Chapter IV: De Bello Elsweyrio
Turdas, Sun's Dawn, Year 173 4E, Northern Elsweyr "We're moving far too slowly for my tastes," Antony commented. Hoping that any trace of his nervousness at trudging through enemy territory was buried deep inside by his military persona.

"That's what tends to happen when you're moving through enemy territory and have to wait for constant updates from the scouts," Marcus replied serenely as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. It very well must've been seeing as Teldryn grunted an agreement from his sizeable black destrier as well.

The brief conversion, if one could even call it that, lapsed into silence. The only sounds that reverberated through the increasingly arid woods of Elsweyr were those of their horses' hooves clopping on the shoddily paved roads and the sound of the infantry marching in unison. Sounds that Antony had heard so often that they were calming rather than menacing. However, still, the worry in the back of his mind wouldn't abate.

As if hearing his thoughts, Marcus turned to him, a bemused look on his face, "Spit it out, Mark, you look like someone just killed your best friend."

Antony started, "So does everyone else except for you and Teldryn."

"Yes, but when an Infantryman who's never seen real combat beyond a bunch of bandits gets worried, that's normal when the second in command looks about to piss himself… Well, people tend to get a little unnerved by that."

Mark sighed, "Listen, Bibulus may have given you his cavalry, but you realize if we go through with this plan of yours, we'll be fighting at a numerical disadvantage of three to one at least?"

"I am capable of counting," Marcus retorted drily, adding, "and if numbers decided fights mathematicians would rule the world."

"You're always avoiding the question," Antony returned somewhat heatedly Marcus only raised an eyebrow. "How you're planning to win this, there's no way we can fight them!"

"No, you've got it wrong, there's no way we can fight them fairly, so we won't be doing that."

"So, you've said, but what on Nirn does that mean?!"

"It means," the gravelly voice of Teldryn returned from the back, nearly making Antony spur his horse on in a gallop in surprise. "That we'll be making them believe that Mehrunes Dagon himself is coming to kill them."


Marcus and Teldryn both laughed airily at his flabbergasted expression.

The former pulled out a map from his leather satchel, and his entire demeanor shifted to a cautious one. It made him look slightly awkward while riding his horse rather than the picture of an immaculate equestrian he usually portrayed.

"I'm not stupid, you know, there's an actual reason why we're marching through Elsweyr to get to Bravil besides 'they won't expect us,' and that reason is this."

Antony had to squint to see what Captain Agrippa meant, "The Oblivion Gate's ruins, you're not planning on opening one, are you?" He asked only half-joking, as he knew for a fact that his Captain was some sort of Daedra Worshipper, through which Prince he confided in Antony couldn't even begin to guess at.

"Divines no," Marcus began shaking his head with a low laugh. "Even I'm not that crazy, besides the only ones capable of performing that particular feat besides the Daedric Princes themselves are the Sload."

It took a second for Antony to place that name, but when he did, he raised his eyebrows in distress, "You mean those Slug people that live off the coast of Hammerfell?"

Agrippa smiled wanly at him, "The very same, though, don't worry if they haven't done it, yet it means they probably won't."

"That answer just fills me with confidence."

Agrippa laughed again, "In all seriousness, though we won't be opening the gate, we will make them think it has opened."


"Trickery, the head of those Necromancers that are meeting us there is actually arguably better at Illusion than he is at Conjuration. So a fancy light show that'll make it seem like the dormant gate has awoken won't be beyond him, the rest of his people will summon as many Atronachs as they can and make them charge down. From there, we just send out our Cavalry with the whistles I commissioned and watch the chaos unfold."

Antony pursed his lips and pondered the newly revealed information.

"You do realize that this whole plan hinges on whoever is in command of Bravil's garrison sallying out to help us or that numerical advantage I spoke about earlier is going to be the deciding factor no matter how much the morale of the enemy is diminished."

