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abian363

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The Empire’s Darkest Hour

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Some say that nothing good has ever come from the Seiani. I’d rather think the opposite but perhaps I’m biased by kin. All I know is that ever since the catastrophic downfall of my great-grand ancestor Lucius Aelius the Seiani have been working in the shadows in an attempt to gather the necessary strength to bring the decaying empire back on its feet.

Was it my ancestor’s fault that Rome began slowly disintegrating a few years prior? I think not. But still, the blame passed on. Every usurper, every rebel, every rascal, heirs of Seianus all of them, the one who began it all. Or so it appeared. Now that time seems to have stopped in its tracks and all of the past events don’t seem to matter to a present that doesn't make any sense, the duty of the ones stronger than me, whom also bear the Seiani “yoke” as a sign of past actions and are looked upon with suspicion, is to serve and protect The Child. Such is the way in which Repentance shall be acquired.

We all know who The Child is: The one that sustains the name of legend, the one chosen by his father’s armies, the one whose young shoulders carry more than a thousand years worth of history and prestige that shall not meet its end yet. That Child is Romulus Augustulus; and this is the Empire’s Darkest Hour.
 
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abian363

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Table of contents and presentation
Hello there and welcome to the first AAR I attempt in a very, very long time. As someone that's not accustomed to the new setup of the forums, please excuse me if I make some kind of formatting error, I have to learn how this place works once again.
The aim of this AAR is to narrate the adventures, or perhaps, misadventures of Decimus Seiani, an alleged descendant of Lucius Aelius Seianus, who conspired against Tiberius and is deemed as the "First Imperial Usurprer". The objective of this run will not be to make my leader Emperor of the West and reunite the lost lands, but to be a loyal subject under each and every emperor that reaches power, always fighting for the legitimate ruler of the West. I hope you, who are currently reading this, have a pleasant time reading this story and I will attempt to post a new chapter every day.


Book I: Odoacer's war
- Introduction: The Empire's Darkest Hour
- Chapter I: De Rebus Foederaticus
- Chapter II: The Wrath of the Skirian
- Chapter III:
Echoes of an Empire
- Chapter IV: A matter of patience
- Chapter V: One chance, many possible outcomes
- Chapter VI: The Spoils of war
- Chapter VII: Skirmish at Castrum Lutius
- Chapter VIII:
Faceoff before sunset
- Chapter IX: Saint Arsacius and the 5000 archangels
- Chapter X:
A child for a child
- Chapter XI: Florentian Intermission

Book II: The Rotten Apple
-
Chapter XII: No rest for the treacherous
- Chapter XIII: Romans against Rome
- Chapter XIV: Mutinous Mutineers or the Art of Deceit
- Chapter XV: Alamanni, the yellow scourge
- Chapter XVI: Hell on the Mura
- Chapter XVII: Not a second for respite
- Chapter XVIII: De Rebus Traditoris
- Chapter XIX: The Unthinkable
- Chapter XX: The Final Struggle
- Chapter XXI: Male parta Male dilabuntur

Book III: The Last Threat
- Chapter XXII: The calm before and after the storm
- Chapter XXIII: Mountainous Flanking
- Chapter XXIV: Tauriscian Dèja Vu
- Chapter XXV: Seiani: Past and future
- Chapter XXVI: Ides of March
- Chapter XXVII: The crossing of the Danube
- Chapter XXVIII: Madness or Cowardice?
- Chapter XXIX: Strupigna, synonym of Hunger
- Chapter XXX: Furculae Caudinae

Book IV: Interbellum:
- Chapter XXXI: Sertorius Seianus
- Chapter XXXII: In times of peace: Maps
- Chapter XXXIII: Nullius Augustulus
- Chapter XXXIV: The Henotikon
 
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Nikolai

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Interesting. :)
 

stnylan

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Welcome to AAR writing
 

HistoryDude

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This sounds interesting. Always nice to have WtWSMS AARs.

