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Bullet Magnet

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About Bullet Magnet

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    Soldat de Première


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    bayonets, too
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    Line Infantry

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  1. Bullet Magnet

    ok it`s done now. Name: Anatoli Pushkin Affiliation: Ms. Pavenlova`s Rebellion Place of Birth: Unknown, Rossiyskaya Imperiya Place of Death: Province R9, Rossiyskiy Soyuz Dear reader, you may have noticed that every entry in this compendium of accounts from the war has been from the viewpoint of the Crown Colonies. This is not due solely to mere patriotism, nor idealism, but out of a disturbing lack of alternatives. The reader should know that my associates and I have searched libraries and manifestoes in every belligerent nation, to little avail. We believe soldiers of the Crown Colonies, though possessing traditional British pride and knowledge, were not simply better in creating and preserving letters and diaries. After all, every nation involved in the conflict fielded thousands of men; surely sheer probability would dictate at least a few hundred documents would have survived all these years from them? The reason for this discrepancy in numbers proved remarkably simple, and proves to be a microcosm for the varying societies, cultures, and values which clashed together one and a quarter centuries ago. Section 3a, of the Republican Army Officer Training Manual (3ème édition), the official manual used by the French armies in their colonies during the time of the war states: "On the subject of morale... letters to home have been proven to exponentially increase the morale of soldiers, and ample supplies of ink and paper should be carried alongside other necessary materiel... this practice should be discarded, however, whenever the army embarks on an operation in which speed and surprise is of upmost importance. In the case that this happens to be true no stationery shall be used nor carried, in order to minimize the risk of risk of information being captured... there is also a risk that letters from war-weary soldiers- or other defeatist elements- may hinder the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health... suspected violations must be ceased immediately upon discovery, though the officer may decide his own method in determining and securing the loyalty of the offender(s) towards the Grand Republic and the Revolution. There are no known letters from Republican soldiers. The Russian Soyuz (Union), whose contribution to the war at this point has been immortalized in the children`s rhyme "A defeat at R4 and little more", had no such limitations. This was not due to a love of free knowledge and kinship, but because they had practically no government at all. Its people lived in farmsteads and the occasional commune dotted around the vast tundras and taigas, their border marked only by the first patches of green. Power was fiercely contested by their official leader, Niroc, and an association of bureaucrats tasked with the distribution of land: the Land League of the Union (LLU). Suffice to say, neither entity possessed the logistical capabilities nor the opportunity to extend their influence over such a large swath of land (as well as over the Russian populace, universally known for their insolence). As a result, it was not government interference but astronomically high illiteracy rates among their subjects which stymied our efforts to collect knowledge on the region. So, our surprise knew no limits when we found an intact series of journal entries from a Russian soldier- one from the peasantry, no less. In fact, this Anatoli Pushkin was a member of a short-lived Rebellion which threatened to seize control away from its Francophillic overlord, and establish a society run entirely by such peasants. Such an important discovery could never in good faith be left out of a collection such as this, even if it diverges from the established topic of British soldiers. However, if you wish to skip this chapter, the page-number of the next entry shall be posted below... "It takes a certain type of man to join a rebellion. One has to believe- and believe wholeheartedly- in one`s cause to excuse a betrayal of the highest severity. It is one thing to fight a foreign army, with your brothers at your side and your families at your rear. You can find glory in that, revel in the knowledge that honor and respect will be bestowed upon you no matter if you live or die. Your crimes: erased, your sins: absolved, you become nothing but a stone pedestal for all beneath you to look up towards and wonder what it could be like. It takes a certain type of man to throw that all away." Anatoli thought he heard steps coming from outside the tent; it must`ve been them coming back from dinner. He looked for a place to store the still-dripping quill and paper, but found none. Already feeling the string of regret, he shoved the inky paper between his chest and his coat, wincing at the distinctive crumple of two hours labor melting away. Five or so sets of lets appeared in the thin gap between the tent flaps, stumbling around and followed by continuous bursts of meaningless laughter, then fading away. This provided no comfort for Anatoli, as this meant that his "tent mates" were still out there near the fire and could return at any time. Dismayed, he looked down at his coat to see that small black patches had seeped through the outermost layer and were now distinctly visible to the non-inebriated eye. Come morning, once the haze of this night had faded away, there would be no end to their childish games. But nothing had truly been lost, merely disconnected and unsupported words on a sheet of paper. He stood up wiped his ink-splotched hands on his tunic, disappointed that none came off. If caught, he would not be able to explain the mess this time. He stood up, stretched out his back, and placed his mug of ink in his usual spot under his cot. Only a thin stack of paper was there to greet him, not including the ones which had stained or crumpled beyond all salvation, not all due to accident. But that didn`t trouble him; tomorrow would be a new day, They never made it back to the tent that night. Anatoli enjoyed the privacy. It was a shame that, when morning came, he was apprehended by a gong of burly men and hastily escorted past row after row of dilapidated tents. Anatoli expected for his captors to stop and shove him into one of those rows and thrusted into the arms of a waiting mugger, but that didn`t happen. Suddenly, a new type of dread weeded its way into his mind. He snuck a glance into one of the men`s eyes, and had his fears confirmed when he saw they were firmly planted onto one tent in particular. "There was no force on earth which could have stopped them from delivering me there. No matter how hard I could have kicked or yelled, they were loyal to a higher power- two higher powers- and I was to be subject to both of their unmitigated judgements. The rows faded and the noises of no less than five hundred men were overshadowed by even the slightest gusts billowing around that tent; even it dared not disturb its hallowed canvas and ropes. I could swear it was the boatman Charon himself that opened the threshold to the tent, grumbling how he had not been payed for the troubles. An roaring furnace took up much of the center of the room, its opaque product rising slowly and methodically until piling into a cloud at the very top of the structure, trapped forever inside by a mere layer of ceiling. There was but one figure in that room, silently admiring the whole display. I instinctively raised my arm into a salute, but remembered it was still entrapped by the men, who stood in reverent awe at the embodiment of His power on this earth. I once wrote that it took a certain type of man to join a rebellion. It takes more than a man to lead one... ...It takes Ms. Pavenlova." She rose from a meditative slumber, her structure protected from the ground by a silk carpet- and protected from the vices of humanity by a golden pendent of Him wrapped around her neck. As she emerged into the light, her features became clear for the first time; she was no longer the speaker on the stage, nor the solder on the battlefield, but a feather on the scale of Anubis, of which all men feared to be weighted against. Even in the shadow of the growing flame she remained pale as nacre, her hair a rich cream tint. In truth, not even the most seductive bachelor in the world would dare to act- or even think- in a lustful manner towards her; it would be blasphemy towards all of the beauty in the world. And now, unarmed, unarmored, and with no-one left to impress- what should should been her most vulnerable moment- I stayed on the ground, and was compelled to kneel. "Stand, Private Pushkin." Private Pushkin stood. He restrained his eyes from wondering around the room towards the small shrine built to Him, just behind the fire-pit. She traced his eyes to the small golden statuette, tilted her head as if an idea had just popped in, but then shook it out. "Do you know why you are here, Private Pushkin?" He shook his head. "Do you know where the other three people assigned to your tent are?" He shook his head. Ms. Pavenlova sighed, then motioned towards a figure standing at the entrance. He was truly a child, definitely tall and strong enough to hold a rifle, but if he wiped the dirt from his face and gained a few more pounds, he would not look out of place in university. He stood by Anatoli`s side, himself struggling to look straight ahead. Ms. Pavenlova continued. "The man beside you was stationed on the fringes of our camp last night.", she said, showing clear signs of admiration, "Around midnight, I believe..." Anatoli expected the boy to nod in recognition, but he stood still. He noticed that his eyes were a light red, and that he was breathing erratically. "...he found your tent-mates trying to hide in a ditch. When confronted, they broke into a run." She paused. "He shot one of them on the spot for desertion. The other two were caught and were given the same punishment." The boy bit his lower lip and took a series of deep breaths. He tilted his head towards Anatoli, then snapped it back to its original position. "Did they ever tell you of their plans?" Anatoli shook his head. "I want you to say it! You have to say it!" "No, Ms. Pavenlova. We were not on good terms.", replied Anatoli, pondering over every word he had just said for fear of a mistake. Ms. Pavenlova cupped her chin with her hand. With her spare hand she sent the child away, who was keen to follow his order. The guards followed suit. The fire-pit crackled, lighting up the shrine. Slowly, Anatoli`s eyes drifted once more to the gilded statuette, the formless eyes seeming to stare both at and through the mere mortal before it. A light seemed to rise behind those eyes, rising uninhibited until it seemed like it wished to burst forth from its metallic chains and sally into the world. It was then that Ms. Pavenlova holstered her hand. "Why did you join this revolution, Private?", asked Ms. Pavenlova, bathing in tranquility. "I believe Lidor Niroc betrayed us, and this army represents the true spirit of the people." "Tell me, do you believe in the power of... Blee, Anatoli?" Anatoli paused. It had been years since he had heard that name spoken out loud, and the first time in a positive context. Father Nikolai had warned against the growing dangers of heresy, how it would capture unweary souls and send them to the gates of hell and beyond, where God had no influence. Anatoli believed him, continued to believe him, even when the cries of the man in distant Rossiya were twisted and morphed as time went on, Anatoli was a believer. But, then again, this was the same Father Nikolai who preached divine right- that the Tsars were products of God and not an ever-repeating example of vice and ignorance. That was why Anatoli remained silent. And that is why Ms. Pavenlova`s spirits dropped, and he was escorted out of the tent and given the terse warning: "We will be watching.", before he was ordered to attend the next drilling session. "We were farmers, ranchers, and frontiersmen. Now, we are led to believe that we are soldiers; soldiers not only of superior quantity and quality than the government forces, but worthy of the favor of Blee (His name has been used quite liberally since my arrival, and with no shortage of vigor). This arrangement, that of open rebellion, I find myself in has resulted in one resounding epiphany: my life in the Soyuz has been an anomaly. First off, it seems that a large percentage of my comrades are native-born, despite the fact that knowledge of this island was only made clear mere years ago. The information I have managed to muster so far dictates that many of them are direct descendant of enemies of long-dead Tsars, forever banished to the Great Barren Frost. Some took their exile to the extremes and, upon reaching the easternmost portions of the tundra, constructed a few ships, assumedly trying to escape to North America. To their dismay, they landed not on the temperate climes of the western coast, but to one similar to their native land, on the southern portions of this island. Inevitably, the population grew apart, both in search of arable lands, and over minor disputes which bordered on the cusp of conflict. Clans arose, and common blood triumphed common ordeals in matters of importance. Raids wiped out families and the land they owned, forcing people to venture deeper into the continent to escape the violence. These refugees, especially those who populated what is now known as the Cliff Coast, disillusioned by their struggles, turned away their old teachings. All across the crags of the eastern coasts, crosses and incense-sticks were thrown into the sea as they embraced a new god, the prophet of which captured farmstead after farmstead not with muskets but with words. Her words. But everything changed when a starving Republican soldier wandered into the tundra, five years ago. Of course he was executed, their existence was not to be compromised. But this solitary action proved to accomplish more than any war or warlord ever could. If the people wished to retain their lifestyle, they had to band together, lest they end up like the countless peopled across the world, subjugated by the Crown and the Republic. A Russian Union, united under one ruler- at least, until the imperialists had been dealt with. In origins, we share a similar history. My father was never friends with the Tsar, and that meant he was never friends with the Bureau of Information. That in itself wasn`t particularly special, as sentiments between the public and the government ranged from a live and let live doctrine to a few muskets away from rebellion. However, one critical factor directed a substantial amount of ire towards him: he was a Printer- and an influential one, at that. As long as people brought text, he would print it; minimal questions asked. They tried to shut him down, tried to threaten him, but he stood firm. Then I was born, and they threatened him again. Thus, we were not forced into the great wastes but meandered around whatever countries of Europe would take us in. But there was always a risk of capture, one which proved too much for the family`s mettle. Father came back one day with a letter from an unmarked address, with nothing but a set of co-ordinates. Our next voyage was not to a sunny vista, but seemingly to the center of the ocean." Anatoli laid down the quill, allowing for a small ink pool to form just along the edges of the paper. One day he would run out; then he would be in trouble. There was a very real chance that he possessed the largest collection of stationery outside of the possession of Niroc or the LLU. His own library, small enough to be effectively hidden under a cot, filled from page-end to page-end