Chapter 2

"North West of our Empire, beyond the Great Ocean, lays the Kingdom of Phezzania, a multi cultural country. Its long coastline helps the country's exchanges with foreign countries. With a population of 28 millions, it's the 3rd most populous country on the continent, after Imperial Stohl and Geihlficlant Empire.

Its political administration is much decentralized, giving to each region a high-degree of autonomy. Each Lord can recruit and train his own troops. Still, the king's army represents 65% of the armed forces, and in each region there are royal army's stations, in case of a rebellion by feudal lords. This system creates stability throughout the country.

For more than 400 years, the royal power is uncontested and remained the country's governing power, even during major foreign invasions. These successes are based on the country's investment in research and development on military tactics and weaponry. Phezzanian magic artillery is known for its great efficiency on battlefield. It features strong spells that required only short channeling time. Also, its shock cavalry, by combining with magic shield and increased agility spell, became to known as the most deadly force in the Western Continent.

Phezzania's kings are much known to the world by their wise rule. Under many hostile feudal lords' and foreign countries' pressures, every royal member has to try their best in order to maintain the country's stability. Throughout its history, the royal family has produced many great leaders, politicians, generals which help creating Phezzania's fame as "The most serene kingdom ever".

However, since 10 years ago, the situation starts to change. The last king, Emmanuel XI, suddenly dies childless at the age of 53. Many theories are given, such as assassination, but none were confirmed. Without leaving any will, the Council of Nobles starts to govern the degrading kingdom. However, it's all but a facade. Since only one month after its formation, a civil war starts. The country became a battlefield for glutton feudal lords and generals.

During this era of turmoil, a noble man stands out: Count Ronel of Vitalius, husband of Princess Cornelia, the last royal blood. He remains neutral throughout the conflict. Most of the time, he conducts humanitarian missions to combat zones. To the phezzanians, he became the light of hope for a new regime. Soon, every feudal lords start to view him as their great obstacle to their bid for power.

5 years after the death of Emmanuel XI, a coalition between the lords are formed to invade Count Ronel's land. The total coalition force numbered more than 500.000, while Ronel's forces don't even surpass 25.000. Outnumbered by 1:20, his army lost battles after battles.

At the battle of Magnolia Plains, his force is totally surrounded. No reinforcement, no escape route, the situation is totally desperate. If there's no miracle, the Phezzanian history would go another path that it is today.

That miracle arrives. A knight in black armor, commanded a platoon-size force, comes to the Count's aid. With his incredible battle prowess, he blocks an entire brigade of magicians and creates an escape route for the Count's army. That man of miracle is Agalma von Basileus, the man who will be known as one of the greatest commander in the continent's history..."

"What are you reading, Ryner?" Ferris asks me.

It has been 2 weeks since the start of our expedition. After a long voyage through the Great Sea, we've arrived to Phezzania. Now, we're in the countryside. The surrounding landscape is filled of trees. Combined with occasional breeze of winds, it creates a nice atmosphere, perfect for a trip. Of course, we're not on one…

"Well, a book of tourist guide in Phezzania." I turn back and answer.

"Any dango shops in there?" Ferris asks again with a "moe" face.

"Well, it's too bad that there isn't any." I giggle.

"Hoy hoy, we're on a mission, can you guys stop talking about food?" Claugh cuts in.

"It's fine, Lord Klom, sweet is every woman's dream." Noa Ehn laughes.

"Is it so? I didn't know about ha ha ha." He blushes.

I'm sure that their marriage will be soon, maybe as soon as they return to Roland.

Still, there's a person staying outside of this joyful conversation. Eris seems to be greatly depressed, ever since she heard the news about Agalma. That's to be expected. Since that day 2 years ago, she views him as a hero, an icon, a source of inspiration. She must be greatly shocked, especially after visiting the port city of Cornucopicus...


2 days ago

The city of Cornucopicus, a newly created port city 3 years ago by Agalma Basileus as one of his projects to improve the county's capacity of trade with foreign countries. Only after the first year, due to the Count's well plannified policies, more than 90 thousands persons established their home there. And that number doesn't cease to increase. The port city soon became the most important naval link with the Center and Southern Continent in Phezzania...

Or that's what is being told in travellers's stories. But what we saw there doesn't correspond to what we thought to be. When we landed, the first thing we saw are blood traces around the city. From small alleys to grand boulevards, they can be seen everywhere. As if a massacre is not yet cleaned. There's almost no one on the streets, except for the guards. Totally different to the image of a populous, dynamic port. Even the guards are odds. The majority of them are wounded, as if they just fought a great siege...

