Chapter 729 – Rescuing Ausculum (II)

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Suddenly, Hegesitus heard a horn from outside the city, and his heart tightened. ‘Will the Samnites intensify their attack?!’

But as he warned the soldiers to take precautions and prepare for the enemy’s next attack, he saw the Samnites at the foot of the wall slowly retreat to the sound of their cries of discontent.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

After suffering a tragic defeat at the hands of the Theonians, the great Samnite chieftain was wary of fighting them again. So Badani had sent out scouts to the southeast and northeast while they laid siege to the city. As a result, he received an urgent report from the scouts that they had spotted many Theonian cavalries not far from here in the southeast heading towards Ausculum.

“The Theonian reinforcements came so quickly?!” It was only over three days since the Samnites had declared war and invaded the Greeks, and from Badani’s experience of fighting the Greeks in the past, he thought the news would only just reach Theonia’s capital, Thurii. Then the Senate would need several days to debate and mobilise its citizens for battle, giving them plenty of time to take Ausculum. But unexpectedly, the situation suddenly reversed, leaving him nervous as all his men, except for the hundred warriors guarding him, were engaged in the siege, trying to take the city.

“Fortunately, only their cavalry came. Great Chieftain, quickly recall some of the warriors attacking the city and organise the defence!” a tribal chieftain next to him reminded.

“Recall? How do I recall them?!” Badani looked at the warriors huddled in confusion beneath the city walls, fighting bravely. Then, in his anxiety, he remembered his father’s warning before he died, making him hesitate momentarily. Finally, he said, “I fear the Theonians have sent more than just cavalry…we must retreat! Retreat now!!!”

Seeing Badani’s determination, the reluctant chieftains knew they could not continue attacking the city even though victory was in sight. Otherwise, the Theonian reinforcements would wipe out their army once they arrived.

So they sounded the retreat, and the army besieging the city began to retreat…

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Then the chieftains sighed with pain as they watched several Samnite warriors jump directly from the top of the city wall.

Suddenly, a high-pitched salpinx sounded from the south, causing Badani to shudder.

Soon the ground began to shake, like a giant drum being beaten by countless drumsticks, producing a rumbling sound accompanied by a cloud of dust and dirt.

“Here comes the Theonian cavalry!” exclaimed a Pentri chieftain beside Badani.

Then, out of the dust, they saw countless cavalry in black helmets and armour galloping. Then a huge flag was raised, and as it fluttered in the wind, the design of a pegasus appeared, with the large Greek number four embroidered underneath.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

“My lord, the reinforcements are here! Our reinforcements have come!!…” The citizens on top of the city walls cheered.

Finally, Hegesitus was relieved…

But instead of directly attacking the centre of the retreating Samnite army, the Fourth Cavalry Legion circled below the southern wall. They then dispersed and began to attack the rear of the retreating Samnite army, taking advantage of the fact that the Samnites were too busy retreating to organise effectively and too frightened by the surprise attack of the Theonian cavalry to counterattack en masse for a while. The Theonian cavalry then ignored the enemy’s javelin attack riding boldly to within ten metres, and showered the enemy with their short javelins, hitting an enemy almost on every shot, inflicting massive casualties and causing chaos on the enemy rank.

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The cavalry took advantage of the enemy’s disorder to once again drive their horses towards the enemy, eventually leading to the Samnites’ rout.

The experienced cavalry then led the routed warriors towards the Samnites further ahead.

As panic quickly spread through their ranks, the bravest Samnite warriors couldn’t help but follow their nearby comrades and flee.

The retreating Samnites were like snow falling from the top of a mountain that had grown so large that even the troops Badani had sent to stop the Theonian cavalry were swept away by the fleeing crowd.

Eventually, Badani gave up giving orders and simply led the rest of his guards to take the lead in escaping, guiding the beaten warriors in the direction to flee.

The Theonian cavalry didn’t pursue the Samnites for too long, not because the cavalry didn’t want to get better results, but because Ausculum was on the south bank of the upper Carapelle River and near the foot of the mountains, with uneven terrain along the way. So once the routed Samnite army fled into the mountains, the Theonian cavalry, no matter how brave they were, could not ride their horses through the mountains in pursuit of the enemy and had to return dejectedly.

Finally, this brief battle to save Ausculum was over. The Samnites suffered over two thousand casualties in the previous siege and the subsequent attack by Theonia’s Fourth Cavalry Legion. In contrast, the Fourth Cavalry Legion suffered only around one hundred, allowing the Eastern Theatre of Theonia to score its first victory in saving the Dauni region.

