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What was the troop counts of the two armies at the beginning of this epic battle? Thank you for writing without the crutch of screenshots.

Not sure. Probably in tens of thousands. Future sources might exaggerate by saying there were millions of soldiers on both sides, but that would be historical exaggeration...
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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 29
He was still bleeding. He would die of blood loss, if nothing else, before nightfall. He had managed to kill many Sassanids, and his goal had been achieved. However, that wasn’t enough. He would kill as many Sassanids as he could. Then, and only then, would he rest.

Unfortunately, the Sassanids seemed to have learned from their mistakes. They wouldn’t attack him. Galerius shut his eyes, and, then, he resolved to die as he had lived. He had lived his life in battle, so it was only fitting that he would die in a battle.

At that moment, he made a decision. He would take out as many Sassanids as he could. When he knew that her death was on the verge of occurring, then he would head back to the small safe haven that most of the men who had participated in this charge were located.

He drew a dagger. He might as well duel-wield blades. He could kill more Sassanids that way. “And this will be my battlefield,” he said, and, with that, he threw his dagger at one of the Sassanids.

Then, he approached the Sassanids. The other Sassanids apparently couldn’t this act go unpunished, as they attacked them. Galerius had expected this, though, and his sword hit the first one who dared to approach. This seemed to temporarily dissuade the other Sassanids from attacking for a brief while, but he knew that they would eventually get over their fear.

He didn’t plan on giving them that choice. He quickly retrieved his dagger. Being able to fight at range was useful, especially if you had enemies that could also attack you from long distances, and he didn’t feel like drawing his bow. Also, he was running out of arrows, due to the fact that his bow (and his quiver) was only supposed to be used in emergencies. Galerius supposed that his last moments technically counted as an emergency, but his last moments hadn’t come yet. He could last for at least a few more hours.

He would never surrender. He knew that his death was near, but that was no reason to surrender. Only cowards surrendered, and he was far from a coward. He wasn’t being attacked right now, but he knew that that meant nothing. This was merely the eye of the hurricane, and it would be over soon.

He was quickly proven right. He barely had time to dodge an arrow shot at him, and the other Sassanid archers must’ve taken that as a weakness, as he was soon faced with many arrows, all heading towards him.

Galerius dealt with this by slicing the arrows out of the air with his dagger. The archers, however, had smelled blood in the water. They continued their attacks. He continued to dodge their arrows and to slice them out of the air, but they kept coming.

Then, to make matters even worse for him, the Sassanids decided that he was weak. They attacked him with close-range weapons as well. He was quickly surrounded. He shut his eyes, and he decided that this would be his final act - an act of defiance and not submission.

He opened his eyes, and, then, he screamed and attacked them all. His attackers were taken aback at his act of utter defiance - or, at least, that’s what he liked to think. It’s equally as likely that they were taken aback at his sheer bravery - and, in the eyes of some, stupidity.

Galerius didn’t care about what the Sassanids felt, though. Many wouldn’t survive this night, although he wouldn’t, either.

The Sassanids took about an hour to recover from their shock. Once they did, however, they attacked with utter rage. Galerius fended off as many as he could, but the Sassanids kept attacking. It was not long before he had too many wounds and not enough drive.

With his last breaths, he looked around the battlefield. Those Romans who had not died or been captured had made it to the safe haven. That was good. The Legio I Armeniaca would outlast him, and it would defeat the Sassanids. Once that was done, it would avenge itself against the so-called “King of Italy”, Odoacer.
And, with that thought, Galerius breathed his last and descended into infinite silence and shadow.
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And so Galerius's life ends, although the Second Battle of Hasakah is far from over...
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Galerius' death was glorious, or at least the one, that was told by the bards, was grand and glorious.

Indeed. How historically accurate that was - or, actually, how historically accurate any of the AAR is - is... debatable.
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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 30
Eroton walked around the new camp. He had only arrived here somewhat recently, but not being under siege was a nice feeling. He sighed. He was no longer under siege, yes, but the battle was far from over. He should probably talk with Titus about how they were going to escape being trapped in the Sassanid lines.

The area that they were currently in was a safe haven for now, but there was no confirmation that that would last. They needed to get to the Eastern Roman lines - and it would be… preferable if they could do it quickly. If they didn’t…well, that probably wouldn’t be pretty.

He had the outline of a plan, but it wasn’t very specific. He decided to talk with Titus about it. In general, he didn’t like specific plans - no plan survived contact with the enemy, so what was the point of crafting a specific plan? Still, he wanted a second input on his idea (which did leave a lot of room for improvisation because that would be needed).

He headed to the tent that he had seen Titus enter. He wasn’t sure if Titus was still in there, but that was the only place where Eroton knew to look for his commander, so he was checking there anyway. He wasn’t quite sure where he would look if Titus wasn’t there, but he’d figure something out.

He knocked on the door to Titus’s tent, and Titus invited him in.

“So,” Titus began. “Why are you here?”

“Our camp is a temporary safe haven,” Eroton said. “We are safe here… for now, but what happens when we are no longer safe here? What do we do then? The Sassanids are distracted by our comrades at the moment, but they can only hold out for so long. Once that’s done, the Sassanids will turn their full attention onto us.”

“And we’re all gathered in a single spot,” Titus said. “Which means that they only have to attack one spot. This is bad. This is very, very bad.”

“I see that you understand how bad our situation truly is,” Eroton commented. “The question is, what are we going to do about it?”

“Can we do anything?” Titus asked. “There’s still thousands of Sassanids in between us and our camp. We’re still trapped, although we are no longer under siege.”
Eroton began pacing around the tent. Said tent was extremely empty, only consisting of a place to sleep and a place to eat - there wasn’t much else to do in a tent during a battle, even when there was a lull in the fighting.

“What’s our commander doing?” Eroton wondered. Then, he remembered the wounds that the commander of the Legio I Armeniaca had entered their old tent with. “Never mind. That was a stupid question.”

“So, basically, we’re trapped in between enemy lines, and we have no hope of rescue,” Titus summarized. “Well, I guess that means we’re going to have to save ourselves. How are we supposed to do that?”

Eroton frowned. There wasn’t an incredibly obvious solution to their dilemma, but almost every problem could be solved. How could they save themselves?

“I need some time to think on this,” Eroton replied. “I have the barest outline of a plan, but it isn’t very specific. After all, no plan survives contact with the enemy.”
“That’s true,” Titus admitted. “But I would like to know what your plan is anyway. We can work off of it.”

“Very well,” Eroton said. “My plan basically consisted of using darkness as a shield. We managed to get this deep into Sassanid lines by using darkness as cover, so why shouldn’t we be able to get out that way?”

“Because the Sassanids might expect that strategy now,” Titus pointed out. “However, it is a decent beginning of a plan. Let’s talk again once you have a more specific outline.”

Eroton agreed to this, and he left Titus’s tent. He needed to know how they could save themselves. Using night as their cover might work, but it might not. He needed to come up with multiple ideas for how to start off. He could modify them as needed later.

His dreams might hold answers that his waking mind didn’t hold. Yes, he would consider their current dilemma once he had rested.

