The Sword of Jupiter - Cover

The Sword of Jupiter

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 10

While the legionnaires finished off the last pockets of resistance, Ky found Velius near the front of his troops, yelling and even kicking a few to get his units pulled back together. Ky was fairly surprised by the sheer chaos he found around him.

“Dominous,” Velius said as soon as he saw Ky. “Your plan worked. When the Carthaginian bastards crossed the ridgeline, and I saw just how many of them we faced, I was almost certain we were done for. You should be proud.”

“While I am pleased with our victory, the price we had to pay is too high. It will take a while to recover from this. If the Carthaginians were smart and followed up the attack, there wouldn’t be enough clever tricks in the world to save us.”

“I don’t think they can. Ramirus seemed to think this was the bulk of the ground forces the Carthaginians had on Britannia. They will need to pull in additional forces, maybe all the way from Africa. That will take time.”

“That’s some good news, at least. Are your victories always so ... chaotic?”

Ky was looking around at men searching through dead bodies for loot, wandering off, and generally no longer functioning as an army.

“Usually. At least they haven’t realized yet there’s still the Carthaginian baggage train to be had. The men take their bounty very seriously and look forward to a battle so they can claim their part of the spoils.”

Ky frowned at this statement.

“Do you have some men that will follow my orders and not join in on the looting?”

“Strabo’s men were at the front of the First Cohort and saw you in action. I’d be willing to bet they’d follow your lead.”

Ky hadn’t realized that Velius, who he’d lost track of when the assault started, had been close enough to the front to see him.

“I need to take them with me to secure the baggage train. While I’m gone, I need you to ensure the Carthaginian soldiers are allowed to surrender. Find a place to contain them until I talk with the Emperor about them. They are to be fed, given tents if possible, and be well treated. Is that clear? Aelius should be nearby, make sure his men know this.”

“Yes, Dominous.”

While Velius seemed a little thrown by the order, he took it in stride and didn’t protest, which Ky appreciated. They may have won, but Ky still had a lot of work to do and was already thinking about his long term plans now that he’d thrown in with the Romans.

Collecting the Romans, Ky ordered them to fall in behind him and marched towards the baggage train. He wouldn’t have thought it possible, but when they eventually arrived, they found the scene even more chaotic that the main battlefield.

Some of the camp followers, many of whom had been women, had tried to run towards the main Carthaginian forces and were stopped short of the tree line. Ky had at first through they were also digging through fallen Carthaginians looking for something of value. What he found when he got closer disturbed him to his very core.

“Get off her!” Ky screamed, grabbing a man by the back of his neck, and sending him flying over some of the gathered men watching the scene.

All of the men froze, staring at Ky in wide-eyed fear, allowing the women to scramble off the ground and escape. Although a few of the assaulted women ran back down the road away from the Romans, the bulk of them ran behind Ky, pulling their torn clothing to cover themselves as best as they could.

“Centurion!” Ky shouted without turning around.

“Yes, Dominous?” Strabo said, moving quickly to Ky’s side, his voice sounding wary.

“Take your men and secure the Carthaginian baggage train and all prisoners. If you see any more scenes like this, I expect you to step in. Civilians who participated in the battle can go back to the city, but I want any legionnaires to be held until I can talk to them. Arrange for the captains to help transport, under guard, all of the Carthaginian equipment and treasure back to the Seventh Legion. I want every weapon, piece of armor, and clothing collected. No looting. Leave me five men and get to it. I’ll see you back at the Seventh.”

The centurion saluted, pointed out five men to stay behind, and moved quickly down the forest road towards what remained of the Carthaginian baggage carts.

“You five will escort these women to the Seventh Legion and inform Velius that I want them held with the other Carthaginian prisoners until we can figure out what to do with all of them. He is to set up a separate holding area for women. They are to be guarded and have their safety ensured.”

Ky stopped and looked at one of the men in the eyes to make sure he took the next sentence seriously.

“If anything happens to these women, I will hold you five personally responsible,” Ky said with menace in his voice.

“Yes, Dominus.”

Ky let his voice soften and said, “Show me the honor I know a Roman legionnaire has, and I won’t forget your service.”

“Thank you, Dominus. You heard him. Let’s go.”

Ky left them to wrangle the terrified women, who’d at least been mollified by Ky’s words enough to go with the Romans and headed back towards the Roman legions.

By the time Ky got back to the battleground, the bulk of the Romans were gone, with scattered parties working to collect weapons and the dead. The Roman camp was a hive of activity when Ky finally reached it. He was surprised, although he realized he probably shouldn’t have been, to find the Emperor had arrived and was conferring with Aelius and Velius.

“The man of the hour,” Germanicus said as Ky pushed through the tent flap. “I knew you’d come through for us.”

“You were the only one then. I was certain of nothing.”

“That’s because you still refuse to believe the gods brought you to us in our moment of need. I, however, have the wisdom to see the truth.”

The Emperor gave a mischievous smile suggesting he was at least partially messing with him. Ky couldn’t help but return the smile. So far he’d mostly seen a dour, serious leader worried about his people’s survival. It was interesting to see a window into parts of the man’s personality he’d suppressed for expediency.

