My legs were aching.
The other members of my regiment probably had the same sentiments. We fought bravely on the plains near the Lutecean border, but our firepower was not enough against the tactics of the Imperial Lutecean Army, or what they referred to as the Grande Armée. The cries of “Vive l’empereur!” never seemed to stop, which had an effect on the morale of our army. After watching many of my comrades get slaughtered in the front lines, we received orders from headquarters to fall back, but once the infamous Lutecean dragoons appeared to our left flank, it quickly turned into a rout instead of an organized retreat.
The 87th Royal Windenburg Militia Corps proudly marched into battle with 120 men, but it was reduced to around a dozen soldiers hiding in the woods. Our other allies are either dead or have gone missing. We all went at a snail’s pace because of fatigue, hunger, and the cold weather. Lieutenant Weber, the only high-ranking officer left curses as he swats a fly while a young ensign complains about losing one of his boots.
“Bonifacio! Corporal Bonifacio!” the lieutenant calls my attention.
“Yes sir!” I become alert all of a sudden, not used to receiving direct orders from the lieutenant since all of our sergeants were killed.
“Take Fischer and Schneider with you to scout the hill that can be seen from here.” the lieutenant says as he collapses his little telescope. “We’ll follow you slowly from behind. Just make sure there aren’t any Luteceans ahead. And for goodness’ sake, Pohl! Stop your bloody whining!” he turns to the young ensign who has blisters on his right foot.
I nod with obedience and take the two men with me while a private still bearing our standard salutes us.
Once ahead of the lieutenant and the few remaining members of our regiment, Fischer starts complaining about things.
“This war ain’t really worth it, corp’ral.” the former pickpocket says as he drags his musket and pack. “We all wants to go home.”
“Yeah, and maybe start a new life in Lutecea or Simland! Maybe even desert and join the Imperial army!” Schneider, wearing a blood-stained coat says something that might have pissed off Lieutenant Weber if he was within earshot.
“I have the same sentiments, lads. But we have no choice.” I look around to see if there are any Lutecean dragoons lurking in the trees. “This is the king’s– no. That bastard Governor von Windenburg’s war.”
“And all because he pissed off the Lutecean Emperor over some candles! Gots something in his head, he has!” Fischer says as he throws a hand in the air in frustration. “Now we gots to fight his war and we ain’t likin’ it one bit.”
“I miss me ol’ life. And militia like us are only supposed to be defendin’ towns and cities, not go into grand battles like regular soldiers. We lost a lot of our lads, we did.” Schneider says with sadness as he sees a berry bush by the road and grabs a few. “Berries for you, corp’ral. Here, Fischer. Should give us a bit more energy in case we run into any enemies.”
“Thanks.” I pop one in my mouth and put the rest in my pack. “I almost forgot that you used to run a fruit stall.”
“T’was an illegal one, though! Had to run from the taxman, I did!” Schneider laughs as we approach a small creek.
Once we get past the small creek, we hear the sound of trumpets from a distance.
“That don’t sound good, corp’ral.” Fischer starts priming his musket after hearing it. “Maybe it’s them Foppies on horses?” he refers to the nickname us Windenburgers give to Lutecean soldiers.
Schneider also primes his own weapon as we finally approach the hill. “I don’t really hear any horses whinnying. There don’t seem to be any mounted Foppies up there.”
I look at the hill, but the fog has started to roll in.
“It’s getting cold, corp’ral.” Fischer complains as he fastens a few more buttons on his blood-stained cloak.
“That’s because it’s almost winter.” I tell him as we see the remains of an old tower. “We can probably make a bonfire here and wait for the others.”
The two men agree in unison as we set up the bonfire. I was also feeling cold from the weather, and we really needed to warm ourselves up. I call the two privates to attention again.
“Remember lads. We must not let our guard down. If we manage to get through all this, we can all go back to our old lives.” I tell them while remembering the woman I left back home. “I still have a family to raise back home.”
“If I do lives through this, I’ll probly stop pickpocketin’, maybe I’ll be a highwayman or somethin’!” Fischer laughs as he goes to the ridge to keep watch.
“Me, corp’ral? I’ll move to another country, I will. Somewhere without war or high taxes.” Schneider says as he moves to join Fischer.
