...does even a single Senator care to think about reinforcing the troops? For that matter, do they even know where our present frontiers are, by Jupiter? I bet they think that we collect taxes all the way from Indicus!
Prologue: Last of the Romans
Forum Romanum, Rome. Sometime in late 450 AD: Snow was falling over the darkening streets of Rome when Mohanius left the Senate chambers. Leaving the forum Romanum he headed for the palatine and walked briskly towards his villa. The cold was mild, but the old man did not seem to notice. And with good reason too. While his body traversed the irregularly paved roads of Rome with ease, Mohanius's mind was mulling over the events of the day, particularly the Senate meeting. The powerless puppet of an Emperor had made a pitiful fool of himself when he agreed to each and every dumb proposal brought forth by his maternal cousins, prominent and rich senators all of them. "Poor Rome!" thought Mohanius with a sense of pity and nostalgia. He often dreamed of the days when the standards of Rome fluttered over every major city from Londinium to Mesopotamia. But those days were long gone, and only the crumbling shell of a rich past remained. "The empire is crumbling, and enemies of the state are gathering ominously at the frontiers. Yet does even a single Senator care to think about reinforcing the troops? For that matter, do they even know where our present frontiers are, by Jupiter? I bet they think that we collect taxes all the way from Indicus!"
He had every reason to be angry. Reports indicated that the Germans were heading for Latium, something which they had been doing with alarming frequency in the past few decades. Decent troops were hard to find, and Mohanius had taken all his efforts to raise an army to march against the Germans. The Senate had deemed it proper to deny the embassy from the thousands of Germans in the provinces - The Foederatii, as they were known - thereby depriving Mohanius of much sought after manpower. The General would have none of it. He had stormed into the Senate meeting and forced the Princeps Senatus under the threat of his gladius to sign a law that allowed the men to apply for citizenship. It was not that the General enjoyed such encounters. But at least he now had the necessary power to enlist the Foederatii in the army.
The wind was rising, and the last on the sunlight was gone. Mohanius hurried on, shrugging off his thoughts about the Senators . The Foederatii waited; he had to find weapons for them before they marched...
The Ambitious German
Teutoberger Wald, Germania. Late 450 AD: Chief Manojix, high Thegn of all Germanic Tribes, had only one ambition left in his life. His forefathers had all tried to defeat the power of Rome which with mostly disastrous results. At countless venues ranging from Aquae Sextiae to Ariminium, thousands upon thousands of Germans had bitten the dust fighting against Rome. Manojix aspired to be the first German to ride through the streets of Rome in triumph. A weakened and much smaller Rome, but Rome nonetheless.
As the first step, he had successfully raided the outposts of Rome, prompting the border garrisons to lead elusive and often disastrous searches for the Germans. But the time for such hit and run attacks was past. The time had now come to head for Latium. When it came to Latium, Manojix was nervous of but one factor - Old man Mohanius. The two had engaged in a battle before, and Manojix had been lucky to escape with part of the army after the Roman Archers had slaughtered the fiercest of German braves in melee to the horror of the entire German army. The thought still gave him the shivers. "But things will be different this time! The German army is better prepared than ever before. We'll win, old man Mohanius or not!"
A gift from the Goths
Somewhere in Long Haired Gaul. Early 451 AD: In the via Principalis of the Roman camp, some archers waited for audience with the General. These were veterans from an earlier battle having been dismissed after the campaign. Rome couldn't afford to keep troops waiting between battles. They had come to re enlist with Mohanius.
Mohanius received them with warmly and listened to their petition with patience. Patiently he told them about his decision. "Dear men, I appreciate your concern for Rome and respect your loyalty. Yet, we are not looking for Archers in this battle. You are welcome to garrison Irvenium" Irvenium was a nearby town from where Mohanius obtained his supplies. The archers were surprised, as were legates Polymius and Drusus the General's aides. When the archers had left they voiced their concerns "But sire, these men fought valiantly in the last battle. Moreover, the Germans fear them. Why then are their services being dismissed?"
Mohanius smiled cannily. "If I know Manojix, he will be expecting the archers to create trouble this time. And he'll be prepared for them as well; I would place my bet on his spreading out a skirmish screen to shield his troops."