Eroton had every reason to trust in his dreams. They had helped him many times before, after all. A dream was how he knew to join Titus’s group. There was safety in numbers, of course, but there were many large groups of soldiers after Galerius’s charge had been defeated. His dreams had told him to seek out Titus, and he had done so. That had almost certainly saved his life.

In addition, a dream had led to his saving of Galerius’s life at Siscia. Well, it had alerted him that Galerius’s life was in danger at Siscia, anyway.

In short, his dreams had proven extraordinarily helpful in the past. If he couldn’t figure out a solution to his dilemma while awake, his dreams would probably aid him enough to allow his survival, at the very least.

With that thought, he fell asleep. His suspicions were immediately proven somewhat correct. He dreamed of a battlefield that was empty except for corpses. Corpses littered the area, though, and the area looked red. He also saw walls, but they were as crimson as death.

Eroton deduced that these were Hasakah’s walls, and that the battle had ended. However, he was unsure of who had won the battle, although he did know that casualties were high. He wasn’t sure of what the fate of Hasakah itself was, either.

He saw a foolish charge, although it occurred at night. He only saw this for the briefest of moments, but it told him all that he wanted to know. The Eastern Romans had charged, relying on the darkness of night to shield them from Sassanid eyes. This had failed, but the Eastern Romans hadn’t given up without a fight. They had fought, and many Sassanids had been slaughtered. In the aftermath, the remnants of the Armeniaca had led the rest of the three legions forward in a charge that resulted in the utter slaughter of both armies.

Eroton understood the warning very clearly. Do not charge blindly, even in darkness. That will end only in death for all.

Eroton frowned. This had told him what he shouldn’t do, but not what was actually a good course of action.

As if responding to his thoughts, his dream changed. No longer was he present in a great graveyard, but, rather, he stood next to a river. The river was clear, and it contained only specks of red. These specks could easily have been left over from the First Battle of Hasakah.

The city existed around him. It was night, but it was clear that the city remained in existence. Its walls stood, but they could be bypassed.

Eroton awoke with a start. Its walls stood, but they could be bypassed… the answer lay in that fact, and Eroton knew that. He knew the answer, but it wasn’t presenting itself to him. What was he missing? He knew that he was missing something, but not what.

Wait, there was a river inside of Hasakah. And the walls could be bypassed. Oh. That was… actually a really good idea. It would be difficult to carry out, but, if they could, they could avoid a lot of casualties.

Eroton exited his tent, and he saw that it was still night. The stars glittered above his head, and he was comforted by that. There was still hope of victory, after all. That was the silver lining in all of this. Still, Eroton was worried - he had a bad feeling about this, although there was no reason for it to exist.

As much as Eroton wanted to share his current plan with Titus right now, he suspected Titus was still asleep. That was a good thing, actually, because any sleep they could get at all was excellent. War didn’t often allow time for such luxuries as sleep.

He should probably get more sleep himself actually. He had the answers that he had wanted, but fighting a war while tired was a terrible idea. He went back to his tent, and he immediately fell into a deep sleep.

This time around, his dreams were far less coherent. He saw a great darkness, and he heard a whispering voice. It was soft, but convincing. In response to it, rivers of blood existed… and war reigned unchallenged.

The sun attempted to rise, but it was interrupted. The dawn was marred by darkness. In the shadows, he saw men, and they were holding strings. These strings stretched across the entire planet. Indeed, they enwrapped it.

“Revenge,” a thousand voices whispered. “We will have our revenge, and no one shall stop us!”

All the while, an unseen figure cackled. “Revenge, indeed,” they whispered. “All will be subject to me. They already are, after all.”

After those ominous words were spoken, Eroton awoke. What was he supposed to make of that dream? Was it implying that his will - and, by extent, the will of his comrades - was subject to another’s?

He didn’t have to dwell on that. He needed to talk with Titus, and they needed to plan an escape from in between enemy lines. He could deal with his dreams later, when his life wasn’t on the line.

He exited his tent and noticed that it was barely past dawn. That was good, for it meant that he hadn’t slept for too long…

He decided to head towards the center of the camp. He had heard a rumor that Galerius’s body had arrived in the camp. He wasn’t sure whether or not that was true, but it couldn’t hurt to check. Also, he really needed to talk with Titus. He had a plan, now, but no plan survived contact with the enemy.

As he left his tent, he felt the soft coldness of rain. It was drizzling. Eroton smiled faintly. He could use that, although waiting until it was raining harder might be a good idea. The weather could be an extremely good weapon against any army…

He arrived at the camp’s center, and he saw that Galerius’s corpse was indeed here. He frowned. Why was it here, of all places? It almost looked like a warning - and a threat.

Eroton didn’t stay to dwell on this. Instead, he sought out Titus. He desperately needed to talk with him, if only to ensure that they survived this battle. Death wasn’t a fate that Eroton wanted, even if it was glorious. It was better to live unknown than to die known.

Titus wasn’t near Galerius’s corpse, but that just meant that he was sane - nobody liked to be near death. No sane person, anyway, even if they saw the glory that death could bring. “What?” Titus asked, turning towards him.

Eroton sighed. “I have an idea on how to escape from our… current predicament,” he began carefully. “We can’t keep going on like this.”

“No, we can’t,” Titus agreed, “But what was wrong with your old plan? Other than its vagueness?”

“It was vague, yes,” Eroton acknowledged. “But that wasn’t the problem with that plan. All plans need a certain amount of vagueness. No plan survives contact with the enemy, after all. And there are many things that can’t be predicted.”

“True enough,” Titus admitted. “What is this plan of yours?”

“It’s simple enough,” Eroton began. “We can’t kill our way out of this position, at least not without suffering many deaths ourselves. Luckily, my plan allows a limited amount of casualties, and we won’t have to slaughter the Sassanids.”

“Good,” Titus said. “This war has gone for far too long as it is. Any way to end it will be excellent for both sides.”

“Indeed,” Eroton commented. “All we have to do is sneak into Hasakah itself. We can pass through the city unopposed.”

“That will get us back to our camp,” Titus said. “Which will contribute toward ending this lengthy war. How will we ensure that the Sassanid army doesn’t catch us during our escape into the city, though?”

“We will use night as a cover,” Eroton replied. “The darkness will shield us.”

“Very well, then,” Titus said. “This isn’t a very specific plan, but it works as an outline.”

“One last thing,” Eroton said. “Why do we have Galerius’s corpse? He must’ve died in battle against the Sassanids, but why would they give us his corpse?”
Eroton saw that Titus was considering this. He had meant it was a rhetorical question, but he truly did want an answer, so he stayed. They stood like that for what felt like an eternity but was likely only moments. Finally, Titus responded to his inquiry.

“I imagine that they were making a threat,” he admitted. “Although I am not sure what they believe that will accomplish. They might be attempting to make us show fear.”

“Fear?” Eroton asked. “They have killed our commander, and they want us to know that. Yes, they want us to fear them. But why? And why return the corpse permanently? They could’ve made their point just as much if they simply kept the corpse. In order to make us feel fear from our commander’s death, all they needed to do was show us the corpse. No, they have another motive.”

