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Nikolai

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Being the hunted is not enviable.
 

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The best the Empire can dream off?

Caesar is spinning in his grave.
 

HistoryDude

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Well, it looks like the Empire is not doing well...

If it takes this much work to defeat a small army, how much will it take to defeat Odoacer's main force? Or did Odoacer split his armies?
 

abian363

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Caesar is spinning in his grave.
By this time the population has Caesar in such a high pedestal that it is unreal even for what he historically did. The best legions currently are the ones best trained.
If it takes this much work to defeat a small army, how much will it take to defeat Odoacer's main force? Or did Odoacer split his armies?
Ah, you'll see in tomorrow's chapter...
 

abian363

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Chapter IV: A matter of patience
You may be wondering hence, dear reader, where all of the other Roman Armies are.
Well, I’ve got… Less than convenient news for you. Half of them have banished and the other half now lays on the ground with a deadly wound on their chest, rotting with a look of apathy on their face. That’s the way Odoacer made war.

What remained were, Sabinianus’ surviving men in the south, a group of a thousand recruits led by Comes Arsacius of Emona, fleeing north escaping from the Skirian wrath and… Decimus’ thirteen hundred and ten counted men, including wounded.

Odoacer, a wise man, knows that overextending his units is detrimental to his final goal, and also understands that keeping his soldiers as close of each other as possible will only guarantee that nobody could even think of striking them united. Not that any of the Roman armies are capable or suicidal enough to strike him, but, in fact, he is oblivious of the ruinous state in which the Imperial War Machine is and has it in a much higher esteem than it really deserves. In consequence, he quickly recalled all of his scattered units for one last push, together in unison. For four months did his units literally crush fort after fort, from Bergomum to Vincentia and not a single time did any resistance show up to face him, as such was the fear he inflicted to the hearts of the ones that could have stepped in his way.

Both the counties of Brixia and Cremona have fallen, along with all the garrisons and most of the population, and dozens of refugees are still fleeing to the free zones. Soon after Ravenna itself will be doomed to fall, or so it seems. But still, wherever there’s a standing Legion all hope isn’t yet lost. Does it really matter if it’s just full of recruits, if it’s the name that scares off the barbarians and not the army itself?

But now, returning back to my kinsman, in all these months Decimus surely must have done something to strengthen the Roman position or weaken Odoacer’s, right?

Following his victory at the Carpi hills, Decimus’ armies wandered from west to east without a certain location or host in mind, hunting smaller bands here and there and delivering justice wherever it was needed. However, as much as he’d like to attack Odoacer’s elite units himself, only a mad general would dare strike some who outnumbers you seven to one. He decided, instead, to join up with a reinforcing army in Parma, where Comes Arsacius was leading a unit and await for a better opportunity to reveal itself, just like it had happened in March.

In other news, it seems that Sabinianus got relegated from his post not long after the two commanders parted and now has fallen in disgrace. His current location is unknown. Such is the way of Rome, I guess...

It was then at Parma when something clicked in Decimus’ brain. An opportunity, one final chance, everything or nothing. All they had to do was to run for it, in silence and hidden from all the enemies that could arise in his path alerted by Basiliscus and the few that survived his previous fight.

Not much later there was a meeting of commanders in Decimus’ tent right outside of Parma and a plan was agreed upon. Of course, I was not invited to that meeting but this is roughly all the information that I could gather: First, Comes Titus Belisarius, the substitute of Sabinianus, was to lead his armies north, allegedly in a surrounding movement, and attempt to relieve the city of Brixia. It doesn’t really matter if he is successful or not, haven’t heard from him yet. The only thing that matters is that Odoacer believes the movement is made to push him against the Alps or maybe even further north, and in fact, to reinforce such belief, Comes Arsacius moved his half-disintegrated army up north to, coming from the East, forcing the Skirian to truly believe that the Romans were ready for that last stand, the ultimate battle, that he had always wanted. Odoacer would definitely want to settle the score with such a pathetic Roman host. The two Comes would await there, careful not to actually engage in combat, but the real threat would come from the south.

