General Fion slammed his fist down on the wooden table that his battle report was lain out on. Six hundred seventy three casualties! Lost over 75 men on a tinny wooden wall. The emperor would be furious. But how could Fion, the greatest of general in Andor, known that a single pistol shot could blow over five hundred men into oblivion? He rolled out the map of Narcas that he had. Of all the border outposts, this should have been the smallest. None had expected the small pass to be attacked. Surely no one was fool enough to march their armies across a bitter, dangerous pass like that! Awww, but often the way of the fool can be the greatest advantage of a cunning man he thought to himself, and smiled, despite the grim losses. He still had nearly 500,000 men marching behind him. Enough to take this country, by far. For decades, the anderites had not taken action, as Narcian cavalry raided countless border villages. Most other nations would immediately be crushed for this offence. But the country of Narcas was massive, nearly as much as the anderites own lands, and where fierce fighters. But he had a new secret weapon. He walked to the entrance of his tent, and smiled again as it rolled past in the artillery marching brigades. The sea of white clad soldiers stretched as far down the pass as could be seen. His smile broadened as he imagined the Narcian capital burning to the ground.
The young boy, Stuart, could see the walls of the capital. His horse had died twenty miles back, ridden until it simple collapsed and died. He had been running flat out since then. As he approached, he thanked Neela, the god of luck, that the gates were open. He ran through, each breath an agony. He left bloody prints behind him, as he had stepped on a sharp rock several miles back that had gouged his boots, and pierced his skin deep. He had not stopped to bandage it. No time. He ran through the streets, receiving many an odd glance from passer bys. He ran straight to the huge wooden doors of the kings’ court, using his last bit of energy to throw them open so they both slammed back into the stone walls with a crash, his vision going black around the edges, he stumbled to a stop before the baffled king. He fell to the ground, coughing, blood coming from his battered throat. He managed to choke out the message “anderites…coming…northern mountains…” and then he was gone. With his goal accomplished, his body gave up living. He relaxed and slumped. The king sat for a couple seconds in shocked silence. Then he was bellowing orders “get a medicine man in here! Bring me my head of state and military! Get me the commander of my second light cavalry division!” servants ran back and forth to carry out the orders.
In minutes the limp body of the youth had been carried from the room on a stretcher. Though the healer knew the boy was dead, the king did not, and he did not wish to distress the sovereign any more then he was. He closed the boys’ eyes. He was amazed at how this boy had gotten here, and how long he had been running. His foot was bloodied; a rock had pierced his foot several miles back. It must have been excruciating through every step.
The king had his requested officials gathered. He paced back and forth. The lad must have been telling the truth, as no sane man would run like that for a cruel joke. He paced back and forth, his hair flowing down to his waist. Men of Narcas didn’t cut their hair unless they fled from battle. Cut hair was the ultimate dishonor. His commander of the second imperial division of light cavalry stood at attention, waiting for orders. “Take attachments from your division, each of ten horses, and go to all the provinces to call my earls to a meeting of war. You yourself will check to see if the report of anderites to the north is correct. Well? What are you waiting for, go!” the commander bowed a bit, and then walked away briskly. He thought to himself, as he walked through the massive stone hallway, that surely the lad was mistaken. The anderites would not dare attack them! Their armies were uncountable! There rulers like iron, there people like a solid wall that would have to be completely eradicated before it was broken! And invasion would be smashed under the famous Narcian cavalry, the finest in the world! He almost hoped the anderites were coming so that they could smash them once and for all, send them skittering back to their capital, Fenda, and burn that devil blessed city to the ground. He grinned at the prospect.
To the north, the anderites came across their first settlement, a little village, mainly filled with cattle farmers. General Fion thought to himself that the entire country was cattle farmers but didn’t voice this as a general was expected to respect his opponent. All are equal, just like they were in anderite. So as protocol required, he set men forward to call the enemy to arms, tell them to be prepared for engagement in two hours time. He deployed his artillery, protected by a certain three hundred musketeers. On the flanks stood two cavalry divisions. To run down any enemy who fled the battle. On the other side of a cut wheat field the defenders stood, settling up a small wall. When the engagement began, general Fion had the four cannons he had entrenched fire four shots each, effectively killing a quarter of the defenders, which had once numbered at one hundred. From the back of the town the women and children fled from the offending army.