When we arrived to the city hall, the mayor greets us:

"You bless Phezzania with your presence here, Roland Empire's most noble representants. Especially Your Highness Noa Ehn of Kingdom of Estabul. A welcome ceremony was prepared for your presence here."

"Thank you for your preparation" Noa Ehn answered "However, we have more pressed matters. If it's possible, we would like to borrow a few guides to depart immediately to your capital. And also..." she hesitates.

"Feel free to ask me for anything, be it supplies or even horses." He smiles.

"I appreciate your thoughts but we will not need them. What I would like to ask is a rather ... subtle matter... It's about the blood traces and the guards... Was the city attacked by the bandits?"

His welcoming smile has changed to a melancolic one. Small drops of tears start to fall from his eyes.

"It was a tragedy, a great tragedy... Oh sorry, I just got dominated by my emotions. Please forget about what I just said. All I can say is that..."


Back to present

My thought was cut when a sentry rides toward us.

"Sir! A Royal Phezzanian messenger is 300m ahead of us! It seems that he's here to guide us to the capital." The man said.

"Well,"Claugh said in a relieving manner, no action today "It seems that we just left the Junosburg county and now the king's messenger is here to guide us." then he turns toward his troops "Everyone, we can relax n…"

SWOOSH!

We turn to the sound's origin, just to see that an arrow hits the phezzanian messenger's head. He fails to the ground and dies instantly. Everyone start to become panic, fearing an imminent ambush.

"The arrow comes from the forest! Everyone, stay alarmed!" Claugh rides his horse behind the defense line and gives orders "Knights, deploy shield wall! Beware of arrows and cavalry! Magicians! Form a magic shield! We're after all in the country famed of artillery! Magic knights! Stand by!"

As soon as the order is given, the soldiers quickly get in a circular schiltron formation. A large wave of arrows flies toward us, followed by giant magical blasts.

"Brace for impact!" Claugh shouts.

Together with Ferris, I head toward Noa and Iris's caravan. I cast a magical shield around it while Ferris cut arrow by arrow. Since we get into formation before the attacks, there're no casualties. Still, it's only the beginning. Before we can start a counterattack, he ambush force sends a new wave of arrows. This time, everyone is totally prepared, so it's not a threat...

...Or not.

Arrows, reinforced by magic around its heads, starts to bombard our formation. A physical attack reinforced with magic spell is always a great threat, even to a professional army. They stir through our magic shield, and begin to inflict casualties to our troops. Right after that second wave of arrows finishes, the ambush forces send their infantry out. They numbered about 2000. Most of them are armor less, armed with scythes and sickles. Only a small contingent of their force in the center has swords and the like. They advance in a wedge formation.

"Well" Claugh said "it seems that the enemy is made of angry mobs and militias. Soldiers, get in a linear formation. Engage them in unconventional warfare's protocol. Do not kill them."

Claugh Klom, I have to say that while you're already a Field Marshal, yet you're still too naïve. Can't you see that the enemy, while being made of peasants and militias, is very organized, and coordinated in their attack?

Now, our soldiers are engaged with the ambush force. The enemy center, that's made of well armed soldiers, is creating a huge chaos to our force there. They're fighting in squads, focusing in our weak points. Occasionally, they retreat a dozen of steps. Then, the enemy's artillery focuses their attack there. This level of coordination in attack… is simply unimaginable. Had it not be Roland's Royal Guards, the center would be broken by now. The problem increases when their mounted archers start flanking us. Using the protocol of shot and charge, they weakened slowly our magic barrier.

They're too well trained to be a militia or rebel force. They're at less on par with our Royal Guards, if not better!

"You Roland dogs! You dare to cooperate with that Ronel II bastard! Feel the might of Lord Basileus!" shouts an enemy soldier.

"With Lord Basileus on our side, your days are counted!" shouts another one.

Agalma is commanding this force? If it's true, it explained the enemy's capabilities. Of course, that's no verified yet. Still, it created a huge chaos to our force. If this continues, our moral will be crushed!

"If that Agalma is true to Miran's words, then I shall kill him myself!" Claugh said.

Right after that, Claugh jumps from his horse. He advances through the enemy center, heading toward their commander, presumed to be Agalma. The enemies try to encircle him, but the effort doesn't pay. Claugh is simply too strong for them to hold up.

The enemy's commander takes out his sword, starts his solo fight with Claugh. The duel ends after twenty exchanges of blows. Claugh hold in his hand the man's neck now, with his sword removed. Is Agalma this weak?

"You … are not Agalma!" Claugh said. He turns back to the enemy soldiers. I shall deal with this fake one after "You bandits! Your commander is in our hands now! Surrender or you will all die!"

