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The New World, New Kingdom of Mecca, 40 km away from City of Hensink

Four squares of infantry paused at the peak of the hill that looked down to a large stretch of abandoned fields. The fertile land was once rich with grain fields but now laid abandoned after the war with the Empire. Wild grasses and weeds had sprung up to almost the height of a small child in the fields. Several run down sheds and the remains of farmhouses dotted the land here and there.

Just beyond the overgrown fields, a mass of tiny red armoured figures could be seen marching slowly forward. Red flags fluttered in the wind and snatches of singing could be heard, brought by the wind. The General of the Army of Mecca sat on his war dragon and watched the marching enemy through a farseeing spell.

"These... enemy does not seem that impressive..." He said to his staff officers. "I wonder where did they come from?"

"Lord General, we only received word of their... invasion just a week ago!" One of his aides reported. "No one knew where they came from but the refugees that reported this... said they came out from the skies!"

"The skies?" The General frowned. "Like that demon possessed United Nations?"

"W- We do not know..." The aide replied. "But the city of Hensink was said to fall within a day under their hands..."

"Could they be from the United Nations?" One of the General's officers said. "Could they be trying to take over the entire world... Just like what the Empire tried to do?"

The General frowned as he narrowed his eyes in thought. "Whatever the case is, what we need to do now are those soldiers in red bearing down on us! Once we defeated them... We will know the truth!"

"Yes, my Lord!" His officers echoed.

"Good!" The General replied and started giving orders. "Have the foot soldiers hold the centre! Have the spears from on both flanks!"

"Seeing they have no form of cavalry... I want the White Riders to form on the left flank! You take your Purple Riders to the right flank!" He ordered his cavalry commanders. "Keep your cavalry hidden behind the hill and wait for the command to circle out from the hillside and hit the enemy at its flanks!"

The cavalry commanders bowed and headed off to their men with their orders. "Archers to form behind the centre. I want the archers to rain arrows down on them when they get in range!"

"Bring the dragon cannons forward!" He ordered next. "They can fire once the enemy is in range!"

Once the orders were given, the soldiers marched to their positions, following flag bearers and yelled commands from sergeants and officers. Two dragon cannons, made from a hollowed out tree trunk secured by metal bands were wheeled forward in a carriage. The muzzle of the cannon had a metal muzzle piece depicting a dragon head with its jaws wide open that reinforced the wood together.

The gunners started unloaded cannonballs made out of stone from the wagons and stacked them up on the side before they started loading the cannons made out of wood. Sacks of black powder were shoved down the muzzle followed by a stone ball and the gunners used a crude wire sight as guidance for the cannons.

The introduction of the wooden cannons was given by a wandering Sage and the new King of the New Kingdom of Mecca quickly embraced the idea due to the similarities with the rumours of the United Nation's thunder sticks.

Wood was used as iron was much needed resource. The New Kingdom of Mecca could not spare much iron, but wood and stone were plentiful and easily available and cheap, despite the high chance of the cannons breaking after a few shots. Now two of these dragon cannons were deployed to fight against a strange invader and they started the battle with a roar like a dragon.

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The Chief Paladin marched and sang hymns alongside his men whose spirits were high. The infidel army on the hilltop remained unmoving and the Chief Paladin smiled, thinking those infidels thought they had the advantage just by taking the high ground? Soon they will find out the folly of their ignorance!

"Advance! Show those lawless scum how Great the Judge is! For Justice!" He encouraged his men when suddenly two small clouds of smoke appeared over the hilltop followed by a crack of thunder.

A shrill whistle cut through the air and suddenly several men in the front screamed they were cut down by a ball which bounced into the air before landing down among the soldiers again. Yet the advancing Paladins did not falter in their steps, nor even their singing of the hymns even when their comrades went down screaming with a missing body part.

They stepped over the dead and wounded and continue marching towards the hill where the infidel army stood. Redeemer priests marched behind the army and they gave their blessings to the fallen while acolytes dragged the wounded away to the healers.

"Strange kind of cannon they have..." The Chief Paladin commented as he watched the pencil line trajectory of the shots hitting the fields and ploughing through the tall grass before bouncing into his men. "Doesn't seem like they use steam..."

"Order the men to spread out!" He commanded his subordinates. "Don't bunch up!"

"Yes Chief," His subordinates replied. "Their cannons are noisier and fire slower... And if our troops spread out thinly... they are not as effective as ours!"

"Than shall we show them the Glory of the Judgement?" The Chief Paladin gave a bloodthirsty grin. "Deploy the steam bombards!"

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The men in thick leather aprons dropped the contents of their bags down. Short pipes were screwed together tightly and wrapped with leather to prevent leakage. A simple metal 'A' frame provides support for the tube and a small air canister containing compressed steam will be installed at the bottom of the tube.