with nothing but accounts about him. He sighed, it was a shame they couldn`t take the printing machine with them. That thing took up half a building, and could only manage a few pages an hour, but if they began printing when they arrived, they could have created a few things worth reading. At the very least, they could have made a dent in the illiteracy rates... He glanced through the small opening between the flapping canvas threshold of the tent. He was fortunate to be next to where the muskets were stacked, each tent stacking them together like caltrops over a fire-pit. It was a shame then that his laid alone, as he still had not been assigned new people to be bunked with. He had real use for the extra space, as he had nothing to carry- nothing physical, at least. He had grown quite good with musketry over the days, however, just as decent as any of the real frontiersmen. They had pushed men to the brink and beyond, and at times they suffered the consequences. Desertion, though never discussed, was at an all time high, as some determined the weight of freedom was heavier than that of corporeal pain. As the lines at morning drill grew shorter and shorter, more and more men were dragged from their cots to the tent at the end of the rows. Anatoli was awoken one night not by musket fire or a visit from the watching men, but by an incessant cacophony rising from the other end of the camp. As he edged to the threshold, dodging three empty beds to the outside, he dared only stick his head out. Rows of lanterns, some fastened to poles and others clamped by freezing hands illuminated the whole display. A distinct rattling accompanied the almost rhythmic clanging, which now enveloped the whole encampment. More heads emerged from the bunks, with a noble few emerging from them entirely to gaze on the spectacle unfolding before them. One man closer to the action let out a single gasp, before ducking back inside and fastening the canvas flaps shut. A lantern-wielding man turned around on the spot, and the other spectators quickly hid amongst their shelters, all but Anatoli. The man, certain that he had heard something in the darkness, massaged his chin with his free hand and furrowed his brow. Unsatisfied, he raised his lantern up and over his head, revealing to Anatoli the whole source of the disturbance. A band of men, stripped of their coats down to a mere tunic were roped and chained together around their ankles, and were unnaturally bent over forwards carrying hammers and all other manner of tools. Each successive swing on the raised platform on which they labored was delivered with less and less vitality, until they could not work any longer. However, it seemed their labor had been at last completed, as a wooden scaffold that stood twice as high as those hunched figures was erected and hammered into place. At the end of the overhanging arch a rope was fastened, and gingerly tied by a fatigued aide. Even in the middle of the night, with the scene lit only by the orange flames of the lanterns, the image stayed with Anatoli, even- and especially- when he shut his eyelids in disbelief. He retreated to the interior of the tent, and collapsed on the closest cot. Though conscious, he dared not move to his own sleeping quarters, and, like most other men that long night, the only rest they received came intermittently. A lone rider came in during morning drill, bearing no crest or badge. The wind had carried the excess residue from firing practice over to the entrance, and his full figure was not made fully clear to the guards until he was almost upon them. He was wise enough to stop far enough away from them to give them breathing space before he hailed them. They spoke, and one of the guards looked at the other over his shoulder, before stepping aside. The rider meandered down the open path, and packed his spurs into his pockets. He wheeled his head around, not necessarily avoiding eye contact but making none anyways. He knew his destination after all, and it would be for the best if he didn`t cause any distractions- one notable exception was when his eyes found the gallows- then, he . It seemed the guards at the tent were better informed than their colleagues; they were quick to step aside and part the canvas even before he dismounted, and were equally eager to let the flaps swallow him whole once he had entered. Anatoli was soon approached by two guards. This time, they did not feel the need to restrain him. It seemed like the meeting between the rider and Ms. Pavenlova went over quite well, as the former had clearly forgotten the standard posture and procedure, but suffered none of the expected consequences. Indeed, the eyes of two figures resting upon him had no more impact than any others. Still, he was courteous enough to postpone his report long enough for all of Anatoli`s escort to deliver their package and abscond. Whether he wished to show an example to the common soldier deposited before him or not, he reluctantly shuffled into an attentive stance, and planted his eyes firmly against the opposing wall. Ms. Pavenlova seamlessly shifted her attention towards Anatoli, and yielded yet another silent command towards an aide. The aide returned carrying a few sheets of paper. It was here that the rider asked to leave, but was refused. Three backless chairs were placed behind each occupant, and they were beckoned to sit. She curtly looked over the papers, before extending them outwards , in Anatoli`s direction. "I ask you again... do you believe in the power of Blee?" Anatoli scanned over the papers, eyes fluttering over every single letter. Questions arose and memories were scrutinized for even a hint of information. "How..." "We were watching. And fortunately for you, Anatoli..." She leaned forwards in the seat, bridging the divide. Her face at last unobscured and unaltered by smoke and flames. Every series of freckles seemed to form an archipelago in a foamy sea, navigable only by two bright stars to their north. As Helen once launched a thousand ships, we would fight equally hard for but one moment similar to this; as the sea was parted momentarily to reveal a soft grin. "... we are impressed. It is rare to find a literate in this part of the world, much less a scholar. I believe we have a proposition for you." Ms. Pavenlova stood, and made her way to the opposite side of the tent, where there was a dark brown desk. As she sorted through its contents, Anatoli allowed himself to think over the events which just occurred. The leader of the rebellion, the only refuge of free russians- and it could be argued, free people- in the world (not to mention, champion of Him and His will), had taken the time to speak to him. He replayed every precious word she spoke, and weighed it against the pitiful display of ignorance that he had met it with. With such ignorance, perhaps this was yet another proof of her semi-divinity, that she would even tolerate the presence of- "She`s human too, you know." Anatoli sprung up in his seat, plucked out of his mind and deposited once more inside the tent. With another curt motion, he turned to his right, where the rider sat, his hand lifted to one side of his mouth to shield his words from any other ears. "Besides, you`re in her good books now. It`s safe to relax your posture." Anatoli did no such thing. This rake- one as thin as its former and villainous as its latter definition- may be on good terms with incivility and vice, but the other two thirds of the room was immune to those sort of things. But no, perhaps Anatoli was being too harsh; he decided to mull over the rider`s words in case he had misconstrued them. Come to think of it, Ms. Pavenlova habitually paused whenever she pronounced multi-syllable words: pro-po-sition, fortun-atly, liter-ate. Such a dialect was common around the Cliff-Coast region, which was ridiculed even amongst the other provinces for being "one more step away from Russian". Even she, likely after years of training, could not hide the occasional overbearing accent, which made all other words in a sentence seem neglected in comparison. Although, if this was the closest trait to a fault, she was still more than worthy of commanding respect. "Sorry, where are my manners? My name is-" "Sergei!", exclaimed Ms. Pavenlova, already halfway done with jour journey back to the seats and encumbered with a stack of papers, "Fill these out at your discretion." "At once, Ms. Pavenlova!", said Sergei, jumping out of his seat and heading for the exit, "You shall receive my report momentarily." She seemed satisfied with the newfound privacy. So much so that she adjusted the canvas entrance so that it was slightly ajar, revealing that the mysterious Sergei had all but vanished. She muttered under her breath, turning on an axis to face the unblinking eyes of the statuette once again. "I am making you an advisor. You may have to work with him in the future." The words "Yes, Ms. Pavenlova" escaped from Anatoli`s lips. They had no time to ferment the air before she pivoted once again and directed herself towards him. "Now, now, I`ve have enough of that! I can`t have an absent-minded loyalist in my staff, least of all at this critical juncture! What we need is innovativeness: something that goes against the grain. Something the governmental forces won`t expect- they`ve got plenty loyalists in their camp! I want you to speak, Anatoli, say something to prove to me that you have a working brain in a working head!" Anatoli had no time to ponder what he had said wrong. Even less time to think of the potential consequences of what he was going to say next. "What of the gallows?" Ms. Pavenlova stopped dead in her tracks. Perhaps she never noticed that, through the small opening in the doorway, one could see the entire lane that ran throguh the center of the camp, ending abruptly at the infernal scaffold. Only a single noose, swinging from side-to-side, as if it wished to imitate the great brass pendulum of a grandfather clock. She clutched her chest, then worked her hand up to the neck. She produced a idol-bound necklace from under her outerwear and held it to her lips. The space around her was soon consumed by hushed sentences, as if the world itself had ceased its machinations to allow a moment for a prayer. She deposited a single kiss on the idol and, even afterwards, held it close to her heart. She tucked the necklace away after much deliberation, and opened her eyes once more. "Freedom is not something which can be abandoned. That is neither right, nor righteous. But the enemies of man and of Him lead men away from what is right; it makes them break oaths made not only to their countrymen but to themselves. I have seen it, and so have you. There are no greater men on Earth than the ones behind you, who would abandon all safety and embrace all consequences of this rebellion- no matter the outcome. It is even braver when the odds stacked against our people as high as they are now. But this bravado can also be their undoing- our undoing. They can`t stand any more time in camp. They grow restless, and that makes them make mistakes, only this time, their mistakes hurt all of the Rebellion. Thus, it is an insult to all of the Soyuz, and to Blee Himself. The gallows, though a hideous contraption, are a reminder for everyone that liberating the Soyuz is the most noble task that anyone can undertake, and the labors- not all of them physical- required to do so are minor in comparison." The gallows remained. Anatoli became a follower of Blee that night. Sergei, like all other people heading towards the tent, was flanked by a guard. What separated this from any other case however, was that the former had been wise enough to task the latter with carrying his reports. The stack was seen well before the poor man. It soon became clear that Sergei`s residence should be moved much closer to Ms. Pavenlova`s, to prevent any other morale-sapping incidents such as that. By the time they did make it to the tent, with only one of them capable of genuflecting to an acceptable degree, the early praying service was over and the specks of burnt incense had all been blown away. Sergei wiped his brow with a hitherto concealed handkerchief, and marked the area of the paper delivery with a half-extended arm movement. No one knew quite why they sat in silence as the poor man heaved the last few steps to the desk, and the papers were deposited on the desk with a satisfying thump (echoed by the evacuation of a full liter of air from the guard`s lungs). When he turned and saw three of the most important members of the revolution staring back at him with varying degrees of pity and schadenfreude, all he could respond with was a bow, a rush to the exit, and another bow. It was a shame then that he evacuated so quickly, as his back was already turned before Sergei gave a satisfactory nod. "Ms. Pavenlova", said Sergei, his head still turned away, "I do have an abridged version of my report." He reached into his coat and produced a single fresh page. He began to extend his arm out towards the idling leader, but then halted and retracted, like a fisherman casting out a reel. Anatoli focused his attention once more on Ms. Pavenlova, noticing that her full attention was directed towards the page and that she herself had recoiled from it. Each pupil expanded, to the point where they nearly overshadowed the retinas. She went through that entire phase for no longer than a half-second, and it soon seemed that no force on earth could ever compel her to repeat it ever again. Her focus was now directed fully onto Sergei, who tilted his head towards the ground and inadvertently whispered a singular word: `Sorry`. "It says- or rather, it says in summary- that", he cleared his throat and tried to prepare himself for a great endeavor, "that the governmental army have finished their process of mobilization, and our sympathizers in Province R8 have seen then moving eastward along the river sud`ba." Ms. Pavenlova rested a hand on her chin, then dismissed whatever ideas were in her head. "That river is too treacherous for a full army to navigate across. They will be caught in the marshes long before they reach our position." "It seems that`s what has happened, though on a smaller scale than we have hoped for. They`ve split their army into two sections to cross the marshland faster." "Two sections? Crossing a marshland? Why would they take such risks; for all they know, we could be waiting in ambush?" Sergei shrugged. The few men in his employ were experienced; if the enemy army split in two, they split in two. But it seemed like Sergei and Ms. Pavenlova were missing the bigger idea. While they were focused on the validity of the reports, Anatoli was pondering the rationale of the commanders. The governmental command was by no means the most experienced on the continent. Anatoli was perplexed on how they were able to consolidate their hold on their army. Furthermore, the majority of their estates were in the western portions of the Soyuz, and the rebellion had not yet made forays into those regions. From the viewpoint of a rancher-general, there was no reason to leave their estates vulnerable to attack, and even less to make a maneuver as risky as a swampland crossing. After all, the naturally autonomous nature of the Soyuz made every region self sufficient, and the majority regions ignored the requests Lidor Niroc`s taxmen since he took office. There was no reason at all for the government to lead such an expensive campaign, when their resources could be used much better quelling the increasing number of revolts arising from the new Republican-esque centralization procedures. It was then that Anatoli, hand firmly pressed against one temple let his eyes wander across the canvas walls of Ms. Pavenlova`s tent. Each thread stitched to each other which could only be noticed by a scrutinizer such as himself. The thought that, even in the wild reaches of His earth, one could live and sustain such luxury was a testament to one`s power. Ms. Pavenlova lead armies- no, an entire revolution- all for a cause