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Author Topic: The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction  (Read 1580 times)

Offline Alagoric

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The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« on: July 13, 2005, 11:36:36 PM »
It was called the Wenig Östlicher Grünerwald, a grand title for a very small baronial fiefdom. The incumbent of the ancestral seat, the ancient and doddering Baron Lutz von Hain-Hartesmann, owed allegiance to Ostland, and he was staunch and true in his loyalties.

At the heart of his domain was a single large town, Mieterberg, along with several small villages given over to agriculture. The land itself was one of rolling and wooded hills, from which rose the river Werbel, a fast-flowing tributary of the mighty Talabec. Over countless millennia its flow had cut down through the rock to form a winding gorge, which in time had come to define the eastern border of the tiny state.

One of the major roads to Kislev followed the valleys between the hills, meeting the chasm at its shallowest point and crossing the swift Werbel by means of a ford.

Above the gorge, overlooking the ford, was a steep-sided bluff of hard stone that stood some sixty yards tall. It was named the Stumpf, on account of its shape, resembling as it did the stump of a felled tree. On its summit were the remains of an ancient fortification which had variously been improved or left to spoil by successive generations. In times more peaceful the moss-greened stones had been a romantic ruin, a spot of rare beauty in a world of darkness and danger.

With the commencement of hostilities old Baron Lutz enjoyed a rare moment of lucidity, immediately grasping the importance of the river crossing. At once he dispatched a force of soldiers, drawn from his personal retinue, to garrison the place, and sent off to his liege for reinforcements.

They were barely three companies in strength but they were splendidly equipped, with fine Nuln-made guns and swords, new uniforms in a halved black and white scheme, good shoes, and thick sleeping blankets. Their stores, which were carried on carts, included lead shot, barrels of blackpowder, picks and shovels, victuals, beer, and all of those other martial supplies that were required in the performance their duties.

So they marched away, and after only a few days they had occupied the Stumpf. The men were set digging trenches, building up the walls with lumps of stone and bags filled with soil, and placing redoubts in spots that had good fields of fire. When they weren’t doing that they were drilled in the military arts and generally prepared for war, or when their time was their own they lounged in the sunshine playing dice or cards and drinking beer.

And there they remained for a few glorious weeks of the summer, but soon enough the war came.


—oOo—


An explosion, an orange-black ball of flame shrouded in dirty grey smoke, tore up a fountain of rocks and soil and sent red-hot shards of metal clattering across the solid curtain wall. The blast shook the ground and filled the air with flying dust and the sulphur stink of blackpowder.

Private Rudiger Gutemann, the youngest of the garrison’s soldiers, hunched behind the rough breastwork, mumbling his prayers, his rifle clutched hard up against his body and his eyes closed tight. His ears were ringing, his throat was parched and his belly was churning with fear. Despite the heat of the sun he felt chilled and his skin was covered with goosebumps.

Sergeant Stüdel, laden like a pack-pony and running almost doubled over to keep his head below the parapet, slithered to a halt in the redoubt. He hunkered down beside the boy, gesturing to the sour-faced soldier who had followed him to do the same. “That was a mortar,” he panted, mopping the sweat from his brow and trying to catch his breath. “They’ve got a battery out on that far ridge.”

Rudiger started at the voice and opened his eyes. “Oh. Sorry. I didn’t hear you.”

“Not the sort of thing you should be telling your commanding officer,” wheezed the veteran as he propped the long rifle he was carrying against the wall. He removed a full snapsack and plonked that down too, then a clutch of leather-bound water canteens. “A spare gun, more powder and shot, and something to keep your thirst at bay. There’s a crust of bread in the bag too. Corporal Rand here will load for you.”

“Who are they?”

Tallies,” replied Rand in his gravelly mumble, using a derogatory term for the easterners. “Dressed all in red and yellow, they’ll be. Colours to show the innocent blood they have spilled and their natural courage.” He spat disdainfully.

“There’s maybe two State regiments down there,” added Sergeant Stüdel, “plus whatever rabble they’ve brought along to make up numbers.”

The Sergeant got up to leave but Corporal Rand grabbed hold of his sleeve. “Why am I being left here with the little snot?” he hissed.

Sergeant Stüdel looked down at his arm and the Corporal released his grip. “Captain Eismann’s orders,” he replied. “The boy’s a natural, a bloody wonder. He could shoot the balls off of a gnat at three hundred paces! Your job, Corporal, is to keep him loaded and make sure that he’s choosing the right targets, understand? The rest of the handgunners are being placed along the walls, so their smoke will camouflage him. Maybe one or two will get lucky and hit something.”

Another huge and ear-bursting explosion, a few tens of yards behind their position, rocked the ground and blasted out a lethal spray of torn metal and shattered stone. A steaming fragment of jagged iron clattered down onto the floor of the redoubt and a cloud of dust and acrid smoke blew over them.

Though I doubt it,” he added under his breath.


—oOo—


Sporadic firing began along the wall, little plumes of white smoke marking the position of each handgunner.

Rudiger looked across to the Corporal. “Who do I aim for?”

“Dunno. Who looks important?”

Rudiger peered down at the untidy blocks of men assembled below. They made an impressive sight, rows and ranks of them with their standards flapping in the breeze – even from this lofty spot he could hear the rattle of their drums. As they assembled to make their crossing they looked just like the little toy soldiers his father had given him when he was a child.

“How about the ones holding the flags?”

“No, don’t bother. Someone will only pick it up again.” Corporal Rand produced a flask from inside his uniform jacket and glanced slyly around before taking a gulp. “Medicinal,” he wheezed. “For me chest. Ahem! Go for anyone who looks, you know, like an officer.”

