REVIVAL OF AN RHOMAION: PART ONE "Empires don't die. They are merely go into hibernation" - Anonymous PROLOGUE: THE DEFEAT AT JULITOLIA Strategos Carian Kamninos of Konstantineyye was horrendously lost. The local guides hadn't been as much of a help as he expected, and the vast expanse of desert and sandstone cliffs in the Julitolian proviences of the Rhomaion Empire didn't really help with navigation at all. Behind him marched 10,000 soldiers of the finest Kerbal infantry that could be mustered from the massive Rhomaion military. It was magic; with a flick of the wrist, he could seperate them at will, send them scurrying for cover, or assemble them into formations. But that wasn't going to help him get out of the desert. He motioned toward a guide. "Haven't we passed that cactus already for the third time in a row?", he asked. A squinty Kerbal with a long grey beard and a hungry glint in his eyes, Sjuai Tianj simply shook his head. The desert was barren, true, but as a native, he knew the difference between one cacti and the other while a newcomer such as Carian obivously hadn't the slightest clue about these things. Details, details, details, he thought. Vultures circled overhead. They already knew what massive armies of gleaming steel and horses meant. Dinner. "Soon." An officer rode up, quickly catching up with Carian and saluted. The scouts were back from their long journey, and had rejoined up with the main force moving westward. Sent by the Carian only a day ago, they had ridden fifty kilometers ahead to check on enemy activity and returned back. "Strategos! The enemy warlord is ahead, we estimate to be about twelve to fifteen thousand soldiers from the lights of their campfires. " Carian nodded, and turned to his aide. He glanced upwards at the sky; the sun glared back, unhindered by the clouds, but the purple streaks of the sunset had already begun to show in the horizon. He checked on his map for the last time; he was about three kilometers east of the nearest city - that is, if he'd brought the correct map. He stopped his horse and dismounted. The campfires of the enemy army glimmered in the distance. "Give the order to halt and set up camp. Order the third Tagma to set up the nighttime perimeter. I want double the amount of guards." And with that, he had done the stuff of magic. The sun was setting, and the vultures, sensing that no dinner would be at hand, returned to their nests. The army scattered, setting up their camp and preparing to settle down for the night. ************************* He glanced to his left. Ten thousand Rhomaion soldiers from five Tagmas stood in full battle array, the sunlight glinting off their weapons and shields. Behind the lines of heavy infantry were the calvary using their lighter shields to shade themselves from the full heat of noon, and behind them were the reserve troops; mostly composed of calvary units and light infantry that would back up the assault on the enemy lines. He couldn't see the Imperial eagle, but he knew it was directly behind the center of the line and that most of the bureaucrats and Senators who tagged along would be there too. Any of the warlord's men attempting to kill them would have to fight through a thick formation of hsotile troops. The Rhomaion army had formed up in a North-South line, with most of the heavy calvary units being placed on the left flank. To hopefully delay any outflanking manuveurs, two tagmas were positioned on both flanks to at a thirty degree angle, forming a trapezoid army formation. Carians main concern was the loyalty of his native mercenaries, most of which were on the right flank. Many of them resented the indefinite Rhomaion occupation of their land, and he knew it. Equipment had gone missing, plans were leaked and sabatoged; each time, they were the main suspects. On the horizon, the enemy troops spread out amongst the desert in a slow advance like a black cloud slowly engulfing the ground as it moved. A horse snorted as two of his aides rode up. "Are the Tagmas in place?", Carian asked. "Yes, Strategos", replied the officer. "Are they clear on their orders?" "Noone gets through at all costs.", mumbled the aide. "Not a horse, not a single kerbal. We understand." "Good. And the scouts?" "The enemy is moving up their whole force. They can't let us just walk up to their main camp without losing face in front of their allies." "And that means he wants victory as desperately as we do.", Carian flicked the reins and the three kerbals galloped towards the main line of heavy infantry. Thick clouds of dust were forming on the horizon, and crossbow bolts were starting to pelt the desert in front of them. "Gentlemen, return to your Tagmas. Order the soldiers to stay restrained and not charge the skirmishers; they are merely taunting us with this light rain. Order the kerbals equipped with crossbows to hold fire." They both saluted and rode off. Carian galloped to the center of the line and observed the situation playing out in front of him. The heavy infantry had begun to advance towards the enemy, and the crossbow barrage had given way to the thundering of the enemy calvary as they charged the soldiers. The infantry, expecting this, raised their shields into a turtle formation; the enemy horsekerbals crashed against the wall and floundered helplessly against the Rhomaionian swords. Riders who dismounted didn't outlive their horses by much. With a great cry, the soldiers slaugthered them, and the rest of the skirmishers withdrew to a safer distance, only returning on occasion to fire a quick volley of bolts before quickyl scampering away. One thing bothered his mind; why hadn't the right flank reported any action? A courier rode up, his mouth foaming. "Strategos! Five thousand enemy troops, moving towards the right! They're using the dust clouds to shield their movement!" If the Rhomaion army had been in a straight line, the enemy contigent