Legion of the Sands
Part Three – We Took An Oath
Beneath a faded red standard marched a body of soldiers in tight formation. The standard pole was crested by a golden sun, atop of which perched a spread winged hawk, gripping the sun in its talons. The standard itself also was emblazoned with the golden sun, in the centre of which, picked out with red thread, had been embroidered the number three.
Even while caged in the fighting pits, Nhaqosa had heard tales told of the Third Legion of the Empire, one of the oldest and most renowned of the Legions, yet one that had been lost in the dark days that had seen the might of the Empire fall, even before he had arrived in that world.
Yet there, against all logic and understanding, marched a full company of the Third legion, a hundred men in banded armour, with spears to their shoulders, short swords at their sides and broad shields at hand. They marched in step behind their standard and their Knight-Centurion with his red crested helm. More than a few of the soldiers bore bandages of white linen.
Their presence, their very existence was a profound mystery, and one that Nhaqosa hoped would be without trouble. A full hundred of the hard faced, professional soldiers of the Legions were not a foe that he wanted to face down.
Nhaqosa hurried own the steps, taking them three at a time, and headed at a swift pace back across the plaza to the fountain where a few of his band waited. Abasan and Niati almost had to run to keep up with him.
A couple of the other groups had already returned, and the waiting ex-gladiators watched the approaching Legion Men with curious caution.
“Stay here,” Nhaqosa told them. “Abasan, Niati, with me. No weapons.” He set down the heavy stone headed maul that he carried, comprised of a cylinder of polished and carved green stone through which ran a long wooden handle. Only one as tall and bulky as he, standing head and shoulders above most men, and weighing as much as three, could use the weapon to its fullest extend.
With Abasan and Niati following close at hand, Nhaqosa started off across the plaza, headed towards the boulevard entrance and the Legion Men. The soldiers slowed at his approach and at a command Nhaqosa did not hear, they began to file out to form a shield wall across the boulevard, though they did not as yet ready their weapons. Nhaqosa took that to be a promising sign.
The Knight-Centurion removed his helmet, tucking it beneath his arm. Thus done, he walked forward to meet the giant minotaur and his two human companions. The man’s face was drawn and bore a weathered complexion, his dark hair touched with silver and his dark eyes contained a haunted weariness. With one hand holding his helmet, the other rested on the hilt of the sword at his side. His whole carriage was that of an air of wariness, though not of fear.
“In all my years of service in the Legions,” he began by saying when he arrived, “I have travelled far and seen much, and yet never have I seen one the likes of you.”
“And nor will you again,” Nhaqosa told him. “I am a stranger in your world, far from home, and merely seeking my way back there.”
“He is the Yahalat Tamar,” Abasan added, speaking with profound respect.
The Knight-Centurion’s eyes swivelled to Abasan at the comment. “Are you loyal, desert man?”
“Loyal?” Abasan seemed taken back by the question, unsure as to what exactly was meant by it.
“To the Empire,” the Knight-Centurion said. “Too many of your kind have sided with the enemy. Tomorrow we march to battle against them, and the monsters they are in league with.”
“I was driven out by my tribe,” Abasan replied, a touch of pain in his eyes and voice. “I no longer hold any allegiance to them.”
“That is well. The question is what brings you to Hafrata?”
“We are merely passing through,” Nhaqosa told him in a deep and sonorous voice.
The soldier nodded. “As long as that is all that you are doing. I am Vasra Fal, and my men and I are pledged to the defence of Hafrata, to which purpose tomorrow we do battle.”
Nhaqosa took a long, slow look around the city. “It would appear that there is little left to defend herre.”
For a moment Vasra Fal frowned, and a troubled look flashed through his eyes, almost as if he was trying to fathom out some puzzle that continued to elude him. He licked at his lips before giving a slight shake of the head. “We took an oath,” he stated. “As long as we draw breathe then Hafrata and the Emperor will not fall.”
Abasan and Niati exchanged a brief look behind Nhaqosa, concerned by the response from Vasra Fal. Hafrata and the Emperor had fallen, years before, and yet the Legion Man seemed in some manner unaware of it, a sigh, perhaps of madness.
Nhaqosa merely nodded. “It is an honourable charge, friend Vasra.”
“Yes. Given that you are newly arrived to Hafrata, we would offer you hospitality this night. Call your friends in and we will accompany you to our barracks.”
Previous Part Next Part