Cheers readers! I know, I should be working on 'Heart of the Reich', but I wanted to give a shot at a Total War fanfic after a particularly interesting battle that culminated in the destruction of the Swedish Empire. I'll be working on HotR this week, and hopefully will have you a chapter before the end of my time here (9 days til boot camp and all)
Länge Leve Kungen
"For their honor, for their glory
For the men who fought and bled
A soldier from Sweden remembers the dead."
- Joakim Brodén, 'Long Live the King'
Aldar Bergström looked around as he finished cleaning his rifle, beginning to put away the materials he was using. After days of bombardment, the engineers had finally given up on repairing the ring of forts surrounding the small town behind them, and the remnants of the Swedish army marched out to await the enemy.
The young Swedish soldier sighed in poorly-disguised despair; they were fated to fight the last battle of the Swedish Empire in a land they hardly knew, and to die far beyond the reaches of their homeland. The fact that Finland was one of their territories made little difference to the troops; many would much prefer to at least die in Sweden, though such a thing was impossible; the Royal Army had overrun Stockholm almost a year ago.
The boy looked up to see his sergeant standing in front of him, offering a bowl filled with watery soup. He took it and walked to the campfire, where a few other members of the regiment were gathered around and eating meagre rations. Their conversation stopped as Aldar joined them, laying his rifle down as he sat.
After a long silence, one of the older men finally spoke up, "Why are you here boy? You're too young for this."
"I joined when the British took over my village before the fall of Sweden, sir." Aldar responded. "I was hoping I could help force them back and-"
The older man cut off Aldar with humourless laughter, then fixed him with his gaze again. "What good has that done you, boy? You're in a foreign land about to die, not where you should be...at home with your family and at least trying to enjoy life."
Aldar nodded, letting the grizzled veteran's words sink in. As he did, another man coughed, then said "We should have never gotten into this war. But our last king just had to attack an ally of the British." He shook his head, sighing. "Come sunrise tomorrow, I am sure the Swedish Empire will be gone. We can only hope that God will have mercy on our souls."
"The British government even offered peace treaties after they liberated Denmark and captured Norway." another soldier said. "The king was stupid not to take them, even as generous as they were. Now our new king can't even do a thing even if he wanted to."
"What if we were to surrender?" Aldar asked. "We're the last major army; if the king surrendered to the British, we can hold off the fight, right?"
"A unit already tried that. They were annihilated after it was discovered to be an attempt to ambush the British." Aldar's sergeant replied. "They won't trust us anymore."
The first man stood, throwing his spoon into the snow. "If you'll excuse me, now, I'll go see if I can write home one last-"
The sound of bugles sliced through the air, cutting the man off as they increased in volume. The faces of the soldiers throughout the camp fell as they realised the bugles sounded the sighting of the enemy, and the beginning of their final battle.
Aldar stood with his regiment as they awaited the Royal Army's arrival. Right behind them, the small town of Äbo had turned into a ghost town, the citizens either having fled or locking themselves indoors as the clouds of battle loomed ever closer to the town. The local town watch had mustered two regiments of militia, standing alongside the Swedish army. Only a couple more kilometres behind the town was the Baltic Sea, where three Royal Navy frigates had been anchored for weeks...too far away to fire their cannons, but their presence alone was unnerving to the Swedes; they were part of the elite force that had destroyed the pride of the Swedish fleet and opened up the Baltic to the rest of the British military, who swiftly invaded Norway and Sweden as the Royal Navy began dominating the entire sea, from Bergen to Ingria in captured Russian territory.
"Enemy sighted! Prepare for battle!"
The sound of hundreds of soldiers standing rumbled through the air as the Swedish army readied themselves. Looking around, Aldar was impressed with the size of the force; 10 regiments of line infantry totaling 500 men, plus three cavalry regiments and two batteries of three 6-pounder guns. In command of it all was the respected sovereign and warrior king Charles the Twelfth, commonly called by his enemies 'Carolus Rex' for his ferocity in battle. As Aldar returned his attention to the battlefield in front of him, however, his heart dropped.
