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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the Second Battle of Haykaberd, Part 4
  • HistoryDude

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    As the sun climbed into the sky, Galerius awoke. The sun wasn’t very high in the sky, but he knew going back to sleep was a terrible idea. Even sleeping at all had been risky, and he’d only allowed himself to sleep because he was certain that both armies outside Haykaberd’s walls had retired for the night. They could awake and resume their fight at any time, though.

    He decided to look outside the walls. Both armies were awake, but they were getting back into their formations quickly. The battle would resume any second now, and Galerius needed to be prepared. He looked up, and he was surprised at how early it still was. It was barely past dawn. That meant that both sides wanted to end this battle as soon as possible…

    The battle continued as a stalemate for some time, but it was clear the Second Isaurian Legion had a slight advantage. As such, Galerius did nothing. He did not wake up his soldiers, for who knew when they would next sleep? Despite that, most of them were quickly awake.

    As the sun began to dip in the sky, the Sassanid line outside of Haykaberd continued to stand firm against Albinus. However, the besieging army was failing. The Legio I Armeniaca and the First Isaurian Legion were shooting at them from afar, and the walls continued to hold. Galerius imagined that many thought that attacking the Second Isaurian Legion would allow victory quicker. By afternoon, the besieging army had broken.

    Most of them went to reinforce their fellow Sassanids against the Second Isaurian Legion. The new Sassanid army was slightly larger than the army it was opposing, so Galerius saw that a stalemate had been temporarily restored. Unfortunately, the Sassanids managed to take initiative, and the Second Isaurian Legion was now composed of men fighting for their lives. Galerius decided that now would be a good time to reinforce his fellow Eastern Roman troops.

    Galerius ordered the Legio I Armeniaca to follow him. They quickly managed to get out of Haykaberd. The First Isaurian Legion was left inside of Haykaberd as a last defense - in case the Eastern Romans somehow lost the battle Galerius was leading his troops into, or in case another Sassanid army arrived at the city.

    As Galerius arrived, the Sassanids fell back. A stalemate ensued until nightfall, but the Sassanid line was faltering. Galerius smiled. Things were going according to plan, and, soon, the Sassanid line would break. As such, he ordered his legion to continue fighting through the night. After all, if the Sassanids didn’t break during the night, then they’d break once it was over. No man could survive without sleep forever. They’d tire eventually. All Galerius had to do was wait, and he was patient.

    Some brave Sassanids attempted to attack their army head on. These men were quickly killed or captured. However, it seemed as if the man commanding the Sassanid troops was aware of his defeat. The Sassanid army quickly withdrew. Galerius let them. He was tired, and, if the Sassanids wished to retreat, he wouldn’t stop them.

    However, before the Sassanids were finished retreating from outside of Haykaberd, Galerius caught a glimpse of the man commanding the Sassanid commander. It was the same man who had commanded them at Hasakah. Galerius smiled. The rest of this war could prove interesting - very interesting indeed.
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    Thanks to @knppel for the Like. Again, it's nice to know that people are still reading this. I think this "arc" (the struggle against the Sassanids) should be finished by August at the latest, which means a month is the maximum time that you'll have to wait for a map.



    Galerius sent out his scouts. They found very interesting information. He definitely needed to share it with his fellow commanders at their next meeting. That meeting was going to be very soon. Indeed, it was going to be the next day.

    Galerius slept before then, and he dreamed. A mysterious voice spoke to him. The voice warned him that peace was the only way to triumph, and that this war couldn’t go on much longer. Then, it showed a crimson ocean. Men fought and died, but far more men starved or caught diseases. It seemed as if war would continue eternally - and endless war prevented many things. The voice then warned him that this was what would come out of extended war.

    Galerius awoke in a cold sweat. He knew that war wasn’t feasible for very long, of course, but the future detailed in his dream was horrifying. And with the information that he had gained, he knew what must be done.

    He went to the meeting tent as quickly as he could. Surprisingly, Albinus was already there, although Clementius was not. Both commanders waited.

    Finally, Clementius arrived. “This means that we can start the meeting, I take it?” Galerius asked dryly.

    “Yes,” Clementius said, rolling his eyes. “Be patient.”

    “I have news that you’ll most likely want to hear,” Galerius snapped back. “It is about where the Sassanid armies are right now. There are only 2 armies left in total, but that does nothing to alleviate my concerns. The worst part is that only one of the armies is actually besieging a city.”

    Albinus sucked in a breath. “Well, what city is under siege?”

    “Erchmiadzin, but that isn’t much of a problem,” Galerius replied. “The real problem is what the other army is doing. They’re not doing any sieges in our territory yet, but they are staying in the area that we’ve previously taken from them. They know the terrain there.”

    “I fail to see why this is a problem,” Clementius said. “If there are only 2 Sassanid armies left, isn't that a good thing? It means that we have fewer forces to face. It means that our campaign to mop up the individual Sassanid armies is working - and it’s very close to having worked entirely. Shouldn’t we be happy about that? Both of you are acting worried.”

    It was Albinus who explained the problem. “The fact is that we’ve only defeated many Sassanid armies. We haven’t utterly annihilated them. The fact that there are only 2 armies means that the Sassanids are uniting their forces - and they know the terrain. They are planning a - or possibly more than one - last stand.”

    “Wait, the enemy preparing a last stand is bad for us?” Clementius asked.

    Galerius rolled his eyes and took over the explanation. “Yes, because they’re planning on fighting a final stand - but a final stand is still a stand, and they will fight with all the might they have left. The good news is that the army at Erchmiadzin appears to be relatively small and easy to defeat. That being said, we still need a plan for how to deal with that.”
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    Sorry about the lack of an update yesterday. Here's an extra-long update to make up for it.



    “Okay,” Clementius said. “I understand why that might be a problem, but I believe that we are going to wait a while until dealing with their attempted last stand. We don’t even know where they’re going to make a stand at all. As such, can we please discuss what we’re going to do about Erchmiadzin?”

    “We engage the Sassanid army there,” Albinus suggested. “Of course, we’re going to need a plan on dealing with what Erchmiadzin is actually like, but we can deal with that later. The Sassanids are preparing for a last stand - they won’t put much effort on defending the one army left that won’t be participating in it.”

    Galerius frowned. Yes, Albinus made a good point there. However, they could still be caught unawares if they didn’t know the terrain at least somewhat. Waiting until they actually arrived in the city was most likely suicide - Galerius heavily suspected that there were Sassanid spies in the Eastern Roman army somewhere. The Sassanids weren’t stupid - they’d need some way to attempt to know some of Eastern Rome’s plans. A lot of war boiled down to intrigue - soldiers were needed to fight, of course, but information was just as valuable as human lives. Only good polities would have both.

    Given that fact, the Sassanids would inevitably know about their lack of knowledge of Erchmiadzin - and they would take advantage of it to set a trap. In addition, there was one other pressing possibility. Yes, he was very concerned about that possibility. He decided to voice it.

    “And what happens if the Sassanids decide it’s a good idea to make their last stand at Erchmiadzin?” he asked. “As it is, we’re basically allowing them the opportunity to choose where they want to their last stand. What makes you think that it isn’t going to occur at Erchmiadzin, especially if we decide not to check the area because we were preparing for their last stand? Wouldn’t that be ironic - and horrifying?”

    Albinus blinked. Galerius could tell that he was seeing the wisdom in what he’d just been told. Hopefully, that was enough. If it was not… well, if it wasn’t, things could get extraordinarily risky for the Eastern Romans. Of course, risk wasn’t always a bad thing, but Galerius still didn’t want to take too many chances.

    Clementius sighed. Galerius suspected that he wanted the meeting to be over. It was true that this meeting was taking an extraordinarily extra long time, so Galerius could see why Clementius was being more impatient than he usually was. Unfortunately, the information being discussed in the meeting was extraordinarily important, so they really couldn’t afford to cut the meeting short.

    After what seemed like an eternity, Albinus finally responded to Galerius’s concerns.

    “I can see why not knowing some things could be an extreme problem,” he said diplomatically. “However, we can’t be everywhere at once. Well, if we were everywhere at once, then we’d be far too overextended to actually get anything done. As such, we’re going to have to prioritize - and the upcoming Sassanid last stand is the greatest threat to the Empire as it currently stands. And, while there is no evidence that the Sassanids aren’t going to to make their stand at Erchmiadzin, there’s no evidence that they are, either.”

