His friend was sitting up, holding a piece of bread that had a single bite taken from it. Oclatinius squatted down beside him.
“What’s happening?” asked Bricius. His voice was weak and Oclatinius had to lean in to catch what he was saying.
“The Parthians have come.”
“The same ones that have been shadowing us?”
Oclatinius shrugged. “Maybe. But a lot more have joined them now.”
Bricius mouthed a word that Oclatinius couldn’t quite lip read in the darkness, though he presumed he had just said, “Doomed.”
“How are you feeling?” asked Oclatinius.
“Like Hades shat in my stomach.”
Oclatinius tried to imagine what that might be like, and quickly gave up. “Is there anything I can get you?”
“That physician you mentioned? Galen? Can you fetch him?”
Oclatinius chuckled and slapped him on the shoulder. Bricius heaved and clapped a hand over his mouth, and Oclatinius backed up, preparing to be vomited on. Bricius managed to hold it down though. He swallowed hard and gave Oclatinius a half-smile. Oclatinius settled himself on the sandy ground to sit with his friend for the rest of his break.
The Parthians still hadn’t attacked by first light. Oclatinius had been reassigned to his guard post, and as the horizon turned a dark blue and then orange, the number of men arrayed against them became clear.
Oclatinius’ heart sank. On their march, he had only seen around a score of riders. Enough to be a bother, especially when they had no cavalry of their own, but not a serious threat. Now he looked out across rows of horses mounted by riders armed with bows and spears, and though he quickly lost count, he estimated their strength to be a couple of hundred.
The century was now besieged.