Heir of Aurelian

Chapter 6 Arriving on the Borders of Valence
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Marcellus rode upon the back of his horse, latching on to his body was his Suebi slave Sigefrida. Even though the woman had just witnessed him kill a member of her people, she had a warm and loving smile as she spent the journey towards their destination, holding onto the man she deeply admired. 𝚋edn𝚘𝚟el.co𝚖

Days had passed since the Roman Army had been ambushed by the Suebi tribesmen, and now they were within range of the Gallo-Roman city of Valence. On the hills above were the Roman Legions under Marcellus command; they slowly descended into the valley to surround the city.

The young General gazed at the target in the distance with a look of disdain spread across his lips. The traitors and their Foederati allies were garrisoned within the city. Thus, it was his duty to either drive them out or slaughter them to the last man. Upon reaching the ideal position, Marcellus cried out his commands with a booming voice to the soldiers beneath his authority.

“Set up the encampment! I want a proper siege camp established and our catapults built! We will be here for some time, boys!”

Upon hearing their General utter his commands, the Roman Soldiers and their Foederati allies were quick to do as instructed. Sarus gazed upon Marcellus with contempt, but ultimately, he followed orders. After all, to get on the wrong side of the Marcellus who was so well known for slaying Goths was not something that he wished to do..

Within hours, a proper siege camp was established around the perimeter of the Gallo-Roman city. The citizens within were frightened beyond measure as they witnessed the sight of their garrison sealing off the exits. War had finally come to Valence, and with it, the civilians who dwelled within had no way out.

They prayed to God that the Roman Legions might be merciful to them; after all, it was not their fault that Gaul had fallen into the hands of a usurper. However, such a thing was unlikely, as it was common practice to lay waste to the population that dwelled within a city which refused to surrender.

While this was going on, Marcellus personally established his command tent in the center of the encampment and led Sigefrida inside. He would not allow any form of harm to come to her so long as he yet drew breath. After placing down the cot and the bedding, he beckoned for the woman to join him by his side.

Though it was far from the hour of the day where he might receive rest. The young General wanted to say a few words to the woman before things turned bloody. This had become standard practice for the two of them whenever they went on campaigns. Marcellus grasped ahold of his slave’s dainty ivory hands and kissed them gently before revealing the thoughts that he dreaded every moment of every hour while on a campaign.

“If something were to happen to me during this siege, I want you to do whatever is necessary to flee the encampment. Take whatever precautions that are required to regroup with your people and inform them that you have escaped bondage. Do not, under any circumstances, return to the Empire! It will not be safe for you there as a runaway slave!”

Sigefrida sighed heavily as she nodded her pretty head in silence; she had heard different variations of this same speech for the past few years, ever since Marcellus had ascended to an officer position and had taken her with him into war.

Internally, the slave woman had never actually thought about escaping with her life should her master die in battle. As far as she was concerned, their fates were intertwined. Nevertheless, she comforted him by agreeing to his terms. After saying his piece, Marcellus stood up from his seat and wore a bitter smile as he informed his slave of his current intentions.

“I am going to go help get the camp established. As always, stay within the confines of my tent, and if anyone tries anything, use one of the daggers which I have hidden to eliminate them. I do not care what their rank is; I will protect you!”

Many men with the ranks of his field army and Foederati allies alike wanted a piece of Sigefrida. However, fear of Marcellus’ reputation was the only thing that kept their sinister hands at bay. After giving this warning, the young General left the tent, where Sigefrida began to write in her diary of the events that had come to pass these last few days.

Though a lowly slave, Marcellus had ensured that she was in fact literate so that she could aid him in more than simply domestic duties. Thus, she was quite the commodity within the Empire, as in these dark times fewer Roman citizens could read and write by the day, let alone common slaves. As for Marcellus, he quickly got to work helping his men establish the remainder of the encampment.

By the time the sun fell from the sky, a proper siege camp had been set up, and the catapults began to rain their projectiles down upon the walls of the city. For the next few weeks, the Roman Legion would do everything in their power to bring an end to the reign of the Usurper and his minions over this city.

As for Marcellus, he decided to take the first watch. Thus, he was up alone in a watchtower, gazing upon Valence from an aerial position. There was not much worthy of note. The fires of the city’s denizens plumed from their chimneys as they presumably huddled for warmth within the confines of their homes.

The traitors who defended the city were on guard; if Marcellus looked closely, he could see them staring back at him from their watchtowers. As he was gazing upon the hostile city, Marcellus heard the sound of wood creaking as a man climbed the makeshift steps up into the temporary watchtower.

Standing behind Marcellus was none other than the Gothic Chieftain Sarus. He wore a grim expression on his face as he recounted what he had heard from the scouts who had first laid eyes upon the city and its defenders.

“My scouts report that at least several thousand men are stationed within the city. Quite a large force for a mere garrison. Are you certain we will be able to take it?”

Marcellus scoffed when he heard these words; of course, they could take the city, but it would not be without shedding a fair degree of blood. Obviously, he would never actually admit to this fact. Thus, he presented a confident facade as he answered the Gothic Chieftain’s question.

“Yes, I am quite certain that we will take this city. However, it all depends on the efforts of your men and mine. If even one of the soldiers beneath our command refuses to play their part, then more blood than necessary will be spilled to seize this city.”

Marcellus gazed fiercely upon his Foederati Commander as he emphasized this last point; his intent was clear. Should the Foederati deliberately fail to perform their duties, then every single one of them would suffer at his hands. Sarus sighed heavily as he nodded his head in silence, however before departing, he had another question on his mind, and thus he asked it with a fierce glint in his eyes.

“Remember our deal! We Goths get the first pick of any loot that comes with the conquest of a city!”

Marcellus did not hesitate to nod his head in silence. To buy the loyalty of the Foederati under his command, he had to make certain concessions such as spoils of war. Though he did not like it, negotiations with the barbarians were necessary to secure their fighting prowess. Upon seeing the agreeable expression of the Roman General, Sarus grinned with excitement before pounding his chest in a barbaric gesture.

“Very well, then. I will assure you that every warrior beneath my command will do their best to take this city!”

After saying these words, Sarus departed, leaving the Marcellus by his lonesome. Though the Foederati commander had guaranteed his allegiance, they were, after all, mere words. Words which were spoken by a barbarian, nonetheless. Thus, if Marcellus wanted to ensure his survival and the men beneath his command, he would have to take certain precautions.

Marcellus would stay on watch for another three hours before being relieved of duty. When he finally returned to his tent, he witnessed Sigefrida sitting on the bed with a worried expression. It was only after she saw the safe return of her master did she become less distressed.

Before long, she aided Marcellus as he stripped out of his gear; after doing so, the master and slave lay within the same cot, where the Roman General wrapped his body securely around that of Suebi beauty. The two would soon fall asleep in each other arms as they had done so many nights before. What awaited them on the morrow was yet to be determined.

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