    Galerius blinked. Albinus made good points, of course. Actually, there was no evidence that the Sassanids planned to make a last stand anywhere - the Eastern Romans had deduced that they were going to make a last stand, but not where they were going to do it. That was the problem.

    Also, if Albinus was this good at strategizing, why didn’t he comment more often? The obvious answer to that question was that he was keeping secrets - but that wasn’t Galerius’s business anyway. Intrigue wasn’t Galerius’s thing.

    “We don’t know where the Sassanids are going to make their stand at all,” he pointed out. “The best move is to defeat the Sassanid army at Erchmiadzin now and then attempt to deal with their other army - letting the Sassanids pick the terrain for their last stand would be a terrible idea.”

    “Fine,” Albinus said, sighing. “I’m assuming that we’re going to send out our scouts to find out what the terrain around the city is? We’ve used that strategy before - to great effect.”

    “Yes,” Galerius began. He never got to finish what he was going to say because Clementius interrupted with, “Wait, why aren’t we attempting to find out where the Sassanids are considering making their last stand - or, for that matter, their last stands?”

    Galerius sighed. He had thought that the discussion about the Sassanid last stand was over, but apparently not. Wait, last stands? What? Why would the Sassanids attempt more than one last stand? That didn’t make much sense.

    Albinus seemed to be thinking along the same lines, as he asked what Clementius meant by last stands.

    “Exactly what it sounds like I mean,” Clementius replied. “Multiple stands, in which the Sassanid army does everything it can to defeat us.”

    “Yeah,” Galerius began. “But why multiple? If their first one fails, wouldn’t they be inclined to surrender? Also, if there were multiple, it wouldn’t be much of a last stand. Also, I think that the Sassanids know better than to divide their army, considering it’s now their last, best hope for success.”

    Albinus agreed, and Clementius decided to drop the issue. However, Clementius apparently was still impatient - he asked if they could end the meeting where it currently was.

    “Why, though?” Galerius asked.

    “I’m tired,” Clementius replied. “And I’m pretty sure that we've been having the discussion that just ended for the better part of a day. We can discuss our plans for Erchmiadzin tomorrow - the city won’t fall in a day.”

    Galerius decided to exit the tent to check the time. To his extreme surprise, the sun had already set. He could see the stars, as well. That meant that they really had been discussing plans for the better part of a day.

    Galerius re-entered the tent. He then admitted that Clementius was right, and they should probably sleep. Especially since they would soon be facing a battle. During some battles, the soldiers could go for days before getting any sleep.

    Galerius went to sleep in his own tent as soon as possible. He had a dreamless sleep, which he took as a good omen.
     
    Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Planning for the Battle of Erchmiadzin
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    Galerius’s awakening occurred at around noon. Galerius worried about when the meeting was supposed to start. Yes, all three commanders had gone to sleep late at night due to their extremely long meeting the day before, but he knew that the others probably wanted to get started as soon as possible. Of course, his colleagues had different reasons for that, but still. Clementius was probably just getting tired of the war in general, and Galerius couldn’t honestly blame him for that. Albinus likely wanted to focus on the coming last stand of the Sassanids.

    Regardless, that meant that going to the meeting tent immediately was probably a good idea. Therefore, that was what Galerius did.

    His suspicions were quickly proven correct. Both Clementius and Albinus were already at the meeting tent, although it, thankfully, didn’t look like they’d been there for very long.

    “So,” Galerius began. “What’s our strategy for Erchmiadzin?”

    Clementius rolled his eyes. “While I don’t know,” he said. “I have no clue what Erchmiadzin is like. Wasn’t it your job to find that out?”

    “Oh,” Galerius blinked. “Right. I did confer with my scribes about what the city was like, and I got the answers that we’re going to need. That being said, I never explicitly stated that I was going to do that, so why are you assuming that it’s my job?”

    “It was implied,” Albinus said. Despite this statement, Galerius thought that he could hear Albinus sighing in relief and Clementius taking a reassuring breath. Galerius frowned. What was that about? He quickly dismissed that thought. It wasn’t important, as they needed to focus on the upcoming battle anyway.

    “Right,” Galerius said. “Erchmiadzin is located on - or near - a hill next to a river. My scouts weren’t exactly sure on whether or not it was on a hill.”

    “How could they be unsure?” Clementius wondered. “They literally saw it with their own eyes.”

    “Well, maybe they weren’t sure what the terrain was because they were in the city,” Galerius snapped back. “Regardless, this should still be enough information for making a plan.”

    “Corner them at the river,” Albinus suggested. Then, he seemed to think about it for a second before continuing with, “Probably won’t work but might be useful as an absolute last resort.”

    “Yeah, well, we need a plan that’s a bit more detailed than ‘corner them at the river’,” Galerius mused. “Specifically, we need to know how we’d ensure that they got into a position where they could be cornered.”

    “True,” Albinus mused. “Perhaps we could attack them from both sides, which means that they can’t escape because they’ll be trapped between the city walls, the river, and us?”

    “That’s a good plan,” Galerius mused. “We can use that as our working plan - and change it as required.”

    “How do we know what’s required, though?” Clementius asked. “And how will we communicate our changes? The plan has the Sassanids in between the two halves of our army.”

    Galerius considered this. Clementius did have a point, of course. Also, Clementius’s concerns made him wonder which legions would go on which side.

    “First of all, we should have both of your legions and mine be separate from each other,” Galerius replied, “That will ensure that any changes are broadly true throughout each part of the army. We will each simply communicate our changes to our own legions - and hope that the legions don’t end up fighting each other.”

    “That’s probably the best we can do,” Clementius agreed. “It’s not the best plan, but it will have to do.”

    “Indeed,” Albinus said. “We are in agreement with the general plan - and specifics will be worked out on the field of battle.”
     
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    Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the Battle of Erchmiadzin
  • HistoryDude

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    They arrived at Erchmiadzin as night fell, so they decided that it would be prudent to rest before starting the battle. The storm that raged outside of their camp probably contributed to this somewhat, as well.

    For the first time in many nights, Galerius dreamed. Unfortunately, his dreams weren’t clear. He saw a great army. Then, he saw an army of corpses. They looked as if they had been somewhat burned. Indeed, they looked as if someone had begun to burn them for cremation but had suddenly stopped.

    Then, Galerius’s dream suddenly changed. He saw a hydra. Interestingly, this hydra only had one head. However, it was an extremely large head - it looked as if multiple hydra heads had been merged. The hydra roared, attacking a giant eagle. The two animals fought for many days, and, just as their battle was about to be decided, Galerius awoke.

    Galerius mentally cursed. He wanted to see the end of the fight in his dream. He had his reasons for this wish - his dreams seemed remarkably prophetic. Of course, he didn’t really believe prophecies - he was a good Christian - but his most recent dreams did seem to be warnings of some kind. The question was: what were they warning him about? Or were they just normal dreams?

    Of course, Galerius knew, deep down, that his dreams could be meaningless - or, perhaps, they could only be interpreted with the benefit of hindsight. Dwelling on them would be a waste of time. Still, Galerius couldn’t shake the feeling that what he had just dreamed was very important.

    Galerius went through the plan, and so did Clementius and Albinus. At first, everything went exactly according to plan. Unfortunately, the plan hadn’t accounted for the capriciousness of nature. They were, after all, fighting a battle right next to a river.

    As the day went on, it started drizzling. This affected neither the Eastern Romans nor the Sassanids much. As such, nobody thought anything of it. That would prove to be a grave mistake. Gradually, more rain began to fall down.

    Unfortunately, both sides were too interested in fighting to notice - at least at first. Even as both sides did notice, they thought nothing of it. The Sassanids were too occupied fighting for their lives, and the Eastern Romans had seen a chance to ensure that this Sassanid army would no longer be a threat - ever again.

    The battle probably would’ve continued throughout the night. Both sides were perfectly willing to fight through a rainstorm. However, circumstances would ultimately interfere with their plans. The rain was also falling into the river. This caused the river to overflow.

    The river overflowed. Water began to cover the battlefield. Galerius cursed at this. Fighting a battle in the middle of a lake was suicide - for both sides. Thankfully, both Clementius and Albinus agreed with him. As such, all three legions retreated from Erchmiadzin and then reunited in the countryside.

