Chapter 1: Claiming the Remnants of an Empire Rome, Western Roman Empire, 475 CE

"The Empire is falling around us," a middle aged man, wearing moderately decorated chain mail armor, growled as he slumped into a chair inside what had once been the shinning light of the world.

"Orestes has given you a grand mission, Narius," an aide spoke from the other end of the tent they were in, "He has given you two legions to guard Rome."

"Orestes has given me two legions to guard all of southern Italy," Narius answered back, "While he leads the rest of his Germanic army against Nepos in Dalmatia."

"But Nepos is the Emperor," the aide argued.

"Not as far as Orestes is concerned," Narius replied, "When he gave me my commission to guard this region, he questioned my loyalties."

"Any military commander would ask that of his generals," the aid pointed out.

"Yes, but his little boy was on the Imperial Throne while Nepos is in Dalmatia," Narius answered, "Augustulus has no respect."

"Do you think there will be civil war then?" the aide asked.

Narius slowly shook his head, "No. As I said our Empire is too weak at present to fight a civil war. The Visigoths, Franks, Alemanni, and Vandals would all love to see us fight each other. Especially since Nepos granted the Visigoths the right to Spain and the Franks the right to Gaul. No, more likely Orestes will prefer to keep Nepos in a state of exile in Dalmatia."

"Then perhaps we will survive, then," the aide commented, "The Visigoths and the Vandals are the more aggressive enemies that we have, and neither can conquer the continent. The Vandals have to contend with the sea and Visigoths have the Franks in their way."

"The Imperium Romanum Pars Occidentalis will not survive as it is," Narius answered, "There are no Romans in any position of power. Nepos is the only Roman who can claim major political power, and Nepos is in exile. Our Empire is falling to the Germans."

"Sir?" the aide asked.

"The Germans are the ones who control the Western Roman Empire, Janus, we Romans are given minor jobs and are expected to stay out of the way," Narius answered, "Orestes served the demonic Attila at one point and is of German birth. And Orestes and his son are the lesser of our German problems."

"Lesser?" Janus questioned.

"I met a German chieftain while I was in Ravenna," Narius replied, "A man named Odoacer. Orestes has him commanding much of the armies in the north. He will be the destruction of the Empire, mark my words."

"What does the East say to all this?" Janus asked.

"As far as I know, nothing," Narius answered, "I'd suspect they back Nepos, but no word had reached Ravenna that I was allowed to see, and I have been forbidden from making any sort of contact with Constantinople."

Carthage, Kingdom of Vandals The aging King Genseric stood on the docks as a fleet of warships were being loaded for a prepared campaign in the central Mediterranean. He had watched the Western Roman Empire steadily fall apart throughout his life. He had successfully taken North Africa from them and from the sidelines as the Visigoths took Hispania and Franks Gaul. All that really remained Western Roman Empire was Italy and Sicily, and the aging King now had his eyes on the Roman island of Sicily and Malta.

"We can easily depart in a few weeks to take Malta, Father," his son Huneric said confidently, "And from there move on to Sicily shortly thereafter."

"Attack Rome directly," Genseric ordered.

"What?" Huneric asked in surprise, "But we do not have the siege capabilities to break its walls. Southern Italy is largely defenseless, as reports from our Ambassador in Ravenna indicates that only two legions have been given the task of defending everything south of Rome. The general is likely to keep both close to the city, if not in it, as it is the only way the general there can keep power. Two legions could Rome long enough for a relief army to come from the north."

"Rome is child in a world fit for only men," Genseric said confidently, "Take your time to prepare proper siege equipment, but attack Rome directly. Once it is taken Ravenna will give us anything to get Rome back."

"It will mean that we can not set sail until next year, father," Huneric replied.

"It is of no matter," Genseric told his son, "The 'Romans' we need to be wary of are in Constantinople. The Romans we are picking a fight with are in Rome."

Ravenna, Western Roman Empire, 476 CE Orestes stood inside a private library inside the Imperial Palace looking over situational reports from most of the northern armies. Nepos was still kept in exile in Dalmatia while the Franks to the northwest seemed too embroiled in conflicts either amongst themselves or with the Visigoths, but the reports were not entirely accurate. The letters from the east were somewhat concerning. Both Zeno and Basiliscus appeared to back Nepos, but their own civil war kept them from intervening.

"This is a good report," Orestes spoke with a smile, "We are secure for the time being, and that will give us the time to prepare for what we will do to put this problem with Nepos to rest."

"Of course," Odoacer spoke from beside him, "But I warn you, my people want land. My people are the backbone of your army. Always remember that."

Orestes thought silently to himself as Odoacer said these words. The German had been an effective aide in controlling Northern Italy and protecting the capital, but now he was constantly demanding land for his people, and unfortunately there was no land to give. Narius wasn't allowing German troops to reinforce his own two legions, which were at least half-German themselves, and there wasn't enough farmable land in Northern Italy to give these men.

