- I knew that the ratio of the Roman Century was usually 80 men to 20 slaves, but I did not know about the contubernium. I chose to make the Cyrodiilic Century 100 men because there are no slaves in Cyrodiil, strictly speaking; also because, as a simply selfish indulgence, I liked the idea of using the term ‘century’ instead of ‘company’.
Thank you for making the distinction between Brazier
, I’m just glad that it is not something that I have to address too often.haute ecole
– I am so glad that you are enjoying this second read through. I know that we share the same concern, that those who have read this before will get bored slogging through it a second time. In the case of Julian, know that I am enjoying reading her adventures through main quest Oblivion even more now than before. It is nice to know that you are enjoying Interregnum. Winter Wolf
– Thank you, Wolf. Isn’t it interesting, for more than two thousand years catapults were the pinnacle of heavy weapons technology. Then, in the space of less than a century, we are able to advance to Scud missiles. What changed? Well, it’s obvious really . . . Aliens!Canis216
– Welcome to Interregnum
! Thank you for the comments. You’re absolutely right, Ysmir would know Talos as ‘Hjalti Early-Beard’ if you subscribe to the Arcturian Heresy
(which this story does, in a round about kind of way). Ysmir uses the title ‘Stormcrown’ in an almost mocking, sarcastic way. He knows the truth behind Talos’ thu’um (and so will all of you by the end of this chapter), and he goes out of his way to make sure that Talos doesn’t forget it. Olen
– Thank you for the kind words, here is the ‘more’ that you requested.
12th Morning Star, 2E 854
Fort Black Boot, Near Cyrodiil’s Border with Elsweyr
They were winding up a path northeast of the General’s camp when Flavius Livia reined his horse. “What are we stopping for?” He asked.
“I want to see the battle,” Ondereos answered. He dismounted and led his horse through the trees to the edge of a steep hill overlooking the valley.
Livia snorted. “Battle? More like massacre I’d say.”
“I still want to see it.” Ondereos wound the horse’s reins around the trunk of a tree. Then he removed his bow and sat down. He reached into his pack and pulled out a hardened piece of venison that made a ripping sound when he bit into it.
“Mara’s teets, I got men to pay!” Livia said. I should kill you both and take your gold
, Dar’Zhan thought to himself. “As do I,” he said. He rode with his son holding his waist.
“As do we all, but they’ll wait. Don’t tell me you’re not curious.” Ondereos ripped another piece from his venison.
“Wonder how curious you’d be if it were a bunch of fetchers in that fort,” said Livia as he shifted his mace. All the same, his horse began to move toward the edge of the hill.
Ondereos smiled. “In that case, I’d still be riding to Bravil.”
“Alone, with night falling? Thank you, no.” He dismounted and tied down his horse. He moved next to Ondereos. “I don’t want to see my countrymen torn apart by a bunch of dirty cats!” He closed his eyes. “No offense, Dar’Zhan.” Coward! You’re lucky I don’t slit your belly open for that insult
. “None taken,” he said. He smiled at the human. He would not act upon his impulses. Not here, not in front of K’Sharra. The Khajiit must be the best deceivers, for they must always hide their nature from the children of Ahnurr
. Clan Mother’s words, he knew them by heart. He had taught them to his son, as he had been taught by his own father many years ago.
He swung his leg over the horse’s neck and dismounted. He heard the jingle of his purse when he hit the ground. First the soldiers pay me
, he thought, and now I watch them die
. He lifted his son off the saddle and set him on the ground. When the battle is over, K’Sharra and I will go down to the fort and collect whatever treasure we can
. He tied his horse to a ragged stump near the path. That will make me twice paid for one job
. He held K’Sharra’s hand and led him to the edge of the hill.
“After the battle Khajiit won’t be popular in Bravil,” he said, “you two should go on without us.” Baan Dar smiles upon my cleverness
“That’s so,” said Livia, “I don’t want to be seen with no Khajiit after the garrison is taken.”
