Don't let yourself be fooled by my name, I'm not going to take revenge from inside Seleukos' Palace for what he has done to me ;)
Some notes about my concept and background, which you may read before or after the chapter:
Spoiler Alert, click show to read:
Chapter 1: Baptism by Fire
Dust is dispersed when two feet hit the ground. The feet are clad in light boots of soft, red leather, which have become gray from a long travel, as has the dark red cloak which the tall young man has wound around his shoulders. The man's beard has grown wild, as he had not allowed himself to have it shaved for several weeks, but the piercing glance of his clear and proud brown eyes reveal that this had to be a man of most noble birth.
With long, resolute steps he covers the last few meters to the height of the hill, while one of his inferiors takes hold of his horse's reins, a black arabian steed of beautiful and noble physique.
With folded arms the young man watches the plain in the south, squinting because of the burning sun of the early afternoon. In the distance a small cloud of dust reveals the approach of several horsemen.
“Oh, Strategos, our scouts are returning!” exclaimes an aide nearby. “I'm not blind!” answers the annoyed young general in a harsh voice. He turns to the speaker. “Nor am I deaf!”
The young Strategos' name is Theodoros, son to Antiochos Soter and Kleronomos Basileois of the Arche Seleukeia, since Antiochos had his first born executed for treason. The realm of Seleukos Nikator sees difficult times, now in the 42nd year of the Seleucid Era, the eleventh year of Antiochos' rule.
In the west, the conflict with Ptolemaios II Philadelphos has not yet been settled and the seleucid influence in Asia Mikra is fading, while in the east Satraps and Vassals of the Arche gain confidence in their own strength and the absence of central power and the first of them even dare to challenge Antiochos' hegemony.
Two years ago Antiochos lead his men to Syria to fight the Ptolemaioi. He send his second born, Theodoros, to the east to restore order and authority in the empire's eastern satrapies, while Sarpedon, the third born, was declared Emporiarches and head of the bureaucracy and set up residence in Seleukeia on the west bank of the Tigris to secure the functionality of trade and administration while the crisis lasts.
Theodoros set out with only a few soldiers and lead his men in a forced march through Media, gathering forces, poorly trained and rather a bunch of armed peasants and shepherds than an army, consisting of mostly Persians and Medians, but also Sogdianes, Armenians and even some Arachosians and Dahae.
While Theodoros traveled eastwards he ordered the garrisons in Sogdiana and Dayuan to be abandoned, because he considered them as undefendable for now, even if the Satrap of Baktria would send some of his troops for assistance.
When the army approached Hekatompylos, news were delivered that a force of Parnoi, a tribe of the Dahae, nomads and pillagers who were living in the steppes east of the Caspian Sea, had been marauding in Astauene and setting siege to Asaak for some month before marching west through Hyrkania. Although Theodoros knew his army was lacking troops for a line of battle, he ordered the march through the mountains down to the hyrkanian coast to confront the incursors, without some rest for the exhausted soldiers.
“Strategos! We have come to late, Zadrakata has fallen!” The scouts belonged to Theodoros' arachosian cavalry, one half of his light cavalry. The other half were Dahaen, on whom he rather kept an eye, mistrusting them in a fight against their brothers from the Parnoi, as they owed loyalty to Theodoros' coins at best.
“No,” Theodoros answers, while mounting his horse, “we are just in time. We will descend upon them, while they are still celebrating their victory, drunken and tired of fighting. And with the guidance of the gods we will teach them how a descendant of Seleukos deals with betrayal!”
The red sun has just risen above the hills of Hyrkania, to greet the new day. Its light is reflected by the points of two thousand and four hundred pikes, carried by Theodoros' levy phalangitai, the light troops, nearly one and a half time that much, advance before them, on the flanks the light cavalry from Arachosia and the Dahaens, behind them the Strategos himself, accompanied by his own Ile, somatophylakes of makedonian descend.
Reluctantly had Theodoros refrained from attacking the day before: too tired his men, too late the day. But now he was ready to teach the Parnoi their last lesson.