“I’m assuming that you have a theory as to what that motive is?” Titus asked. “You wouldn’t have brought this up if you didn’t.”

Actually, he brought this up due to natural curiosity, but he did have a theory. He wasn’t sure whether or not it was a correct theory, though.

“They might’ve respected him as a worthy opponent,” he said. “Or they might be saving their own skin. If they tried to show us our commander’s dead corpse, and then attempted to leave with it, would they really believe we would allow that. No, we’d kill them.”

“Fair point,” Titus admitted. “Why is this relevant, though? We should be focusing on escaping and then on actually winning this war. The motives of our enemies shouldn’t matter to us.”

“But they do,” Eroton said. “If we know our enemies, we know their weaknesses and their strengths. It is far easier to win a battle against the enemy you know than against the one you don’t. That may well be one of the reasons why the Sassanid Empire still exists.”

Titus raised an eyebrow. “How?” he asked. “How do you reason that? The Sassanids continue to exist because they have fought us off.”

“And we have fought them off,” Eroton countered. “We have annihilated their armies. We could have taken Persia and Mesopotamia many times, but we rarely actually did. We spared them, and that was by design.”

“What do you mean?” Titus asked. “Are you implying that something is happening that we aren’t aware of?”

“Oh,” Eroton said, amused. “There are many things happening without our permission or our consent. There are many things happening without our knowledge. I can assure you of that.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Titus asked.

“The truth lies,” Eroton replied. “The truth always lies.”

On that note, Eroton headed back to his tent. He knew that the shadows hid many things, and they would conceal more by the time this day was done.
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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 31
Eroton had much to think about. He had a plan now, but it was vague, and it might not succeed. He had told Titus that the truth lied, and he knew that that was true. But that raised a question. Which truths lied? Did all of them, or were some truths honest?

He quickly dismissed that thought. It didn’t really matter anyway. There were more pressing matters to deal with. With Galerius dead, somebody would need to command the Legio I Armeniaca - even despite the fact that it was split in half.

He would need to get into Hasakah proper. The army would follow, and this nightmare would finally be over. But that was assuming everything went well, and something almost always went wrong. Oh, he knew the Sassanids, and that helped in planning against them, but it didn’t guarantee his victory. No, victory was found in ability to improvise.

There was no victory from plans. A man could plan all he wished - it would do nothing in the heat of battle. Many men could only think of the fight during a battle. Eroton wasn’t one of those men, and, indeed, most of those men had already died. A man who didn’t think - or even just thought too little - during a battle got himself killed. Eroton knew that firsthand.

Eroton sighed. They would begin their escape when night fell. There was no use pondering on it any more than he already had.

Still, thoughts and plans filled his head throughout the day, but that wasn’t what he was focused when night finally did fall. No, he was focused on escaping. To do that, he needed to find Titus - and a short meeting with Brutus and his companion couldn’t hurt.

The Legio I Armeniaca needed a commander, and it would get one, by the Lord. The younger recruits answered to the older ones. They wouldn’t oppose their choice.

Brutus, his companion, and Titus all arrived at the same time. “Why are we here, Eroton?” Titus asked, ever-blunt.

“We need a commander,” Eroton said. “We are here to discuss that issue. I would prefer if we had one before we attempted our daring escape, which means we don’t have much time.”

“Very well,” Titus responded. “The sun is only just now setting, so we still have some time to decide on this matter, as well as any other that might come up.”
“Why should we decide on a commander?” Brutus interjected. “It’s not like we are the entire legion.”

“We’re short on time,” Titus snapped. “We need to choose a commander very quickly, and men will follow us. It might not be normal, but this won’t be official until we get word of Galerius’s death back to the Emperor anyway.”

“Yes,” Eroton agreed. “And we need to escape, if not now, then soon. That will be far easier to do with a commander than without. If we don’t have a commander, we have no one to unite this camp.”

“Fair point,” Brutus acknowledged. “But who should command?”

That was the question, wasn’t it? In all honesty, all three of them had qualities that would be useful to a commander. The problem was that nobody seemed to want the position. Eroton could understand why - being the commander of the Legio I Armeniaca meant many responsibilities, and no one wanted those. Not to mention the fact that both of the previous commanders had died in battle, and it had been their own fault… to an extent.

Still, somebody had to lead, and a commander must be chosen. It wasn’t clear who that would be, though, and time was running out. They needed to pick a commander by tomorrow’s nightfall, although today’s would be preferable. They needed to escape before they were too trapped to do so.

Eroton sighed. They really didn’t have time for this. They needed a commander, of course, but they needed to escape far more. They couldn’t let the Sassanids eliminate what little remnants of the original Legio I Armeniaca there still were. That would be an unmitigated disaster, and the assured end of the Armenian Legion for eons to come.

“We need a commander,” Eroton snapped. “And we need one now. We don’t have a choice. A few men will only follow a man who is officially the commander of the Legio I Armeniaca, and we need to get everyone out of the Sassanid lines. We are trapped between enemy lines, and we have the option to get out of that situation. We need to take it!”

“Carpe Diem,” Titus murmured, uncharacteristically vague. “Carpe Diem.”

“Are either of you going to volunteer?” Brutus asked. “As Eroton said, we don’t have much time, and we’ve been arguing about this for a while.”

Titus shut his eyes. “If no one else will agree to command,” he began. “I will. I have some experience, anyway. I will not enjoy it, but necessity holds no law.”

No one objected or volunteered to command themselves, and so it was decided. Titus would become the new commander of the Legio I Armeniaca, but there was still a very pressing question that needed to be answered.

Eroton finally voiced what everyone was thinking. “So,” he said. “Are we going to begin our escape tonight, or will we wait until tomorrow’s night dawns? I personally don’t care, but I think you three might care.”

At that moment, Brutus’s companion finally made himself known. “Tonight,” he said, and that was all.

Everyone agreed - or, rather, no one argued. No one liked the position that they were currently in. On that note, the meeting adjourned.

Eroton began preparing as soon as the meeting ended. He needed to get the escape started as quickly as he could. After all, everybody would either be dead - or, worse, prisoners - if that failed. Eroton wasn’t about to let that happen.

Still, he couldn’t afford to mess this up, so he would’ve preferred to take more time to plan. Unfortunately, they didn’t have more time, as night was dawning. They had until dawn to put their plan into action. They had decided to not delay a night. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. On the one hand, they were effectively under siege and needed to escape, but, on the other, they couldn’t afford to screw this up.

If they could get into the city, they could follow the river. It wasn’t that complicated. Unfortunately, that was a big if. Eroton knew that he was going to have to make a lot of snap decisions. Just as he thought this, he heard a knock on his tent’s door.

“Come in,” he called.

Titus entered. “We’re preparing to make our escape now,” he said. “I really hope that this works. I don’t know what will happen if it doesn’t.”

“It’ll work,” Eroton assured him, as he got up. “If things go wrong, we can always improvise. If things don’t go wrong, then we will be back at our camp, safely, by dawn.”

“And if we can’t improvise?” Titus asked. “What would happen if we can’t escape? Aren’t we prisoners, then? That would be a disaster!”

