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These are two of Rangers Fury's stories. Like always, I did not change one thing about this story.

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Tales of the Empire

Prologue

Gaius Septimus, that was his name.
He had come from the lands across the sea with one goal...to unite Caladria once more. He brought with him one of the most formidable fighting forces Calardria has ever known: The Legion.
The Legionary was a heavily armed and well armoured soldier, who fought from behind his large shield in formation with hundreds of other soldiers.
The first Lord to witness the might of the Legion was Count Gutlans, of the Kingdom of the Rhodoks. He later described a wall of shields, and volleys of Javelin tearing through his ranks.

Count Gutlans fled following his defeat, not even bothering to remain and defend his land: Yalen.
Without a competent commander, the town stood little chance. Armored wedges of Legionaries drove back the defenders of the town until there were none left.
Upon hearing of this, King Graveth wasted no time and assembled more than half of the kingdom's forces, and moved on Yalen:

Volume I:


"
My Lord Septimus!" Gaius looked up from the table, his face displaying his annoyance at such an interruption "Yes Matheld, what is it?" Matheld bowed, "My lord, the Rhodoks are here...they have brought a great host."
Gaius ran his fingers through his hair, and looked back down at the table. A map lay there, with full topographic features and small tokens displaying the approximate position and strength of any nearby lords. "Show me," said Septimus, gesturing at the table.
Matheld sat for a moment, and then began to move the pieces around. "We spotted them after they looted Epeshe my Lord, King Graveth leads them...he has brought a good many men with him," Matheld pushed the pieces of most of the Rhodokian Lords Towards Yalen.
Gaius sighed "How many?"
"Nearly about twelve-hundred, all told." Gaius pondered this, "What is the stated of our garrison?" Matheld moved to check a pile of papers laying beside the table. "Including your own troops sire, two-hundred Legionaries, fifty auxilia Archers, and fifty auxilia Knights"
"Plus the castle walls, and that puts us about even, assemble the men...prepare for battle."
"Yes Sire." Matheld left the room at a brisk walk.
"Quite a young woman," Gaius mused aloud, "Might have to marry her one day." He laughed at himself, but not for very long.
"Well, I won't unite Caladria by sitting on my ass," he sighed. Gaius rose, and began donning his own armor.

The Rhodoks had taken every caution in their assault.
In the fields before the walls, they had constructed several wooden walls of their own, to protect themselves from Imperial Arrows.
When the time finally came, the Rhodokian Longbows gave forth a withering volley of arrows as cover for the men advancing with ladders. The legionaries on the walls were well protected from such arrows by their huge shield, and they began covering their fellow archers as they returned fire. All but one of the ladders never made it to the walls, but as soon as one had, the Rhodoks surged forward, still under the cover of their longbows.
Even so, the Legionaries on the walls began hurling their Javelin into the advancing troops, and the auxilia archers started picking off their counterparts on the opposing side.
It was a long slog up the ladder, and the troops that did make it to the top were either tired, wounded, or both. From behind their large shields, the Legionaries struck, sending body after body toppling off the ladder, and into the troops below.
This continued for the better part of an hour, with the archers below slowing taking their toll on the troops above. Finally, a Rhodok soldier bearing a huge two handed cleaver made it off the ladder, and killed several of the Legionaries there.
Gaius watched as this happened, and rushed to the the ladder, and felled the man with a swift blow...but the damage was done. Rhodokian soldier poured over the battlements, and a stray arrow caught Gaius in the shoulder.
Lucky for him Ymira was on the walls at that time. She was the Legion's primary healer, and she was damned good at it. Gaius was carried off the wall on his shield, and the fighting continued.

Not knowing what to do, Alayen, the second in command, ordered the soldiers to fall back from the ladder, and make their next defense at the top of the stairs.
This command cost the Legion dearly. The strength of the soldier came from their cohesiveness, as soon as this was disrupted, they started dropping like flies.
Matheld managed to reform a wall at the top of one flight of stairs, while Baheshtur tried to at the top of the other. Matheld's troops held, his didn't. Matheld, realizing that she was about to become surrounded, pulled off the stairs, and retreated into the main alleyway.

