The low blast of a horn cut through the thickening fog. Alaric shivered and drew his cloak tighter around him to shut out the cold dampness as Feric, his black roan gelding snorted and stamped its hooves. A quick glance at his fellow allies confirmed that they were feeling the cold too.
Behind him, the troops remained stock-still except for the occasional chink of armour against steel. Alaric, a battle hardened veteran, Ruler of the Visigoths, leader of the alliance of Visigoths, Osthgoths and Goths, could sense his men's excitement; eager to get at the riches of Rome which had grown rich and lax, a luscious peach on the outside but rotten to the core by decades of corruption on the inside. Rich and defenseless, the age of Rome was coming to an end. The centuries of repression and subjugation of the Goths by the accursed Romans was not lost on them either.
Rome glowed in the darkness below, Alaric could barely make out the tiny columns of light snaking throughout the structured streets, the remnants of the once mighty Roman army attempting to fortify the city no doubt. Alaric smiled. But then again they would probably be in a state of near panic, having had a large portion of their army routed and all their generals captured or killed in the battle, no, massacre the day before. Soon Rome would burn.
Some disturbance in the ranks roused Alaric from his musing. A breathless scout ran up to him and dropped on one knee. 'Great Chief, Chief Anzlath has secured the eastern pass and Chief Merriath has control of the southern road. They await your signal my Lord.' Alaric nodded in acknowledgement.
"Well shouldn't we crush them now? Everything is in place and our men are dying to shed Roman blood!" A boisterous, impatient voice queried. Alaric stiffened and turned to address the offending source, a swarthy man with a bushy beard, leader of the Osthgoths and an impulsive person whose only tactic was brute force. The war would in all probability not have progressed this far if he had his own way.
"Vilkorvic, patience! The gods have yet to give us their blessing. We have gone so far and we shall not fail now. Rome will fall!"
Vilkorvic opened his mouth but was promptly silenced by Alaric's firmly upraised hand and settled for a sullen glower instead.
As one, the entire army awaited with bated breath, expectant and excited. The sky lit up as a blinding flash of lightning streaked down and struck a dead tree some distance north with a thundering boom. The tree swiftly burst into flames, a veritable bonfire.
Alaric raised his sword in salute and roared. "Hecate, Mistress of Death has spoken! Faelor, God of War rides with us! Sound the signal!" The armies roared as one, a bestial creature hungry for the kill as bloodlust gripped all and sundry in its tenacious grip.
A horn sounded and was rapidly joined in by another and another till their blasts reverberated throughout the hills, ominous and menacing, clarion calls of doom as a wave of torches were swiftly lit.
"To War! To War! For tonight, Rome will burn!!!" Alaric bellowed and with that the Gothic armies swept down on the hapless city as relentless waves of flaming arrows rained down. Rome burned.
Foot note: The sacking of Rome by Alaric I of the Visigoths in AD 410 marked the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire. Rome was subsequently sacked again by Geneseric of the Vandals in 455 and the tottering Empire finally collapsed in 476 when the Germanic Chieftian, Odoacer, captured Rome and deposed the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus.
Rome's sister empire in the East, the Byzantium Empire with Constantinople as its capital would survive for another 1000 years before falling to the Turks in 1453.
For Sean, to celebrate his new job. More pay, less time. And our goal draws ever nearer. :)