Eroton got up and looked Titus right in the eye. “I’m not going to lie,” he began. “Yes, that would be disastrous. However, the chances of it happening are relatively low. This isn’t a guaranteed success, but it’s incredibly likely to fail, either. Trust us and yourself. We’ll be fine.”

And, with that, he got up. The two men left the tent together, and the escape truly began.

Next time, the escape attempt begins, and both sides make dangerous gambles... Stay tuned!
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Stay tuned . . . (for Batman fans) to the same bat channel at the same bat time. Each episode is getting better and better.

Thanks! Indeed, stay tuned...

Also, to everyone, the Q3 ACAs have begun! Go vote for your favorite AARs (nominations are always appreciated, and we already have one, which is great. Thanks for the vote, @Wraith11B...
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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 32
Eroton made it to the walls of Hasakah without incident. Titus, Brutus, and the army followed. For the briefest of moments, Eroton allowed himself to hope that his plan had succeeded without unintended consequences. Night was a good cover, after all, so the Sassanids hadn’t spotted them?

That hope was quickly destroyed like a wave devouring a ship. The guards refused to allow them into the city. Eroton could see why they might be suspicious, of course, but they didn’t have time for this. Still, it looked like he was going to have to be the one negotiating with them for passage into a city that was still Eastern Roman. He knew that Hasakah hadn’t fallen, and it wasn’t really under siege. That made the guards’s reluctance weird, but it was possible that they were being cautious.

There was another possibility, of course, but Eroton really didn’t want to consider that. He remembered Siscia, of course, but it hadn’t made him paranoid. Some days, he thought that Galerius was overreacting to Siscia, but he knew where he was coming from. Gold was a very good motivator - to any person.

Wait… gold was a good motivator. It was possible that these guards were being bribed by the Sassanids to not allow them to pass, but that only meant that they were greedy. Eroton could capitalize on that greed. In order to pass, all he needed to do was offer them more gold than whatever the Sassanids had offered them.

Unfortunately, that was far easier said than done. For one thing, Eroton didn’t even know how much the Sassanids were paying these guards - if they even were being bribed. To add to his troubles, he wasn’t in command of the Legio I Armeniaca. The official leader of this legion was dead, and the acting legion was Titus, which meant that Eroton had to find Titus, and he had to do it quickly. If he couldn’t do that… well, it wouldn’t be pretty, to say the least.

All of this ran through his head quickly, and, then, he quickly realized that he had barely a clue where Titus even was. He absolutely didn’t have time for this. They needed to escape, and they needed to do so now. Unfortunately, it seemed as if whoever commanded this Sassanid army was more cunning than they had thought.

Okay, so where might Titus be? Eroton didn’t know the exact spot, but he did know Titus. He should be able to deduce where Titus was at the moment.

Titus was in command, and he wasn’t the type to abandon his comrades. Eroton knew that much. Titus would fight with them, if things came to battle. Still, that wasn’t very helpful as to where he was right now. Still, Titus wouldn’t abandon his army without due cause, and he led from the front. That meant that he had to be somewhere on the front lines. Thankfully, that was where he was at the moment. Of course, that wasn’t actually that helpful.

Still, Eroton had to try. He surveyed the once-scattered remnants of the original Legio I Armeniaca. Many looked starved, and many were covered in blood. Briefly, Eroton felt a surge of anger, but he pushed that down. He couldn’t afford to get distracted. He spotted Titus after some time. That was the good news. The bad news was that Titus was on the other side of the army. Eroton was currently on the edges of the right flank of this makeshift army. Titus was on the edges of the left flank.

Eroton cussed. He could get to Titus, but it wouldn’t be easy. There was technically an army between them, even if it was an army friendly to them. The situation could be worse - the army between them could have been a Sassanid army - but this was still a very bad situation.

Well, he might as well get started on reaching Titus. If he couldn’t do that, then the Legio I Armeniaca was going to be trapped here. They would be easy targets, and everybody here would either be captured or killed. Eroton couldn’t allow that to happen. The night wasn’t eternal, as much as he wished this night, in particular, was.

He moved, and he tried so silently. He trusted the men that he had been with for days and most of the original Legio I Armeniaca, but he knew that some had faltered. They hadn’t abandoned their legion, but they had considered doing so. And spies could be anywhere. This is what he told himself the reason for his attempt at excessive stealth was, but the true reason was to avoid alerting the Sassanids of where he was.

It was quite some time before he had managed to reach the makeshift army’s left flank and even longer before he finally found Titus. Thankfully, Titus spotted him quickly. “Why are you here?” he asked Eroton.

“We have a problem,” Eroton responded. “The guards won’t let us through. I suspect that they’re being bribed by the Sassanids. There isn’t any concrete proof of that, of course, but why else would they not allow us through? It’s possible that they believe us Sassanids, but that is unlikely.”

“Why?” Titus asked. “Why is that so unlikely? We are an army, and we have come from territory that is known to belong to the Sassanids. As much as I hate to say this, as much as I hate to be compared to a Persian, they have every reason to believe us Sassanids.”

“At first,” Eroton began, unsurely. “I thought that as well. As such, I attempted to prove that this was not an army of Sassanids, that we were not an army of Sassanids. They still refused to let us pass. We aren’t allowed to enter the city, and we must do so. As much as I hate to admit it, the guards having been bribed is the best situation for us. If they were not…”.

“What if they were not?” Titus asked. “Why is betrayal due to gold the best situation for us?”

“The alternatives are really bad,” Eroton said plainly. “If they have betrayed us due to gold, we cannot trust them, yes, but we can outbid the Sassanids. If they aren’t letting us in because they believe that we are Sassanids, then it is unlikely that we will be able to convince them otherwise. If they aren’t letting us in, and they haven’t been paid, that means that they have outright us all, and, if we don’t know why, we can’t do anything about it.”

“In short, our situation is really bad,” Titus summed up, blunt as always. “We need to get past, and we won’t be able to pass if the Sassanids aren’t bribing the few people guarding Hasakah’s walls. We must hope that men have given into greed, and, if they have not, then, we are doomed. Why are you telling me this?”

“I don’t have the authority to negotiate with the people guarding this city,” Eroton responded. “I don’t command what little remains of this legion. Of course, the one who officially commands this legion is dead, but you are acting commander. You have the authority to negotiate. I do not.”

“You can’t seriously be thinking about negotiation,” Titus said. “If these so-called guards will not let us through, then we should kill them and force our way into the city. We shouldn’t reward treason.”

“What other choice do we have?” Eroton snapped. “We are using darkness as our cover, and that darkness is not eternal. We’re running out of time, and we cannot get caught.”

“And a battle would be quick,” Titus snapped back. “The night is yet young. We can defeat them and enter the city quickly.”

“We can’t do that undetected,” Eroton replied. “We need to enter Hasakah stealthily, and a battle isn’t stealthy. Any Sassanid soldier who was awake would notice, and it could even wake some of the soldiers in the Sassanid army that are asleep. It’s much too risky, and we can’t take that risk unless we must. Attacking them should be a last resort.”

“Very well, then,” Titus said. “We will attempt negotiations, and a battle will be our backup plan, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I don’t like it, but we do what we must.”