    They waited a short while.The storm would likely last for quite a while, and nobody wanted to fight a battle in the rain, much less in the middle of a large body of water. Thankfully, the storm meant that the Sassanids couldn’t besiege Erchmiadzin.

    After a brief wait, the three legions returned to the city. The good news was that the storm had ended. The bad news was that the Sassanids had managed to escape from Erchmiadzin. That meant that there was nothing stopping from meeting with the main Sassanid army.
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    I know that I said that I was writing until the finale, but the climax proved longer than expected... Sorry! Also, I had an idea to write multiple other AARs set in this universe, but I've been putting it off. Would anybody be interested in having an "A Narrative History of Byzantium Expanded Universe", so to speak?



    Galerius sighed. Erchmiadzin had been a missed opportunity. They could’ve prevented Sassanid reinforcements from arriving at wherever the Persians were planning on making a last stand. That would’ve been preferable, but no one could account for the whims of nature. She did what she wanted.

    Erchmiadzin hadn’t been the greatest of battles, but disaster had been averted at least. Continuing to fight would’ve been a terrible decision - many men could have needlessly lost their lives.

    That had been averted, thankfully. That was the upside of the Battle of Erchmiadzin. The downside was that the Sassanids would be getting reinforcements.

    Galerius rolled his eyes. The army at Erchmiadzin had been small. It was unlikely that they would make a difference at the last stand of the Sassanids, but it wasn’t impossible. That was what worried him.

    Speaking of the Sassanids’s last stand, Galerius had a meeting to go to about that very topic. Planning could make or break a battle sometimes.

    Galerius was first into the meeting tent this time. He frowned. That never happened - or at least he didn’t remember the last time that it had happened. He decided that he would check if he had gotten here early. Nope, the sun was in the sky. If that was the case, what was taking Albinus and Clementius so long?

    He settled down to wait. Albinus and Clementius both entered the tent some time later. They seemed to be talking about something, but Galerius didn’t hear any details. He was too busy making plans for the last stand of Persian Mesopotamia - well, most of Persian Mesopotamia. For that matter, it may very well turn out that this was the last stand of the Sassanid Dynasty. Galerius had no clue what the situation on the Sassanids’s eastern border or the situation within Persia was.

    “So,” Clementius began. “We were going to talk about what we were doing about the Sassanids’s last stand. Well, their last stand in this war, at least?”

    “Indeed,” Albinus replied. “First of all, does anyone have any idea of where the Sassanids are going to make their stand? If we don’t, we’re effectively going into this blind - and that’s not a good position to be in. If we don’t know about where we’re going to be fighting, we need to figure that out quickly - very quickly.”

    “True enough,” Galerius started. “Thankfully, I do have a small bit of information about where the Sassanids want to make their stand. Before I share that, though, why should we let them choose to make a stand where they want to? What’s stopping us from forcing a battle - a battle that we are more likely to win?”

    Clementius and Albinus both considered this. Galerius smiled - if his plan went through, the war should be over by winter, 501. If everything went according to plan. Of course, things rarely went according to plan during wars, but a man could hope - even if in vain.

    “We don’t,” Clementius finally responded. “We could theoretically force a battle, but, for that to work, we’d still have to know where they are at any given time, so that we can intercept them.”

    “Right,” Albinus replied. “Also, we might not even want to. If the Sassanids think that they have an advantage, all we would need to do to almost certainly win is negate that advantage. Of course, if we did that, we would need to ensure that the Sassanids don’t know about our efforts. As such, it would need to be top secret…”

    “Naturally,” Galerius agreed. “I still think that we should make them fight on our terms, though. Also, I know the general vicinity of where the united Sassanid army is right now - and also the general vicinity of where they’re going to make their stand.”

    “You do?” Clementius asked. “Care to tell the rest of us, then? The information is useless to us if only one person knows it.”

    “Sure,” Galerius responded. “The Sassanids are currently in the borderlands - well, what used to be the borderlands. They remain in our territory, and my scouts reported that they didn’t seem very inclined to leave it.”

    “So their last stand will be on land that the Eastern Roman Empire legally owns?” Albinus asked. “That is… unexpected, to say the least. Do you have any idea why?”

    Galerius frowned. Actually, he didn’t know why. Why would the Sassanids make their last stand on non-Sassanid land? Sure, the land that they were making a stand on changed hands between the Eastern Romans and the Sassanids frequently, but why would they make a stand there? Were they trying to make a statement? Had Galerius’s scouts misinterpreted their intentions?

    “No,” Galerius finally admitted. “I don’t. They could be trying to make a statement of some kind. Also, my scouts might’ve misinterpreted the information…”

    “It’s doubtful that the information was misinterpreted,” Albinus said. “If your scots told you that at all, they probably had significant evidence to back it up - they just didn’t tell you that evidence. That being said, ‘the borderlands’ is not a specific enough region for us to intercept an army. We should try to gather more specific information.”

    Albinus looked outside. “Also, it’s getting late,” he said. “Let’s give orders to scout out the borderlands. We can reconvene and discuss in a week.”

    “That’s agreeable,” Galerius mused. “Although I want to get this war over with as soon as possible…” Clementius nodded in agreement.

    “I know,” Albinus commented. “So do I. Unfortunately, we can’t control that. This will likely lead to the quickest end to the war.” On that note, the meeting ended.

    Galerius sent his scouts to look for the Sassanid army. If he knew where the Sassanids were at that moment, then he could bring the information needed to intercept them to the next meeting. He was still very uncomfortable with the idea of facing a Sassanid last stand where the Sassanid army chose their ground. One should never let their enemies choose the territory.

    Thankfully, his scouts managed to find out where the Sassanid army was. That was good. It meant that he had something to contribute to the meeting at least. It had taken his scouts less than a week to get this information, surprisingly. That meant that he still had some time before the next meeting started.

    He used that time to rest. After all, who knew when he would next be able to rest? He didn’t even know if his next rest wouldn’t be permanent. That was a fact of war, of course, but Galerius was more worried than usual. After all, the Sassanids would fight with all of their might…

    Galerius was last to the meeting, but he was hardly late.

    “Did anyone get any information about where our Persian enemies are?” Clementius asked.

    “My scouts checked the mountains,” Albinus admitted. “We saw a small army of Sassanids at Saokoros. I believe that that is where they plan on making their final stand - however, there weren’t many Sassanids there.”

    “My scouts saw that the bulk of the Sassanid army was still in the countryside,” Galerius said. “However, if we move quickly enough, we should be able to intercept them at Hasakah. I did the math.”

    “I say that we crush the bulk of the Sassanid army at Hasakah,” Albinus suggested. “Once they are defeated, we defeat their forces in Saokoros. The survivors of Hasakah will probably retreat there. Once that is achieved, the Sassanids should surrender.”

    “Is anybody opposed to that plan?” Galerius asked. The room was silent, which Galerius took as a collective “no”.

    They left the meeting tent and began to march towards Hasakah.

    The three legions arrived in Hasakah just as the Sassanid army was leaving it. The Sassanids hadn’t attempted to take the city, so the fighting began at Hasakah’s walls.

    It was late winter, so the air was cold. It was drizzling, but that didn’t affect the battle at all.

    At first, the Sassanids had been taken by total surprise. They hadn’t expected an Eastern Roman attack here at all. However, the commander of the Sassanid army, one Kavadh, managed to rally his men.

    A few soldiers on the front lines refused to obey their commander. The Eastern Romans promptly slaughtered them, which encouraged the other Sassanid troops to obey Kavadh.

    At first, the Sassanids simply had a line formation. For days, this line held. The Eastern Romans launched multiple attacks on it, but the line didn’t break. Galerius sighed. This Sassanid formation would be hard to break.

    He would need to break it somehow, though. If he didn’t, then the three legions could very well be defeated. If that occurred, things wouldn’t be good, to say the least. Losing this battle would give the Sassanids the initiative. Galerius couldn’t do that. Then, an idea struck him. Hmm, yes, that plan could work very well.
     
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    Galerius attacked the line upfront with all of his men. His plan was extremely risky, yes, but it should be successful, and its failure wouldn’t give victory to the Sassanids. He and his army attacked the Sassanid center. Infuriatingly, the center didn’t break. Oh, it suffered many casualties, yes, but it wouldn’t break.

