READ: CHAPTER 7 OF THE SUPERB FIRST SPEAR RUDIMENTA = By Brent Nielsen

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One of the first things Milo had to do upon his enlistment in the Army…was to quickly learn… and to speak- (Though not ever to write)- a whole new dialect of English…the slang, the depthless crudities, the euphemisms, the scatological references, the slurs, the obscenities and blasphemies that went a long way toward making up the everyday language of the common soldier.

    “A Man Called Milo Morai”

      Robert Adams, The Horse Clans

The tiros adjusted to the strict Legion regimen with a routine all their own. Gaius Crastinus would already be up before first call, completed his shave, donned his lorica with side arms outside the papillon.

He acquired this habit of early rising to counter veterans who awoke them either by loudly banging bronze pots or with kicks and foul epithets. Crastinus hated this, preferring a gentle, but firm nudge to a sleeper’s feet. On this morning his mates were slow to answer, forcing him to use the latter of the veteran’s techniques.

“Alright, get up! Drop your cocks and grab your socks!”

He still didn’t understand why this was humorous. Every man in the legion had been issued two pair of these, woven from the same oily wool used to fashion their sagum cloaks. Some chose to wear them at night to ward off the chill, but for the present these and their one pair of bracae were packed away, forbidden to use until winter. Regardless, the phrase always worked, the men chuckling a bit as they arose.

The last few mornings Gaius found Pelitus and Petro sleeping together and was forced to give them special attention.

“Petro! Release his penis please. Pelitus, let go your legs from his waist! Thank you.  Now both of you get dressed!” This always brought out howls of laughter and provocative retorts from fellow occupants of the cowhide butterfly tent.

Pullo flatulated, the ripe odor wafting across the room as a pair of hob-nailed caligae caromed off his buttocks, and Bacculus suggesting he perform of a physically impossible sexual act on himself.

Cacca, Pullo! Where did you get cheese?” growled Clustinus.

Gathering their clothes and equipment the men filed out to shave and wash.

“Some of you need to wash your feet!”  Vorenus muttered.

Pullo broke wind again, even more convincingly and directly in front of Vorenus who retaliated by slapping his head. Pullo spun to land a vicious uppercut, nearly lifting Vorenus off his feet. Bacculus and Clustinus separated them before either man could land another. Crastinus was in the middle instantly.

“Knock it the fuck off!”

Gaius Crastinus rarely swore and only raised his voice when repeating the march or maneuver commands of the Centurios.

“Get out of here and get to it,” he barked, using his huge frame as a barrier.

Calone Tafoya had the remains of the last night’s meal waiting for them when they returned, and the papillon was already down; ready for the octet to fold and pack on one of their mules. Just in time for the Second Call.

*

Titus Pullo grimaced, road grit inside his boots had broken scabs on his heels for the third time in as many days. The pebble under his tongue wasn’t keeping his mouth moist as he had been told. He and his messmates were “Marius Mules,” each with a crucifix-shaped furca staff digging into his right shoulder, supporting eighty pounds of impedimenta and personal belongings; the scutum on his left. Already they were developing calluses on either side of the chin and forehead, these from the cheek pieces and brim of the cassis.  He looked over at Crastinus.  Like everyone else, his tunica was stained white around the armpits and shoulders, the salt sweating out of his body. His canteen, as empty as everyone else’s, banged against his hip. Many who stumbled with exhaustion through the heat and dust were not just tiros. Numbers of veterans were showing signs of wear on this forty-mile forced march. Even Centurios who weren’t riding horses, gave up their usual foul-mouthed harangue to plod alongside the column with vitis stuffed into belts, arms swinging to generate any kind of breeze against their bodies.

The rhythm of the cohort tympanistas was as ragged as the cadence the exhausted men tried to maintain. The cornicens were glad they had no reason to play, for it was difficult with cracked, dust-caked lips.

Pullo wondered how the new pink-skinned Tribune was holding up at his age. He got Carfulenus’ visual attention, and the Centurio acknowledged it.

“Primus Prior! Permission to speak?”

“Dammed Pullo, you are learning,” Carfulenus huffed.

Pullo began to sing.

