"FIRE IN THE HOLE!" The warning was echoed down the Marines line. "FIRE IN THE HOLE!"
Seconds later, the abandoned fortifications that the Marines used sweat and blood to construct and defend disappeared in a series of explosions that eclipsed the ongoing artillery barrage. The top of the ridge literally disappeared, as the buried explosives sent tons of dirt flying into the air.
The explosion caught the majority of the First Imperial Army by surprise, but then again, many died without even knowing what happened. Those lucky enough to be not caught in the trap could only stare with dumbstruck horror at the sudden eruption of the earth.
Many fell to their knees in prayers as they thought the Gods of the Earth were somehow angered while others ran away screaming in terror. The trap also killed most of the First Imperial Army senior commanding officers leaving the surviving troops leaderless. This crippled the First Imperial Army badly as the troops were confused by conflicting orders.
On the other hand, the Marines were waiting for their chance. The supporting artillery fire switched their fire pattern to creeping barrage and the orders for the Marines to advance came.
Slow walked carefully over the dead and laid down fire with his MG - 1 held casually in his hand. On his other hand, he held a small axe covered in gore. On his left and right were other members of his section, armed with the new M4 Magelocks assault rifles. The Marines loaded the 30 round box magazines with 25 rounds instead as the springs of the new box magazine were not very reliable and would occasionally fail to load the rounds into the rifle if filled with 30 rounds.
The magazines were intended to be disposable items but due to storages and needs, the Marine quartermasters and armourers tend to reuse the magazines, thus causing the springs to weaken. Thus the Marines learned to just load 25 rounds into the magazines which extended the life of the magazines.
Slow stepped over a moving body and toss down his axe down, cutting off the life of the wounded Imperial before he sprayed a burst at a small group of Imperial hurdled inside a magic barrier. The bullet impacts sprayed sparks all over and made the magic barrier glow. The small display of fireworks drew the attention of the nearby Marines and they fired and advanced.
Slow dug out his buried axe from the dead Imperial and watched as his platoon mates fired single shots at the magic barrier in a steady rhythm. The magic barrier glowed frantically under the steady barrage of lead and the small group of Imperials could only watch on desperately as the barrier got depleted.
Finally, with a loud pop, the magic barrier overloaded and the mage screamed as he suffered from the magic backlash. He flopped down in the middle of the ring of Imperial shields. The Imperials soldiers bravely yelled out a challenge and charged at the Marines, only to be gunned down before they took two steps.
"Dumb bastards!" The Marine next to Slow spat on the ground. "They could have surrendered."
"Alright, boys!" Slow turned and saw their platoon leader call out from the rear. "Mop up the area! We got the Blue Boys on the run!"
Slow cheered along with the rest and continue their sweep, clearing off pockets of remaining Imperials. By the end of the day, the First Imperial Army had ceased to exist.
First Imperial Army, Order of the Shadows, Hidden Camp
The Joker sat with his legs crossed as he played around with the strange thunder stick. Around him laid parts of several dissembled thunder sticks. "Interesting, interesting..."
"What is interesting?" Thos the Knight with the full helm walked over with a flagon of wine. "Here."
"Smell this," The Joker tossed a metal barrel over to Thos. "The rotten eggs smell is sulfur!"
"The stuff of demons," Thos nodded as he dropped the barrel together with the other bits and pieces.
"Haha," The Joker laughed and said, "Means we are so screwed!"
"Why?" Thos took a seat and push up his face plate till only his mouth was exposed and took a sip from his flagon.
"If a bunch of peasants armed with these thunder sticks can kill us, Knights, from a distance of further than a crossbow," The Joker smilingly said. "What do you think demons armed with these weapons can do?"
"Damnation!" Thos slapped his faceplate down. "You are right!"
"Also, if peasants can kill us so easily with these," The Joker continued. "Do you think the people will still fear us any more?"
"No!" Thos nodded and said. "You are right again! This is bad news!"
"Well, not entirely," The Joker added. "There are several ways to deal with this."
"One, crush the rebellion so hard that no one will ever dare to raise up against us ever again," The Joker grinned. "Second, we force out the secrets of making these thunder sticks from the rebels and we crash them."
"Or thirdly, crush the rebels and find the demons behind them," The Joker laughed. "Maybe we can make out some deal with the demons? Hahaha!"
"Hmmm," Thos sighed. "So either way we will just crush the rebels..."
"Hahahahaaha! Yes!" The Joker laughed again. "So did those scum talk yet?"
Thos nodded and he bent down to a pile of discarded poaches and took out a shiny golden tube. "They say for the 'rite fles' to work, you need to load this inside."
"Hmmm," The Joker took the shiny tube and rolled it in his finger. "What exquisite craftsmanship!"
"You think our craftsmen have this level of skill?" The Joker asked.
"Hard to tell," Thos gave a shrug. "Maybe?"
"No..." The Joker sighed dramatically. "You should go out more and look around!"
