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Old 06-30-2017, 05:35 AM
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ltm3673 ltm3673 is offline
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Default Embers of War

Well there DT! This is a place I haven't been too in a LONG TIME... I have been back with various characters over the years, but never to this corner of this site. I daresay in my wanderings to other parts of the Internet I have become a much better writer over the years and it puts my... to put it mildly... feeble efforts on this site to shame. I'm not sure how long I'll be back and whether I'll write more, but if I get enough of a good response and enough people like this story I may write more. This one will just be a short story featuring the return of my old character, and the introduction of a new permanent character in my stories. Mainly designed to get me used to writing them and getting a feel for writing in the world of DT. Comments and feedback welcome as always, and whether this goes anyway will depend on the reviews I get, so drop me a line with your thoughts on this story if you read it.

If I write in future, these two characters will be the main POV's and I may add a Deadlands character into the mix as well in a later story, but this short piece will set both characters and their place in the land and respective realms up in case I decide to pursue this.

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Old 06-30-2017, 05:41 AM
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ltm3673 ltm3673 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 32
Default Part 1

The Embers of War

Somewhere inside the Shattered Highlands
Battlemaster Fremen Talla, Warmaster of the Mountain Kingdoms, servant of the Three Kings and Commander in the Armies of the Triumvirate, gazed out across the army campsite as the soaking rain steadily thudded down. The fires used for cooking had long since died down. The soldiers were drifting off to sleep, but sleep eluded Fremen, as it always did the night before a battle.

Seated in civilian gear, a warm tunic and breeches, sheltered from the cold rain by the small panoply he had erected over the front of his command tent to enable people to sit or stand outside his tent to wait for his attention protected from the elements, Fremen knew he would sleep little tonight. On the next morn, there would be bloodshed, while for now, there was no sound beyond the steady, remorseless pounding of the rain, which would likely clear shortly before dawn.

The campaign had not been a long one, but nevertheless the coming fight ahead would be hard. When it had become clear that the Ajendran Empire had mobilised a large expeditionary force to seize areas of the Highlands close to the borders of the Three Kingdoms, the Mountain Kingdoms had no choice but to retaliate. Refusing to permit the presence of a large force of the Steel Empire (as it was colloquially known), the Three Kings had given orders for the troops to be mobilised and readied for war, and that included the soldiers of Fremen’s contingent.

Even after his training at Hearthfire Hold with the garrison, harsh and unforgiving though it might have been, nothing would have prepared Fremen for the real practice and pursuit of war. Since he had been assigned command of his small squad, they had grown from fresh-faced youths to hardened veterans. He had seen them go from loutish oafs to disciplined, well-trained and well-organised soldiers. He had lost men to battle, oh yes, but he had won victories too. His forces had defeated the evil Baron Bonfire and ended the threat he posed to the Three Kingdoms, had captured the Rancid Roamer in the port of Ravenwatch, the flagship of the Dread Navy, and had won many other great victories besides. This was also not the first battle they had ever fought with the Ajendrans or the Deadlanders, for occasional conflicts and difficulties, and even wars, between two or more of the great realms was not uncommon.

Here though, the outcome of the most recent conflict would be decided. Win here, and the Mountain Kingdoms would stop cold the Ajendrans latest attempt to expand their borders and threaten the survival of civilised lands, the local non-human population would be protected from genocide, slavery or whatever other barbarisms the Ajendrans had planned. Fail though, and the Ajendrans would seize at least a portion, if not all, of the Highlands, expand their Empire, and leave the way clear for a future invasion of the Three Kingdoms. Obviously, a pre-emptive victory was the only way to prevent that ghastly situation from coming to fruition, short of another sudden outbreak of trouble along the northern frontier of the Empire, its borders with the ever-troublesome Ashpeaks.

Fremen was not a cruel man by any means, but years of travel and combat had hardened him. When the time came, and he commanded his unit from the front-rank, he and they would do their duty, unencumbered by ordinary restraints of civility that distinguished men from wild beasts. Fremen had not spent years leading men into battle in the most forsaken and difficult corners of the land just to falter in doing his duty. He had seen friends die, been forced to bury them and write to their next-of-kin. He had suffered wounds himself, sometimes serious, and seen others crippled permanently, mangled either by the weapons of war or the terrifying machinations of some inhuman monstrosity or creature. He had proven much, and had a reputation as a skilled and capable tactician, as well as a fine front line fighter. He was trusted and admired for his clear-headedness and skills on the battlefield, and was widely feted as one of the finest officers in the armies of the Three Kingdoms. He would do his duty. And he would not fail…

The clouds began to slowly break, and the rain sunk to a low drizzle.

