What It Means to Be a Centurion

by Bryan Baugh

What it means to be a Centurion

"Cohort... ATTENTION! Right.. FACE! Present.. ARMS!" 120 legionaries' swords hissed as they whipped into a salute. The Centurion took off his helmet and decided to inspect the squads closely. The bands of steel that wrapped around the soldiers waists shined in the morning sun. The red tunics and cloaks had been pressed and not a wrinkle showed. Their Gallic helms were polished and sanded until the Centurion could proudly see his reflection in them. The troops themselves were bathed and shaven and he liked the fact that they were all Roman. This wasn't an auxiliaries unit. Oh no this was fifth cohort out of Rome herself.

Every single one of them was Roman born and Roman bred. The soldiers were as diverse as the city itself, and as Centurion Lucius Decimus Patria walked, he could the see the difference between the members of the head count that wanted to give their children citizenships and the upper class scum trying to avoid paying their debts or family obligations. The head count was the bravest and most loyal. Then their came the second and third class citizens. Who either joined the army to eat or they were going to sell them selves into slavery. Last and least in the Centurions mind was the First class citizens that had joined their ranks. They were born with everything that some of the boys out here were going to be dying for, bleeding for, and killing for.

They had their citizenship they had their coin rolling around in their leather pouches. They either wanted adventure or had joined to piss of their rich patrician families back at home. Some of them had run away from a life of luxury, because they had done some horrible crime and now were hiding from the law or from their debts by going into the legion.

Decimus hated this kind of soldier most of all. He grinned with the thought of their rich little pudgy faces when they realize how they have jumped from the pot straight into the fire. They have never done something hard their entire life. They lived on their own whim and a flick of the wrist. Slaves have had to do everything for them until this point. They have no sense of pride no sense of strength and everything they do is done on the back of others. Decimus spit on the ground at one of their feet.

"Good Morning MAGGOTS!" the Centurion bellowed.

"Today you graduate your school of basic combat training! Tomorrow you the 7th and the 24th will march to Persia under command of the great Consular himself Sulla.

King Mithradates has financed a rebellion that has consumed almost the entire east. His army of mercenaries destroyed three legions and all of Greece has rebelled. Romans and pro Roman citizens have been dragged to the outskirts of the city's they live in and stoned or beaten to death. Some of them have been skinned alive in order to prove to Mithradates that they are loyal. If you have family in the east it is simple YOU don't anymore! The bodies of Romans have been showing up all over the place. The number of dead is over three hundred thousand and climbing daily.

Your job on this campaign is simple. Blood and Thunder.. that is the phrase I want you ignorant wretches to remember. Blood and Thunder, I have been directed to tell you that their will be no slaves taken on these campaigns. Their will be no leave or rest and relaxation. You're going there for Vengeance and fire. The legion you are joining is the 15th. That's right the Thunder legion.

You will be the Center Phalanx, the Phalanx of Blood. For you will see more battle then anyone else. You will be the center cohort that the enemy will throw themselves against with complete abandon. If you fall Rome your legion will fall and if the 15th falls then the army falls and if the legions fall then there is nothing to stop that boy tyrant from Marching on Rome herself. Are you going to go down in the history books as the ones who allowed Rome to fall?

"NO SIR!" came the yell that echoed across the training grounds.

"Or are you gonna be the Cohort saves Rome from her barbarian invaders. Are you gonna be the cohort that drinks blood and marches with Thunderrrrrr!"

The men joined in the cry "Thunderrrrrr!!!"

"That is what I thought. You look mean enough you seem sharp enough. Let's see if you're strong enough? So in conclusion of my little speech I Centurion Lucius Decimus herby salute you. Cohort, May a scar never form on your back and if you die. Die knowing that your Patera and Matera are waiting for you in Alyssum that Rome is grateful. May you lay at Mars feet enough warriors to feed him for eternity. May Juno bring you home safely and wealthy and may the thirst of your swords be quenched on the blood of barbarians that threaten your mother Rome."

Decimus gave it a few minutes to sink in as he paced back in forth of the finely tuned Cohort.

"Legionnaire of the 5th cohort... Attention!" The swords slammed back into their sheaths and with a sharp snap the cohort brought their boots together and their shields to their chests.

"With a long step...ready... March.." Lucius mounted his horse as the cohort lifted their leg waist high and then dropped it to the ground to start their march to the sea.

