Oclatinius marched behind Quintillius’ left shoulder, Cominius behind his right. He kept his back straight and his face impassive, though his heart was pounding. As they neared, the Parthians became clearer. The two escorts flanking the commander wore tunics and trousers, like some of the northern barbarians preferred. Their pointy helmets seemed to be made of some sort of cloth. The commander by contrast had an iron helmet and a type of scale armour that covered his neck, chest, abdomen and legs. His horse too was covered with a similar armour, and Oclatinius wondered how you were supposed to bring someone like that down.
Quintillius came to a halt a dozen feet away.
“What do you want, Parthian?”
The Parthian commander regarded them for a moment, before replying in clear Greek.
“My name is Phraates. I command these horsemen you see behind me. You are in Parthian territory.”
“We’re leaving,” said Quintillius. “Let us pass peacefully, and there will be no trouble.”
“Peacefully? Did you pass peacefully on your way into our lands? Did you bring peace to Dura Europos? To Seleucia?”
Oclatinius felt a weight settle in the bottom of his stomach. He had hoped that they had outpaced the news of the sack of those cities. But it was a forlorn hope, he knew. They had been making a pathetically slow pace, and these men were on horseback. If they knew what had happened, especially at Seleucia, they would not let them go without punishment. And the century was in no shape to fight its way through them.
“Then why are we talking?” asked Quintillius.
“So I may accept your surrender.”