“Amen to that,” Eroton murmured. “Now, come. We have negotiations to conduct, as much as we wish that we didn’t.”

Eroton gets up, and Titus follows. They arrive at the walls of Hasakah, and Titus demands that the guards let them pass. Eroton wonders if Titus simply didn’t believe him, or if he is in denial. It didn’t matter, and the guards still refused.

“Why?” Titus asked. The guards looked confused, but Eroton wondered why he didn’t ask them that himself. He had simply come up with reasons why they might have refused to allow this remnant of a legion to pass. But he hadn’t asked, and that might have been a mistake.

The head guard simply took gold coins out of his pocket. That explained everything. He had been right - they had been bribed. Still, something felt wrong. Even when Odoacer had tried to bribe the entirety of two legions at Siscia (and how it hurt to remember that), there had been honest men - loyal men. It made no sense that all of the men who were guarding Hasakah were disloyal.

Hasakah should have held. Eroton didn’t believe that it had fallen. It wasn’t famous for holding - not famous like some other cities that he had fought at were, but the Sassanids weren’t attacking the city. If they had been, then he could see being barred from Hasakah’s walls, but the Sassanids had been under attack, and they hadn’t attacked before then. They cared nothing for the city.

“How much did they pay you?” Titus asked. “How much did they pay you for your betrayal of your empire? You were entrusted with guarding this city, and, if you were paid to do so, I have no doubt that you would open the gates in a second. Let us pass, or would you have us pay you as well?”

The leader of the guards sputtered at that, and Eroton saw some of the other guards exchange uneasy glances. Oh. That made much more sense. Only a select few of the guards knew of the deception. The rest had probably actually thought that they were Sassanids.

Eroton thought that he might’ve heard a curse from somewhere, but it might’ve been his imagination. The guards agreed to let the legion pass for free, although that was probably because around half of the guards were glaring at their leader.

Unfortunately, the damage was done. The small remnant of the original Legio I Armeniaca began to cross, and Eroton moved to the back of the army. He would guard the army’s back, and he wouldn’t enter Hasakah until the entire legion had crossed.

At first, the crossing occurred without problems. Much of the army had already passed, but Eroton knew that dawn was coming. Once it came, they would lose their cover of darkness. If most of the army had already passed, this shouldn’t have been a problem, but Eroton was worried anyway.

As it turned out, these worries weren’t unfounded. He looked over at the Sassanid camp, and, then, he realized that it looked empty. That realization came too late, however, and he barely had time to shout a warning to the few men who hadn’t crossed into the city.

Few of those men heard him, and even fewer cared. If they had, perhaps things could’ve been different, but Eroton wasn’t about to dwell on what could have been.

The Sassanids had attacked.

They had attacked the back of the remnants of the first Legio I Armeniaca. That had been what Eroton had been attempting to warn his comrades about, but it had been no use. The few that hadn’t crossed were now engaged in a desperate fight for their lives.

Eroton drew his sword and attacked the Sassanids. His blade slashed and stabbed, but he wasn’t Galerius or Demetrius. He killed, but he didn’t kill many people at once. He would be overrun soon, and he knew that.

He muttered a curse. He had suspected the truth about why the guards wouldn’t let him through, but he hadn’t thought about - or he had willfully ignored - what that meant. It meant that the Sassanids had dealt with the guards recently. He couldn’t have known about when they made the deal, but he should have suspected something. He should’ve known that the commander of the Sassanid forces wouldn’t have bribed the men guarding Hasakah without a reason.
It was too late to dwell on such things, though, and such thoughts quickly fled from his mind. He couldn’t afford to be distracted. He had to focus all of his attention on merely staying alive.

Even so, he knew that he would be overrun soon enough. The Sassanid army vastly outnumbered the small number of men who hadn’t managed to cross into Hasakah. They couldn’t hold, but they couldn’t escape, either. If they attempted a retreat, it would have to be into Hasakah, but they had no way of knowing that the Sassanids wouldn’t be able to follow them there. Eroton heavily suspected that they would attempt to do so, at least.

Eroton sighed. He was trapped between an army and a city, a rock and a hard place. He couldn’t allow the Sassanids to enter Hasakah. He had to buy his comrades time. And, with that thought, he shut his eyes, and his blade attacked the Sassanids.

He didn’t believe that he would survive, but he needed to get his former comrades to safety. They had all run headlong into this, but they were only following orders. He shouldn’t fault them for that. He needed to buy them time.

And he did. Almost a hundred Sassanids lay dead from his blade, but he doubted it would be enough. The Sassanid army was large - they could afford losses. The few men of the Legio I Armeniaca who were still stranded outside of Hasakah could not.

All of these thoughts came to him as he had finally been punctured by a blade. It had hit his heart, but it had come close, and Eroton suspected that he wouldn’t survive the night. But, then, this entire plan was always a longshot. He hoped that this had bought his comrades enough time to escape, but he didn’t know that it had. That was the worst thing - the lack of knowledge.

He collapsed after that, and he suspected that he would be a prisoner even if he survived, but, again, he didn’t know. The battle could’ve ended, but he did not dare to hope. After that thought, all he sees is inky blackness.

Then, suddenly, he felt pain. It was pain as he had never before known - excruciating pain - but it was pain. Pain was good. Pain was knowing that he was alive. But where was he?

That thought quickly ended his brief euphoria. Yes, indeed, where was he? Why was he awake? Was he a prisoner? Had he been brought back to the remnants of the legion - the legion that he had almost died to save? That would’ve been the best option, but he was rarely lucky. There was no way that he was that lucky. The Lord wasn’t nearly so kind.

Then, he heard a voice. “He’s still alive,” it said, in what sounded like a tone of disbelief.

That was true enough. He didn’t yet know if death would’ve been kinder. Death would mean an end to his suffering, yes, but it would also mean an abandonment of his post - for the rest of time. He wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing, and, for once, he didn’t want a question that he had thought of answered.

Then, he heard a familiar voice. It was Titus’s, and he could almost weep in relief. He wasn’t a prisoner, any more than he had always been. He suspected that someone had saved him, but he doubted that the danger was past.

And there was that sinking feeling that he had only been saved because he was important, that he was trapped in a gilded cage. He quickly dismissed that thought. If he was trapped in a gilded cage, then he had always been so, and what would freedom even feel like? No. He would continue to serve, as he always had. He would plan, and he would grant the Eastern Roman Empire victory.

“Where are we?” he asked. His words came out raspy, and his throat was raw. His stomach was still in pain.

“Dawn came,” Titus said. “We are in Hasakah proper, and the Sassanids have contented themselves with the deaths of those who weren’t able to cross into the city itself. The guards shut the gates after that, but I noticed a gleam in the eye of the leader of the men guarding Hasakah. I don’t believe that that bodes well.”

Eroton bit back a curse. He knew that at least some of the guards were up to something, but he didn’t know what that was. Also, he thought of why the Sassanids had bribed the guards. He was wounded, and he could do little else. He was so lost in his mind that he barely noticed it when Titus left wherever he was.