"But", Mohanius continued "I don't expect the Germans to foresee what we will throw against them this time. Gentlemen, may I introduce Rieger Getilla" a soldier had entered the tent, and was waiting at attention, "leader of our newly acquired light cavalry. Getilla is here at my express request, his men are a gift to us from our Gothic allies"
Drusus and Polymius nodded at the newcomer. Comprehension was slowly dawning.
"We will use Getilla's men to target the German cavalry. I want to see for how long their horsemen can hold out against the seductive charms of Getilla's men" The audience understood that the General was being sarcastic for in reality their was nothing charming about the deadly arrows which the skirmish horsemen could launch with deadly accuracy in the most disruptive fashion.
"Take a look outside the camp - anyone can see how the two hills dominate our side of the field. We have an advantage here - our men are better trained than the Germans and can change position at short notice, allowing us the choice of deploying on either flanks. This is one luxury which Manojix and his Germans cannot afford. All their men will be rearing for the kill once they sight us, which leaves them but one opportunity to get it all correct"
"We will not engage them from our right flank; all our infantry will be on the left. Divide the Foederatii and have them stay close to the legionaries. I am putting Getilla and some of his skirmish cavalry on the right as a delaying measure. They should do well in the open space available. Let the heavy cavalry - the Equites and the Cataphractii - take up the hill in the centre." Mohanius reflected for a moment on how amazed a Roman from a few hundred years ago would have been to see all sorts of 'barbarians' in the army. But the time of the Caesars was long past. Nowadays one had to make do with what there was. But there was a brighter side to the things too. Man for man, the Cataphractii and Equites packed a better punch that the best cavalry of Marius and Caesar could ever have.
He spelt out the key idea of his plan: "We will attempt to taunt the Germanic cavalry to chase us and abandon their positions. Once this is done we will smash their horse with ours, grab the hill on their side and wade in with our foot for the kill"
Somewhere in Long Haired Gaul. Day of battle: The morning sun found Chief Manojix in good spirits. He was surveying the ground again, the tenth time in as many minutes. The more he looked, the more convinced he became. "The Romans cannot field as many men as we do" said Manojix to one of the thegns "they will try to find a place and hold it. Given the lay of the terrain, it will be the hill to their right, or on the hill to their centre. Either way, there are bound to be archers on the hills. We will let the javelinmen give us some cover and advance close enough before letting the young ones lose to devour them"
The "Young ones" he referred to were the German fanatics. Fiercely motivated, armed with whatever they could lay their hands on, and deaf to any commands save charge, these men would lead the charge. It was interesting to note that none of them wore armour; they complained that armour hampered their speed. Manojix was using the word "devour" in good faith. His past experience with them had made him highly suspicious of their chances of succeeding against heavily armoured opponents.
"With any luck, the young ones should make a dent in the Roman lines. The rest of our foot can follow up and widen the divide. Our cavalry can stay atop the hill on our side to guard the right flank; I do not foresee any incursions from the left" He ended his talk on a positive note. Had Manojix but known how his moves had been predicted by Mohanius, he would have dropped dead then and there. It was not so, and the man gave the warriors orders to form up.
As swift as a Goth
The Germans formed up very quickly in their enthusiasm to give battle. The sight of thousands of men filling up the open ground instilled confidence in Manojix's mind. "There were just too many people! Let us see how Mohanius will take this!" His cavalry were atop the hill, everything seemed to be in place. But, Where were the Roman Legionaries? The only enemy soldiers visible directly to the Germans were the two groups of Gothic cavalry which stood far away. Manojix looked all around the battlefield. Where were Mohanius and his men?
The man Manojix was looking for was already moving. All the Roman foot stood diagonally opposite the Germans, and were marching ahead to gain ground as fast as they could. The Roman Skirmish cavalry were moving ahead with a purpose. Mohanius had entrusted them with specific orders which were now being followed to the last word. Like the north wind across the plains of long haired Gaul, the Roman-Gothic Skirmish cavalry began to head smoothly and swiftly towards the Germans. They halted barely yards away from the German javelinmen and positioned themselves almost within reach of the German fanatics. Each move of the Romans seemed an invitation to a chase, each manoeuvre seemed to mock the German fanatics.
Manojix was getting alarmed. The fanatics needed but the least of provocations to lose what little discipline they had. And the Romans seemed intend on providing just that little spark. Quickly, he ordered his javelinmen to advance. He had to gain some ground to manoeuvre the men. But that move alone was not enough. With ridicule writ over their faces, the Romans skirmish cavalry withdrew a few yards, and turned to face the Germans again. The little trick with the javelinmen had not impressed them in the least.