The British army had begun fanning out and deploying for battle, showing just how overwhelming their force was. From where he stood, Aldar could see some 20 regiments of line infantry, 4 regiments of grenadiers, perhaps 6 or more regiments of cavalry, and what seemed like batteries upon batteries of heavy cannons. Around him, Aldar heard exclamations of dismay and disbelief as the others saw the British army before them. Here and there, Aldar even heard some men thinking about running for it while there was still time. However, all words were hushed as a line of horsemen came alongside them and stopped in front of the Swedish army. The leader turned, revealing himself to be Carolus Rex himself. The young king looked weary as he surveyed his countrymen before him, the years of war and agony of defeat aging him faster than any normal man.
"Fellow countrymen!" the king called. "The enemy approaches, as you well know. Many of you likely also know that a great many of us will not survive this day. In fact, you know, as well as I do, that the empire you have fought so hard to create, that our ancestors have fought so hard to create, is doomed to destruction today, despite our attempts to prevent it." The king looked behind him, where the British soldiers were waiting, not appearing to do anything. He turned to look at each of the regiments, all of whom had turned a watchful eye and open ear to their sovereign.
"I ask only one thing of you this day." the king continued. "Whether you live or die, remain a free man or are captured, I ask that you only fight in a way that would make your ancestors proud. Fight so that Gustav the Second himself would approve!"
A number of men cheered quietly, but the impending doom of their army was too much for the king's speech to fully arouse them, and the king's grim look confirmed that he knew it would be so. Even so, he finished his statement.
"It would seem that God has ordained that it is our time to die this day. However, my men, fear not; you are men of the Lord, and as such you shall be accepted into the realm of Heaven and be forgiven for your sins, while being commended for your bravery and sacrifice." The king raised his sword, then turned about. "Now, into battle! For the empire!"
"For the empire!"
Bugles sounded and drums started thrumming, setting the cadence as Aldar and the rest of the army began to march forward.
"They're marching on us, sir."
"Yes, lieutenant. I can see that." General Russe said as he took his telescope away from his eye. The middle-aged general watched as the line of blue-clad soldiers bravely marched towards Russe's lines, who stood in perfect rank and file, awaiting commands. The general took a deep breath; his army had been the first to join the fight and invade the Swedish territory of Norway, fighting their way along the southern coast, into Sweden, and all the way to Stockholm. From there, the Royal Navy transported them to Finland, to where they now stood. Four years they had been away from home, and soon after this, they would return. As for the enemy, he could not say.
"Captain Rogers, take your horsemen onto the left flank. On my command, begin marching to the ridgeline; from there, attack the enemy on their flanks as you see fit."
"Captain Samuels, take the grenadiers and have them follow closely behind each of your forward line regiments. Keep two regiments on standby for the artillery."
"Captains Lewisson, Nielsen, have your cannoneers engage at will. Your positions have a commanding view of the field; use it."
"Will do, sir."
"And Captain Glover; take your rangers out in front of the main body as usual. Skirmish with the enemy, eliminate officers and drummers; confuse them. Keep your distance, and draw them towards us. Now, go, all of you."
"Yes sir!" The four captains and their lieutenants departed and returned to their units, relaying orders. Russe watched as the green-jacketed rangers went and too positions some 200 metres in front of the army, spreading out and finding cover. Behind them, and on the next knolls over, the cannoneers could be seen unlimbering their batteries of 12-pounder howitzers. The sound of hooves thundered through the air as the cavalry moved onto the right wing of the army, awaiting orders.
Satisfied with the final deployment of his army, Russe waved his hand. Beside him, the bugler gave the call to advance, which was repeated by the regimental buglers. Maintaining their order, the 5th Royal Army advanced on their foes as the howitzers boomed and cannonballs whizzed over their heads.
"Third Regimental Foot Infantry, at the ready!"
Aldar watched as the first rank of men kneeled and the second rank readied their firearms as he did the same. In front of them, a British unit was spreading out and preparing to fire, their commander shouting orders left and right.