much bigger than them. But it was this single display of decadence which proved to be the most enviable accomplishment, triumph over the most filth-ridden qualities of nature. Even a tent was a victory. It was then Anatoli had an idea. It was then Anatoli proved his worth. "How many tents did your men report see in the camp?" The back-and-forth between Sergei and Ms. Pavenlova halted, as if they had seen a mirage of Niroc appear before them. Sergei, the last to regain his composure, scanned the sheet with oscillating eyes. At last, a moment of victory; he found the relative passage and was spared the ordeal of searching through the ominous stack of papers on the desk. "Their best estimate was approximately two hundred- thats about as many as we have here. Although we don`t know how many men they pack into their camps so-" "This isn`t about their numbers. How many big tents- anything they think a general would reside in- did they have?" Again, Sergei was caught off guard. Amidst the interrogation (and quite a long time before that), he had forgotten about the third man in the room. That was a mistake he vowed not to make again. "They noted around... four tents of similar size as this one. I can assure you that they won`t cram multiple people in those, huh!?" No one laughed. "Precisely, Sergei, and I believe that is the solution to our conundrum!" "I don`t follow." Anatoli could barely stay in his seat. His left leg battered the ground beneath it, creating a distinctive, repeating, patting sound. He remembered just in time to swallow a half mouth full of saliva before speaking. He turned away from the perplexed rake to Ms. Pavenlova. "How many generals do the government assign to their armies, Ms. Pavenlova?" "I assume you know the answer. For an army that size, it`s general practice to appoint one general to lead and another to provide a second opinion on tactics." "Right, that would account for two of the big tents. Like Sergei said, I doubt they would share." Now Anatoli could see their eyes were narrowing. Whether it was from thought or confusion no longer mattered to him. "Furthermore, we can deduce that the extra tents are not being occupied by officers, as there are not enough tents to accommodate all of them, and again, I doubt men of such high standing would be willing to share." "Anatoli, where are-" "-There can only be one conclusion which satisfies the questions of the two extra tents and the unprecedented tactics employed by the governmental army..." The room seemed to be on the precipice of a full riot. Even the raging flamed seemed to point ominously towards Anatoli, directing smoke in his direction. The eyes of Blee watched in curiosity, wondering what impulses had led the man to think himself so highly. "...It isn`t the governmental army. Or rather, the governmental army isn`t in control." This proved to be too much for Sergei, "Not in control!?! Don`t tell me that anarchists have seized control of the army!" "Not anarchists, no. The French." The French. No fouler words had ever been uttered in a place so close to God. The men of the rebellion could throw thousands of rehearsed insults at the government at will or on command but, in truth, very few could be blamed entirely on them alone. Ever since Lidor Niroc sat face to face with Governor-General The Tax Collector, the nation was no longer under his control. True power rested in the clenched fists of the various magistrates sent over the border to "reorganize" the various farmstead kingdoms and their inhabitants to fit with the Republican model. And it had worked; the nascent hamlets scattered across the Soyuz were showing inklings of profitability. The problems were that the various families of the Soyuz had been at each others throats since colonization, and their newfound proximity to their ancestral rivals made conflict a certainty. The situation was made worse by the appointed mayors of the settlements: they were either French (and thus, godless foreigners) or sympathetic Russians (inexperienced traitors, who brought grudges of their own into the mix). But whenever there was trouble, a column of Republican infantry parked in the town square quickly silenced it. Word travelled faster than the magistrates, however, and by the time they crossed the sud`ba marshes, all of the East had been rallied under a single banner. Their failure to impose their perverted interpretation of freedom onto the East angered The Tax Collector beyond all insults. After all, an embarrassment on the Velikaya Russkaya Respublika was an embarrassment on all territories under the authority of The Grande République. The sooner removed, the better. "If they crossed the marshes as one large group, they would be much slower- especially their artillery. For those magistrates, every hour they spent away from their posts is a crime against- and in the eyes of- their Emperor. My guess is that the army was split on his orders." Ms. Pavenlova stood. Sergei and Anatoli watched as she strode past the desk and its papers and behind the column of smoke. When she emerged, the majestic curved head of a silver bardiche peaked over her right shoulder. With a single glance, she sent them off to our tents, acknowledging their bows with a simple nod. The canvas closed behind us as soon as they left. The boatman Charon ferried them back to the land of the living. It was no surprise that the men were eager to get into line. It was the pack-mules which took the longest; the poor creatures never acquainted themselves with military life. They would likely prefer towing a plow across an endless field over bags of ammunition, rations, and yes, tents. But when they were muzzled and led, they complained no more than anyone else. One of the perks of being an aide to Ms. Pavenlova was the most prized animal of all: the horse. While the rebellion had a cavalry force which could, theoretically, hold its ground, the most brawny equines were allocated to the command. This whole system was technically under Anatoli`s control, one of the many jobs lopped under the admittedly ambiguous term of "advisor". Fortunately for him, the cavalry was more than happy to donate their finest steeds to their liberators. (Which were originally donated to them by farmsteads all over the East). Otherwise, Anatoli would be in no position to bargain with them. There were no drums or trumpets to sound them off. When Ms. Pavenlova moved, they followed. If one stood upon the platform of the gallows, and gazed upon the men below them, it would seem like no force could stop them. Even as the column faded into the tree-line, the observer would still feel the presence of those men with him on that scaffold, and would most likely shudder. It did not take long for the land to turn to mush. No matter how much the column complained, all knew that the governmental forces had it worse. That was a key factor in the plan; attack them while they were still shaking the mud from their boots. Sergei barely had time to draw up the plans, using the broad head of his steed as a platform to place running ink on a confiscated map of the region, all the while cursing his agents for being so tardy in their report-making. The first, which was ultimately last, draft chose a field interspersed with grassy knolls to be the point of interception. The whole endeavor seemed to be no more complicated than anything else, and that allowed Anatoli`s mind to wander. He grazed his spurs on the scar-ridded flanks of his horse, reaching Ms. Pavenlova at the front, looking no less steadfast than at any other time. Was their stoicism the result of so many weeks of struggle, or was it a struggle of its own? She heard his horse approaching, and turned her head to one side. Anatoli`s horse reared up, but was subdued by another spurring. At last, when the two steeds were parallel, Anatoli spoke. "It should be just beyond the horizon now, yes?" She let out an affirmative mutter. "Good." Anatoli checked the hairs on the back of his horse`s head. Still the same as the last time. "You know, there`s an old story that I`m reminded of now..." He just noticed that his heart was in sync with the trotting horses, and the men behind them. "...A myth really- bu-but it`s inspired by reality. It`s about a woman... she was called Joan of Arc. Have you heard of Joan of Arc?" "No." "Well it`s a French tale, and-" She sprung up, and furrowed her brow. "Where did you hear that?", she exclaimed, wielding a typed of hushed rage mastered only by angered mothers and teachers. "No! It`s... it`s an old myth; an old myth! Nothing more, nothing more!" She focused her attention back on the path in front of her. "Well, I`ll ask you not to tell any more of those French tales to me or my men, now. Remember that." "Yes, Ms. Pavenlova." And he did. On arrival, the men were ordered to crouch in the tall grass while Sergei was sent out alone with a spyglass. Sure enough, as he was more than happy to report, the governmental flag was seen swaying behind a few rows of trees- with a rather miserable looking bearer lifting it just above the mire. Though dirtied and mauled by moths, he held on to it with no less passion than a dearly departed lover. He brandished an expression seen on the faces of crusaders and partisans the world over; the face of a man who has no space left for uncertainty in his heart. You cannot negotiate with a man like that. Though he shuddered at the fact he hoped that none of them would survive the upcoming battle, so no more would have to be fought, and the Soyuz could once more be reunified. How twisted had the world become, when such thoughts could flow freely through one`s mind? When nausea was the last sign of sanity? But there was no time to think of sanity. The first few columns were at the banks of ground, congregating around the flag bearer. Anatoli rushed to where Sergei and Ms. Pavenlova stood and found, to his dismay, that both were carrying muskets. Sergei even boasted about having a few pistols lodged in his coat, though he would never reveal how many. He was willing, however, to order a nearby ranker to requisition his musket and hand over a mere pistol in exchange. It had been a few weeks since Anatoli had held one of them, but a few stern looks brought back similar memories from countless hours of drill. If there ever was a time to be ready, it was now. "At that moment I was no longer an advisor, or a literate; no one in the enemy ranks knew, and fewer cared. They just wanted to break through to the East, just like their ancestors did so many years ago. To them, all that stood in their way was a meager hill- no less unassuming than the rest. The whimpering winds halted; at least, I no longer remembered them. All eyes were transfixed on the golden scythes, the symbol of the enemies of free man and the true God, bobbing and rising ever closer to the top of the hill. No order was given, but none were needed. As the first rank of the governmental troops exposed their torsos over the crest, the line opened fire in a most incredible display of firepower. At first, only a few distant muskets were discharged, assumedly belonging to the more zealous members of the rebellion. When the others noticed that the courageous few were not reprimanded, they created an indescribable chorus- one which I took part in. Dozens upon dozens of cracking sounds on either side of me; I believe it took a full five seconds for all of them to fire. The enemy seemed as stunned as we were. I remember there was a mutual silence before the inevitable: they sank to their knees and, eventually, the ground. The smoke drifted gently over their bodies, lingering over the flag bearer, who still clutched onto the flag with lifeless arms, before collapsing and taking it down with him. The order was given to reload, and shaking hands struggled to fit the ramrod inside of the barrel. A frail man to my left let out a quiet curse as he missed it once again, and dropped the rod into the grass. I leaned over to search for it, when I heard the most frightful sound in my right ear. Not a moment later, men clutched at their stomachs and necks, before falling to the ground and writhing in pain. I shielded my face with the palm of my hand, only to find it spattered with drops of thick red blood. though I could feel no pain. It was the frail man-only moments ago shaking in fear- he was now convulsing on the ground, his wound hidden under the creases of his coat. Some of the horses, stationed behind our position at the foot of the knoll, were startled by the sudden outbreak of gunfire. They reared up, and started kicking the air, almost throwing their riders off. The cavalry officer, which was more of a self-appointed position than anything else, considered the element of surprise to be lost due to the excess noise, and decided to spring his trap early. Using the enemy`s smoke to his advantage, he rode over the crest of the hill. The governmental soldiers had only a few seconds to attach their bayonets, which many never did. Forced to use them as knives, they stood no chance against the assortment of lances, sabers, and pistols in use by the bloodthirsty horsemen. All was not lost for them, however, as a group of mounted scouts had noticed the ambush and saddled up once again. The terrain however, proved to be against them, as any momentum gained from their charge was blunted when they went up the hill. Even worse, they reached the top just as the line finished reloading, and was presenting at the survivors from the first volley. I do believe I struck one of those scouts in the lower-mid quadrant of his breastplate, making him drop his short sword and slouch over the mane of his steed before falling off. The other scouts faired poorly as well, as a detachment of lancers happened to strike a few stragglers as they attempted to ride up the hill. The scouts routed, and trampled over a number of the infantry in the progress. If there ever was a chance of a governmental victory, it ended at that moment. I can only imagine the terror of those men, surrounded by cavalry behind and at the sides, and infantry at the front. You cannot think in times like that, only react. And as his men fell all around him with all manner of wounds, cradling limbs and fallen brethren, he made one last decision. Some of the men in our lines were veterans from R4. When they heard the piercing cry of the whistle, they could no longer focus on reloading. They were no longer tethered to our reality. I saw it in their twitching eyes, they could notice nothing in front of them. Not the officer, clad in a hole-ridden overcoat carrying a broadsword over his head. Not the handful of men who accompanied him rising over the top of the crest, many without bayonets or knives. It was but a small patch of open ground, mostly untouched by the mass of corpses and the wounded. Just a few paces past the halfway point, the line fired once more. The officer`s companions all few to the ground, but I doubt he ever noticed. He was limping now, but even if his wound proved fatal, he would not retire to a slow death. He let out a hoarse shout, and raised the sword even higher above his head. A ranker in front of him desperately fumbled for his knife, but found nothing. Sergei stood up and, in one motion, unholstered his pistol and cocked it. A single shot to the chest was all that was needed to bring the man down, who crumpled onto his side. Blackpowder stains covered the front of his coat, masking any blood- if there was any. Then, nothing. All we were left with was the sounds of the volley echoing through the valleys, until even that faded away. I felt an acidic pain rising in my chest, scorching my insides unlike any fire ever set alight. Through the stomach right to the base of the throat, growing with increasing ferocity, like a tiger clawing at its cage. I closed my eyes, then clenched them shut, until no light shone past my eyelids. I felt it... subsiding, yes, finally subsiding. When I swallowed, it was gone. My eyes opened to see shadows circling around the field, dancing up and over the deceased, like it was a mere