I look at the bonfire and warm myself for a bit. Then suddenly, a bang from a musket.
My attention goes towards the two men, and I see that they’ve already taken cover behind some rocks and bushes.
“Foppies, corp’ral!” Fischer calls back after firing a shot. “Not on horses, but still Foppies!”
I grab my flintlock pistol from my belt and take cover behind a rock near the two. I lost my musket while narrowly escaping a charging dragoon, so I had to settle for something that I picked up from my dead captain earlier.
“How many are there?” I ask the two men who are struggling with reloading.
“Prob’ly a dozen o’ them or fewer. We has the advantage of terrain, but they might climb up here soon!” Schneider says as he fires another shot. I look at the opposite side and see one of the Imperial soldiers fall.
I start firing as well. The small group of Lutecean soldiers have organized themselves to form rank and have started marching up towards us. This is bad.
And then, the firing from the other side stops. Fischer and Schneider also stop firing after realizing that the Foppies are not retaliating.
“They’ve stopped firin’ corp’ral.” Fischer says as he finishes reloading.
“They want to talk, perhaps? Some Foppie officer is comin’, corp’ral.” Schneider guesses as I see a well-poised Lutecean officer with a thick mustache walk up to us with his hands raised.
“Parlez-vous luteçais?” the officer calls from a distance, but we don’t respond as we do not speak their language. “Non? Windenburger, I know a bit.”
“What do you want?” I call back to the officer who has removed his tricorne hat as courtesy.
“I am Capitaine Philippe Durand of His Imperial Majesty’s 34th regiment.” the officer introduces himself. “You are?”
“Corporal Miguel Bonifacio, 85th Royal Windenburg Militia Corps!” I give out my name and rank.
The Lutecean officer gestures back to his men to stop aiming their weapons at us. “Surrender, corporal. We give food, and we treat you fairly.” he says the last two words with uncertainty.
“Be treated fairly?” Fischer raises an eyebrow. “I don’t likes the deal this Foppie is makin’ corp’ral. Somethin’ too fishy ’bout it.”
“It does sound temptin’, though.” Schneider contemplates as I think of what to reply.
“You’re lying!” I call back, remembering the horror stories I’ve heard about Luteceans torturing their prisoners and making them dance. “No surrender, Foppie bastard!”
“Non, monsieur. Put your weapons down. Or we attack.” the officer calls back as he gestures his men to ready their weapons. In a fit of excitement and impulse, I fire my pistol and manage to get a lucky shot at the officer who gets hit in the leg and loses balance. “Attaque!”He shouts other things in Lutecean as he orders his men to charge towards us with bayonets on their muskets.
“Shit!” Schneider curses as he fires another shot, but it doesn’t hit any of the soldiers as they keep coming.
“We have no choice, lads. Fix bayonets!” the two privates hastily attach their bayonets to their muskets as I get ready with the sword I picked up from earlier. I still manage to fire another shot at a charging soldier as he falls down on the grass. Three men charge at the two privates while I’m left to defend myself against two men.
The first Lutecean attempts to pierce me with the tip of his bayonet, but I step to the side, grab his musket’s barrel in an attempt to disarm him, but the other soldier uses the butt of his musket like a club and hits me at the side. It hurts, but I manage to swing my sword in retaliation to make him step back. The Lutecean I tried to disarm lunges with the bayonet again, but I parry his attack with my sword, close in, and slice his throat. The other soldier swings his musket like a club again, but I roll to the side to avoid the blow. I pick up the fallen soldier’s musket and use the butt to sweep the other soldier off his feet. He falls down on his back, and I manage to pierce him in the heart with the bayonet at the other end.
I look to where the two privates were and they seem to be losing as they get pushed back towards the old tower. I run to help them, but something fires and I feel a pain in the chest. As if I was shot.
“CORP’RAL!” one of my comrades shout as I look behind to see who shot me. It was the Lutecean officer, limping towards me and cursing in Lutecean. I fall to the cold ground.
“Foppie bastards! Get ’em lads!” I hear the voice of Lieutenant Weber from somewhere as I lose my ability to move.
Everything starts to go blurry as I have a hard time trying to get up. My body weakens as I realize that this is the feeling of a slow and painful death. I hear the enemy officer say something in Lutecean as the world around me turns black. The last thing I hear is another shot.