A few days before the first day
Two figures stepped through the portal. Their dress could’ve been passed off as local, if it weren’t for the red emblem embroidered onto the chest of their leather armor. The armor was rather lightweight to allow mobility over protection, however, what they lacked in protection, they made up for in a wide variety of weapons. One carried a variant of a long bow, while the other carried a crossbow; both had a sword, and various forms of throwing daggers. The younger of the two men looked at his older counterpart, “That… was…”
The mentor, who was really only a few years older but more experienced, raised his hand to cut off his student. They stood still in silence, breathing carefully and softly, observing the woods around them for a couple of minutes. The mentor pointed to the tops of the trees, and his student nodded in understanding.
The air around the portal that had allowed these two men access to this realm was unusually still. There was no ambush, for the men would’ve been killed by now, still they took cover behind two trees near their area of ingress. The mentor looked at the sky through the web of branches and foliage that blocked out most of the view, the color was changing from a dark blue to a lighter shade.
A few minutes later, the men that the student and mentor had been waiting for exited the portal. Upon seeing the two forward scouts taking cover, the six new men, dressed and equipped in the same fashion, quietly and swiftly took cover as well. The eight men paused again for a few more minutes, preferring cautious patience.
The mentor raised his hand, and signaled to move out. Two scouts headed directly to Kosha, while the other six stayed close together, with the destinations of Cademia, Odemia, and Catamarca in mind. The men moved as if they had lived here all their life, knowing each shortcut and path to avoid; but their demeanor and equipment brought a strong contrast to that of a normal Cytheran.
The Second Day
A day's journey southwest of Kosha, where the eight strangers had arrived just a week prior, the portal wavered again as more men crossed over into the realm. They wore the same emblem on the chest of their armor; however, their armor was more heavy duty. The ‘newcomers’ wore leather armor in similar design, but with metal plates on top to reinforce the chest, shoulders, and back. Each man had a bow, and at least one sword.
Operating in the same fashion as their predecessors, the first group of four men to exit the gateway took cover behind the trees and readied their bows. The unspoken efficiency of the movements, and their actions distinguished these men as more professional and experienced than their predecessors.
As another set of four men exited the portal, the first four left their cover and began sweeping out; and the new squad of men took cover behind the trees to cover for more. After a few minutes, when the last two of the 18 men had entered the dimly lit forest, pulling a cart with them, the first squad of men returned and nodded, signaling the immediate area was clear of anyone.
Two of the men’s demeanor stood out. The older man, about thirty years of age, was clean-shaven, and the metal on his armor was polished to a perfect shine. On his shoulder, he wore the rank of two silver bars. There were fewer nicks and cuts in the armor than his younger counterpart, who was about five years younger.
The younger man’s armor was covered with bloodstains, nicks into the metal, and jagged cuts into the leather. In a somewhat similar fashion, the metal was polished, but not as much to reflect light, and only around the red emblem stamped into the metal breastplate. The rank on his shoulder was similar in design, but only consisted of one silver bar.
The physical appearance of the younger man was slightly dirtier, similar to those of the other men. There were flecks of dried mud on his face, and his facial hair had begun growing back. His build was more muscular, with a couple of mostly healed scabs from recent combat. Compared to his superior, who would clean himself and shave daily, the younger man had never seen the benefit of looking so clean and presentable in the field, where he was bound to get dirty again.
One of the sixteen men, bearing embroidered ranks (signifying enlisted), walked up to the younger officer. He nodded and spoke quietly enough so his voice would not carry through the woods, “Lieutenant Creon, the men are ready to move out.”
The Lieutenant glanced at his superior, as an act of courtesy rather than for orders. Creon’s superior nodded, and Creon looked back at the enlisted man, speaking in an equally quiet tone, “Let’s move out." However, unnecessary, as the men already knew what the Lieutenant expected. Upon hearing the command, they finished grabbing supplies from the cart, and spread out into the woods, moving north-northeast to Cademia.
The Lieutenant picked up the last pack of supplies and pushed the cart back halfway through the gateway. As he turned to leave, he noticed two figures on the other side grabbing the cart and pulling it all the way through. All that remained to signal the presence of the men was one foot print left in the ground, by a tree to the south of the portal.
The Seventh Day
The eighteen men had taken up position two hours to the west of Cademia. The location offered a limited view of the city, but the information the scouts had spent the past ten days collecting, made the isolation all the more effective.
With the Captain’s permission, Creon had sent one of the two scouts back to the point of ingress, to meet the arrival of more soldiers. The Kosha scouts had reported that the Hand had covertly secured control of the city and to be expecting their presence near Cademia within the next couple of days.
Creon glanced around the small camp, he knew his men could take the city right now, but the Captain had postponed the strike because of the Hand’s involvement in the situation. The Lieutenant viewed his superior as a bureaucrat whose only purpose for serving in this campaign was a way to gain more power within the Empire. His commander would take swift action with devasting consequences against subordinates that broke protocol, but was willing to look the other way if it helped his image. Of the battles in which he had served under the Captain, he noticed that his commander preferred to stay back, and observe his plan’s outcome.
The Captain’s plans and tactics were his only saving grace, as far as Creon was concerned. As their superiors had hoped, mixing the two together had proved violently efficient in the battles following the capture of Odemia. The Lieutenant stopped dwelling on the Captain and his motives, and crossed the bivouac to his gear.
Creon had adored the dull scrap of steel he was given as a lowly Private in the Empire’s army, but his first sword didn’t last long due to his naive fighting style. His mentor, a Sergeant at the time, had seen Creon’s potential and the effect of his devastating dexterity. As his artistry progressed him further through the ranks, even the Empire’s army began to fear what he could do.
Creon reached down and unsheathed the sword he was given on his promotion to Sergeant. The sword had a few small chips, but nothing major. The top of the hilt was stained in dried blood, as well as the base of the sword, but he kept the rest cleaned and polished. With a glance at the blood, he could recall whose life he had ended, while to others it appeared to be a mass of indistinguishable dried gore.
The Lieutenant remembered his mentor’s last lesson, When you can no longer sleep at night without seeing their faces, its time for you to retire. The moment you second guess your judgment, you will die. He pulled out a sharpening stone and began refining his blade’s cruel bite. It was not long before he lost himself in his thoughts, as he waited calmly for the order to repeat his infamous actions of Odemia.
This post has been edited by Dark Jet : 30 January 2010 - 02:46 AM