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The battle was won, and the enemy was retreating... southwards or eastwards, to form a new defensive line between the advancing enemies and the city of Oryant. Only a few hours before, the shock troopers of the Empire had shattered the first line of the Lotii: after slicing through the defenses as a blade in the butter, they assaulted batteries, deposits and command points, causing absolute havoc among the enemy troops. Despite the complete victory, nobody among the soldiers of Oleon was celebrating any longer: during one of the first assaults, General Hercule François was hit by a stray bullet. The old commander was brought by his soldiers' hands to a farm outside Seawatch, but the red stain widening on the uniform left little hope for his survival. Almost by chance, one of the soldiers started humming, soon followed by another, and then another one. It was an old, sad song from Western Eranos, Tristan's motherland... the mourning of the soldiers for their dying officer, killed in one of the uncountable border wars. He had heard his chasseurs singing it dozens of times, but that day... that day it felt different, with their general on his deathbed. "The Captain of the Company / is wounded and he's about to die / he sends word to his chasseurs / so that they can come and see him." None of the officers Tristan had lost had had that luxury... not the old Captain Montier, drowned in his blood with an arrow in the neck, back in a dark Varcosian wood, nor the brave Major Artaud, found under a pile of dead Salleeki pirates, the sword still in hand. But going without a word wouldn't definitely halve been General François’ style, thought Tristan with a half smile. "His chasseurs go tell him / they have not shoes to walk there. / Shoes or not shoes, shoes or not shoes / I want my chasseurs here now!" In the old song, the soldiers are tired, tattered, and wounded. They are far, and they have to walk with broken shoes. On El Oleonda, the bluecoats were ready to gather around their commander, forming a wall around him. Their uniforms and their flags shane as a beacon in the jungle, despite the stains of mud and blood: no irregulars, natives or scouts, around the wounded general, but the best line infantry of the Empire. He would have been proud of his men, if he could fully realise what was happening around him... "What are the orders, Captain, Sir? / Your chasseurs now have arrived! / I command that my body / in five pieces it shall be cut!" Gruesome, yet somehow poetic... nobody even questioned why the wounded captain of the song could want that weird ritual, or how could the receivers of those weird "gifts" react. That was the tradition, the rhyme sung around the fires in the cold nights of Eranos and in the Varcosian woods... and so let the captain be sectioned by the singers one more time, without inappropriate doubts! General François didn’t ask anything similar, but still all his officers were gathered around him, to listen for his final words. "The first piece to her, the Motherland / so that she can remember her soldier. / The second piece to the battalion / so they remember their captain." General François had several defects, he was arrogant and loved the wine a little too much... but, for sure, he was a true patriot and an excellent soldier. Under his command, the soldiers felt unstoppable, as they charged with the banners flying in the wind. Despite his rank, he fought on the first line, pistol in hand, alongside his beloved bluecoats. No, the motherland and the army would never forget General Hercule François, with or without a piece of his body! Tristan realized that he had tears in his eyes, and that by now all the soldiers were singing, even the ones who had never been in Eranos. "The third piece to my dear mother / so that she can remember her son. / The fourth part to my sweetheart / so that she remembers her first love." Well, General François' mother was since long gone, and that left one spare part... that could come to use, considering the rumors. One part should probably have gone to Guemain Manor, to the General's widow, and another to the village, to the house of a certain peasant girl. A little François could already have been born, by the time the sad news arrived back in the motherland... "The last part to my woods / that will cover it with roses and flowers." Tristan didn't know where the General would have found his final rest... maybe in the woods of Gueiman, back in the motherland, or in a mausoleum there on El Oleonda. For sure he would have not lacked the flowers. The fallen commander would have been remembered among the heroes of Oleon, and the citizens of the Empire would have paid homage to his tomb for the next centuries. The song was over. The men marched on in silence, pushing forward the captured Lotii cannon: the light infantry of the allied forces was forming an advanced line on the hills south of Seawatch, in case of an enemy counterstrike. Meanwhile, the main forces were reorganizing, preparing for the next blow towards Oryant. Colonel Beauchamp had just taken command of the Oleonese contingent: everyone was still mourning the General, but the war was far from being over. The Siege of Seawatch, the Raid on Jiangkai, and now the death of General François... yes, the war was far from being over. And soon, that cannon would have been put to good use! ------------------------------ Just a quick reaction to the last KPA, and a heartfelt farewell to General Hercule François. Some of the builds are mine, others are from @Ross Fisher (pics 2, 4, and 6) and @Jeff of Clubs (pic 5). The song from Eranos is actually a famous, very sad, song of the Italian Alpine troops (The Captain's Last Will), dating back to WWI, and translated more or less literally. However, songs about wounded generals asking to be buried in multiple places have existed since at least the 16th century, with the Song of the Marquis of Salluzzo.