LAST NIGHT!

WE STAYED IN CAMP AND MASTURBATED!

IT FELT SO GOOD!

WE KNEW IT WOULD!

 LAST NIGHT

WE STAYED IN CAMP AND MASTURBATED!

IT FELT SO NICE!

WE DID IT TWICE!

LONG STROKE! LONG STROKE!

WE DID IT WITH OUR FEET!

SHORT STROKE! SHORT STROKE!

WHEE!  IT FELT SO NEAT!

TO BEAT OUR MEAT!

TO BEAT OUR MEAT

TO BEAT OUR MEAT!

TO BEAT YOUR MEAT!

NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH, NAH NAH NAH NAH, NAH NAH NAH NAH!

UGH!

The tympani picked up the rhythm, the men choking back forbidden laughter, but the improvement in the cohort’s step was immediate. Pullo sang another verse.

LAST NIGHT!

WE STAYED AT HOME AND FELLATIATED!

SHE WAS SO SWEET,

SHE SUCKED MY MEAT!

LAST NIGHT!

WE STAYED AT HOME AND FELLATIATED!

IT TASTED GOOD!

SHE KNEW IT WOULD!

LONG SUCKS,

LONG SUCKS,

HER HEAD WAS DOING DIPS!

SHORT SUCKS,

SHORT SUCKS,

SHE LICKED IT OFF HER LIPS.

HER STICKY LIPS!

HER STICKY LIPS!

HER STICKY LIPS!

HER STICKY LIPS!

NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH, NAH NAH NAH  NAH! NAH NAH NAH NAH!

UGH!

The improvement in cadence was dramatic. Unable to stand anymore, Carfulenus burst into a laughter. Other Centurios joined in, and soon the entire cohort was singing along with Pullo, who began the third verse. Even Carfulenus joined in at the chorus.

LAST NIGHT,

WE STAYED AT HOME AND FORNICATED!

SHE GAVE US HEAD!

HER ASSHOLE BLED!

                LAST NIGHT,

                WE STAYED AT HOME AND FORNICATED.

SHE GOT IT GOOD!

SHE KNEW SHE WOULD.

LONG STROKES!

LONG STROKES!

DEEP INTO HER REAR!

SHORT STROKES!

SHORT STROKES!

SHOT IT IN HER EAR!

I SLAPPED HER ASS!

I SLAPPED HER ASS!

I SLAPPED HER ASS!

I SLAPPED HER ASS!

NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH! NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH NAH!

UGH!

The 2nd Cohort was still thirsty, hot, and filthy, but no one thought about it anymore. Pullo continued his song, each new stanza filthier than the last but proper cadence was restored and the men’s spirits rose despite their still-croaking voices, When Pullo’s imagination finally exhausted itself Carfulenus slapped him good-naturedly on the shoulder.

“Well, finally! We find a use for that mouth of yours! You sitting privileges at supper are restored!”

*

Although new to the Legions, even Crastinus knew the handsome, pink-skinned, slightly-built officer with thinning hair was old for Angusticlavius Tribune. Carfulenus had ordered him to take care of the new Lieutenant Colonel, giving him Crastinus’ full name upon introduction, but the other just extended his hand with a smile and a nod of his head, and spoke in formal Latin.

“Centurion Carfulenus, is there a Legion Regulation which sayeth the men cannot call me simply ‘Tribune Caius Iulius?”

From that moment on, Tribune Caius it was. Gaius Crastinus included the man’s rank whenever answering his questions, most often in purely formal Latin about everything and anything to do with duty and service in the Legion.

When Pullo’s song ended, Gaius braced himself for the inevitable question. The timing of the Tribune’s question was predictable, but the subjects were not and answering “it is always been so,” was never satisfactory.

“Why did thine comrades hesitate to join in the song?”

“Tribune, we art not permitted to speak unless spoken to by a superior in rank! I suppose it hast been so since the Legions first organized. Talking is prohibited because the discipline of silence conditions us to listen for orders, calls of the cornicens, when we art in battle.” 

“Thou maketh sound sense. Crastinus. I hath noticed thine accent is colloquial, but thou speakest Latin most excellently. How is this when thine comrades barely speak nor understand it?”