Will this be a history book or narrative style AAR?
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Usually in my WtWSMS games, the Western Roman Empire goes bye-bye pretty quickly, so... this will be interesting.
 

abian363

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Will this be a history book or narrative style AAR?
I will attempt to do it as narrative as possible, but I'll justify adding an image or two here and there.
Usually in my WtWSMS games, the Western Roman Empire goes bye-bye pretty quickly, so... this will be interesting.
So does in mine. Guess it's time to stop that from happening.
 
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abian363

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Chapter I: De Rebus Foederaticus

20200531183420_1.jpg
The man pictured above isn’t myself.
Who is he, and who am I then? I am but the most humble servant of his and as such, I shall not reveal my name as that could make me stand out from the crowd. I do not wish for any benefits that may stem from such a historiographical project, not for now at least. The intention of this Chronicle is to clean our dynasty’s name once and for all, not to gain fame or relevance in the years to come. Assuming there is a future for us all anyways...

That explained, I may now introduce our protagonist.
His name is Decimus Seianus and he’s just been appointed to the role of Governor of Tuscia et Umbria. Fifty years back his post would have been most desired and looked upon with envy but not now, not with all that’s going on a few milia passuum north.
Merely 36 years old, he is one of the youngest leading figures of the Empire, if we ignore Urbanus Menenius, Tribune of Pisa, and well; Emperor Romulus himself. However, from all of them he is the one capable of most. A skilled tactician and strategist that began serving the Empire under Anthemius, he quickly rose in the ranks as Emperors succeeded each other. When Flavius Orestes sent then Emperor Iulius Nepos away to Dalmatia what followed was one of the biggest purges the realm had ever seen since the disgraceful acts of Constantine’s successors. In said purge Decimus’ predecessor fell out from grace just as quick as Lucius Aelius had done during Tiberius’ reign and allegedly perished in combat against the Visigoths. I think not.

Back then Decimus was leading a Cohort of Comitatensis in Florentia, should any outsider attempt to seize the fertile lands that surrounded the city. Truly a paradise on the Earth we have to live in. When the message that Orestes had appointed him reached his cohort he couldn’t have been more surprised but accepted the post with honour and pride, taking the oath to protect the Empire in its last death rattles.

How long has it been since a Seianus last held a post of significant importance; four centuries?

Of course, all of the Seiani moved to Florentia to congratulate their kinsman in his promotion, myself included, and there I stayed, close to his military headquarters.
As family and friend of Decimus I can go in and out unquestioned. Not like anyone cares about anything anymore, I just note it to justify whatever I shall write and should I have to be more precise in certain terms, military terms, for example, this way I can prove I get my references from the best source, and not a secondary participant.

As I briefly hinted above, something is going on in the north. Something big, I must say. Of course, everything that troubles us Romans always comes either from the North or from the inside and it looks like it was both this time. However, the real culprits are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Is it Odoacer’s fault that his people desire to settle in the high-yielding lands of Italia instead of the mountainous terrains of Pannonia or further inland in Germania? Is it young Romulus’ fault that his father is as good of a diplomat as it is the chair on which I’m sitting? Can’t blame them for other men’s actions. All that matters now is that a war is ravaging said lands and that the court in Ravenna is scared.

The Skirian has amassed an army of tens of thousands of former Foederate Heruli, Rygir and many more unpronounceable tribal names under his rule and following the fall of Mantua last December, his sight has been put on the wealthy capital. Despite the leading figure’s “Romanized” behaviour, his followers aren’t as keen of the Roman traditions as he is and so, pillaging has become a most common topic in his army.

Beware of the ones who come with good words but carry a long sword.



 
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stnylan

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One almost has to wonder is the Empire even worth saving?
 

Henry v. Keiper

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...an army of tens of thousands of former Foederate Heruli, Rygir and many more unpronounceable tribal names...
Hilarious.

