Monarch Level Rome Pangaea 60% Water Temperate 4 Billion years Standard Sized World 7 Enemy Civs (Random). Garacius attempted to get the stubborn brush out of the way for the 3rd time, and again wound up on his back. “Damn,” he yelped, quickly sucking his torn hands to quell the sting of his newly ripped palm, and glowered at Kasius who tried hard not to laugh. Struggling back to his feet, the Roman road builder looked backwards over his shoulder to the rest of the crew struggling under the summer sun. In the distance, situated on a low rise of hills, the gleaming walls of Antium guarded the city known as the dye capital of Pax Romana. Sighing, Garacius turned his attention ahead, scowling at the increasingly forested land his road crew would have to work through in order to bring Antium’s potential trade of dyes to Rome’s demanding Emperor and it’s tremendous, simmering populous. There had already been a recent uprising a few months ago credited to Rome’s angry population and tight living spaces. However, Caesar had it quickly squashed by Scipio’s battalion of spearmen. The heroic company’s rapid return and regarrisonning of the city militia after their skirmish with Visigoth barbarians, made the grumbling people less inclined to complain. That, and the 30 new crosses dotting the hillside. But before they got to the forests, they would have to finish the road through the scrubland. Offering little native stone and composed of hardy brush and tick infested grasses, Garacius’ road detail had been having limited success. Walking to the tool wagon, the lanky Roman road builder took a long handled wooden shovel from the dwindling pile of tools and attacked the plant that had recently torn his callused palm. “Garacius, Garacius!” Lowering his shovel, he looked up, and saw one of his crewmen pointing to the low hills to the north. Turning his attention, he noted a small band of men riding horses, dressed in deep red tunics. Smiling, Garacius waved his shovel overhead, signaling to the riders that he had seen them, inviting them to his crew. “Kasius,” he said, lowering the shovel to the unyielding plains, “I see that great Caesar has finally gotten his hands on horses for the army. I guess the strange dark men to our west accepted the gifts that our taxes had paid for last season.” Kasius lowered his pick, staring at the growing number of horsemen that rode over the hills, cantering toward the now relaxing work crew. “I’m sure that Caesar’s raising of our taxes had little or nothing to do with the gifts he gave to the western tribes. And they call themselves Zulu.” “Zulu? What an odd name. Are they descended from Zeus?” “No? Why ask?” “Well Rome was founded by Romulus, so I thought that the Zulu were founded by Zeus.” Kasius laughed. “No, in fact their capital city is called Zimbabwe, so I am not sure where Zulu comes from.” He replaced his pick in the wagon and returned to watching the approaching riders. “Either way, my complaint on the taxes still stands. My sister’s husband was at the senators’ bathhouse last week, and he heard that the Zulu leader flat out refused a trade for his horses.” Seeing that the two leaders of the work crew were no longer working, the rest of the 200 man crew gathered around Garacius and Kasius, trying to get close enough to hear their words as well as rubbing the aches out of their backs and arms. “Well, however Caesar was able to achieve it, there are our soldiers, and they are mounted on horses.” Garacius pointed at the now large contingent of mounted soldiers. Scanning the riders, Kasius gave a low whistle. “I’m guessing 8 or 9 hundred men there.” He paused, frowning. “And they seem so sure.” “Roman soldiers, the best in the world.” Kasius shook his head, “No, I mean, how did they get so comfortable in the saddle?” “Excellent training, and sure Roman know-how.” “Hear, hear!” cried the rest of the road crew, agreeing with Garacius’ patriotic surety. The men broke out clay jugs of wine and wrapped strips of meat in anticipation of sharing their rations with the sure to be hungry approaching horsemen. Most of the men laid their red, sweat soaked shirts on the ground, in an effort to keep their lunch from getting filthy. Kasius strode to the edge of the encampment, still watching the approaching riders. After a few moments, Garacius joined him, handing his concerned friend his wine jug. After taking a quick pull, Kasius returned it absently. “Wrong. It’s wrong.” “What is?” Garacius asked. The mounted troops were now only a few hundred yards away, now riding rapidly towards them, their spears stabbing the air with a thousand bronze points. “Their clothes.” “What about them?” Kasius looked back at the crew and then again at the riders. “The red of their tunics, it’s too dark.” Garacius gave a snort of laughter. “What! That red is the easiest color, the cheapest, and the one that Caesar himself uses. And besides, those men riding towards us are WEARING RED.” Garacius motioned back to his the crew and then to the riders, paused a moment, and stopped. He looked back a forth twice more, his brows furrowing in concern. “Kasius,” he said slowly, “I think you’re right,” a growing dread filling his voice, “that is a different red.” The riders were no further than a hundred yards away by this point, the rumbling of their horses’ gait filling the plains. Their commander, a blood red banner waning behind his upright spear, raised a horn to his lips and blew a single piercing blast. A cry rose from the horsemen as they kicked their mounts into a full gallop. As one, the front ranks lowered their spear points to chest height, while the second ranks unfurled woven hemp nets. “Run!” Garacius cried. “Run for your lives!” Turning, he dashed for the tool wagon, vaulted onto the buckboard, and kicked the handbrake free with his foot. “Hi-ya!” he yelled, snapping the whip at the oxen yoked to the front of the wagon. “Move!” he snapped the whip again. Startled, the lumbering beasts leaned forward, pulling the tool wagon behind them. Feeling it shake, Garacius turned back to see Kasius and five other Roman workers clamber onto the back of the accelerating vehicle. Behind them, the rest of his crew were scattering as fast as they can. Just beyond, the mounted soldiers were only a few dozen feet from his overwhelmed crew. The oxen began to slow, no longer goaded into running as Garacius watched the unfolding horror of the attack. Kasius leapt over the buckboard. “Give me!” he yelled and took the reins from Garacius’ slackening grip. With morbid wonder, Garacius watched as the first 200 mounted soldiers crashed into his men. Bronze flashed. The rich metal became stained with blood. Bodies fell, crushed beneath flashing hooves. The cries of dying Romans filled the air. He watched as a stand of twelve Romans stood together, back to back, swinging shovels, picks, and rakes. A horse went down screaming, it’s legs broken. The rider fell and was hacked to death. Then another rider fell, swept off his saddle by a blow to the chest. He grit his teeth, tears running down his cheeks as the next wave of horsemen rode into the knot of Roman defenders. Spears flashed. Chests burst. Men died. Pulling away from the 3rd line, some forty mounted warriors chased the plodding wagon. Their galloping steeds easily caught up to the fleeing Garacius and company. Before the Roman’s could decide to stop, fight, or continue fleeing, over a dozen throws spears flew out and killed both oxen, stopping the wagon dead. In broken Latin, one of the blood red marauders said, “Surrender! I am Hannibal! The Golden Lion and Scourge of Rome! Giving up or you are being dead!” Choking back his sobs, Garacius held his arms up, hanging his head low. Seeing defeat on their leader, the rest of his crew followed suit. Bound together, their hands roped behind them, they were led back to the rest of the beaten Romans and their new masters. Those that weren’t killed were quickly netted and clubbed. Rounding up their newly captured slaves, the warriors from Carthage led their charges back over the northern hills and the road crew was lost to sight. Only the wailing of the enslaved, the cheers of the conquered, and the diminishing cries of the wounded and dying echoed back to people of Antium.