"Your Left.. Your left your left right left. Your one two to the three four to the three four! To the three-eh four!" The Cohort marched the fourteen miles to the sea with new and vigorous determination. They actually looked forward to their first battle. They were aggressive in their March and went threw the mileage like they were fish coasting threw the water. The Centurion atop his steed called cadence all the way from the training grounds to the ports. His voice never cracked or wavered it was steady and strong and it echoed up and down the road.

The 5th the 7th and the 24th met at the docks and the majority of the troops were too much in awe over the size of the quartemene that waited to take them across the sea. Most of these men had never seen a warship before and they were shocked by its largess and its beauty. A hand carved figure of Juno seemed to exploded from its starboard bow while from port Neptune angrily had lowered his great crowned head in defiance of whatever the sea might bring. In an orderly fashion the fresh cohorts were marched up the plank and onto the boat. The warship rocked gently under the new weight of strong men and heavy armor. Cerivus Potious ( a squad leader from the 5th) pointed in awe at a shaft of wood that was as big around as a tree that 150 feet straight up. At the top of the massive pole and just within shadowy view was a large box that looked similar to the head of a hammer. Out of this hammer like box came a spike that protruded like the stinger of a great wasp. 15 feet at least did it protrude, it came to a needle sharp tip and it was made of bronze. The sharp command of the Centurions snapped the cohorts back to attention.

Decimus who was Primas Pilius and out ranked the other Centurions took command.

"To you members of the 7th and the 24th I am Centurion Lucius Decimus and I am your commanding officer. Tonight you will hang your shields on these hooks that hang off the side. Your pilium and spear will be stacked into that corner to my left. You will keep your gladious's and pugio's on you at all times. You will each be awarded a chest tonight that you can put not only your personal affects in but your armor as well. Their will be multiple inspections on this trip and if your armor has a spot of rust on it then their will be harsh reprisals. Your bunks are down stairs and I suggest that you get to them and get to sleep for tomorrow you will work and train as you have never done before! What are we training for Centurion you might ask wells legionnaires after this trip you will be one of the most sought after units in all the legions combined for you will be... Marines!" the Centurion paused before continuing.

"Company Fall out!"

Immediately the three groups of organized men fell into disarray. Men hustled to the side of the deck and hung their shields off the hooks they threw their piliums in the corner indicated and sprinted downstairs into the hull of the ship towards the bunking quarters. It was a race for the bottom bunks and every soldier new it.

The men pushed and shoved each other out of the way as they made their way into cramped hallways that made up the hull.

The soldiers were slowed momentarily when the pleasant aroma of smoked pork and jasmine hit their senses as they passed the kitchen. Yet it was only momentary for the moment they were shoved or pulled the fight to get to a good space continued.

Decimus along with the other Centurions Thesus and Plutarcho shook their heads as they watched the childish display from above.

" They are supposed to be the most disciplined soldiers in the world, can you imagine how the undisciplined must react when given a warm place to sleep." Thesus asked sarcastically. Plutarcho responded in defense.

"They are just boys Thesus, give them a break they have been marching all day and they want to get some sleep." Decimus smirked.

"They may be boys now but very shortly they will be men and the time for boyishness will have passed with this journey for my guess is that before to long they will be neck deep in blood." The Centurions then decided to call it a night and after a curt salute they headed off to their separate quarters. Meanwhile down stairs the pushing turned into brawling.

A member from the 7th set his belongings down on a lower bunk and then turned around to take off his shoes. That's when a squad leader from the 24th threw his gear on the same bunk.

Now the volunteer from the 7th was Greek and actually quite popular in the city he hailed from. He was a boxer and a champion wrestler. His name was Hedrnoxliplies and he was from Neopolis. Standing up he walked around his bunk grabbed the squad leaders bags and threw them on the floor. Now the squad leader was a Berber named Chonah and Chonah was drafted into the military by his master in order to serve in his master's place. He stood six foot two and was of a violent temperament. He hated the Roman Legions who had enslaved him and hated the fact that he served them. The only thing he was grateful for was after two years of service, he and his master would be free. Standing up to his full menacing height he looked down on the Greek who was beneath him in rank.

"Pick up my bag and find another bunk little man." Now normally Hedrnoxliplies or "Nox" to his friends is the friendly sort he only stood about five eight maybe five foot nine and was covered in thick muscle hidden by dark hair. This evening though he was in no mood to be either friendly or to back down to the large framed black that stood in front of him.