Varcosian Border, Spring 608 The Juniper war was raging on, far on the East. According to the latest news, the Empire of Light was winning: the troops of Corrington had been routed, and were retreating towards the chief town of the Juniper Province, but everyone knew that they couldn’t keep it for long. The war was almost over. There were little celebrations in the westernmost provinces, as people had more urgent issues. Varcosian brigands had plagued the area for centuries, in a deadly hide and seek game with the local lords and their soldiers. However, as the Juniper War called too many dragoon regiments back to the East, those rascals soon stopped being an annoyance and became a real problem: it was no longer matter of a few stolen cows, but of farms set on fire and border hamlets sacked. At the time, Tristan Rimbaud was a young lieutenant at his first command. He had received the task of repelling “Bogdan” (the Varcosian brigands) beyond the border, but he soon realised that the mission was completely pointless: Bogdan moved back and forth the border as he pleased, escaping capture every time. After the first skirmishes, therefore, Tristan gathered all the available men and attacked the brigands directly in their bases. The campaign was successful, and “Bogdan” remained out of the lands of Oleon for several years. Crossing the border, however, was not without consequences: after the protests of the Varcosian ambassador, Tristan was relieved of his duties and transferred to New Oleon… a punishment only on paper, since he received a medal an important command in the Marines. Apparently, bands of Salleeki pirates were creating troubles, but Oleander response was complicated by international borders… From left to right: -Front 1) Armoured guard: some rural areas of the Eranos province had remained behind in the military innovations. The guards of some noble lords, therefore, are equipped as they were 100 years before: swordsmen wearing morion and heavy armour are not an uncommon view. 2-4) Eranos chasseurs: regular line infantry is stationed in the large Western Forts along the Varcosian border. Most of the fights against brigands and overambitious Varcoast boyards, however, are fought in the woods by light infantry units. 3) Lieutenant Tristan Rimbaud: second son of an ancient but relatively irrelevant noble family of Western Oleon; he could either choose the clergy or the army, as his elder brother will inherit title and estates. He choose the latter and, after attending the military academy, he was assigned to the Varcosian Border, near to his native lands. 5) Arbalétrier: while antiquated and difficult to maintain, a crossbow can be as powerful as a musket. Almost disappeared from the regular army, this weapon is still used by militias in some rural areas. -Back 1) Chasseur à cheval: light cavalry, equipped with sabre and carabine. Chasseurs a cheval can fight both on horse or dismounted but, differently from dragoons, they are essentially cavalry soldiers. In the western provinces, where border skirmishes are more common than real battles, those soldiers are trained to fire from horseback, something quite unusual in the Madrician kingdoms. 2) Garde-chasse: the role of game wardens is usually non military, mainly patrolling public woods and noblemen’s hunting grounds against poachers and brigands. These men, however, are skilled horsemen and excellent marksmen, who know the Western Forests as their own pockets; therefore, during wartime, they are enlisted as scouts and explorers. From left to right: 1-2) Varcosian brigands: brigands wear traditional costumes, often including peculiar cloth hoods and long moustaches. While most of the loot consists of livestock, on lucky days they can steal a statuette or a golden goblet from a temple. 3) Brigand chief: each band gathers around a charismatic leader, sometimes a lesser nobleman, a village chief or even a priest. He usually wears more elegantly than his men, with colourful clothes, silver buckles and plumed hats. 4) Varcosian brigand: most bandits have antiquated firearms and little gunpowder to waste. Therefore, they always have a wide array of knives and axes. 5) Armed peasant: not all the bandits are full-time brigands. Many of them are simple peasant who join the brigands for a while, hoping to steal enough to repay a debt or to cope with a bad harvest season. 6) Bowman: a bow costs less than a musket, and can be built by any craftsman with minimal tools. Bows are therefore often seen along the Varcosian border, in the hands of both hunters, bandits and even irregular soldiers. ——————— As most of my bricks are still in the form of Breshaun port, I built a small figbarf and expanded a little bit the past of my main character. “Bogdan” for Varcoast brigands should be something like nickname “Charlie” for the Viet Cong or “Fritz” for German soldiers.