Decimus, in a show of intelligence, easily understood that Odoacer’s wish of maintaining cohesion would prove his downfall. You see, if he wishes to win that last battle, even if he is overconfident of his Foederate’s capabilities, he is not going to divide his units and it is here where the Tuscan cohorts enter the plan. As I have already mentioned before, Mantua is the only place where Odoacer knows he is most safe, but, should he be forced to distance himself from his strongpoint, said strongpoint could be easily taken.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now. I’m sitting inside my carriage outside of the big walls of foreigner-held Mantua, opposite of the Mincius river, the greatest obstacle our troops will have to face and overcome. An arrow often flies over my head, to remind myself that this place is actually a warzone, and not somewhere where I can relax and write without any other thoughts bothering me. To arrive to this point the soldiers have had to march for two weeks, without sleep most of the nights, but surprisingly they are still eager to fight and die along with the man they are beginning to believe is their hero.
 

HistoryDude

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An undefended city is easy to take.

A feinting maneuver? Interesting strategy. Now, to see if Odoacer falls for it...
 

abian363

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Chapter V: One chance, many possible outcomes
Thirteen days, that’s all we’ve had to wait. That’s as many days as the garrison of Mantua got to bend the knee and survive to fight another day, this time under Rome’s benevolent yoke; and now their ultimate opportunity to surrender had vanished. Bloodshed was the only option in sight.

In reality, those thirteen days were just a timeframe agreed upon back in Parma, so as to let the other two commanders reach their position in time. Have they made it? Or perhaps were they ambushed the second they left Roman lands and have laid for most of the thirteen days dead in a field? I don0t have any way know, and anyhow, all that matters is that Decimus and his men are going to attempt an assault. I will, of course, be rooting for them from a safe distance, just in case.

First, a group of archers began shooting flaming arrows at the southernmost wall, the one that bathed in the Mincius river. This was nothing but a decoy for the real threat, which was a makeshift bridge that was being built overnight on the northwestern side. Luckily for us, the region of Mantua is one of many mountains and hills, and the outside of the city granted the easiest cover up we could have desired, almost completely safe from the incoming fire that rained down upon us. I oversaw the building of the bridge during the night, and although the cohorts sustained several casualties, our archers were denying the foe a rest. All night did they fire and all night did they force them to remain in the south side, letting our engineers build the bridge in relative peace. No attempt to relieve the siege from the inside was made.

At dawn the horn sounded twice, and without even a second for respite or for burying the dead, Decimus launched his definitive attack. It was everything or nothing.

Around two hundred enemies gathered at the entrance of the base, ready to deny the units an easy passage, but with ladders and other light siege equipment the walls did not last long. They were nothing too impressive anyways, in fact, they slightly reminded me of the ones at Florentia, which I had had a long time to review and visit in peace. They both had a stone base and a few stone towers, but the main parts were made of reinforced wood, which resembled more of a military camp than a true fort. After a successful advanced point had been achieved the units jumped inside without fear and I saw Decimus easily get rid of two axe-bearing Germans with the help of a broken lance, and also saw the two fall lifeless to the already red-stained waters. It was the 9th of July.

Not even more than a day later most of the garrison had suffered the Roman wrath, and whatever foreign units remained they quickly abandoned their masters to save themselves and run for their lives into the countryside. Such was the way of the barbarian.

The city laid in ruins, for even though we barely spent a day sieging it, the archer’s fire arrows had wrought havoc for twice the time, and most of the wooden buildings had collapsed under smoke and dust. The only few buildings that had survived the attack were the main church, the city forum and the jail, which was hidden away, safe from any fire that could break.

Now that the city was at peace once again, and safe in Roman hands, it was time to review the prisoners we’d gotten in the assault, and decide if at least one of them could value some coins in the slave market. Surprisingly, the prize we got was… a hundred, no, a thousand times better than expected.
 

HistoryDude

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Is the price Odoacer's surrender?

Mantua has fallen, so the war is going decently well...
 

Nikolai

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stnylan

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city in ruins - by the end of this the empire will be nought more than a smouldering lifeless corpse :)
 

abian363

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Chapter VI: The Spoils of War
I accompanied Decimus into the deepest, darkest dungeon I had ever seen, barely lighted by the artificial luminosity of torches, where our prisoners awaited their fate. They had been captured by several dispersed soldiers all around the city so neither Decimus nor myself awaited to meet anyone in particular. As I said before, I expected nothing more than a few wounded soldiers that would mostly be executed but still desired to see if there was anyone of at least some relevance. But in fact, what we found was: Odoacer’s entire family! Can’t emphasize this enough. Tied up and jailed like simple peasants, there laid rotting Evochilde Balti, Odoacer’s wife and daughter of the Visigoth king, and their three children, including his heir Thela, barely a kid of eleven. We also managed to find two of the three brothers Odoacer, who had hidden in different cells, trying to appear as simple smugglers that would surely get released thanks to the “Roman mercy”. No traces of Onoulphus were found, the remaining brother. Surely he must have fled for Odoacer’s host, to warn him of the threat his family was in.

