Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Snippet

Gabriele of The Lost Fort is participating in Holly Lisle’s Friday Snippet meme where people post snippets of their fiction writing.

This Friday Snippets thing encouraged me to try. I know it’s awful. This is my first attempt at fiction since required class assignments in school. Suggestions for improving would be appreciated. Thanks to Gabriele for help with names.

The Advance Guard

Background: In 9 AD a Roman Army under Publius Quinctilius Varus was ambushed by German Tribesman lead by Arminius a former officer of German troops in the Roman army. The main part of the battle is at Kalkriese in the Teutobergerwald. There is some question as to the actual sequence of events; this is based on a possible scenario.

Centurion Gaius Antonius, commanding the advance guard, turned in the saddle looked back on his Cohort. – The bottom dropped out of stomach as it tied in knots. He was dead, his men were dead, their families, his children, his precious Lalage, all dead except for dying. And a voice in the back of head was saying, “just march, you didn’t see anything, just march, no one will know, just march, let some one else die”.

That morning.

Lalage pulled her husband to the side. “Don’t give me that ‘Centurion’ look. I’ve been a soldier’s daughter since I can remember, a soldier’s wife, your wife, for five years, something’s wrong! It’s not our turn for advance guard, families don’t move with the advance guard!

“Lalage sweet, quite down, no one follows a doubtful command. Senator Varus says the situation is delicate and maintaining a bluff like nothing is wrong is best.” Lalage noticed he used the civilian Senator not the military Legate. ”Staying at Minden would have been more dangerous. Families have been with the lead cohort for three days, if they aren’t today it is signaling we know something is wrong. When you bluff, bluff big. Or it won't work."

“And if it doesn’t work! We can’t hire villagers to help with the baggage, they won’t sell us food, nothing is right, we should be marching ready to fight!”

"I think it’s all right. The Fifth Cherusciorum is scouting in front of us. If Arminius’s old cohort can’t find an enemy they’re not there. I have half the men guarding our wagons and families. If the other half can’t get them out of any trouble they find it will take the whole Legion. Besides, your father recommended us, said he wanted the best cohort on advance guard, now you can’t argue with the Primus Pilus.”

“I can’t? Father’s right, your cohort is best, but if he puts families in front tomorrow; I will talk with him.”

Antonius had been told the last stretch for the day went through a place called ‘The Narrows’, A steep hill to the left a swamp to the right, in between ten feet of road that could carry a wagon!. The Fifth was sending scouts to both sides and he saw them give the all clear, and post guards to keep it clear. The wagons and families were in the middle of the Cohort and a thousand feet behind that the legion, “Damn Varus” he thought, “if the Fifth gets in trouble here I can’t support them and defend the wagons”.

In the center of the Narrows Antonius looked back, the Cohort was in good order, The princepales’s were keeping the troops in line. The men were maintaining as even a pace as the ground allowed, despite orders he had had them wear helmets and unsling their shields. -- He froze.-- From his mounted perch the afternoon light was just right. There was a wall, trampled vegetation behind it, javelin tips just over the edge. Arminius’s Fifth was guarding an ambush not the road. His four hundred in a trap to kill four thousand, do his duty and everything that was his would be gone, and a voice saying “’Just march’ like you saw nothing, the cohort will be clear the when legion dies. ‘Just march’”

Lalage had the wagon master wondering just who was in charge of the Cohort. Every one was armed; she made sure every one knew their part in ambush and laagering drill; stragglers weren’t allowed.

Lalage looked up at Antonius’s screamed command. “DROP packs! AMBUSH drill LEFT!” A surprised volley of javelins; the alarm trumpets sounding; legionaires forming ranks to attack, more javelins this time finding their mark; getting the family’s and children under cover. The Barbarian charge came in for the kill led by the Fifth Cherusciorum. She last saw Antonius leading the survivors, screaming hate and despair, into the Fifth.


Book Review: The Battle That Stopped Rome By Peter Wells
Quest for the Lost Legions By Tony Benn
Book Review: Rome's Greatest Defeat By Adrian Murdoch
Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem


Crystallyn said...

Woah!!! Way to leave us wondering what happens!

I'm writing a novel about Apicius (the world's first famous foodie, really), in the same time frame, so I'm all about reading Roman bits by fellow writers! My snippet this week isn't about Apicius, but last week's was.

Keep it up...would love to see where this is going.

Gabriele C. said...

Wherever you leave those dang noncomabattants, at the end, or in the middle of the cohorts, they're in the way. :)

Nice snippet.

hank_F_M said...


Thank you.


Antonius most likely violating orders marching in a tactical formation. All things being equal, if they’re in middle this time, they are more likely to be in the way next time. But Arminius maade sure nothing was equal.

Ambra said...

Just stopping by to let you know my blog is back online and running. I recall you were a regular commenter so just making my rounds.

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