The thought of Narius infuriated Orestes as he continued to ponder. He had commissioned the man to protect the southern part of Italy, and he had done a relatively decent job. Tax collectors and other officers had reported that Narius had his two legions through extremely rigorous training, but it had made them appear to be quite formidable. But there were also reports that he'd had every German officer or centurion executed for various reasons, and that worried Orestes for the same reason that Odoacer was beginning to worry him now. Narius clearly disliked the Germans and Odoacer heavily favored their place in the Empire. Orestes couldn't placate both Narius and Odoacer at the same time, especially as he had to work through his son Romulus.

"Getting you the land is not as easy as it sounds, Odoacer," Orestes finally spoke, "There is no good farming land in Northern Italy."

"We will gladly take SOUTHERN Italy then," Odoacer answered.

"Narius has made repeated reports that he will not tolerate Germans in the southern provinces," Orestes answered, "You know that your men can only be settled there if they are assigned to the region. Narius has reported that he does not need to be reinforced and that Southern Italy is secure."

"He is a junior General with the command of two legions, half of which are German," Odoacer answered, "And you are the Master of Soldiers and father of the Emperor. I am the General of the Army. Why are you letting some junior officer command you?"

"Because Narius has proven to be a loyal officer," Orestes answered, "Despite his dislike of Germans and his rumored support for Nepos, he has not taken his two legions to Dalmatia. He has remained in Rome and seen to maintaining order there. If we were to initiate a civil war with Narius, it would open the door for Nepos to strike at us from the rear, or worse for the Alemanni or the Franks to conquer the Burgundians, and then we are without our main allies to the west."

Odoacer looked down, Orestes was right in that regard. His unofficial spies in Narius's command had reported that despite some rather independent thinking on his part, Narius had remained loyal. Removing him would be a dangerous move, especially if the removal was to be violent or through warfare, but the rumors that he supported Nepos could not be dismissed from Odoacer's mind.

"Then perhaps we had best deal with Nepos in Dalmatia," Odoacer offered, "I will lead the army and crush Nepos's small retainers and secure Augusutulus's place as the Emperor of the West. I will also remind you that war between Zeno and Basiliscus looks like it will end soon and both of them support Nepos. If Nepos is still alive by the time that the Eastern Roman Emperor is formally crowned, we might risk facing a large invasion coming from the east."

"Defeat Nepos?" Orestes questioned, "Your people would be willing to settle in Dalmatia?"

"Not necessarily," Odoacer answered, "But it would remove any possible reason that Zeno or Basiliscus would have to attack you."

"Of course," Orestes nodded, "I will leave the campaign against Nepos to you. The sooner he is gone the better."

Odoacer gave a respectable bow and then departed. Orestes only watched and hoped that the situation he was finding himself in would soon be resolved.

Narona, Dalmatia, Two weeks later Nepos paced anxiously inside his personal manor that he had been residing in since his appointment of Orestes to Master of the Soldiers in 475 with a relatively nervous line of thought in his mind. He had just received a report that Odoacer was advancing from Ravenna at the head of four legions, roughly half of the entire Western Roman Army. He had easily overrun the border town of Aquileia and was beginning to make an advance down the Dalmatian coast.

"We must move to counter Odoacer, sire," an aide spoke to him.

Nepos responded with a defeated chuckle, "With what? I only have my local retainers and they number about half of a legion. Much of my strength is dependent on support from the local tribes in the area, mostly the Ostrogoths. And they don't appear to want to directly raise swords against another German."

The aide was silent for a few moments before Nepos spoke again.

"I will not bow to that man," Nepos spoke firmly, "We can not defeat Odoacer, but we will resist him. I want you to gather my retainers around Narona and prepare defensive fortifications. I expect that Odoacer will probably slow himself down to loot the countryside. We will be prepared for a siege when he arrives. Gather my retainers here and begin conscripting any and all possible farmers that won't desert me."

"Right away, sire," the aide answered and rushed off.

Nepos only moved to look out a narrow window and wonder if the sun had begun to set on him.

Rome

"He's directly attacked Nepos's holdings in Dalmatia?" Narius asked the messenger who had carried the report to him.

"Yes, general," the messenger answered, "Orestes wants to know where your loyalties lie."

"I tell you what I told him when I took my commission," Narius said firmly, "My loyalties are to the Emperor. That is all he needs to know."

The messenger gulped and then ran from the room. Narius then turned back Janus and the other officers that he had been meeting with.

"He's sent that German after the Emperor," Narius growled once the messenger was out of the room and out of earshot.

"But Augustulus is the Emperor," Urses, the commander of one of Narius's two legions, pointed out, "Nepos is an exile."

"Orestes declared him Emperor," Narius answered, "Nepos is the recognized Emperor."

"Can Nepos win?" Janus asked.