Also, apologies if I missed something, and it's been a long time since I played WtWSMS, but I had a question: is Decimus a custom-made character, or an in-game character?
 

abian363

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Also, apologies if I missed something, and it's been a long time since I played WtWSMS, but I had a question: is Decimus a custom-made character, or an in-game character?
Custom made, yes
 
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abian363

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One almost has to wonder is the Empire even worth saving?
I asked myself the same exact question as you'll see in tomorrow's chapter.
 

HistoryDude

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Nice background...

No, indeed, we can't blame leaders for their subjects's actions... or, perhaps, we can, if only to have a convenient scapegoat.
 

abian363

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Chapter II: The Wrath of the Skirian
According to Saturninus, leader of the Cohort stationed in Pratum, Flavius Orestes has been able to muster only four thousand men against the ten thousand Odoacer leads, and half of them are fresh recruits or barely trained Pseudocomitatensis. This is mostly due to desertion owing to a lack of pay, the worthlessness of money in general and the importance of protecting local holdings rather than “dying for a greater Roman Imperial cause”. Nobody believes in the restoration of the lost glory of Augustus or Caesar. Moreover, nobody believes that this diminished joke of an Empire can be saved. Should it be saved? Does it deserve being saved? That’s a question not many will answer if asked. The only fact that matters now, however, is the oath of loyalty our dynasty made long ago, and for that oath is why we will die, even if we are fighting against all odds. I hope I don’t have to do so myself, though, as someone will have to record the greater Seiani’s feats and I am the only one of my near family that’s capable of writing.

I petitioned Decimus to allow me to travel with him and I’ll make sure to note everything of interest. Of course, being the good friend he is, he willingly accepted and even offered me a small carriage to travel on.

Several reports we’ve received from stressed looking envoys note that the first skirmishes have begun in the Verona area, mainly between a detached band of Goths and a group of unskilled recruits. It seems that their commander, a certain Victor, got ambushed in his attempt to arrive to Mantua unseen and put a quick end to this squabble by taking their only strongpoint south of the Alps. Is this a grave signal for things to come or merely something that will be forgotten when the day of the greater victory arrives?

One thing is certain though. Even if Flavius Orestes is an unskilled man in every sense of the word, he surely knows that our armies can’t even dream of facing a centralized foreign host and so, he should follow a more “cautious” path, subjecting the enemy to exponential gains but denying them from a finishing blow and, well, obviously, not let Ravenna fall in unrightful hands.

As the leader of the biggest party in the Northwest, Decimus’ armies march slowly but uncontested while darker and darker news arise from everywhere else in the realm. Unlike his Roman counterpart, Odoacer is a skilled tactician and a Legendary Commander that is, apparently, unbeaten in battle. Of course, this might be pure invention as he has been fighting since the 450s. Even Iulius Caesar himself faced defeat once, may god bring him back to us in these desperate times.

Decimus’ first intention was to march towards the Castrum of Pistorium, where apparently a group of deserters were wreaking havoc stealing the local cattle but soon a bigger catch revealed itself in the horizon.

The skirian’s units have been moving at an unexpected speed and have quickly managed to reach the border of Decimus’ governorate. One of the aforementioned units, however, has happened to encounter the bulk of the Roman army in the zone and just like it happened to Victor, Basiliscus Scirii, nephew of Odoacer himself, has been trapped between mountains and lakes. The leading commander of the opposing Roman army is a man called Sabinianus, whom happens to be an ex-companion of Decimus back when they began their military career. He is, just as my kinsman was merely a few months prior, leader of a Cohort, this time located in Mutina. His army mostly relies on cavalry and the surprise factor so it’s quite easy to understand why Basiliscus was giving Sabinianus a hard time once the worst had passed.

Without any possibility of escaping, and with his nearest friendly army tens of milia passum away, his only option of surviving was to set camp on one of the aforementioned hills and pray that Sabinianus would be reckless enough.



Alleged picture of Basiliscus

And, of course, Sabinianus ate the bait. If he hadn’t I wouldn’t be telling this story and instead, would be telling how a legion slaughtered a bunch of cowardly deserters. But here I am, detailing how a group of a thousand Foederati held out for two weeks without food, reinforcements or any other kind of supply.
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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Latin and Greek phrases. Latin and Greek phrases everywhere.

