Note: The first engagement in the Valkorian Civil War was one of great loss of life, and a testament to how bad terrain can completely overthrow the best laid plans of any general. The rebels, a force 20,000 men strong under the command of Titus Numitor, marched south to attack the ruling Emperor, Gaius Caesarius. Gaius led his army out into the field personally, and the two armies clashed along the Alba river.
The mists of steamy Valkoria drifted across the river, while lights flickered and danced. Fireflies flitted their way about, dodging the birds who made one last attempt to eat before night fell.
More than birds were eating. Thousands of men were encamped upon either bank, the sound of two armies entrenched a never ending rush of noise. Cooks served up the rough soldiers rations of bread and olives, with a bit of oil for the lucky ones. The forests had been chopped apart in by fire seeking troops, and deep trenches and tall ramparts of wood lined the sides of the river. On the morrow, one side would have to cross.
Rifles lay stacked in neat bundles, swords and shields leaned against tents and stumps, cannons stood stoic in the dark. Weapons of all sorts, from the small 9 pounder weapons, to the 18 pound death dealers. Hundreds of legionaries, their armor begrimed, sat polishing weapons and equipment.
Gaius stood on a bluff overlooking the Alba, while behind him the loyal, royal legions prepared for the battle to come. As he gazed over the small body of flowing water, he could see the pacing sentries of the Northern Army. He wondered if Numitor was over there, likewise perusing the foe.
Numitor was not on the riverbank. He was directing the defense of the northern side of the river. He stood in his tent, a stream of aides dashing back and forth, carrying orders and information. Under his experienced command, the Northern legions were digging in, a host of men busy as bees.
While Gaius watched the river, just out of sight across from him, Numitor’s army dug trenches and erected palisades, furiously flinging dirt and wood about under the oncoming cover of night. Outnumbered, the only thing for the rebels to do was fight defensively until an opportunity arose to turn the tides of war.
Gaius listened. He almost thought he could hear the faint sounds of axes being plied. He shook his head, dismissing the thought. Why would I think MY army isn’t chopping trees?
THE BATTLE ALONG THE RIVER ALBA
The night passed, with Numitor spending it watching his men prepare for the battle to come. In the morning, he drank a quick cup of the dwindling supply of the Ebongraspian coffee, donned his armor, and strode out of his tent, where he had managed to catch a quick nap.
He found his staff gathered together, waiting for him. After exchanging quick courtesies, they walked to a hill somewhat behind the front lies.
”Our men are dug in good and tight sir, it will take a lot to get across that river. When Caesar comes, we’ll be ready for him.”
Numitor looked out and about him. In quiet, coordinated lines, helmets just peeking over the top of the deep trenches, he could see thousands of soldiers, the red crests of the regular troops, the green inlaid armor of the skirmishers. Across the Alba, fog enveloped everything, obscuring the far bank. But he could hear muffled shouts, and harsh cries, spoken by the centurions and optios of the royal army.
”Well gentlemen, to your positions. You know what to do. Hold them. Like a wall.”
The officers saluted, and vanished to their positions.
Titus took the field glasses a waiting aide handed him. He looked again at the enemy bank. He could see vague outlines of men in armor, faces whipping through the fog. He gave a quick order to an aide. ”Remind General Mondarus that the enemy must not get too great a foothold, to keep them from getting pontoons across.” Clutching his jangling sword, the aide dashed off.
A few moments of anxious waiting later, the fog parted, to reveal the rough bridges being formed by the royal soldiers. The rebel troops stationed along the river let loose a withering fire, rifle bullets cutting into the attacking men. They ceased their building, and grabbed their rifles, returning fire. The distant thud of a cannon told Numitor that elsewhere, battle was beginning.
A royal battery was rolled forward, men heaving at the wheels, swiftly rotating the guns towards the smoke obscured defenders. Several of the artillery sets dropped, cut down by a swathe of lead, but the rest survived, and began firing, while a cohort began advancing into the river. They must have found the ford…
With a loud crash, a rebel cannon exploded, hit by a enemy cannon ball. Working like madmen, the royal battery poured shots into the now weakened rebel line, tossing foot soldiers into the air like rag dolls. The cohort marched forward, their normally precise line coming apart under a sharp, precise fire still rippling from Numitor’s side of the river. After sustaining numerous casualties, they fell back.
Titus felt more and more like an observer, a mere bystander, while the battle unfolded. Bodies continued to clog the river, as hammpered by the terrain, Gaius could only attempt to probe the line for weak spots. His losses were great, but he did find a few.
After hours of never ending din, while Numitor issues orders to his generals who sent his a stream of reports, Gaius thought that he had found what he needed, and withdrew. The cannons kept firing, but the lines of infantry fell back from the river, and then a blessed silence fell upon the battlefield.
Numitor at once called a meeting of his generals.
”Today was merely a test. Gaius now knows our weak spots, such as our center. If he commits to an attack, which he will, we will be hard pressed to hold the bank.”
”Then we will drive him back with the sword, my lord.” spoke a old Legate with a record for staunch courage in the face of odds. ”If the rifle can not hold him, and the cannon cannot hold him, then we must engage in a melee.”
Numitor agreed. ”Indeed. Our only concern then will be the confusion of recognizing friend from foe. Tell your men to not wear their crests. It should help.”
END OF THE FIRST DAY