and, even if they did, this isolated encampment - a last ditch effort to survive the Sassanid siege - wouldn’t have any.

Wait. If that was the case, then why was he still alive? He wasn’t complaining, of course, although he didn’t fear death. He should have bled to death by now.
He was on the floor, and that was uncomfortable. To be fair, his comrades really didn’t have that much time to set a camp up. He wondered if everybody slept on the floor.

Eroton walked in. “How are you?” he asked.

“Well, I am about to die,” Galerius snapped back. “Other than that, though, I’m fine. I’d prefer to finish this battle before I die, at least. Given how unlikely that is, though, I would like to at least get my affairs in order and get everybody who participated in this disastrous attack to safety - everybody that can be saved, anyway.”

Eroton rolled his eyes. “Hopefully, you’ll live long enough to see those goals fulfilled,” he said. “Come on, we need to have a chat with the temporary leader of this encampment.”

“Very well,” Galerius said as he stood up. It wasn’t easy to stand, but he could deal with the pain. He had dealt with it for a while already.

Galerius followed Eroton outside of the tent, and he noticed that it was still raining. That wasn’t an ideal situation, but he could deal with it.

This time around, Galerius noticed a few differences between the tent that he had been in and this tent. The “command tent” - or at least Galerius assumed it functioned as a command tent - was only slightly larger than the other tents, yes, and it wasn’t more luxurious. Despite those facts, though, it did have a small collection of maps, which is why Galerius thought that it was the command tent.
 
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Maps are good . . . unless, they depict the crossing of the River Styx.
Yes. That’s most definitely true.

Also, I’m going to be putting this AAR on hold until next week. Sorry!
 
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Right, so I'm going to be changing this AAR's upload schedule. Instead of being updated daily, it will now be updated weekly.

Worry not, however! The new weekly chapters will be far longer than these daily chapters have been. The new schedule is also to allow people more time to comment... I do like commentary, lurkAARs!
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 26

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Sorry about my unannounced hiatus. This chapter isn't very long, but it's what I have. I'm hoping to finish up the Second Battle of Hasakah by the next update, but that may prove to be an impossible task...


That was very good. The commander of this small force was probably a very resourceful man. Galerius wished that they didn’t need that, but they did - his charge had gone horribly wrong. The hour of his death was soon, but he still had work to do. He couldn’t die yet.

He looked around. Eroton was present, yes, but so was another man that Galerius didn’t know. He figured that this man was the commander of this force. If his assumption was correct, he desperately needed to talk with him - he needed to ensure that this small force didn’t perish entirely. He knew that some must have died, although he didn’t like that fact.

There were more important things to focus on right now. “Are you the commander of this small force?” Galerius asked the man he didn’t know. “Also, what’s your name?”

“Yes, I am,” the man confirmed. “My name is Titus. Who are you?”

Galerius blinked. He hadn’t expected this (temporary) commander to be that forthcoming, but that was a good thing. “My name is Galerius,” he began. “I am the current commander of the Legio I Armeniaca, although I’m sure that you already knew that.”

“I did,” Titus murmured. “Why are you here? What do you want? You led this charge, and it is a good move… strategically. That being said, people have died here.”

“Did you know any of them?” Galerius asked. Titus didn’t react to that. “Regardless, I am here to prevent more deaths. That is what I want. We need to discuss an escape. After all, your small force might’ve held this long, but they’re still surrounded by the Sassanids.”

“True enough,” Titus acknowledged. “What did you have in mind? We’re surrounded, and it will not be easy to escape.”

“And, even if we did escape,” Eroton interjected. “Where would we go? We are currently in the middle of a Sassanid army. Even if we manage to escape, we will still be surrounded.”

“No,” Galerius said. “We won’t. There is a safe haven within the Sassanid lines. I am saving what is left of the original Legio I Armeniaca. Well, I’m trying to do that, anyway.”

“Where is this safe haven?” Titus asked. “Your goal is noble, but, again, how do you plan to escape? Especially with the entirety of the force currently trapped here? The only opening is a deliberate trap, as Eroton can tell you.”

Eroton winced, and Galerius blinked. He wondered when that particular trap had been set up. Also, he was relieved that he wasn’t the only person to fall for it, although he was ashamed of that fact. “Yes, I’m perfectly aware of the Sassanid trap,” he said, wincing.

“Oh?” Titus asked. “How are you doing, then? Surviving that couldn’t have been an easy feat.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Galerius admitted. “I had to kill many Sassanids, and I was grievously wounded. I survived… if only for a moment.”

“If only for a moment?” Titus inquired. “What’s that supposed to mean? Are you dying?”

For a moment, there was only silence. Then, slowly, Galerius raised up both of his hands. They were completely covered in blood. That was his answer. He looked at Titus’s facial expression, and he knew that the man understood his answer.