Last, but not least, laid a man whose face I had already seen at least once before, and in fact, I had had the pleasure of portraying it from the distance just a few months prior. That’s right, Basiliscus Scirii, the defeated nephew of Odoacer, hadn’t even dared go to his uncle to tell of his defeat and instead chose to return back to his father and the ones that would protect him from his anger once he learned of it.

Decimus was appalled to learn that all the preparations for a “careful approach” and all the speeches demanding and imploring everyone to be as aware of their surroundings and every trace they left as humanly possible during the past few weeks had been in vain and demanded Basiliscus to be executed immediately. We met nobody in our path because no army was alerted but the one at the capital, which was just the smallest of them all.

Of course, the execution was ordered in the heat of the moment and none of the soldiers that were accompanying us did anything against Basiliscus, knowing that he was worth more alive than rotting in an unnamed grave. Said soldiers had also suffered all those nights without sleep and all those never ending marches, but the final prize would be worth all of that and much more. A definitive peace was at stake after all.

I want to believe Odoacer is still far away, tied up in the area of Maiensis, or at least that’s what it was agreed upon. This means that even if it isn’t a hundred percent certain, Decimus can finally grant his exhausted army a day or two of rest and also keep them from looting the fred city. Because, obviously, Odoacer’s family is a huge political prize, but the soldiers will surely want something… material. It is firmly believed that cities still contain many of those worthless coins, which as stated, may be worthless, but it’s better than the nothingness you found in the razed countryside.

I don’t expect much plunder to be done anyways, we’re not savages after all, but you can’t know. I’ll use these two days to visit the ruins of the city and see if there is anything of literary worth that I could save from all the fires that roam freely.

Now, the armies better keep moving, victory is closer than ever!
 

HistoryDude

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Odoacer's family is in your possession? This is amazing news! Shame the game won't let you blackmail him...
 

abian363

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Odoacer's family is in your possession? This is amazing news! Shame the game won't let you blackmail him...
His heir adds a nice +50% War Score though.
 

abian363

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Chapter VII: Skirmish at Castrum Lutius

The surrounding lands have been pretty silent these few days I’ve spent in Mantua. Unlike in previous ”adventures”, I’ve decided to remain in a safe place rather than to continue following Decimus’ neverending exploits. Why? Because this place is the neuralgic point of the region, which makes the population very interesting to observe, and also because due to the July heat rainfall has increased highly and the mountainous surroundings, full of snow, have begun to melt. I do not wish that all my papers get wet. Nonetheless, I’m not lacking on information, as daily reports arrive to the small cohort that’s guarding the captives and helping reconstruct the walls should an enemy army make and appearance. I make sure to read each one of them.

The region seems to have been pretty pacified except for a bunch of towns that were occupied mostly by Foederates whom instead of following Odoacer in his “trip” against the Empire, simply decided to do what it was denied to them and just settle the lands. I don’t think they can be blamed for wanting to live in peace, I would have done the exact same. However, what they can be blamed for is not accepting that the Roman Empire and his highness young Romulus is once again their emperor. That’s where Decimus had marched, to meet those relentless germans.

It is because of this that several skirmishes have taken place in such lands. Most of them are irrelevant, unimportant and don’t deserve even making a little mark in history. However, this is not the case of Theodoricus of Castrum Lutius, a Skirian, leader of the same town. A “Little Odoacer” we could call him from what I’ve heard. Incredibly enough, he has managed to hold off an entire legion led by its best commander for slightly longer than the hundreds of barbarians that protected the walls of Mantua did. I must insist, the place where Theodoricus lives is just a small settlement which doesn’t have any kind of defenses other than the natural occurrences typical of mountainous areas such as boulders and hardly transitable paths. The former foederates constructed Wooden huts and wooden fences for a few animals, not even a simple palisade. Nothing that should have really showed any resistance whatsoever.

Apparently, and this might be slightly exaggerated by the Roman soldiers to hide such an ungracious victory, they were held off by big a group of renegades that had fled Mantua the second the small walls had crumbled and they gathered around Theodoricus, the only leading figure of the region. They numbered a few hundred but they easily entrenched themselves between the wooden houses by setting the pikes amassed there pointing towards the attacking units. It took them several days to conquer the Castrum, at one point having to go house by house cleaning the entirety of them because the germans just kept hiding inside and ambushing the Comitatenses in the narrow streets. Only once the old Theodoricus had been knocked unconscious and captured did the fighting began to wind down. Three quarters of the male population was killed in the action, and many civilians were assassinated too, whose lives don’t ever count in the Imperial Registry. Such a shameful display of Roman culture.