And it seems to me when faced with an opposition force that is largely cavalry, camping up on a hill is a good idea. In which case, I'm not surprised Sabinianus had a difficult time there.
 
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HistoryDude

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Well, that isn't a great start.

Will you serve Nepos in Dalmatia if Italia falls?
 

stnylan

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Always nice when a foe proves so obliging
 

abian363

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Will you serve Nepos in Dalmatia if Italia falls?
That's treachery!

But yes, should any Imperial Claimant successfully earn the title (Not only Iulius Nepos), the Seiani would dutifully protect them too.
 

abian363

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Chapter III: Echoes of an Empire
It was the 16th of March when our forces arrived in the scene of battle. Tired but eager, Decimus was leading a group of around fifteen hundred men, mostly comprised of loyal soldiers and trained cohorts, the very best the Empire could dream of. Ranging from archers to light, maneuverable cavalry, and with heavy swordsmen in between, it had nothing in common with what Sabinianus had used to oppose Odoacer’s nephew. The pagans had been holding the hillside for more than a week, and they looked as if they could hold for a month more, even if hunger killed half of them in the process. His uncle would eventually come save them. The casualties had been high on both ends and Sabinianus himself had been wounded several times, including a horrible looking impact on his shoulder that had left him unable to lead the last two strikes on the enemy position. It has proven to not be fatal, for the loss of the Empire.

In all honesty and with all of my respect to a friend of Decimus, Sabinianus is everything an army that is doomed to fail should not look for. Reckless, energetic and overly positive on the capabilities of his own men. That’s the recipe for a quick and painful downfall. He had proven unable to crush a bunch of enemies surrounded by hostile land just because of his wish to defeat them quickly and move to hold the line somewhere else.

History has shown that a war can get resolved in a single battle, striking a definitive blow to the foe, but what if said foe has so many big armies that defeating two or three is just… lengthening the inevitable?

Having served under Orestes himself back when he was a Magister Militum, which sounds like ancient times but it was literally just a year prior, Sabinianus learned the wrong means of doing war. The way the Pannonian got rid of Emperor Nepos, in a single battle and without much bloodshed, is unlikely to happen in these uncertain times and just proved to be an exception that Sabinianus took to heart.

And because of this “misunderstanding” tens and tens of Romans had perished in the mountains of Carpi.

Of course, when Decimus and his army reached no man’s land with their clean helmets and with their shiny swords pointing towards the entrenched enemy, Basiliscus understood that this wasn’t another incapable commander, but a real force to reckon with.

The very next day Decimus himself led a flanking attack on their position, going through all the pain of encircling the entire mountain wearing heavy armour just to take advantage of the decoy he had left back at the main Roman base.

A cohort of his brave men, led by Saturninus of Pratum, charged at the enemy post just like Sabinianus’ eager but inexperienced units had done the day prior but in fact, the group Decimus led had gathered behind the makeshift camp, infiltrating themselves once every enemy had left for the frontside. What they found were a bunch of wounded men, unshaved, poorly cleaned and with broken shields, holding off rounds and rounds of Roman legionaries with pikes, rocks and everything they could muster. They were brave men and resisted until the bitter end, but I’ll have to emphasize on the word “were” and avoid detailing what happens when you get caught with your back turned against the enemy because it gets too bloody for my liking.

I remained in camp, speaking with the wounded Sabinianus to gather information about what had happened before our troop had arrived, which I have detailed above, and I could notice Decimus was returning victorious because the chants of “Imperator! Imperator!” could be heard from the other side of the hill.

Decimus, however, wasn’t that happy. Basiliscus had somehow managed to escape, along with a few tens of men that avoided the encirclement and had fled to his uncle. Soon, every Skirian, Rygir, Herul and Goth would know their position and would want to avenge the one that had defeated Odoacer’s nephew.

The hunt was on.