The morning broke free across the gently sloping plain. The rain stopped, and the mud upon the ground solidified. Difficult terrain for a battle. But as the Army of the Three Kingdoms formed up for the day, half a mile away, a slight sloping rise formed a ridge in front of the camp of the Steel Empire, as the Ajendran Army did the same, preparing to do battle in the name of their God Emperor.

“Form ranks soldier, don’t let yourself fall behind. Sergeant! Move along!, we can’t have any delays, your men have to be ready to fall upon the left of the Skyclaw’s flank when they advance!”

Seated astride his mounted steed, Sir Pella Neoris, Cavalier of Ajendra, Knight of the Empire barked orders to his underlings, ignoring the chaotic movement of men and arms too their pre-set battle positions around him. As a Cavalier, Pella was both their military and social superior. He was tasked with ordering them, and order them he would, but he felt no special bond with his social underlings. He never felt any compunction about being brusque or even cruel to the regular laymen, the rabble that formulated the bulk of the infantry formations in the Empire. Fear and iron discipline ruled such men, kept them in the ranks, for they were not the best men in the Empire, indeed most were drunkards and criminals conscripted into service for some trifling offense or another, or else were so poor and undernourished that the Army was a good career by comparison. But mounted Cavaliers such as himself were the professionals, the leaders of the Empire’s armies, the executors of the Emperor’s divine vision when the time came to fight.

For Pella, this was the culmination of his life, a career rising from drudgery and poverty to Knighthood, and now, command of the whole right-wing of the Emperor’s army in the field against the uncivilised peoples of the Skyclaw Ridge. Born in a remote rural region, Pella had been an orphan, never known his parents, and been shuttled from one run-down orphanage to another. Luckily, when chance came, the young boy had been able to snatch up his chance for a rise through the rigid class hierarchies of the Empire. Enlisting as a regular soldier at sixteen, Pella had been laughed at as cannon-fodder by the recruitment officer, and sent to die on the Empire’s toughest frontier, the Great Northern Wall, which guarded the Empire from the horrors of the Ashpeak Mountains.

There, he had confounded all expectations. Training with blade and spear and axe every day, riding every day, and being roused to perform brutal training at all hours of the night, Pella had learned, first how to survive, and then, six weeks after his arrival, how to kill. For several years he had worked his way through the ranks, periodically taking his place in the defensive lines that needed to be formed whenever the monsters and beasts of the Ashpeaks attempted to penetrate the Empire’s borders. Then, after several years, he had come to the notice of Sir Kelvin. A proud but ageing Cavalier of Ajendra, Kelvin had recognised the young Pella’s talents and rocketed him on his way. He had become a squire in the ranks of the Empire’s most elite Knightly order, the Paladins of Ajendra and then, after several more years of fighting and participating or leading sorties, not just around the Ashpeaks, but various other parts of the Empire, Sir Pella had been knighted as a Cavalier in the Paladins of Ajendra. He swore a fierce oath to uphold the ideals of humanity’s supremacy, with no tolerance for non-humans, the weak, or those who got in the way of the Emperor’s divine vision.

Since then Pella had travelled widely, engaging in combat with all manner of brutal foes, sometimes leading a foot patrol of expendable regulars, sometimes alone, with no assistance or back-up within hundreds of miles. Rising from brutal circumstances, the man Sir Pella never shrunk from a fight, never compromised with those determined to destroy him, or questioned the orders of those endowed by the Emperor Ajen and tasked with carrying out his will.

And now, seeing the Army of the Three Kingdoms assemble on the reasonably flat surface below, he seethed. These were his enemies. These were the men he had come to destroy, and it was they who represented the obstacle to the Emperor’s divine vision.

And none of them would be alive when the sun next rose…

Last edited by ltm3673; 06-30-2017 at 12:13 PM.
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