Manojix surveyed the situation again. The Roman skirmish cavalry had to be engaged and pushed back if his men were to march around the hill and meet the Roman infantry. If only his cavalry were in this flank! He cursed the moment he had decided to put his cavalry atop the hill. They were now stuck in that position unable to do much save watch the Roman heavy cavalry across the battlefield. And the sight was not comforting. On the low hill right across them stood the Cataphractii - men and horses clad head to foot in chain mail, polished to give a silvery shine in the sunlight. "Holy Germania! How are we going to tackle these brutes?"
But brutes or no brutes, he had to clear the Roman Skirmish cavalry. Manojix ordered his own cavalry to descend to the plains. "Let us see how Mohanius swallows that!"
Your Mission: Harry and Distress the Enemy
The "brutes" were at that moment receiving orders to descend from the hill they occupied. Part of the Roman plan called for finely orchestrated "harry and distress" runs on the German cavalry. In a godsend move, the German cavalry were coming down the slope to the plain ground, thereby making them more vulnerable to the Goths' arrows. Mohanius took in the situation with a sweeping look across the whole battlefield. His skirmish cavalry were in place, his Cataphractii were ready. The old man smiled a wicked smile. As if on cue, the horse archers sped into a gallop while drawing their bowstrings taut. The Romans attack had begun on time.
Manojix caught sight of this new move from the horse archers only after they had reached very close to his heavy cavalry. He barely got time to shout orders to his own men - to stay put. They would surely be tempted by the tactics horse archers, but Manojix wanted them intact for another place and purpose. A few hundred arrows flew harmlessly into the German cavalry who cursed and tried to cover themselves with their small round shields. The horse archers did not show any sign of disappointment; they merely turned and fled all the way they had come. Mohanius was not disappointed either. The show had only just begun.
As soon as the horse archers retreated his subordinate informed Manojix of yet another problem brewing in his his ranks. The fanatics were getting angry. They desperately wanted to charge. Calling for all his reserves of patience and calm Manojix himself set forth to talk to the 'young ones'. The fanatic 'young ones' agreed to hold their ground for the time being - but only for the time being. The German CinC heaved a sigh of relief. His battle line was still holding. But the frequent trips to talk to the fanatics was costing him in time and effort. The cavalry waited for orders, as did the skirmishers on the hills. And all the while, the Roman Legios and Foederatii advanced nearer and nearer.
The End of Patience
The battlefield had become unusually quiet. The fanatics had piped down and were taking a break from shouting curses and battle cries. The Roman horse archers were replenishing their arrow, and the German heavy cavalry were waiting. Manojix was silently watching the situation unfold while Mohanius conferred with the leader of the Cataphractii.
It all changed when the horse archers were ready. These men cooly turned their steeds towards the German cavalry - and charged. the charge was but a feint; they only intended to jab more arrows in the direction of the German horsemen. Yet again that day, the Romans reached very near the German cavalry and let go of all their missiles. They turned to flee...
...and heard a chorus of shouts go up in their rear. The German had had it. Unheeding of the orders being shouted to restrain them, the outraged riders quickly forced their steeds into a gallop and headed directly for the fleeing enemy...
...who whooped in glee and galloped for their lives! The Germans had fallen for the trap that Mohanius had set for them. Their lances met but thin air, the horse archers having long fled. After an energetic chase both horse and rider stood irritated and tired. And they could not do a single thing against their harriers who mocked from a distance. Slowly but surely reality dawned on the chasers. Looking around they found to their horror that they now stood yards away from the protection of the hill; to their either flank stood Roman heavy cavalry. On their left were the 'brutes' - the Cataphractii - who were preparing to charge...
Mohanius merely smiled at the sight. For him it was but another act in a drama well acted. The climax was yet to come, by Jupiter!
Et tu, 'Brutes'!
Mohanius himself gave the charge signal to the 'brutes'. Who promptly went into action. A confused enemy presenting a flank was something they could never resist. The steel tipped lances became horizontal, the spurs dug into the sides of the horses, reins were loosened and the riders braced themselves for impact. The charge was born.
And hope died for the Germans.
