“Then it is agreed,” said the emissary from Syracuse. “You army shall join ours to destroy the Mammertines and capture Messana.” The sun warmed all on the balcony overlooking Mare Africum, the sturdy walls of Lilybaeum gleamed in the late summer light.
The Magonid Hanno placed his goblet of watered wine down delicately upon the expansive low table between the two men. He said. “Yes. Tell me more about the terrain in and around Messana is it flat? Hilly? What of the Port there? How many ships will you be able to land men with for the assault?”
Argathicus Hanno’s advisor watched as the Emissary from Hieros’s command explained in detail. So much could go wrong he mused, he ate another date and reflected upon their situation.
Hanno could send a strong force to attack the Mammertines but not enough to make it a certainty. Lilybaeum was the Carthaginian base of operations in Sicilia. So a robust defense had to stay behind to protect supply lines. Hiero faced the same problem, too much weight on Massana and the wily Romans could simply avoid the siege and destroy both cities. After all they did have two consular armies an Onager shot or two away across the straights, more than enough to do more than one or the other of the three options.
Choices, he thought. Dangerous choices. The Magonid’s were committed to the folly; he would now see just how much of a taste for bloodshed they had.
In Massana, the night is truly darkest prior to dawn. The tide carried the Syracusan tiremes forward stealthily. Drifting deep into the port. The waning cloud darkened moon allowed the ships to pass the watchmen unseen.
“Now my lads now to shore!” Cried Hiero. They rose as one, the drums pounded a rapid tempo, and oars slashed the water with a such a sound the very ocean appeared to be alive with evil sea monsters churning its surface. Elite Cavalry were disgorged, ranks formed up and men charged forward, crunching gravel underfoot!
Flaming arrows rose to their apex and drifted down setting some buildings alight. The arrows caused chaos and mayhem everywhere.
The alarm sounded. Massena was under siege from the sea!
Hanno was furious, he paced raging in a high voice. ” How could you fail? How hard is it to defeat a few brigands?” The Inner circle of 100 Senators had given Hanno this opportunity to capture the riches of Eastern Sicily and eventually dispose of the fool Hiero. He had not panned for his mercenaries’ poor performance and his Punic Generals weak leadership in the assault on the city.
“So much for impressing Hiero and his army.” Placing a hand on his hip, he ordered wine, and slumped into a sour mood.
Argathicus chose to remain silent, the last thing he wanted was to end up crucified for Hannos anger. However Argathicus wondered how they would reduce the city before the winter. 30% of the assaulting force had been decimated in the assaults to date. Yet more of the brigands in Messana had died from starvation and disease than their assaults so far. The city had to fall before the Romans caught wind.
Bam, Bam, Bam. The echo of the gavel on stone echoed thru the Senate meeting hall. “Let it be noted that Fulvius shall join Claudius in Rhegium, then cross the straights and aid our Mammertine friends.”
A dull roar followed the final words. Many cursed out loud and muttered about the amoral stance and opportunistic grasping of the Senate speaker. On one hand Rome enslaved rebel brigands Hippontum yet then sends consular armies to support Massana. It was madness. This would lead to war.
All of Rome buzzed at the prospect, the inevitable was happening. The two largest mercantile nations had rubbed borders, traded barbs, insults and minor transgressions long enough.
Waves pressed the sailors skills to the limit. Patrolling the coast around Massana had proved harder as the year wore on. Now as white cap waves battered Hieros’s ships, they scoured the horizon looking for the Romans to try once again to cross the straits.
“General, we must return to port soon, if we cannot weather these turbulent seas then surely the land lubber Romans will stand no chance.” Spoke the ships Captain.
“Perhaps you are right! Their tenacity however bothers me 3 attempts to cross is boldness indeed. Set course for land.” Said Hiero.
As the ships reversed course, Claudius the Roman Consul took his turn at leading the troops. This time they set sail at dusk.
As the sun rose over the hills of Massana to the North of the city the next day, Hiero and Hanno viewed the massive forces of Rome.
Rancour and accusations flew in both directions. Goblets flew, fists pounded tables. Runners arrived with strength reports of disposition of the enemy and current strength of the combined armies.
“Enough merchant.” Roared Hiero. “Either we fight together now or withdraw and allow Roman Legions into Massana. If Rome enters Massana I can no longer promise my armies full support. Pointing directly at Hanno’s heaving cheat he declared “So you must choose. What will it be?”
[EDIT] With a few notable errors I think we are going to re start. I have a new appreciation for what can be achieved on turn one and what cannot. Also what actions are riskier than others. I meet my opponent Richard soon to pick the story from here 😉