Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Ghosts of Carrhae

"We must engage before they have a chance to resupply."

"If we wait, we will become all the more useless. If we can catch the camel train, there is a chance. We must take that chance."

Crassus was dumbstruck by the rapidly deteriorating battle. He did not wish to send his son on a suicide mission, but it was the only option left to him. Thousands of archers were busy refilling their quivers, fully in sight of the ravaged Roman army. Waiting for the Parthians to run out of arrows, the only solace in many a legionary's mind, evaporated in the brutal desert heat. Death would come without ever having a chance to cross blades with the enemy. No greater despair had overcome a legion since Hannibal marched out of the Alps.

"Publius. Take four cohorts with your Gallic horse and engage the enemy. Go quickly." Crassus gave the order despite misgivings that he may never see his son again. Publius did not contemplate failure in that brief moment before chase was given. He had seen the worst of Gaul and Germania; Parthia could not hold a candle to the giants of the North. Arrogance was a tradition in the family Crassus.

Surena saw the Roman square separate from his vantage point on a distant hill. His bodyguards, composed entirely of Cataphract horsemen, were as eager to close ranks as their Roman foes. Surena held his seasoned warriors back, knowing that certain victory would come as the Roman horsemen separated from their legionary escorts. Allowing Publius's horsemen to crest the hill adjacent to the camel train, Surena signaled his archers to engage the lead elements of the charging Romans. Shooting point-blank, the Parthians brought their firepower to bear on the unarmored Gauls. As arrow upon arrow struck home, Publius gradually lost the ability to close with the archers.

"Strike! What are you waiting for?" Publius cried out in pain as a shaft pierced his mail just below his navel.

"Sir. Our shields are stuck to our sides. We cannot lift our arms if we tried." His troops were not unwilling. The Parthians had simply rendered them unable to engage in battle. Surena saw the opportunity he had envisioned in his mind.

"Now is the time. Charge!" Surena's bodyguards, a thousand strong, surged down the slope towards the stranded Roman cavalry. Surrounded and under constant fire, Publius lost control over his forces and a rout quickly ensued. A lucky few escaped the Parthian cordon, but the vast majority had no means to flee. Publius fell beside his foreign comrades after finally realizing what failure in war truly entails.