“Why are you here, then?” Titus asked. “Shouldn’t you… be dealing with your impending death? That seems like something that would be important.”

“My death,” Galerius began. “Well, my death is inevitable. I can delay it, yes, but what would be the point?

“I have a feeling that there actually is a point to that right now,” Eroton pointed out. “Especially since you aren’t dead yet. It has been at least one day since I found you, so you’re clearly keeping yourself alive for something. The question is what that thing is.”

“I got the Armeniaca into this situation,” Galerius said. “Now, I need to get them out of it. Once that is achieved, I can finally rest.”

He wouldn’t live to see Odoacer brought down. He wouldn’t get to see the Armeniaca’s vengeance, but he was certain that it would occur. That was a comfort, but he would watch it from heaven. He had no wish to live a life where he was driven by nothing. And war was all he knew.

There was silence, but that was expected. What response could there be to that declaration? Galerius knew that he couldn’t dwell on his failures. He needed to get on with freeing this section of the Legio I Armeniaca, and then he could free the other groups - those that were still scattered around the battlefield.

“That doesn’t matter,” he finally said. “We need to make plans. We need to escape - to make it back to the safety of our camp.”

“And how do you propose that we do that?” Eroton asked. “We’ve considered ways that we could escape, and no answer has come to us. What is this plan of yours?”

Galerius took a deep breath, and, then, he told them his plan. It would be difficult to escape the Sassanids, especially considering that they were surrounded, but it wouldn’t be impossible. It would be far from impossible.

“Very well,” Titus said. “We will try your plan. First, however, we must get some rest. It’s getting late.”
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 27

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Galerius merely nodded. He quickly fell asleep in a small tent that he had on hand (he wasn’t normally that prepared, but he needed somewhere to sleep). He dreamt nothing once more, but he was prepared to execute his plan.

As the night faded, Galerius left his small tent. He would need quite a lot of luck for this plan to work, but he didn’t have anything left to lose. His life was forfeit already, but his time had not yet come. He needed to save as much of his legion as he could…

Dawn was rapidly approaching, but it hadn’t arrived. He could take advantage of that. He highly doubted that the entire Sassanid army was asleep at this time, but it didn’t need to be. They wouldn’t be expecting an attack at this hour, no matter how many of them were actually awake. He still had the element of surprise. That was good because he would most definitely need it.

The previous night, he had asked Titus if any of the Eastern Roman soldiers that had been trapped here would be willing to fight in the early morning. A surprising amount of people were willing to do this for a chance to escape. Nobody liked being trapped by enemy forces.

This news meant that his plan actually had a possibility of working. These volunteers had gathered near the edge of their temporary camp. They didn’t have much time to pull this off, but they had enough.

Galerius figured that these men could use some inspiration. If this failed, then their deaths were incredibly likely to follow - or their imprisonment. He took a reassuring breath and began his speech.

“You have been trapped here,” he began. “And your hopes of survival are low. However, the Sassanids aren’t expecting us to attack so early. They will be taken by surprise. That will be our chance. We don’t need to slaughter their army, and we aren’t expecting to pull that out. We are merely attempting to survive. You will cut open a path of retreat, and then you will lead your comrades to safety. We will regroup, and then we will win!”

The men who were following him merely nodded. He turned and moved towards one of the Sassanid lines, and the men followed.

They managed to reach that line before the sun truly rose. Galerius smiled, for he still had his cover of darkness. He attacked them. Most of the Sassanids were far too tired - or even asleep - to fight back.

By the time dawn came, a pathway to the camp of safety was open. He headed there, and the men that had been trapped for so long followed.

It was not until he finally reached the camp that he turned around. Thankfully, Titus and Eroton were leading the rest of those poor trapped souls towards safety. Good. That meant that this group, at least, was safe.

Galerius decided not to rest. His death was near, and he was determined to save as much as his legion as he could before it occurred.

He decided to survey the battlefield. The two men that were under near constant Sassanid attack were still alive. Galerius figured that that meant that they were very resourceful. Even despite that, though, they would fall soon enough. He should probably go rescue them. If he did that, it may very well be his last act, but he frankly didn’t care. If he was going to die, why shouldn’t he go out gloriously?

He moved out of the camp quickly. He couldn’t let himself get caught needlessly. His death should be glorious, and he fully intended to die as he had lived - that is, by the sword.

He managed to make it very close to the two survivors before he realized the problem. That problem was why they were survivors… namely, they were under attack by the Sassanids, and dawn had come and gone.

He looked around to see exactly which pathway to his two comrades was. Surprisingly, there was an area that was only defended by a single man. He decided to attack there. All he would have to do was get this man out of the way, and then there would be a clear path to escape for his comrades.

