Young Merck was seriously terrified. Just a few weeks back, he was just a normal person, having a normal life as the son of a farmer. He toiled the grain fields diligently with his other brothers and sisters day in day out.
Life was hard but peaceful and he had no complaints. Taxes, as usual, were high but still, they had just enough left over for the winter months as long as they do not indulge.
Suddenly his whole changed when the soldiers arrived with the local magistrate in his shiny carriage. The magistrate gathered all the families at the village square and made a proclamation, stating that it was their duty to serve their Lord and Master when he called for them.
Each family was to send at least one abled man, depending on the number of males, to the city to answer the call of their Lord. Incentives were given that for each male that answered the call will be awarded one gold crown and upon return, another gold crown will be awarded.
Merck had four younger brothers and two sisters whom they looked after their single mother living in a simple hut and caring for the small parcel of land that their late father owned.
Being the eldest male in the family, Merck made the decision and stepped forward to answer his Lord's call. Having a gold crown will enable his younger siblings and mother to live comfortably for a few years!
The next few days he was thrust into a world he had never experienced before. The training was harsh, brutal and surprisingly short.
He was given a wooden pole and together with hundreds other men of all ages, they practiced march in step together to commands, and followed the call of their sergeants and officers.
Merck was disappointed as he had envisioned that he would be cladded in shiny armor, with a sword and shield of his own and looking heroic and dashing. But in reality, they only practiced stabbing together in a formation with poles before they were marched off and given long spears.
Leather armor and helms were issued but the amount was barely enough for everyone. Fights broke out and the stronger and larger men took the best of the armor while leaving behind the lower quality to the rest to fight over.
Merck's body was lean and tough, having worked in the fields all his life. He managed to grab a suit of leather armor that was slightly oversized to his still growing body and while doing so, he suffered a bruised eye for his troubles.
But to him, it was worth it. At night, while most of the camp was asleep, he painstakingly poked holes and threaded strips of leather into his armor to make it more fitting for his lean frame.
The days that followed were an adventure that he knew he could entertain his siblings when he returned or even his children in the future! They were informed that they were to march against a barbaric enemy, that had kidnapped the Lord's daughter!
The men filled with anger and heroic thoughts cried out that they will save the Princess! Even Merck felt like he was summoned to be the hero to save the princess from evil and swore he will save the Princess at all cost! He even envisioned himself saving the Princess and her being betrothed to him for his heroic efforts!
He and his company of spearmen were formed into a company named, the Nineteen Spear. There were over a thousand men in the company and they boarded a river barge and sailed down the river.
They had to take turns working the oars but to him, it was an easy chore and soon they arrived at their destination a few other barges together. They set off on another long march while bearing loads of supplies before they set up camp.
That was when Merck first laid his eyes on the Black Scorpions and he was in awe of them immediately.
The soldiers wore a black carapace like plate mail that covered almost every part of their bodies. Full faced helms covered their faces, giving them a deadly air of mystery and danger while a motif of a twin tail scorpion was embossed on their chest.
Empowered by such strong looking soldiers, Merck felt like he was invincible and they won't lose at all. But as fate had it, the first pre dawn attack left the Imperial army reeling back in fear and shock at the powers of the enemy that stole the Princess of the Rothschild.
His company had retreated and he ran blindly in fear and before long, someone came and dragged them all together. He found out that more than half his original company were either dead or missing when they gathered under the Nineteen Spear's company banner.
Merck's company were rotated out of the frontlines as they waited for replacements while other fresh companies were thrown at the enemy only to be beaten back in defeat.
Now, formed into a massive column, with fifty ranks across and two hundred men deep, he marched packed tightly together as every man wanted to be in the middle of the formation. The closeness of each man gave them the courage to face the cursed enemy!
Everyone felt safe when he was squeezed between so many people and the beating of the drums gave Merck courage to take a step forward while the glow of the multi layered magic barrier covered them.
Merck's bravely only lasted until the unearthly screams that came from the skies. Immediately, everyone paused and braced themselves, some praying to their gods while others raised their shields to cover their heads.
Loud thunderous flashes and smoke appeared overhead and the magic barrier groaned and appeared to buckle as the enemy's deadly magic wreaked havoc before they could even see them!
Merck felt his legs weakened and could barely move. Roars as orders and commands came from the Officers on mounted war dragons who berated the men and whipped them, forcing them to advance.
"MOVE! MOVE! KEEP MOVING OR YOU DIE!"
The frightened men pushed and shoved at each other as the sergeants forced the entire column to advance with threats of death for any deserter.