Below these lines I will attach a small paper detailing my calculations on the number of fatalities that our side suffered while fighting for the base. Of course, being able to only count the dead or wounded I’ve seen being carried here, I have to use my imagination to add up on the soldiers I have not noticed to have returned to their original post, so the resulting numbers may be slightly exaggerated. Not as many as the soldiers want to make the Mantuan population believe though.


Estimate of fatalities for the Roman side

You may be wondering, dear reader, because you are surely one who appreciates the most brave soldiers, what on Earth happened to Theodoricus. Is he dead? Is he alive?

If so, I bring good news. In a show of something only descriptable of “Roman Hospitality” at its finest, Theodoricus has been freed and granted permission to remain as the leader of the zone, this time as another of the many servants of Rome. A group of soldiers has been left there just in case. I’m sure Decimus feels guilty of such reprehensible behaviour. I wonder how many civilians he killed?
 

HistoryDude

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In war, sometimes one must do despicable things.
 

abian363

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Chapter VIII: Faceoff before sunset
I’m back at the front as rain seems to have passed. Decimus appears to be incredibly tense and worried, and his face reveals the marks of time. Sleep is something very appreciated this time of the year but very hard to get. The only ones who seem to find it are myself, “a privileged bastard” as I’m beginning to be known as, and the many cats that populate the small group of carriages that precede the marching band. Cooks and many other less important members of the army are still very required for their functions, as they are the ones that keep the soldiers healthy and ready to fight another day.

When questioned about why he looks terrified, he simply answers with a “We’ve invoked the Skirian’s anger, and we shall now pay the full price.”

Two days later:

Thank God! I’ve finally been able to recover most of my papers, although I’m not sure if I’ve gotten all of them. Regarding the last paragraph I wrote; Decimus was absolutely right and his words were almost prophetic. After leading an assault on the town of Libarna, which was located up on a hill, we saw the entirety of Odoacer’s foederati army marching towards our position. Around eight thousand men (Two thousand of the starting enemies had already perished) were advancing at an extremely quick pace towards our group of roughly four hundred, five hundred men maximum. We knew it was over the second Decimus recognized Odoacer himself leading the frontline units and announced his discovery to the pale looking soldiers.

We barely managed to survive the beginning attacks of Odoacer’s cavalry, led by the feared commander and Roman traitor Severinus Senior.
Let’s halt for a second though, and ask more profound questions: What kind of man do you have to be to betray your own country when it needs you the most? From what I’ve learned Severinus used to be a Magister Equituum during Nepos’ reign but fled for the Foederates just at the beginning of Flavius Orestes’ purges. Perhaps not his best choice back then but well, it seems to have been a right alternative up until now. Leading a bunch of Roman mercenary renegades he quickly revealed himself to be far more loyal with Odoacer that he ever was with the Empire. Is it possible that he could have been executed by the new Imperial family had he chosen to remain in Ravenna? Maybe. But as a member of the Seiani, a family that has been mistreated for centuries and still has chosen to maintain its oath of loyalty, I find it hard to excuse someone for fleeing when its country needs him most, because he surely has shown that he has the prowess this downfalling realm needs, but instead, has chosen to live in fear as a traitor. May god’s wrath fall upon him.

However, returning back to our dire situation, there he was, leading one final cavalry charge to end it all, when a rain of stones halted the murderous band in its tracks. Using the surprise factor to their benefit, a group of Romans used their lances to stab the horses and push the soldiers to the ground, where they quickly met their end. We were ready to save our lives no matter the cost.

After forcing Severinus’ remaining cavalry away with their tails between their legs no attack came for the next few hours, time Decimus used to gather his last forces and make a last stand just as Theodoricus had done a few weeks before. The recently conquered town became once again the center of conflict. A conflict we did not know when it would arrive because it was getting darker and darker by the second and the last thing Decimus wanted was to light up our own positions for everyone to see. They were surely ready to fight until the last man. Myself, however, never having been trained as a soldier in the first place, decided it would be best to move my carriage closer to where I was helping construct a ditch, just in case.