What were the Sassanids planning? And did they succeed in what they wanted to do? The majority of the people who had survived the initial separation had survived, yes, but the Sassanids had managed to kill many men. Heck, they even almost managed to kill him. Still, they hadn’t succeeded with that, and everyone with any authority had survived. At first glance, it seemed as if the Sassanids got nothing that they wanted, but first glances could be deceiving.

Really, the only major thing that the Sassanids had achieved that might have majorly benefitted them was the death of Galerius. The Legio I Armeniaca was technically without a commander, but that hadn’t majorly damaged the legion. Was that what the Sassanids wanted? A breakdown in authority? If it was, then they had failed epically.

Still, there were other explanations. The current situation wasn’t really that bad for the Sassanids. It wasn’t great, obviously, but it wasn’t bad. What was the Sassanids’s play here? What were they trying to do? The obvious goal was to destroy the three legions, but the obvious option was rarely correct.

Furthermore, none of the actions of the Sassanid army made any sense if that was their goal. It was still technically possible if the commander of the Sassanids was a total idiot, but Eroton highly doubted that. If the commander was an idiot, then he wouldn’t have survived the initial attack. The army wouldn’t have survived the initial attack.

Again, another reminder to vote in the Q3 ACAs! Also, this update officially brings our word count to 100,000+ words, but we're far from done. Stay tuned!
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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 33
What did the Sassanids want here? And how did they plan on getting it? There were so many questions and so few answers.

Eroton hadn’t considered this before. That wasn’t weird, though - there had been no time to consider things. He had time now, though, and he didn’t know whether or not he liked that. He could attempt to figure out the motivations of his enemies all he wanted - he wasn’t going to get a clear answer.

In short, he had to wait… and to hope. Still, knowing possible plans of the Sassanids could be helpful… assuming that they weren’t simply making things up on the fly. That was still possible, if unlikely.

The good news was that the Sassanids would need time before they went on the attack after this. All of the momentum was with the Eastern Romans, even if the Legio I Armeniaca was almost totally crippled. He suspected that a stalemate might follow this. Idly, Eroton wondered what Galerius had been thinking when he led this charge. Was it supposed to be a distraction?

If so, it hadn’t succeeded that well. The Sassanids had lost many men, of course, but so had those who had attacked them. That decision didn’t make any sense if this was meant to be a distraction. Unless… Oh. That was… actually a pretty good plan. But, if Galerius was trying to buy time, why was time something they needed? That didn’t make sense unless reinforcements were coming…

Eroton shut his eyes. If reinforcements were coming, the war could be over soon. Very soon. Still, they still needed to escape. They were in Hasakah, but how could they get back to their camp? Eroton knew where that camp was, but they needed to cross the length of Hasakah to get there, and the rump legion seemed fine staying where they were.

He needed to talk to Titus. That would be far easier to do if he wasn’t too wounded to move.

Thankfully, Titus had apparently realized that he was decent at planning, at least when a quick plan was needed. He approached him of his own accord.

“Hello, Eroton,” Titus said.

Eroton rolled his eyes. “I know you want something,” he said. “Go on. Ask your questions. I have all day.”

Titus sighed. “Yes, I suppose you do,” he commented. “But we don’t have time to dwell on that. What are the Sassanids planning? And why did they let us escape so easily?”

“I wouldn’t call our escape easy,” Eroton said dryly. “They did bribe the guards of the city to delay us. However, it is true that none of them followed them into Hasakah, and that makes little sense… Unless they were planning something. They could simply have been trying to make us afraid, but I doubt that. They risked far too much for this to be a mere fear tactic.”

Titus frowned. “What’s their game, then? If this isn’t a fear tactic, what is it?” he questioned. “It can’t be an outright attack, or they would have tried harder to enter the city. And I know that they’re planning something, I want to know what that is!”

Eroton raised his hand placatingly. “I know,” he said. “What I’m saying is that I’m certain of what their plans are. However, I do have an idea of them - or, at the very least, a theory.”
“That’s good enough,” Titus snapped. “All we need is something to work with.”

“That’s good, as that’s all that we have,” Eroton replied. “It is probable that the Sassanids are trying to force a battle inside Hasakah. That would allow them to have an advantage, as we won’t be able to easily cause discord in their ranks.”

“It’s not like we were able to cause discord in their ranks in the previous battle,” Titus responded.

“Except we were,” Eroton countered. “The Sassanids couldn’t form lines or have a formation of any kind because we were in the middle of their camp. We were trapped inside their camp, yes, but that prevented from employing a formation because we were separated from each other. Any formation that they attempted to make would collapse. If they let us escape as one unit, then they would only have one unit to fight, and they could create a formation.”

“That seems like an extremely cunning plan,” Titus mused. “Do you truly believe that the Sassanids could be that cunning? And, if they can, why weren’t they more cunning before now? Surely, an opponent as cunning as the one you describe could have easily defeated us before now.”

“Unless they didn’t want to,” Eroton pointed out. “And nothing is ever set in stone. Even the most cunning planner can easily be undone by those who he remains unaware of. The best strategy is, naturally, to simply have an extremely vague plan - if you must have one at all. Make things up on the fly.”

“That sounds… unstrategic,” Titus said. “The problem is that your reasoning is sound. Still, can you elaborate on your theory?”

“Yes,” Eroton said. “Defeating us inside of Hasakah will allow them to take the city as well as destroy most of a legion. If they have control of the city, then they can easily use that to defeat the rest of our legion and the other two legions. It wouldn’t be that difficult to pull off.”

Titus frowned. “How would they use possession of the city to defeat our army?” he asked.

“They would control the city,” Eroton responded simply. “Both of our camps are outside of the city. They could attack us from two directions. At the moment, we control the city, and this move would be good - but I doubt that that is the only reason that they would attempt to take Hasakah. In truth, it is likely that they fear that we will use our possession of the city to defeat them. In theory, we could do that, but that is a discussion for another time.”

“I see,” Titus said. “Thank you for your time. I’ll have medics repair your legs. We need to have someone capable of thinking on the fly in order to win. Even if we didn’t, that would be incredibly helpful.” And, with that statement, he left Eroton’s tent. That left Eroton alone with his thoughts.

Eroton thought about the plans of the Sassanids. Everything that he told his commander was true, but he was almost certain that their fear contributed to their decision far more than the benefit that they would get from the city. Fear was always the strongest motivator.

Still, that didn’t explain much. He and his comrades had never actually used the fact that they technically controlled the city in this battle at all. The Sassanids knew that, so why did they think that the three legions would use that now? It made no sense, or, at least, it made no sense at first glance.
It was extremely likely that the Sassanids just wanted the battle - and the war - to be over. It was likely that they were tired. Normally, this would be excellent news, but the Eastern Romans were tired too. They wanted to end the war.

Both sides were likely to get their wish soon. Eroton sighed. He could do nothing about that for now… but he hoped that he got to participate in the battle to come - he hoped that his commander would keep his word.

If he didn’t - either out of deliberate malice or because of forgetfulness - then Eroton would be forced to watch a battle, and he could do nothing in it. Oh, he could talk, but what good would that do? Words did nothing. He had no intention of allowing his comrades to become lambs - lambs to the slaughter.