"This is my bunk moor, and you know it. Keep your goat hide pack and your oily skin off my bed." With cat like reflexes that were developed on the sands of the Sahara the Berber lashed out with a roar that spilled from his lips like a beast from the Jungle.

The first strike was a vicious slap that caught the Greek unprepared. But the second landed harmlessly against the Greeks defensive arms. The Greek threw a right cross and with gnarled knuckles connected viciously against the Berbers exposed cheek. The moors head snapped back and slammed into the wooden frame of the bunk bed. With a surprised hiss the black kicked out and caught the Greek in the belly and pushed him back into the hallway of the soldier's quarters. Immediately the call of the observers echoed up and down the hull.

"Fight, Fight, Fight!" The men immediately started placing bets on who would win the fight, the giant Moor or the hairy Greek. Rubbing the pain out of his belly the Greek took up his stance. The Moor showed his teeth and rushed his adversary. With two short chopping uppercuts the Greek stopped the Moors rush and then wrapped his arms around the black's middle and threw himself backwards. Chonahs face collided with the hard wood planks that made up the lining of the boat. The Greek smiled at himself as he leaned back and drove his fist into the ribs and kidneys of his enemy. With a dramatic twist the black turned over and slammed the Greek down on his back. The Greeks head slammed against same post that his enemies head had hit earlier. Shaking it off the Greek not only held on to the Moor but slowly like a serpent began to apply pressure. The black twisted and lifted his arms up and back again five ten times slamming his elbow into the Greeks stomach and hip. It did little good the Greek tightened his grip again and cut off the Berbers air supply. Rage and fatigue gave way to panic and fear. The black with pushing and clawing got to his feet and ran at the opposite bunk twisting at the last minute and slamming the Greeks body into the hard wood. The hairy mans grip lessoned a little and the black was able to lower his chin just enough. The blacks filed down teeth dug deep into the Greeks arm. In shock at being bit and in pain the Greek let go and threw a kick of his own into the blacks groin. The Moor doubled over as his vision blurred from the pain that rolled up his body like a runaway cart. Wasting no more time the Greek grabbed the Moor by his short bobbed hair and shifting all his weight slammed his fist into the blacks jaw over and over again. In quiet resignation the mighty Berbers eyes rolled back and he slumped down into unconsciousness. The hull erupted in cheers as the Greek lifted the big man onto his shoulders and marched him down to an empty bunk and soundly threw him on it. He then ceremoniously went back up the hall and grabbed the Berbers bag and threw it at the sleeping form of his enemy. With jovial slaps on the back and smiles of encouragement the Greek now nicknamed "Hard Nox" went to his bunk and soundly went to sleep.

Five am came early for the company and the high-pitched nasal sound of Thesus screaming at the top of his lungs was annoying enough to cause everyone to be in a fowl mood.

From below them they heard the boom of the slaver pounding the drums and the high pitched creek of straining wood as it pulled against the sea.

"Let's go you maggot infested lazy sons of whores!" The Centurion would then kick a few bunks and start again.

"Time to get up you pitiful excuses for soldiers! Get up you twats! Let's go! Time to rise and shine you dog carrion! Come on you liver eating goat fuckers come on wake up!"

That day was the first of many hard days for the company they cleaned and drilled and puked and then cleaned then drilled then puked. Using "Rudius" or wooden swords they were forced to battle each other all day and half the night while striving to develop their sea legs. It was not pleasant to say the least. Primus Pilius saw the dark purple bruising on a Squad leaders face. Grabbing him by the arm the Centurion asked what happened.

With one eye bloodshot and swollen almost shut and the other eye clear the Moor responded.

"I slipped on the stairs."

"Are you sure?"

"Oh yes! I'm sure." With that the Berber carrying a bucket of water, and a mop, pulled his arm away and went on with his duties. The Centurion turned back to the soldiers who were training.

"Okay you pieces of Latin dog dung, what you're learning today, is how to fight on a rocking boat. How to keep your balance and stay in some form of formation while being pitched back and forth. How to not over, or under throw your pilium. So your gonna continue to fight until you get it right." Decimus smirked when one of the combatants ran to the edge of the rocking ship and threw up his morning's breakfast. Decimus had made sure that the cook had served them sausage and eggs, fruit and grape juice. He then had the cook spice it with strong spices so when they puked they would savor that flavor for the rest of the day.