would've already been at the rear of the army. Luckily for Carian, the enemy warlord hadn't taken into account the angle of the flanking units. "I want the reserve troops to reinforce the right flank immediately!" Screams of pain could be heard from the front ranks of the Rhomaionian soldiers. The enemy had restarted their barrage, but this time twice as ferocious as before. "Yes, Strategos!", and with that, the courier rode off. The battle had just begun. ************************* Karam murmured to himself as he trudged forward, shield raised against the cloud of dust forming in front of him. Here he was, thousands of miles away from his home in Konstantineyye, fighting a distant enemy that not a single member of his family knew about, marching into a dust cloud that clogged the air between the two armies, as well as his nostrils and armor. In the distance, he could hear the screaming of his brethen as the enemy arrows swept across their lines like a scythe. Swearing under his breath and wishing he was at home with his wife and son, he marched onward with a determination shared only by his fellow soldiers. He looked around; he was on the right flank. Most of the enemy was hitting the center and taking moderate losses, although rumor was afoot that they would be attacked soon. Five thousand soldiers, he remembered. He could hear the clanging of the enemy shields somewhat in front of him. There was a yell, and he raised his sword. Arrows began to strike his formation; the screams of his comrades showed that many had struck their mark. A light breeze swpt the dust away, revealing the outline of thousands upon thousands of soldiers in front of his line. What?! The enemy army was supposed to be concentrated on hitting our center; but they're somehow here! A kerbal in front of him collapsed as a arrow skewered his head, ripping right through the helmet. The dust cloud then vomited out a thousand more, smashing into their formation. Kerbals panicked as arrows struck their shields, and the line wavered before finally collapsing. Sensing the weakness, a thousand calvary burst out of the shadows, bearing down upon the hapless infantrykerbals. The line shattered, and he began to run to the rear despite the yells of his officers to halt - not that they mattered, since the whole unit was fleeing now. ************************* Carian sat with the Senators from Konstantineyye, and looked up as one of his officers approached. Behind him was the nobility of the Empire; officials and superwealthy merchants who apparently couldn't find anything better to do with their time than to watch armies of kerbals slaughter each other. The attacks on the center were light now; despite heavy losses, the soldiers had been able to beat back the enemy calvary, running down and killing around two thousand enemy soldiers and scattered the remainder. Since then, there had been no attacks on the center - well, atleast that Carian knew of. "The men are holding up well; they're tired and have taken some losses but I doubt the enemy will attack the center again." "What about the fourth Tagma? I've heard they've lost half of their soldiers and are still under assault." "They are, but they're holding...however, we haven't gotten a report from Husilleno.." Who commanded the units in the right flank "..and we've heard rumors that they've...they've collapsed." Carian bolted up. "What?!" The flank isn't holding; they've broken through, he thought. If the flank doesn't hold, the enemy can just roll along our entire line and wreak havoc amongst our army... "Listen! I want a report immediately on the right flank! And bring Husilleno to me!". The courier galloped off into the distance toward a rising pillar of dust. He didn't return for two hours, by which time the sun had already begun to set. Dust clouds had reduced visibility to a half a kilometer. There was the steady sound of fighting in front of him, but he didn't hear any news from the flanks. "Strategos! Strategos!", the kerbal cried. He was panting, and had abandoned most of his armor. "What happened?" "They've completely collapsed. Second and Sixth Tagmas got completely annhilated; they just don't exist anymore. The enemy is rolling itself up along the rear, and we've got barely enough soldiers to keep them in." "What about the reserves I sent?" "They've punched through them too. Husilleno is totally surronded, but he's still trying to fight his way out. Most of the soldiers are just running, Strategos! They're just running!" Carian turned to his aide. "I want all the center forces to be sent to relieve the left flank. Order them to abandon positions." "Strategos, I must recommend against this action." "I'm not going to argue. Do as I say." "No!" His aide grabbed the courier. "Listen here. If we send the center forces against the enemy, we're running of risk of losing our entire army, not just half of it." "Returning to Konstantineyye with just four of the ten Tagmas I set out with isn't an appealing option. It's going to destroy my families political career." "What is more important to you, your family or your country - wait, don't answer that. I'm going to strongly advise retreat. We can regroup the army at the coast and attack them again some other time." "And what will I tell the Senate? And the Emperor?" "Your duty is to the Empire. Do you want to save three thousand of your soldiers or save zero? Atleast with three thousand, we can hold our desert territories against local revolts. Do you want to be known as the kerbal who lost all of them?" One second. "Damn you.", Carian snarled. "It will be night soon, fall back; it'll be hard on the soldiers, but it's the only chance we have to preserve ourselves and get out of here with a scrap of dignity." "Yes, Strategos", and both the aide and courier galloped off. Carian was alone now, looking off into the distance. Uncovering his own sword, he took it out and fell on it.