schoolyard for them- like it belonged to them. It belongs to no-one! Government or Rebellion, true God or false God, chains or gallows, let all men hope to learn this inherent fact: the dead belong to the dead! Let the living choose their creed, but let the dead have their freedom! It was then the shadows descended upon them, and we were ordered to leave. I was not sick that day, and have not been sick since. I was damn close to it, and I was still not a hundred yards from the new camp and the battlefield. It is not guilt I feel, of that I am certain; I had done what was expected of me, what some would call righteous. If I ever decided to return to camp I would not be beaten or hanged, quite the opposite, I would be sat down once again with Ms. Pavenlova and Sergei and we would strategize and the whole display would continue once more until... until something. The war would end, like all do, and the land would recover. The people would remain, whether in presence or in memory. I was dragged out of my mind once more by the feeling that I was no longer alone. There was only one person in all the Soyuz that could have scaled a knoll without making so much of a sound. In fact, the only noise that he did make was unintentional: the grass rustled as he sat down besides me. He was breathing deeper than I expected from him, not in a sickly way like an old dog with riddled lungs, but like he had entered a sauna after a long day`s work. I suppose for him, this is a long day`s work. "You`ve picked quite the spot. We should have set up here." He was not disappointed by my lack of a response; he himself was already scanning the horizon. "Yep...", he said, focused in the distance, "...It`s nice spot indeed. No better in all the Soyuz." "Do you believe in Blee, Sergei?" I could hear him shift in the grass. What I didn`t hear was an answer, and I wouldn`t for some time. In truth, I wasn`t looking for one in particular. But, he had to respond in time, whether it be now or at the end of another battle. "I believe in a lot of things, Anatoli. Blee can be one of them. He has certainly shown His favor towards Tanya. She`s the most powerful woman on the island, and it`s not a stretch she thinks that it`s because of Him. Not so bad for a Cliff-Coast illiterate. I suppose her piety had rubbed off on me a bit- it certainly has on the rankers. Saying this, however... it`s all based off of faith. Any army can win an ambush, no matter their God. If we win a few more battle here and there, well, I`ll be the first at the altar praying for forgiveness. If we win this war, I might just become a monk!" I hadn`t looked at him properly since the moment he joined me on that hill. There was a slight glow to him, as if his coats were not there due to the weather, but to obscure him from us, so we may not go blind. It was a shame that a man so familiar with shadows would be so bright, and even more so that he would direct it upon solely myself and Ms. Pavenlova- it almost seemed like a waste. "But enough of theology. I don`t think we even properly met, did we? You never told me why you joined this operation." I turned towards him and smiled, "You never told me your name." "Sergei." Of course. "Well, it`s the same as everyone else, really. I wasn`t fond of the government, and less fond of the revolutionaries taking things over." Sergei sighed, "Yeah, I`ve heard that one before. Let me guess... are you a veteran?" "No." "No!?!" "No. Just my father." "I see." He shuffled closer to me, and laid a calloused hand on my back. "I was at R4, too. The fact that we met them at Province R4 at all was, I believe, the last good thing the government ever did for us. When they crossed, we were there- and waiting for them. The paths were absolutely clogged full of marching men, and it didn`t help that all the women of the Soyuz were at the sidelines wishing their beloveds goodbye. Waving handkerchiefs and everything. And every time they passed a village, all the men and boys would run out of their houses and to their sheds and grab their guns and swords and the like, then melt into the column, still wearing their civilian clothes. Yes, they were freezing, but this was worth it. I knew it had to be worth it." Anatoli turned towards him now. This could put him at ease. If nothing else, this could provide insight on whatever happened over there. "Hell, if we drove them across the tundra line that day... we would`ve driven then back to their Citadel and beyond- and there would be no stopping us. Niroc would have led us, and he would never have even dreamt of selling us out to the ravenous ministers. Defeat on a battlefield is one thing, but to have the people assigned to protect you turn on you in such a way... it`s a damn shame." "Was it any different? From this battle, I mean." Sergei laughed through a closed mouth, "Different? Well, we won this one, didn`t we?" "That`s not what I meant." "Well... yes. Yes, open combat is different from an ambush. When the enemy knows you`re coming, they become less restless. They make less mistakes; that goes for both the officers and the men. Which reminds me..." Sergei pulled a pistol out of his coat, causing Anatoli to recoil. He stretched out an open palm, and calmed the poor man down. Out came a powder vial and a spherical bullet; both were inserted inside the chamber and hammered in with a ramrod. "You keep a loaded pistol inside your coat?" "A few actually- that`s a necessary precaution in this line of work. It certainly didn`t do me any harm back there. But you asked for a story about R4, not about my weapons." Anatoli was not sure if he wanted to be around someone with multiple loaded pistols on his body, but his curiosity got the better of him. "Alright, go on." "We formed up on this snowy hill about an hour before they arrived. We`d been running the last few miles, but of course that couldn`t stop us. I remember, quite fondly, that the moment we saw them form up we fired out a volley- which most certainly did nothing to them. The officer was very keen on getting the fist shot off in the war." Anatoli wondered he same could be said about the revolution. "But when they got into range, that`s when they showed us how to fight a battle. We`d been mocking the Crown Colonies the night before for their performance, but no more. They shot faster, shot better, and most importantly, they shot back. They routed us almost to the edge of the province before we rallied again. But we were still a cohesive unit, one which could still hold off the enemy if we were in a proper defensive position." Sergei looked at the ground below him. He grabbed a fistful of grass in his palm, them pressed it back into the ground. "What we shouldn`t have done is attacked. Anything but attack. When we found them, they were there- and they were waiting." Sergei pulled the collar of his coat down with his spare hand. A single red line was revealed just below the neck and ventured down his chest. "That`s only the half of it. I was on that field for two days, waiting for them to move out so I could make my escape. I saw them bury men all around me, and they would have found me out if they weren`t so lazy. I found a break and I ran and hid... by the time I found out about this rebellion, running and hiding had become my speciality. That`s all." "I.. thank you Sergei." Sergei nodded, and covered his wound. "Oh, and we will be marching out in a few moments. A survivor made it back to the army, and they`re none too happy." Anatoli sprung to his feet, "Alright, well where are we marching?" "Here." "Here?" "No better spot in all the Soyuz." And with that he stood up and marched down the hill, silent as ever. The army seemed less motivated to climb this hill than the one they had climbed before. This was due to one key fact: artillery. Two cannons had been captured in the earlier battle. Just as well, a handful of troops had worked in the bronze-making industry, which had- in the immediate months before the war- started construction of cannons (all of which were now being used against them by the government forces). Although not trained in the art of firing the cannons, they knew how to safely operate them, including the appropriate amounts of gunpowder to be used for each cannonball. Besides, there was a very real chance that the artillery crew from the governmental army were among the dead, so they were more than happy to gain some actual practice for a later date. The site of battle was once the domain of a particularly rich farmer-baron, who most likely fled the continent the moment trouble was afoot with no small amount of riches to tide him over until no one was there to threaten his business. Perhaps he shouldn`t have fled though; a mere pledge of loyalty would have been all that was needed to secure a role in the new Franco-Russian elite. While he was still in the Soyuz, however, he constructed two parapets- assumedly the remains of hunting lodges- on the two hills which shielded his estate from the inevitable floods of the river sud`ba. A few axe swings leveled the whole shack, which happened to provide overwatch over the entire valley. Though a few men wished to bombard the manor, but it was spared by order of Ms. Pavenlova herself. `A waste of ammunition` was the given explanation. The enemy found itself positioned on the opposing hill, and immediately disproved the prevailing theory about their artillery by setting up two cannons of their own. Ms. Pavenlova stepped in front of the men, blocking the cannons from view, and took out her bardiche. The wind stopped, the animals hid, and the world ceased its daily motions to concentrate on this singular moment. "Know this men; on this most important hour, we will have no advantage in surprise or numbers. Blee has given us this opportunity to compare ourselves and our souls to those of the heretics. I cannot guarantee He will show mercy. I can only guarantee that our enemy will not. But if we retain confidence in Him, no matter the trials before us, there will be no force in the world which can stop us. Not hunger, not fatigue... and certainly not man! This battle is but a prelude for the destiny of all that serve Blee, and it relies solely on the ground on which we tread! So tread upon them! The Soyuz will be a testament to His will, the Island will be a testament to His power, the world will be a testament to His divinity!" The line burst out in a sign of revelation louder than any scene of battle. Anatoli soon found himself cheering along to. This path, no matter the turmoil, was be the only one that could suit a man so dedicated to freedom like him. This revolution would surely- The cannons fired their payload across the valley. In the other hill, men dived for whatever cover they could fund- though little was offered. Sergei spotted the enemy officers giving out orders, and was able to direct the line behind the lodge just as the ground behind them erupted in two large craters. A great cheer rang out from the rebel lines, one which many believed could stop the next volley altogether. It was, however, soon silenced by the next barrage, which missed its target and kicked up a big pile of mud. When the mud settled, four columns of governmental troops had begun of march towards the manor. Without hesitation, Sergei rallied as many men to him and raced to intercept them. Anatoli was on his way to join him, but was ordered to lead the garrison with Ms. Pavenlova. The last time he saw Sergei, before the distance became too far to discern detail, he was doing what he did best: running. He struggled to get a good sight of the events occurring at the manor. There was too much smoke, and too far away. What became clear, however, was that the rebellion was at a disadvantage. The governmental troops occupied the manor moments before, and used their position to fire down on the troops. Their artillery focused fire on the thin bridge which had to be crossed in order for the manor to be contested. The fighting proved to be the first major source of casualties for the rebellion, as the courtyard proved to be too small to create a formation, and all entrances were heavily guarded. With no where to go, the troops hid against the mighty brick walls of the manor, where the governmental troops struggled to hit them. A great trumpet call rang through the valley. It did not belong to Ms. Pavenlova`s men. In a matter of moments, the troops in the manner sallied from their fortifications, bayonets out. A great melee ensued, as the front lines went back and forth. Men got a few stabs in, before being horribly overwhelmed and hacked to pieced by bayonets and swords. The rebels, no matter their skill at arms, were at a distinct disadvantage. However, this was not the immediate concern for Anatoli. While the manor was under siege, the rest of the governmental army was advancing towards the main rebel positions. Using the forest as cover, they remained out of sight of both the men and artillery for long enough to gain the element of surprise. They did make one grave mistake, however, in that they revealed their trap too early, and had to make an assault over lightly forested ground in order to make it to the main positions. This time, the men had ample space to form a line, and let loose a devastating volley. Rank after rank of government troops fell before an all out assault was ordered. The rest of the battle was no more than a blur. Ms. Pavenlova rushed out to the front, bardiche in hand, ready to meet them head-on. But, the enemy would not oblige her, and instead formed up to fire at the last possible moment. They all knew where to train their guns. She fell like any other. But she was not simply "any other". She was the champion of Blee. The champion of the Soyuz. The champion of the men, who dared not disrespect her, even in death. They broke formation, not in a retreat, but towards the enemy. Her body was left undisturbed, even as men fought and died around her. But this is what they wanted, and soon a herd of cavalry wheeled around the center mass and behind the men. Anatoli, unable to do anything more than watch as the cavalry slew the surviving zealots, wondered what kind of man he was, that would fell almost... calm, in a situation like this. Yes, the traitors still lived- and would continue to- but his death was not simply irrelevant. If he had served Him, than it was an honor. If he had served the people, which he was in full confidence that he had, then that was a prize worthy of death. If there was a time for the people to suffer oppression, it was now. But they would remember when a few hundred rebels thought that freedom was worth more than damnation. They would hear of us, learn from us, and one day when the governmental troops let their guard down and the people see their chance... Thus ends the story of Ms. Pavenlova`s Rebellion against the Grand Russian Republic. The battle of sud`ba, though over in hours, proved to be a defining moment throughout the lands of the former Soyuz. Of all puppet nations in the iron grasp of the Grand Republic of France, the Russian Republic has consistently proven to be the most difficult to subjugate. The wild nature of their people- combined with the sheer inhabitability of their lands and shoddy infrastructure- has and continues to be the death of many French commanders, which warrants a nod of approval from this curator. Still, one wonders what would happen if the rebels had overthrown the weak government while they still had the chance. The French still had a sizable presence in the area due to the rapid nature of the capitulation, which would prove to be a major burden on the new theocracy. One that may have been proved to be insurmountable. If nothing else, the Russians would have at least brought more time for the Crown Colonies to continue its valiant fight against the French menace. Perhaps an extra flotilla of transport ships could have landed, which would have turned the tide of the war and driven the enemy back to their land and beyond. But no, one must make sure not to ask too much of the Russians. They are a wild people, after all.
