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The camp was bustling with activity like a kicked hornet nest. Blacksmiths using pedal-powered grindstones sharpened dull and nicked blades. Soldiers oiled and polished their armor, checking their leather straps making sure nothing requires replacing.

Duke Sturm stood watching the routine activities of his men and smiled. The sky was clear and beautiful, what a day to start a war.

He had gathered over three thousand fighting men and with the humiliated 3rd Lancers, he has a fighting force of over 3,600. While over another 1.500 fought against the green skins and protected his supply line in the Uncharted Forest.

Now to see if the plan works.

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Coming to the edge of the forest, Lyonel limped and lean against a great wood. The massive trunk appears to reach into the cloudless sky, its leaves provide some shade to the ragged elven prisoners.

"Now you filth! Listen up!" An Empire soldier with a blue cloak fastened against his ornate armor yelled and points up the winding rock path along the mountain slopes.

"This is your lucky day!" The soldier grins wickedly. "I will count to a hundred. If you reach the pass beyond the mountain, you get to live."

And he casually drew his sword before cutting down an unfortunate prisoner nearest to him. "After I counted to a hundred, we will start killing you!"

"So if you want to live…" The rest of the prisoners were stunned, watching how that soldier just killed a person without batting an eye.

"Run!" The soldier finishes with a shout, pointing his blade to the path.

With that shout, everyone jolts to action. They ran and ran, hearing the Empire officer counting down behind them.

Lyonel stumbled as fast as he could. With barely any food for the past few days, his legs sore from the constant marching and his feet torn and blistered. He pushes on, desperate for the hope that dangled in front for him.

The path quickly flooded with hundreds of prisoners, trying their best to climb the mountain path.

The path soon narrowed, allowing lesser and lesser people to squeeze together, while the mountain slopes turn steeper. Screams cried out as people got pushed or slipped down the slopes, their broken bodies rolling to a rest at the foot of the mountain.

A horn blew and echoed down the mountain, Lyonel and the people all turn back to towards the source of it and saw a column of marching soldiers clad in blue, storming instep towards their rear.

Seeing this the people at the rear screams in panic and shoves the people in front of them, trying to escape the doom marching towards them.

Lyonel like many others suddenly found new strength from the fear gripping his heart. He screams and cried with fear and panic, pushing the people around him to get to safety.

The Empire soldiers worked like a mechanical clockwork machine, marching forward every hundred paces and killing whoever is in their way before stopping and waiting for another two turns of the glass before continuing.

In this way, they herded the prisoners towards the Pass. By the time they could see the pass, more than half the morning had gone by and less than half of the prisoners remained.

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Staff sergeant Pike folded his arms as he stood behind the UAV operator. "How many?"

"Quick estimate by the computer puts over 3,500 in the rear group while the forward group slightly below a thousand." The operator wearing a bulbous beetle-like control goggles headset replied.

Pike frowned, watching the live feed from the display screens. It shows the blue-clad soldiers advancing and chopping down the rear ranks of a group of elves in rags before allowing them to escape again and repeats the whole process again.

It's a bloody human shield tactic. They are trying to force the Goldies from breaking ranks to save their people while using them as shields to get as close as possible. And at the same time killing the refugees the Goldies' morale as they watch their people die.

If only we had some mortars or even artillery. Those babies will wreak havoc among that tightly packed infantry square.

Pike walks out of the tent and watched both his marines and security sections deploying into the sandbag bunkers while the Goldies under the direction of their commander, Rathia, formed up in a defensive shield line covering the main road while a loose skirmish line form out of archers using a variety of bows and crossbows lined up behind the men.

The frightened and tired elves, looking like zombies hobbled as fast as they could towards the Goldrose shield line for safety. Once the civilians went past the bend, the Empire soldiers were immediately exposed, and the humans open fired with the single PK-299 stationed to defend the Pass.

A simple dugout covered with sandbags and a simple roof made out of local wooden logs topped with more sandbags provides a line of sight to the bend and the approaches to Pass. The tripod mounted HMG spew hundreds of bullets, tearing the neat Empire soldiers' formation into pieces of meat.

