So we came up. But what's all this then? we said. The place was crawling with them. Gauls. Where'd they come from, the blighters. Must have been waiting for us in the woods.
Well, they got one up on us, that's for sure.
But we had old Titus up front. No one scares old Labienus, and a good thing it was for us, too. There he was with some mutt of a dog he'd whipped into line. Oh, we could tell you a few stories about old Titus. A good man to have there though. A good man to have when things are going south.
But our lads - all of them - were cool as could be. The foreign slingers started doing their thing and they did some bloody murder on those Gauls. Caught them in the river. It was bloody murder, I tell you, whizzing those bullets through the air. And then Titus went in against their cavalry. This was on the left. Just broke them, just like that. Oh, he was fine was Titus. Fine.
And all the while the chief was ordering men forward. Down tools, he was saying. Get forward. Don't worry whose standard. Just get forward. Make a line, he said. Make a stand. I'll get us out of this. And so we did. We went forward. Even the new men. Even them.
The eighth and the thirteenth came up in the centre, and the twelfth on the right as well. Just get forward. That was the thing. Just get forward. Stop 'em on the hill; catch 'em in the river. Just get forward.
But they came on you know. Poured across that river. Whacked our cavalry on the right. Not Titus's cavalry you understand; the cavalry on the other wing. They couldn't take the heat. They ran. Couldn't drive off our light infantry though, and Titus was still sitting pretty. Laughed at them as they came forward, some said. Can you imagine it? Laughing at that time, in that place, faced with those men? Imagine it.
We wouldn't let them onto the hill. The chief kept us going forward. Into them, he was saying. Get forward. Don't crowd. Leave yourself room for sword work. So the ninth and tenth came up to join Labienus, and on the right the seventh and the thirteenth got into the act. Brave boys they were. That Gaul leader - Boduognatus, I think they said - was across from them and he was fair foaming at the mouth by this stage.
He'd hit the twelfth hard. Very hard. Lost almost all the centurions. And they said that for the first time it got a bit hot for old Titus's cavalry too, on the other side. But they'd done their bit. Nothing wrong with what they did. They were Gauls as well, you see. Our Gauls though, and that makes all the difference.
The old man had brought up the tenth by now, so the cavalry could fall back. Titus had them covered. The tenth were there. He always did have it covered, Titus, especially once the tenth were there. No one beats the tenth.
The guv'nor kept sending us forward, and then he came up himself on our right to see what was happening. The twelfth were in a sorry state, and the rest of them too on that wing before too long. They were ferocious, those Gauls. Kept coming. Didn't matter how many we killed, they kept coming. Climbing over bodies, howling, using their fists and their teeth if they had to. They scared us, they did. They right scared us.
But we kept getting forward, we just had to. Getting up onto that hill. Forming line. Keeping calm. Following orders. Not panicking was the thing. Just keeping your cool.
Then there was a cheer from our boys and we saw that their centre was falling back. Boduognatus kept on though, and we were nearly done, I swear to you. He kept coming. We were all spent. But their centre fell back, and that gave us heart. And then a fresh lot came up, and we could breath a little.
And the chief. He said push on, push on. Use your shields to push, just stab at them around your shields, keep stabbing. And somehow we did. We pushed. And then something broke in them and they were all running, but not Boduognatus. He didn't run. He stood there in that mass, yelling at them, bellowing, we could see him, but the others all just ran, and they took him with them, and once he was caught up they were all gone. Just like that. Gone. Back through the river and into the woods. Gone.
But I tell you, we were wrecked. It was a hard day. We were done. We could only stop where we stood. No chasing that lot. Just binding wounds, helping your mates, looking for our lost. We were done. But we won. We held the hill. We won.