    Galerius frowned. He knew that the Sassanids were well-commanded at this battle. However, they’d been well-commanded - by the same commander - before, and those battles had been relatively easy Eastern Roman victories. Which raised the question: why was this battle so hard? Hasakah wasn’t even where the Sassanids wanted to make their last stand… was it?

    Galerius looked back. Both Isaurian legions had been caught attempting to flank the Sassanid army. Galerius suspected that the Sassanids had suffered many casualties pushing those two legions back. Unfortunately, they had succeeded. That was very bad news. Galerius cursed.

    As Galerius was distracted checking how his plan was going, a Sassanid soldier had snuck up behind. Galerius only noticed this when the Sassanid’s sword was already in motion. He managed to block at the last moment, but the Sassanid escaped.

    Galerius pulled back, and he ordered the Legio I Armeniaca to follow suit. Almost all of them did. Unfortunately, some of them couldn’t - they were actively fighting Sassanid troops. Not even everybody that could did - some thought that they had victory in their grasp and refused to retreat. Galerius was, therefore, forced to watch an eighth of his legion get destroyed.

    Galerius sighed. This wasn’t working. They needed a new strategy, and they needed it quickly. The unfortunate thing was that the Sassanids wouldn’t let them meet. They had seen the Eastern Romans retreat. That had encouraged them. Around a quarter of the Sassanid army had advanced onto the Eastern Roman side, and even just holding them back was proving increasingly difficult.

    Galerius saw all of this, and he knew that the Eastern Romans were on the verge of their first defeat against the Sassanids in more than a decade. He didn’t want to allow that, but what choice did he have? At this point, the best course of action was probably to retreat outright. Yes, that would lose them Hasakah, but it would save three legions.

    Finally, night fell. The Sassanids retired to their tents, and Galerius let out a sigh of extreme relief. The three legions would live to fight another day. Then, he realized something. The Sassanids weren’t willing to attack the Eastern Romans at night - he could take advantage of that.

    He went to both Albinus and Clementius and woke them up. Then, he led them to the meeting tent, where he began an impromptu meeting.

    “So,” Galerius began. “Our current strategy isn’t working at all. They won’t let us flank them, and their line won’t break. I don’t wish to become the first Eastern Roman commander to retreat from a fight in over a decade, but I value my life more than my honor.”

    “As much as I hate to admit it,” Albinus said. “You’re right. It seems as if we cannot win this fight. The three legions alone don’t seem to possess sufficient force. However…”

    “However what?” Clementius snapped. “We’re on the verge of defeat. How do we escape being killed… or worse, forced to surrender? What’s your plan?”

    “We aren’t the only Eastern Roman legion that’s fighting the Sassanids,” Albinus replied cryptically. What was that supposed to mean? Oh. Right. Galerius couldn’t believe that he’d forgotten about that.

    “You’re suggesting that we ask for the Scythia’s help,” Galerius said. “And that we hope Anastasios’s army helps them? That’s a risky move, but it could be very rewarding. I say we go for it. What do we have left to lose besides our lives?”

    “I’m… not sure,” Clementius admitted. “Regardless, how will we hold the line long enough for our reinforcements to arrive? And how will the Scythia and Anastasios’s” - Clementius shuddered at that name, and Galerius wondered what prior experience he had with the famous commander - “army know that we are in need of aid?”

    “Leave that to me,” Galerius responded, smiling. On that note, the meeting ended. Galerius had one more thing to do before he could sleep, though, although he knew that it was late. Galerius wrote a letter to Anastasios and Priscus requesting aid, and then he finally settled down to rest.

    The battle would resume soon. It might even resume as early as dawn.
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    Galerius’s dreams weren’t helpful at all whatsoever. His first dream showed a glorious victory, where the Sassanid leader - Kavadh - was even captured. In this dream, the Sassanids surrendered immediately after.

    His second dream, by contrast, was far darker. It showed that, in the end, Anastasios’s army and the Scythia arrived too late. The three legions had been massacred and forced to retreat. Then, Emperor Justinian was shown negotiating a white peace - and that was refused. The war continued then, and disaster followed disaster. In the end, Galerius saw that all gains since Emperor Zeno’s reign were reversed - and a large war indemnity was paid to the Sassanids.

    Galerius awoke, and all he felt was confusion. Why did his dreams show a good scenario and a bad scenario? Were they trying to warn him of something? Was his subconscious encouraging him to stand fast? Galerius didn’t know, but that didn’t matter. He would hold out as long as he could. If that wasn’t long enough, then so be it.

    The battle did resume at dawn. Galerius had only just awoken when he saw that fighting was already under way. Clementius confirmed that the Sassanids had attacked at dawn. Thankfully, the line was holding, if only just.

    Galerius unsheathed his sword and quickly joined the fray. The Sassanid soldier who he attacked was taken by surprise, and his death was quick. Unfortunately, the element of surprise didn’t last. Despite this, the three legions seemed to be doing well.

    When Galerius had joined the fray, the fighting was inches away from the Eastern Roman camp. That had been immensely worrying. However, as the day wore on, the three legions managed to force the Sassanid army back. Soon, fighting was only occurring around midway between the two camps.

    Unfortunately, this success didn’t last. The Sassanids held firm. Galerius attempted to attack their center, hoping to force at least some of them back, but this failed. At that point, he was wise enough to retreat back to the Eastern Roman line.

    By this point, the sun had passed its high point, but it wasn’t visibly setting. Neither the Eastern Romans nor the Sassanids held the advantage. For a long while, neither side attacked and neither side retreated. The two armies faced each other, but battle wasn’t resumed.

    That situation lasted until nightfall, when both sides decided to retreat to their tents. Galerius would’ve been fine if that was how the battle went from then on. His only goal was to hold off the Sassanid army long enough for the Eastern Roman reinforcements to arrive.

    Of course, Kavadh probably knew this. Past experience told Galerius that he wasn’t facing an army commanded by an idiot. As such, he knew that a state of “cold conflict” was unlikely to last very long. All the Sassanids had to do was break the line of the three legions before said legions were reinforced. Conversely, all the legions had to do was hold the line. Furthermore, both sides knew that this was the case.

    Galerius fell asleep as he thought about that. He had a dreamless sleep. This only served to further his dread. His first dreams showed 2 contradicting situations, and then he was shown nothing? Yeah, that didn’t help his stress levels at all whatsoever.
     
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    Galerius sighed as he awoke. Yes, he was stressed, but stressing out wouldn’t cause the battle to be over quicker. That thought calmed him down. He left his tent and looked at the battlefield. Surprisingly, battle wasn’t occurring yet. He frowned. That was… unusual.

    He looked up at the sky. The sun was not yet in the sky. Ah, that explained it. Very few people would willingly get up before dawn. He went back to his tent and crashed. Annoyingly, his sleep remained dreamless.

    As he awoke for the second time, he heard the sound of battle. He cursed. That meant that the battle was nearby - he really hoped that it hadn’t reached where the Eastern Roman army was camping. That would be an unmitigated disaster.

    Thankfully, it looked like that was not the case. The two armies looked to be engaging around halfway between the two camps. However, Galerius noticed that the Eastern Roman army wasn’t as large as it normally was. That could mean one of two things. The first was that the Sassanids had managed to kill a large number of Eastern Romans while he was asleep. The second, far more likely, option was that a substantial portion of the three legions was being kept in reserve.

    If the second was the case, though, the reserve troops should be in the camp. Galerius looked over the camp. He quickly spotted the Second Isaurian Legion at the end farthest from the battle. He frowned. They hadn’t discussed keeping any legions in reserve at all during the battle. Of course, nobody was following the plan for the battle much at this point. The Sassanid resistance had been much greater than expected.

    Galerius decided to join the fray once more. The Sassanids looked like they had been expecting this, however. They weren’t taken by surprise - or at least, if they were, they didn’t show it. For hours, the stalemate held.

    Finally, both sides decided that direct melee fighting wasn’t bringing them any closer to winning the battle. The Eastern Roman army did nothing, despite this - all they had to do was hold until their reinforcements arrived. Of course, the Sassanids were also aware, so, when they realized how futile their actions were, they retreated.

