Prologue
Like Waves on the Rocks

AZ 1423 - Early Autumn
Delate Mountains, Zephyr

The Nanoi had little understanding of how a sneak attack was supposed to work. They emerged from their holes in the mountainside with a great ruckus, bellowing warcries, blowing horns and clanging their axes against their shields. However, their poor tactical sense could very well save the Legion.
The front line was diverted to the northeast, leaving the Legion exposed to the southwest. The Nanoi had the sense to plan that far, but by revealing their reinforcements early, perhaps there would be time to rally a defense of the Legion's flank.
Sir Xenomachos lifted up his lance and shouted, "Nanoi coming down from the mountain! To me! To me!"
His turma of cataphracts rallied to his call and a couple centuries of infantry joined in. Perhaps that would be enough. The cataphracts lined up with the infantrymen behind to support them.
It was true that they were at their best charging into the enemy ranks, but it could not be helped. The foothills were too uneven and the fighting too pitched for the Legion to withdraw and lure the enemy out into more open ground. They had to rely on the thickness of their armor and the reach of their lances to hold the Nanoi at bay.
"Ready javelins!"
Xenomachos held up his javelin and took aim. With any luck, the cataphracts and the infantrymen could throw two javelins before the Nanoi came too close. The first volley of javelins took out many in the Nanoi's front line, but by the time the second volley was thrown, the Nanoi responded in kind with throwing axes. One throwing axe very nearly struck Xenomachos in the head.
The wave of Nanoi did not slow their pace and soon clashed with the Zephyrian formation. As Xenomachos drove his lance into the neck of the first Nanos he could reach, he shouted to the men, "Hold the line! Hold the line!"
The Nanoi did not let their dead slow them down. They shoved the bodies aside, clambered over them, hollering and swinging their axes wildly. The cataphracts' horses reared up and began trampling some of the Nanoi underfoot, but that only served to enrage them further. Though the horses' thick scale stood a good chance of deflecting an axe blow to the body, their legs were undefended and it did not take long for the Nanoi to seize on this weakness. Trying to swing so low exposed them to greater danger, though, and so the fight quickly became more costly for both sides.
If a horse was felled, horse and rider both were set upon by several Nanoi in a mad fury. They were beyond saving, but because the Nanoi would cluster so around a single victim, the infantrymen could rush in and and put them to the sword.
Xenomachos' lance became stuck in the body of one Nanoi warrior and he had to abandon it, drawing out his mace to continue to fend off the Nanoi. Their helmets were thick and it often seemed that their skulls were even thicker, but a sound blow was usually enough to lay them low. Because the Nanoi were so short, Xenomachos had to practically be on top of them to land a blow without unseating himself from his horse.
In the heat of battle, you cannot afford to think of much more than fighting for your life. Time seems to slow but it also passes before you can realize it. A lone Nanos stood atop the bodies of his fallen comrades holding an axe in each hand and giving a mighty shout, only to be silenced when an infantryman's spear pierced him. With that, the last of the Nanoi reinforcements had fallen.
Xenomachos looked around him. Nearly half the number of the men who answered his call were dead, but there were three Nanoi slain for every legionary who had fallen.
Sir Diogenes, a fellow cataphract, somehow survived losing his mount and waded through the bodies to Xenomachos' side, making a point to stab each Nanos along the way with his broken lance.
"We did it," he said. "We held the line. Stopped them like we were a stone wall."
"An iron wall," Xenomachos replied. "We are the iron wall."