Alexius did not arrive at Ausculum with the Tenth Legion until late evening. After all, leading infantry is not the same as riding on horseback, so it took almost a day for the army to reach Ausculum, having set out from the base at Peuceti, crossed the Ofanto to the Carapelle River and followed the flat road along its banks. Were it not for the speed at which the cavalry legion galloped, the city would have changed hands by the time the Tenth Legion arrived.

Hegesitus opened the city gates to welcome their reinforcements and thanked Alexius. But that was all, as the siege by the Samnites had caused many casualties among the people of Ausculum. Furthermore, Hegesitus had to attend to the aftermath of the battle that evening, so he had no thoughts of holding a banquet to entertain their saviours.

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Alexius naturally didn’t mind that. On the contrary, he ordered the soldiers of the Tenth Legion to help clean the battlefield, burn the bodies and even send medical care to help the wounded.

The following day, Alexius was about to lead his army on a march to the north. But fearing that the Samnites who had fled into the mountains might return after his departure, he left a brigade of the Tenth Legion behind to defend Ausculum.

On the other hand, Hegesitus sent cavalries to the east to quickly recall the many people of Ausculum who had failed to enter the city to bolster Ausculum’s defences.

In the afternoon, Alexius led the army to the besieged city of Vibinum. But by the time he arrived, the Samnites seemed to know of the arrival of Theonian reinforcements and had withdrawn early, retreating into the mountains.

Two days later, the reinforcements arrived in the capital of the Dauni region – Lucera. There, Antonios – the wartime governor of the Dauni region and praetor of Lucera, Kapus – the acting legatus of the Eleventh Legion, the middle and high officials of Lucera and a large crowd went out to greet them with great enthusiasm.

“Thanks to Commander Alexius, who led the army in time, that the Dauni region is saved!” Antonios said smilingly. His appointment as wartime governor and the trust of Davos have swept away the darkness in his heart and have made him cheerful these days so that even as the Samnite army approaches them, he remains optimistic.

“We are currently at war, yet you brought so many people outside the city. In case of a surprise attack by the Samnites, it doesn’t matter if you are captured or taken prisoner, but it would throw the order in the Dauni region into chaos.” Alexius said half-jokingly and half-seriously

Antonios laughed and said, “With you here, the famous commander, the Samnites would only hide far away. Besides, you brought us a victory before you even got here!”

Alexius said, “His Majesty is the only famous commander in this land! You and I are just trying to fulfil our responsibilities.”

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“You’re right!” Antonios nodded immediately. He then came forward and hugged Alexius, “Brother, thank you for your timely arrival!”

Alexius paused but immediately returned the warm embrace. Finally, the enmities of the past few years between the two had disappeared entirely in this embrace.

Suddenly, Kapus gave a military salute and said jokingly, “Commander Alexius, I, Kapus, Legatus of the Eleventh Legion, have come to report to you!”

“Lord Kapus, don’t frighten me like that! Your position as the Legatus is only temporary, as you are still the Quartermaster-General of the Logistics Department of the Ministry of Military. We all have to obey your commander, as we would starve otherwise!” Alexius said as he tapped Kapus’ chest with his fist, dispelling the embarrassment of commanding and being commanded between them.

Phregulus watches as the three powerful lords of the kingdom of Theonia talk and laugh intimately, making him both happy and jealous.

On seeing this, Melisander explained, “Antonios, Alexius and Kapus had fought side by side with each other in their younger days and helped His Majesty make a smooth withdrawal from Persia, so they had been friends for decades!”

Phregulus looked at him and asked in broken Greek, “I heard your father is also their comrade?”

“Adoptive Father!” Melisander corrected him earnestly, as he didn’t want the others to think he got his position because of his father.

Suddenly, Alexius pointed at him, “This is Phregulus, Legatus of the Fourth Cavalry Legion.”

“You don’t need to introduce him since I already know him. After all, I was the one who drafted his appointment as Legatus of the Cavalry Legion!” Antonios laughed and explained. After all, he once served as the Chief of the Military. Then, he said loudly, “Even though Ledes always praised you, Phregulus, and always talked about a skilled man in the cavalry, I still didn’t believe it. But now it seems he’s not lying, for you had led the Fourth Cavalry Legion and won the Battle of Ausculum alone, defeating tens of thousands of Samnite warriors! Excellent! Excellent!”

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