Septimus awoke, feeling a little groggy. Ymira was standing over him, smiling. He grinned back...Alayen came running up beside Ymira and started shouting "Sire, Sire...you must help us...we have lost the walls!"
Gaius leapt to his feat, and despite cautioning words from Ymira, he made his way back to the front line. Under his command, the auxilia forces flanked through the back alleys of the city. Carefully, they made their way up onto the walls, which were now all but abandoned after the fighting had moved to the streets. Here, Gaius ordered the archers to form up and prepare to loose.
Then he took his knights and began making his way back down the stairs. As soon as he reached the bottom he yelled "Now!"
The archers on the walls above loosed their arrows. Two-score arrows smashed into the back of the Rhodokian forces in the alleys below. More than a score of them died, some pierced by multiple arrows. "Cease fire!" Gaius yelled, and then to his knights he shouted "Charge!"
The Knights slammed into the back of Rhodoks, who had not yet recovered from the storm of arrows. At the same time, the Legionaries on the other side of the Rhodoks made an assault. The Rhodokian forces began to collapse under the pressure from both sides. Men screamed and died, and the Rhodokian forces were no more.

Out beyond the walls of the city, King Graveth Cursed and swore. Then, motioning to his lords, he turned his horse and rode away from Yalen.

Matheld ran up to Gaius. She was hardly recognizable under the thick coating of blood and entrails, but Gaius knew it was her. He moved to hug her, his armor covered in a similar coating...and then he suddenly noticed the Rhodokian bowman hiding in the shadows, a suicidal grin on his face. He cried out, but it was to late...there was a dull "twang," and then a loud breath from Matheld, and she collapsed...
Gaius drew his gladius and charged, his eyes red with anger. The Rhodokian let out a little, crazed, laugh...and loosed another arrow. Gaius barely felt it hit him....and then he was on top of the weasel. He hacked and stabbed and slashed until the thing beneath him wasn't recognizable as a man...and then he looked down to see an arrow sticking from his belley, and a dagger through his thigh, and he went black....

Tales of the Empire (Mark II):

Maximus Acilius was a young man. A farmer in the village of Nomar in the Kingdom of Swadia. His parents had named him in the fashion of the old Caladrian Empire....which was, he thought, probably one of the reasons he had never really fit in in Nomar. The other reason being that he was an orphan. His parents had been killed on their way to market when he was still a young boy, and afterward he had become a bit of a loner.

Maximus felt that he needed more, that he was meant for more. This was not just a ridiculous notion brought on by his young age, but part of it was. He wanted to get out and explore the world, and prevent other young people's parent's from being murdered the way his had.

There were two reason's he was in Uxkhal, to sell his produce and to participate in the tournament. In his mind, the tournament was his chance to prove himself to a passing lord, and be taken away from his dreary monotonous life of farming. He had, of course, almost no actual experience in fighting. Of course, he considered his sparing with the other young farmers of Nomar to be enough. Since he had defeated every other young man in the village several times, he considered himself a master swordsman...he was wrong.

The first round of the tournament found Maximus on a team of others wearing blue tunics. In one hand he carried a round shield, and in the other he bore a wooden practice sword. The announcer was yelling at the crowd, stirring them into a frenzy. And then, it began. Maximus was frightened, but not overwhelmingly so. He staid beside one of the other blue clad contestants as they rushed towards one of the other three teams on the field. Blue and yellow clashed, and the roar of battle began.

At first it seemed that the blue team would win against the yellow clad opposition, but the the red team, fresh from defeating the green team, crashed into their flank. The tide of battle shifted, and suddenly there were only two members of each color that remained standing. Maximus squared off against one of his red clad opponents, and attacked. He swung his sword as hard as he could in an arc towards his opponent's head. But his opponent managed to bring his heavier two handed sword into position, and blocked Maximus' attack. Maximus ducked as a yellow clad man swung from behind him. Maximus got under the blow, but his red opponent wasn't so lucky. Sword contacted helmet with a sick thud, and the red clad man fell to the ground.

Max spun and parried a blow from his opponent with his shield, and in doing so realized that he and the other man were the only ones left standing. The other man was older than Maximus, with short cropped hair and determined eyes. He obviously had a lot of experience wielding a sword, and Maximus was hard pressed to parry his quick, practical strokes. Finally, Max saw an opening in his opponent's defense, and struck. The other man's blade whipped against Max's, and his sword fell from his hand. A hard blow landed on Max's stomach, and he collapsed.

Max sat in the tavern of Uxkhal, his head in his hands. He had missed his opportunity for greatness, and he knew another would not present itself. Max was so focused on his own self pity, that he failed to notice when two men entered the tavern. He did, however, notice when one of the put his hand of Max's shoulder and said "You fought well today."

Max looked up confused. Standing beside him was the man who had bested him in the arena. "You beat me, how is that good?" Max choked out. "Boy," replied the standing man "no one your age has ever lasted that long in a fight against me, you have talent, but not experience. I can see that you have some real potential."

