Foreword by Gordon Doherty
What follows is a piece of flash fiction, set between Legionary: Gods & Emperors and Legionary: Empire of Shades. Chalcedon, perched on the eastern shores of the Bosphorus strait, was once branded 'the City of the Blind' by a 6th century BC Persian general named Megabyzus, when he contrasted the settlement with the far superior and sparsely-occupied site on the opposite shores. By Late Antiquity, Chalcedon languished in the shadows of the city that had risen on that far shore through the intervening centuries: the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople.
Yet something that happened in Chalcedon in that twilight era which suggests that ancient lessons had gone unheeded...
Chalcedon, “City of the Blind”
The fate of the East rests on the edge of a sword as the legions and the Goths march to war…
378 AD: Fritigern’s Gothic horde tightens its iron grip on Thracia and only a handful of well-walled cities to the south remain in imperial hands. The few tattered legions pinned in these cities can only watch on from the battlements as smoke rises across their lost lands and the Goths roam at will, pillaging and extorting. Every Roman – legionary or citizen – speaks of only one thing: the Emperors of East and West, Valens and Gratian, who are said to be closing swiftly on this war-stricken land, each bringing with them vast armies capable of vanquishing the horde.
Awaiting the relief armies in Constantinople, Centurion Pavo and the XI Claudia prepare as best they can. The Gothic War has taken much from each of them, and none more so than Pavo. But still he and his fellow officers cling to the chance that two lost to them might yet return: their leaders, Tribunus Gallus and Primus Pilus Dexion – Pavo’s brother – have not been seen or heard from since setting off on a mission to Emperor Gratian’s court in the West. Some are sure they must have fallen, yet Pavo refuses to give up hope, instead whetting his blade and praying that fate will guide the pair back in time for the clash that is to come: a clash that promises to end the Gothic War – for the empire’s finest legions are destined to meet Fritigern’s ferocious masses… on the plains of Adrianople.
The legions are in tatters, and the Gothic hordes are gathering beyond the mountains . . .
377 AD: Thracia’s legions are few and broken in the wake of the Battle of Ad Salices. But the scattered centuries and cohorts rally in an effort to blockade the Haemus Mountain passes and hold back the relentless attacks of Fritigern’s swelling Gothic armies. These passes must endure until Eastern Emperor Valens and Western Emperor Gratian can muster and bring their Praesental Armies in relief.
Numerius Vitellius Pavo and the men of the XI Claudia return to Constantinople from their brutal Persian sortie to hear widespread tales of Thracia’s plight and the precarious mountain blockades. Each of them knows what is at stake should those passes fall: the heartland of the Eastern Empire would face the wrath of the barbarians and loved ones would be at the mercy of their savage blades. When the Claudia are despatched to aid the effort at the mountains, Pavo can think only of two souls wandering in the jaws of the Gothic threat: his beloved Felicia and his lost half-brother, Dexion. So he and his comrades march at haste, headlong into the storm that awaits them . . .