Day One - Salve, Citizen. Salve, Soldier.
It begins with a phone call in the dead of night.
“Salve, Citizen. The Republic requires your service once more.”
He tries not to rouse his slumbering wife, but she is awake by the time he hangs up; she’s heard the whole thing.
“You’re off to war, then?” through groggy and disoriented, she is visibly distressed. He’d warned her since their courtship that this day may come.
He nods in acknowledgement. He tells her he will be back in the evening; it is no lie, so far as he knows, and kisses her goodbye.
He is ordered to present himself in the town forum in muster kit: armed with his service rifle and one magazine, and in uniform. “Uniformed, with cloak of crimson,” the voice on the phone said.
Those words told him this was the real thing. You only wore the crimson cloak during war, or during a triumph. Otherwise you wore the white one. Pain in the ass to keep clean, that one was. The only times you wore the colored cloaks were for parades, or for religious ceremonies. Nobody was having a parade at this ungodly hour; he started to put two and two together. This was the real thing.
The Citizen was a man of some means, though perhaps not wealthy. He was a construction foreman for a developer in the nearby city of Aquae Tridentum, commuting from his village of Deva where his family had lived for 300 years. It paid good money and was a respectable profession. Aged 30, he owned his home, was married, and had two young children. The very model Citizen.
He lived near the forum; he’d walk, he decided. Perhaps he’d meet some of his comrades along the way. It was night, and so he muttered the appropriate words of exaltation toward Luna.
The streets of Deva were narrow and made of cobblestone, and wound round and about, following the contours of its hilly terrain. The buildings, hunched atop one another, were old; ancient even, made of sturdy whitestone with roofs of red clay shingles, though the modern windows and protruding stacks of metal showed they’d been renovated over the years. The streets, though narrow and with many nooks and alleys, were well lit and empty. This was a respectable town, one free of proles and ruffians, for such wretches had been banished from respectable towns with the coming of the Divine Ultor’s New Social Order. It was unseasonably cool even this late at night, though this was a blessing; in these canyonesque roads of stone, the dry Antarterian summers could quite nearly bake a man alive.
“Salve, Citizen,” a voice calls nearly too close behind him, followed by a violent clasp on the shoulder.
The Citizen turns to greet his friend, Irenaeus, clasping him on the shoulder just as violently and pulling one another in for an embrace.
“That bastard Abdullus is dead and the Praetani are busy having Quib cock inserted in ass, you just know the consul isn’t going to let such an opportunity go to waste!” the man bellowed. He’d said the same words not four hours ago, by the Citizen’s reckoning. His breath still stank of alcohol from the night’s drinking. No matter; surprise musters of Citizens were one case where sobriety was not required by law, for good Dumani Citizens could not be expected to be sober eternally. Still, it was perhaps just a bit sacrilegious to be drunk in uniform.
“This is it, brother! The big one!”
The two of them were Deva natives and had enlisted together, both serving in the Eighth Cohort of the Seventh Legion; artillerymen both, by trade. In their retirement as Citizens of the Primus Pilus, they were assigned to the Fourth Cohort of the Fifty-Third Legion. It was a special unit, the sort you had to volunteer for. They’d had to go through an extra three months of special indoc after they’d received their military diplomas and discharges to learn how to operate the war machines of Coh. IV-LIII. Big, nasty self-propelled mortars, the sort one used for cracking open serious fortifications. In the event of war with the Quaestarii, their unit would be responsible for reducing the barbarians’ fortresses, of which they had many. In the event of war, they were guaranteed to see action, even if they were detached from the legion at large.
Both men now energized by the presence of a friend practically skip down the winding roads. Along the way they pick up more stragglers: Kaeso, the baker; Narcissus, the vigilus; Musa, the banker. All men clad in soft caps and camouflage fatigues, blood red cloaks draped over their right hand shoulders with their freshly-oiled ACOMs slung over them. They slow to a march, subconsciously falling into step, though not formation. Even at this hour, the men grin ear to ear and laugh, feelings of dread forgotten. They were with their brother Citizens, and could not show even a sliver of weakness or doubt. Seeing one’s brother Citizens in good spirit invigorated the animus, even if one drew the conclusion that he may be faking it as much as one’s self. A strange thing.