  2. Bullet Magnet

    whoops, accidentally went on a week-long vacation without telling anyone! expect the next installment of the obituary series reasonably soon! (this guy is up next on the chopping block) OK NEVERMIND BOYOS IT`S READY!
  3. Bullet Magnet

    ok lads. sorry for the delay but this big boi is packed with story. cheers. Name: Ross MacIntyre Affiliation: Crown Colonies Place of Birth: Oxford, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Place of Death: Province U16, Crown Colonies By the stipulations of the society of this world I am soon to be departing, my surname is MacIntyre. Once these letters reach the stated address, I assume it will be handed to the one resident that shares my stated surname: Mother. Mother, I know we both know who my real father is and I forgive you. I only ask that you give these letters to him. I know it will help with the mourning back at the manor, not just for him. I`m sorry. Yours, Ross Dear Mother, I was in queue at the recruiting station when I fell into conversation with a most peculiar man. Unlike the others, he seemed to hold himself in great regard. Polished shoes- shoes alone were an anomaly- paired with lines of buttons on a trimmed suit and a funneled hat. Instinctively, I raised my arm halfway to a salute, believing he was to be my officer. The latest issue of The Lion`s Roar was wrinkled and contorted under his grip, with an inflammatory title posted upon its front page. This was the crisis of the year, one chapter in the Empire`s struggle against its continental adversaries. As a result of this pattern the vagabonds of Oxford had fallen into a certain routine; they would stroll over to the nearest office, aided by the myriad of freshly-repainted signs of His Majesty pointing the way, volunteer for six months or so, then invest their government bonds on the riskiest venture they could find. You know I am no vagabond, and neither was this man, merely a citizen wishing to serve the Empire. We soon fell into a sauntering conversation about all sorts of topics to be brought up with a stranger, and I caught myself gazing anxiously over my shoulder to see if the man before me had moved ahead a pace. Whenever that happened, the men behind us would contort their faces in a gesture which gave no sympathy for our conversation. This pattern continued until the tired clerk in the booth itself was visible behind rows of unkempt caps and patchwork shirts until the man made a proposition: one responsible for the pages of parchment before you. We were to write down our experiences over a series of letters, which would be assembled by a friend of his into a book. I urged him to keep his voice down in case any other people overhead and decided they wanted in on this deal, but was all too eager to agree myself. Of course, not everything will make it into that book, so I will use the generously provided ink and paper to chronicle a more personal outlook on the war I am soon to fight- for whom, I do not know. I was pondering this when it was finally my turn to address the less than interested official and sign my life on the document. If you want to know, I wrote `MacIntyre` as my surname, and that singular action took more time than I would like to admit. I`m sure the clerk took that time to have a bit of a rest. He probably thought I was just nervous. Yours, Ross Dear Reader, This book, filled from cover to cover with stories of soldiers from all over the Empire fighting this particular war against our French rivals, is more than just the story of battles. My comprehension of its purpose is to inform the populace of the lives of the men who fight them. Though I understand the chapters penned by myself may not be the most popular of this assortment, I cannot in good faith write nothing but tales of virtue and valor- for fear of repetition if nothing else. Besides, if one sees military history as a string of battles, one is ignoring the concept of history. Wars are not fought by fresh-painted figurines on miniature squares of grass, much to the dismay of amateur historians across Europe. They are fought by men- no, by each individual man- across every army. In case no other author takes this approach, I will be more than happy to fill the void. My name is Ross, and I was raised in a house. My mother worked for a wealthy plantation tycoon in his manor in Oxford, and I soon joined the workforce. Life was never as difficult as would be expected from a servant, as my master`s business was never short of money. He was a sugar tycoon, and his ancestors were the first to set sail for Jamaica the moment the first colonists returned to England encumbered by their newfound wealth. Sugar was no different from gold, no other one of God`s creations could turn an unkempt field into a vein of riches. This afforded a distinct amount of luxury, which trickled down from his office to the dens of the servants. As a kid, I was even able to sit at the table. I remember that I was watching steam gusts rise from the only spare kettle when he calmly pushed aside the door to the kitchen, letting it bound back to its original position with an undignified thud. He took a deep draw from a scratched pipe, holding it like the crew of a tempest-tossed sloop clings to a mast, or how a soon-departed veteran clings to his beloved. A thick plume emerged from a small gap between his lips, rising evermore to join the great nothing. There he stood, tracing lines between each particle. He swiveled his head towards the kettle, which had been emitting its signature piercing screech for no short amount of time. He then looked at me, in a sense of dread I have never seen, and doubt I will see, even in the eyes of the dead and dying I am soon to encounter. I averted my eyes, and lifted the kettle off the flame, cutting the noise. He took a seat, while I filled one teacup and took out a saucer from the cupboard. There was a clink as the saucer and teacup was rested on the table, where they laid undisturbed. I stood at attention by his side, before noticing that I had left the kettle off of the flame and- "It is war." He took out a previously unnoticed newspaper from his lap and pressed it onto the tabletop with an open palm. The front-page made it clear, several armies of the Grande République had crossed the border into colonial territory, and had waged a path of war and destruction across the frontier. Due to the delay in communications and the described speed of their advance, they could have even reached the walls of The Citadel by the time we received the news. Accompanied by the announcement were diplomatic statements by the various great powers, each stating their inaction with varying forms of flowery language. (One notable exception was Russia which, in traditional muscovite fashion, showed open hostility to both Britain and France). -Ross Dear Mother, I promised that I would try to write every day, but circumstances have made that impossible. You`ll be glad to know that I have been assigned to the Fifth Colonial Volunteer Regiment, which I have been told is among the most prestigious in the colonies. Excuse the blackpowder stains on this page; I assure you they are even harder to remove from uniforms. The cause of the mess is not my own; the man standing behind be in volley-fire practice stood further back than he should have, and his discharged musket sprayed powder all over me. He could have possibly shot my ear off if I was unlucky! I am not one who wishes to speak ill of someone without their knowledge, but our officer never noticed the whole incident, even the messy aftermath. I should hope he takes better care of us on the battlefield. On a less somber note, I acquainted myself with the damp cabin I would be spending the next few months lodged in. A few of the others lost their footing, even when they got off of the `gangplank` and onto the vessel itself. Their future dealings with the crew should prepare us for the trials of combat even better than the training. The moment we land, I`ll send over a full list of letters. Please keep them to yourself. Yours, Ross Dear Reader, As you have most likely read, none of us wished to repeat the voyage across the seas. I suspect no small number of us will choose to stay here, be buried here, rather than make the journey home. Perhaps that was the intention, for a nation which supposedly has access to the finest ships in the world would most likely take better care of their soldiers. Rows of maggot-infested hammocks with holes so large a child could fall through them were abound from bow to stern. We were packed in so close that any large wave would crash the men in one row into the men in the next, or even send them tumbling out. The weather was not kind to us either. There were sporadic storms appearing in and out, separated by days of no wind. If God were to look down upon earth, He would not be blamed if He thought He saw a chessboard in the middle of the sea. When we finally disembarked, it took time to become accustomed with land again. I can see why the sailors chose to stay on board, muttering insults as we marched off of the gangplank and onto the cobblestone docks. They had their home, had a people of their own, and weren`t happy at all to risk loosing it to a bunch of... "land lubbers" was the term they used (along with many others). I can`t say I blame them, I too have been robbed of my home. Although the object of my angst did not march towards the great unknown, but stayed there, forever in my sight but forever out of reach. We were greeted by a herd of onlookers soon after disembarking. At first, I thought they were merely admiring the faded colors on our uniforms, as well as our unusually pale skin. The officer, who took care to be spotted from miles away, beckoned the flag bearer and musicians to his flanks and organized us in a column. It had been months since we had done any drilling maneuvers, as the ship`s captain would make a fuss any time we went on the top deck for fear of capsizing. This was the source of incessant debate between the two, where one participant was a gristled man of six feet and as many cutlasses, and the other was a freshly commissioned landowner. As the two uneven lines were formed on the banks of the ocean, the marching order was heralded by a thunderous call. Caps and bonnets poked out of windows further down the street, with momentary shock soon replaced by apathy. It was then I noticed the mud-stained footprints on the stones before us, lined in a similar formation as ours. We were far from the first soldiers to land at that dock, and I am even more certain we weren`t the last. They had grown tired of it all, of armed men marching up and down the streets, through the path, and into the forests. But I saw no rage in their eyes, just a somber reverence- no different from the ones the wives of the men beside me released on the docks of England. Words would have ruined the moment. The fifers and drummers began the first few notes of The British Grenadiers, and the column moved onwards. -Ross Dear Father, This will be the only letter directed to you. I`ve known you for a long time, half the manor did too. But the rest of the world doesn`t know, so nothing I have written before this is important. I suppose they never will, as you should be delighted to know that I am on my deathbed. Not in your service, but in service of the Empire. Excuse the blood stains on this page, not all of it is mine. But I am not scared, this barnyard hospital reminds me of the home you made Mother and I live in. You thought a bit of preferential treatment here and there would excuse that? It hasn`t. What was your plan when you brought my mother down from Scotland in one of your hunting trips? How could you claim to love someone, but make them work as a servant? I can`t say I forgive you, but I can say I understand. Your world does not allow scandals. But you brought me into this world, the son and heir to your fortune. Of all the listless souls in the world, God granted me a life of so much potential. Potential crushed by you. I remember that day you told me that there was war. You stood and you looked me right in my eyes. That was when I knew I was your son, when you showed concern towards me. Perhaps your concern was not unfounded, given my current situation. But did you really believe that? Were you tricking yourself into believing your treatment of me was justified because you stopped and stared? I think so, father. Pathetic. This isn`t a topic I can nor want to write about any longer. I`m on borrowed ink and stolen time. Once you finish reading this, you may continue to deny your past, perhaps fire my mother or some more of your servants in a fit of rage. You may do any number of things. You have that freedom. Bury me as a MacIntyre. -Ross Dear Mother, I am well. But unbeknownst to me and the rest of the wold at large, there seems to be a large presence of Russians on the island. They seem to live lives completely independent from any central authority, which is in great contrast to their native land. When I was first informed of their existence, and their current hostilities to the French (and to a lesser extend, us), I believed they would prove to be an equal match for our mutual adversary. Unfortunately, the French war machine was not slowed on the snowy banks of province R4. Once more, the anarchistic nature of the Russian society has failed them; large elements of the military and peasantry have risen up in open rebellion against the government in the name of a pagan deity: "Blee". It seems that even on the opposite side of the world, nothing can quench a Muscovite`s thirst for blood. I do fear, however, the implications of this chaos. Their main government has decided to side with the French in order to crush the rebels. If they should succeed, we would be facing two enemies and a larger front. The fate of the war and the colonies seem to rely on a few hundred angry farmers. In other news, word has come in of a Republican army heading towards our position. They have nothing to prove, but everything to prove it with. They are numerous, we are few. We can only hope that they become overconfident, that they ignore their casualties in previous engagements and make one fatal mistake. We`ve camped next to a small wine town, which was evacuated days before by military police. The mayor lived in a big brick château-fortress overlooking the town, one which some of the local troops were eager to burn down once they set their eyes upon it. According to them, he had been "One of the cruelest men to ever demand and receive authority". When I asked some of his former subjects to clarify their anger, they went on a flustering tirade on how they had labored their lives away and had never tasted a drop of their wine. I told them- rather, I wished to tell them- that labor does not guarantee reward, and they should be content that they had lived in relative stability. But the colonials are much like the land they inhabit: untamed and untamable. Regardless, I informed the officer and he moved their tents to the part of the field furthest away from that strange town. They also had a fully armored warship in the middle of the town. I still have no idea why. Yours, Ross Reader, I fear I shall not make it out of this. Every time I move I am restrained and subdued by a piercing blanket draped over my right side. The blood has dried a horrible brown. The surgeon and his aides all give pitiful glances behind curtains, too overwhelmed by pitched squeals of pain to think of their patients. The stench, of wet and drying fluids exposed to the outside world seeps through the masks and noses into the throat and lungs. We are faceless and decrepit, rounded up and classified in the most world`s undignified classification: wounded. They would rather be in the lyceums and operating theaters of London than a sweltering tent in yellowing grass in a field which may be evacuated