Max could hardly believe what he was hearing, this man was telling him that he had done well, even though he had lost. "Tell me," said the second man "Do you have any interest in becoming a soldier? I could use men like you in my Legions." Max looked at the man stunned. The man was older than than the first, again with short cropped hair, but his was streaked with gray. "Who are you?" Max asked. "They call me Gaius Tiberious Septimus, and the other man is Titus Sorio, one of my most trusted soldiers. What is your name, young man?" Max shook his head and said "Maximus Acilius."

"Well, Maximus Acilius, we could definitely use you in our campaign, and we would be willing to pay for you services. How does a starting payment of 75 Denars and an initial weekly wage of 50 denars sound?" Max looked hard at Gaius. What he was offering was several times the average pay for a new soldier. Max thought it over...adventure, excitement, and good money...

"Count me in."

"Good," replied Gaius, "we will be leaving in a couple of hours, meet us outside the gate and we will have your money for you then."

A couple hours later Max was standing outside the gates with Gaius, Titus, and about forty other young men. Max looked at them all and wondered if they were getting paid as well as he was. It was a ridiculous thought of course, but he entertained it none the less. Max was beginning to grow impatient, and was contemplating asking Gaius why they hadn't left yet when he heard a sound. He turned he head towards it, as did about forty others. It sounded like thunder, but it was to constant and steady for that. A small cloud of dust appeared, gradually growing larger just as the sound grew louder. As it approached, Max began to distinguish individual people in the cloud. That was when he realized that it was an army. Not just an army, but a huge force of men. Max grew uneasy...what if this was an invading army that was going to seige Uxkhal? What if he was about to die?

Gaius seemed to have sensed the spreading uneasiness among the young men, and announced loudly "No need to fear them, they are my soldiers. Completely loyal. You have nothing to worry about. In fact, let us go an meet them."

About an hour later, the small band of forty or so met the larger army of several hundred. As they had approached, Max had attempted to estimate their numbers. He had come up with a number close to 600 hundred. He had counted 200 mounted soldiers spread in guard position around a force of about 350 foot soldiers and a long train of supply wagons. The first thing the new recruits were instructed to do was sign their contract to the Legion's paymaster. Max stood in line as each of the new soldiers gave their name and amount of promised weekly pay. Soon Max was up.

"Name?" the man asked "Maximus Acilius" Max replied. The man raised hi eyebrows, "Promised weekly wage?" Max paused for a second, considering the courageousness of what he was about to say. The highest wage that any of the other recruits had been promised was less than half of his...he proceeded anyway "Fifty Denars." The man looked angry "Don't try to cheat the Legion, what was the real promised pay," he said with some amount of malice in his voice. At that moment Titus walked up and bellowed "Centurion, what is going on here? Are you questioning this man's value to your Lord Gaius Tiberious Septimus?"

The man was visibly shaken bu Titus' words, so much so that he couldn't even reply. "I didn't think so," Titus said, his voice quieter. He looked at Maximus and said, "Come with me, I'll show you to your tent."

The Legion had traveled far that day, and was now resting just outside of Veluca. Max looked at the city and frowned. It was not flying a familiar banner. Max had traveled to Veluca before, when Uxkhal hadn't required his produce, and he remembered the banner...this one was not it. "I don't recognize that banner as belonging to any of the Rhodokian Lords," Max said to Titus. "It isn't he replied." Max looked closer at the banner. A golden eagle surrounded by some kind of ivy on a red field. "But I though Veluca was owned by the Rhodoks?" Max asked. "Until recently it was," replied Titus, "Until our Lord Gaius Tiberius Septimus conquered it several days weeks ago."

Max's mouth inadvertently formed an "o" and he let out a little breath... "I see..." he muttered.

Max and Titus strolled down the perfectly ordered rows of tents, getting farther and farther from the near center where Max had signed his contract. A couple rows in from the outer edge, Titus stopped. "That one is yours," he said as he pointed out one of the tents. "Remember its place, it will be the same whenever and wherever we camp. Your training starts tomorrow at dawn, be at the drill yard by then."

Titus walked off, leaving Max standing before his tent. The tent was large, and as Max entered through the front flaps, he discovered why. Seven faces turned towards Max as he entered the tent. He recognized almost all of them from the group at Uxkhal, and the ones he didn't recognize didn't look much different. One of them stood up and pointed to a bunk, "That ones yours...welcome, I guess."

"Right, thanks..." Max said quietly.