Rathia sighs, "I really admire your weapons. If during the siege of the Capital, we have even one of your thundersticks, we would have held the walls."

Pike gave a grunt, watching the Empires toppling over like puppets with their strings cut off. He uses his binoculars and watched the dying blue-coats.

A typical Empire soldier wears a high collared blue jacket and pants with a metal cuirass and leather innerwear, topped off with a pair of knee length leather boots and a pot-shaped metal helmet.

They are equipped with a short stabbing sword, and either a shield or a halberd. Some even carried crossbows slung across their backs.

Their officers and sergeants wear a cloak and also a helmet crest to be easily identified. Blue for officers and red for sergeants.

Suddenly the entire line of Empire soldiers vanished in a cloud of black billowing smoke. The machine gun immediately ceased fire to conserve ammo.

"What's that?" Pike asked, more curious than concern.

"A smoke spell," Rathia explains, looking nervous. "The Empire uses them at times to screen their forces from arrows and hide their soldiers."

The unnatural dense cloud drifts closer to the rear of the fleeing elves, skeletal faces appeared within the smoke, screaming in soundless horror. It slowly swallows up the fleeing elves and stops short of the pass as if it hits an invisible wall.

Leering faces could be seen as they attempted to push past the magic barrier set up by Magister Thorn. "Mages to the front!" Rathia commanded.

Several robed individuals carrying staffs hurrying through the ranks of the soldiers and started their offensive spells.

"NO! Pull them back!" Pike hurriedly yelled at Rathia. The past few days had opened his mind to the mystical ways of the elves. The few surviving mages, could conjure fire, water or move and shape the earth in ways that confounded his mind.

The humans accepted the existence of magic with ease and wonder. In fact, Pike has proposed to Lt Frank, about using combine arms and magic for defensive and offensive tactics.

Rathia looked at Pike with surprise, in the few short days they known each other, he had respected the hooman soldier greatly. He turns and watches the dark cloud with suspicion.

"Back! Mages to retreat!" He decided to trust Pike and commands his mages to retreat behind the shield wall.

Less than a second after mages reentered the shield wall, hundreds of crossbow bolts flew out of the magical smoke and slams into the raised shields, while some unlucky souls who did not ready his shield, cried in pain as the bolts pierced their bodies.

A roar from hundreds of throats rose from within the smoke, and suddenly hundreds of Empire soldiers broke out from the smoke screen and slammed into the unprepared shield wall.

"What the fuck!" Pike saw the disaster unfolding at the center of the lines. It appears that the enemy charged through the refugees under the cover of smoke and advanced right up their noses!

"Fuck the civees!" He cursed on the command network. " Open fire into their flanks and stop their charge! Or they will swarm us all!" he ordered.

Bursts of fire erupt immediately from the bunkers, knocking the blue-coated soldiers down. The HMG opened up again, sending bullets stitching into the smoke, preventing more enemy troops from reinforcement the front.

Cracks of thunder and lightning ripple out from the rear of the Goldrose lines, scorching armor and shields, and the shock rupturing hearts and cooking organs.

Suddenly a giant fireball slams into the bunker on the left, setting the whole structure into flames, dancing figures wreath in flames could be seen running out before collapsing to the ground.

"Enemy mages!" The Goldrose soldiers yelled as dozens of fireballs rained into their lines.

The smoke from earlier had dissipated, revealing the enemy force behind. The magic barrier was destroyed by the simple use of the smoke, laced with magic energy which slowly drained the barrier allowing the Empire mages to cast their spells.

Pike narrowed his eyes as he saw the havoc caused by the fireballs. Fuck magic, this is ridiculous. He wasn't prepared for that, even as he saw what wonders magic can do from the Goldie mages.

"Drake! You better blow those S.O.B mages to hell now!" Pike yells into his comms, "All units are to spread out! The enemy has area effect weapons! Show them what the United Nations of Man Navy and Marines are made of!"

"HOORAH!"

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