There was a satisfying hiss, and one fire arrow which had only just lodged in the gate was extinguished. But a dozen more were blazing, and Oclatinius tossed his empty bucket to the soldiers below and reached down for another. The soldiers on the guard tower on the other side of the gate were doing the same, frantically grabbing full buckets and pouring them onto the growing flames, while trying to avoid the deadly hail of missiles from the Parthian archers.
One legionary was too slow, too unobservant, or just too unlucky. As he leaned over with his bucket to throw water at a more distant flame, an arrow struck him in the side of the neck. The bucket fell to the ground outside the gate, and the soldier reached up to grasp the arrow shaft. Oclatinius watched in horror as he tried to pull it free, though he surely knew that the wound was mortal. The arrow barely moved before the legionary tumbled over the parapet, falling on top of the bucket which splintered under the impact of the dying man’s body.
Oclatinius watched for a moment paralysed. The legionary still moved, still tried to breathe. He reached an imploring hand up towards Oclatinius, whose heart broke at the pathetic sight. He started to stretch his own hand out.
The singing of an arrow’s path through the air made him duck. The arrow went high. He was fortunate – there wouldn’t have been enough time from him hearing the threat to it impacting upon him to get out of its path. He hunkered down behind the partial safety of the defences, breathing heavily.
“Oclatinius,” roared Quintillius. “Get up, and get those fires out!”