Of course, Galerius wasn’t a fool. He knew that, if only one was blocking the area which had effectively become a prison, they must be a good fighter. He smiled at that thought. He could use a good fight right now. If nothing else, it would keep his mind off of his impending death.

He breathed, and then he attacked. He quickly felt the force of another sword of his own. He exchanged blows with this enemy soldier for some time, but neither was any closer to actually winning.

Finally, Galerius saw an opening. He stabbed his opponent in the stomach, and his enemy fell. He now had an open path to his comrades, and he wasn’t going to waste it.

He moved towards his comrades. He didn’t recognize them, but that didn’t matter. They had managed to survive this long, and that was what mattered to him - they would prove useful to the legion after his death.

However, he first needed to talk them into going to the safe camp. He figured that that shouldn’t be too hard. They were probably tired of fighting for their lives.
 
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He felt a sharp pain in his back. He muttered a curse, and then he reached towards his back. He felt a sword hilt. He grimaced, and then he pulled the sword out of his back.

Well, the good news was that he now had two swords, but the bad news was that he was even closer to death than before. That didn’t matter. He could still move, so he could still finish fulfilling his goal.

Once he had finally rescued these two men, he figured that he would be too tired to do anything else. The hour of his death was at hand, and he was not so foolish as to believe that he could prevent it. He’d delayed for a rather long, but he would have to delay for a little while longer. He couldn’t fail in his task… not again.

Siscia was a disaster, yes, and he had wanted - he still wanted - revenge for that. There was a reason for that longing - for that want, though. He had failed at Siscia, and, in truth, he still felt somewhat guilty for his part in that massacre.

Oh, he hadn’t turned traitor. He hadn’t turned on his comrades for something as ephemeral as money. He was wise enough to know that gold wasn’t worth betrayal. Even despite that, he had been tempted - if only for a moment. Unfortunately, a moment might’ve been enough for those who were tempted by gold to act. His hesitation might’ve cost the Empire Siscia - and, by extent, half of Dalmatia, Pannonnia, and the majority of two legions.

Idly, he wondered if this was what Varus felt before his death. It was probably worse, though, because Varus didn’t need to live with the consequences of his failure. He got to die, and Germania Magna was lost.

He quickly dismissed that line of thought. His guilt meant nothing. It would not save those members of his legion - and the Italica - that had perished at Siscia. If he acted now, though, he could prevent a repeat of Siscia. He had already done that, in truth, but the more people he could save, the more people could be used to avenge Siscia, even after his demise. As such, he had to move and talk now.

First, however, he needed to ensure that he could do that safely. To do that, he needed to create a safe haven - at least temporarily. That might be… somewhat difficult.

There were many Sassanids here, and he had just killed one of their comrades. It would probably take them a while to notice, but they would notice. Why should he wait for them to notice one death, though? He had the element of surprise - he should use it.

Yes, he would attack the other Sassanids before they noticed his presence. That should allow him enough time to kill or scare away the other Sassanids - time to form the safe haven he needed to have to speak with his former comrades.

He had recognized the two men who had managed to hold out so long. He had pushed that thought to the back of his mind, though. He could catch up later - if he survived this night. He wasn’t confident that he would.

At first, this plan worked perfectly. The Sassanids didn’t see him coming, and many perished at the hands of his blade. His comrades helped, although they didn’t know why so many Sassanids were dying.

Galerius didn’t know why he was surprised by this. He had explicitly decided to save these two men - even before he knew who they were - because of how long they had held out. It was completely logical that they would’ve killed many Sassanids. Still, the thought that they would continue to do so when he attacked hadn’t occurred to him. Or, rather, he hadn’t considered what they would be doing at all.

Still, the Sassanids hadn’t expected his intervention, which was part of what allowed him to kill so many of them. It took a few hours, but there was a safe spot to meet before night fell.

No Sassanids would disturb them here. Those who were defending - or attacking - this spot were either dead or had fled. The pile of Sassanid bodies would make any of the other Sassanids think twice about attacking. That meant that Galerius could finally talk with his former comrades without interruption. Hopefully, they could catch up while discussing plans. And, if he achieved nothing else, this would be a good spot to die.

Galerius hoped to live a little longer, though. He knew that his death was near, but he wouldn’t attempt to make it come quicker. Well, he had put this conversation long enough. It was about time he caught up with some of his old friends - especially since he had known them even before they’d all joined the Legio I Armeniaca.

“Hello, Galerius,” one of them said. “How have you been? I doubt that this battle has treated anyone kindly - on either side.”

That was true, of course, although Galerius had never really cared about the lives of his enemies. He figured that, if all of the enemies of the Eastern Roman Empire were dead, then there would be peace. And he longed for peace. He figured that voicing that probably wasn’t a great idea, though.

