Mount & Blade 2

First Blood – A Soldier’s Tale

Calradic Campaign 2-1, as seen by a common soldier.

Aleksey was not surprised when he was called into war. Though the last year had been relatively peaceful, there was always a sense of dread in the newly conquered vaegir lands. A knowledge that the peace would not last, that the Treaty of Maras would not hold. Too much bad blood ran between the vaegirs and the rhodoks. War was the only outcome.

Some may have hesitated at the call. He would not be one of them. Five years he had served in the army and, while he could have retired like many of his fellow veterans, he had chosen to stay on. After all, he had a great respect for the emperor. And such respect needed to be shown in actions. If the emperor wanted him to fight again, then he would damn well fight. His pride depended on it.

It was vaguely nostalgic for him to return to the war camp, seeing so much as he had recalled it. Indeed, there were even a number of fellow veterans there, even if most of the soldiers here looked to be new blood. He felt a little pity for them. War was not an easy trial to pass. Many never did.

The days until the battle passed quickly. On the first day of the fifth month, they travelled to Fedner to protect it from an encroaching rhodok attack. Some were worried, others overconfident. Aleksey held neither feeling. Though fear threatened to make a home of his mind, he focused on the task at hand. Duty had gotten him through these battles before. With the emperor once again leading them, he had no doubt that he would see the end of this one as well.

They met the rhodoks where they had expected to, just outside the village of Fedner. A strange folk, the rhodoks, thought Aleksey. Radical and divided, yet possessing enough wealth to equip themselves well and enough spirit to make good use of it.

He was roused from his thoughts when the battle began in earnest. Arrows and bolts flew across the field, some finding their mark. With a firm grip, Aleksey held his shield high. He had known the sting of a crossbow’s bolt before, with a scar on his hip to prove it. It had been a valuable lesson, one he hoped that others would learn quickly.

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The battle seemed grim at first. An attempted skirmish in the village had left a fair few vaegirs dead, with no real loss for the rhodoks. Some may start to doubt their commander after such a thing. Aleksey would not. The emperor was his god, and it was not proper for a man to doubt his god.

The rhodoks tried to attack the vaegir position next. A risky maneuver and one they would no doubt regret, for several of their number perished in that combat as well. As luck would have it, Aleksey had been on the back lines for now, not having had to fight yet. Dutiful he may be, but he knew he held little skill.

The fight, after these two engagements, became a much more cautious affair. Both sides had seen what might happen should they go forth. At this point, the sides seemed so even, to the point where a mere stroke of luck might be enough to decide this. For how long this stalemate went on Aleksey could not say, only that he both desired and dreaded its end. For it would almost certainly end with bloodshed.

The monotony of it was suddenly interrupted when the commander ordered them to march to the side of the hill. For what reason Aleksey could not say, only that he noticed that the rhodoks too were heading for that position. Is this it? Is this where the battle is decided? Why would it? Yet as he came closer, he saw that both sides were preparing to commit all their forced here. This fight would decide it.

The vaegirs were fortunate, they made it to the hillside first. The rhodoks came right after, shield held high and weapons demanding blood. Aleksey took a deep breath. There were few men between him and the enemy. As the battle went on, it would decrease quickly. He would have to fight here, there was no doubt as to that.

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The clash was accompanied by the ever-familiar sound of steel, wood and flesh slamming together, complete with screams a few seconds later. The two lines pushed against each other in a deadly game, with many falling to greedy weapons. Despite doing what he could to resist fear, Aleksey felt sweat run down his head and his hands shaking as he tried to help push back. Yielding ground was a risky move.

The man before him fell, with Aleksey recognizing him as he did. A fellow veteran who had held a great deal of luck at the soldiers’ customary games of dice. It would appear his luck had run out here. To his dismay, Aleksey could not recall the man’s name nor bring himself to weep for him. Then again, he knew there would no chance to weep anyway. Battle awaited him now.

He stepped forward confidently, his fear having faded into a grim determination. With a shield and a scimitar, he went to face the enemy. His blade went first, leaving a cut in a rhodok shield. A mace came to greet him. His shield went up in time to block it, the force still felt in his arm. He grunted and swung again, leaving but a glancing cut. His comrade beside him managed to get the kill, but more rhodoks came forth to replace the fallen man. This battle was yet far from over.

It felt to him like each fight was a struggle, like each foe was his equal. Though they fought in a formation, he nonetheless kept attacking the same place, always raising his shield to the same position. The adrenaline kept him going when he should have stopped long ago. Pain echoed in his arm. He ignored it. He could rest when the battle was over.

Looking over the lines, he saw a pleasant sight. Some of his comrades had gotten around the enemy. A few became many quickly, with the rhodoks beginning to panic as they realized they were getting flanked. A cruel smile took Aleksey’s lips. This battle was just about won then. They just needed to mop up the remnants.

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He threw himself onto his foe, shield going first. A bold move, yet one that left the man stunned. An ally’s bardiche to the head ended that, leaving him dead instead. Aleksey let his scimitar go loose, attacking any who dared to come to close. They tried to run, but had little room to do so. The fight ended quickly, with the rhodoks either running or dying. Aleksey stood there and watched as the survivors fled, knowing that though this was a loss for them, it was one that was decided by little.

Too much new blood on our side, not enough on theirs, he thought as he panted, the effect of the battle having caught up to him. Still, he cheered along with the rest of the men. This first battle of the new war was won. He could only hope that more like it would follow.

They stayed there for a few days, while another force attacked Culmarr castle. When word reached them that the castle had been taken, they were allowed to return home. Aleksey was glad to hear that, but he held no illusions in his mind. This had been a good start, but it was only the beginning of what was to come. The next battle might go another way. He had best prepare for that.

This was Calradia, after all. War was the only certainty here.

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