That night the soldiers refused dinner and wine, they asked for water and went directly to bed. Decimus and the other tribunes sat down together on the top deck and played some dice while the snores from the men echoed quietly on the water.

Within three days all the men had fully developed their sea legs and now were learning skills that they would only be using at sea. These men were infantry, they were not archers nor were they artillery but on this voyage they would learn to be. Taking a key from around his neck he handed it to Thesus and ordered him to break out with the bows. The men feasted on porridge and apples for breakfast and not a one of them got sick during the morning practices. The soldiers wore their tunics and their swords and that all for today they were going to learn how to shoot. Decimus stepped forward to center of the company.

He signaled to Plutarcho who brought out a dummy stuffed with straw. Thesus handed him a bow and a quiver of arrows.

While all the men watched, Decimus in one motion drew an arrow pulled and fired. The bolt shot forward and sunk deeply into the chest of the fake enemy. Then showing off he fired the next twenty bolts in less then a minute. All the bolts landed with deadly accuracy and thudded into the chest head and neck of the fake enemy.

" A Marine is the most deadly beast on all of Terra(earth) why is that? Because he can use any weapon at any time on land or at sea. You will learn to use this weapon efficiently with in two days or you will swim back to Rome."

Decimus handed the bow back to Thesus and walked up stairs to where a table lay under a shade. The table over looked the deck and the outer ocean. He watched with cold calculating eyes as his men were handed bows. In rows of four the soldiers with three shots each fired at four targets that were down deck and then were forced to retrieve their missiles and get back in line.

Under the hot Mediterranean sun the men shot their arrows. They were given water every hour and a cold lunch of sliced pork and

Apples. Decimus watched as the men threw out the day slowly got better. Some had natural skill others had shot before and those that already showed some skills were pulled off the line and order to help the others learn.

Decimus saw something beginning to transpire and he leaned forward in his chair to watch closer. The big moor and the Greek who had avoided each other silently were at the line at the same time. Decimus guessed that the Greek is the one that put the big Berber down and he had fought against and alongside the Berber tribes he knew that the black had not forgiven and was only waiting his chance. Sure enough he watched the Berber glance around at Thesus and Plutarcho and tilt his bow slowly towards the Greek who was concentrating on the target. With a finale look around the Berber fired on the Greek just as the Greek known as Hard Nox fired on the dummy. Decimus leaped to his feet and sprinted down the steps to the landing. The arrow that was shot with murderous intent flew off and thudded into the triremes main mast. The goose feather shaft past right under the Greeks nose. Nox realizing what happened growled and using his bow like a blade whipped it across the black giants face. It landed with a smack and as he moved in to finish the job he was lifted up and dropped three feet backwards on his rear. Looking up in shock he was staring at the shadowed face of Decimus.

"Stand down Greek." The Centurion then looked at the Berber who was gently rubbing his bruised cheek.

"You there soldier stand at attention. You're from the Berber tribes aren't you Moor?" The question wasn't meant to be answered.

"Do you know that I fought with your Kind for four years against those bastard Persians. I then fought against your people when you were raiding good plantations in Africanus. I know your kind Berber and I know your pride will never allow you to quit trying to kill the Greek." The Berber simply nodded. Decimus moved closer to him. The Moor stood at attention.

"What is it you want more then anything in the world Berber why are you even here with the legions you detest."

"Freedom sir I want to earn my freedom." The Moor looked up defiantly at the Centurion.

Decimus waited for a minute and responded.

"Well Moor you shall have it." Thesus and Plutarcho both looked at him in shock but said nothing.

"Did Rome give you that tunic?" The Moor nodded.

"Take it off." The Moor looked at him and Decimus stared back with cold dead eyes.

"Take it off." He said again this time quietly and with more menace. The Berber took it off.

"Those caligulae(BOOTS) look like Roman issue are they?" He didn't even wait for a response.

"Take them off." The Moor kicked them off. He didn't like where this was going but he didn't know for sure what was going to happen.

"I Centurion Lucius Decimus Patria, Primus Pilius, of the 15th legion of Consular Sulla herby execute my military power and free this man from his oath and his enslavement to the Legion and his Roman Master. Thesus bring me one of our Chickens so that we may send our friend off to his freedom with the gods blessing."

