Hello! This is not my first fanfic—I wrote two for Minecraft, one which I was very happy with, and the other…well, the first half was fine, but I just lost interest in writing characters I had come to hate. Anyway, the Total War series has always been one of my favorite game series ever, if not my favorite, and I decided to do Medieval here—and I will try to stick to the gameplay. Anyway, enjoy!
A light breeze blew past the visor of Franz Dubriech, mounted upon his steed, eyeing the road wearily. The same breeze rustled the treetops, blowing leaves into the air and shaking the branches ever so gently. The same breeze made the banners wave, made his cape dance upon his back, cooled his soldiers as they waited, ever so patient, in their lines, hidden behind the foliage of the forest. Franz stood on the edge of the road, listening intently to the sounds. It was just the wind, a beautiful fluting music that cooled Franz, who could never bear the heat of the Italian summers. He heard footsteps behind him; rather, the sound of hooves, as one of his banner bearers quietly approached him.
"No sign of the scouts yet, my lord," the banner bearer spoke quietly, sitting upright on his armored horse, his Imperial banner waving in the breeze. "We can't know until they return."
"They will be here. It is only a matter of time—you have yet to learn patience, Gregor," Franz said, his voice gentle but his demeanor belittling. Gregor shifted uncomfortably on his horse, and proceeded back towards the lines, muttering "Of course, my lord," before returning to his place.
It was just the sound of the wind, cool and comforting.
Then something carried on the wind; Franz perked up immediately, causing his horse to whinny as he dug his spurs suddenly into the creature's flesh. Franz tapped it gently on the head to calm it, and turned his head westward, down the packed dirt road; it may have just been the distant boom of thunder, or terrible flatulence on the part of one of his soldiers. But with another coming of the sound, it was unmistakable.
The sound of boot steps. Marching in rhythm, perfect timing.
"Form up! Back into the woods!" Franz shouted at his men, knowing that the enemy would not be able to hear. Men shifted back farther into the foliage, bumping into one another and cursing loudly as they stumbled. Most of them were peasants or draft soldiers; the true staying power of Franz's force lay in his cavalry, foremost among them his feudal knights, which served as his bodyguard.
The air smelled of sweat and shit; his men had been there for three hours, and no doubt had relieved themselves in some places, and had been sweating even in the breeze; Franz had become used to the smell of an army, not to mention its baggage train, and the odor did not bother him. The sound of boots was growing ever closer, becoming easier and easier to discern over the rustling of leaves.
The mercenaries were at the front of the line, holding their ground as they backed up. Armed with long spears and rounded shields, they wore padded leather armor and a decent helmet, with a short sword buckled at their waist. Venetian mercenaries they were, and sergeant spearmen to be exact; they had sold themselves out to the highest bidder, betraying their home country for another's service. Franz thought it was somewhat ironic, and funny; he was in a similar position to them: unwanted by his nation, thrown out by his lord, hated by his people. He was an outcast, unwanted by the Empire; but he would prove himself to them, gain their trust and their love once more. It would be a struggle, but at least Franz had something to gain; the mercenaries had nothing.
The Milanese column was now in view beyond the trees, sergeant spearmen, spear militia and peasant archers marching in formation, albeit clumsily. Their equipment left much to be desired; most of them were wearing their everyday clothes, and very few had armor that could actually stop a spear's point or turn aside a blade. It would be all the easier to finish them off, Franz smirked. Without another moment's thought, he raised the polished wooden horn to his lips and blew.
The signal was what they needed; with the blast of the horn, the mercenaries charged forward, rising up from the rotting leaves and green bushes and charging out of the forest line. Franz enjoyed seeing the confusion in the Milanese column; nearly every single one of the lowly peasants jumped when the horn blew, and they were glancing around wildly, desperate to get a look at their attackers, as the Venetian mercenaries leapt out of the woods, their spears lowered towards the sergeant spearmen guarding the flank. The spearmen faltered almost instantly; the sight of one-hundred and twenty angry, charging Venetians was too much for them, and they collapsed without a fight, giving way to the soft archers in the core of the column. Franz blew the horn again, ordering his own sergeant spearmen forward; as the enemy was preoccupied with the mercenaries, Franz's countrymen would smash against the beleaguered Milanese, destroying them.
Franz decided to charge forward himself; his banner men and knights followed him, lowering their lances to meet any enemies charging at them. As planned, the mercenaries were being beaten to a pulp, outnumbered by inferior but desperate enemies. As planned, the sergeant spearmen rushed out of the woods behind the Milanese vanguard, which had turned against the mercenaries during the initial charge. As planned, the spearmen struck the vanguard unit, which began reeling as they were struck on two sides by two different enemy units. Franz decided that it would be a waste to tire himself, or pose a threat to his own life; the Milanese were falling beneath the spears and bucklers of his soldiers. Here a mercenary drove his sharp spear into the unarmored belly of a hapless archer; there a sergeant spearman mercilessly beat down a terrified militiaman with his shield, as his comrades rushed to kill any routers they found.
It was over almost as quickly as it had begun; it seemed like only moments before the remaining Milanese were executed by their captors, surrounded on all sides by infantry and cavalry. Only a few made it into the woods, not enough to get back to the nearest Milanese outpost and tell their terrible tale. The attack was complete; only one thing left to do, Franz thought.
"The enemy is destroyed, my lord. We have—"
"I am aware of our total victory, Gregor—yes, we all did our part. There is one piece of business left before we head out once more, though," Franz spoke gently, eying the mercenaries. They were congratulating one another in their native language, driving their spears into corpses for fun and mocking their foes, stripping them of what little possessions they had.
"We are not quite done here. This was not a battle fought by the Holy Roman Empire—no, we did not fight it. We did nothing here," Franz spoke to his entire army, in his own language. The mercenaries continued to carouse wildly, failing to understand Franz's speech. They could tell basic orders, but they could not understand what he said now.
"We did not fight here…they did, these brave, strong men, they fought the battle here…"
He motioned to the mercenaries; a few of them realized that they were being singled out, and began to approach their commander, to listen more intently and try to decipher him. It would only make it easier.
"They fought here…so this should be their final resting place…"
The mercenaries did not understand his words, nor did they really hear them; before they could comprehend that Franz spoke about them, the Imperial troops set upon them, hacking the baffled mercenaries into pieces as they either fell to their knees, praying and crying, or desperately tried to fight back before they were overwhelmed by the sheer number of Germans. In a minute, the last mercenary had been executed; the Venetians lay in a bloody heap, strewn about with the corpses of those slain in the battle.
"Their final resting place. Es war Gotte's wille."
With those final words, Franz turned back towards the forest. He was to be made anew; he would still be Franz Dubriech, but he would be seen differently when it was all over. He would not be seen as the emperor's bastard son, the hated brother of a noble general. He would be seen as a hero, the one who delivered Northern Italy into the glorious hands of the Holy Roman Empire. Soon, he would find the love of his father once more; it would only be a matter of time before he returned gloriously to the home he still loved, and return to his homeland.