Rudiger brought the gun to his shoulder and sighted down the brass perspective glass that was set above the barrel – he never ceased to wonder at the tamed magic that brought the image so close – and tracked across the troops assembled below.

His gaze came to rest on a huge bear of a man, bearded and decked out in finery and gilded armour, astride a huge horse. The fellow had turned in the saddle, his hand clutching a sword with which he gestured his men onwards.

The boy centered the crosshairs on the nobleman’s neck, then instinctively deviated a little to allow for windage and fall. He held in a breath, waiting until the figure turned, and then gently exhaled, at the same time squeezing the trigger bar with his fingers.

The powder in the pan flashed and then bang! The rifle’s report was sharp and clear.

Maybe a second later the target tumbled backwards out of his saddle, falling with one armoured leg caught in a stirrup. The sudden commotion startled his horse, which bucked and pranced and twisted. All manner of men suddenly rushed towards the stricken figure.

“Like him?” asked Rudiger.

Corporal Rand squinted down at the enemy, his hands shielding his eyes against the glare of the sun. “Yes,” he mumbled. “Just like him.”

He took the discharged rifle and passed the boy the fresh piece. With mechanical proficiency the soldier primed the pan, then poured a charge of blackpowder into the barrel. Next came a lead ball, wrapped in a scrap of soft leather to give it some grip in the rifling, which he forced down with the scouring stick, ramming it home. The weapon was ready.

Another mortar shell landed, right in the middle of the Stumpf. The huge explosion demolished the upper part of a ruinous chapel, a structure in which a number of Baron Lutz’s halberdiers had sought shelter. Debris and offal and dismembered limbs scattered for quite a distance, mercifully hidden by the dense smoke and the dust kicked up by the blast.

The boy sighted again. His target was being dragged clear of his mount by a host of finely dressed individuals. The big man was alive, though, and injured; his dense grey beard was clotted with crimson. As Rudiger watched a cleric rushed over to the distrait group.

Rudiger took a bead on the back of the man’s bald head, again allowing for the windage and fall, and at just the right moment he fired.

The shot was true and the priest died without even knowing he had been hit. The corpse toppled face-forward onto the feet of the wounded dignitary, causing a frantic burst of activity among the assembly.

The boy blanched and he looked across to Corporal Rand. “I just killed a priest. Now I am cursed in the eyes of Sigmar, and will never sit by his side among the heroes.”

“Ah, but it was one of their priests, and that makes it all right.”

He seemed mollified.

The guns were swapped and Rudiger took a sight on his original target, loosing a shot that hit the man in the bottom of the jaw and ploughed through his head, ending his life in an instant.

Again the guns were traded over, and one of the fine gentlemen dragging away his slain chieftain toppled, his neck shot clean through. The others gallantly struggled on, though, and three more of their number had fallen to Rudiger’s lethal barrage before they reached safety.

Rudiger took aim on anyone who wore a sash, those who were clad in fine clothes, or anybody who seemed to be giving orders. The sporadic shelling continued, but the boy barely noticed. And as the sun moved across the sky and the shadows lengthened his score gradually rose.


—oOo—


It was impossible to stop the enemy from wading across the waters, but Rudiger took a heavy toll of their commanders. Soon they had got to the base of the Stumpf, and a few determined Captains even led their men in a charge, but the impossible climb and the barrage of rocks and debris that the defenders pitched over the battlements soon stopped them.

The decisive moment came when a mortar round fell short, landing among the troops on the near side of the ford. It hissed and spat for a few moments and then detonated in a huge red-yellow ball of fire, sending shards of metal shredding through the closely packed men who were assembling for another assault.

The enemy had had enough.

The first to turn and leave were the militia, streaming back along the road and disappearing into the gathering gloom. Next went the state regiment that had not yet crossed the river, who marched away by companies. Finally those troops who had taken part in the assault departed in a mob. The defenders shot and jeered until the last of them had left.

Even the bombardment had stopped.

Though it was impossible to be sure of Rudiger’s exact tally, Corporal Rand reckoned on it being upwards of fourty men of substance, and in truth Sergeant Stüdel had to agree. The boy’s contribution was immeasurable, though he didn’t seem aware of it. He was just sitting in the redoubt, chewing on a crust of bread and absently gazing up at the first stars as they glimmered in the darkening azure-lemon sky.


---

Offline Midaski

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The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2005, 08:52:48 AM »
Excellent as always, and great idea.

Glad you missed the thread at the top of the forum as well :wink:
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Offline Demonslayer

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The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2005, 10:23:56 AM »
Please don't direct him there... :wink:
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Offline rufus sparkfire

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The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2005, 10:43:22 PM »
I'm going to assume this is an entry to the fiction contest, though it doesn't say so.
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If I wanted to.

Offline megamac20817

  • Posts: 404
The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2005, 12:29:02 AM »
I insist he not be allowed to enter, to give others a chance, he´s just too good. Great story, as always.
You can give a man a sword, but that won't make him a soldier.
You can give a man a pen, but that won't make him a writer.

Offline Alagoric

  • Posts: 83
The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2005, 10:10:09 AM »
Rufus: no, not an entry – I would have posted it in the appropriate place if it was. I really should read those stickys. But if you do want to include it, please feel free ...

Offline matthewst1

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The Boy Who Stopped an Army - Campaign Fiction
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2005, 07:14:38 AM »
Wow. Just wow. Great job Alagoric! I like very much.
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