"I do," Marcus returned firmly. "But you needn't worry, Leyawiin fell in a week, and Bravil has held for a year. Commander Cassius is good at his job, and I have supreme confidence that he'll do right by us."

Antony doubted that. He still remembered the words he exchanged with Teldryn when the Captain first came to the fort. Marcus believes there's only one officer in the Empire who knows how to do things correctly, himself, and quite frankly, there is some truth to that.

"Why did those Necromancers agree to help us?"

"High-Elf corpses are rare, very rare, and yet probably the most valuable for magical study. They get to keep said corpses, and we get a victory, fair trade in my book."

Antony shivered internally. In his mind, some lines should not be crossed in war, this was one of them. Still, then again, the stringent terms the Dominion proposed in their ultimatum were nothing to sneeze at either. It was as Marcus was fond of saying, "Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures."

"Why didn't you tell us this earlier, you realize the men are just as jittery as me, right?"

Marcus furrowed his brows and looked around, then in a low voice, answered. "The Thalmor have ears were there shouldn't be any. Even now, I'm not sure they aren't listening. Still, I'm telling you now because we're only three days march from Bravil, meaning we'll arrive fast enough to nullify any advantage their spies would otherwise give them."

Antony was about to respond, but Marcus held up a hand as they watched one of their outriders approaching as if he were running from the aforementioned Daedric Prince.

"Out with it, soldier," Marcus barked when he was in earshot, "what's got you so jittery?"

"An army captain," he said urgently, "judging by the sigil, it looks like most of Rimmen's garrison has come out to meet us!" The scout continued, giving a brief report on the numbers and composition of the army they would soon expect to face. No mages, thank the divines for that, Antony thought with a grateful sigh.

Marcus ground his teeth in annoyance, "Rest and tend to your horse soldier, I daresay you have earned it." The scout nodded gratefully and did as asked, meanwhile Marcus turned to the both of them, an intense scowl affixed on his features.

"3000 fucking cavalry-men!" Marcus said, gnashing his teeth, "How?! We were so fucking careful!"

Antony looked over at Teldryn for advice on how to respond, but for all that he received as an answer, he may as well have been staring at a brick wall. It turned out that the Captain's exclamations were mostly him airing out his thoughts in a rhetorical manner, and he hadn't expected an answer at all.

"Alright, alright," he began gradually calming down with deep breaths, "ok, it looks like it's time to improvise. Judging by the man's estimates, the damn cats will be here in less than a day, that's enough time to erect a few meaningful defenses, but the terrain here is not doing us any favors."

Taking a look around Antony had to silently agree, they were in the middle of a dense forest, not quite as thick as the West Weald they were accustomed to, but with enough trees to make setting up their artillery which would give them an advantage troublesome in such a short amount of time. They could be damn sure that the Khajit had the home-field power.

Marcus looked around for a moment and seemed to get a certain glint in his eyes, "Tell the men to march further towards that," Marcus said, pointing at one of the tallest mountains Antony had ever spotted along the border, "and tell them to double-time it, leave behind the surplus supplies if you have to, just make sure we still have enough halberds by the time we arrive."

"You're not planning to retreat?" Teldryn asked surprised, and Marcus shook his head, a firm 'no' to their probabilities of staying alive rising then, Antony thought.

"You do realize we're outnumbered, and most of our cavalry will take time to catch up to us, right?"

Marcus nodded, "That's why I want to fight with that mountain to our backs, less chance of the men fleeing if they have to flee towards enemy lancers instead of away from them, and it makes it impossible for them to catch us in a double-envelopment, limiting their options. Don't worry, effective use of Cavalry might be devastating on the battlefield, so the solution is simple, we just have to stop the enemy from using their Cavalry effectively."

Teldryn laughed, and Antony shook his head as he left to carry out their orders.