"If he has help," Narius sighed, "Odoacer has gone in with four legions. Nepos only has a small retainer of bodyguards, and can possibly call on local militia, but that won't be enough."

"Should we directly intervene, then?" Flavius Sextus asked, "Aid Nepos?"

"With two legions and no fleet?" Narius asked back, "And no certainty that we will leave southern Italy safe? No. Orestes did his work well in trapping us here."

"General, you talk about restoring Rome, but you do nothing," Urses said in a low voice, "Either accept Augustulus as Emperor or support Nepos, or throw in your own crown."

"My own crown?" Narius asked, "Start a civil war over who is in charge?"

"We do not have the proper numbers to defend this territory," Urses pointed out, "And when they offer us reinforcements, they offer us members of Odoacer's tribe."

Narius slowly looked down and sighed. Things were continually getting out of hand. He would have preferred to march on Ravenna and remove Orestes and Augustulus from power, and now with Odoacer in Dalmatia, he now had the opportunity, but at the same time there was still a concern for his mission. Should he really leave southern Italy unguarded?

"Not yet," Narius answered, "Not yet."

"Sir?" Flavius Sextus asked.

"Orestes and Odoacer are our primary foes, and Nepos is the rightful Emperor," Narius answered, "But even he has his faults, and we can not leave southern Italy at the mercy of the Vandals."

"So in other words we do nothing," Urses grumbled.

"No," Narius answered, "I am strategically waiting to bide my time. The few merchants that we have have reported that there has been a lot of commotion coming out of the Vandals in Carthage. They are planning something large and will attack us shortly. They will attack, we will repulse them, and then we will claim Orestes's ineffective leadership. And if Nepos is dead, we then take the throne."

"Very underhanded, Narius," Urses answered.

"Ave Caesar!" Narius responded with a confident smile.

Carthage Huneric looked forward to the coming campaign in Rome. The decision to make the attack on Rome rather then on Sicily and Malta had pushed the attack back a year in order for the Vandals to build the necessary siege weapons to attack Rome and the ships with which to carry them, but the delay actually proved to be the best of all things, as the Western Empire seemed to be in the midst of a civil war as Orestes had sent Odoacer to eliminate Nepos from Dalmatia.

"The days of Rome are finished, cousin," Huneric spoke to his junior officer, Gunthamund, "We will attack Rome, and Sicily will be permanently under our control."

"How foolish they are," Gunthamund nodded in agreement, "They're already weak and they're fighting each other. Perhaps we are too timid in only demanding control of Sicily. Perhaps we can take everything south of Rome."

"Rome as well!" Huneric declared, "Put an end to their heathen Catholic beliefs and let Arianism reign supreme!"

The two then slammed their cups together and took a steady drink of the contents and returned their attention to the open sea ahead of them.

Dalmatia, One Week Later Odoacer was steadily dissatisfied with the landscape that he had marched through. There was not much in the way of wealth, and many of his men were becoming rather dissatisfied with the campaign as there wasn't that much to loot out of Nepos's small dominion. The only thing that kept them behind him was the fact there had been little real fighting. He had not had to deal with any real major cities which meant no extensive siege and the only real resistance had been from what had to be Nepos's personal retainer of cavalry forces.

"We'll have Nepos in no time," one of his 'generals' spoke with a smile, "And with him gone, you can claim the Imperial throne from that boy Augustulus."

"That will do nothing," Odoacer answered, "Claiming something does nothing to secure power. Correct action must be followed."

"Nepos has offered no resistance," the 'general' answered, "His cavalry launch small raids on us, but they can do nothing more then harass our advance. The local town militias have done nothing to stand up against our advance..."

"And the slave uprisings we've urged has kept them under control," Odoacer answered, "But this campaign will do little to secure the Kingdom of Italy."

"You're thinking about that grouchy Roman in Rome?" the 'general' asked.

"Narius, yes," Odoacer nodded, "He's been loyal to Orestes, yes, but the rumors that he is ruthless toward Germans."

"I've heard a lot of the aristocracy in southern Italy likes Narius," the 'general' commented, "he might be a good one to try and bargain with. At least while you're establishing your kingship."

"Not likely," Odoacer answered, "Once we are done with Nepos, we will turn on Orestes and Augustulus. The father will likely fight and the son will flee to Narius."

"Then it may be a good thing that Nepos is in such a weak position," the 'general' responded, "But I still wonder why he only has a personal retainer? Shouldn't he have some sort of army?"

"Most of his army was given to Orestes last year," Odoacer answered, "What remains are probably in the east, either helping either Zeno or Basiliscus or maintaining some kind of observation on the Ostrogoths."

A rider then came up to Odoacer in a hurry, looking rather exuberant.

"My lord, my lord," the rider spoke quickly, "Narona is in sight."

Odoacer and his 'general' increased their horse's pace until they came to the top of the hill to see the walled city. It was no Rome or Ravenna, and the wall looked as though its construction had rushed, but it was still the last stronghold of a man who had full legal right to claim to be the Emperor of the west.