Thesus like everyone else was confused but he did what he was told without question. There was nothing but the creaking of the ship and the soft blowing of the wind as both crew and soldiers looked on in wonder. Soon the silence was broken buy the clucking of a fat hen that struggled in Thesus's grasp. Taking the bird with one hand and drawing his pugio with the other he sliced the birds head off and held the twitching foul over the side bled it into the sea. The entire ship was silent as he did this. He then handed the bird to the moor and stepped away a few feet. The moor looked at the headless bird and then at the Centurion.

"Chonah you are now free!" Decimus yelled at the top of his lungs and then he turned and with a mighty kick from his powerful legs he sent the moor spiraling back into the cold black Aegean Sea. Decimus held his hands out to the cohorts.

"Come soldiers of Rome see what happens to those who receive freedom without proper sacrifice. Without proper labor."

The cohorts rushed the side and watched with horror as Chonah dark head burst to the surface. He held his fist high and screamed

"I am Free from you, you bastards!" A quiet hush was broken when the soldiers spotted sharks that were flocking to the area.

"Enjoy your freedom you traitor!" Decimus yelled back. The Moor was a warrior and a fighter to his core. Bets were made on how long the Berber could last. He rained down viscous blows on the fish that darted in between and around his naked legs. Finally a big one swam in from the east. It was the biggest fin that anyone on the boat could ever remember seeing. The soldiers all watched as the newly freedman was jerked underwater. Then when they were about to turn away the water exploded with bloody froth as the Warrior continued to fight and try his mightiest to bring pride to his ancestors that were watching and waiting. He was dragged back under again and this time never to reappear again.

"Does anyone else want their freedom?" The Centurion hollered at the top of his lungs.

"Okay maggots! It's as simple as this the man next to you will be the man that saves your girlie hide. You kill him then who's gonna be there to save your worthless ass when the time comes. No one else will have the balls to serve with you. Not only do they have to watch their fronts but their backs as well? No This stupidity ends now and here so look at each other and get over your problems."

Pausing briefly the Centurion met every soldier's eye before continuing.

"Well what are you waiting for, you Gallic shit patties go back to the line and finish practicing... Fall out!"

The other two Centurions made a beeline for the Primus Pilius. Decimus knew that one or both would be offended. Now was the time to find out if their loyalty still stood with him. Together the three of them went below into the Soldiers Quarters.

The soldiers went back to practicing on how to shoot the bow. Within a few hours the men were smiling again and wages were being made on who was the better shooter. While Decimus argued with his fellow commanders in private the cohort slowly and effectively became deadly with the bow.

The two days went by fast and the whole of the three cohorts could at least shoot good enough to merit Decimus's approval.

The Centurion now ordered that the next two days were filled with siege drills. The warship that they rode upon carried with it two manglinells and four trebuchets. So for two days straight they learned how to load and fire and reload weapons that were built for causing as much damage and fear on the water as humanly possible. The spirit of the crew and marines were high they ate better then they did at home and they worked so hard during the day that the food and wine tasted even better. Centurion Decimus made sure everyone slept well and checked on them nightly.

After three weeks at sea a crew man sighted land and the call went out.

" Land there is land to the starboard bow." It was Greece, once friend and alley now bitter enemy that lay to the north of them. The rocky cliffs and empty beaches spoke bitter testament to the carnage that must have taken place there. It seemed that smoke had enveloped the entirety of the city states as island after island lay in shuddered ruin. Once towering communities of light and joy with high walls and beautiful temples, busy markets where Romans and Greeks alike competed over business now lay in huddles ruin with shadow and darkness as constant companions. Bodies of roman citizens floated black and bloating in the water while sharks of all shapes and sizes tugged and ripped at the white togas and red tunics. Smoke from piles of burning bodies filled the docks while the Greeks of all the tribes and Kingdoms huddled in fear inside their homes starving, afraid to come out and face what they had done.

Soldiers aboard the loan Roman warship wept out loud and tore at their tunics. Most of them had family in some part of Greece and what had happened was emotionally devastating.

Centurion Decimus's voice rang out across the still waters.

"Mind what you see Marines for there is the future of Rome herself . Now listen up cause I'm only gonna share with you once what's taken place here so that you know who your enemy is. Your enemy is not Greece or her citizens. Mithradates stormed across Greece with 300,000 men in less then a month. They destroyed our only three legions and sacked Athens troy and half of Macedonia. Before the legates in charge were able to send word and seek help Mithradates forces had all the major cities within his grasp in a siege. The King of Kings as he likes to call himself offered terms of surrender. Either the cities themselves drags out into the street and kill every Roman or the city would be burned to the ground by nightfall and every breathing Greek would be slain in such a way that would make Carthage look like a boat trip down the Nile. The Greeks did as their new King commanded and every single Roman in a two thousand mile radius has been killed. You see what has happened to the cities that refused they have been burned and every living thing has lost its life. It only took a few cities to go out like this before the rest did as they were told."