After the artillery barrage, he had his protecting rank of three hundred musket men advance for a charge. The defenders were not soldiers, farmers and craftsman. Only thirty off the men in the remaining force of seventy-five even had a gunpowder weapons. The other forty-five men were either holding rapier swords or bows and arrows. They were all standing in a ragtag line. In contrast the anderites were strictly regimented. As they marched to the sound of the shrilling fife, in perfect unison, not a single thing was out of place with them. The muskets were all of equal length, the heavy bayonet flashing on the end. The uniforms were pure white, with gold edgings on the clothing. The tricorns, the standard three pointed hat of the military everywhere, in contrast, were a deep black, made of the pelts of the giant otters that lived in the millions off the coast of the Anderite Empire. They were the largest otter in the world, often up to seven feet long. But of course, the largest had been recorded at ten feet.
As the rank advanced, the defenders faltered. Being surrounded by bloody heaps of bodies that they had lived there whole lives with, plus seeing a mass rank of white advancing had them slightly more then unnerved. The men with rapiers stood in front, while the musket and bowmen stood behind. As the anderites came within a hundred yards, the men with gunpowder weapons fired. From the fifteen shots, only one death was produced, and two wounded. They weren’t military grade firearms, meant for killing birds or dear, not for killing humans, and defiantly not ones with thin steel breastplates like the anderites.
At a hundred feet, the archers fired, one arrow taking an anderite through the eye, another hitting a man in the leg. As a finally effort, without time to reload, the defenders desperately threw stones at the aggressors. Surprisingly, this caused more damage than the weapons, as the heavy stone caused numbing pain and broken fingers and noses. Then the anderites where there, over the small wall, their musket bayonets a wall of steel. The defenders panicked, most fleeing. A few brave men stayed, but had no training, and were quickly killed. One man, with a rapier, managed to cut an anderites forearm clean off. He then had his head smashed in with the butt of a musket.
As the men that had fled started to turn back, they were met with a lead volley from the anderites. Their bodies were torn to shreds. The few survivors, most fatally wounded, started to drag themselves off, only to have a second volley hit them, killing most. One man was left alive, hurt terrible. A fist sized hole was torn in his stomach. He vomited blood, first his body retching at the blood filling his stomach, then again in a desperate attempt to empty his lungs that were filled with his own life blood.
As was custom, the general walked through the battle field to mount the Anderian flag at the place where the enemy army had stood. Fion picked his way through the bloody scene, feeling like retching. It was one thing when he led his troops to glorious victory over an enemy army of real military men, and against enough to actually be considered equal. But this was just slaughter, of honest working men defending their homes. He looked at the broken and torn bodies, thinking these men had had homes, and families, and happy days. He curled is lip as he thought of how many other villages would suffer the same fate before they met a real enemy force. He hoisted the flag pole, planting it firmly in the ground, the breeze flapping it gently. He looked at one of the village men, no more than twenty. He had probably had a sweetheart, just starting a business, maybe a baby on the way even. All gone by the end of a bayonet. ”Such were the dredges of war”, Fion said to himself, “get used to being in the campaign again.” The thought couldn’t prevent a single tear to slide down Fions’ face, and splatter on the young man’s neck. Thank goodness the troops couldn’t see him. It was impolite for a general to show emotion on the battle field.
Later that day, after resources had been gathered from the villages, the army reassembled into marching order. None of the buildings had been burned, because they Anderites planned to inhabit these lands. Fion walked down the Colum, looking at the men, his field officers doing similarly down the line that was far too vast for a single man to survey. He stopped to look sternly at men periodically, trying to find something amiss. Noting was amiss. Of course, in the armies of anderite, nothing was ever amiss. Everyman was clean shaven, wearing his white uniform, his tricorns on the right way. Every two hundred men had a sergeant of at least 20 years of military service in charge of them. He called the sergeant of the division he was surveying. The sergeants uniforms left arm had a blue sleeve to show his rank “Everything in order, sir?” the sergeant asked. Fion deliberated for a moment. One of the men in the division had had just a bit too much stubble…”nothing sergeant” he allowed it to slide. He regarded the sergeant for a moment longer. He was the perfect image of an anderite soldier. Over six feet tall, clean shaven, graceful like a cat, raven black hair against milky white skin. He looked into the man’s eyes. They were green, and the whites of his eyes were the same as every anderite soldiers’. The whites of his eyes had been dyed pure black.