Training began right when Titus had said it would, at dawn. The sun was just coming up and he, as well as 79 others, were standing, listening to a man who had identified himself as there Centurion, spoke. He explained that he was their commander, and that he expected them to the best...but not just yet.

"Discipline," the Centurion yelled loudly, "Is what makes us better than any other fighting force in Caladria. Without it, we might as well be Swadians, or Rhodoks...but with it, we are something else entirely. When the enemy see's our tight formations, our wall of shields...they get scared...they think 'how are they capable of such extraordinary combat discipline'... they become even more scared when we move towards them, keeping perfect formation over any terrain in any weather. They see a solid, impenetrable wall of shields...and they loose their bravery, their courage. Those who fight us anyway learn just how deadly discipline is....now, all of you are not capable of such discipline...yet....that is what I am for. It might take awhile, but I will make Legionaries out of you." The man turned around, and signaled to a runner, who sped away at his fastest pace. "With the help of the Second Cohort I will show you discipline." As he spoke, the Second Cohort arrived, eighty men marching in perfect formation, keeping a constant and steady pace. A man at the front of the soldier yelled "Second Cohort, halt!" Immediately, every single soldier stopped. "Battle formation!" The cohort formed into four ranks of twenty, and placed their shields solidly in front of them, so that only their heads and their feet showed.

The Centurion yelled once more "I want you to replicate them....form battle formation!"

Fifteen minutes later, the eighty recruits had managed to get into something that looked a little like the Second Cohort's battle formation. It was looser and the rows were crooked. Still, the Centurion looked impressed. "Not bad for a bunch of farmers...not bad, but you still need a lot of work."

Several weeks later the eighty recruits that Max had started with were designated "Fifth Cohort" of the First Legion. That meant that they were considered to be battle ready Legionaries, and were no longer farmers. Each soldier was equipped with a a Scutum, or shield, a Gladius, or short sword, several Pilia, or javelins, and a set of red Lorica and a helmet. Max was given command of his seven fellow tent mates after being told that he possessed an "Aptitude for command" by the Centurion.

Max was in the best shape of his life. In the past weeks his skinny form had become well muscled and lean. He could run for several miles in his full gear, and could march for a full twelve hours as well. He was ready for war, which, he assumed, was the point of all the training.

They had finished just in time too, because the First Legion was preparing to march on Jelkala.

This concludes Tales of the Empire (Mark II) Part I

Tales of the Empire: Part II

The First and second Imperial Legions marched towards Jelkala, the capital of what was left of the Kingdom of the Rhodoks. Among the force of about 600 soldiers was Maximus Acilius, one of a fresh batch of Legionaries raised before the siege of the city. The legion was making very good time, and it was said that they would reach the town by noon the next day.

As the sun fell in the sky, the Legion was called to a halt. It seemed that their Lord, Gaius Septimus wanted his Legionaries to be well rested for the battle ahead. Max couldn't agree more. Even after his intense training, a forced march was taking quite a toll on his body. As soon as his tent was pitched, Max shrugged out of his armor and flopped down on his bunk and was soon fast asleep.

Titus approached the command tent at a brisk and determined pace. As he approached, one of the guards standing outside raised his hand, "Identify yourself."
Titus had no time for this kind of hindrance. "You know damned well who I am! I am Titus Sorio, Singulare and Tribune Logistica to his Lord Gaius Tiberius Septimus' First Imperial Legion!" he bellowed. The guard noticeably flinched, and then stepped aside. "Thanks you soldier." said Titus, his voice lower and more controlled.

Titus entered the tent to find Gaius sitting at a table at the middle of the tent. On the table was a map, with raised terrain, towns, castles, and figures to represent known forces. "My Lord," Titus announced as he banged his fist on his chest. "Good evening Titus...you must have something to say, otherwise you wouldn't have scared the crows out of that young Legionary out there."
"Yes Sire, I do have something." Titus stepped up to the map, "as you expected, a force of enemies has circled around us and is heading towards Veluca. However, there is something we did not anticipate. King Graveth is leading the force, and it is far larger than we could have ever expected. My scouts estimate at least 1000 soldiers will be outside Veluca by dawn tomorrow."
"Have you sent riders to Veluca to warn them of this force?" asked Gaius, concerned.
"Yes Sire. But I do not believe that the Fourth Legion can hold Veluca on its own."
"What would you recommend?" asked Gaius.
"I need all 400 cavalry, and at least three cohorts of mounted infantry."
"That would be all the horses we brought with us..." Gaius pondered.
"Sire, if I may, we do not have time to contemplate this."
"Of course, do it now."