Finally they arrive at the forum; a group of soldiers already waiting, milling about in small groups and chatting as loudly as the newcomers. The Citizen knows every one of these men by name, having spoken to each one at one point or another. They were all members of Deva’s centuria, and met weekly to advise the duumviri and deal with the various issues that arose in such a small village. One hundred and one men in all, de facto rulers of a village of over two thousand. They all had socii friends, for it was a strange man who kept exclusively the company of Citizens. All the same, they were an order unto themselves. The youngest of them was twenty-two, a Tesserarius fresh out of the Fourth Legion, and the oldest was eighty, Centurion Tiberius Drusus Caelsus, late of the Prime Cohort of the Third Legion. He had taught civics class to damned near everyone in the town under the age of sixty, and had served as duumvir for a time. He’d also taken the ears of six Varnians on Paralentum. That was the confirmed number, by the legion record; the old man, not one to boast, had hinted at a one much higher.
The group of newcomers first made their way toward the statue of Divi Ultor, which cast a grim, judging gaze upon the lot of them. There was one such monument in every municipium of good repute in the Republic. The people of Deva held a special pride in theirs, for it was said the Imperator Aeternus had stayed a night in the palace of the duumviri during the Great War.
The Citizens stood in line, and one by one stepped in front of the statue to offer the customary salute: arm straight and outstretched, palm parallel to the ground with fingers spread, and immediately snapped back to the grip of one’s weapon. An especially devout man may shout the words, “Ave Imperator!” with his salute; this was the case for every man tonight.
Other gods had other protocols when approaching their respective statues; typically, one prostrated one’s self before a God while making the appropriate prayers and invocations, but Ultor had made his regulations quite clear on his very deathbed. The story, one told to every Dumani child, went thusly: a priest of Divi Osvinus had kissed and wept at the feet of the Imperator, thinking him dead. “Stop that,” he’d bellowed, his tone of command still intact in spite of the cancer and age, “from where do you hail, priest?”
“From Sidonia, Imperator.” The priest had replied.
“Sidonia,” the Imperator considered, “And, tell me truthfully, Sidonian Priest, do you call yourself Dumanus?”
“I do,” replied the priest.
“Then stand tall and cease thy mewling, for your present conduct is that of a Vekh catamite and not becoming of the Dumani.”
The Imperator died minutes later, after several more rants on various other topics, and thus those born of Dumani parentage or with Dumani citizenship did not kneel before the statue of Divi Ultor, lest they forfeit their birthright before the Gods. The Dumani saluted to render the proper respect. Kneeling was for foreigners.
The proper respects to the Eternal Emperor rendered, the newcomers mingled with the others; the disparate groups merged until it was one bunch of boisterous men gleefully shouting at one another in the dead of night. Really, not unlike any good and proper family gathering. In this case, however, the ranking officers and NCOs, though still they mingle about and socialize with their brother citizens, hover about the edges of the group and personally greeted each man assigned to his personal charge. One by one, they disappear.
A horn sounds; instinctively the men snap to attention, even in their disarray. The duumviri, Herius Fulvius Gala and Sextus Fulvius Tutor, stand beside Ultor’s statue. To their right, a respectful step behind, is Centurion Gnaeus Fulvius Faustus, late of the Third Cohort of the First Legion.
Not centurion; citizen, the Citizen reminded himself, for once discharged all were equal unless elected to a position of power by one’s fellow Citizens. A grim fellow, one with more obvious Arteran blood by his blue eyes and blonde hair, the later presently concealed by a crested helm. The crest, made of dyed horsehair, horizontal, shoulder to shoulder, in the manner of a centurion of the Dumani Republic, was as red as his cloak. At his side, an officer’s spatha, worn on his left in accordance with regulation.
