Aquila:Rhine River Patrol - Escape!!!!
|This article is from the Nova Roma publication "Aquila".|
|Rhine River Patrol - Escape!!!!|
|Rhine River Patrol Story Index.|
Gaius lunged down-slope for the short stretch of brush which crossed the steep side of the ridge at an angle. As he broke from his cover among the boulders the immediate whine of a well-aimed arrow kicked up gravel at his feet.
"Damn!!!," mumbled Gaius to himself, "that archer is good.". He accelerated his run toward the leafy goal ahead of him. "Not too fast," he muttered as he ran, warning himself, "lose your balance on this slope and you're a dead man!!" Another arrow droned over his head and hit a nearby stone, shattering it into slivers. He was halfway to his goal and he anticipated at least two more arrows would seek him out before he reached the temporary refuge. His legs were pumping, but in his anxiety he felt like he was running through a thick syrup. His legs would not move as fast as he demanded of them, and his side was beginning to hurt from the effort. The zip of a stone missile told him that a slinger had entered the contest to kill him or at least stop him until he could be collected for a formal crucifixion. He didn't think he would wait for the collectors. Probably that low-life boot-licking Thracian and his greasy little Greek friend. A third arrow plucked at his ragged tunic and fell to the ground as he ran, 'The Gods are generous," he thought. His immediate goal was just a few yards now. Yells high and behind him provided notice that more guards were being sent after him, but he could not take the time to look back. Run -- Run!!!! His heart was pounding now and the stitch in his side was like fire in his abused body. His energy was beginning to wane and he knew this last effort was close to his last strength reserves.
His nourishment of late had not been intended to fuel an escape attempt, but such opportunities were few and far between and not to be looked at too closely. He was almost there, and he realized that the brush line ahead of him was higher and bushier that at first it had appeared to be. He dove for the cover of the brush just as his left arm exploded in pain. The dragging sensation and the pain caused him to turn slightly to the left and he rolled through the brush to the downhill side of the barrier. He quickly looked at his arm and saw the wicked arrow point extended through his upper arm. He paused for a moment, gripped the arrow shaft just behind the bloody broad-head, pulled the arrow forward and snapped the arrow in two, drawing the broken halves out of his arm. The pain caused him to stumble and fall. Just as he did, two more arrows seeking his flesh burst through the brush where he had been standing and skittered down the ridge slope. Holding his left arm close by his side with his right hand on the bleeding wound he plunged back into the widening brush line and in a crouch moved as fast as he could into the taller brush beyond. In his left hand he still held the broken arrow with it's sharp point. It was his only weapon and he did not intend to lose this one... These archers must be legion-trained, he thought ruefully, as he passed out of the brushy belt and into a stand of acacia. He slid into the clump of small trees and lost his balance. He fell into a shallow trench that divided the acacia stand. The ditch was just knee deep and shoulder wide, covered with vines which he had fallen through. The ditch was filled with dead leaves from years of leaf fall and below the leaves was a thin layer of mud. He burrowed deeply into the leaves and under the vines throwing leaves back over himself with his good arm. The slender stems waving over him were tough and springy, and showed no major disturbance as they opened against his rush and closed behind him. He sat on the muddy bottom of the ditch shoulder deep in dry leaves. His hands were muddy and he smeared mud over his face and as much of his body as he could reach. His arm felt like it was on fire, so he packed some mud into the wound as well to staunch the blood flow.
He heard heavy footfalls from the direction he had come, He was exhausted and could run no more. With his last remaining energy he slipped below the level of the leaves, and he hoped that no-one would notice his hiding place. For the second time he lost consciousness.