Upon hearing it, most of the enemy laid their arms down, with the exception of the enemy center. However, when they saw that their comrade in the 2 wings all surrenders, they do it too.


20 minutes later

Right now, the enemy's commander with his hands bonded, together with his lieutenants, is brought before us. He's a man in his 40's with mustache. His sharp gaze radiates the aura of a military man. Claugh then starts his interrogation:

"Tell me! Who're you and why do you pretend to be Agalma von Basileus!"

The man maintains his cold face. He's unfazed of Claugh's thunderous voice.

"What's with the gaze?" Claugh became furious. "Are you trying to mock me? Then I shall…." He takes up his sword and prepare to swing it.

"Wait!" I stop him. "Let me question him. Maybe I can find something out of him."

After a few seconds of thinking, Claugh throws his sword to the ground.

"Okay! Do what you want with him"

I walk toward the enemy's commander and bend down, whisper to him.

"Listen, we all here don't trust King Ronel II's words. Even our king, Astal-sama, order us to do what we want if the whole thing is a conspiracy. As a Roland subject and representant, I swear on my head that my words are true."

The rebel commander, upon hearing it, seems to be a bit shocked. After a moment of thinking, he turns back to his lieutenants and discuss. Then he announced his identity:

"I'm Colonel Karl von Broske, executive officer of the Junosburg Guards Brigade. The other men brought before you here are my staff."

The Junosburg Guards, the unit established by Agalma as his main weapon during the Civil War? The unit that is famed for their battle prowess at the Siege of Junosburg? Now, that explained a lot.

"Upon hearing that he's framed by Ronel II" He continues "and that the king asked for Roland's cooperation, we plan for an ambush. However, due to the Count's high-ranking subordinates' purge, the Brigade's command was transferred to a royal supporter. Even I, the executive officer, only slips through the purge due to not being a general officer."

The Junosburg Guards are under surveillance from the Royal Secret Services. So only a few of the Count's most longtime subordinates and popular supporters could participate in this operation, undetected. To create turmoil in the enemy rank, it's decided that I will pretend to be Lord Basileus." The man explains.

So basically, the ambush force here is those who will go to Hell for Agalma, and it's only those who're from this small county. I wonder if he wages a war against the king, just how many persons can he mobilized.

"So do you think that he's framed by your king?" I ask

"Of course!" He protests "Why would he, a people's champion, a chivalric commander, do those things? In addition, compared to his father, our dynasty's founder, Ronel II is a bastard! He even dares to massacre a whole city!"

"What!" We are all shocked.

"Well, that information is not disclosed to the public. It's so well hide that only a few top ranking officers know about this. Even I only hear about this from a traveler. 2 days after, he's executed by the Royal Secret Services for "conspiracy against the King"." The man explained. "The only thing he was able to tell us is that 30000 civilians of the port city of Cornucopicus are killed. Reason: they throw stones to a king's relative because he executed a group of children for burglary! When the city Guards try to stop the massacre, they were also attacked by that royal bastard's troops. Now, pratically, every major cities and ports in the county are under surveillance from the royal family." he shouts.

Everyone, including me, are shocked by the numbers. So it explained the scene we saw there. Just what kind of atrocity is that? In Roland, even the most evil of the nobles wouldn't dare to commit such sin.

"Colonel Broske, I thank you for your information. However, we can't just hear this from one side. Just return to your unit together with your subordinates. I, as King Astal's representative, will make sure that justice will be served. About the civilians, make sure that they don't participate in this kind of operation again. It's great that there are no deaths on both sides, only a few hundreds woundeds. Don't expect that Ronel II's army will treat them the same way as us." I said.

Then I unbind his hands. He then heads toward the tent's exit together with his subordinates.

"Ah, I have a last question." I ask "Why is that your force in the center continue to fight until the other wings surrendered?"

"It's better to die than live permanently humiliated. But citizens' safety is more important than mere pride. That's what Lord Basileus have teach us" He answered pridefully

Then he walks out confidently.

"Such a fine officer! If only I got a few men like him in my army." Claugh exclaimed "It's unimaginable that the Lord who trained such a man like him can be a bastard. But still, it's the first time that I got surrounded like that. Of course, they outnumber us 3 to 1, but only about two hundreds of them are soldiers, the rest are peasants. To think that a mere Colonel under Basileus can command troops on a level that surpass many top generals in our Empire."

"So you admit defeat?" Ferris giggles.

"Of course not!" He shouts "Why.. Well... No... But..." then he changes his tone. "Anyway, he will be a great foe if I have to fight him face on."

"That's to be confirmed….soon." I said

King Ronel II will have a lot to answer.


03/12/2011: Rewritten it :D.