The second senior man, an Optio of the Second by the name of Comes, stands at the right of Faustus a respectful pace back, a plume of a few blood-red feathers protruding from the top of his helm. He wore an infantry NCO’s gladius, on his right. To his right is the Signifer of Neva, a former Signifer of the Fourth (a rare thing, a municipal signifer having held that same rank in the army), with the Municipal Signum: a large square banner with a diagonal spear of white halving an image of the God Apollo on the upper right, with the Lion of Ultor snarling on the lower left, both upon a field of azure.
“CEeeenTUURIAAAAH! FORMA! Ad…SIGNA!”
The men fall in swift as can be before the standard; it is a bit sloppy, the Citizen thinks, but no so bad as one would expect with so many elder Citizens amongst them. They dress and cover without being commanded. As is tradition, in civil centurial parade formations, they form in the old style: the youngest and most able men, those the Primus Pilus, or First Spear, fall into the first ranks, known to tradition as the Hastati. Behind them, the middle aged men, still able to maintain proper fighting shape with enough motivation but with a bit more life experience, form the second group of ranks as the Principes. The final rank consist of the old men, or Triarii. As an old saying went, if it ever came to the Triarii, someone had well and truly fucked things up.
Of the duumviri, Tutor was always the one with the voice of command. He speaks:
“Salve, Citizens! Be advised: the hour is now the third of the Calends of August, with thirty-nine minutes in addition. By order of the Senate, all Citizens are henceforth recalled and are subject to Military Law. I thus cede command of this centuria to Centurion Gneaus Fulvius Faustus.”
The centurion and duumviri exchange salutes just as smartly as those granted Divi Ultor, and the former turns toward his charges.
“Salve, Soldiers. I am honored this early morning to oversee the muster of the Soldiery of the Municipium of Deva under the Consulship of Marbo and Marcellus, in sight of all the Gods and our honored ancestors.
“I suspect that all of you with half a brain have already guessed that we are mobilized for war against the Quaestarii. This I am at liberty to confirm. I am further at liberty, by authorization of the Consuls, and Senate and People of Dumanum, to confirm that at present, the Aeronautica and Exploratory Forces of the Senate and People of Dumanum are annihilating the air and ground forces of the barbarian Quaestarii in preparation of our invasion of the Nampataland.”
Even the cold bastard as he is, Faustus dare not deny the men their regulation ten seconds’ cheering. And loudly do they cheer.
“Several of you, I suspect by your unit assignments, will soon engage the barbarian scum directly in battle. You know who you are. To you, brothers, I pledge a fine bull to be sacrificed upon the altar of Mavors this day at the twelfth hour, in sight of Sol Invictus, and a seat at my family’s table forevermore upon your victorious return!”
Twenty seconds’ cheering is permitted this time, in excess of the regulations.
“By my count, each man of the Second and Third Spears has been previously recalled and inducted into the Order of Evocati, and not a single man of the First Spear has. Correct me if I’m wrong?”
“Very well. Men of the First Spear, fall in on me. The rest, stand at ease and await further instruction.”
The first ranks, comprising the young me of the Primus Pilus, fall in behind the centurion, himself the senior man of that same spear. The centurion issues his commands directly: they face about and march toward the Temple of Mavors, where they halt and form a single file line.
It is perhaps not the most imposing structure on the forum- that distinction belongs to the Palace of the Duumviri, the symbol of the state’s control. It may even be the most humble of them all: a simple stone slab held aloft by a series of columns, simple brick walls shielding the innards from the element and a tall stone door sealing it shut. It does not seem a big building, but the Citizen knows this is deceptive, for his has previously sacrificed therein.
The men chat as they stand in line; the centurion has gone away, so who gives a fuck now? All will observe proper decorum when they enter Mavors’ home, but in the mean time…
“And they don’t even worship a God? Can you imagine such arrogance?!”
“They worship ‘providence’ or some-such nonsense, think themselves philosophers…pah.”
“Even the fucking Oswinites have the decency to honor at least ONE bloody god! Even if he is a mere divine…”
“Oi! You take that back and give appropriate respects to Divi Osvinus! I’ll not have your blasphemous tongue giving the lot of us cancer…or gonorrhea or what have you…”
“…not that the Oswinites aren’t a ripe bunch of cunts! Worshipping a single God?! Pah!”