He might as well get some sleep before the battle began. He would need to be well-rested before the return began.

His dreams were filled with messages that he didn’t understand. He saw blood, but he couldn’t tell who it was from, and he saw an army crashing into a wall, but he couldn’t know where the army was from. In short, his dreams were completely useless, but, then, he hadn’t expected them to be helpful.

When he awoke, he attempted to stand. To his shock, he could. That meant that Titus was actually serious about him being useful in the fight to come.

Unfortunately, it also meant that that fight was going to occur extremely soon. Well, if that was true, he might as well prepare for it.

He thought on how the Sassanids might choose to attack them. He realized that they would need to cross Hasakah’s walls no matter what, but Eroton wasn’t so naive as to believe that the full force of the Sassanids could be stopped there. No, that would be utter folly. Still, he did believe that they could be delayed there, giving time for the remnant of those who had charged with Galerius to make plans. After all, the more plans a person had, the more options they had, and the man with the most options was almost invariably the victor in battle.

As soon as he finished thinking this, he noticed that he was being approached by Titus. “Is it time, then?” he asked his commander. The response he got was decidedly affirmative.

Titus instructed him to stay in their temporary camp. Titus told him that they needed to keep order in the camp while they were gone. Eroton quickly agreed to stay, as he deduced that Titus was leading men in defense of Hasakah’s walls. Nobody was really needed to keep order in the camp, but Eroton knew that Titus wanted to give his leg time to heal.

Eroton didn’t want to do nothing, though, so he settled on planning how to ensure that the escape of the scant remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca was successful. He knew that the walls of the city wouldn’t hold, but the battle there would buy him time to plan.

He didn’t expect the Sassanids to actually kill many of the soldiers defending Hasakah’s walls, either. He expected the battle at the wall to affect… absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.

No, his comrades would retreat back to his tent, and the true battle that would decide the fate of the Legio I Armeniaca’s remnants would probably occur near the river. Well, that was what Eroton hoped - he knew how to fight battles along rivers. If he had to fight in the streets of Hasakah, there might be a problem.

Eroton shut his eyes. He hated this, but Titus was right in that his leg did need healing. That fact didn’t make his wait any less boring, though. Eroton hated feeling useless.

Eroton worried about the outcome of the battle at the wall for hours. Indeed, he worried about it until Titus actually returned to their camp, with most of the men who had left with him at his side.

Despite the lack of casualties, Titus didn’t bring good news. No, he brought the news that Eroton’s theory had been completely correct. Eroton got up. He knew that his leg probably still needed more time to heal, but they didn’t have more time. The battle that was extremely likely to decide everything was here, and Eroton had no intention of missing it. If he died, then he died, but he would not go down without a fight.

Eroton suggested to Titus that they attempt to trap the Sassanids between the Eastern Romans and the river. Titus agreed, despite the extreme risk inherent in doing that. Eroton didn’t know exactly why Titus agreed to his idea, but he imagined that it was because everything had a risk - and the greater the risk was, the greater the reward could be.

Eroton moved toward the river with the rest of the survivors. If this failed, much of a legion would be lost forever. If it succeeded, however, the Sassanids would be left in a position that was very unfavorable to them. The entire battle at Hasakah came down to this, and Eroton knew that. They could not lose.

The Sassanids attacked at dawn.
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Terrific AAR, very addicting to read. Really like the setting in Late Antiquity which is a hugely underrated era.


I need to get back to updating this.The next update is coming soon...
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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 34
Short update here...

Eroton had been expecting this. Actually, he had expected them to attack at night, as the Eastern Romans had earlier. Apparently, that wasn’t their style. Eroton figured that that was probably because they figured night attacks were against the rules of accepted war... which was pretty much completely true, but also shouldn’t matter, considering that the Eastern Romans clearly weren’t abiding by those rules.

Regardless, the Eastern Romans were prepared for this. They fought with all of their might. Everybody knew that losing here would mean death or imprisonment.

At first, Eroton managed to stay away from the battle’s main action. Still, he knew how quickly the tides of battle could turn, so he had his sword out anyway. If the battle made it to him, he needed to be able to face it. Relying on everything going “right” or according to plan was a recipe for disaster and death.

The wisdom of this would quickly be proven. A few men managed to spot an opening in the Eastern Roman lines, and they took it. Eroton fought them, and those that weren’t killed were forced back. The gap in the Eastern Roman lines was quickly closed.

After that, the line in front of Eroton held. It held for the entirety of the battle, and, soon, there was an opening in the Sassanid lines. Eroton was unsure of why this opening existed. His first impression was that the Sassanids were simply breaking up. However, that was put into question by the fact that the opening was never closed, and no Eastern Romans took advantage of it.

Eroton thought that that was a prudent move. The Sassanids wouldn’t have kept such an opening open for that long unless it was a trap. Thankfully, the remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca were smarter than to fall for that trick.

Eventually, the Sassanids realized this, but, by that time, it was far too late. The Eastern Roman soldiers had opened many more gaps in the Sassanid lines. To their credit, the Sassanids knew when a battle was lost, and they retreated.

Eroton let a brief sigh of relief at that. He had been worried about that battle, although that worry had proven to be increasingly irrational.

After that, the remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca made good their escape. Finally, at long last, they arrived at their camp.

Eroton slept in an actual tent for the first time he could remember that night, and he was immensely relieved. Unfortunately, his sleep was far from peaceful.

Demons invaded his dreams. He remembered horrors, and he couldn’t stop remembering, as much as he wanted to. He longed for his dreams to be filled with something else. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but could have been as short as a minute, his dreams changed.

He saw blood build a throne. And he saw blood rip that same throne apart. Then, he woke up in a cold sweat.

What was that dream supposed to mean? Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to think about it too much. He was partially safe, but the Battle of Hasakah had not been finished. The Sassanid army hadn’t been destroyed - and they no longer had to deal with an army behind their lines. Eroton knew that the plan was to wait, but he knew not what the Eastern Roman army was waiting for.

Deep down, he knew that that particular fact didn’t matter. They were waiting for something, and that was all he needed to know. Still, that didn’t sate his curiosity. He wondered if Titus knew. Galerius had, but the dead could share no information.

Eroton got up. He might as well ask Titus. He wasn’t guaranteed an answer, but it was better than doing nothing at all.

It was at that moment that he received a letter from Titus, asking to meet with him - and a few others - in his tent. Eroton smiled. This would be a good opportunity to ask his question - and to begin to make his own plans.

When Eroton arrived at Titus’s tent, Titus was alone. He was waiting on a few other leading men within the Armeniaca - he needed to have his election to leadership of the legion confirmed.

Eroton and Titus made small talk while they waited. Eroton figured that every man of influence should know of what the plan was, so he refrained from asking that question.

It didn’t take long for the other men of influence to arrive, and Eroton was grateful for that. Eroton wasn’t aware of which influential men in the Legio I Armeniaca were even still alive. He hated not having that information, but he figured that he wouldn’t have to wait to know for that long.