“My Mother insisted my brother and I receive a thorough Roman education,” Crastinus replied. “But Tribune, your language is not our native tongue, which we art only allowed to speak when we are off duty.  As you have seen, there is little of that, so we art less proficient than we might be,” he added more politely.

“Crastinus, is it true thine names are Latinized when thou enlist to the standard? How dost thou pronounce thy name in thy native language?”

“Gaius Crastinus is my real name; my pater familia was Centurio Titus Crastinus, and he was a Roman citizen, while he lived.”

“I see. My given name is Caius Iulius Kaesar.”

Marching directly behind Crastinus, Bacculus and Clustinus listened in.

“So we have a ‘Gaius Major’ and a ‘Caius Minor,” whispered Clustinus.

“I have a feeling ‘Little Caius’ is more than what he seems, matey,” answered Bacculus with a wink to his messmate.

*

The day’s training schedule, or cortidianus ordo called for pila throwing for distance and accuracy, but on Cotta’s ordered an untried format put into place. The men would rotate from station to station by octets with each group afforded two opportunities to successfully meet the standard.

Cotta’s standard required each man to hit the target at least once, but six out of eight in each mess octet had to hit the targets twice. If the octet failed to meet this standard, they went back to the first station to start again.

On the first station the tiros were required to throw for distance at a circle staked out on the ground. The second station tested accuracy with a wicker shield set up as a target at close range. The third station possessed several interlocked wicker shields positioned at medium range. A fourth consisted of a single steer head perched on a pole at long range. The fifth station was a ring fixed to a pole at medium range. Station six held a ring dangling in the wind by a rope at close range.

Tribune Cotta and Primus Pilus Petronius had a lively discussion which took up most of the previous night, drawing to its climax with ‘‘Number One’’ slamming his vitis on the senior Tribune’s desk. Cotta responded by slamming a scarred fist down immediately after.

“‘Number One!’ I don’t give rat shit how it has been done before!  I command here, and it will be done my way,” shouted the Tribune.

“And I say again, we have never done it this way before,” the Senior Centurion countered. “There will be too much damned confusion! Someone will get hurt!”

“I know the fucking risks,” Cotta roared. “Use the blasted Evocatii to run them through the stations! You and your Centurios monitor safety while evaluating performance.  I will not have long lines of troops standing around doing fucking nothing!”

“You would have squads of men training at the sixth and most difficult station before they have completed the easier ones,” Petronius disputed.

“If they do well, it will be so much better,” Cotta snarled.  “If they fail their only penalty will be to do it again, Pro Denuo, at the beginning!”

When he finally surrendered, just before First Call, Petronius came to stacio, saluted, spun on his heel without waiting for acknowledgment and walked out of the Praetorium.

*

Petronius selected Princeps Primus Fabius and Hastatus Prior Septimus to monitor safety and evaluate the performance of the men first hand. While both men sympathized with his arguments against the Pila training as ordered, the two lacked the moral fiber to back the First Spear or argue against the innovative concepts the Tribune wished to introduce.

Despite his forebodings no one was injured. Every man in 2nd Cohort was actively engaged in the training. Those who were not actually engaged were either rooting on other octets or figuring ways to better execute Crastinus’ spinning technique. A few octets received “No Goes,” but positive and aggressive competition emerged so that neither Fabius nor Septimus previously experienced with weapons training using traditional methods. The two were discussing the complexities, but obvious merits, of the training when Fabius changed the subject.

“Forget Cotta for a moment. What are your thoughts on his new “Tribune?”

“That old man?”

“He is closer to our age!”

“When was the last time you saw a Angusticlavius Tribune in his thirties?”

“I don’t know, why? Do you know something the rest of us don’t?”

“I might!”

“Well, out with it Fabius!  Is the little wimp hiding from some scandal? No, he is paying off a huge family debt?  Tell me!”

Firstly, he is not really a tribune at all, but a high-ranking provincial official. Rumor has it he is the scion of one of a most ancient, but impoverished families in Rome. His ambitions are as high as his connections and enemies as numerous as his friends.”

