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A Cool War Story

by Gordon Farrell

I just fought my fourth battle for Carthage (not counting the little native uprising). In this attack, Carthaginians show up with about four legions and seven, count em, seven war elephants. I have managed to assemble two academy-trained divisions of legionaries, feeling pretty good about that -- but right now they're looking mighty inadequate.

Also, I have exactly one auxiliary lancer in my third division. Hoo boy -- remember this guy -- he turns up later --

But here's the kicker: At least 1/2 my city towers don't have ballistas yet!

Truth be told, as the elephants keep pouring onto the screen I've pretty much decided this is one battle I ain't gonna win. Nevertheless, I lay my plans as best I can...

Unlike others here, I do not engage the enemy in the field. I build my forts close to my city and I wait for the enemy to close. Why? So the sentries, ballistas and prefects can contribute to the defence. Of course, due to city sprawl, I've got a lot of fishing villages out there, unprotected, along with warehouses, a granary, etc -- things I'd rather not lose.

I send out my two operational legions to draw the enemy away from my villages. I throw up walls to deter them from trampling my helpless fisherfolk, all the while hoping and praying the barracks sends out the men I need on my city walls.

The Carthaginians take the bait... my legions draw back to the cover of the existing ballistas and square-up. The Carthaginian infantry engages them. Guards are hurling down javelins from the walls. Another ballista comes on line! Yes! But my legions are starting to show serious attrition...

Then my worst nightmare comes true. The elephants have one open square between the coastal forest and the wall defending my nearest fishing villages. That's it. No way I can stop them now --

Until ONE LONE PREFECT FILLS THE BREACH! He's holding off seven elephants single-handed!

My legions are dying right before my eyes... how can I help this friggin hero? I send out MY SINGLE AUXILLIARY LANCER! He shouts his response to my orders and races, cape flying, to the rear of the elephants, drawing them away from the breach! He runs like the devil back to the Carthaginian infantry, and draws THEM away from the city walls! Now, about eight more prefects come streaming from the city -- and two more ballistas appear in the towers!

My legions are annihilated, dying like Romans, holding their ground to the last man -- but two, three, four elephants hit the dust -- and the enemy calls a retreat! Victory! The city has been saved! And for once I forgive the eight prefects who insist on chasing the defeated enemy all the way across the desert. They deserve their moment of glory, after all.

And my single auxiliary lancer? He is carried through the crowd to a triumphal feast where the eulogies to the single, fallen prefect are sung in epic verse by...

Oops. Okay, I made up that last sentence.