at any given time. But they stay, changing blankets and checking temperatures, sneaking in coffins late at night when most are asleep. This document may be the last thing I write, and will be my only encounter of the battle. I must preface this by saying that I found no space for glory on that battlefield. No glory in men butchering each other in droves, and stepping over the corpses to continue the foul encounter. The time of Homeric heroes, of god-kings facing each other and living and dying by their own skill, has ended. The men behind the curtain can testify. The ones who come home and trod down the streets of Britain will be their proof. Camp that morning was more chaotic than ever. The Third Army had seen much fighting, to the point that there were hardly any veterans among us. They broke rank and huddled in their own corner of the camp, staring into the dying campfire and abandoning their bowls of porridge and bread by their side. Most had exhausted their ink and paper rations, and had little to do but sit with the few men that understood. I do not wish to give the impression that these men were weak-willed; they were all locals and participated in the sporadic outbreaks of war between the mayors before the invasion. But those were half-hearted shooting matches where each side would grab drinks with each other at the days end. This was different. A few men at the other side of the camp broke out into a roar of laughter. Typical rationing was a pouch of grain and lettuce (with meat if you could find a wild animal and mask the sound of a discharging musket with the help of a few friends). The cook came out with trays of dried bacon and poached eggs to be followed by his assistant lugging a keg of Earl Grey with a platter of toast and black pudding balanced on top. As the master was swarmed, he called out for immediate assistance, causing the poor servant to drop the keg and run over with the platter. When he saw an opening in the tempest, he rushed out only to find that the keg was gone, and men were hacking away at the sides with bayonets. They raised their canteens to the many holes and filled it to the brim with steaming tea. When many found their canteens were already filled with water, they unceremoniously emptied it into the grass and joined the chaos. I too had my fill in the shade of that great château, never wondering why the veterans were so hesitant to partake in this sudden feast. I shall remember those hours fondly, before the trumpet sounded and the men created the most precise formation the British army had ever seen. Our scouts had found a site which the officers deemed to be suitable for defense. The slops of the hills wove up and down like a symphonic melody, occasionally forming into valleys and plateaux before moving once more. Between it all, an equally indecisive stream split the field before converging into a stagnant pond. It was on one of these hills that the pride of the New Colonial Army was at first revealed: The Rocket Launcher. They had been shipped along with their specialists in segregated ships, and transported exclusively through sparsely populated provinces away from the front. They had dodges waves of refugees, Republican infiltrators, and the colonial wildlife for one moment of action- which they delivered. Volley after volley of the rockets rang out and spread lines of smoke across the sky, normally accompanied by a resounding `Hurrah` by the reserves. The French lines scattered and hid behind the terrain, but I am certain that no small number of the missiles hit their target. We had little time to admire the fireworks, however, as the regiment was ordered, along with a gang of scots too bloodthirsty for their own good, to secure the only land crossing at the end of the river. From our mound, we could see that the French had deceived our rocketeers and had maneuvered away from their position using the hills as cover. Most worryingly, a full company of cavalry had using their speed to dodge any rockets fired towards them, and sprung out of a nearby wood. The men knew that by the time the rockets saw the deception and adjusted their sights and range, the enemy would be upon us. The bayonets were fastened tight. As the first Republican horseman reached the top of the mound, saber arched over his head, he was hit by two musket balls in the upper chest, with a third striking his steed in the center of its forehead. As they collapsed, the men behind him slowed to move around their dead comrade, only to be hit and downed themselves. More horsemen came to the top of the hill, and valiantly tried to charge into the line, but their silver armor did nothing to prevent the musket balls from piercing through and killing them as their horses rode harmlessly off to one side. One of these men had his horse shot from under him and the momentum carried him to the feet of a musketeer, who quickly finished him off with a pocket knife and continued to reload. Unwilling to share the same fate, the remaining horses pulled back and circled our lines like vultures. Before there was a moment`s reprieve, however, the infantry made it to the top. The second deception had become clear: as we battled the cavalry, the infantry climbed the the slope unmolested and with bayonets ready. On the edge of the hill they began to form a firing line, and one eager musketeer discharged his weapon, going through the throat of one of the men, who had been staring into a bowl of porridge hours before but was now silently writhing and clutching at the wound. Before any more shots could be fired, however, we spontaneously charged the unready enemy, pushing many off the edge and skewering more where they stood. But the few survivors held their ground long enough for reinforcements to reach the ridge and it was soon us who were giving ground. I remember I saw one of them, no more than two feet, that was about to join his friends at the top. I remembered I still had a bullet in the chamber of my musket, so I lowered it at him. I his last moment, he outstretched his arm as if he wished to grab it, before the bullet went through his palm and into his head. His slid face-down the muddy slope, with his arms fully outstretched, reaching towards his comrades. It looked as though we finally had the advantage when the Republican cavalry wheeled around and charged into our exposed rear, yearning to avenge their fallen compatriots. Pressed between the infantry and the cavalry, the officers decided to fall back before the position became untenable. I shall never doubt the bravery of those scots, whose officer volunteered to cover the retreat of my regiment. Outnumbered and exhausted, they knew their fate even though it was never spoken- words would have tarnished the severity. By the time we made it to the fortified rocket position, a few stubborn scots had still managed to hold the position, shouting curses in their native gaelic that were incomprehensible to everyone on the field. We stood there in silence, broken only by the repetitive whoosh of the rockets beside us, either unable to look or unable to look away. When the French soldiers all turned towards us and let out a war-cry, we knew that we had to earn the lives of those scotsmen back. And that, I can say with pride, we did. The French had revealed themselves during the hill assault, and their chants were soon replaced with cries as a rocket landed in the center of their column. They attempted to move into a nearby set of trees, but light infantry and rifles disrupted their formations and took down at least one of their officers. The disrupted, overconfident, and vengeful lines suddenly emerged from their positions, hoping to catch the rifles in the open like they had done in previous battles. However, the cavalry was too weak and too far away to catch them, and the skirmishes fired one more volley before falling back. Rockets flew over our and their heads and into the french mob, the men of which were too focused on the enemy in front of them to move out of the way. Grenadiers threw bombs once the skirmishers were almost at our position, covering the battlefield in smoke and cries. Just as the last skirmisher made it behind the lines at took position to fire over our heads, my line let loose a volley. Scored of French dead littered the field, the men behind them having to climb over yet another obstacle, making them especially vulnerable to the second volley. The grenadiers threw another volley of grenades, blowing men and corpses alike to bits. Seeing the futility of the assault, one of their trumpeters raised his instrument to his lips to signal a retreat, but was shot before he could give the order, letting out a pathetic note through the trumpet as he fell. And so, the misguided attack continued. Grenades, rockets, bullets, and the occasional bayonet halted the Republican advance, turning the once-green bluff into one charred crater of mud. When the French finally broke, it was not because of any orders, but of their own volition, with the few remaining bullets in our bags used to great effect against the retreating foe. We did not pursue, partly because of the treacherous terrain we had created, and partly due to our exhaustion. Lunch was less impressive than breakfast that day. In fact, it was not even planned. We were quite offended when was returned to camp and saw the quartermaster organizing his staff to move the tents, and saw all the rations had been loaded onto carts heading for The Citadel. Clearly, they had expected the imminent arrival of a triumphant French army, and had decided to take the initiative. Apparently they used three months worth of food on that breakfast, all so the rest could be shipped away with haste. Thus, we spent the next hour in subdued anger, now funneled towards one more source. This was broken however, when a few overly energetic soldiers decided to explore the beached warship that was placed only a few hundred yards from camp. We were still reasonably far from the sea, and no significant bodies of water were nearby, at least, none which could support an oceangoing vessel. Off they went, dragging a mix of curious soldiers out on patrol with them to enjoy the sight. Many of the younger colonial troops hardly remembered their voyage from Britain, and had only seen ships when they came delivering supplies- or more recently, soldiers. I myself had seen enough of ships for a lifetime, and I distinctly remember thinking of how much I would loathe the long journey home. I would still loathe going home. All the letters I should have written, ones written in anger which I never should have sent. Perhaps a slow and agonizing death is the best course of action for me. They were on the ship, just dancing and drinking some of the last drops of tea in their canteen for a while. A long while. Had they been productive, perhaps none of us would be in this present situation. They payed dearly for their flippancy, however, and I am not one to speak ill of the dead. The side of the ship exploded into a shower of splinters. Soon, there were more explosions landing in the center of the camp, crushing lines of tents and striking unsuspecting men. The French were upon us! Plumes of smoke arose from distant hills- hills which should have been spotted by the patrols, revealing the location of the cannons. They had been smart, placing them well out of range of our rockets and our conventional artillery. What`s more, the resulting chaos allowed their infantry to move in formation towards the camp. The poor souls in the ship were soon surrounded, and only precious few brought muskets and rifles with them. Still, they had the good sense to knock down most of the scaffolding, and the warship was built with the purpose of withstanding artillery fire, so they remained in relative safety for the time being. The rest of us made a dash for the château, which not only looked over the battlefield, but was protected by a long brick wall. Some brave souls attempted to raid the armory to find extra blackpowder and munitions, but it had all been prematurely evacuated along with the rest of the supplies. Everywhere the eye rested, there was another column of French infantry converging on our positions, completely unscathed from musket-fire. The walls of the château meant little, as few men had the time to find a loaded gun and shoot it. As the enemy began to scale the walls, the bayonets were fixed on without orders, and the melee began. I managed to skewer one of them halfway over the top of the wall, pulled him over to our side, and thrusted once more into his stomach- no time to think nor to mourn. My other comrades were not as lucky as I, gradually loosing ground to ever-growing pockets of French troops helped each other over. Morale faltered as many of the remaining defenders attempted to barricade themselves in the house itself, only to be either caught and stabbed on the way there or trapped when the French set the building alight. I decided to breach the line with a relatively intact company, and take refuge in the village. We managed to break through a few isolated soldiers and dash towards the hopefully unoccupied village. But, as I feared, we took heavy fire in the open from the soldiers which stormed the château. The filed was littered with the dead and wounded, fruitlessly crawling towards the village before bleeding out where they lay. I can only guess that half of us made it to that village, which soon proved to have no better fortifications than our previous location. I saw a low stone wall garrisoned by a few other men, on the outskirts of the village. It had no protection towards its East side, which was covered by a filed of wheat. I had just arrived when a French company emerged from the field out of the corner of my eye. I remember little of what happened next, but I believe I managed to shoot one of them before their villainous counter-fire struck me just below the ribs on the right side. Everything went momentarily grey before I regained consciousness. Another man, bleeding heavily from two wounds in the chest, had collapsed on top of me. It seemed the French were no more repulsed by this killing than we were. One of them marched towards us, looking over his shoulder. Satisfied that no one was looking, he reached down to the other wounded man and snatched the ring from his finger. The man jumped to life, grabbing his short sword and swinging erratically at the soldier, who sprung back in fear and let out a squeal of pain. Two other soldiers rushed up from behind him and buried their bayonets inside of the man`s chest, silencing him for good. The thief, clinging on to his left cheek, was assumedly accosted by the others, before the officer broke up the whole ordeal. And that is when I passed out. The story was that one of them found that I still had a pulse, and managed to keep me in a semi-comatose state along with some of the other survivors. Then, in an uncharacteristic display of civility, we were exchanged for the few French prisoners we had captured at a 1 to 3 ratio. Our government had decided it needed every soldier it could get, and theirs wished to reinforce their propaganda narrative of a "lightning war". I remember none of this. But whatever our government wanted, they forgot that they had no place to store us while we were supposed to heal. A good quarter of the men in this tent could survive if they we wounded in the wealthy districts of London, but the wildness of this land festers within wounds- as it does in mine. And I must remember that I am here of my own will. I was the victim of no press gang nor smuggler, but of my own ambition. To impress... to prove my worth. Whether my death, far from any battlefield, is valorous enough- if there is any valor in this war- is not a question I to which shall see the answer. I can`t write on this anymore. -Ross MacIntyre These letters and entries were all found among the possessions of Mr. MacIntyre.
