Authors: Griff Hosker
Invasion – Caledonia!
The third in the Sword of Cartimandua series
Published by YouWriteOn.com, 2011
The author has asserted their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
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A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Thanks to Eileen, Vicky and David-without you there would be no books. Thanks to Rich for all his invaluable comments and support. To Ste and Julie for their kind words. And finally thanks to the Parkwood Literary circle for keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground.
PART ONE- MONA
West coast of Britannia 75 AD
Marcus Aurelius Maximunius, Decurion Princeps of the Pannonian auxiliary cavalry was finding their journey down the west coast much easier than he had expected. This was not the harsh landscape of the north with its hills, mountains and raging rivers. It was not the wild, undulating empty moor land of the east. This was good farmland with a people who largely ignored the Roman presence. Decius Flavius, his second in command voice his views as they neared the legionary fortress of Deva, “It’s like a different country. I haven’t had to worry about ambushes or traps or treachery. I don’t like it. Give me an enemy who hates me. That’s what I like.”
“Ever the pessimist. It is the land south of Deva where the enemy lies. Our general Julius Agricola needs to take the island of Mona back from the rebels and to do that we must fight the Deceangli who lived in the land before it. Happy now?”
Far to the south Decurion Gaius Metellus Aurelius was happy. Even the scars from the unjust flogging he had received failed to hurt him. His turma was leading the two legions sent to punish the rebels and so far, like Marcus and Decius he had found it easy. The only person not happy was Sergeant Macro Curius Culleo, the weapons trainer for the ala. He loved action and he loved fighting. For him the three week journey from the far north had been torture. He rode next to the decurion, “Please tell me that we get to fight someone soon? This is killing me.”
“When we do find the enemy then you will have more than enough fighting for the mountains through which we will be travelling are wilder and more rugged than those in the north and this time, Sergeant Macro, we will be seeking that witch Fainch so we will need to keep our wits about us. Try not to get killed before we find her eh?”
When the column finally halted at the new legionary fortress that was Deva there was an Imperial messenger awaiting Gnaeus Julius Agricola. After a short meeting in the Praetorium the general sent for Marcus and the other senior auxiliary officers. The prefects of Second Adiutrix and Twentieth Valeria were already sat in conference.
“Well gentlemen it seems I have been appointed Governor of Gallia Aquitania. I believe I have time to recapture Mona before I take up my new position.”
Marcus felt conflicting emotions; here was a leader he liked and respected and, most importantly one he could trust, a leader he did not want to lose. On the other hand he realised that the promotion was a good one and a man would have to be a fool not to be excited. They all complimented the general who continued, “I am afraid I shall have to leave for Mona immediately. The two prefects, Pompeius Arvina of the Second Adiutrix and Sentius Musca of the Twentieth will have joint leadership here at Deva.” He paused and looked directly at the auxiliary officers. “The Second Adiutrix will need to complete the construction of Deva if we are to have a sound base. The Ninth are even now finishing off Eboracum. It is the auxiliaries who will bear the brunt of this campaign and only when you have found the rebels and contained them will the Twentieth be able to destroy them. We, “he gestured to the legionary prefects,” have decided that we will operate as a vexillation whose task it is to get to Mona and contain the rebels. We will take two cohorts of legionaries. Any questions?”
It had all happened so quickly that none of the three auxiliary commanders had had time to even draw breath let alone come up with questions. “No sir,” chorused the three.
The general came and clasped the arm of each of the auxiliaries in turn. When he came to Marcus he said, “I would like to thank you again not only for your valour but for the way you and your men fought. I now believe that with enough auxiliaries this province could be captured by a single legion. We will try some new techniques during this campaign and we shall learn together. The task seems daunting but I have faith in you. We shall see if the auxiliaries can achieve in a few weeks what it took a couple of legions half a year to accomplish.”
As Gnaeus Julius Agricola dealt with the correspondence connected with his new position the prefects sat long into the night with the three auxiliary officers. As Decurion Princeps, Marcus was outranked by both of the auxiliary infantry prefects; however his reputation was such that all of them treated him as an equal.
“The general was quite right. I need to complete this legionary fortress and that will take all of my legionaries.”
Sentius Musca nodded, “My Twentieth will need to construct roads towards Mona. The reason the rebels captured it so easily is the lack of roads. I intend to start one following the coast west and one to the east towards Eboracum.”
Cominius Sura, prefect of the First Batavians gasped, “That will take forever.”
The two legionary prefects looked bemused. Sentius said, “On the land to the east my men can build a road one and half miles in length each day, the sandy swampy road to the west a mile a day. Within two moons we shall be at Mona. Eboracum may take longer but when the fortress is finished then the second can aid us. Unless of course you have summoned us when we shall down tools and finish off these priests and rebels.”
Marcus looked at his friend Cominius and shook his head in silent amazement. The legions were impressive. The size of a job did not intimidate them and they would grind out the work until they were finished. They were the same when they fought, no matter how many enemies they faced their philosophy was ‘kill them one at a time’. Marcus had seen them do it with ruthless efficiency.
