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Adversity in Genius

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1Adversity in Genius Empty Adversity in Genius 03/03/20, 03:44 pm

Zuzu Mansur

Zuzu Mansur



Noon’s flaming hair streamed through the windowpanes, painting the white-walled room with light. It stood high on the Reiman street, peering down upon those who passed the barracks, but they were few and far between. Sat inside were the centurion Lukios Ragnis and his vice Gaius Maelius opposite the investigator Zubaidah, a stern meeting by their confrontational positioning. Yet no conflict arose from them, only pleasant talk on their issues; they were not strangers, but comrade-in-arms.

    ‘So glad you could join,’ spoke Lukios, his ginger curls bouncing to and fro his eyes sparkling with amity, ‘Your timing in coming here couldn’t have been better. Whilst we have cracked down upon most militant action by Sassanid groups on our borders - your help in which is sorely appreciated - there are some remaining which we have had troubles with. May I bother you with a discussion on dealing with those remaining?

   Ever at the ready, Maelius laid out various documents such as a tea-coloured map upon the oak table and informed Zubaidah of their situation, ‘The Reiman council still has not involved itself directly with our efforts, leaving the cohorts to their own decisions. As such, we have executed several successful skirmishes around the known camps of Sassanid activity, leaving only one major camp round the Iscian Way. It has been difficult for our troops, since they have employed cavalrymen around this camp whose skill has hemmed any efforts to surround or infiltrate it.

    ‘However, we don’t wish to lose any personnel,’ mused Lukios as his wolfish smile widened, ‘So I thought to discuss it with you - skilled as you are. Your aid in the last skirmish was invaluable and showed your keen mind and ability for tactics; now we plan to put them into good use. Take it as both a request for your aid once more, and a test on the limits of your skills.

    Cranberry smile growing fuller, Zubaidah scanned a recent chapter from that leather-bound volume in the processing machine she called her brain,
    “If the enemy are superior in cavalry, the general should choose if possible a locality that is rough and hemmed in, near mountains which are least suitable for riding, or he should avoid battle so far as he may until he finds an appropriate place, adapted to his own circumstances. A certain number of soldiers must be left behind at the palisade to guard the camp and the baggage in order that the general of the enemy may not discover that the camp is deserted and send men to plunder its contents and seize the place.

    Taking the tea-coloured map in one hand and tracing inky lines with the other, Zubaidah produced a plan from that chapter,
    ‘Let’s see, well, the Iscian Way is a narrow pass with high sides; the Sassanid cavalrymen will be forced through in pairs and slowed to no more a threat than a goose hunt. For this first phase, I’d advise you set up some long-bodied stakes in a semicircular positioning at the northward end, so that the cavalry are forced either to dismount or to go back towards the southward end. In the meantime, a majority of available cohorts will take this trodden mountain-path along the eastern side of the Iscian Way. For the second phase, the cohort left at the northward end will engage with those cavalrymen who dismount. The cohorts taking the mountain-path will set up the same as they did with the northward end at the southward end, keeping in the cavalrymen who go back towards it. From there, the Iscian Way will be secure and the Sassanid cavalrymen helpless - it’ll be an easy victory for the cohorts from there.

    A broad smile, like a demon’s welcoming embrace, spread upon Lukios’ entertained expression. Unlike him, Maelius was overcome by surprise,
    ‘How did you come about that answer?’ His usual stoic attitude broken by this unusual circumstance, he continued, ‘I do not doubt your skill - the answer you gave is no doubt one which would work. But how could you come to it so quickly?

    ‘Oh, by the gods, this is much too fun!’ His smile now a grin, Lukios interrupted with greater delight than before, ‘Not only did you resolve this tiresome situation so easily, but you even got this guy - famed for his discerning eye - to become so flustered! Ah, when she said you were quite the interesting woman, she wasn’t kidding one bit.'

    At the passing reference of some other woman, Zubaidah could not help but ask, ‘And who might “she” be?’ But he placed a single finger upon pursed lips in jest, his expression bursting with a jovial spirit, ‘Oh, silly me! I’ve been sworn to secrecy, sadly. But don’t you worry, you’re sure to meet her quite soon!

    From the joking tone of his voice, she knew he meant no ill-will and decided not to pursue this matter further. Well, not to pursue it any further during this discussion at least. She was sure to follow this curiosity later. Instead, the course of the discussion moved away towards the talk of old comrades, not the trials of soldiers, 'Enough of that dreary matter! Let's get down to the real reason for this meeting - it's been a while since we drank together, eh?'

     An opaque bottle was procured from some cabinet behind them, its obscured liquid ruby soon flowing into their glasses. These men knew their wine - so rich and deep it was, caressing the tongue with its velvet touch. Oh, how wine had been Zubaidah's greatest vice! Such a temptation should be criminal - and yet this sumptuous glass managed to make virtue of it! It was no longer the race to the bottom of the bottle - which she had turned to after the events in the bar, scavenging as much mind-numbing alcohol as she could. Instead, she savoured its taste. She savoured its taste and the talk between those old comrades.

    And, perhaps, the talk was better.
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