“He probably wants us out of the way so he can raid the fort,” said Ondereos. Stupid clever fetcher
! “They would not welcome me down there.”
“I still don’t know why you go against your own people,” said Livia
“Because I got paid,” said Dar’Zhan, and the only ones who know will soon be dead . . . except for you two
“Quiet,” said Ondereos, “I think it’s starting.”
From their vantage point they could see for miles in the fading light. To the south, beyond the line of trees in the distance, the Khajiit forces began to move. Like an uncoiling snake, the great mass of troops marched north toward the border.
To the east a horn blew from the fort. The garrison filled the courtyard and the gates were shut and barricaded. Archers appeared along the battlements.
To the west a lone rider emerged from the General’s camp and rode hard to the east. The horse flew past the catapults and disappeared into the grove of trees. In the space of four heartbeats horse and rider reappeared at the other side of the grove and galloped downhill toward the fort.
“That’s the Battlemage,” said Ondereos, pointing at the rider, “I wonder what he’s going to do.” Stupid fetcher
! “You should go down and ask him.” Said Dar’Zhan.
Zurin Arctus waited while the gate was opened. Inside he passed through the garrison. Some of the men had boyish faces, eager eyes wide with anticipation and fear. Others, more hardened, had eyes clear and understanding, resigned to their fate yet determined to see it through. Still others, eyes darting and searching, gathered around the solemn priests who gave hurried prayers to Mara and Stendarr. He ignored them all as he crossed through the courtyard and walked up the steps to the watchtower.
Outside, the first drops of rain began to fall from storm clouds streaked with red. The air was thick with the harsh smell of burning pitch. To the south vengeful shadows began to form at the tree line. The plaintive wail from the metal bars of the native Khajiit instrument carried on the wind.
“They’ll have to cover an acre of open ground to reach the walls, sir,” said Captain Itinius who greeted Arctus with a salute, “as per orders we tarred the stakes with pitch before we put them into the trenches.”
“Very good, Captain,” said Arctus. The board is set, now it’s up to the General
, he thought.
“Even with all that I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before they overwhelm us, Sir.”
“Have you ever fought Khajiit, Captain?”
“I’ve fought the occasional cat here and there, sir, but never anything like this.”
Arctus walked to the edge so that he could see the anxious faces of the garrison.
“Legionnaires,” he began. His voice carried throughout the fort. The garrison, to a man, stopped what they were doing and lent their eyes and ears to the watchtower. “Tonight is meant to be the night of all our deaths. That may be our fate, only the Gods can say. But if it be our fate, let us leave behind a reason for future generations to consecrate this place as holy ground. Let us make them remember that on a night when savage beasts dared to invade the border of our realm the brave garrison of Fort Black Boot held the line!”
Itinius drew his sword and raised it high. “Ordo Legionis!” he cried.
As one the garrison raised sword, spear, and bow. “Ordo Legionis!” rang throughout the valley.
The first Khajiit wave consisted of the Alfiq. Several hundred creatures, housecats to the archers manning the wall, broke through the trees and ran toward the fort.
“Archers!” Itinius raised his hand, but the Battlemage placed a hand on his shoulder. The Captain turned.
“Don’t waste the arrows,” Arctus said.
Itinius lowered his hand and turned back to the field. He saw what the Battlemage meant. The Alfiq moved far too swiftly for the archers. They leaped over the rows of trenches and closed the distance to the walls.
“We could fire the trenches,” Itinius said.
“Not yet. Bring the pitch to the walls.”
Itinius barked the order and seconds later the steaming pots were being passed along the battlements. The first wave of Alfiq reached the walls and, claws unsheathed, began to leap and climb, hissing and spitting at the archers above.
“Let’s give these cats a bath,” Arctus said.
The order was repeated, and the pots were upended; boiling pitch ran down the length of the walls. The screaming of the Alfiq cut through the falling rain as the sticky resin burned through fur and skin.