The sky was still quite dark by the time Antony awoke, but the sunlight was slowly starting to creep behind the mountain where they had made their camp. One of his bodyguards was shaking him, but he had awakened well before then. One couldn't very well sleep with war-horns blaring throughout the field, a loud, clear, and strangely angry noise that managed to invade a pleasant dream he was having before then.

He doused his face with water, and his armor came on almost automatically. Exiting the tent, he saw the men running to and from, in the sort of organized chaos one could only observe in an army camp that was preparing for an immediate battle.

He ran through the tents which were quickly being dismantled at a brisk pace, it was a jarring sight to see, they had moved so fast they lacked any camp followers so the nervousness in the din of the encampment was even more palpable than it would usually be before a fight.

Eventually, he reached the unit he would be commanding for the fight, the men that had been in the garrison the longest, and he could safely say the most excellent infantry on the divines' green Nirn. He wouldn't get a chance to talk to his Commander as Marcus decided to take charge of Bibilus' cavalrymen, the most likely to desert, and Teldryn had command of the archers that were poised behind Antony's units to blunt the strength of Rimmen's Cavalry before they met the infantry.

A shame, really. Marcus was no great orator like some of the councilors from the capitol he could name, but he could still be reassuring, and that was something he needed with a plan this insane. He let out a deep breath, needed was a strong word, he didn't need it he wanted it. The only thing he needed to do right now was follow orders, service is purpose.

He blew the whistle that hung on his neck in three quick short bursts as he the scouts informed him of the enemy cavalry's imminent approach. Instantly several of the standard-bearers turned signalmen raised red banners with a large white cross in their center, indicating the formation they would have to assume for the duration of the fight. Antony rarely felt pride in anyone, including himself, but when the men got into the proper "Swiss Formation" in the blink of an eye, he could safely say he was proud of his men, and he was sure Marcus would be too.

To be fair, this was a particular maneuver with pikes that they had drilled the most, partly because it was so useful but mostly because out of all the odd formations Agrippa had introduced, this was the most complicated one. It involved standing in rows that formed ten by ten squares, and each man had to hold his pike in a particular way to maintain mobility for the unit and avoid skewering an ally while maximizing the chances of running an enemy horseman through with a pike.

He had been in cavalry charges before, but never on the receiving end. It was pants-shittingly terrifying especially because a lot of the cats weren't riding on horses, but preferably on what could only be described as giant versions of housecats that could carry three to four of their humanoid brethren on their backs effortlessly and could still run with the grace of regular horses, not to mention that according to Marcus they're just as smart as any man.

The charge barreled on to them with all the force of an avalanche, and while he knew that intellectually there were only about three thousand of them, it seemed like the entirety of Elsweyr was out for their blood at the moment. He didn't bother to suppress a smirk of satisfaction as he saw some of the horses and even giant cats tumble only to be trampled by their companions as a result of the 'caltrops' they had scattered over the field.

Still, the charge held on, and Antony was confident that the wooden stakes they had planted here and there and the small stream behind which they had made camp wouldn't be enough to spare the infantry from the assault.

He heard a horn, followed by Teldryn's bellowing voice that managed to carry over the thundering of the horses' hooves. "Loose!" The Dunmer had screamed only for the sky to be darkened by dozens of pinpricks that crashed and felled a countless number of enemy combatants. The process was repeated several times over, presumably only stopping after they'd run out of arrows.

Not enough, he thought, not nearly enough.

Eventually, the enemy cavalry reached them, he blew the whistle, and the porcupines bared their spines. He braced for a loud crash, but to his surprise, found that the horses refused to charge into their spears, only some of the Khajit mounds were brave or stupid enough yet all, but one was skewered for their trouble.

The enemy commander was smarter than he looked, however, as he tried to flank them. Antony blew his whistle in the pre-arranged pattern and the way everyone held their pikes shifted, once again denying their enemy the advantage.

The game of what one could only call Khajit and Imperial kept going for a few rounds, long enough that the sun had reached its zenith rather than its initial position that had served to blind the enemy during their initial charge.