Merck could only be helplessly carried forward by the masses as the men quickened their footsteps, hoping to close in with the enemy and get out of the killing magic.
But as they approached closer to the enemy lines, bright shear bolts of magic hammered against their magic barrier. Merck briefly saw one of the Battle Mages in their blue long coats stumbled down with blood coming out of his orifices before disappearing under the mad rush forward.
Merck scrambled madly to keep on his feet as he did not want to be like trampled to death like that Mage he saw. He gripped the person in front of him for support and keep pace with the crowd trying best to breath as the air around him turned hot, and suffocating.
"KEEP IT UP! WE ARE NEARLY THERE!"
As the men heard the cry, their morale rosed and they cheered, thinking that they survived the march across hell. Suddenly, the column appeared to hit a wall as the men in front slammed to a halt.
Merck was somewhat in the forward third of the column and couldn't see what was happening and he could only follow the rest in shoving and pushing the men in front of them forward to prevent from being crushed by the men behind.
"MOVE! DON'T STOP! KEEP MOVING!!!"
Little did he knew that the men in front had hit the barrier of barbwires that hampered their movements. The coils of razor wire hooked onto the clothes of the Imperial soldiers and sliced any unprotected flesh.
The men in the first few rows screamed as the weight of the entire marching column shoved them face down into the barb wires and booted feet crashed their lives out.
More and more soldiers tripped and soon the entire column came to a standstill as the men in front jammed up the entire attacking column.
UN Forward Trench Alpha Two
"Oh, those poor bastards!" Mills grinned not feeling sorry at all. "FUCK THEM UP!"
He watched the steady approach of a column of bodies which mortars and machine gun fire punished it. The Imperials seemed to have learned from their earlier assaults and had grouped their troops into a battering ram made up of bodies.
Mills had to admit that the old man of the Rothschild had a good mind, at least in regards to changing his tactics. Instead of having squares of marching men moving like a chessboard and protected by magic shields, he changed his tactics into making a single battering ram of troops.
Now, half a dozen such columns were fast approaching their forward lines with beefed up magic shields that managed to protect most of the Imperial troops from mortars and gunfire.
But now, the column that was aiming for Mill's trench was struck at the second row of barb wires which was deployed at the hundred meter mark. There were three layers of barb wires protecting the approaches to the trenches, each placed at fifty meters intervals.
"I WAN AIMED SHOTS!" Mills roared over the din of the machine guns. "GIVE THEM OUR LOVEEEE!"
RPGs screamed out from their tubes and hammered the stalled Imperial column, crashing their shields and exposing some of the stunned soldiers.
Rifles barked as the Marines took careful aim and gunned down any Imperial out of cover. The entire column appeared to shake as the Imperial troops started to lose confidence.
Finally, the multi layer magic barrier dome protecting the entire column unable to hold up against the punishing firepower of the Marines, appeared to shimmer brightly before popping loudly and dissipating into sparkly light motes in the air.
The entire column reeled back from the sudden loss of their magical protection and bullets started finding flesh and armor.
Mills gave a bloodthirsty grinned as he sighted his rifle onto an Imperial Officer on a giant alligator raptor like mount and squeezed the trigger, watching his round toppling the Imperial over and the war dragon ran away, dragging the lifeless body with one leg was still trapped in the stirrups.
Merck stared wild eyed at the sky when he heard the strange popping sound and felt every strand of his hair raising. The shimmering dome over their heads was gone!
Many others paused and came to the realization and they turned to flee while others more level headed spread out from the column and charged the enemy, knowing that if they ran back, they would fall victim to the killing magic coming from the skies.
Merck torn between two sides and finally decided to charge at the enemy, thinking that it is safer than running across the death zone again.
An Officer screamed at the men to advance but he slowly jerked back, clutching his chest as he toppled off his mount and the spooked creature dashed off across the fields.
Merck screamed his fear out and he ran, following the broad back of his fellow soldier before him. He gripped his spear shaft tightly and ran with the sharp tip pointing forward as they were trained.
He kept his eyes on the back of the soldier in front of his when suddenly a dark red flower blossomed from his back and Merck felt something punched him hard in his gut.
He stumbled to a halt and looked down, seeing a dark stain growing from his hemp trousers. He touched the wet material and his fingers came away red.
Merck groaned and toppled over as he lost all strength in his body. His vision slowly darkened and he stared limply at the blue skies and suddenly, he saw his family smiling in the drifting clouds.
"I'm... coming... home..."