Authors: Peter Darman
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Historical, #Military, #War, #Historical Fiction
Copyright © 2013 Pete Darman
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Those marked with an asterisk * are Companions – individuals who fought with Spartacus in Italy and who travelled back to Parthia with Pacorus.
Those marked with a dagger † are known to history.
The Kingdom of Dura
*Alcaeus: Greek physician in the army of Dura
*Byrd: Cappodocian scout in the army of Dura
Dobbai: Scythian mystic, formerly the sorceress of King of Kings Sinatruces, now resident at Dura
*Drenis: Thracian, former gladiator in Italy and now a senior officer in the army of Dura
*Gallia: Gaul, Queen of Dura Europos
Kronos: soldier from Pontus, commander of the Exiles in the army of Dura
*Lucius Domitus: Roman soldier and former slave. Commander of the army of Dura
Marcus Sutonius: Roman soldier captured by Pacorus, now the quartermaster general of Dura’s Army
*Pacorus: Parthian King of Dura Europos
Rsan: Parthian governor of Dura Europos
Spandarat: Parthian lord in the Kingdom of Dura
Surena: a native of the Ma’adan and the King of Gordyene
*Thumelicus: German soldier in the army of Dura
*Vagharsh: Parthian soldier who carries the banner of Pacorus in the army of Dura
The Kingdom of Hatra
Adeleh: Parthian princess, youngest sister of Pacorus and wife of Vata
Aliyeh: Younger sister of Pacorus and Queen of Media
†Apollonius: Governor of western Hatra
Assur: High priest of the Great Temple at Hatra
*Diana: former Roman slave, now the wife of Gafarn and Queen of Hatra
*Gafarn: former Bedouin slave of Pacorus, now King of Hatra
Herneus: Governor of eastern Hatra
Kogan: Parthian soldier, commander of the garrison of Hatra
Mihri: Parthian Queen of Hatra and mother of Pacorus
Spartacus: Prince of Hatra
Vata: boyhood friend of Pacorus, governor of northern Hatra
Vistaspa: Parthian commander of Hatra’s Royal Bodyguard and general of Hatra’s army
Aschek: King of Atropaiene
Atrax: King of Media
Axsen: Queen of Babylon
†Mithridates: former king of kings, now an exile in Syria
*Nergal: Hatran soldier and formerly commander of Dura’s horse archers, now the King of Mesene
Nicetas: Prince of Persis, son of Narses
†Orodes: King of Kings of the Parthian Empire
Peroz: Prince of Carmania
Phriapatius: King of Carmania
*Praxima: Spaniard, former Roman slave and now the wife of Nergal and Queen of Mesene
Silaces: soldier of the Kingdom of Elymais
†Alexander Maccabeus: Prince of Judea
†Artavasdes: Prince of Armenia
†Aulus Gabinius: Roman governor of Syria
Haytham: King of the Agraci
Malik: Agraci prince, son of Haytham
†Marcus Licinius Crassus: Roman politician and Governor of Syria
†Mark Antony: Roman cavalry commander
Noora: Agraci wife of Byrd
†Publius Licinius Crassus: Roman cavalry commander, son of Marcus Licinius Crassus
Rasha: Agraci princess, daughter of Haytham
†Sampsiceramus: King of Emesa
Scarab: Nubian slave
†Tigranes: King of Armenia
‘Miserable Armenian bastards.’
I kicked at the ground in frustration, stubbing my toe painfully as I did so. Having just returned from a costly campaign the last thing the army needed was another war. I kicked at another flagstone.
‘Treacherous Armenian bastards.’
Gallia, my wife, handed me back the letter from my brother King Gafarn, ruler of the Kingdom of Hatra, and raised an eyebrow at me while stable hands and the courier who had brought the bad news stared at me and then at each other.
For some reason that was the only word I could think of. I saw Dobbai descending the palace steps and begin to amble towards me. She was the old witch who had been the sorceress of King of Kings Sinatruces, ruler of the whole Parthian Empire. Dobbai now resided in the palace with my family. She was coming to gloat no doubt. Marvellous!
‘Are you going to stand there kicking the ground all day long?’ asked Gallia. ‘Gafarn is requesting your aid.’
‘Did you read the entire letter?’ I had not, so incensed had I been by the first few lines informing me that the Armenians had declared war on the Parthian Empire. I quickly read all the words.
‘Problems, son of Hatra?’ Dobbai stood in front of me, a knowing expression on her face.
‘The Armenians have declared war on Parthia,’ Gallia answered for me. ‘Hatra is in peril.’ Armenia, now a client state of Rome, lay to the northeast of Parthian territory and directly north of Hatra.