“Torches,” Arctus ordered.
Itinius repeated the order. Lit torches were passed to the archers, who flung them on the boiling cats below. A curtain of flame spread along the length of the wall, consuming the first wave of Alfiq while forming a barrier that the second wave could not penetrate.
A great cheer went up from the archers, who raised their bows high for the second time that night. The cheer carried to the men in the courtyard, who beat spears and swords against their shields. Itinius smiled through his helmet, his pride showed in the way he lifted his chest and pulled his shoulders back. Even the Battlemage allowed himself a moment to savor the frustrated wails of the Alfiq below. He considered giving the order to fire the first trench, which would trap the Alfiq between two flame walls. Not yet
, he told himself, not yet
The second Khajiit wave consisted of the Ohmes. Bipedal creatures resembling Bosmer left the shadows of the trees. They closed the distance in great bounds that made them look as if they were floating. Behind them their larger cousins, the Ohmes-raht, followed. These, alone among the Khajiit, walked on the heels instead of the balls of their feet. Some, hands glowing, threw spell bolts toward the archers. The cheering stopped as the archers crouched beneath the parapet for protection.
“Spellcasters!” Itinius ducked under the path of a purple ball of magic that disappeared into the clouds behind them.
The Ohmes drew closer. In the glare of the dying flames it was possible to see the tattoos of cat aspect that adorned their faces.
Arctus stepped forward. He raised his hands toward the heavens. The cowering archers along the wall saw the air around the Battlemage glow and spark, growing brighter as he drew more power from Aetherius.
He lowered his arms toward the field and a web of lightning spread halfway to the trees. Any of the Khajiit host caught in the radius of the spell began to twitch and spasm. Some were thrown into the trenches where they were impaled on the tarred stakes. Others fell to the ground, their bodies smoldering.
The rain began to fall harder, as if called down by the lightning. It doused the curtain of flame before the wall. In the dim light of a few stubborn torches the Khajiit bodies littered the field. A second cheer erupted from the archers as they rose to re-man their posts. The men in the courtyard could not see the battle, but they fed off their comrade’s elation. All eyes were drawn to the Battlemage, and for a brief instant every stout heart was buoyed by the same impossible thought. We may yet survive this night
“Archers!” The Battlemage yelled. His voice brought them back to themselves.
The bulk of the Khajiit host broke the tree line and began to spread across the field. In the darkness the men on the wall could only see the outlines and the occasional glint of their blades. Thousands of the leather clad Suthay-raht wielded spears, bows, or sharpened claws. Hundreds of the fierce Cathay-raht, swords in hand, sat aboard their Senche Tigers, each larger than a grizzly. There were many other Khajiit that no man had ever seen.
“Merciful Stendarr,” Itinius whispered.
Arctus turned his head to the west.
A hundred men had been assigned to man the catapults. Another four hundred men waited, armored, mounted, and ready. Five hundred pairs of eyes followed the armored form of General Talos as his white horse cantered up the hill.
Captain Alorius held a torch and waited near the catapults. “They’re being set upon pretty good down there, but so far they’ve held their own.”
The armored head nodded and took the torch from him. He spurred his horse forward to survey the field.
The Khajiit host flooded the entirety of the field in front of the fort. The archers on the wall were firing at will. Yet for each foe that fell another, larger and closer, took its place.
Alorius turned his horse and rode back through the lines of mounted men all facing Fort Black Boot. He spurred his horse down the hill and weaved around the abandoned tents to the center of the camp. He dismounted in front of General Talos’ tent. He turned back toward the top of the hill and, satisfied that he was not observed, unbuttoned the tent flap and stepped inside.
A single candle cast a tremulous light inside the tent. General Talos sat in his golden chair studying a map of the valley spread on the floor in front of him. In his right hand he held a silver goblet that he absently twirled between thumb and forefinger. He looked up as Alorius entered.
