Four legionaries hastened to obey, heaving the bar out of the iron catches holding it in place, and as soon as it was free two others hauling on the gates themselves. They creaked open, the gap widening slowly at first, then faster as the two legionaries who had removed the bar helped. The Parthians, unable to counteract the momentum of the ram quickly enough, burst through the empty gap in the gates. They stumbled, off-balance, braced for the resistance of the gates and encountering only air. Unexpectedly faced by the legionaries, some dropped the ram and turned tail, causing those who tried to keep a grip to trip and fall.
Legionaries placed either side of the gates in readiness, fit and well soldiers, stepped in with swords drawn. The Parthians had no chance to defend themselves. Gladii thrust, men screamed, blood gouted, and in moments the Parthians within the gates were finished, dead, dying or fled.
It was a good tactic, they had captured the ram, given the Parthians a bloody nose, and the sensible thing would be to close the gates once more.
Quintillius looked up at Oclatinius, as if seeking reassurance. Oclatinius nodded. This had been his idea after all. And maybe it would be the death of all of them. What was it Fulvius had quoted that physician as saying? “All who drink this recover, except those who don’t, who all die.” Something like that anyway. That was how he felt right now. This remedy would work, and they would be saved. Unless it didn’t. And then they would all die.
“Advance!” called out Quintillius.
The sickly front rank of the century lifted their shields, the efforts of even this showing on their pustular faces. Then, one foot plodding after another, to the amazement of the Parthians, they advanced.
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