Dobbai nodded as though this information was no surprise to her.
‘Why does this come as a shock to you? You are, after all, a warlord. Would you not seek to strike at your enemies when they were at their weakest?’
We were certainly that. The recent Battle of Susa that had finally ended Parthia’s civil war had been a draining three-day affair resulting in Dura’s army suffering heavy casualties. That was bad enough, but the armies of the other kings of our great alliance had also suffered substantial losses in the battle, none more so than the Kingdom of Hatra. It had lost its king, my father. And now Hatra was in danger from an Armenian invasion.
I looked at Dobbai, fixing her black eyes with my own. Sometimes I disliked intensely her ability to state the blindingly obvious.
‘You should have dealt with the Armenians two years ago when you had the chance,’ she continued. ‘Your failure to kill Tigranes now returns to haunt you.’
‘First of all,’ I said loudly enough for most people in the courtyard to hear me, ‘I did not fail to kill Tigranes. I was invited to support my father, may Shamash bless his memory, in his discussions with Tigranes. I was but one of the kings present that day.’
‘But it is common knowledge that you begged your father to launch an attack against the Armenians,’ she replied calmly. ‘You knew that not to fight them that day was merely postponing the inevitable. And so it is.’
‘Armenian bastards,’ I muttered.
‘I wish you would stop using such language, Pacorus,’ said Gallia. ‘Remember you are a king.’
‘What are you going to do?’ asked Dobbai.
That was a very good question to which I had no immediate reply.
‘There will be a council meeting in one hour,’ I announced.
As usual the meeting took place in the headquarters building standing opposite the palace inside the Citadel. This stronghold was perched on a high rock escarpment inside my capital city of Dura. On this occasion I had asked Strabo to attend in his capacity as quartermaster responsible for the army’s horses, camels and mules. He positioned himself in a chair opposite Gallia where he could spend the meeting leering at her lithe figure. I asked Rsan, the city’s governor, to start the proceedings. As usual he had brought two fresh-faced young clerks along to take notes of any decisions made. The offices of the building were stuffed full of parchments recording the details of every meeting since I had become King of Dura. To what end I never understood, aside from keeping the city’s parchment makers in business. Because the room was fuller than normal the air was stuffy and oppressive, made worse by the lack of any wind outside. Everyone drank copious amounts of water from the jugs on the table to quench their thirsts.
Rsan cleared his throat.
‘The king has called this meeting due to the unexpected news we have received from Hatra concerning the Armenian decision to commence hostilities against the empire.’
The two clerks scribbled furiously to write down Rsan’s exact words. Why did he have to have two sets of records? I smiled – no doubt to have a spare set in case one got destroyed!
‘King Tigranes is seeking to take advantage of the state of exhaustion the empire finds itself in following the toppling of Mithridates and Narses. He believes he has an excellent chance of seizing large chunks of the empire, specifically the Kingdoms of Hatra and Gordyene.’
‘I would say their chances of doing so are excellent,’ remarked Lucius Domitus, the army’s general.
‘We should have fought them when we had the chance,’ added Kronos, commander of the Exiles, one of the two legions of foot soldiers I had raised. Both legions, Exiles and Durans, were trained and equipped in the same way as their Roman equivalents. Dobbai smirked at his comment.
‘You are so right, Kronos,’ I agreed, frowning at Dobbai, ‘but we did not and nothing can alter the past. The Armenians will attack the Kingdoms of Hatra and Gordyene with the intention of conquering them. Gafarn has asked me for help and I expect Surena to do the same. The question is: can the army march north to reinforce and assist both Hatra and Gordyene?’
‘Not a chance in hell,’ remarked Domitus bluntly. ‘It will be at least three months before it is ready to march anywhere, and even then it will be under strength. We lost a thousand legionaries, a hundred cataphracts, six hundred horse archers and a hundred and fifty squires. All dead.’
‘And seventeen Amazons,’ added Gallia gravely.
‘Indeed,’ said Domitus, ‘and then there are the wounded.’
I looked at Alcaeus, our Greek chief physician who headed the army’s medical corps. He frowned.
‘I’m afraid it is not good news. Over two thousand legionaries have been treated for wounds received at Susa. Of those, around half have injuries that will take two months or more to heal properly, broken arms and wrists mostly. As for the horsemen, two hundred cataphracts were wounded in the battle, and of those over fifty require bed rest for a further month at least. Six hundred horse archers were also injured and around a hundred will not be back in the saddle for a minimum of five or six weeks.’