He assumed that the new (interim) commander of the legion had chosen to surround himself with those he knew, so he would probably recognize most of the influential men that remained. Of course, that was probably the majority of men who survived from Galerius’s Charge at all. That charge might have been successful, but Eroton had no clue why they had charged, so he couldn’t know how successful it was.

It was possible that everything had been for naught.
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Am I the only one worried about this whole "blood build a throne" thing?
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Am I the only one worried about this whole "blood build a throne" thing?

That was supposed to be ominous... so you should be worried.

The question is... about what?
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus's Contingencies, Part 1
More normal updates should start coming right about... now.

Albinus paced. Where was the freaking Legio I Armeniaca? He wanted to have all the information that he could get. That wasn’t strictly necessary, but he sorely disliked variables. They could mess up his plans, and he preferred to have his plans succeed. Still, he could adapt his plans if the situation called for it. The problem here was that he had no clue where the Legio I Armeniaca was or where they could be at all.

He let out a curse under his breath. Okay, where were the possibilities as to the missing Legion’s location? He had heard that Galerius had charged at the Sassanids, and he did have a very faint recollection of that happening, but that didn’t explain much. A simple charge would have ended by now, regardless of whether or not the charge had succeeded.

This was made even more confusing by the fact that the commander of the Legio I Armeniaca had left most of the new recruits for that legion behind. That implied that Galerius had been intending to return. He couldn’t have just suicidally marched off to the center of the Sassanid ranks. Albinus was sure his friend had better self-preservation instincts than that. Getting trapped in the center of an enemy army was a recipe for disaster.

Still, if he had done that, it would explain why the majority - the veterans - of the Legio I Armeniaca were missing in action. It was an explanation, but it wasn’t a satisfactory one. Galerius was smarter than that, so he had to know that doing so would likely mean his death.

He had to know that doing so would likely mean his death.

Galerius had seemed… more subdued during this battle. Albinus had thought that it was probably the fact that the Battle of Hasakah was far longer than the previous battles that he had fought in. It was, however, possible that it wasn’t. If something else was bothering his… comrade? Co-commander? Friend? If something else was bothering Galerius, then Albinus wanted to know what it was.

Unfortunately, Galerius was missing. If he was anywhere, he was trapped behind enemy lines. Albinus wanted to believe that he was still alive because he could still be useful to Albinus’s plan. He could handle the Eastern Roman Empire’s military defense, which meant that Albinus wouldn’t have to command and govern a territory at the same time. That wouldn’t be easy.

Why did he care about what was easy now? He hadn’t cared about that before. He could command just fine without Galerius, but he had come to value his fellow commander’s council. He had been somewhat intelligent. Still, the far more important problem was the majority of a legion’s absence. They couldn’t all be dead, even if some were. A legion of the Romans was not so easily destroyed.

Inside Albinus’s heart, though, there was doubt. Roman legions had been destroyed before - and their destruction was always a portent of disaster. The Parthian destruction of a few legions had led to the destruction of the First Triumvirate and destroyed the already fragile peace between Caesar and Pompey. The instability that resulted from that took decades to overcome. Other than that, three legions had been destroyed at Teutoburg Forest, and Germania Magna had been lost forever. Its inhabitants had eventually brought about the fall of the Western Empire. Nothing good ever happened when a legion was destroyed.

That was why Albinus refused to believe that the Legio I Armeniaca had been effectively destroyed. If it had, this battle was as good as lost and Hasakah with it. The rest of the Eastern Roman military could hypothetically beat the Sassanids back anyway, but that hypothesis was based on numbers alone, and battles were won by more than just numbers. Morale mattered just as much, and the loss of a legion would destroy any morale the Eastern Roman legions had.

That couldn’t be allowed. Sharing his suspicions with anybody would also likely lead to the same result, regardless of the truth of things. If the Eastern Roman army retreated from Hasakah, and the majority of the Legio I Armeniaca hadn’t perished, then they were likely to perish anyway if he shared his suspicions. It was a risk that he couldn’t take. If he had to omit information from everyone else, then so be it.

Still, clarifying his plans with Clementius and whoever commanded the members of the Legio I Armeniaca that hadn’t left would be a good idea. He needed to make it explicitly clear that the army needed to stay put. Retreating would be a terrible option, especially considering that reinforcements were going to arrive soon.

Ignorance was bliss, of course, but knowledge was power. This information needed to be shared, and he needed to have a backup plan in case a legion had been destroyed. As much as he dreaded even doing so little as thinking about it, there was still the possibility that the majority of a legion was destroyed.

Consider all variables you know, he remembered Demetrius telling him. Consider all variables you know and plan for everything that could come from them.
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus's Contingences, Part 2
Okay, so the majority of a legion might’ve been destroyed. If that was the case, what was he supposed to do about it? It wasn’t like that could be kept a secret forever if it was true, and not telling Clementius and the remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca would probably lead to mistrust - and he needed to be trusted.

On the other hand, telling them could lead to panic, and he couldn’t afford to have an entire legion panic. It was quite a conundrum.

It was, unfortunately, a conundrum that Albinus had no idea how to solve. Which was more important, the Armeniaca’s morale or their interim commander’s trust? In ordinary circumstances, that would’ve been an easy decision - morale was far more important than trust. The reason why it wasn’t that easy, though, was because losing trust now could easily lead to the complete loss of any semblance of control he had under the Legio I Armeniaca. That would leave the Armeniaca separated from the other Eastern Roman legions… which could lead to their annihilation… or worse. It could lead to them leaving Hasakah, which might cause the city to be lost. That couldn’t be allowed.

Nobody could afford to have panic either, though. That would jeopardize the campaign for certain.

Albinus sighed. This decision would be so much easier if he knew what the interim commander of the Legio I Armeniaca was like. Unfortunately, he didn’t - and he didn’t have time to figure it out.

In truth, there was no simple answer to his dilemma. Still, he could hold off on making a decision. Yes, that was what he would do. He wouldn’t tell the remnants of the Legio I Armeniaca yet, but he would tell them if his suspicions were ever confirmed.

With that decision made, Albinus finally let himself lose consciousness. His dreams were no comfort, though. They showed his fears.

He dreamt of his friend Galerius’s dead body. He dreamt of thousands of dead bodies, for that matter. He didn’t recognize many of them, but they were all near the Sassanid tents. The bodies looked weirdly plain - a few had armor, but most lacked even that.

To be fair, a few of the Sassanid tents looked to be in disrepair. There were also random piles of ash. This ash was near the tents, but the few Sassanids that he could see avoided it as much as they avoided the dead bodies.

He awoke with that image in his head. He winced. He really hoped that his dream was merely a subconscious rendering of his fears and not a prediction of the future - or, worse, a revelation about the present.

Of course, he knew what the image meant. The bodies belonged to soldiers of the Legio I Armeniaca. He knew for a fact that that legion was equipped with decent armor, though. That mystery was easy to solve - the Sassanids had likely plundered their armor.

He wondered why they would do that. It seemed like that would require far too much effort to be worth the reward. The Sassanids wouldn’t plunder armor unless they were extremely desperate.

As he thought that, Albinus realized a third possibility as to what his dream meant. Perhaps it was not a subconscious rendering of his fears or a warning. Perhaps it was a revelation.
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