Submitted by Ron H. of the Netherlands:
It was early morning somewhere in Ghyran. The camp was already bustling with life when I opened my tent. The heat worsened my headache, caused by the small party I had held last night. I made my way towards a barrel filled with water to get rid of my dry mouth and freshen up a little. The scenery that greeted me as I walked was the same as it had been for the last few days. A camp filled with blacksmiths, tanners, shopkeepers selling food and trinkets to people, men and ladies selling themselves for labor or more intimate things, it was like a small town. Not far away was the Hammerhal army camp, filled with soldiers doing drills, cleaning weapons or just standing guard. And they were all surrounded by massive trees and plants of many different kinds, blocking out most of the sunlight.
The trees were a sight to behold for the first few days, but after a week you had seen them all, figuratively speaking. When I arrived at the barrel with water, I quickly held my head in it, as to soothe the headache. It didn’t help much, as was to be expected. So I drank some water using my hands as a cup, as I had left my actual cup in my tent, and went back. When I arrived at my tent I saw a soldier standing by the entrance, holding something in his hand. I approached him and greeted.
“Hello can I help you?”
“Yes, are you the mercenary Gabriel Santé?”
“It’s Gabriel Santi.”
“Yes, like the noble family.”
“So you are…”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well then ‘Lord’ Santi, you are to support the Darkbull regiment of Captain Bröchin in General Feuerbach’s coming battle against the ‘Big Eat’ and our assault on Amasya.”
“What about my pay?”
The soldier sighed, his disdain for me was obvious and he didn’t try to hide it. He grabbed a pouch that was hanging on his belt and tossed it to me.
“This is 50 gold as advance payment, the rest will be granted to you by Captain Bröchin after we have taken Amasya. Any questions.”
“Yes, how do I recognize the Darkbull regiment?”
“They have a red banner with black bulls head. Anything else?”
But I wasn’t listening anymore as I was counting the coins and just nodded.
“We leave in an hour, be on time or be left behind.”
And the soldier walked away. I quickly went inside my tent, gathering my belongings and put on my armor and equipment. I also went by a shop to buy two medium field flasks filled with wine, as I had finished up the wine last night and I could feel my hands starting to shake.
An hour later the Feuerbach’s Lectors moved towards the front. I wasn’t keen on walking that whole way with the hangover I still had, so I decided to hitch a ride on one of the supply wagons. I paid the driver a gold coin to let me drive with him and he agreed. The driver and I didn’t talk much, and I was happy with that as my head was killing me. Though the silence that I was enjoying didn’t last long, as a woman on horse back started to ride beside us at the same tempo. She had long black hair, which was braided, blue eyes and tip-tilted nose. A scar on her cheek betrayed that this wasn’t going to be her first fight. She wore a breastplate and underneath a red tunic, I couldn’t see the emblem. She had a spear and shield tied to her back. I tried to ignore her, taking a swig from my flask and averted my gaze. It didn’t take long before she started talking.
“From which regiment are you?”
Her voice was soft, but her accent was from Aqshy side of Hammerhal. I didn’t respond at first, but then she poked me with her spear and asked again.
“From which regiment are you, because I don’t recognize your uniform.”
I answered short and blunt, making her known that I wasn’t interested in talking right now. Normally I would be interested, for I never say no to a lady, but now my hangover was upsetting my charm and my stomach. My bluntness didn’t stop her from continuing.
“Then you must be the marksman Gabriel Santi.”
My eyes widened, how did she know that. I hadn’t even introduced myself, let alone tell her my profession. I looked at her, she was staring at me with an inquisitive look.
“How did you know?”
“Well, like I said your tunic doesn’t match any current uniforms. It does match with the old uniform from the Hammerhal Ironweld Arsenal, and so do your pauldrons. Your helmet was a prototype, used by the Ironweld to protect the face from shrapnel and other projectiles. As you were a former sniper from the Ironweld Arsenal, that checks out. Your rifle is custom made by a duardin smith, that is something only someone with a lot of money is able to buy. Here your high birth shows itself. The fact that you wear leather under your tunic, means you want to be mobile and you either dodge a blow or have other means of protecting yourself. In your case the latter, as I saw you loading a pavise in the back of the wagon. Which you also use as a standard for your rifle. All those things put together makes it the only logical conclusion that you are the marksman Gabriel Santi.”
And she finished it with a proud smile. I on the other hand was baffled, my mouth almost fell open. I wasn’t expecting such a thorough investigation in just a few minutes. I wasn’t able to form any kind of reply. So she continued.
“How much did you pay for the ride, Mister Santi?”
It took me awhile to answer as I was still lost for words, and that was something that had almost never happened to me.
“One gold piece.”
She turned her head towards the wagon and gave him a stern look.
“Johnson, what did I tell you about overcharging strangers for a ride?!”
“Sorry madam, he was the one offering it. How could I refuse?”
She shook her head. In the mean time I was confused, and my hangover wasn’t helping. Who was this woman riding beside the wagon, and how did she know the driver aswell. And as if she had read my mind she answered.
“I haven’t introduced myself. The name is Caitlin Bröchin, captain of the Darkbull regiment. And you are sitting on my supply wagon.”
I started to laugh. The captain was surprised by that reaction, but didn’t react. I took another swig from one of my flasks and reached out my hand.
“Well then nice to meet you captain. May I ask how you know so much about me, have you been stalking me?”
The look in her eyes changed from joyful to stern in a second.
“I want to have the best, Mister Santi. And for that I have to do my research.”
“Well, no pressure then.”
I laughed again, she laughed a bit but the look in her eyes never changed. I continued.
“It seems I the chance to show you my skills sooner than expected.”
This time the captain looked a bit confused.
And I pointed forward, where several cavalrymen were riding and shouting something. The enemy had been sighted and battle was to commence soon. I jumped of the wagon, while the captain rode back towards her troops. It was almost time to earn my payment.
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