Oclatinius watched with pride, hope and fear as the legionaries pressed forward, swords drawn, shields in front of them. But the shields did not cover their faces, Oclatinius was pleased to see. He had been very explicit about that instruction to Quintillius, and he was relieved the order had been obeyed, alien as it seemed to keep any vital part exposed to the enemy.
The Parthians unleashed a volley of arrows, and two of the front rank fell. Oclatinius was dismayed to see the lanky figure of Mergus fall with an arrow in his face. But shuffling soldiers filled the gaps and they continued forwards. Instead of hitting and running as was their usual tactic, the Parthians, seeing an opportunity to outflank them, and to end this fight once and for all, rode forwards. Oclatinius shot arrow after arrow into the horsemen, catching a horse in its flank which bucked and threw its rider, hitting another rider in the arm, making him drop his sword. But the numbers of attackers were too big for him and the other archer on the opposite tower to make a significant difference.
The Parthians were almost upon the advancing legionaries, when they became close enough to see the Roman faces. Oclatinius could feel the shock ripple through the enemy ranks, even from his lofty viewpoint. Some continued the charge. Some drew up short. Some immediately whipped their horses round in a tight half circle and fled. The legionaries, all infected with the most visible form of the pox, suppurating, oozing, scabbed and pustular jeered at the Parthians.
“Come on then you barbarians fuckers.”
“Aren’t we pretty enough for you, fellators?”
Some Parthians pressed the attack, and even those few looked enough to overwhelm the weak legionaries at the front. But at a command from Quintillius, the sickly soldiers opened up gaps in the rank, and the second rank, all healthy, fit men, stepped forward. The Parthians were committed, but found their horses riding onto spears braced in the ground, found themselves dragged off their horses and once on the ground kicked, beaten and hacked to death.
The attack was finished, almost as soon as it had started.