The oars and the beating of the galley drum was the only sound herd as they passed the wasted land. The soldiers listened and steeled themselves in their heart for their first armed combat against this King and his horde of Mercenaries s and peasants.

"We pull into port in fourteen hours gentleman get your gear ready and get some sleep. Tomorrow we meet Sulla and with the Consul we will march against the bastard that did this!"

There was no heroic cheer! No shout of vengeance or cry to heaven for strength. Only the sounds of the oars hitting the water and of soldier's teeth grinding into wordless promises of vengeance.

The marines silently went below to follow orders and get some sleep. Decimus and the other Centurions went above to play cards and drink some wine.

The sun went down behind a cloud of smoking cities as the ship slowly got closer to its destination. The galley drums were soft as they rang out into the darkening sky. Decimus dismissed the other Centurions and leaned back in his chair. He was tired and knew that he had to sleep before tomorrow's long march. Thesus and Plutarcho both offered to keep his watch he waved them off as if they were silly flies.

"Nope tonight I will keep vigil and pray that Jupiter allows the souls of these Romans into Elysium and that Vulcanous is to busy with his furnace to realize what's happened here" Thesus just shook his head and followed Plutarcho to his quarters. Decimus allowed the wine to go to his head as well as the gentle rocking of the vessel as it was slowly pulled farther northeast. After saying a few quick prayers to Neptune and Jupiter the Centurion fell fast asleep in his chair.

About 3 hours went buy before the bell rang out like a warning from the gods. Decimus leaped to his feet and noticed that sometime in his sleep a fog had settled in on the water. Out of the fog a mighty quartemene exploded forth not two hundred yard off the port side. The loud beating of multiple drums pounding angrily resounded in the Centurions brain as he realized that the pace the ship had was ramming speed. Grabbing his nearest attendant he threw him towards the lower decks.

"Get the men ready!" He screamed at the top of his lungs. The Centurion sprinted down the stairs himself and drew his sword it looked like a collision was eminent and that they would be boarded shortly. He watched as the cold black water churned frothily at the base of the huge Pontic war ship. It speed was incredible. Decimus suddenly realized that this was exactly how a fly felt when seeing a rolled up piece of parchment descending on its head. At the Rudder of the Roman trireme the Captain pulled with all of his might trying to turn the vessel carrying the three cohorts out of the way of the big beast that bore down on them. Decimus heard the wood and bronze creak and scream as the ship lifted half of its hulk out of the water trying desperately to make the turn. Decimus ran to the side to hold on to something watched as a carved wedge of a horses head bore down on them violently. The cohorts had wasted no time and in full armor came sprinting up from the soldier's quarters. The captain was still straining at the rudder as the Trireme made its wicked turn. The Pontic ships battering ram missed the bulk of the Roman war ship by only a few measly feet and instead it sheared into her oars like a mighty ax in a dry olive garden. The crack of sixty oars splintering into kindly followed by the shouts of scared and injured galley slaves echoed across the dark water.

"Get to the siege! Archers! To the ready!" Out of nowhere it seemed the other Centurions were by his side and they were barking orders. The three cohorts rushed to do what they had been training for the last three weeks. Thesus handed out bows and quivers full of arrows while Plutarcho oversaw the siege being loaded and the pulleys triggered. Decimus adjusted his helmet as the enemy ship coasted by them with all her oars pulled safely inside her big blue belly. Lanterns swung back and forth from the deck of the enemy ship and he could see the archers and siege from all the way across the expanse that separated their two ships. They knew as well as he that the Roman was dead in the water. Without the oars they were sitting ducks. The ship silent went buy them and then the oars hit the water and it turned about looking to finish the job.

"Archers fire your arrows" Decimus yelled at the top of his lungs.

The smell of burning pitch filled the night as the arrows were dipped into the fire.

"Aim at the mast!" He turned and watched as the new archers tilted their arrows up to prepare against windage and elevation.