The definitive attack came at midnight: The strike that would decide it all. Would God grant protection to its devoutest men? Would He appear in Odoacer’s dreams, just as He did to the Great Constantinus and convert him right before we were slain?

If I am still alive to tell this story it must surely have happened, right?
 

HistoryDude

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Seems as if our protagonists are in a bad position...

Of course, if you manage to capture Odoacer, then you're fine. It doesn't matter if you lose the battle, even. If you have Odoacer in captivity, you've won.
 

abian363

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Chapter IX: Saint Arsacius and the 5000 miracles
I’m afraid God didn’t appear in Odoacer’s dreams the night before, although it would have been a more desirable ending for us all. At least a most peaceful one. Will not complain though, ungratefulness is for non-Romans.

In just a few hours of endless fight our party was down to a few tens of men, with Decimus still alive, bleeding from a knee and bruises all over his face but still alive. We were cornered in around a quarter of the town but still held our ground, protected by several ditches and sharp metals. Carriages were turned and thrown in the middle of the streets to preclude any kind of infiltration. I was in the back, handing rocks and breaking wood from the abandoned houses to throw at the enemy units. I often looked to my back, even though there was nobody there, fearing that Basiliscus’ living ghost would come back to us, just to have his revenge and attack the men from behind. He was not dead or anything, still in jail back at Mantua, but my mind was in such a state that I could have sworn I had seen his image.

The future looked incredibly bleak for us all, but praised be God, he was just “proving our strength”, or at least so do I want to believe.

But before we get to possibly the most important point in our short lives, let’s backtrack a bit, shall we?

When Comes Arsacius left for the north back in June, along with Comes Titus, they were sure to follow Decimus’ orders, but there was an unplanned twist. They allegedly sent a messenger to Ravenna, which was exactly the opposite Decimus had told them to, because he feared the Emperor’s father would prohibit him from carrying such a dangerous movement. However, this messenger’s mission was to convince Orestes to send all of his Palatinii veteran army, which normally just defended the capital, along with Arsacius’ recruits. Arsacius thought that it would be best, perhaps, to avoid secretism as it would prove detrimental for the greater Roman cause and instead asked for help to the only one that could provide it, even if at the cost of falling from grace. “Pride goeth before the fall” after all. And in an incredibly unlikely move, unlikely for Orestes I mean, he actually accepted. Will Decimus have fallen from grace because of this? I’ve got absolutely no idea, only the future can tell.

The group of around five thousand men was now marching towards the Alps, getting the latest news both from Decimus’ feats in Mantua and Odoacer’s ravaging of the Adriatic coast. It is reputed that Titus felt overjoyed and overconfident after hearing the news of the capture of Thela, the Skirian’s son. He allegedly promised to buy each one of the soldiers that survived the definitive struggle a plot of land to settle in. I can confirm for future generations to read that he accomplished what he swore to do. Titus is a good man.

That group would soon learn that Odoacer hadn’t actually fallen in the trap and did not even attempt to go north. Knowing that something was incredibly wrong the two marched south, to link with our units just in case the barbarians attempted to strike against a much weaker foe. I must insist it’s truly god’s grace at work.

When it looked like we wouldn’t hold for much longer and perhaps it was best to surrender and risk being executed rather than dying for nothing five thousand archangels charged carrying equally swords and resentment in each hand, to avenge their fallen Roman brothers and save the ones that had refused death so fiercely. The surprised enemies couldn’t do nothing but run from the tide that was overrunning them. I couldn’t distinguish between a recruit that had just joined the army and someone that had been fighting since Decimus was a nipper; they all fought at unison and with the same ability.

Literally every Roman field soldier was there, it was the definitive battle, there wouldn’t be enough soldiers for another one should we lose that one. Does this mean that Sabinianus had been right all along? Perhaps the Roman spirit has never died and has just been like us, the Seiani, just dormient. Oh the "Romanitas", how much I've missed it!

The battle prolonged right until dawn, when a group of Rygir began fleeing the field and surrendering in mass. Not soon after half of the Gothic army had disengaged and Odoacer was forced to call for an organized retreat, unbroken but with his honour as commander horribly damaged. Technically he hadn't surrendered, so his title of "undefeated" still remained intact.

What was left of this bloody battle were a bunch of burnt houses, hundreds and hundreds of bodies and an intact Roman pride. We live to fight another day! Only 227 of us though, and half of them barely conscious or in great danger.


My take on the fatality estimate for both sides
 

HistoryDude

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Yes! You've won...

Nice unreliable narration (doubt the archangels part was literal).
 
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