“The general has ordered the Classis Britannica to sail to us here so that we may use it to support us. As soon as it arrives it will make communication and supply easier.”
The second prefect of auxiliaries, the Second Gallorum, pointed at the crude map. “How will we get across the straits here without the fleet?”
“Good question Cassius Bassus. The simple answer is that the fleet should be there by the time you have travelled that far but if not you will have to improvise.”
“I am a little worried prefect by the mountains which skirt the coast. We are on a narrow strip of land. We could be ambushed or they could attack us in the rear.”
“Yes Decurion Princeps and it is your cavalry who will have to prevent that. Your cavalry must be the vanguard, the rearguard and the flank guard.”
Marcus let out a long sigh. “My men will be spread out thinly.”
“We know. The general has requested two more alae of cavalry but until they actually materialise your single ala will have to perform the duties of three. You have three days to prepare. You will need supplies for fourteen days; by that time the fleet should be here but we will keep you informed.”
When Marcus briefed his decurions Decius let out his normal expletive, “Bugger! It isn’t bad enough that we have to protect the foot soldiers, we have to do it in land suitable only for a mountain goat and in a land where every wants to serve your bollocks up on a platter for their supper.”
Gaius and the others smiled at the image but Gaius voiced their concerns. “We still haven’t made up the numbers we lost in the last battle. We are at least two turmae down and we have few replacement mounts. Decius is right sir. There is a limit to what we can do.”
When Marcus spoke it was quietly and calmly. He had gone through all these problems with the general and he knew that they could protest all that they liked it would not make any difference. They had a job to do and Marcus would see that they did it if only to find the witch Fainch, the murderer of Queen Cartimandua and his wife and child. He looked at the young faces of his decurions; Decius apart they were all very young men, tested in battle and worthy of their promotions but young men none the less. “I know it looks daunting but it is not as bad as you are both making out. The Deceangli never really recovered from the last rebellion and they do not have large numbers. They certainly don’t have the numbers the Brigante and Carvetii possessed. They succeed because the troops here were slack and lazy. They thought they had whipped their enemy and they were not ready for the ambushes and sneak attacks. We know better. We know that an ambush can come at any time and glace.” He paused, “As Drusus discovered and as Metellus nearly discovered.” The memory of the dead decurion and the almost fatal ambush on the Dunum Fluvius made them all look at one another. Metellus almost unconsciously put his arm around the shoulders of Julius Demetrius, the youngest decurion. “If it had not been for the timely intervention of young Julius we would have been another turma down.”
Agrippa leaned over and pointed at the map. “It looks to me as though there is much we don’t know about the land away from the coast; just that there are some real mountains quite close to the coast.”
“Good point Agrippa. We need to make our own maps. Each evening we will have a briefing to share information.”
“Well at least we won’t need to worry about our right flank. Not unless the Druids can walk on water.”
Decius shook his head,” Don’t tempt the Fates Lentius. I for one am not looking forward to facing priests and witches.”
As the others looked in surprise as the normally bluff and down to earth senior decurion Marcus realised that many of the men had had a fear of these people. Caesar himself had had to shame his legionaries to leave their boats when they first invaded and Aulus Paulinus had almost had a mutiny the first time they took Mona. The Roman soldier could face with complete ease any warrior but they feared the magic and superstition of the priests and their rituals. There were rumours racing around the camps at Deva of captives being place in huge wicker cages and burnt alive and they had all heard of captives being emasculated by the priestesses. “I for one am looking forward to finding one priestess but if you are that worried make sure they don’t capture you Decius!”
“Easier said than done when they use magic.”
As they all looked uneasily at each other Marcus spoke sharply for the first time. “Enough of that. No matter what you think of the enemy do not let your troopers know that. They are young and impressionable. The Druids are not a problem. Is that clear?” They nodded. “Go and organise your men for the march tomorrow. Decius, stay behind a moment.”
As they all trooped out Decius stood with his head down. “Sorry about that Marcus. Me and my big mouth.”
“Listen Decius we only have a couple of decurions with any experience. Most of the leaders have only been in the province for a few months. You, me, Agrippa and Lentius need to give a lead. If you want to express your doubts and fears do it in here with me over a beaker of wine.”
Decius’ face cracked into a smile. “That’s the best offer I’ve had in a while. Decurion Princeps getting the wine in. Don’t worry Marcus I will keep this big mouth shut!”
Fainch and her sisters were already preparing their welcome for the Romans. The Deceangli might be few in numbers but the Ordovices lived in the remote mountains to the south of Mona and they had sent many warbands to defend the sacred groves of Mona.
Fainch looked at the King of the Ordovices, Gwynfor. He was a squat powerful warrior who hated the Romans even more than Fainch did for his whole family had been wiped out by the Roman legions thirty years earlier. He had spent his whole life warring with the Romans and inflicting both as many casualties and as much pain as he could. He had been more than willing to bring the ten thousand warriors north and he was even more willing when he found that he had the power of the Druids to call upon. The holy mountain of Wyddfa would become a terrible ally to the peoples of the mountains and the Romans would pay a heavy price. “Your warriors close to the holy mountain; they know what they are to do?”