    The Sassanids weren’t about to surrender, though. Not when they were finally doing so well against their ancient enemies. They merely switched their lines so that their archers were in front. These archers shot at the Eastern Romans.

    At first, Galerius - and his army, for that matter - were taken by complete surprise by this. However, he quickly realized that this was merely a new Sassanid strategy.

    His reaction was very quick. He ordered the archers in the Legio I Armeniaca to move to the front of the line. However, he quickly noticed that the First Isaurian Legion had retreated back to their camp. Galerius cursed. He really needed to have another meeting with his fellow commanders about their strategy in this battle.

    The Eastern Romans quickly shot arrows back at the Sassanid lines. Quickly, Galerius noticed that it was gradually getting darker. However, he paid no attention to that. It was probably just the natural passage of time.

    Galerius didn’t have much practice with the bow, but he despised doing nothing in battle. Also, he did have a small amount of practice with the weapon - and, far more importantly, he had a bow. He drew his bow and began to shoot at the Sassanids.

    Night fell far quicker than it should have. Galerius frowned. Why was that? Then, he looked up. He saw that there was no sunset. However, he did see many arrows. Quickly, he deduced what had happened.

    That was a bad sign. After all, how often did battles where arrows blocked out the sun occur?
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    However, Galerius didn’t have much time to consider that. As he was distracted, an arrow almost hit him, and his focus was quickly drawn by the battle.

    Unfortunately, the Sassanids seemed to have deduced that he was this army’s leader, as almost all of them were aiming at him. He somehow managed to dodge all the arrows aimed at him, but it was a very close thing. It was at this point that he decided that maybe being on the front lines wasn’t such a good idea.

    As such, he quickly moved back a few miles, but he continued firing arrows at the Sassanids. Soon, however, the battle seemed to stop. Galerius figured that this was because natural night had fallen, but he was not certain. It was hard to deduce when dusk was due to the fact that the sun’s light had been blocked.

    Both armies moved back to their tents. Galerius took this opportunity to go to the tents of both of his co-commanders. He scheduled a meeting about what they were going to do for the next night. That meant that he would probably miss out on some sleep, but he was fine with that. Coordinated strategy was more important.

    Galerius dreamed of a battle that night. However, this battle wasn’t the one he was currently fighting in. He knew that because his dream contained many mountains, and, to the best of his knowledge, there were no mountains near Hasakah. He definitely knew that there wasn’t a mountain outside of Hasakah’s walls.

    As he awoke, he wondered what his dream was about. It was about a battle, yes, but that was nowhere near specific enough. He only remembered one battle in a mountainous area that’d occurred on this campaign. That battle had been at Saokoros, but why would he be remembering that specific battle? Unless…

    That was possible. His dream could’ve been trying to tell him where the next battle was going to be fought. He knew that there were Sassanid soldiers in, or at least near, Saokoros, but he didn’t know how many there were.

    Actually, that brought up a good point. The original location of the Sassanid last stand was going to be Saokoros, so why were they fighting so much here? The only reason why there was a battle here at all was because the Eastern Romans had intercepted them… right?

    That was what his colleagues - and what he - had thought, but now he wasn’t so sure. What if the Sassanids had wanted to fight at Hasakah, and they had successfully tricked their opponents into thinking they didn’t? Warfare often involved deception, but Galerius thought that someone would’ve figured that out before now if it truly was the case.

    Galerius frowned. The most likely possibility was that the Sassanids had begun doing better than expected… not only by Eastern Roman standards, but also by their own standards. They had probably then figured that they could fight here just as well as where they’d originally wanted to - Saokoros.

    However, if that was the case, then the arrival of Anastasios and the Scythia would not end the war. If the Sassanids knew that the battle was lost, they might have an escape plan. Which meant that this battle, as long as it was, wouldn’t be the final stand of the Sassanids.
     
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    He decided that he would rest for a while. He needed to be fully awake for the meeting with his fellow commanders, which was going to happen tonight. Fighting in the battle would, therefore, be extremely counterintuitive. That didn’t mean that he couldn’t watch the battle, though, in order to ensure that he wasn’t needed. And if he actually was needed in order for the line to even hold? Then he would join.

    Yes, he needed to be awake for the planning sessions, but those sessions would be useless if they had already lost the battle. The commanders of the Isaurian legions had said that they would have their legions reinforce his if the battle looked lost, but he didn’t trust them. Few could resist the pull of greed, and he didn’t believe for a second that the Sassanids were above using such tactics. War was like necessity - it knew no law. Most states would do anything to win a war.

    Strangely, the Sassanids hadn’t seemed desperate before this battle. Actually, in hindsight, that wasn’t so strange. They were merely preparing to make their stand.

    Galerius looked over at the area between the two camps. He frowned. It was empty. Why was there no fighting occurring right now? He looked up at the sky, just to make sure it wasn’t earlier than he thought it was. No, the sun was nearing its high point in the sky. It was long past dawn. So why wasn’t the battle occurring yet?

    He decided to look around his own camp. Then, he spotted where his legion was. They were at the edge of the camp… wait, if that was the case, why hadn’t he spotted them before? Then, he figured that he simply hadn’t been looking hard enough. Why weren’t they fighting, though? Even if they had simply decided that they didn’t want to fight that day, the Sassanids would still force a fight… right?

    Where was the Sassanid army, anyway? Why weren’t they taking advantage of this… new development? Unless they were also taking a break, but wouldn’t that be horribly unstrategic? He knew that the Sassanids knew just as well as he did that all the Eastern Roman army had to do was hold the line until reinforcements arrived.

    Of course, Kavadh - the Sassanid commander - didn’t know that there were more Eastern Roman forces en route. However, the Sassanid army contained various survivors of all the battles that the Eastern Romans had defeated the Sassanids in… at least during this war. That meant that Kavadh knew that Anastasios’s army and the Scythia existed at least… so why weren’t they worried? Of course, Galerius hadn’t seen Kavadh during this battle, so he had no clue what he was thinking.

    He decided to look at the Sassanid camp. Oh. That was where the Sassanid army was. They were at the edge of their camp, or at least some of them were. The two opposing armies glared at each other, but neither moved. It seemed as if no one wanted to fight anymore. The two armies were a hostile detente.

    Galerius sighed. He currently didn’t have a plan, though, so this actually somewhat benefited him. This bought him more time. He knew that reinforcements were coming… eventually. While he was thinking about this topic, what was taking his reinforcements so long to arrive? For that matter, where were Anastasios and the Scythia right now? And where had been when the battle began?
     
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    Galerius waited. The strategy meeting would occur soon, and he had every reason to wait for it. The two armies currently stood at a detente. Galerius didn’t expect this to last long, of course, if only because the Sassanids would want to get this battle over with as soon as possible. They would be very worried about possible Eastern Roman reinforcements arriving.

    Still, neither side was actively fighting, and neither side seemed to want to fight. That meant that Galerius had time, and time was the most precious substance in the entire world. If he was out of time, that would be a disaster, but his time wasn’t up yet. He could still fight, and there was no battle occurring.

    The uneasy detente lasted until nightfall, and Galerius smiled at that. The detente might break when dawn arrived once more, but it had existed for long enough. The Eastern Roman commanders could make their plan. Galerius smiled as he headed towards the meeting tent…

    When he arrived, Albinus was already there. That was actually surprising, as it was dusk, and Clementius wasn’t there. Clementius and Albinus were normally together, although that could just be him arriving late.

    Clementius arrived soon after, and the three of them made small talk for a while. Then, Galerius cut to the chase.

    “So, our initial plan failed pretty badly,” he said. “The Sassanids weren’t nearly as surprised as we had hoped that they would be, which meant that the battle has lasted longer than planned. In addition to that, the Sassanids seem to know a lot about the terrain near Hasakah. As such, what should our new plan be?”

    “To be fair, Hasakah was under Sassanid control for quite a while,” Albinus pointed out. “It only makes sense that they would know the terrain. As such, any plan involving taking advantage of the terrain that assumes that the Sassanid army doesn’t know what the terrain is will not work.”

    “I suppose that makes sense,” Galerius replied. “The good thing is that we don’t have to defeat the Sassanid army. All we have to do is hold long enough for our reinforcements to get here. That should be easier than outright winning.”