"Call for a truce to speak with Nepos," Odoacer ordered the rider and then turned back to his general, "Once we are in position, begin drawing siege lines."

It was several hours before Odoacer meet Nepos just outside the gates of Narona. Both had an escorting contingent of bodyguards that were backing them, but they remained a few paces behind their respective leaders.

"Julius Nepos," Odoacer spoke in a commanding voice, "In the name of Emperor Romulus Augustus, you are to surrender to the armies of the Western Roman Empire."

"I am the Emperor, you toad," Nepos growled back, "Do you honestly think, I'm going to bow down to you, or your usurper boss?"

"I have four legions," Odoacer answered and then glanced toward the walls, "you most likely only have a small contingent of body guards as your only trained force. Anything else you have is likely to be some form of hastily gathered conscript who won't put up much of a fight."

"You are not Roman and the man you follow usurped me," Nepos answered, "I will not surrender to you."

"As you wish," Odoacer answered and then turned around and slowly led his men back towards their siege lines.

Nepos slowly walked back inside the walls. He was met by his only real 'general', a man named Ovida.

"I take it you didn't surrender?" Ovida asked.

Nepos nodded, "I will not surrender to a German who serves a usurper. I was sent to crush one usurper. I won't surrender to another."

"Odoacer will have you killed," Ovida pointed out.

"He would have had me killed if I did surrender," Nepos answered, "Either I die or I die. It is not an outstanding choice. I would rather die fighting or die by my own hand."

Nepos slowly made his way toward his manor with Ovida following. Once inside Nepos collapsed onto a couch and gave heavy sigh. Once he recovered, he removed his ring from his finger and handed it to Ovida.

"I am a dead man," Nepos spoke with a heavy sigh, "I want you to slip out of the city, anyway you can and take this ring to whoever is in control of Constantinople. Tell them that Odoacer has seized power."

Ovida took the ring and nodded. He was soon gone.

The siege of Narona lasted barely a week. The walls that were hastily raised by Nepos quickly collapsed under the impact of projectiles thrown from Odoacer's catapults. By the end of the third day of the siege, there were enough gaps in the wall that Odoacer ordered a direct attack on the city. Odoacer watched from a nearby hill as his men rushed in, clearly overwhelming the few defenders that remained on the walls.

"Victory," Odoacer smiled as he saw his men take the city, "Let us move in. I want Nepos's head."

"Of course, my lord," his 'general' nodded agreement, and urged his horse forward as Odoacer himself mounted his own.

The two men rode into the city to find total chaos enveloping the area. Odoacer paid little attention to the men of Nepos's bodyguard who lay dead along the ground or parts of the walls, and even few surviving militia men, who mostly trying to get away, but were caught with Odoacer's men on every side of them attracted little attention.

"What about their people?" came a cry from among the soldiers.

"Free their slaves, and kill any aristocrat who resists," Odoacer ordered.

He smiled as he heard cheers rise from among his men. Odoacer and his 'general' continued their riding tour of Narona until they came to rather extensive manor in the center of the city. A few of his men could be seen carrying loot out of it.

"Is there anyone in there?" Odoacer demanded.

"Maybe," one soldier answered, gesturing to the bag of loot he had over his back, "This was only in his entrance hall."

Odoacer and his 'general' dismissed the soldiers to carry on and made their way into the manor. After a lengthy search they found Nepos, but not in the condition they had expected. He was dead on the second floor, after apparently committing suicide.

"Nepos is no longer a threat," the 'general' said in a calm voice.

"Yes," Odoacer nodded with a smile, "We'll let the men loot and pillage for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we will begin our march on Ravenna. I will request a rider carry a message first though, just to keep Orestes peaceful until we get closer."

Ostia, Italia A lone fisherman screamed as Huneric thrust is sword through the man's chest, and then tossed dead body into harbor of Roman sea port. He found the port and harbor unguarded and his fleet was easily able to sail in. The Vandals had startled a few fishermen, who had not yet left port, but other then that the docks weren't very busy, and most of the people who they didn't surprise around the ships were now fleeing toward the city's interior and possibly even toward Rome.

"I can smell our coming victory," Huneric said confidently as his men rushed into the city to insure that any local garrison wasn't about to stand in their way.

"You will have to hurry if you are to join with the main force that will be assaulting Rome," Gunthamund pointed out.

Huneric nodded and then began to walk away from the area where the docks were. The larger ships that would be carrying the siege equipment needed to break Rome's walls couldn't safely dock and unload their weaponry in Ostia's harbor. Huneric turned back to his cousin as he got a few paces away.

"You will remain here with your force to insure that no one damages our ships," Huneric commanded, "Wouldn't want to win a battle and find we are trapped with a bunch of angry Romans, now wouldn't we?"

Gunthamund nodded.

