Northern Front, 'The Baiting Line', Marine First Battalion, 'A' Company

All along the line of defensive works, Marines slept with their helmets and gear on. The land between the Marines and Imperials were pockmarked with craters and bodies. The once waist tall wild grasses were flattened and charred from spells and explosives. The Marines named the land between the two forces as the Baiting Line, for once the Imperials crossed an imaginary line, the Marines will attempt to bait the Imperialsin and hit them with massed artillery fire.

Surprisingly, the First Imperial Army remained steadfast and its men held their discipline, while its auxiliary troops' morale had long broken from the punishing fire of the artillery strikes. The Imperials had retreated for the third time in good order while the Marines cheered. And now, the Marines were stirring up as the skies slowly brightened up, signaling for another attack soon.

"New orders!" The platoon Sergeant dropped down into Slow's fighting pit. "We are gonna stage a retreat! So pack up your essentials and left the rest behind!"

"Huh?" Slow scratched his head. "So we are running?"

"Yes," The Sergeant nodded as he waved over a couple of guys. "A fake one. The demo boys will be rigging up the whole place with explosives and mines! So get ready!"

"We gonna stand on those boom booms?" Slow's beady eyes enlarged in surprise as he watched a couple of combat engineers shoved earth out from the floor of his fortified position while another stacked crates marked with white bold letters 'DANGER! HIGH EXPLOSIVES!' on the side.

"Yes!" The Sergeant grinned. "Don't worry, soldier! Nothing a good dose of high explosive can't solve!"

"But... Sarge!" Slow looked worriedly at the pile of explosives being planted around the area. "What happens if one of those fireballs land here?"

"That's why we are baiting them to close the Baiting Line!" The Sergeant replied. "Once they close the line we give them a good volley and we run!"

"We gonna let them think our weapons are exhausted and let them chase us!" The Sergeant explained while those nearby all listened attentively. "We will stop the artillery fire and let them think we ran out of ammo. Once they reach our lines, we will drop everything on them."

"And if they take cover in our defensives," The Sergeant gave an evil smile and patted the crates of explosives. "Well... like I said. Nothing a good dose of explosive can't solve!"

"So, suck it up!" The Sergeant said. "These babies won't hurt you! Just remember to run as fast as you can to the fall back lines the engineers are building!"

"Fark..." Slow sighed as the Sergeant walked off down the lines. He looked at the engineers carefully burying the explosives with soil and hiding the detonation wire. "You sure this won't go boom?"

The combat engineer looked up and gave a shrug. "It shouldn't... just don't let it catch a fireball or meteor spell!"

"Oh, Slow no like this..."


First Imperial Army

The Lord General of the First Army watched as his legions formed up again for another attack on the rebels. The auxiliary forces consisting of slaves and penal legions were being whipped into positions before the legions. For the past few attacks, he had used the slaves and penal legions as probes, letting them tank all the damage while his hardened troops observed the enemy.

He had noticed the casting rate of those screaming demon spells that burst in the air had lessened in the previous attack and he nodded to himself, thinking that the rebel mages shouldn't have the ability to constantly cast those spells with rest.

Now, it was time for an all out attack. With the mountains on the rebel's left, the Forest with its deadly monsters at their rear and the order of Knights cutting off the way to the city. Those rebels will be crushed by the end of the day!

He had his veteran legions, all six of them arranged in two columns, one on each flank. In the middle, were the slaves and penal legions, a total of five legions, each legion roughly consisted of ten thousand bodies. At the rear of the main formation, supporting the slaves and penal legions were the conscripted troops consisting of another two legions.

He had no cavalry or Knights with him as he sent them all on a mission to cut off the city and the rebel forces before him. His dragons were badly mauled during the first few encounters by the rebels' strange demon cursed fliers.

The weapons of the rebels were also baffling to him, but from experience, he decided to switch his tactics to dealing with a ranged enemy. The thunder weapons were like crossbows, but many more times deadlier and had further range.

To deal with that, he can only do two things. One was to close as fast as possible and let the useless slaves and scum absorb the attacks while letting his veteran troops avoid the brunt of the attacks.

Once the rebels had deleted their spells and thunder weapons, that was when his veterans' legions will hit the enemy lines. Too bad, the General thought. His dragons were totally ineffective, if not, he will use his dragons to wreak havoc behind the rebels' rear.

"My Lord!" An aide stood respectfully behind the General. "The men have formed up and are ready!"

The General nodded and turned to his commanders, "Order the first wave to attack! But no drums or trumpets! We want to keep the rebels unaware as long as we could for the first wave! Remember! Keep the men spread out in groups! The most important thing is speed! Speed!"

His commanders nodded and left to their posts. Soon banners and flags were waved and thousands and thousands of soldiers started marching. Two slaves and penal legions marched forward before the rest. Once they were roughly three hundred paces away, the remaining slave and penal legions started marching.