Alorius held himself at attention and saluted. “Sir, we are in position. The garrison repelled the first two Khajiit waves, but now the bulk of their host has taken the field.”
“Very well, Captain,” said Talos, “tell Ysmir that he may begin.”
“Yes sir.” Alorius turned, and hesitated.
“What is it, Captain?”
“Apologies, sir,” said Alorius, turning back to face his general.
“Ask your question.”
“Yes sir. It’s Ysmir, sir. I have seen him stand beside you any number of times since Sancre Tor and I still don’t understand how he manages to fit into your armor.”
Talos allowed himself an indulgent smile. “Let’s just say that Ysmir is more than he appears. Now go, I cannot afford to lose Arctus to an army of housecats.”
“Sir,” Alorius repeated his salute and left the tent. He refastened the buttons of the tent flap and mounted his waiting horse. He rode back up the hill, past anxious horses and men who were watching the battle unfold in the valley below them. Ysmir turned in his saddle at Alorius’ approach. By the Eight
, Alorius thought, with the helmet on even his face looks like the General’s
. Ysmir’s eyes flashed in the light of the torch that he held. Alorius’ nod was almost imperceptible. Ysmir turned to the battlefield, a smile spreading across his face.
His shoulders rose, his chest expanded. From behind it looked as if he began to grow. His back strained against the sides of his cuirass. He held up an armored hand. The teams manning the catapults loaded the wolf carcasses into the slings and lit their torches.
When it seemed as if he would bust through the seams of Talos' armor he opened his mouth and allowed his thu’um to pierce the air.
Nothing in their experience had prepared the men of Fort Black Boot for the sheer power that sound could have. It covered the battlefield and the fort and caused the ears to bleed. A few of the archers along the wall were lifted bodily by it, and thrown screaming to the courtyard below.
“By the Gods!” Itinius covered his ears with both hands.
For the Khajiit the sound was worse. Many of the Ohmes and Alfiq could not stand before the hurricane force of the sound wave that washed over them. They were thrown into the dark trenches or swept away entirely. Even the Cathay-raht dropped their swords and covered their ears. Certain victory melted into confusion. The great thu’um finally grew silent. The fort was forgotten as the horde of Khajiit looked to find the source of the sound.
And then it began to rain burning wolves.
Confusion gave way to panic. The burning wolves killed whatever they landed on. Those that did not land on Khajiit landed in the trenches, igniting them into great canals of flame that engulfed any nearby. The screams of the dead and dying filled the air. The Khajiit host was broken. By the thousands they fled back toward the border screaming as wave after wave of the burning wolves fell around them.
A great battle cry was heard from the west. General Talos led four hundred legionnaires that burst through the grove and galloped toward the remaining Khajiit. Many of those that remained on the field threw themselves into the trenches to escape the demon riders. Others were simply ridden down.
It was over quickly after that. Silence descended on the battlefield. The only sound was the hiss of the rain as it slowly doused the trenches. General Talos rode his white horse to the front of the fort, where every man in the garrison could see him. He lifted his bloody sword in triumph.
“Ordo Legionis!” cried the garrison, “Ordo Legionis!”
It took a while for K’Sharra to realize that his father was talking to him.
“K’Sharra, come back to me. We must be going.”
Slowly his eyes focused. He was back on the hillside. Down in the valley the storm had moved to the east. Smoke rose from the battlefield, many small fires still burned.
His cheeks were wet. His father took his hand and led him toward the horses. His father now wore a bow and a mace. He tripped over the splayed leg of the Bosmer and he tumbled. His father helped him back to his feet. He looked at his hands. They were stained with blood, but he was not cut. He was lifted up and put onto the Bosmer’s horse. His father had three purses of gold. They were still there
. He could feel the sound in his head. He could see the burning wolves when he closed his eyes. They rode back to the winding path. He turned and looked past the dead man and the dead elf to the valley. He knew those wolves would follow him for the rest of his life.