    “We thought that this battle would be easy,” Clementius pointed out. “And now we’re barely even holding the line. Our line has almost collapsed multiple times. The Sassanids have made it inside of our camp. This battle has been far from easy. We shouldn’t underestimate our opponents.”

    “Is that why neither of the Isaurian legions have actually been fighting against the Sassanids in recent days?” Galerius snapped. “The Legio I Armeniaca could have used some help keeping the Sassanids from overrunning our position!”

    “You were doing fine,” Albinus said. “We need to preserve our forces. Yes, we shouldn’t underestimate the Sassanid army, but we shouldn’t overestimate it either. Completely destroying the Sassanid army isn’t our goal. We shouldn’t even want Persia proper in the long run anyway!”

    “I thought the Imperial Throne wanted to destroy all Sassanid military might forever,” Galerius commented. “Why don’t they? If the Sassanids are eliminated, we won’t have to deal with them in the future, right? Why should we have to deal with an enemy on our eastern border?”

    “You’re ridiculously naive if you truly believe that, Galerius” Albinus responded. “If we conquer Persia, our eastern border will be even harder to defend than our current eastern border is. We need a natural border, and the Zagros Mountains count as that, if nothing else. Seizing control of Persia proper would force us to defend against incursions from both Central Asia and India. If we conquer those areas, then we need to take Cathay, which we know only from rumors! One empire can’t govern the world! Regardless of such matters, this meeting was supposed to discuss strategy, so what’s ours?”

    “We hold out until reinforcements arrive,” Clementius suggested. “All three legions engage the enemy, and we hold them for as long as we can.”

    “That’s a good strategy,” Galerius mused. “But it doesn’t account for if we can’t hold. If we must abandon Hasakah, we should burn it and all of the areas around it. We should ensure that the Sassanids win a useless plot of land.”

    “That’s harsh,” Albinus commented. “But it will be effective, and that’s what matters. Agreed.”

    Clementius agreed as well, and Galerius moved back to his tent to get a few short hours of sleep. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Albinus was plotting something…
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    Galerius didn’t dwell on Albinus’s possible plots. They probably wouldn’t be relevant until after the war was over. Despite that, he decided to keep an eye on Albinus. He would not allow an Eastern Roman army to die due to the manipulations of one man. That had already happened once, and it had been an utter disaster. Galerius really didn’t like to remember Siscia.

    As Galerius looked out on the battlefield, he noticed that it was inhabited. At first, he assumed that the battle had resumed, so he headed towards the battle. However, as he got closer, he saw that neither army was actually engaging. It seemed as if the uneasy truce from the previous night was holding.

    Nobody seemed to want to resume the bloodshed, and Galerius was fine with that. His reinforcements should arrive soon enough, and, if they didn’t arrive in time, the Legio I Armeniaca should be able to hold.
    Galerius sighed. They would have to hold. The alternative was unthinkable. Burning a city to the ground was wrong, and he wouldn’t do it. Of course, that probably meant that either Clementius or Albinus would do it, and, from a strategic standpoint, destroying it was a good idea. However, the sheer destruction that would result from that was horrifying.

    Galerius sighed. He shouldn’t think about that. Unfortunately, at the moment, there was nothing to distract him. He was alone with his thoughts, and that wasn’t a safe place to be. He was sorely tempted to draw his bow and simply shoot at the Sassanid army. That would resume the battle and, therefore, give him something to do.

    He reached his bow, but he reconsidered at the last moment. He needed a distraction, yes, but he didn’t really want the battle to resume. Of course, he knew that the battle would resume eventually, but he didn’t enjoy killing. It was oftentimes necessary, but that didn’t make it right. “Thou shalt not kill” was a commandment, after all. These thoughts alone stayed his hand, and he waited.

    His thoughts quickly strayed to why the Sassanids had allowed the battle to be delayed at all. Logically, they should have attacked, sensing that the Eastern Romans were getting tired of fighting. Even if they were also tired, that would’ve likely granted them a quick victory, so why did they delay?

    Then, he realized something. The Eastern Romans had chosen this battle spot. The Sassanids didn’t want to fight here at all, and they only had because victory seemed so close. Could they know that Eastern Roman reinforcements were coming? And, if they did, were they evacuating large portions of their army to make another stand?

    There was one other possibility, but Galerius didn’t want to consider that. After all, life was so much simpler when you knew who your enemies were. This situation seemed simple - he was fighting a war against the Sassanids, so all Eastern Romans were probably his allies. The two empires were ancient enemies - their enmity stretched back centuries.

    Galerius had thought that this war had none of the nuances that Eastern Roman civil wars did. Now, however, he was beginning to see that neither side wanted to fight. They were not so different. That meant there was a grey area - and nuances. Galerius hated nuance. And, as Galerius considered this, he realized that the agenda of the Sassanid commanders and soldiers might not align with the agenda of the Sassanid Emperor…
     
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    Galerius mused on this possibility for a while, but he quickly realized that it didn’t matter to him right now. Oh, it might begin to matter a lot later, but the Sassanids were still his enemies. He could either kill them or be killed by them. That was, unfortunately, how war worked. Those who had power always ruled over those who didn’t. Men thought of war as glorious, but Galerius knew that it was far from glorious. What could be glorious about mass death?

    Galerius shut his eyes. He shouldn’t think such thoughts. He needed to go to sleep. That should get his mind off of the horrors of war. He quickly walked back to the Eastern Roman camp. Before he entered his tent, though, he looked up at the sky. He wanted to know if it was night.

    As it turned out, night had already fallen. The stars glowed brightly, and there was complete silence. “Wait,” Galerius realized. “Complete silence? It’s never this quiet anywhere - even if it’s nighttime and there’s no fighting going on. Why was it so quiet?” And, perhaps strangest of all, there was no moon. Galerius wondered if that - and, more importantly, the silence - was a sign. The only question was: “a sign of what?”.

    Galerius’s dreams didn’t help anything. Truth be told, Galerius was hoping he could get a dreamless sleep, but that clearly wasn’t happening. He remembered Siscia. He remembered the betrayal, and he remembered the sheer fear that his fellow soldiers had turned on their comrades and attacked him.

    Then, for better or worse, his dream changed. He saw blood, so much blood. At first, that was all he saw. That was his entire dream. Soon, however, his view expands, and he wishes that it hadn’t. Initially, he believes this a mercy. It was not. It was most definitely not - because the full scene is infinitely more horrifying than just the blood.

    There was a field. It was covered in bodies. Most of them belonged to dead people. There was blood, as he had first seen. Then, Galerius saw something that horrified him beyond belief. A few of the bodies twitched. At first, he simply wondered how that was possible. After all, there was no wind on this field. Then, he realized the truth, and he wished that he hadn’t. Most of the people who were here were dead, yes, but some of them were still alive.

    The worst thing was that Galerius wasn’t sure which he’d rather be. If he was dead, well, he couldn’t do anything, but he wouldn’t suffer either. Those men who survived this wouldn’t be happy. If they ever managed to leave this battlefield, this scene would remain with them for the rest of their life. Then, he finally realized one key point: sometimes, death was mercy.

    He knew that there had been a battle here. That much was obvious. He didn’t know where here was, though. He figured that that would be good information to have, if only to make sure that this never happened. His dream avatar looked into the distance, and he saw a river. He decided to look the other way - after all, many places were near a river. He awoke just as he finally saw what was there.

    The entire area on the other side was pure desolation. It looked like it had once been inhabited. The river still ran through the area. The entire area was covered in ash. Nothing grew there anymore. Nothing could grow there anymore.

    When Galerius awoke, he left his tent. He looked up at the sky, and he saw that it was dawn. He sat down. He needed to consider his dreams…

    His first dream was pretty straightforward. Siscia hadn’t been fun, but it reminded him of why he fought. His second dream was far worse. He knew where that was. It was outside of the walls of Hasakah - or, rather, Hasakah’s ruins. It was where he was right now. He chose to view it as a warning. They couldn’t lose Hasakah, or they would be forced to make that dream a reality. That was unacceptable - Hasakah was more than just burned in his dream, it was utterly annihilated. The very earth where it once stood had been salted.
    Then, Galerius realized that his thoughts might stop if he thought about why he fought. He fought to eventually avenge Siscia. That calmed him down. Then, he realized one fundamental fact - Siscia was a battle. If he currently served to avenge Siscia, why had he fought at Siscia? Then, he realized with a start that he didn’t know.
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    Galerius looked at the battlefield. He would have his revenge soon enough, but the battle was more important - for now, anyway. He really wanted the battle to resume - or to end. If he was doing nothing, he would inevitably be left alone. He was self-conscious enough to know that that wasn’t a good position to be in at all.

