Trajan quickly followed up on his victory at Tapae, and several Dacian towns were put to the torch as his battlegroup advanced. The Dacian army mounted no resistance to this, so it must have been very seriously mauled in the fighting. The Romans continued their routine of capturing Dacian hill forts, with the parapet of one such obstacle being lined with heads impaled on stakes whilst it was ringed by more stakes concealed in pits - regardless of how freightening the forts may have appeared, each one was taken in turn and in one such fort Trajan recovered the lost military equipment and standards of Fuscus' army. Trajan then made a river crossing with his army, but soon received some surprising news. ---
Decebalus had crossed the Danube and raided Moesia. While Trajan was distracted, Decebalus had lead a large army of Dacian infantry and Sarmatian cataphracts on an attempted cleansweep of some border forts, though some of his men drowned whilst crossing the Danube. In attacking one such fort, the Dacians even used battering rams, which they probably learned to construct from Roman deserters. Trajan swiftly responded and sailed back across the Danube with a force of heavy infantry and Auxiliary cavalry, as well as his own Praetorian guardsmen. Trajan then dispatched scouts to search for the Dacian army, who quickly discovered it around a laager of wagons. ---
Trajan followed up on the news by launching a massed assault on the Dacian laager with his army under the cover of darkness, and surprise was successfully achieved. The Romans slaughtered the Dacian army, with their Legionaries also shown on monuments of the battle as wearing articulated arm guards, greaves and spangenhelms to better protect against Dacian Falxes. The Roman Auxiliary cavalry also soundly routed the Sarmatian cataphracts, and pursued them off the field, preventing them from regrouping. Trajan's victory proved total, and the Dacians were either killed or sent fleeing back over the Danube with serious loss. Thus Decebalus' attempt to turn the tide of the war with a counter-invasion was soundly foiled. Trajan had a monument erected on the site of this major victory.
Before advancing inland to Dacia, Trajan performed a ritual sacrifice of a bull, ram and a boar to Mars, the Roman god of war, and addressed his passing columns of soldiers with a speech. Some tribes were already allied to the Romans, but they had no stomach for a war and sent Trajan a message in Latin carved onto a large mushroom urging him to keep the peace, as did Decebalus - both were rejected. Several outposts near the Danube were then built, and with the beach head secure the Roman army dispersed and marched towards the Carpathians. The objective now was to subdue the Dacians and secure a more favorable peace than what Domitian had agreed upon.
Trajan and his officers first went to inspect a nearby Dacian hill fort, which seems to have been curiously abandoned by it's defenders as no siege is shown taking place. Trajan then returned to oversee a group of Legionaries clearing a path through a forest, perhaps in the field army he personally commanded. The engineering skills of the Roman army would come to play a very prominent role in the war, as the soldiers cleared away trees, bridged rivers and built fortifications to secure their route forward into the difficult Dacian terrain. Shortly after this, Trajan's own battlegroup was attacked by a large Dacian army near Tapae, where his first major battle as emperor would be fought.
Trajan organized his troops into two lines: the first had his Auxiliaries and Symmachiarii, the latter including bare-chested "barbarians" armed with clubs, likely Germans. The Legionaries were placed at the rear of the formation - this was a fairly common tactic, since the Legionaries grouped into larger units of ten Cohorts functioned better as reserves than the Auxiliaries. The battle that followed was ferocious, but eventually the Romans were victorious, with the less disclipined and well equipped Dacians in the end being unable to stand against the Romans in sustained combat. The Roman army was more efficient anyway. However victory for Trajan came at the cost of heavy casualties, and the Roman medics ran out of bandages to treat their wounded, so that Trajan had his own stores of clothing torn to fill the gap.