The sight of thousands of men marching off into battle made the General smile with excitement. He mounted his land dragon and urged his mount forward till he arrived at the edge of the forest when the battlefield spread out before his eyes.

The slave and penal legions once they had left the cover of the forest, they quickened their pace, moving at double time to traverse the battlefield and close to the enemy. Almost immediately, the cursed screams came from the skies and thick black smoke erupted among the soldiers.

Any troops that were bracken by the smoke, fell like broken toy soldiers. There were barely any magic barriers nor mages among the slaves and penal legions. They could only soak up the damage with blood and bodies as they advanced bravely under the punishing spellfire.

Soon, the deadly screaming spells lessened before stopping completely, making the General smile. He turned to his aide and said. "It's time! Order and all out attack! All legions to charge! Any soldier who brings me the head of the enemy commanders will earn a hundred gold crowns from me!"

Horns and trumpets blew loudly as the rest of the First Army readied themselves for the charge. They appeared out of the forest and advanced like a checkerboard across the battlefield littered with dead. The once feared screaming spells of the rebels were missing, making the Imperial soldiers more confidant as they double time across the battleground.

The first wave of legions soon appeared within range of the rebels' thunder weapons. The General using a far sight spell could hear the rumble of thunder and see the spell flashes along the line. Men suddenly clenched their bodies and jerked before falling down. He could see the first wave legion commanders yelling and shortly after he heard the roar of a charge coming from thousands of mouths in the front.

The first wave legions charged and fell as the rebels' fearsome thunder weapons rumbled and spit flames at them. The General smiled as it was going according to plan. The first wave of slaves and penal legions were soaking up all the damages and depleting the rebel's spell power while his true punch was coming into range.

He shook his head as he was clusters of men from the slave and penal legions breaking off the attack, and running for their lives. Still, he had anticipated that the first wave's morale will break, but the second wave will soon hit the lines before his veterans come in.

He suddenly smiled when he saw black figures from the rebel lines starting to retreat. One by one, the rebels abandoned their lines before the tickle of retreat turned into a flood. "Order the legions to advance with all haste! Destroy the retreating rebels! We must destroy this force once and for all or they will be a thorn in our rear!"

More signal horns and trumpets blew, signaling to the commanders in the front to move with more haste. "Come!" The General said to his aides and guards. "We shall advance to the front and see how the enemy is routed!"

As the General and his retinue crossed the battlefield, he frowned when the roars of thunder constantly grew louder and longer. His mount soon climbed up the abandoned rebel defense lines and he saw the downside of the slope. Thousands of his soldiers were mired with some kind of obstacles which made the troops bunched up together.

"NO!" The General stared in horror at the troops and realized that he was tricked. "Order the troops to scatter! DO NOT BUNCH UP!"

Just as he finished his orders, the screams of spells came overhead and before his very eyes, his men were shrouded in explosions. "NOOO! RETREAT! ORDER THE TROOPS TO PULL BACK! Tell them to take cover in the tunnels!"

His aide frantically blew the signal horns to order the troops to retreat. Some of the legions heard the orders and fell back. Other legions deafened by the sudden spell barrage tried their best to weather the deadly spells with magic barriers or pure bodies while trying to break through the sharp metal ropes that blocked their way.

"Back! Back!" The General roared furiously at the surrounding men. "Get into the tunnels!"

He had noticed the enemy spells were being cast in such a way that it moves up the land! How clever, he thought as he leaped off his mount and into one of the many dug tunnels and holes that the rebels used as a defensive position. He couldn't outrun the spell and he did not want to risk testing if his mage escorts could protect him.

He ducked into a hole dug into the side of the tunnels and ordered the mages to cast a protective barrier above them while he cast an illumination spell to see in the dark. He immediately noticed the smell of sweat and unwashed bodies in the tight confines of the hole.

"Tell the men to hold in the tunnels! I cannot believe that the enemy has so much mana reserves to keep casting those spells!" He said to his aides who nodded and bravely ventured out of the underground cover to relay his orders.

The earth shook wildly as the rebels' screaming spell landed above them. The magic barriers held and there was only a slight trickle of earth raining from the earthen roof. The General sighed, thinking that he got outplayed by the enemy. He half crouch on the low roofed chamber and noticed the earth seemed to be disturbed next to his sabaton.

He reached down with one gauntleted hand and swept the loose soil away. His metal gauntlets suddenly hit something hard under the soil and it roused his curiosity. He dug harder and revealed what seemed to be a wooden box.

He swept as much of the soil away from the box and frowned as he tried to understand the bold white runes writing on the side of the box.

"What in heavens is this?" He asked but none of his retinues could answer him. "You, dig it up for me to see!"

"Yes, Lord!" One of his Life Guards bent down and started digging the box with his hands. Once more of the box was exposed, the side with the white runes could be seen more clearly.


A note from neo Koh

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