An oil filled mushroom shaped projectile was then slotted into the muzzle and twisted to fit snuggly. Each canister has enough steam to fire three projectiles before needing to be replaced. The steam bombards were similar to the steam cannons except it was smaller and man portable, and was fired at a high angle. It was a relatively short ranged weapon, but it was lightweight and deadly, especially against troops hiding behind fortifications, as the projectiles can arc over them.

The canisters used to power the weapon was standardised across the Protectorate's forces. The canisters for the steam lancers were the same and they could be refilled on the battlefield by teams of steam masters who operated portable boilers.

The portable boiler was divided into two parts, the bottom part was like a stove with a grill opening where fuel was placed and burnt. The upper part was a water tank and once the water was boiled, a leather hose channelled the steam to another barrel that stored the steam with the help of compressing magic.

To provide enough water to fuel the steam boilers, teams of water wagons had to follow behind in a safe distance or they had to deploy near water sources. The ammunition crew of the steam bombards each carried two canisters of steam and six projectiles on their back. Once the bombards were set up, they will drop their load and run back to the rear to collect more canisters of steam and projectiles.

"FIRE!" The order was called out and the weapon crews yanked the lanyards of the bombards, releasing the pent up steam which forced the projectiles out of the spigots. The mushroom shaped projectile wobbled in the air and as it reached the apex of its flight, gravity pulled it back down, the heavy head of the projectile pointing downwards as it dropped down.

Upon impact with the ground, the mushroom head cracked and the fire rune etched on its head burst into flames, violently igniting the flammable oil that spilt out and a ball of flame and smoke rose up.

-----

The loud whoosh of flames made the Meccan General jerked his head in surprise. "What is that?"

"Reporting!" A messenger suddenly appeared just as the General was wondering what was happening. "The enemy is using some kind of fireball spell or weapon and is hitting our centre!"

"Impossible!" The General stood up on his stirrups as he surveyed the enemy formation. "We are still beyond the range of the mages! And they do not have any ballistas or siege weapons!"

Several more fireballs erupted amongst the troops, making the men panic as they retreated away from the flames and burning men. Order started to break down and the officers and sergeants started chiding the soldiers to get back in formation.

The General cursed and quickly gave new commands, "All infantry to advance at double time! Close with the enemy! Now!"

His dragon cannons were no longer effective as the enemy had spread out and the opportunity to send his cavalry out to trample and harass the spread out enemy has passed when they started hitting his packed infantry with fireballs.

He wanted to force the enemy to spread their formation to avoid the dragon cannons' fire so that he can dispatch his cavalry to hit them while his infantry held the lines. The enemy either has to form a square to fend off the cavalry which made them juicy targets for the dragons or allow the cavalry to slash into their lines.

He did not expect the enemy to start tossing fireballs at a range that no mage could ever do so. Now he has no choice but to send his infantry forward while holding back his cavalry till the infantry has engaged the enemy.

He cursed again as his plans were foiled by the unexpected attack and he prayed that the opposing commander does not have more hidden surprises up his sleeves!

-----

"PALADINS..... HALT!" The order rolled down the line. "PRESENT!"

The line came to a halt and shields slammed down into the earth and steam lances were braced against the lance rest on their shields. The infidel mob were rushing down the gentle slope in a disorderly manner as balls of flames burst randomly at their rear.

"STEADY... STEADY..."

The distance shortened rapidly as the infidel mob broke into a headlong charge and screaming some heathens war cry. The hymns sang by the choir at the rear grew louder, steeling the paladins' resolve and nerves.

"FIREEE!"

The front row erupted with loud hisses and gusts of steam. Almost instantly, the charging and screaming infidels toppled over as wooden stakes slammed into them, causing the charge to slow down. The front row paladins rotated ninety degrees on the spot, allowing the second row of paladins to step through the gaps.

"PRESENT!"

"... FIREEE!"

Another series of loud hisses and the infidels' charge faltered. "PALADINS... CHARGEEE!"

"FOR THE JUDGEMENT!" The paladins roared out as they charged forward. They slammed into the disordered infidel mob whose morale has fallen after taking two volley fire. The infidel mob met the Protectorate's Paladins half heartedly and the Paladins impaled the screaming men with their steam lances. "KILL THE LAWLESS! KILL!"

The Chief Paladin expertly wielded his steam lance like a mace, smashing faces and helmets. Wounds inflicted on him were ignored as his faith in the Judge was strong, making him seemed like a demon from hell by the infidels. He waddled into the thick of the action, stabbing and slamming his way through the infidels while singing together with his men.

"Our Creator,

Who art in Heaven. Amen!

Our Creator,

Hallowed be thy name.

Give us this day our daily bread,

To Judge us of our sins,

As we absolve others,

Who trespass against us,

Lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one forever.

Thy Judgement has come, thy will be done

On Sinners and Disbelievers as it is in Heaven."

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A note from neo Koh

Advance chapters are available on Pat-reon
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My grandma had just passed away on the night of July the 8th. From holding a deathwatch, to her passing, settling her wake and finally her cremation... it had been a pretty tough couple of weeks for me... Feeling v sad still...


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neo Koh

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