Rome Narius was startled by the arrival of a merchant from Ostia who came running into his camp screaming in a very panicked voice. He slowly rose from his tent and walked out to two centurions he had guarding his tent trying to hold the man back.

"What is going on?" Narius demanded of the centurions.

"We don't know," the first answered, "This man broke into the camp and has been screaming ever since."

"He broke in?" Narius asked.

"General, please help!" the merchant screamed, still struggling to get through the two Centurions.

"Calm down, calm down," Narius ordered, "What is going on?"

"The Vandals!" the Merchant screamed, "They attacked Ostia! They killed one of my partners. I had to exhaust my horse just to get here and escape with my life."

"The Vandals, you say," Narius answered, his eyes narrowing.

"Yes," the Merchant responded.

"Do you know where they are headed?" Narius questioned.

"I saw a group unloading catapults outside of Ostia," the Merchant answered.

"They're coming to Rome," Narius spoke, mostly to himself.

Narius then turned toward his tent and walked in for a few moments and then turned around again.

"Release the man, and send for Janus," Narius ordered the Centurions, "and call for a general alarm. I want both Legions ready for action within half an hour."

"Yes, sir," the two centurions answered in unison and let go of the merchant.

"Thank you, general," the Merchant spoke again, "Thank you."

Narius slowly helped him up and dusted the merchant's tunic off.

"I only deserve your thanks if I can win," Narius answered, "I would advice you head towards the mountains for a while. Rome is not going to be safe."

The merchant bowed and backed away, "Of course general. Of course."

Janus arrived a few moments later, looking as though had been rushed from something. Narius did not bother question what he was doing.

"You sent for me, sir?" Janus asked.

"The Vandals are on their way here," Narius spoke, "The force is unknown, as my source was too frightened to stay around and even estimate."

"The two legions we have can not adequately man the walls, sir," Janus commented.

"And the Senate can not leave Rome," Narius replied, "I want you to get everyone you can to gather in the center of Rome, including the Bishop and the Senate."

"Everyone?" Janus asked.

"Orestes has not given me enough Roman troops to guard the walls, let alone southern Italy," Narius answered, "The Vandals will likely have more then four legions for this attack and equipped with siege weapons. They can not defeat our walls. They are too good, but they can starve the city, and with only two legions, I can not break them outside the city. Gather everyone you can in the center of the city, with a priority on the Senators, their families, and the Bishop and the churchmen. We will then leave the gates open."

"Open?" Janus gasped.

"It will remove the Vandal wish to besiege us," Narius answered, "They will rush in, try to loot, and then will fall upon our legions in a superior position. Without their artillery and packed into a closed space, our numbers will have the advantage."

"But we are outnumbered," Janus pointed out.

"Exactly," Narius answered, "Think of the victory over the Iceni in the reign of Nero," Narius answered, "The Romans were outnumbered in the final battle there, too."

"I'm afraid I have not been able to see many of the histories that have been available to your family," Janus saluted, "But your orders will be carried out."

"Good," Narius nodded, "Send for Urses and Flavius Sextus. I will need to inform them of what the plan is."

"Of course, general," Janus saluted again and left Narius's tent.

Huneric, mounted on his horse was surprised beyond belief as his men began to establish siege lines around Rome. He sent riders around the city to get some sort of idea as to what was going on, but he received the same report. All of Rome's gates were open and no one was manning the walls, but there was no one to meet him and negotiate with him. No one was there to plead that he spare the lives of the people inside the city.

"This is most strange," a warrior near him spoke, "No one to meet us, but all the gates are open."

"Perhaps they ran," another countered, "Ran away like the cowards they are."

"No," Huneric said firmly, silencing, "The Romans, despite their childlike strength in military matters, are quite arrogant. They won't flee."

"Then why are the gate's open?" one of the more senior warriors asked.

"I do not know," Huneric answered, "But we aren't going to waste time. Move into the city, and begin searching for appropriate hostages."

Narius listened quickly as he stood around a central command area as many frightened people and angry Senators listened to the cheering shouts of the Vandals as they came closer.

"They are going to kill us all!" one overweight Senator growled, "Orestes never should have put you in charge."

"They are only being Vandals," Narius answered, "They haven't even found anyone to take hostage."

"You're supposed to defend us," the Senator answered.

"That is exactly what I'm doing," Narius answered, "They will spend much of their time looking for loot and plunder, and when they find our legions they will be either exhausted or disorganized. And even if they maintain their order, they can not take advantage of their numbers. Narrow streets and all. We have won."

"I sincerely doubt that," the Senator said angrily.

Narius did not answer.

On the front lines, Narius's soldiers stood patiently waiting for any sign of attack. Over the course of Narius's training, he had had them construct the large square shields, a scutum, for their protection, in addition to the armor that they wore. Many of them though Narius to be a rather strange man, referring to past battles that they never heard about, but he had also done much to restore their pride in themselves. Even the German soldiers in Narius's legions liked the fact that the general referred to all of them as Romans.