“How high?”

“The connections or the ambitions?”

Septimus looked confused as usual, so Fabius explained.

“It is said in Rome he is “every woman’s man and every man’s woman!”

“You are joking,” Septimus countered.  “I admit he is not built for soldiering, but a girly man?  How do you know this is not just idle fucking gossip?”

“I have relations who reside in the Subura precinct of Rome where our elderly tribune is literally worshipped by the mob! They love him as a patron, but admit to me there is little or nothing he would refuse to do, or pay, to see his ends met or ambitions fulfilled. He has no concept of money! It is merely a means to an end! That “Tribune” there collects cameos for fucking sake! Even here in Hispania, members of the equite and Senatorial class claim that he belts his toga loosely! What real man does that?”

Septimus whistled softly through his teeth.

“Another of my cousins served with General Lucullus in Pontus and knew of this Tribune there, and I firmly trust his word. If Fabius Gerririus is to be believed, that pink-skinned little mentula negotiated a treaty for ships and wheat from King Nicomedes Philopator of Bithynia.  During the negotiations he was seen wearing proper attire for a visit to that irrumator’s court, dressed in foppish eastern clothing! After, he shared the beds of both the King and his daughter!”

Garrae! Your cousin is shitting on your shoe,” Septimus exclaimed, ignoring Fabius’ own preference for young men and pretty boys.

“My cousin says that in Rome that pink-skinned, blue-eyed “Tribune” is called Regina Nicomedia!”

Septimus whistled again, then extended an arm across Fabius’ chest, stopping their progress.

“But, wait. He marches with us; he forgoes a horse as an officer’s due, unlike so many of those preening brats they usually send us. His gladius work is well above the standard.  He even picks up tools to help with the castra fabricarium.”

“There now, Septimus,” Fabius retorted. “I didn’t say Regi liked the name. I just said there was nothing he wouldn’t do to advance himself!” And I want him!

Fabius continued to fantasize as he and Septimus continued on their way, each dwelling on this fantastic piece of gossip in their own way when Carfulenus trotted up.

“What do you think?”

“Septimus, still in shock, was deaf to Carfulenus’ question.  Fabius irritably turned away from his private fancies to reply.

“What do I think of what?”

Looking equally irritable, Carfulenus made himself clearer to the Princeps Primus.

“The training, butt boy! The concept!  It’s brilliant!  No one standing around playing with themselves instead of thinking about what they should be doing!  What in Tartarus did you think I was talking about?  And what the fuck is the matter with Septimus?”

Still stunned, Septimus walked away to find a drink.

“Maybe he was thinking the same thing I have been thinking,” Fabius replied. “What many of us might need to think about over the next few months.”

“What would that be?” rarely addressing him by his proper rank, Carfulenus despised Fabius.

“I was thinking that between now and the next elections for Primus Pilus our next ‘Number One’ should be one who has a more flexible approach to new training ideas.” Fabius answered, ignoring Carfulenus gross disrespect. “One who is more adaptable to changing times?”

“And that would be whom?” demanded Carfulenus, the question dripping with sarcasm.

“Oh, I don’t know yet,” Fabius answered.  “We’ll think of someone between now and then!”

He tapped the lesser-ranked centurio’s shoulder with the small end of his vitis. Carfulenus pushed the staff away, but the Senior Centurio trotted off to rejoin Septimus.

I wonder if ever in this life or the hereafter, I will ever figure out Fabius or his mind games?

Disgusted by Fabius’ riddles, Carfulenus made a rude gesture and turned his attention back to the training mission, just in time to see an octet fail miserably at station three. He walked toward them, careful to remain casual, no expression on his face, and spoke to them in the politest fatherly voice his inner rage could manage.

Tiros! That was as pathetic display as I have seen all day. What do you have to say for yourselves?”

The youth leading the group snapped to Stacio.

Pilus Prior! Pathetic,” answered Tiro Antonius Venture.

Tiros! Is there sand in your collective labae?”

“Centurio! No sand!”

“I disagree,” Carfulenus retorted. “Now gather your fucking weapons and get your sorry cunnii back to the end of the line! Do it again!