“Now that the immediate danger is passed, there are many things I want to discuss with you. The most pressing being the lack of discipline I saw in the legionnaires after their victory. I found some of your men doing unspeakable things. Murdering, looting, and abusing prisoners.”

“If there had been a pressing danger, I assure you my men would have kept things in check,” Velius said defensively. “After a battle like this, men need to vent their anger and feel like they’ve benefited from victory. It’s how soldiers are.”

The looks of agreement on the faces around him stunned Ky.

“Not where I come from. We treat prisoners as human beings. We do things according to laws, not on a soldier’s whim. I will not be a party to this kind of thinking.”

Ky knew, of course, this wasn’t entirely true. There’d been plenty of instances of atrocities among his own people. The ideal, however, deserved to be upheld.

“I can only say that we will listen to what you have to say and if at all possible, we’ll do what we can to implement change. I think I can safely say that all of my legates understand that you are the only reason there is still a Rome at all. I hope I can infer from your statement that you plan on staying with us?”

“Although I started to have second thoughts about the decision; yes, I think I am going to stay. I want to warn you, there are a lot of changes I’m going to suggest. Some of them, like suggestions for new tools and technology, your people will see the immediate benefits and will agree easily. Other things you are going to question, or not even understand. There will be a few that will require rethinking some of the core ideas of your people. I can’t claim that I know what’s best for Rome, but I can tell you ways of doing things that, in the long run, will allow you to not only survive Carthage’s attempts to destroy you but maybe fight back and even win.”

“I can’t promise you it’s going to be easy,” the Emperor said. “There are a lot of powerful interests in Rome that like things the way they are and have fought me on every change I’ve tried to implement to help Rome survive. I’m fairly certain my ideas pale in comparison to what you’re going to suggest. What I can promise you, is that I will take everything that you suggest seriously. I’m also fairly certain that the legates here will do the same.”

“Absolutely,” Aelius said.

“Yes,” Velius said.

“I know what you’ve done for us. I trust you to help us, and I hope you will trust us even when some other Romans fight against us.”

“I think I can. These two men and their subordinates that I’ve met have shown themselves to be good and honorable men, as have you. That’s a good foundation to start with.”

“Excellent. Some of this will have to wait, as there is still a lot to do in the wake of our victory. The victory games of Sulla were postponed as we prepared for the Carthaginian assault. I can’t think of a better time to celebrate them, now that we have a new victory to celebrate.”

“Imperator, is this really a good time for a victory celebration?” Ky asked.

“It’s the best time for one. You need to understand that the games of Sulla are an important religious holiday for us, where we hold competitions and games in honor of the victories the gods have granted us. Not holding these games offends the gods. Don’t worry, besides a victory parade and opening of the celebrations, nothing should take away from what you want to start. The priests will run most of the actual ceremonies. Hours ago the people of Devnum thought they were going to be slaughtered by the Carthaginians. They need this.”

“I guess you have a point. When does the celebration happen?”

“We will hold the triumph tomorrow morning for you and both legates. Afterward, I would like you to be with the legates and myself during the speeches to the people. After that, we can sit down and begin talking about what you need. For now, the legions need to recover their dead, and the injured need to see the physicians. Let’s leave them in Velius and Aelius’s capable hands and return to Devnum.”

Ky looked at Velius, who held a hand in what Ky assumed was supposed to be a soothing gesture.

“We’ll be fine, Dominous. I understand your concerns about prisoners, and I promise I will personally ensure your will is followed on the matter.”

“I know you will, Legate. You’re a good man, both of you. After all this,” Ky said, waving his arm in the direction of the battle, “I don’t want to abandon the men.”

“I have centurions to help deal with the legions, my lord. You have more important matters to tend to. We need you to focus on what only you can do and leave the rest to us mere mortals.”

Ky started to protest, but the Emperor’s hand gripped his elbow, guiding him out of the tent.

“Would you escort an old man back to town, Ky?”

“Old man? Remember, I’m the one that told you what to expect after your recovery. I’m betting you feel better right now than you have in years.”

“Yes, well ... appearances must be maintained. Besides, it was all I could do to keep my daughter from riding out here with me. She will want to see you soon.”

“I’m not sure why she’d want that, but I’m happy to serve, Emperor.”

Germanicus placed Ky’s hand on his forearm and patted it, giving Ky a knowing look that he couldn’t interpret. Ky and the Emperor, along with some of his personal guards, traveled to the center of town, and the government complex that served as the forum, governmental offices, and personal residence of the Emperor and his family.

Ky walked with the Emperor to the forum, before turning to head back towards the quarters he’d been assigned, with plans to have more documents sent up. Despite how hard he’d pushed the Emperor to begin planning their next steps in preparation for the next army the Carthaginians were certain to send, Ky wasn’t one hundred percent sure what that plan actually was. While there were a few things that he could think of off the top of his head for quickly evolving their society, Ky was far from a historian or a scholar. He - and by extension the AI, upon whose databases of later era technology he’d be leaning heavily upon - needed more information to build a plan. Information like what the current technological base or societal norms were in areas from medicine, to military hardware, to basics like how their craftsman and scientists thought. Once he and the AI knew where they’d be starting, they’d be able to make a plan on how to move things forward.

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