It was then that a handful of Vandal warriors appeared in front of them. All of them appeared lost, and frustrated that they hadn't found much, if anything that they could take with them.

"For Narius," the Roman soldiers spoke in unison as the group of Vandals charged toward them.

"We've found the Roman soldiers," one leading warrior spoke to Huneric, now on foot, advanced through the largely empty streets, as the only other people there were his warriors.

"Where are they?" Huneric demanded, "Have you found any of their Senators?"

"The soldiers seem to have all concentrated in the center of the city," the warrior answered, "In areas where they can defend an entire street by blocking it."

"We'll crush them now," Huneric spoke, "We have them trapped, and these Roman cities have lots of streets. They can't defend them all."

The two then rushed forward along the streets, until they came close and heard the sound of clashing steel. Huneric and his warrior looked on to see a line of Roman soldiers holding a position along one street as mass of Vandal warriors assaulted it. Huneric was surprised to see a fair number that were dead and had fallen from either thrown javelins or from a thrust from the Roman's sword. What surprised Huneric the most was that the Roman soldiers were not retreating, as he had seen in earlier battles, and in battles that his father had told him about.

"These Romans are fighting, my Lord," the warrior beside him spoke.

"These can not be Romans," Huneric growled, "The Romans are cowards and weaklings. Only a good Germanic person can fight."

Huneric then focused his frustration on the Vandal warriors immediately in front of him.

"Fight harder!" Huneric screamed, "They're only Romans!"

"All our lines are holding general," a messenger yelled to Narius from the edge of the square where Narius was keeping an eye on the Senators and other people he had had moved to the center of the city.

"How many have been killed?" Narius shouted back.

"My unit has only lost four," the messenger answered, "We've killed at least twenty."

"Good!" Narius answered, "Keep it up!"

Huneric was beginning to become frustrated with the entire situation. These Romans were fighting much harder then he had expected and he found contingents all around the center of the city. His army was quickly loosing control over itself as some had earlier broken off to try and loot the city or look for hostages, and the Romans were yet to advance from their present positions. He had also found no sign of their commander yet, whom he hoped to challenge personally.

He finally came across a section where there were actually few of his warriors in the area, and were being beaten back by the Romans holding that particular street. The Vandal leader finally lost his temper as he saw this and drew his sword and rushed toward the Roman line.

"This is how you fight!" Huneric screamed as he got close and swung his sword downward so that it caught the soldier around the neck, where his chain mail armor was the weakest and where he couldn't raise his shield to block it.

Huneric then turned and thrust the point of his sword through the side of another Roman soldier, who had moved to dodge his initial attack, but the attack did not help Huneric for long. One of the soldiers that were just behind the first one that he had killed thrust his sword into the back of the Vandal leader. Huneric screamed in pain and fell to the ground. As everything faded, he saw his warriors fleeing in terror at the sight of their fallen leader.

Roman soldiers cheered loudly as they saw many of the Vandal warriors begin to lose their calm and confidence and begin to pull back. There were several dead Vandal warriors that lay at the feet of one section of the front, and the centurion in charge of this sector of the Roman lines had all he could do to keep his soldiers from chasing after them in a disorganized mob.

A messenger came running from the rear shouting something and attracted the attention of the centurion. He slowly made his way through the body of Roman soldiers to talk with the messenger.

"I have orders from Narius," the messenger spoke in an informative voice, "You are to begin cautiously advancing to force the Vandals out of the city."

"Of course," the centurion answered, and then saluted, "For Narius."

Narius meanwhile was called to deal with a different issue as a messenger had led him to the dead body of one Vandal warrior, who seemed to be dressed slightly more ornately then the others. The tunic under his armor contained a hint of purple to it.

"A general no doubt," Narius spoke, "But, who this is specifically, I do not know."

"That is Huneric," a relatively young Senator, who was fascinated by Narius, spoke up, "I met him when I was younger. My father offered me as hostage to protect our family's villa to the Vandals."

"Where is your family's villa?" Narius asked back.

"Just a few miles outside of Messana," the Senator replied, "It happened when the Vandals began to make demands for Sicily, and my father did not want his villa damaged."

"I see," Narius responded, "Well, I'm sure we won't have to worry about the Vandals for awhile. If this is the Huneric I've heard so much about, then the Vandals are without an heir to their throne."

The battle lasted mostly for the rest of the day as Narius's troops slowly advanced through the city to make sure the Vandal warriors had been completely evicted from the city. The saw that many had simply fled out of the city altogether and there was no further fighting needed there.

"Form the legions into marching formations," Narius order Flavius Sextus and Urses, who were standing with him, "We must also make sure they leave Ostia as well."

"Of course," Flavius and Urses replied.

The Next Day, Outside Ostia

"Defeated?" Gunthamund gasped as a few of the survivors from the battle came into the Roman camp, "you must be joking."