Max was awoke to the sound of several horses outside his tent. He rose and donned his armor as a cavalry centurion entered his tent.
"Good, you're awake." the Centurion said, "Your cohort is to mount up and follow the cavalry as soon as you are ready...get your men up!."
The centurion left, and Max was left to wake his men. It was well before dawn, he realized, probably not even midnight yet.
15 minutes later, Max was climbing onto one of the Legion's reserve horses along with 240 other legionaries and 400 cavalrymen. Then he saw Titus Sorio emerge from a tent, equipped with cavalry armor. He climbed atop his horse, and began explaining the situation to the soldiers.

The cavalry detachment rode all night at breakneck pace, but the still didn't catch sight the Rhodokian forces until the sun rose. Max was tired, as was his horse, but he felt a determination...and then excitement as he realized what was about to happen. He saw the huge, outstretched, line of the Rhodok forces. It was located evenly between the himself and the town of Veluca. Even as he watched, the 4th legion began to empty out of the city, and form up battle lines. Then his orders came.

The reinforcement group of mounted men approached the rear of the battle. It was clear that the Rhodoks were getting the best of the fighting, due to their superior numbers if nothing else. Just when it seemed that the defending Legionaries' lines would collapse, the order to charge came. The mounted legionaries rode forward, flanked on both sides by 200 cavalry. The archers in the back of the Rhodok lines heard the thunder of the horses and turned. But before they could loose even one arrow, the mounted soldiers crashed into them. 240 mounted, armored Legionaries was more than enough to break the back lines of archers. As they fled, the Legionaries dismounted, and proceeded towards the main block of Rhodok Infantry on foot.

By this time, the Infantry had realized what was happening and was turning around. As the did so, Legion cavalry smashed into the flanks of the formation. The chaos of pitched battle began.

Max and his fellow soldiers of the 5th cohort approached the battle. When they were only 30 meters away, the Centurion called a halt...and the Legionaries unleashed there Pilia. The large Javelins tore through shield, armor, and flesh. After a minute of barraging the enemy force, the Centurion sounded the charge. Max lead his tent mate, and screamed a challenge as he hurtled towards the enemy lines. They met with bone crunching impact, and at first there was a stalemate, as both lines held. Max bashed a man with his large shield, and then stabbed him with his sword. The man collapsed, but Max didn't notice. He was already engaging the next soldier in line. The Rhodok line began to waver, and then it suddenly collapsed. Max let out a wild yell, and charged after the fleeing enemies, as did any Legionary who was still standing. Max's sword flashed out as he struck down soldier after soldier. And then suddenly, it was over. There were no more Rhodoks, and the two lines of Legionaries met. Max almost swung his sword at one of the 4th Legion's soldier, but he managed to stop himself.

Max let out a little noise...it was over. He had survived. He surveyed the scene of the battle, and he promptly threw up. The carnage was unbelievable. The mangled bodies of men and horses scattered the field. There were some places that you would not be able to take a step without landing on a dead soldier. The blood in some places stood in pools in the ground.

A man approached Max. He looked up, and saw it to be Titus. The other man just stood there for a few minutes watching Max. Finally Titus moved closer, and sat down beside Max.
"The first time is always the hardest you know," he said...but he didn't sound very convincing. Max grunted. "Not that it ever gets truly easy to anyone...but remember, we fight for the Rightful lord of Caladria...it is not our fault that these men opposed our Lord."
Max stood...unable to speak, he simply nodded.

The ride back to Jelkala was long and slow. But they had to get back to where they belonged. They arrived in the late afternoon to find the town already under siege. Arrows streamed down from the walls, and Javelin flew back. Men on both sides fell to these weapons, but for the most part the Legionaries were safe behind their large shields. Max saw all of this as he approached. He was exhausted from the riding and fighting of the past day, and it showed. But he was not the only one it seemed, as all the troops that arrived back were ordered to get some sleep. Max stumbled into his tent, and collapsed once more onto his bunk.

When he awoke, the first thing he noticed was the fact that the bunk beside his was missing an occupant. Max realized that his tent group had not come back from the fight unscathed. With this grim fact in mind, Max rose and woke the other 6 soldiers that occupied his tent. Even though none of the soldiers had really known the deceased, they all felt some measure of loss at his absence.

Max and his men exited their tent to find their Centurion standing there. "Men, I'm sorry...but you qualify as fresh soldiers right now. You are needed for the assault."

Max and his men stood with their shields raised above there heads as arrows fell all around them. The were standing at the base of one of the ladders that had been raised to the wall of Jelkala. Max stood grimly, and prepared to assault the walls.

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