The men of the first two ranks lowered their rifles, aiming at the enemy, who, to their credit, did not waver as approximately thirty muskets were directed at them. Aldar looked around; all of the men in his platoon had hard faces, waiting their turn to engage the enemy troops.
Smoke filled the air as the first two ranks of riflemen fired their weapons, the smell of burnt gunpowder wafting back on Aldar and the others as the wind shifted. Despite the volume of fire, only some three or four British troops fell. As the men reloaded, Aldar watched as the British began to take their own aim, then ducked as the enemy fired.
"Jävlar!" someone shouted as nearly half of the first rank fell. Aldar watched in shock as the men tried to continue reloading, their movements becoming more panicked as the second British rank ran to the front and repeated the process their comrades had just completed, their fire shredding the remnants of the first line.
"Steady men!" the captain called, his sabre out as he charged to the front. "Fix your bayonets! Prepare to charge!"
Aldar nodded as his hands fumbled for the bayonet at his hip. The sounds of battle were becoming increasingly louder, the shouts of the commanders and screams of dying men mingling horribly with the boom of cannons and screaming horses. Another volley of rifle fire tore through the Swedish lines, causing the man next to Aldar to fall, a hole over his heart. Before he could even register the image before fully, however, the sound of a cavalry bugle tore his eyes away.
Charles the Twelfth watched as his once-mighty army was decimated by the British Royal Army, the smoke from both cannon and rifle nearly completely obscuring the field of battle. As he watched, he saw one of the units of line infantry falter under the weight of two cavalry units, their lines breaking as the red-clad soldiers trampled through their lines and swung their sabres with impunity.
"What is it?!" the king said, annoyed. His advisor shrunk back slightly, his horse momentarily flicking its ears at the man's harsh tone.
"I believe we should retreat, milord." the advisor continued. "There is no possible way this battle can be won."
"Tell me, if you will." the king said, gesturing to the scene of destruction before them. "Do you think that I would have an army to command when this is over? Do you think there will be a return from this?"
"There could be, mi-"
"No." The man shut his mouth, taking the hint. Then, after a few moments, he turned his horse about and began to trot off the battlefield. A few men went to stop him, only to falter as the king raised his hand for them to stop. "Let the man go. I cannot blame him for wishing to return to his family. Any others that feel as he does, leave now."
The king looked around as the ranks of cavalrymen remained stationary. The wind blew across them, momentarily drowning out the sounds of cannons firing. "Very well. Then, my men, one more time...for the glory of the empire."
The men nodded as the king prodded his mount into a light trot, slowly gaining speed. The other cavalry units fell in alongside, following their king into battle for their last fight. The rumble of hooves became a thunder as the king and his men urged their horses into a full gallop, charging into the enemy lines as they shouted their war cries, knowing there was no turning back.
Harold Butterworth pointed over his commander's shoulder at the storm of horsemen charging down the hillside towards them. At the head of the charge, the banner of Carolus Rex flapped in the wind, showing that the king himself was leading the charge.
"Fourth Line Infantry Regiment! Reform, square formation! On the double!"
Harold fell back into his rank as the regiment formed up into a box, the flagbearer, lieutenant, and drummer in the centre and protected on all sides by the rest of the regiment. Nearby, the soldier could hear similar commands being called out as the Swedish warrior king and his men grew ever closer.
"Brace for cavalry charge! Bayonets!"
In perfect order, the regiment affixed their bayonets, the first rank bracing their rifles against the ground for use as makeshift pikes. From behind them, a volley of canister shot ripped through the cavalry charge, sending many of the horses and their riders to the ground as the screams of the dying war-horses screeched through the air. Despite that, however, the king and his men continued their charge to their doom.
The second rank fired over the heads of their comrades as the horsemen charged into their ranks, stopping cold as they hit the line of bayoneted rifles. Then, with a fury almost equal to that of the riders, the Fourth Line Regiment's formation collapsed around the horsemen as they closed in to finish the battle, the sun setting on the last day of the Swedish Empire as Carolus Rex and his men made their final stand.