"Fire at will!" Thesus echoed his call

"Fire at will!" the twang of two hundred arrows was a sweet sound. They hissed threw the air and landed with fantastic accuracy over a hundred yards away. The whistling of the arrows continued and Decimus actually herd the cries of men being injured or struck down by the first flight. He looked over at Plutarcho who was anxiously awaiting his turn to contribute to the demise of the enemy. Decimus nodded.

Plutarcho's voice echoed in the night.

"Siege fire your bolts and bottles!" torches connected with vases filled with oil and arrow heads wrapped in pitch clothe.

The heat was extraordinary; Decimus felt it halfway across the ship. Plutarcho didn't wait long.

"Fire!" The loud twang of the trebuchets rang out as bolts of fire shot across the sea and buried themselves deep in the enemy ship. The manglinells lines were cut and the small vases filled with oil shot threw the sky like comets and landed right on the deck of the mighty quartemene. The enemy was again coming at them with ramming speed and their marines had not yet prepared for ship to ship engagement and now as they bore down on the tiny Romans fire was spreading terribly fast. One man was in the way of a trebuchet bolt and was actually pinned to the main mast. Cries of alarm and pain began to spread as fire quickly consumed the animal skin mast. The Roman cohorts continued under pressure to fire blindly into the ship that was bearing down on them with increasing speed. The arrow began to take more effect as now the Romans were targeting shadows and lighted enemy men. The horse head battering ram slammed into Neptune's lowered bronze head. A mighty ring rang out for what seemed like miles and Roman and Pontic soldiers alike grabbed their heads as the ringing of the collision went out like a shock wave. Decimus seeing an opportunity ran forward and cut the pulley line on the boarding spike. If the Roman warship went down it would defiantly take the burning Quartemene down with it. The giant spike descended in a mighty blur and slammed into the poop deck of the enemy vessel.

" 5th cohort! 5th cohorts form up!! 7th provide covering fire! Form up you maggots!" Decimus grabbed a shield off the rail of the ship and before his men could protest began to march directly onto the enemy ship. Plutarcho screamed after him.

"What do you want me and my men to do?" Decimus responded by waving his Spata toward the enemy. The 5th grabbed shield and rushed to catch up with their Centurion who was fighting alone on the enemy ship. Thesus had his men firing blindly into the ship and into shadows trying to cover the madman as he advanced into enemy territory. The 5th forming a wedge on the plank rushed aboard the enemy craft after their Centurion only to see a shield wall being formed by the enemy. They watched as Decimus with his long sword struck down a man who attacked him with a giant war spear. They immediately formed up beside him and engaged the enemy in hand to hand combat. The clang of swords on helmets and shields and the cry of the injured mixed with the crackling of flames and the roaring of smoke that poured out of the lower decks. Thesus's 7th continued to pound the upper decks with steel tipped arrows. The wall that the enemy tried to form was quickly shot down and then over run by the 5th. Hard Nox ran to the bow and waved at Thesus. Thesus go the idea and told his men to drop the bow and pick up the piliums in the corner.

Mean while a prince and his guard were cornered next to the Captain of the enemy ship on the upper deck next to the rudder. The fighting was vicious and the Roman Cohort was in the process of getting pushed back. The 7th then arrived as reinforcements and the guard fell with iron spears lancing their throats and stomachs. The Prince though witnessing the falling of his men and the destruction of his ship refused to surrender instead plowing into the Roman line with an ax in one hand and a curved sword in the other. Decimus rushed to meet his charge. With his Oval Scutom in one hand and his long sword in the other he met the barbarian prince's charge with a ferocity that matched the lone enemies despair. The Roman watched in awe as the two war mongers slammed into each other again and again. The Pontic prince had long black hair and a beard that came out from his chin in a triangle. Decimus had short blond hair tucked under a Gallic helm that held a crest of red horse hair on it. The princes hair had been braided with bits of gold and jewels weaved into it he wore no shirt and the soldiers could see that even if he was high born he was a warrior to the core. He had about five scratches and slices from this evenings engagement but even in the firelight you could hundreds of other scars where this Prince had obviously fought in and had lived threw. Decimus ducked as the heavy one handed ax sliced threw the air with the full intention of slicing the top of his head off. The Roman then thrust twice. Each was parried by the barbarian. Twisting into a circle the dark haired easterner slammed his ax and then his sword into the Centurions shield which never wavered. The newly trained cohort saw first hand their training go into affect. The Centurion kicked out quickly and missed but as he dropped down he pounded his foot onto the top of the prince's foot. The prince hissed as the Centurions blade shot forth past his guard and lanced his shoulder. Determined not to die the princes ax went high and caught the edge of the Romans shield. Instead of fighting over possession of it the Centurion stepped forward and slammed his shield into the Pontic's body. He then brought his blade around in a wide arc. The blade cut threw the air and whipped by the Princes head. The prince dropped his ax and shoved against the Romans shield and pushed him back by three feet. He then leaped up on the railing and slashed wildly. The first cut slammed hard into the Centurions helm and red horse hair flew off into the crowd of observers. The second was met with the Romans own sword. The centurion parried the slashes and then cut with his own, the blade which had the muscle and science of thirty years of combat cut threw muscle and bone and blood flew across the deck of the ship as the cry of a noble son was lifted to the heavens. Stepping back Decimus lowered his sword and let his Scutom drop to the deck. Breathing hard he motioned for the injured Prince to come down.