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    every dead person in this screenshot was killed by him. True hero of the Empire
  5. Bullet Magnet

    Name: Llewellyn Daffyd Ewis Affiliation: Crown Colonies Place of Birth: Abertawe, Wales, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Place of Death: Province U20, Crown Colonies Bio: Llewellyn Daffyd Ewis was never a man at peace. His mother told him that at his birth, he would not stop kicking and screaming until he fell into a delirious sleep. `A fine howl fy bachgen!`, claimed his father, his face split ear to ear by an encumbered smile. He had loved his native land, beloved Cymru, seen it strangled under the heel of the Englishmen- as had his fathers and fathers before him- and would impose the dream upon the young boy. Every year, as foreign merchants treaded on hallowed ground, preaching poverty and funding frustration, Llewellyn`s anger grew. One night, as he stumbled and slipped out of the heavy doors of the public house, it surpassed him. His father`s rifle, a steeled heart, an unsuspecting Englishman; the pieces were in place. A fountain of smoke and fire shot out of the barrel, an eager bullet riding somewhere among the fragments. The Englishman turned, hoping to determine the source of the noise, finding only Llewellyn`s glazed eyes. Llewellyn stared blankly at the enemy, his emptied rifle still pointed at his young, clean-shaved, face as if he wished to see a reflection of himself. He heard the constables coming, footsteps increased in volume and frequency, and a piercing whistle cleaving the night. Yes, Llewellyn heard them- he had been hearing them all his life. They never told him officially where he was going. Somewhere in the process, someone had forgotten to apply a stamp to a paper, or to sign one of the doubtlessly innumerable documents and manifestos on a desk. A statistical anomaly. He chuckled, steadying himself in the bumpy cart with four iron bars blocking the sun from his eyes, as he did not know mistakes were allowed in Britain. As a tried to lapse once again into unobtainable sleep, a familiar scent swept through the cart`s window. A scent he had grown familiar to in his days in Abertawe, but had lost when it was overwhelmed by the rot of the wooden prison cart. It was saltwater. In a fit of curiosity, he sprung to the bars, choking two with his hands. A scene which could only be repeated in the center of London or Peking in the busiest hour of the busiest day was taking place mere feet from him. Street after street of identical carts, each pulled by a stone-eyed driver and half-starved horse surrounded and swallowed all around him, the indecipherable cacophony hitting him at once. The screaming, the whip-cracks, the shouting from all manner of sources- it was the whole world crammed into Llewellyn`s eyesight. And in the middle of this nightmare, one could not help but add one`s part to the noise. Among the chaos, a well-dressed official strolled the lines of carts, flanked by a posse of regular guards which unlocked and dragged out to occupants of each cart. The cart before Llewellyn in the queue was opened only for no soul to step out. Whatever interaction between the guards and the inmate was forever lost to his ears, but the sight was certainly not. The inmate submitted, the official sighed, Llewellyn faltered. When asked, he exited without a struggle. "--but by the grace of God, you will be redeemed! Though you have all committed crimes and sins of varying degrees, His mercy is still apparent!" The officer paused, taking a glance at the rows of prisoners, as if he had developed a newfound respect for his maker for showing "mercy" to these animals. "Which is why all of you have been spared a sedentary life in prison, and have been awarded the chance to help your country!" Llewellyn`s country was behind him, not the endless expanse of sea and a smug foreigner standing on the stage before him. "A new land of opportunity... no cells for you but the ones you make. No walls except our ever-expanding borders. But you are expected to work for the duration of your sentence. Your toil shall be your bail. Afterwords... you shall live among our colony for the rest of your days." The rest of your days. Never to go days without speaking English. Never to walk between the cairns and the castles. Never again to set foot on Cymru. Never again to set foot on Cymru. The official stepped off the stage, rejoining a group of similarly statured men presumably in his employ. The moment of silence between his exit and the entrance of the harbor quartermaster proved louder than noise beforehand. "Alright men, you heard Governor Shepard! To your right!" A flurry of uncovered feet rotated; Llewellyn was compelled to follow. "Forwards.... march!" He only mustered the courage to look over his shoulder just as he embarked on the splintered ramp to the ship. The officials, the governor proudly standing before them, were beginning to make their way to the craft. Llewellyn didn`t remember much of the prison ship. Every time he tried, he would find memories from one day sitting wish memories from another. Perhaps they were on the same day, perhaps not. The `sedentary life` which was so easily accosted by the Governor became a horrific reality, only disrupted by the occasional squall and fog. The men from inland couldn`t stomach such life, and wished they committed a much more serious crime in order to obtain a conventional prison sentence. But there was no celebration when land was sighted. When the ship dropped anchor a half-mile offshore, as it became clear the few pioneers sent beforehand had overestimated the capacity of the singular dock which constituted their harbor. Llewellyn spent two more days stuck in that hull while the crew frantically paddled lifeboats filled past capacity with handcuffed criminals- with tragedy striking once when one of them capsized. The evacuation- the name used when out of earshot- took a full week in all. It was the first of a series of misfortunes which would make up the next five years for both the colonies and for Llewellyn. As the lion treaded further into the hinterlands the fledgling governorship soon lost contact with the settling parties. Llewellyn, stationed with the group which would eventually build The Citadel, went days without seeing any men of authority, even having to live off of the land when the weekly supply caravans arrived late. It had been a while since he had fired a rifle, and it would be a while longer before the local mayor would trust him enough to use it. That`s why he always had sneak into the armory at night and muffle each shot with a thin layer of caked mud. They never caught him in the act of killing and cooking the local fauna, but one entry from the diary of mayor Pew Pew- tasked with overviewing construction efforts in the region- briefly mentioned how `The 3rd labour division must have an unregistered increase in the number of rations doled out to each member. I shall overlook the matter myself in due time, but must decrease the rationing of all other divisions to make up for the possible discrepancy.` There had been rumors among the few souls living out at the extent of the colonies influence on the island of strange creatures, possibly a native population. Though clear, visual confirmation scarcely backed these claims, the witnesses proved adamant. Strange shadows, seemingly belonging to bipedal creatures that must of been either horribly misshapen or wearing ridiculous garments haunted the words of those shaken men. One of them, who claimed to have been closer to them then all of the other, swore that he heard them speaking an incomprehensible dialect, accompanied by savage ululations. The modern reader, blessed with the horrid foresight and information, would perceive that these were not the ramblings of men stricken with insanity. Historians have long debated which group of people the pioneers were referring to, but the reaction from the deeply sectional- and openly quarreling- House of Mayors was for once in total agreement: if there was a native population, no matter their intentions, they must be integrated into the colonies before they had the chance to turn hostile. The lion must unsheathe its claws. The Sixth Expeditionary Rifles made up of `exceptional recruits` from the 3rd, 4th, and 7th labour divisions was the new home of Llewellyn. Populated mainly of hillmen and vagabonds- two derogatory terms which Llewellyn fell into to varying degrees- they were naturally treated with scorn. Like most hatred towards groups, however, it was not entirely devoid of truth; local shopkeepers reported members selling the silver buttons of their uniforms for drinking money. These infractions, when noticed, were met with public floggings. Some particular days such as New Years Day, common birthdays, and Christmas could see such punishments take hours. Llewellyn was spared the whip, and even commanded and air of respect from the handful of fellow Welshmen, many of whom were arrested for far less severe crimes. Weeks passed as more and more sightings of the native population filtered past the privileged few and into the bars and barracks. The population seemed not to be homogenous, as the dialects and clothing of the two people were drastically different. European in nature. French. The possibility of direct French involvement on the island was never considered by anyone involved in the British settlement. Indeed, when star-eyed British explorers returned to the capital and informed the King and Parliament of their discovery, great effort was expended to contain and dispel the `unfortunate rumor`. Many in the government criticized the wealth and manpower expended on this endeavor, as the French government was on the precipice of complete collapse. The prevailing idea was that France would only pose a threat once the so-called republican rebellion had been crushed, and the monarchy was back in power. Even when Republican forces marched triumphantly along the Champs Élysées under a hail of flowers and pastries, Britain wished the new regime would follow its doctrine of freedom and liberation and abandon its colonization efforts. They were mistaken. In fact, The Tax Collector soon announced an increase to their efforts to `spread the revolution and her ideals across the seas, to lands where men are worth less than the air in their lungs and the blood in their hearts`. By the time France was ready to send a generation of her finest men- and inevitably, soldiers- to the island, however, the Crown Colonies were a well established entity- along with another, unknown force. This threat, though known by mayors and their troops stationed closer to the frontier and in the Citadel, was generally ignored by the civilian populace. Either by ignorance or censorship, sightings were relegated to stories told by aristocrats that had run out of anecdotes and tavern-dwellers, both with admittedly unreliable sources. What was reliable, however, was the report of Company B of the Sixth Expeditionary Rifles stationed in province U19. Llewellyn was far tired that morning. He was tired the morning before that too. He could even bet he would be tired the day after. His officer, the bastard son of the local mayor, insisted on waking them early. No reason stated. They`re supposed to state a reason; that`s what every other officer did. The lack of a man tied to a caber and a hooded man with a see-through grin was a dead giveaway that there was no flogging to be had. Not that morning, at least. No, the boy most likely wanted to use his first patrol to explore the countryside his father never let him see. The majesty of it all wears off soon enough, once you`ve seen men shit on every other rock and use the other to wipe. The mosquitoes too, crawling in every orifices, bathing in the beads of sweat and taking a pint out of you for all your troubles. But no, even those wild buggers could respect aristocracy; the lad seemed in his own element. Hands-on-hips, staring fondly into the tree line on the other side of the field of reeds. He certainly wouldn`t complain of an artist set up his paint and easel behind him and told him to stand right there for a few more hours. But alas, the boy turned around on the spot, catching the dumbfounded ranker staring back at him. His ginger curls peaked mischievously from the over-sized cap, hoping to draw attention from his slightly puffy and freckled cheeks. He wouldn`t look too bad if he wasn`t wearing the uniform of men who had suppressed Llewellyn`s people for centuries. Locked in eye-contact, the boy called the soldier over with a high pitched `ranker!