• Chapter 1: First Blood

    The soldiers ran on, panting heavily under the weight of their armour. Struggling to keep their balance on the snow covered ground whilst trying to outpace the armed men that pursued them. As the soldiers crested the hill a scream was heard from one of the stragglers as a barbarian sword cleaved down on the man’s unprotected back. This gave a grim reminder of the fate of any man who fell behind, bringing on a burst of speed which opened the gap between the two groups of men, but all too soon the gap was closing again as the lightly armed barbarians closed in on the soldiers weighed down by their armour. One of the archers sprinted away from the rest notching an arrow as he did; the archer stopped and turned firing the arrow into the following men. One of the pursuers collapsed with a grunt as the arrow entered his thigh tripping the two men behind.
    The Paladin leading the soldiers knew his men could not keep this up for much longer; they needed to turn and face the enemy or be cut down one at a time.
    “Turn and face!” the Paladin shouted.
    The soldiers drew their weapons and turned to face the enemy. The two side collided with such force men where knocked off their feet, as they recovered their weapons and scrabbled to their feet ready to face each other.

    And so the battle began, men were fighting out of shear desperation to finish the dogged pursuit which had lasted for over two miles. The sound of clashing weapons and crash of shields rang out across the barren landscape.
    At this point the heavy mail and the leather armour of the soldiers began to sway the tide of the battle against the un-armoured barbarians. One-by-one the barbarians fell to the swords of the soldiers, finally the last barbarian was killed. At once the soldiers slumped to the ground, exhausted and gasping for breath.
    “On your feet, form up!” bellowed the Paladin.
    With muttered curses the soldiers heaved themselves to their feet and formed up in two rough columns, ready to march.
    “Kien!” The Paladin called out.
    “Sir?” replied Kien.
    “Check they’re all dead”.
    “Yes sir”
    Quickly the young soldier left the line of men drawing his sword and began the grizzly job of displacing any wounded enemy. Thrusting his sword into the chest of any body he came across.
    “Sir, one of ours is alive!” cried Kien.
    “Make it clean then” replied his superior.
    At once the men in the marching lines began shouting their objections at the response; some had even gone as far as drawing their swords and were shaking them in the air.
    “SILENCE” bellowed the Paladin. “You heard my order soldier, do it!”
    “But sir...”
    “No buts or you’ll be digging latrines for the rest of your life”.
    Every pair of eyes in the line watched the young soldier, every movement watched closely for any movement of his sword arm.
    “Don’t do it” came the rasping voice at Kien’s feet.
    Kien looked down at the man on the floor clutching his wounded leg, sword arm rising as he did. Wounded soldier screwed his eyes shut waiting for the inevitable lunge that would end his life. But it never came; slowly opening his eyes the soldier saw that Kien had sheathed his blade and was tearing off a strip cloth from a dead man’s tunic.
    “What the b****y h*ll do you think you’re doing?” shouted the Paladin.
    “Trying to stop the blood flow, he may live” said Kien.
    “I said finish him”.
    “No, I’m not going to kill him when he can make it back to camp”.
    “Fine, you’ll do it on your own and when you get back to camp your military careers is over”.
    And with that the Paladin turned on his heel and marched back to the column giving the order to march back to camp. As the small group of soldiers disappeared beyond the next hill Kien let out a sigh and wondered what he had just gotten himself into. Reaching down he grabbed the man’s fore arm and hauled him to his feet, putting an arm round his shoulder the pair staggered slowly towards the outline of the camp on the horizon.