The soldier sat on his horse, leaning slightly over the pommel of his saddle, chewing on a bit of straw. He liked chewing on straw, it took his mind of tabac.
The company hadn´t seen decent tabac for almost a year. It was very expensive in Kislev to start with, and since the Chaos invasion, all trade had stopped.
Even though the final battle had been months ago, the Empire was broken and in disarray. Especially the northern provinces.
The horse put its head down and took another drink of water from the mighty river Stir.
It had been a long chase through the night, a series of random bloody engagements whenever the retreating Stirland forces decided to make a stand.
A distant rumble, like cannon fire, made both horse and rider look up for a moment, but it was just another thunderstorm coming in from the east. Dark clouds and lightning driving away the cold morning sun. Wafts of smoke drifted down from the north again as the wind changed. The soldier looked up and could just barely make out the rooftops of the few remaining harbor buildings in Bissendorf.
The rest had burnt during the night.
A unit of Reiksguard knights had used the harbor area to fight a delaying action while the rest of the imperial army withdrew across the makeshift pontoon bridge. Many good soldiers had fallen for their swords, he could count at least three friends who would not see the end of this campaign.
A hard blow to their commander would be that his brother had fallen, Dietrich von Ottenheim had made a desperate charge, alone against five Reiksguard knights. He had tried to stop them cutting away the final ropes that was holding the pontoon bridge in place.
Lightly armoured jaeger troops against knights in full battle gear was never a good idea however, even less so if outnumbered. He had taken out three of them, praise be to Taal, but when he tripped over one of the fallen, a remaining knight managed to push a bollock dagger in under his helmet at the base of the skull. It stuck there as it was driven in to the hilt.
Awful mess, he had seen it with his own eyes, but was not close enough to help.
The reiksguard basterds had cheered as the pontoon drifted away, but then it topped over as they tried to move around and they both drowned.
Some of the jaegers had already started gathering firewood for the funeral pyre and ceremony that would surely be held as soon as their commander reached Bissendorf.
Dietrich von Ottenheim had for a long time been one of the Advocatii in the Templar Order of Taal, a commander of irregular units that rode in support of the Order knights. No doubt it would be a long and tedious ceremony since it was a high profile member of the family and battle priests and clergymen was a´plenty in the army since it crossed into Ostermark.
The soldier was not religious and holy wars always left a bad taste in his mouth.
“As long as it brings me coin….which in the end….somewhere…somehow…will bring me tabac” he muttered under his breath.
As he leaned over to spit out some pieces of straw, the last disappearing rays of sunlight struck something that glittered on the ground and it caught his eye.
The scrawny looking naked man that he had been watching, while his horse quenched its thirst, was obviously dead and had been since the early hours of the evening, by the looks of him. It had been a violent death, it was no one he recognized and since someone had stolen his clothes there was no telling what side he belonged to.
The sunrays had glinted off his stomach and that was what caught the soldiers eye.
The people that had plundered the man had also gutted him and it took the soldier a few moments to figure out why…..of course….an old soldiers trick.
Before a battle, swallow your coin in case you are taken prisoner. That way you will get them back eventually. The “ghouls” that had plundered this poor wretch had obviously been around a battlefield before.
“War is hell…” muttered the soldier.
‘I really need a smoke’ he thought to himself as he gently kicked the spurs into the side of his mount and slowly started riding north towards the harbor