The charge itself was executed with practiced precision. The Cataphractii proved why they were held in such respect by all. In a single sweep they splintered the Germans, splitting them in to small groups of fleeing men and horses. Like wraiths in a fire, the steel clad figures rode back and forth among the fleeing cutting down the unfortunate and the slow. Chain mail drenched in enemy blood the Cataphractii emerged victorious with the heads of slain foe on the tips of their lances. Mohanius merely smiled at the sight. For him it was but another act in a drama well acted. The climax was yet to come, by Jupiter!
Across the field, Manojix could not see even a trace of drama in the events. It was very much a part of his life. His could very well be the last German attempt to oust Romans and disaster had struck early on. He had two choices now - to let go the fanatics allowing them to do as they pleased. Or he could hold them a while and try to get his more disciplined troops to climb the hill while they still had time. True, some of his cavalry were still on the hill. But these were vulnerable to hit and run attacks. The decision was made - the fanatics would have to wait for some more time. The hill was critical and Manojix badly wanted his troops on its slopes.
If there was one thing about which the Romans agreed with the Germans in this battle, it was on the importance of the hill. Mohanius was only too aware of Manojix's need to get the German infantry on the hill. But he had other plans, and the Legios and Foederatii were marching hard to put the Roman plan into action.
Manojix cursed the way Germans brought up their sons. For them, military service was seasonal. You fought when you had to. By Belenos, would he not give his right arm for trained troops like the ones Romans had? He knew that this was something men before him had wanted as badly and died without. Vercingetorix the Gaul, Boiorix of the Belgae, Thorismus of the Germani - the list was endless. What prompted such a line of thought was the tardiness with which the German Light infantry turned and marched in response to orders. Brilliant and fierce in fighting, these men found it difficult to follow the simplest of manoeuvres much to Manojix's chagrin. "Wheel Right! Right, not left - look here, at me! Head for the hills!"
But they were not quick enough. Not by a good margin. By the time the men sorted out their directional alignment and began to march, the Romans were gaining the hill. Roman heavy cavalry were on the slopes, having pushed back the skirmish screen as if they did not exist. And behind them followed the Legios and the Foederatii. Desperate, Manojix tried to to slow down the advance using his javelinmen. But that was not to be. The javelins merely scratched the surfaces of the Legios' heavy mail; when the reply came with swords the skirmish screen merely shattered. The Romans began to ascend the hill.
Without any prompting from the commanders, the surviving German cavalry on the hill began a hasty retreat. The sight of their compatriots being slaughtered had deflated their pride. If the enemy wanted the hill they could have it, by Belenos!
Spirits, dressed in evil Roman attire led a dance of death down the slopes, consuming anything they touched. Shamans tried to stop them but were blown away by the winds of evil. All those who faced the fire were burnt like locusts, such was the fury of the Gods.
A few frantic minutes later, things became deadly clear to Manojix. His army was very well encircled. To the front stood the horse archers, ready to engage any time. To his right flank high on the hill stood half the Roman army with well armed Legionaries and Foederatii among them. To the bottom of the hill stood his own men. Good fighters, but no match for a downhill charge...
Mohanius needed but one glance from the top of the hill to give orders. "Charge" he said simply.
A German elder later recounted the tale. Time had blurred the details about the exact events but the story still retained the intensity of feelings that ran riot when the charge materialized. "And the whole hillside moved, erupting with the wrath of Belenos. Hot fire poured out of the cracks from Mother Gelena. Spirits, dressed in evil Roman attire led a dance of death down the slopes, consuming anything they touched. Shamans tried to stop them but were blown away by the winds of evil. All those who faced the fire were burnt like locusts, such was the fury of the Gods."
The Germans were finished, but Manojix got the wish. He walked in triumph through the streets of Rome. Only, it was the Triumph of General Mohanius. Steel chains bound his ankles together. And at a distance, the Tullanium waited...
Mohanius stayed in Rome only for the duration of the triumph. He disappeared after the triumph. The soldiers from the farthest of the Empire later reported an old man and his horse in Syria. Rumours said that the man was headed for the snow covered mountains of Indicus. But no one knew for sure. No one but the old man himself.
...the Prisoner was allowed one last wish. To the astonishment of all present Manojix wanted to climb the Rostra and shout. His wish having been granted, half of Rome turned up to hear what the prisoner had to say. From atop the rostra, watching heads of his friends and relatives adorning the walls nearby, Manojix shouted with heartfelt agony: "Mohanius is The Devil!"
Yet another enjoyable battle using the highly playable Medieval Warfare rules. The armies used were Patrician Roman and Germanic Tribes.