Oclatinius moved with a great effort, fighting against every instinct screaming at him to keep his head down. Expecting at any moment for an arrow to skewer him like the soldier on the opposite tower, he threw bucket after bucket over the flames. There were several near misses that made his bowels loosen, but eventually the fires were extinguished, the gates were still intact, and somehow Oclatinius had avoided perforation.
He sank back onto the floor of the guard tower, breathing deeply in an attempt to slow his racing pulse.
“Oclatinius!” yelled Quintillius. “Is it done?”
“All done, sir,” he shouted back. “All the flames are out.”
“Good work. Get down here, take a short break. You!” He randomly pointed to one of his reserves. “Get up there and take his place.”
Oclatinius climbed down the guard ladder on trembling legs, clammy hands gripping the rungs of the ladder overly tightly. At the bottom, he glanced at the gates. From the inside they seemed largely undamaged, but some patches had turned brown where the flames had nearly burned all the way through. One or two of the stakes that made up the gate had splintered from multiple impacts. But they were still able to do their job. They had beaten off the first attack.
Oclatinius took out his flask and drained it, then headed over to the well in the centre of the town, near the temporary hospital to refill it. Most of the townsfolk were cowering in their houses, praying to whichever gods they worshipped in these parts to be spared. But some peered out of the corners of windows as he passed, showing expressions of fear, resentment and anger.