For a terrifying moment, he thought it was all over. If the fall didn’t kill him, the Parthians below would make short work of him. He flailed, but felt himself tilting inexorably forward and over.
Firm hands grabbed his feet, and yanked him back on the safe side of the parapet. Oclatinius sank to the floor, rubbing his stomach, sore from the stakes pressing against the mail, breathing heavily. Centurion Flaccus was looking down at him with his customary stern face. But that face was covered with sheets of coalescing, weeping, scabby pustules.
“Still being an idiot, Oclatinius,” he said. He reached a swollen hand, oozing hand down to help Oclatinius to his feet. Oclatinius hesitated to take it, repelled for a moment.
In that moment of hesitation, an arrow flew over the parapet and struck Flaccus squarely in the chest, penetrating his curaiss and lodging deep inside him. His eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to speak, but no words emerged, only dark blood. He took one step forward, then toppled over the parapet to land with a sickening thud below.
Oclatinius jumped to his feet, looked over, knowing there was no hope, but needing to see for himself the fate of his first ever commanding officer. Flaccus lay on his back, staring at the sky, a dark patch staining his front. A Parthian hurried over to him, sword drawn, ready to finish him off if there were any signs of life. He stared down into the dead face, took a hasty step backwards and called over another. He pointed at Flaccus, then pointed at his own face. The other Parthian grabbed his arm and pulled him away, muttering loudly. They ran over to the officer who seemed to be commanding the ramming party, shouting and pointing over to Flaccus.
The men holding the ram were readying themselves for another charge, but the officer yelled a command and they stopped in their tracks. At another command, they dropped the ram, and ran back towards their own lines.
Oclatinius watched the scene play out in fascination, the bow at his feet forgotten. This was important. He gave Flaccus a last, regretful glance, then hurried down the ladder to find Quintillius.