    The stare off was still happening, but Galerius knew that it wouldn’t last much longer. It had already lasted two days - someone was bound to get impatient. All it would take to resume the battle was a single man shooting an arrow or charging at the enemy lines. Galerius needed the battle to resume, but he didn’t want to do it himself. He wouldn’t deviate from the plan, and he could admit, if only to himself, that he didn’t want to be responsible for the deaths that would inevitably occur when this battle resumed.

    Galerius didn’t have to wait long. As the sun reached the peak of its trajectory upward, a lone Sassanid soldier let loose a single arrow. Later, Galerius would realize that this action alone wasn’t the die. By itself, it shouldn’t have been significant. It was only one arrow. Unfortunately, the arrow hit the leg of an Eastern Roman archer. The Eastern Roman archers perceived the attack as a direct attack upon them. In truth, Galerius didn’t blame them - they had no way of knowing what the Sassanid leadership was thinking.

    They shot their own arrows at the Sassanid archers. Galerius noticed the look of surprise on the faces of the Sassanids, but he thought nothing of it. Well, there was no turning back now. Thankfully, the two days of uneasy ceasefire had been helpful to the Eastern Roman cause. Now, all he had to do was hold the line. The Sassanids couldn’t be allowed to take the Eastern Roman camp. It would be preferable if they didn’t take Hasakah either, but that wasn’t strictly necessary - and the Sassanids weren’t trying to take the city at the moment.

    The Sassanids responded by firing almost all of their arrows at the Eastern Romans. Many Eastern Romans perished, and they retreated a few feet. It was at this point that he realized that the Legio I Armeniaca was very likely in danger. He drew his sword and charged at the Sassanid archers.

    As it turned out, the Sassanids hadn’t really expected this at all. The archers fell back, and only a very small few actually did anything. Most had expended all of their arrows attempting to destroy the Eastern Roman archers. Only a few had any arrows left at all, and these were either stolen or used. He dodged the few that were actually going to hit him.

    Once that was done, he wondered if he should attack the Sassanid infantry and cavalry. That decision was ultimately not up to him, as it turned out.

    He saw that the Sassanid camp was almost empty. He frowned at this. Why had the Sassanids so thoroughly abandoned their camp? He snuck into many tents, and he found that many Sassanid things were still in them.

    That was most definitely weird. The Sassanids probably wouldn’t do that unless they were certain victory beckoned to them. He decided to look back, and all of his questions were answered.

    The Sassanid army had attacked the Legio I Armeniaca’s line. That was why the archers had attacked. It was merely a distraction.

    In that moment, Galerius made a split second decision that would change history forever. He entered the tent of the commander of the Sassanid army, where he found the enemy’s current plan. He smiled. That would prove very useful indeed.
     
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  • HistoryDude

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    Galerius frowned. On second thought, there was a slight problem. Knowing the plans of his enemy would be useful in the future… if he remained alive and in his camp. The problem was that the entire Sassanid army stood between his current position and the camp. He cursed. This was a terrible situation to be in.

    He really should’ve thought this through more. If he had, he wouldn’t be trapped in his enemy’s camp. Oh, sure, said camp was uninhabited, but it wasn’t going to stay like that. The Sassanids would return to their camp once the battle currently taking place in between the two camps, and then he would be their prisoner.

    He had no intentions of that happening, which meant that he needed to escape the Sassanids before the Sassanids returned to it. He would also prefer if he could make it back to his own camp soon - spending more than one day outside of it could be disastrous - for both him and the Legio I Armeniaca.

    Okay, how could he escape? He could attempt to get past through the entire Sassanid army. They would be pretty busy fighting his legion. He decided that that idea would be a last resort. It was incredibly risky. Thankfully, there was another possible way. As far as he knew, there was nothing blocking entering the city from the Sassanid camp. Well, there was nothing blocking his entrance since he was Eastern Roman - there were obviously guards that manned the walls. The Sassanids couldn’t just take the city without a fight.

    He wasn’t even sure that they wanted to take the city, though, if he was being completely honest. It would be far easier to besiege Hasakah and leave the three legions to lick their walls during the temporary truce that had occurred. Despite that, Hasakah hadn’t fallen, which made Galerius suspicious. It could’ve been that Kavadh was worried about the three legions breaking the unspoken truce, but he didn’t even need to divert his entire force to Hasakah to actually take it. The walls were defended, yes, but they weren’t defended by many people. That was probably because the city had previously been a Sassanid possession. It had long been part of the disputed territory between the Sassanid and Eastern Roman Empires, so its defenses were periodically destroyed, and Galerius assumed that there simply hadn’t been time to repair them.
    He began to sneak to the walls. He soon reached them, and the local guard asked him to identify himself. He did so, and they let him into the city. He only walked along the walls, though - he needed to arrive in the Eastern Roman camp soon.

    He arrived at the camp in the area where nobody else was. That was interesting. He looked across the camp, and he saw that both of the Isaurian legions were still in the camp. However, they were united as one unit, which meant that they were preparing for battle. That was bad news. It meant that the Legio I Armeniaca - his legion - was probably in trouble. Great. Just great.

    As he moved towards the battlefield, he noticed that the Armeniaca didn’t seem to have much organization. He’d have to fix that if he survived this battle.

    He immediately took command as soon as he entered the battle. He ordered his men to form a line. They quickly did so. The Sassanids, who had been raiding deep into the Armeniaca until then, retreated back to an area closer to their camp.

    Galerius saw Kavadh give them commands. The battle of the ages was coming, but it wasn’t clear who would win it.
     
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    Galerius sighed. He needed to save his strength, get some rest before the battle began. This battle could very well decide the course of the entire war. Perhaps his dreams would be helpful, as they had been before. He fell asleep quickly.

    He managed to have a dreamless sleep. He was at first annoyed at this, but then he remembered that his dreams weren’t always helpful. He quickly shut down that trail of thought. He needed to focus on winning the battle. Personal concerns could be dealt with later. For now, victory was all that mattered. Victory… and survival.

    The Armeniaca formed a line, but this was not like the previous skirmishes. The two Isaurian legions were also present, and they were ready to fight. Despite this, the fight didn’t begin immediately. Both armies looked at each other wearily, but neither wished to begin the fight.

    The wind was blowing in every direction. This might’ve been another reason why nobody wanted the fight to begin. Any arrows fired had just as much of a chance of hitting allies rather than the enemy.

    In all honesty, Galerius wanted the battle to start, but he was smart to realize that it wasn’t going to. He frowned. Given that there was an unspoken truce again, the Eastern Romans should take advantage.

    He made his way over to both Albinus and Clementius. He asked why they weren’t taking advantage of the temporary truce, and Albinus was quick to agree that they should. They decided to go to the meeting tent, but, before they left, they ordered all three legions to hold the line if the Sassanids attacked. He didn’t expect that to happen, but his latest experience with being absent from command had taught him that one should always have a contingency plan.

    When they entered the tent, noon hadn’t yet arrived. “So,” Clementius began. “What’s our plan?”

    Galerius smiled. “I’d been hoping to discuss that with you two, actually,” he said. “No matter what happens, we must hold the line. This is absolutely imperative. If things are looking bad, we have reinforcements due to arrive soon. They do not.”

    “We know that,” Clementius said. “How do we plan to fight this battle, though?”

    “Well,” Albinus began. “We already know the terrain.”

    Clementius looked at him blankly as he said that. Albinus sighed. “Fine,” he began. “Here’s a quick refresher on the terrain of the area near here. Two rivers meet inside the city. We could attempt to make use of this, but that’s what the Sassanids are most likely expecting us to do.”

    “Yes,” Galerius said. “The Sassanids know the terrain here just as well as we do now. They will not fall for the same trick twice. The problem with forming a plan is that many factors affect battles.”

    “Indeed, “ Albinus agreed. “Some of these factors can be determined. Some are constant. The problem is that not all of them are. We can’t account for weather before the battle actually starts. In addition, we don't know how the Sassanids will react to our actions. This means that the only plans we can make are very general plans. We have one of those.”