Theodoros wears his fine armor which marks him as the general, but not yet his helmet, because it obscures his view. The Parnoi have assembled behind the palisade, which still shows the breaches that were cut in the assault. These breaches now shall be used against them. Theodoros' troops outnumber the enemy, but he suspects the Parnoi to be better fighters individually. Luckily, they are not able to use their horse archers to best efficiency, as they are trapped behind the walls.
Shouts sound from the first ranks. The enemy has begun to shot at the approaching Parsoi. The army comes to a halt and the battle of archers begins, while the pikemen, levied and poorly trained, nervously await the things to come.
Volley after volley is fired over the palisade and the Thanvare Pahyadag and Shuban-i Fradakhshana seem to gain the advantage over the less numerous Shivatir-i Pahlavanig and Daha Baexdhzyntae who can not exploit their mobility. The air is filled with the sound of arrows beeing loosened, for a time which seems endless. But finally, silence falls on the battlefield.
A break, a tension which almost hurts, nature itself seems to hush, no bird's song is to be heard. Only the heated air seems to whirr, entangling the soldiers' minds, making armor and weapons a heavy burden – then, another signal. The phalangitai are ordered to advance.
The Auletai play the flutes, governing the tact of the pikemens' lockstep. The Taxeis move forward in tight formation, they slide over the grass like wooden rectangles on a table. The distance shortens, the Phalangitai approach the gaps left in the palisade.
But then, it happens: The untrained men lose their step when entering through the breach, the formation gets confused. The Verkhana Kofyaren, lightly armored infantry armed with axes, pour into the gaps in the formation, ruthlessly hacking their way through the terrified pikemen.
At another breach in the wall, the phalanx has managed to enter the city, but the parnoi general, Harasp e Dahaen, throws his heavily armored cavalry into them.
The battle now is on a knife's edge. The young prince sends his skirmishers into the fray: all or nothing. The general's Ile closes up fast, there: an opportunity for a charge – Xyston lowered, tension – and clash. The light hillmen burst asunder as the wedge of iron cuts through them, like a trieres with full drive cuts through the waves. Hillmen go to the ground, to the right and left, trampled by horses, impaled by lances. The charge slows down – Xyston dropped and Kopis released – slashing left and right – blood, blood, shouts, crying, iron, blood – everywhere, nothing else. Suddenly a commotion: the horse, the fine, the beautiful Arabian, bucks – the reins are loose – grasping – slipping – falling. Noise, blood, shouts, iron – everywhere, nothing else.
Theodoros is on his knees. Noise, heat. Sensation fades away – the noise quiets down, the vision is blurred, only the whirring heat beyond the helmet remains. The delirious mind wanders. Theodoros watches himself, this morning, on his horse, in front of the troops. They looked up to him, waiting for his encouragement, waiting for a straw to grip to avoid decline, in their first battle. Looking up to him, the Kleronomos Basileois, in shining armor, worth more than they can imagine. He watches himself talking, not hearing a word. He tries to remember what he told them. He spoke about the gods, about faith and the confidence in the aid from the gods. He spoke about Seleukos, who is Apollo's mortal son and whose grandson he is. Then, he told them to say their prayer and they kneeled down. If we have faith, we will prevail. Then he hears something. Quiet, far away, but slowly growing louder. A scream, maybe. Then, the sound of metal, hammering on metal. Shouting, fighting. Blood. With a strong impulse Theodoros darts upwards – a man tumbles in front of him, the chest breaking open with a stream of blood, giving way for the tip of a Kontos, thrusted with might from horseback. It is the man Theodoros blustered yesterday. No time to think about. Act fast. A leap, a grip, a strong pull. The armored rider is irritated, strongly leans to the side, tries to find his balance. The prince drops the Kontos, now he gets a grip at the rider's arm, another pull and a hard slash into the face. Merely a glimpse of time is gone when Theodoros draws himself onto the horse.
Finally he has some overview. The streets are still in chaos, but only few are still fighting and the battle is won, at a high price.
Wellllll, please tell me if you'd like something like this, will you?