Chapter I ~ City of the PharaohsEdit
Aulus stood at the bow of the ship, the wind howling as waves crashed violently into the side of the warship, sending sea spray up into his eyes. Holding onto the wooden railing, he blinked rapidly, desperately searching the sea for his prey. From behind him, he heard shouts as the crew of the trireme struggled to secure the rigging, while those below toiled on the oars. The storm had continued on from yesterday and had not showed any sign of letting up, an ill omen that Neptune did not favour them. It was bad enough that they had been given orders to attack on such short notice, but as thunder rolled across the clouded sky, he saw a streak of lightning touch down into the sea. Turning around he looked at his men, assembled on the deck of the ship. He had only served with these men for five years and he knew the names of each and every man, a feat that he prided himself on.
His second-in-command, his Optio, turned towards him, saluting, pounding his fist on his chest before extending his arm with palm facing downwards and fingers close together: "The century is ready, Centurion, each man has passed inspection and equipment is in tip-top shape sir!" Aulus looked at the man and nodded, "Good work Avienus. In formation, I'll give a short word to the men." Avienus nodded and got into formation as Aulus shouted with what strength he could muster, "Legionaries! We tread dangerous waters today as we prepare to meet the enemy in battle! Steady your hearts and ready your blade, for you will be fighting Romans today! Neptune and Mars bless us all. Roma Invicta!"
The older veterans remained grim-faced, while the younger soldiers gave a cheer as he concluded his speech. It was to be expected, however. From what little he was told, he had heard that they were sorely outnumbered. At the back of his mind, he knew that many of the 80 soldiers making up his unit would not return home to their wives, children, and relatives. It would be a bloody fight to the last, the deciding chapter in this conflict between Caesar's heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and the rogue general Marcus Antonius. Turning away and looking back out to sea, he remembered how his father had looked at him in scorn as he declared himself loyal to Octavian. "You are a fool son," he had said, "To believe that the Republic lives. Rome is ruled by a rex, a king, who's name is Caesar. Die for him and his offspring, Juno spit on them, if you wish. You are no son of mine."
He was drawn away from his thoughts as trumpets and cornicens, horns, blared. Looking up, he could spot the enemy warships, identical to his, making their way towards them. His eyes widened as he saw ahead of him, a warship with two towers jutting out from the deck's surface. Thinking quickly, he yelled, "Testudo! On me!" On his command, his men quickly surrounded him and raised his shields as arrows ricocheted off or embedded themselves in the thick wooden shields. Looking out from between a gap in the shields, he held his breath as the enemy warship got closer and he yelled, "Ready the corvus!"
There was a great splintering and groaning sound as the two wooden warships collided with each other, their respective prows digging deep into the hulls of the other. Reaching down, he blew his whistle once. From behind him, ropes were released and the drawbridge attached to the pole at the front of the ship came crashing down, sending wood splinters upwards as its metal spike dug deep into the wood planks of the enemy ship. Drawing his gladius, his shortsword, he looked back briefly: "Give them no quarter lads! Move!"
He raised his shield as he crossed the narrow bridge to the other ship, arrow fire raining down on them from the towers. He flinched reflexively as the legionary beside him caught an arrow in the throat, causing him to fall off the bridge. Several arrows found their mark on his shield, but he continued on, finally charging off the bridge and barreling into an enemy legionary with all his weight. The man stumbled back and Aulus lowered his shield, thrusting quickly over his shield at the man's neck.