The Citizen is next in line. He hears clearly the ritual within the temple:
“Name yourself,” the priest growls.
“Titus…Fulvius…Aemelianus…Irenaeus!” responds Irenaeus, beyond the shut door.
“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus. We know you. You have previously pledged your life and soul to Mavors, and have fulfilled your previous oath, and these are thus yours to give freely once again. This pleases the God of War.
“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus: the Dumani Republic calls upon you for service once more, and the blessings of the War God are a necessity to the well-being of the State. Mavors will bless you, and thus the State, by proxy, should you grant him the offering of your mortal life and immortal soul, for the duration of this campaign- the later of which he may hold for eternity should he claim it in the course of such campaign- and those of this beast before us for eternity. Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, do you offer to Mavors, God of War, these sacrifices?”
A scream, almost human, but not; the Citizen knows this scream well, for it is that of a sacrificial goat who has learned of his fate the hard way. Strange, how they sound nearly human when the killer fucks it up. Idiot acolyte was either drunk or merely inexperienced when he made the cut, Gods damn him. Poor animal has to bleed out slow, now.
A smarter, kinder priest silences the screaming with a more well-placed cut.
“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus. You are pledged to fight until the enemy is slain or enslaved, until his lands are conquered, until his women are your women, or, failing that, until you yourself are slain in the attempt. In Mavors’ name, you are pledged to fight ‘till death, and to spend all your strength slaying the enemies of the Dumani Republic. Mavors: I invoke thee, give this man, Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, scion of the noble and ancient House Fulvii of uncountable renown; of the Aemiliani Fulvii, adopted of that House, who served honorably the Princepes of Aquae Tridentum, Senators of the Dumani Republic, in the Wars against the savage Ulani; of the Aemiliani Fulvii Ienaeaei who fought and died smashing the barbarian Quaestarii invaders at Mons Argenta under the banner of the Eternal Emperor, the Divine Maximus Ultor!
“Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, grandson of Centurion Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, who served honorably in the Fourth Legion in their subjugation of the Motappae; son of Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, also of the Fourth, in their indomitable defense of the Republic. Greatnephew of Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Quintilius, who fought for the Republic in frozen Wolohannia; nephew of Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Quintilius, who also served the Fourth in their indomitable defense of the Republic. Mavors, give this man your shield, that he may be invincible. Give him your sword, that he may cleave his enemies in twain.
“Rise, now, Titus Fulvius Aemelianus Irenaeus, third of that name, and be named Evocatus.”
The Citizen sees his brother walk out those doors, a T of goat’s blood smeared upon his face, looking both grim and proud. They nod to one another; it is the Citizen’s turn, and he honors himself and his family before Mavors.
The men of the First Spear, Evocati all, return heads held high to the formation, and stand before their centurion.
“Evocati of the Second Cohort, Fiftieth Legion: you will board bus one. Evocati of the First Cohort, Fifty-Third Legion: you will board bus two…
“Evocati of the Fourth Cohort, Fifty-Third Legion, you will board bus six.”
“Evocati of the First Spear. It is my honor and privilege to have led you into the Evocati Order. All of us of this Spear shall soon march east toward the Nampataland, in relief of our younger brothers, to engage the barbarian horde in glorious battle. Underestimate them not, my brothers, for they are a fierce and intelligent foe; rather, give forth all of your Dumani strength and honor to the task, for against those no foe may stand. This is not a platitude, this is fact.
“Remember, the honor of your ancient families, having fought many countless foes and brought much glory to your names, remember that you now may bring even greater glories to your name! Remember, your wives, your children, remember that this war is on their behalf, for where next would the savages send their armies if not here?
“If you remember nothing else, remember this: Our Dumani Gods are watching! Be SURE! They are NOT! ASHAMED!”
Thirty seconds cheering, far in excess of regulation, and the centurion draws his blade, pointing it first toward the statue of Divi Ultor with a sutble bow of the head, and then toward the heavens.
It ends, blade glistening in Luna’s light, and he calls the ancient battlecry:
Play up, play up, and play the game!
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