Antony finally heard the sound he was praying for. A low guttural whine of a war-horn and horses that didn't belong to the enemy. With a bloodthirsty grin, Antony said the words that every mindless berserker yearned to hear.

"Charge!" The enemy was caught flatfooted, Marcus' wild counterattack functioned as the hammer, while Antony's orderly advance made up the Anvil.

The enemy scattered like dust in the wind. And it wasn't long before he could hear the cheers of his men echo off of the mountains to their backs.

Still, he had to interrupt at least momentarily. He blew his whistle, and instantly, there was silence. He hid his smile; he could really get used to that.

He put on his 'commander voice' so that every man around him could hear him.

"Men, I apologize for interrupting in your moment of victory, but the Commander asked me to share a few words with you all if I may," some men nodded. However, they knew full well he was only asking for consent out of curtesy, "If we survive, then congratulations, feel free to have fun and loot as many corpses as you can, but don't get drunk just yet you magnificent bastards, we're still in enemy territory. Still, you shall go down like heroes in your own right and even if you don't win a place alongside the divines. I personally guarantee you Tiber Septim is going to want to congratulate each and every one of you in person, but hopefully not for a while yet. For now, enjoy yourselves!"

It wasn't the greatest of speeches but mixed with the euphoria of victory against overwhelming odds, the reaction was comparable to what would've happened if Martin Septim had returned from the dead. All of the men began chanting Agrippa! Agrippa! Agrippa!

Antony found the Commander himself inside his tent, nursing a goblet of wine. Which he found to be the height of hypocrisy given his announcement and pouring over several detailed maps of Cyrodil and Elsweyr. He didn't speak, he knew it was his duty to wait for Marcus to air his thoughts when he felt like it.

"How many men did you lose?" He asked quietly, he wasn't in mourning for them Antony knew that much at least. Some men thought of the Commander as a father, but he thought of them as investments, nothing more. It pained him to sacrifice them, true enough, but merely as it would hurt a man to lose a few Septims while gambling, nothing more nothing less.

"More than I'd hoped, less than I expected." Antony answered, "We lost about a quarter of our Infantry because of that horse- or should I say cat-archers, though I should note that's including the archers that got caught up in the fighting."

Agrippa visibly grimaced, "Yes, their Khajit mounts were more dangerous than expected. They're like extremely maneuverable chariots and siege platforms that can think for themselves."

Antony stayed quiet and nodded gravely, though he broke the silence when he sensed no further insight was coming, "Do we march on Bravil?"

"No," Agrippa answered, tapping at one of the maps impatiently. "We no longer have the cavalry, oblivion, even we had some of our infantry ride enemy horses, it still wouldn't be enough."

"Well, we can't stay here," Antony stated matter-of-factly, and his Commander shot him a withering glare. It took him a moment to realize why Marcus lost most of his Cavalry. For all his genius, the man wasn't someone who cared for leading from the front. He just realized how messy it is.

"No, we can't," he finally answered after a pause and a massive sigh. "We'll head back to Cyrodil the way we came, take some time to rest at the fort. Then head up to link with General Flavius' Army that's defending the Capital from Naarfin, we'll try to disrupt Arranelya's supply chain all the while."

Antony nodded an excellent plan. Though he could tell Marcus was disappointed in not having been able to relieve Bravil and cut Lord Naarfin's supply chain in one fell swoop. The man cares more about going down in history than winning the war, Antony had long ago realized. Though truth be told, he didn't care overmuch because at least for now those goals aligned.

Marcus took a deep drought of the wine before an odd spark came over him, "Mark, could you hand me that book over there, please? No-yes the large one."

It was a large-ish leather-bound tome with the words 'A Gentleman's Guide to the Dominion' embossed in southern Cyrodilic on the front. Agrippa began flipping through the pages before a look of realization passed on his face.

"Antony," he began with a smile that sent shivers down his spine, "We march on Rimmen."