`, missing the anger normally associated with man of his class shouting that word. Llewellyn looked around, nothing but tents and men fumbling out of then- at their distance, it was difficult to tell whether it was tiredness or inebriation that was the source of their nausea. Meeting eyed again, he checked his own uniform to see if the buttons were all done correctly. The ones he had were. It was then he formed a salute and walked over to the edge of the clearing. According to the young officer, the sergeant had responded negatively when asked to make a detour to the patrol to see more of the countryside. Llewellyn was to be his replacement. Assumedly, this was completely random, as he made sure to keep his head down and take extra care to hit the targets when eyes were upon him. Actually, perhaps that made him the perfect candidate. He couldn`t just accept such an offer to join the establishment, yet lacked the strength to refuse. Fortunately, fate chose for him. Llewellyn saw a glint of light across the opposing tree-line, one slowly rising until its apex was a full two meters off the ground. Upon further inspection, it seemed to illuminate the surrounding area, revealing the figure clad in blue and gold grasping it. No, it was not a bolt of light at all, but a glint of light on a saber! The man, held it high, as a man in a storm holds a torch, for precious moments. Hesitation. It seemed no one in camp saw what Llewellyn could see, the fear, the anger, the indescribable something hitched to the man- the man who held all the power in the world. And in the middle of the moment, the young boy speaking nothing, his torch was lowered with unmatched speed. The surrounding brush erupted into plumes of smoke, as if he surrounding brush had caught fire. For half a breath, there was nothing. But hundreds of screaming bolts whipped past Llewellyn`s ears, crashing into the branches and bark behind him. The first screams, their source indeterminable. The officer crumpled impossibly when he stood, arms folded behind him to cushion the inevitable thud. Llewellyn looked behind him, to see the camp in terror as the men who had been hit stumbled across the few who didn`t. Another volley was unleashed, sending splinters that pierced tent canvas and cotton uniforms. A new howl now echoed across the field as rank after rank of Republican soldiers advanced across the clearing, bayonets pointed straight towards the beating hearts of Company B. Like the wind, they swept across the clearing, driving the camp into a full rout. One man, who often found himself sharing a tent with Llewellyn, hastily fired a shot at the enemy. He was soon skewered by a seven inch bayonet, the red-soaked tip just piercing through the back of his soaked waistcoat. Another soldier, rolling on the ground and clutching at his side, crawled towards the gun-rack only to be finished off by a ranker no older than him. There was running, and Llewellyn found himself caught in it, and soon found other detachments of regiments. Word spread to the head of the 2nd army, which was woefully unprepared for battle. (Keep in mind, many of the low-ranking officers did not believe the rumors of French settlement on the island). Thus, what would later be referred to as the `Battle of Province U19` was not much of an engagement at all, despite valiant rear-guard actions from stubborn Crown Colonies defenders. Province U20 would see the first major actions of the war. The retreat to U20 was the first of many embarrassments for the Crown Colonies. When the army finally regrouped and found favorable terrain to resist the invasion, the exhausted troops could hardly lift their guns. Companies A and C of the Sixth Expeditionary Rifles, which remained relatively intact compared to their colleagues in Company B, were nearly destroyed when a herd of Republican cavalry snuck around the lines and charged their flank. In the chaos, Llewellyn`s battered company was sent into the fray, and managed to organize yet another retreat. One cuirassier landed a near-fatal strike on his back during the rout, which would never fully heal and threatened to fester every time it was agitated. For Llewellyn, this war was no longer a story of honor and victory, but of blood and pus. The traditional expectations of a soldiers camp were dissolved that night. No one knew quite where they were, just where they weren`t. Company after company stared into their campfires, their officers joining them. Not a sound but the crackling embers; embers which were in danger of being extinguished by the icy breeze. A ranker from Company C tries to stifle his tears, but is overcome- the virus infects the rest of his campfire, then the ones surrounding them, then the ones surrounding them. And in the middle of this nightmare, one could not help but add one`s part to the noise. As campfires died, the men retreated once more to their tents, and joined their comrades in rest. A rider came in that morning from The Citadel, riding a weary mare. In short, high command was disappointed in the performance of the army, and needed a victory to lift spirits of the populace and mayors whose fiefs were now on the frontline. It was believed the Republican forces would be equally tired after the initial stages of the invasion, so an assault on their position was ordered. To the modern reader this order may seem devoid of reason, but standard British military doctrine stressed the importance of offensive assaults, especially when their own territory was threatened. Every officer from every military academy in the Empire was indoctrinated into this cult of thought, which could not be said of their Republican adversaries, many of whom had been promoted to their positions for challenging military customs. This discrepancy in military tactics would later be seen across the world and across the years, as British rankers and their Prussian allies marched dutifully into rows of Republican machine-gun fire: but of course, that era of history falls well outside the purview of this biography. And so, with heavy hearts and light stomachs, the 2nd Army of the Crown Colonies halted their retreat, and marched towards their enemies. Llewellyn winced as his pack rubbed against his spine with every footstep, an anchor tethering him to the world. There were no marching songs- the few musicians had dropped their instruments in favor of muskets and swords. The treading of feet, the incessant pain, over time they merged into a singular discomfort, one which could be stifled if significant effort was put into it. So much effort, he could hardly focus on anything else. The swaying backpack of the ranker before him became all for corners of the world. Was this what they wanted? Is this how the empire ruled over so many people; by breaking them? Whatever their intentions, it was working: Llewellyn hadn`t thought of home since well before the war started. No matter how tyrannical the army had given him purpose and a target to point his anger to, whether it be the officers or some ever-changing and ever-mysterious enemy of the Empire. This march to battle was a matter larger than Llewellyn- larger than all men of Wales- this was the reshaping of histories. Whatever the outcome, the names of all who fell would be remembered not with sorrow but with reverence. Not a death, but a sacrifice. The body is buried but the man survives. It made him feel numb. There were no signs or lines between the territories of Province U20 and U21. There were hardly any roads. There was never any need for either of them; the mayors out in the frontier did not have the industry to fight the skirmishes the ones near the coast reveled in. All they had in abundance was lumber, which no part of the Colony had any shortage of. As a result, they mainly stayed to themselves, much to the annoyance of the more bellicose mayors. Unbeknownst to them, however, the province would one day see its fair share of fighting. Although there had been a battle mere days ago, an ignorant eye would never notice. The trees looked no different than the province they left. As they walked past the sight of the battle, it was clear that the bodies had all been buried- most likely the reason they did not pursue the twice-shattered army. But those mounds of dirt aligned in rows, the identities of their occupants still possible to decipher, left a most sour impression upon the column. The Republican army was located on the other side of a river- one shallow enough to cross in some places, but would leave the attacking force vulnerable to musket fire. It was on the banks of the river that the tired advance was halted and lines were sent out to guard the crossing points. After two disastrous battles, no officer wished to meet the French with water in their boots. While the majority of the army guarded a large stone bridge, the rifles were sent to escort sappers to destroy a smaller wooden bridge on the far left flank. There, they came under heavy fire, although few casualties were sustained or inflicted. Both sides seemed more than content to deny the other the chance to reinforce the stone bridge. The rifles could see repeated assaults carried out by Republican forces, eager to punish their adversary for their arrogance, many of which even managed to secure the crossing, only to be pushed back. As the smoke form the engagement billowed into the air, it floated towards the secondary crossing, providing a thin layer and masking the enemy. Three sappers rushed out of the tree-line and towards the bridge clutching bags of blackpowder in their arms. Llewellyn spotted a gap in the smoke covering, which would leave the sappers exposed, and silently encouraged the sappers to work faster. One bag down; fuse lit. The Republican line fired into the cloud, striking a sapper preparing his trap and piercing the head of a rifleman standing in the tree-line. Both fell on their side, facing the men which had slain them. The smoke covering was beginning to falter, but a second sapper ignited the fuse of the second trap. That`s two bags now; fuses lit. More echoes from the stone bridge. Cannons fire, impossibly to tell from whom and from where. Despite the rows of dying men, Republican forces assault the bridge yet again, moving in cavalry from reserve. The bridge, battered from cannon-fire and grenades from the Old-Guard, starts to collapse- scores of men and corpses fall into the deepest sections of the river, where the weight and opulence of their uniforms works against them. In a matters of moments, they will be floating amongst the dead- a screen of a different kind. Three bags; all fuses lit. Just as the sparks were still bouncing off the flint and steel, the overlay of smoke was swept away by a gust of wind. A French musket-man jumped out of his cover, seemingly without orders, and aimed straight at one of the running sappers. He raised his gun to his shoulder and squinted towards the sights. In the same moment, Llewellyn deftly moved out behind his splintered tree and fired a shot out. The musket-man flinched, throwing his weapon over his left shoulder and grappled onto his own neck. He disappeared under the mess of earthwork trenches, failing so violently that his hands and feet momentarily appeared above the threshold. A head appeared from the trenches, just in time to see the surviving sappers reach the safety of the tree-line. Scanning with shaking eyes, he traced the trail of the still-smoking rifle the Llewellyn. The bridge burst into a mess of splinters and smoke, severing the corpse of the deceased sapper and sending torn rags into the air. But both men dared not dive into cover. The order was given by both sides to fire. Tufts of dirt were kicked up around the head of the musket-man; a man near Llewellyn stumbled back and leaned against an oak. Through gaps in the smoke they saw each other, eyes piercing more than the sharpest of blades. Another volley was fired. Cries followed by thuds. He dared not look away, for fear he would never see him again. It was a stretch, but Llewellyn could of sworn he had seen that person once before. A face so familiar it is unfamiliar. Perhaps that it was a face at all, with life and emotion that was so striking. The fact that he had been firing at them, that people like them were being shot or stabbed or drowned suddenly sickened him. How they could fire back no longer angered him. The fact that he would soon be ordered to fire back simply- Ten great plumes arose from faraway hills. Their purpose became clear as their great iron produce crashed through the tree-line and into the men, leaving craters as they jovially bounced and rolled into the grass. A great crashing noise emanated from the ground in front of Llewellyn. There was noise, there was fear, there was an iota of searing pain, then simple nothingness. Pleasant nothingness. Company B of the Sixth Expeditionary Rifles was one of the last units to retreat from the battlefield following the capture of the stone bridge. Their stubborn defence proved to be their undoing, as their position was encircled by cavalry and grenadiers. While the fate of the company is still unknown, it is worth noting that many of the French troops involved in that late stage of the battle were dishonorably discharged mere days later. Official record of the company`s existence form both sides of the war are rare; personal notes and journals remain the primary source of information (along with buttons engraved with the company`s symbol of a one-winged dove being found in personal collections around the border territories). The notes of Private Llewellyn Daffyd Ewis himself constitute a large percentage of our knowledge on not only Company B nor the Sixth Expeditionary Rifles, but serve as a microcosm of the experiences of the thousands of prisoner-soldiers which made up the early army of the Crown Colonies. Even today in his native Wales, his name is mentioned with dignity and respect as a sort of folk hero- although some of his writings suggest that he had practically abandoned the cause of Welsh independence. However dreary, tragic, taboo, or inconsequential the name Llewellyn Ewis is to the reader, I implore that he at least be remembered. -Excerpt taken from The History of Welsh Soldiers in the British Military, Royal Library of the Province of Wales, Cardiff, 1950 Thanks for all the upvotes, guys! My next character is called Ross MacIntyre, stay tuned for when he (inevitably) dies for a post on his story!
  6. Bullet Magnet

    NRP Username: 19th[Grd]_Rgl_BulletMagnet Character Name: Llewellyn Ewis Ross MacIntyre Anatoli Pushkin Marcus Wight Faction: Crown Colonies GUID: 1365474 Why do you want a character: I feel like the base Napoleonic Wars DLC missed the potential for a story-based campaign, and this added depth to the game is welcome. I also want to invest a bit of personality into my character, making it a bit more painful when i`m inevitably led to my death by some big-shot mayor that wouldn`t know a sound battle plan if if was taped to the end of a Soyuz bayonet (hopefully in the process of burying itself inside his chest cavity).