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AD 82 Samhain – Glen of the Eagles, Venicones Territory
The shrill whistle of a distressed kingfisher rent the air. Brennus hand-signalled his band to scatter through the forest fringe, knowing Esk’s alarm meant Roman troops were close by. The strident version Esk could produce was piercing, yet so realistic.
Taking cover behind a large boulder outcrop, he sidled along to allow Lorcan space.
“They must be very near. Your Esk is the best scout I have ever encountered. We must give great thanks to Callan for recognising his worth.” Lorcan’s whisper tickled his ear.
Rather than speak he nodded as Esk mimicked another bird, this time the Red Grouse as though the bird had been startled into an upwards flurry from the heather: the signal that it was only a small group of Romans. Their use of bird calls and animal noises had been perfected and had helped keep the band alive more than a time or two.
Pulling his bratt over his light coloured hair, Brennus slowly peered around the side of the rock. They had been forced to traverse the lower foothills almost the whole journey to avoid detection and he was weary of the need to slink past the Roman scum. Along with his brother and his small band of followers they had agreed that a confrontation every time they encountered the forces of Rome would do them no favours. The otherworld was too likely a result for some of them since they had come across so many patrols. However, that did not mean they would not fight if an opportunity arose where they were likely to be the victors and come out of a skirmish unscathed.
An animal noise was just discernable, the soft repetitive scratching of a red squirrel clawing at tree bark. Nith. He was much better at animal noises.
Brennus could see no sign of any Romans but pulled back to mouth at his brother. “Only around ten of them.”
A grin broke free. He had no present notion of exactly where his companions were except Lorcan, but Esk and Nith’s alarm calls meant they were nearby. The others wouldn’t have gone far either.
Lorcan’s dunt at his elbow drew his to the other side of the outcrop. “Over there.”
Lorcan’s whisper was drowned by the new sound of tramping feet. The Roman patrol was walking alongside the burn at the hill foot. There was too much exposed ground for Brennus and his men to attack them in their current location but if the patrol continued their present direction they would soon enter the copse that lay ahead of them. It was likely that they would since Brennus knew the far side of the copse led to the pathway which opened out at the glen of the eagles. There had already been a temporary camp there when he had set out seasons ago to seek out the Caledon leaders. If the Romans continued their usual practice then a permanent camp was probably now somewhere near since it lay on the strategic north-east route up through the territory of the Venicones to the River Tatha.
Peering out Lorcan’s end of the outcrop he caught sight of Esk’s spear tip just above the rock where he was sheltering, though the man’s body remained invisible. Giving a soft hoot Brennus waited for Esk’s head to peek out. After giving a silent hand signal to remain above the patrol and negotiate a path that would lead to the copse below, he expected his men to follow when he and Lorcan silently set off, maintaining their cover.
It took only a short time for Brennus’ band to be in place, ahead of the Roman patrol.
“Now!” His alarm cry sent his companions out from their hiding places.
The ring of metal on metal was almost instantly all around, the surprised cries of the Roman auxiliaries a sound that was most welcome. He had managed the element of surprise, the small group of Romans unable to form any kind of defensive shield. They were doomed. Nith had been correct. Only twelve Romans and his group outnumbered them by seven.
Lorcan’s battle cries deafened his ears, his brother’s long sword crushing the lorica hamata of the nearest soldier of Rome. Not enough to penetrate the links, the blow was still strong enough to send the smaller man to his knees, one of Trune’s men at the ready to whack the Roman’s neck.
Brennus’ spear slammed into the upper leg of an escaping Roman, Esk moving in to finish off beheading the screeching soldier. Similar engagement was all around the area, blood and flesh spattering around till all noise was extinguished.
Brennus bent down to retrieve his spear from the auxiliary’s leg. The half rent head lay in a pool of dark red blood, the eyes surprised by the speed of the attack. It was just a young lad, Brennus guessed not much more than sixteen winters.
He beckoned his brother over to the carnage at his feet. “Agricola’s troops seem younger and younger.”
“Aye! And he looks no different from our young warriors, wherever he has come from.”
“Is anyone hurt?” He called around to check on his band.
Nith replied, kneeling at the side of one young warrior. “Only two wounds but neither is a serious one. A binding will suffice for now.”