"No, I am not," one broken warrior gasped as he looked at the other Vandal leader, "The Romans drove us back."

"But they only had two legions," Gunthamund answered.

"They fought as if they had ten," the warrior answered.

Gunthamund was about to say more when another warrior came up from the edge of the camp to make an urgent report.

"What is it?" Gunthamund demanded.

"We have a Roman general here to talk with whoever is in charge," the warrior said, "He's under a truce banner."

Gunthamund got up slowly and then walked behind the warrior that had brought him the message. He was lead to the edge of the camp where one Roman general and at least three other officers stood. One of them was holding a moderately sized basket. The lead Roman did not even let Gunthamund speak before he began speaking.

"Vandal," Narius spoke in a rather threatening voice, "You are to take what is left of your invasion force and return to Carthage."

"You presume to order me?" Gunthamund, "You should be begging for mercy. Five legions are on their way to Rome."

"They have been crushed," Narius answered and then reached inside the basket and pulled Huneric's head out of it and tossed it at Gunthamund, "I believe that is yours."

Gunthamund gasped in horror and dropped the head of his cousin and then looked the Roman over. He was clean shaven, and rather large, not overweight, but the man looked as if he had spent a good deal of his life working, which surprised him. Most Roman generals that he knew of were members of Rome's aristocracy.

"You are to return to Carthage, leaving all your equipment here," Narius ordered, "And that head is to serve as a warning for your people, should they threaten Rome again."

"Of course," Gunthamund answered, frightened by the fact that this man would approach him in such a way, as it was not how he had been told the way Romans did things, "We'll be gone by noon."

"Also, all Vandal presence in Sicily must cease," Narius commanded, "Or I will punish you."

"Of course," Gunthamund answered and backed away into his camp again, taking Huneric's head with him.

"The Vandals will not hold back for long," Urses cautioned once Gunthamund was out of earshot, "We'd best just crush them now. We can use their ships to rebuild our navy."

"I can not construct a navy," Narius answered, "At least not until I am more then just the general of southern Italy."

"Then if the Vandals do not attack us in the future," Flavius Sextus commented, "Then you have pulled off a very successful bluff. We've defeated one invasion. They could return next year."

"More the likely they'll be battling themselves over who will be the next King," Narius answered, "We meanwhile, have more important matters."

Constantinople Dominus Noster Flavius Zeno Perpetuus Augustus walked quietly through the main Imperial palace of Constantinople. After a long exile, he had finally regained the Imperial throne of the Eastern Roman Empire, and his rival, Basiliscus was in exile. There was still the problem of the Ostrogoths in the Balkan territories, but while their leadership was divided, they had no immediate threat to Constantinople.

"You look well," the leading general who had defected to his side spoke.

"I am well indeed, Illus," Zeno answered, "I am Emperor again."

"Then I'm afraid that your mood will not remain well," Illus answered, sounding somewhat uneasy, "Because I have a report from the Balkan territories."

"The Ostrogoths?" Zeno asked.

"No," Illus shook his head, "The report comes from further west, in Dalmatia. It is partially why I defected to your side, sire."

Zeno looked at the general with a nervous glance.

"Orestes unleashed Odoacer on Dalmatia," Illus reported, "An aide to Nepos reported to us, I believe his name is Ovida, and presented Basiliscus with Nepos's ring. I believe Odoacer has killed him."

"The west has fallen," Zeno spoke with a sigh.

"It would appear that way," Illus answered, "although I have heard rumors from our merchants who still have some business in southern Italy about the present general in charge of Rome's garrison."

"Rumors?" Zeno asked.

"That he is a Roman," Illus clarified.

"Does he follow Orestes?" Zeno asked.

"That is uncertain," Illus answered, "As all we heard were rumors."

Zeno paused for a moment and then turned to Illus again.

"Prepare your armies for an expedition to Rome," Zeno ordered, "I want to meet this garrison general."

"Yes, sire," Illus answered.

"Also, send emissaries to Theodoric and Theodoric Strabo," Zeno commanded, "I believe I have an offer for them that they can not refuse."

Ravenna Orestes looked at the messenger with a look of complete rage on his face as the messenger reported to him the news of Odoacer's army. The man was a spy and distrusted by Orestes, but he couldn't turn down the valuable information that might protect his rule.

"Odoacer intends to fight?" Orestes asked again.

"Yes, largely because he wants land in northern and southern Italy for his tribe," the messenger answered.

"How many men does he have?" Orestes asked.

"In addition to the four legions you sent with him into Dalmatia, he has added about three legions worth of auxiliaries, mostly slaves that he urged to rise against their masters if they were loyal to Nepos," the messenger answered.

"And I only have four legions, counting Narius's two around Rome," Orestes replied and then walked over to a window, "He might be a useful commander to play off against Odoacer. Perhaps if I give him military power, he might be able to throw Odoacer back into Dalmatia. The reports are that he defeated a fairly strong force of Vandals ... yes."