    “True,” Galerius mused. “Hold the line until reinforcements isn’t a very specific plan, but we can do that. As such, we are sticking to a line formation for now, but if you see an opportunity, go for it. If we can win before Anastasios’s army arrives, that would be great.”

    The meeting ended then, and the three commanders moved to where their legions were. It was almost dusk, but no one had attacked yet.
     
    Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the War Against the Sassanids Reaches its Climax, Part 13
  • HistoryDude

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    As night fell, the wind stopped. Immediately, the Sassanid archers began to fire at their Eastern Roman counterparts. Galerius ordered his archers to respond in kind, and they did. However, both the cavalry and infantry were completely untouched by arrows - that was extraordinarily weird. He wondered if the archers of each side had some sort of grudge against each other. They had fought multiple times in this battle, so it was possible.

    As the night got darker, he began his personal plan. He was worried that the line would break, and that couldn’t be allowed to happen. If it did, then the war would become much harder. The united forces of both empires would face each other in a series of battles. The sheer cost of human lives in such a conflict would be staggering. He wouldn’t allow it to happen.

    Galerius took a small force of his most trusted and talented soldiers. Almost all of these men had been present at Siscia, and none of them had betrayed the Empire, although all of them had been offered gold to do so. He trusted all of them with his life.

    As midnight approached, this small group prepared. Finally, he thought it was dark enough. Using this darkness as a cover, he led his group across the area separating the two armies. No one noticed. Soon, they had reached the Sassanid lines. Immediately, he drew his sword and attacked the Sassanids. His men followed suit.

    Nobody noticed. The darkness shielded everything. It was the perfect cover. If everything went according to plan, the Sassanids would surrender or die by dawn.

    Nature wasn’t on their side, though. Why had he hoped that she would be? His plan wasn’t reliant on everything going right, but it would be far more difficult if things went wrong. It always got far more difficult when things went wrong.

    The wind resumed blowing. This wind was strong, but it was also consistent. It only blew west, and he figured that the archers would quickly figure that out. Unfortunately, the wind slowed their attack down.

    Despite the darkness, it was only a matter of time until the Sassanids figured out that they were being attacked, and Galerius knew that. Still, that moment came quicker than expected, so he was surprised when the Sassanids began counterattacking.

    Despite that, he recovered from that quickly. He attacked the Sassanids, and his small band helped him. They cut a hole into the center of the Sassanid line. However, their luck wasn’t going to last, and Galerius knew that, as much as he disliked it. As Sassanid troops began to surround their small band, he and his comrades fought their way out of the center of the Sassanid army.

    By the time most of them had escaped, it was somewhat easier to see. Galerius knew what that meant: dawn was approaching. Perhaps that would lead to a break in the fighting, but he didn’t think that likely, no matter how much he wished it was. The battle was far from over, and it would be remembered for eons to come.
     
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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 14
  • HistoryDude

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    “We have to retreat,” Galerius snapped at his men. They were fighting near the tail end of the Sassanid army. They had previously charged through the Sassanid lines, and that had been wildly successful. Unfortunately, their luck seemed to have run out.

    “We know,” one of his men snapped back. “That isn’t easy to do! We’re almost completely surrounded!”

    Galerius grit his teeth. He knew that. He just needed to be able to lead his men in a successful retreat. If he failed, the battle could be lost, and that might cost them the entire war. He wasn’t about to allow that to happen!

    “Then fight your way out,” he snapped. “As I am doing! Are you cowards?”

    His men’s faces grew red with anger, as he knew they would. “Of course not,” one of them said, and then there was no longer time to talk, for the Sassanids had completely surrounded them.

    Galerius saw a small opening in the Sassanid lines, but he didn’t move towards it. He figured that this opening would quickly disappear, and then he would be trapped. It might very well be a deliberate trap. In addition, he had noticed that none of his men - no, his comrades - had taken the opening. He wouldn’t abandon them, even if it ended up costing the Eastern Romans the battle.

    Thankfully, it was unlikely that that would occur. His comrades seemed to be doing well, although they were still stuck in the middle of the Sassanid army. Galerius smiled. That wouldn’t be a problem. They were surrounded… and that meant that they could attack any direction. He drew his bow. This was going to be very fun.

    “Are we retreating?” One of his comrades shouted over to him. “This doesn’t feel like we’re retreating! It feels like we’re attacking.”

    “We need to harm their army as much as we can,” Galerius shouted back. “We can’t outright defeat it anymore - it’s too late for that. However, we can shift the scales of the battle more in our favor, and that is what we are going to do.”

    After that, they needed to focus all their attention on fighting - and surviving. There was no time to talk for a long while. Galerius stabbed and slashed at his Sassanid opponents. He slaughtered many enemy troops. He didn’t enjoy doing so, but he knew that he had to. He was in the middle of a battle, so his choices were kill or be killed.

    He killed many Sassanids, and his comrades did so as well. Unfortunately, and somewhat confusingly, they were still surrounded. Of course, they had originally been surrounded at the lines in the back of the Sassanid army, which meant that the easiest way to escape would’ve been to fight their way behind the Sassanids and then go around them, but Galerius viewed that as a coward’s move. His comrades had nonverbally agreed with him on that point. Only cowards would take such an easy - and selfish - way out, and none of them were cowards. In addition, they would defend their comrades… even unto death. So here they were, fighting for their civilization, their Empire, and, above all, their lives.
     
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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 15
  • HistoryDude

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    Galerius slaughtered many men. He had to, for his life depended on it. In war, one was either a killer or a dead man. He and his men had reached the center of the Sassanid army, but they knew that their battle was far from over. It wouldn’t be over anytime soon. Even once - or if - they managed to make it back to the Eastern Roman camp, the Sassanids would be far from defeated.

    “What’s our status?” Galerius shouted to his men. Unfortunately, this question got carried away by the wind. That was an answer, though, so he wasn’t that annoyed. They couldn’t communicate.

    Thankfully, they were still surrounded. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but the wind had started blowing in every direction, so that meant he would normally run the risk of friendly fire if he tried to shoot his bow. However, t]]]]hey were surrounded at the moment, so the chance of friendly fire was heavily decreased. Furthermore, the chance that the arrow would hit an enemy was very high.

    Galerius smiled. He started shooting arrows. Many of them hit the Sassanids, and he was happy about that. Absolutely none of them hit his small group of loyal followers. The Sassanid army started to give them more room to maneuver, so his little stunt must have had some effect.

    Galerius immediately used this to his advantage. He started to survey the battlefield, looking for his allies. A few of them were dead, and that was sad news. He wasn’t that torn up about it - they were soldiers, they knew the risks. However, a surprising number of his small group had survived and were still defiantly fighting. That was excellent news.

    The best news of all was that the soldiers he had entrusted to be part of this attack hadn’t betrayed him or the Empire. No one had defected, and no one had allowed themselves to be captured. He smiled slightly at that.

    Still, as successful as this charge had been, he needed to finish the retreat - for both him and his comrades. He couldn’t talk to them due to the wind, though, so that might be somewhat difficult.

    He figured out what they had to do quickly. They had to regroup, which might be difficult. They could communicate, then, even despite the wind. In order to regroup, then, he needed to know where everyone was. Luckily, he had already done a sweep of the battlefield. He knew where all of his comrades were.

    Most of them were in an area almost devoid of Sassanids. Obviously, this was because there was safety in numbers. Of course, another reason might’ve been that the Sassanids didn’t want to confront them, as they knew that any defeat of this group would inevitably be pyrrhic. Also, they were retreating, so a confrontation didn’t have to happen.

    Galerius wasn’t worried about that group at all. They would be fine. As such, he figured that where they were would be a good spot to meet up and regroup at. However, that was only the main body. He was close to that area, and the Sassanids had decided that it was a terrible idea to mess with him after his stunt with his bow. He was fine.

    Some of his comrades, however, weren’t. One was completely surrounded by Sassanid troops. He was one of Galerius’s old friends in the legion as well, and he was nearby. Galerius made a split second the decision to attack those Sassanids. His effort was very successful, and he managed to lead his old friend towards the small safe haven. Good. Now, all he had to do was to rescue a few groups of Eastern Roman soldiers.
     
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