"Our craftsmen can't even make something like this so easily..." The Joker stood up and kicked the pile of gear. "And these rebels have so many of these... How do you think they could have gotten them made?"
Thos gave a shrug again.
"That's is why we need to find out the secrets of these weapons!" The Joker said. "Every part here was made with perfection and they are all identical to each other! Which of our craftsmen has such ability?"
"None!" The Joker spread out both hands. "Now bring me the prisoners."
Thos gave a nod and lumbered off. Not long later, he returned with two bounded up rebels. Both rebels looked worse for wear, with various injuries on their faces. The rest of the Knights seeing a good show came over to watch and gathered around. Thos kicked their knees and growled. "Kneel!"
The Joker took out a dagger and sliced the ropes of the two rebels and smiled, "I am gonna give you two a chance of a lifetime!"
"Whoever can kill the other with the 'rite fles' get released!" The Joker's smile grew wider. "And the game starts now!"
Both rebels stared at each other in surprise but one of them acted. He bent down and grabbed one of the rifles from the ground and worked the bolt rapidly and squeezed the trigger. But there was just a snap of the bolt and he looked down his rifle in surprise.
The other rebel with a cut over his forehead threw himself down to the other rifle and worked the bolt to check the chamber. He quickly looked around and saw the pile of load bearing gear on the side. He ran over and started digging into the pouches just as the first rebel who acted did the same.
The wounded rebel pulled out a stripper of five rounds and slapped it into the chamber well as fast as he could. He slammed the bolt forward and fired the rifle from a standing hip position. A thick smelly cloud of smoke burst out and the other rebel was thrown backwards from the blast.
The surrounding Knights roared with laughter and excitement at seeing death. Even the Joker's smile went wider. He clapped his hands and waved away the lingering gun smoke. "Good work!"
The Joker had observed both rebels' actions in using the 'rile fle'. The surviving rebel dropped the rifle and said, "As per your promise, I am free to go, yes?"
"Yes, yes!" The Joker nodded and waved his hands, which the Knights opened up a way for the rebel to leave. The rebel looked around him nervously and quickly ran off before the Joker changed his mind. He has yet to take five steps when a flash of silver slammed into his back.
"YOU!?" The rebel gasped in pain and tried to reach behind his back to the dagger hilt protruding out from his back when another dagger slammed into the back of his neck and the rebel, lifeless, flopped face down.
"I did say you can leave, but I didn't say alive or dead! Hahahaha," The rest of the Knights laughed together with the Joker's joke. "Alright, disperse! Fun is over! Go do your stuff!"
The Joker bent down and picked up the discarded rifle and worked the bolt exactly like what the rebel had done and a shiny tube spun out followed by a whiff of rotten eggs. He pushed the bolt forward again rested the stock against his shoulder and tracked the barrel of the rifle around, pausing at his beast slave kneeling on the side.
The beast slave trembled with fear when she saw her Master aiming that dreadful weapon at her and she cowered down. The Joker grinned and squeezed the trigger and felt a powerful kick against his shoulder while the loud thunderous roar of the rifle rang in his ears.
The tree trunk behind the cowering beast slave exploded as the heavy lead bullet slammed into the tree. The Joker coughed and waved the gun smoke away and strolled forward to check the effects of his shot.
"Wow!" He gave a laugh. "This is amazing!"
The Joker poked his finger into the smoking hole in the tree trunk and dug out a still hot piece of metal. "This is fun!"
After that, he continued to shoot until the rifle ran dry. He recalled that the rebels had placed the shiny tubes into the weapon and he repeated their actions using his memory. After that, he continued to fire at the tree trunks until he was satisfied.
He tossed the weapon to Thos and said, "Capture more of these weapons on our next attack! And more of those shiny bolts which are like the ammunition of crossbows! But with more power!"
"Send a two sets of the weapons and those golden bolts back to the Order!" The Joker ordered. "I want the Order's Magisters to find out what and how they worked!"
Thor nodded and left to carry out his orders. The Joker bent over the cowering beastman slave and said, "Don't worry! I won't kill you so easily! You have yet to be broken! Hahahahaa!"
He walked back to the camp and gestured to the Knights in Training. The squires quickly ran over to his bidding. "Yes? My Lord?"
"Go remove all the golden bolts from the pile of gear there," The Joker pointed. He showed the youngsters the hollowed tube and said, "Put this to one pile and the other into another! And count them!"
"Yes! My Lord!" The squires quickly jumped to action and started removing the shiny bolts from the pouches. In the end, the squires gathered a total of sixty seven golden bolts and ten empty bolts.
The Joker nodded and rolled one of the loose golden bolts in his fingers and said to the squires. "Call for a war gathering!"
"Hehehe... it's time to go steal more of these golden bolts and 'rile fles'." The Joker rubbed his hands. "I am sure those rebels won't be expecting these weapons to be used back against them! Heheheh!"
"This is going to be so fun!"