"Sire?" the messenger asked.

"Get my son and send him to Rome, he will be safer there as Odoacer is likely to come straight here," Orestes ordered, "While you're in Rome, send for Narius and his legions."

Three Days Later

"You sent for me?" came Narius's voice as he entered Orestes's study.

Orestes looked up from the paperwork he had been looking on, mostly a few written reports on Odoacer's activity, which was in poor handwriting, but Orestes's wasn't much better. He noticed Narius standing in the doorway.

"Yes," Orestes nodded, "Come in. How is my son doing?"

"He is safe enough," Narius answered, "Why have you sent for me? I have been busy making sure that the damage done by the Vandals to Rome has been repaired."

"I must tell you that the safety of the Empire must be repaired at the moment," Orestes spoke in a fairly nervous voice.

"How so?" Narius questioned.

"I'm afraid Odoacer has turned against the Empire," Orestes spoke, "He is advance on Ravenna with up to seven legions."

"He is a German," Narius answered, "if you give him an inch of power, he will take a mile, especially without proper education."

Orestes sighed. He had very little in the way of education, other then direct military and practical experience.

"Yes," Orestes nodded, "I made a mistake. I sent him to Dalmatia to deal with our troubling enemy, Nepos, and he's now taken advantage of the situation."

Narius's eyes narrowed, but the general said nothing.

"I'm placing you in command of the rest of the Roman legions to repel Odoacer," Orestes spoke, "You will advance against him immediately."

"Most of the remaining two legions at your disposal are of tribes that Odoacer has no influence in," Narius warned, "It would be better to dismiss them and let them join Odoacer now, rather then have them rise up on his side during a battle."

"But that would give him nine legions to two," Orestes countered, "I doubt you can beat those odds."

"Killing them now would be ineffective and could cause an uprising among the tribes themselves which you have allowed to settle in this region," Narius answered, "Which would cause more trouble. Send them to Odoacer, and allow him to advance into northern Italy. I will fight him on ground that does not suit his numbers."

"But you will fight him?" Orestes asked.

"Yes," Narius responded, "Odoacer is a German and a threat to the Empire."

"Excellent," Orestes smiled.

"Now, if you will excuse me, I must return to Rome and gather my legions," Narius answered.

Rome, Three Days Later The Senate building was quiet as Narius entered into it. For the day, the Senate building was an old building in the forum, which Narius thought had seen better days, but could do little about it. Almost every Senator was startled by Narius's appearance on its floor.

"Is there something wrong general?" one senator asked from his seat, "Are there forces attacking Rome?"

Narius was silent for a moment and then cleared his throat.

"Indeed there are," Narius spoke in a firm voice, "There are forces at this moment that threaten Rome and threaten the Empire."

He heard a collected series of gasps come from the various Senators, as the fear of the Vandal attack was fresh in their minds.

"They are not at Rome's gates, but they could arrive soon," Narius continued, "And some of these threats have come from within our own government. Like him or not, Julius Nepos was the rightful ruler of the Western Roman Empire. Orestes wrongfully sent him into exile and put a boy on the throne as Emperor. Orestes then allied himself with the Germans who are a constant threat to Rome's survival."

"Nepos collaborated with the East too much!" one overweight senator challenged, "I'm glad he is in exile."

"Nepos is dead," Narius answered, "Orestes sent Odoacer to Dalmatia to remove that threat in his side. Odoacer has since begun to move against Orestes and eventually against Rome."

Narius paused to listen to the fearful gasps again.

"Orestes is not fit to be the ruler as he is of German birth and his son is not fit to rule because of Nepos's constitutional right," Narius continued, "And Odoacer will destroy Rome to give his tribe power. Both are threats to the security of Rome for different reasons."

"We can not do much," one elderly senator answered, "we are nothing more then a city council, really. No Emperor in years has asked the Senate for advice. And the Senate has held no power in an independent matter outside the city."

"That will not be the case for much longer," Narius responded, "I intend to crush Odoacer and force him to submit. I also intend to defeat Orestes and put a real Roman on the throne, one who can cooperate with the East, but also one who can respect the traditions and powers of Rome."

"And who might this Roman be?" another Senator asked, "The East doesn't trust anyone that they don't appoint."

"Myself," Narius said firmly, "The government of Orestes is corrupt and has allowed Germans like Odoacer to take advantage of it to the point where Rome is in danger. I intend to lead Rome back to glory, but it will be a long path and I will require the support of the Senate."

"You intend to replace one dictatorship for another," still another senator accused.

"Who would you rather live with?" Narius asked, "A Roman who will respect the Senate and the People? Or a German who's main interest is merely Kingship?"

The Senate chamber was silent as Narius spoke.

"I do not intend let the German threat to Rome win," Narius spoke again, "As I, Julius Flavius Narius claim the Imperial throne of the Western Roman Empire."

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