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Chapter 2: A Hero's Lament
Chapter 2: A Hero's Lament
The morning mists were thick on the fields of Proust. Captain
Archidiem shifted in his saddle and forced his body to ignore the
chill. Through his spyglass he could make out the fringes of the
Axionian encampment on the far side of the field.
Archidiem had the men break camp two hours before dawn, and take this
position here at the highest point of the field. His plan was to
strike at first light. One quarter of his force had already moved to
flank the encampment to the south, and all he needed now was
confirmation that they were in place.
"Lieutenant!" He shouted, "What is the status of our flanking force?
Are they even in position yet?"
Lieutenant Marcus Jeblis rode into position next to his Captain.
"No word yet sir, but they should be ready soon."
The Captain scowled.
"Damn your eyes Jeblis! I don't want to hear that they should be
ready, I want to know if they are!"
The lieutenant made no response. Archidiem lowered the spyglass and
turned to him. Jeblis saw the jewel eye glow. Never a good sign.
"Jeblis, I want to know the status of our southern flank in five
minutes. If I don't get it, I will hold you personally responsible."
The Lieutenant knew what that meant. First demotion, and then
transfer. Usually to some tedious medical corps. He'd seen this
happen before. Archidiem would transfer officers who failed him to
medical corps because if they themselves couldn't be heroes, maybe
they needed to see the blood of the men that could.
"Right away sir!" Jeblis rode hard to the placements on the
downslope, on the other side of the hill. If there was word, it'd
have reached there first.
Archidiem brought the spyglass back up, he saw the enemy beginning to stir.
"Damn, they're awake and mustering." He couldn't wait wait any longer
or else they'd lose their advantage. Never mind the southern flank,
they'd have to attack now.
"Prepare to charge!" He drew his sword. Three Lieutenants repeated
the order loudly. The men at the emplacement moved to the top of the
Jeblis looked over the document the dispatch rider had brought hastily
all the way from the general's camp.
"By the Gods!" He folded the dispatch quickly and rode hard back up
the hill. As he passed the rear ranks, the order to charge was given.
The thunder of five hundred heavy cavalry closing the field was not
what Colonel Hugo Canar of the Axion 11th Infantry division expected
to hear this morning. Especially since the order to cease hostilities
came down from command last night. The last thing he expected to see
was the perimeter of his camp being breached, or his men being cut
down by these barbarians. Mostly he never expected to die the morning
after peace was declared.
Jeblis found his captain in the center of what was left of the enemy
encampment. Ten survivors out of six-hundred enlisted. Eighty spared
conscripted men, and no surviving support staff. All the rest either
dead...or quickly getting there.
Archidiem turned to the approaching Jeblis. He wiped his sword clean.
"Well Lieutenant, it seems the southern flank turned out to be
unnecessary. We have a complete victory."
A sergeant rode up and bowed in his saddle.
"Sir, six men dead and four wounded on our lists"
"Very well sergeant, see to their remains."
Jeblis said nothing, he felt a sickness begin to well up inside.
Archidiem pulled the unsheathed sword from the dead colonel and eyed
his new trophy with a smile.
Jeblis's sickness made itself apparent all over his own tunic.
Archidiem chuckled, "Losing your stomach for war lieutenant?"
"No sir," He replied as he wiped his chin on his sleeve. "But I've
never had much of a stomach for murder."
Archidiem chuckled uneasily. "Murder you say? Either you've become a
nun since we spoke last, or you have something you want to tell me."
Jeblis couldn't look him in the ye. He just dismounted and handed his
captain the proclamation of peace.
Archidiem scanned the document, looked up at Jeblis and sighed.
"A pity this didn't reach me sooner lieutenant."
Jeblis nodded quietly.
"A good man's life wouldn't have gone to waste otherwise." The captain added.
Again Jeblis nodded, "I'm sure he was a good man sir."
Archidiem turned away for a moment.
"Yes lieutenant, you were."
In one swift motion, the slaughtered colonel's sword separated
Lieutenant Jeblis's head from his body.
Archidiem called over his shoulder to the sergeant.
"Sergeant! Its seven dead, not six."