"Come down Prince your ship is ours your men are dead or being made dead and you alone will be granted amnesty. You have fought well for someone of your ilk but you have still lost. So come down get your leg bandaged up and then drink with us to our victory!" The prince's eyes which were blood shot from smoke and pain growled his reply.

"Roman Dog your victory is short lived. Even as we speak my father pushes Sulla farther and farther back towards Rome. Your pitiful fleet has been destroyed, and your homeland is devastated by civil war with the Latin states that you refused to give citizenship to. Rome's days are numbered and your pitiful victory over this ship and her hired crew amounts to nothing."

Decimus was tired and his temper flared

" Fine stay up there and bleed to death with this Knowledge that all of your men have been tossed to the sea as a sacrifice to Neptune and that princely blood is more valuable to him then a thousand others so when you see him tell him a lowly peasant sent you to see him." Grabbing a pilium from the one of the 7th he brought it to his shoulder and launched it perfectly. The spear arced and slammed into the stomach of the long haired barbarian. Who grunted and struggled to pull it out. Decimus walked over to the railing from which the savage prince deftly balanced on and grabbing the spear he pushed it all the way threw the enemies body. The Prince grunted and groaned and finally fell silently into the sea. Turning around and wiping the sweat off his brow Decimus saw the entire company watching him with a little bit of wonder and awe.

"What are you maggots gawking at get this ship cleaned up and throw the dead overboard. Thesus get down to the galleys and find out if we have any Roman slaves down there if so free them. Plutarcho take some of your men and go threw their stores anything down there worth finding out about let me know." Hard Nox came up to Decimus and helped him remove his helmet. Blood ran freely from a cut along the Primus's scalp.

"Sir we need to get that looked at right away." Decimus nodded weakly as he sat down on a bench that was covered in blood.

"I'm so tired Nox." His sword clattered to the ground as his body tilted forward. Nox caught his falling form and felt something wet and sticky in his left hand. Pulling his arm away he saw that it also was covered in blood leaning the Centurion down on the bench and pulled the mans cloak to the side. Their in the armpit was a very deep puncture made by a spear. The wound was permanent and fatal.

Nox great brown eyes began to fill with tears. Decimus looked up realized what must have happened and lifted his hand to wipe away Nox's tears.

"Do not weep for me legionnaire; I have been given the greatest gift of all." Confused Nox asked

"What do you mean?"

"There is no greater honor then to die for your country. Dying to keep others free from Tyranny and monarchy."

"Your not dying!" The Greek hollered

"I am dying son, for I am dying the way I wanted to with a sword in my hand and the enemy at my feet." With that a cloud passed over the Centurions eyes and into Elysium he went. That night under Thesus's command the 5th cohort burned Centurion Decimus body along with the enemies' ship. The 5th wept.

AFTERWARD

One week and four days later with the 15th legion in the center Sulla pushed back the hired forces of Mithradates all the way back to Athens. With the cry of "Decimus" the 5th cohort was essential in breaking the enemy line.

They were the most awarded unit in the entire war and two of them were given the gold crowns by the rest of the legion. With a scar that ran the length of his face "hard Nox was sent home back to the Aventine to raise another couple of cohorts he was given the new rank of Centurion. If you wonder along the Tiber between the Aventine and Rome herself you just might (if you strain) hear the call of the Centurion that still rings today centuries after the last one faded from memory.

"Hurry up you Maggots what are you gawking at get in formation.

Attention! To the quick march ready.

Your Left!

Your left!

Your left right left!

Your one two to the three four to the three four to the three'e four"

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