Instead, he spoke of the plan to end this battle. Perhaps his friend’s empathy could be used. “This battle has indeed killed many people,” he said. “We need to end it somehow. I have a plan for that…”

He received no answer to that declaration, but he knew that that silence simply meant that they were waiting for him to continue. He bit his lip - he did have a plan, of course, but it was risky. Still, he would probably be dead by nightfall anyway, so what did he have left to lose?

Nothing. He had nothing left to lose. His life was already forfeit - he might as well ensure that the Sassanids remembered him. He wouldn’t be forgotten.

“There is a small area within this battlefield,” Galerius began. “This area contains a camp, and much of the remnants of the original Legio I Armeniaca. I have been gathering people there. From there, I hope that we can return to our camp - where we can create a plan to end this battle permanently. If we’re lucky, we'll even be able to end the war here.”

“No, if we’re good enough,” the other man said. “Luck is a fickle thing, but we don’t need to be privy to her whims. The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

That brought back memories. Brutus had never put much faith in the supernatural. Galerius could appreciate that now, in ways that he couldn’t before. It was hard to have faith when you were dying but had managed to keep yourself alive through sheer willpower. Relying on deities of any kind would get you killed.

“That he does,” was his only reply to Brutus’s declaration.

“Anyway, the plan is to get to this safe haven,” Galerius began. “You will discuss your next moves - how, exactly, the Legio I Armeniaca, and the two Isaurian legions, plan to end this battle, and, from there, this war. As for me, well, I will rescue as much as my old legion - the legion that I joined - that I can. Then, I can finally die in peace.”

“Very well,” Brutus said. “But even the best plans can go awry. How will you ensure that your body ends up in the care of your comrades? How will you ensure that your body is not left here, forgotten, one amongst thousands of corpses?”

Galerius hadn’t considered that, and he knew why he hadn’t done so. As much as he had accepted the inevitability of his death, he had held off on considering what would happen after that. He didn’t want to die - even if his death freed him from the spectre of a meaningless life. Also, he would be dead then, so why should he care about what happened to his corpse? It wasn’t like that would affect anything.

“Why does it matter?” he asked. “It isn't like the location of my corpse affects anything. Still, if you really want to give me a funeral, I will try to get back to the temporary safe haven for our soldiers before I truly die.”

“Very well,” Brutus said. “I suppose this is where we are parted, then? It was nice knowing you. Give them hell.”

“I will,” Galerius said, and he truly meant that. He might as well ensure that he was remembered by his foes for many years to come.

On that note, he left the small haven. The Sassanids didn’t attack him, but he barely noticed that. He had a mission, and he would not fail in it.

Still, it would probably be a good idea to look around the battlefield. He needed to know just who was even left to rescue. He had got most of the original armenian legion into this mess, so it was only right that he would get them out of it.

And, if it ensured that he wasn’t forgotten, then that was a bonus. In truth, though, he didn’t care about his fame. Why should he? He would be dead soon enough anyway, and the dead could appreciate nothing.

Unfortunately, it seemed as if the remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca who he hadn’t managed to rescue had been scattered. Many had been killed, and the rest had gradually lost their cohesion. Instead of a few large groups and a couple of small groups bravely defending themselves against the Sassanids - as it had been when he had begun his mission - there were only small groups desperately fighting to survive.

What should he do? He could rescue others, yes, but that would be difficult, if not impossible. He could head back to the safe haven, but that would mean sacrificing those who weren’t yet safe. As he considered his options, his choice was made for him.

The Sassanids had apparently gotten over whatever was preventing them from attacking him. Small groups of Sassanids attacked him, but many of them were archers. Idly, he wondered why that was. Deep down, however, he knew the truth. They had held off on attacking him and were wary around him - even as they attacked him - because they were afraid.

Galerius smiled, but it wasn’t a kind smile. It was the smile of someone who had nothing left to lose, and everything to gain. He counterattacked. Any Sassanids who had been brave enough to attack him without a bow and arrows quickly lost their bravery. Still, he was still under attack.

It was only ranged attacks, so dodging was easier. However, he didn’t want to be under attack at all. He was tired, and, soon, he would be done. Not yet, though. He still had work to do.

He dodged the arrows that were aimed at him. Then, he began to close the distance between himself and those who were shooting at him. Most of the Sassanids dropped their weapons, but they were not all cowards. Galerius could respect that, at least.

He killed most of the archers who were brave enough to stand their ground against him. A few managed to escape, but he didn’t care about that. His goal - and the goal of this charge was simply to thin the Sassanid lines and to buy the Eastern Romans time. He had done what he had set out to do, even if there were more casualties than he would’ve liked.

He looked around the battlefield. The only human beings of any kind near him were dead Sassanids. A few of his comrades had noticed the safe haven and were working their way toward it. Galerius smiled at that. Many of his comrades would live to see another day. That was good.