I was seventeen and had spent most of my life in the mountains or forests. I joined the military and went through training to be a combat soldier. A couple of months and I was walking off a huge plane. It was hot and humid and sergeants were yelling. The last I was used to now but not the heat or the humidity.
We had pushed almost two hundred kilometers into Clar and there was only another two hundred and fifty kilometers to the Rus border. On the other side of the western border was Nees. Once I left Han I was headed north to Clar and then west to one of the many combat units on the border. So far they had not tried to push back into Clar from Nees but things could change.
From the plane we filed through a hanger where we were issued equipment. We were spilt up and some went to planes and others to Mules. I was in a Mule and it was only half full when it lifted. I ignored the others as I began to repack both my bags. A sergeant chuckled as he leaned back across from me.
An hour and two stops and the crew chief called my name to stand by. The sergeant stood as I slung one bag over a shoulder and grabbed the other and my rifle. He looked at me as the Mule landed and I shifted my balance before moving towards the ramp as it dropped. A senior sergeant was waiting but the sergeant that had been on the Mule gestured, "I am taking him."
The air was cooler and not as humid and it actual reminded me of home. I followed the sergeant through sandbag bunkers and then to a series of long cargo pods. One was a company office and he had me put on the company rolls. Next we went to the company armorer in an underground bunker.
That was where they took my rifle and issued a Nees carbine with mage bands. I was issued magazines and ammo as well as grenades. From there the sergeant led me out and up to another set of bunkers on the northwest edge of the base. These were all completely underground with water barrels over each one.
We went down a set of stairs and into a long wide tunnel with doors into two dozen cargo pods on both sides. Only half had anything in them except a bed and a bathroom and according to the sergeant I could pick an empty one. I set my duffles down in one and then went to meet the nine men in my squad.
They were grilling meat on a large outdoor grill and nodded when the sergeant introduced me. With most of them were young women or teenage girls. It took awhile for them to speak until they found out where and how I had grown up. We were up early the next morning listening to the sergeant and a lieutenant.
They went over a long squad patrol north along the Clar and Nees border. The sergeant was going to lead it but the lieutenant was not going. We were looking for a new trail the Nees were making that went through towards the east. Thirty minutes and we had rations and packs and the sergeant checked us. There were no trails or I should say we did not use them.
I felt at home moving through the high forest and my eyes were drawn to the things that were different. Every hour we stopped to drink water and rest for five minutes. It was late afternoon and we were taking a break. I had sipped a little water and was listening to the sound of the forest. I turned as the birds to the north went silent.
I gestured and the others spun and lifted weapons. I moved north as the sergeant gestured for me to lead. I slipped between bushes and a few moments later I was behind a bush watching Nees soldiers carrying heavy crates. I looked back and the sergeant was moving the squad up and on line.
To the left I saw soldiers struggling with a very heavy chest but what drew my eye was the mage following them. I looked at the sergeant and gestured and when the mage went past the bush I started moving. I stepped out and snapped the butt of the rifle into the mage's head. I reversed it as he went down and fired into the rear man with the chest and then spun.
I fired into another soldier carrying the front of another chest and then the other soldier behind him. The forest exploded as the squad opened up and the enemy returned fire. When I ran out of bullets in the magazine I pulled a grenade, armed it and threw. A moment and my grenade was not the only one ripping the forest apart.
The Nees soldiers fled and the forest went silent and I turned to look at the mage. I checked him and he was still breathing. I ripped his shirt and blindfolded him and then gagged him. I used his boot laces to bind his fingers together behind his back. I searched him and took his weapon belt, pistol and the small pack he had been carrying.
I checked the two chests and stared at all the gold coins. The sergeant appeared and grinned as he hit my shoulder. He looked at the mage and blinked, "a mage? No one has ever killed or captured one."
I grinned, "they have now."
He nodded, "and we better get moving before the Nees come back for him."
I slung my weapon as he called the others. I lifted the mage to my shoulder as four men started carrying the chests. The sergeant explained the gold coins were to buy Clar villages to turn on us. It was slow going but this time we did not rest for three hours and I was more than ready to stop.
It was dark and we were stumbling around. The sergeant pulled us into a small perimeter as the chests were put in the middle. I checked the mage and found him awake. I pulled the blindfold off and he glared. I was kneeling and patted his cheek, "did you want me to kill you?"
He looked away and I shook my head, "relax. The war is over for you. I would suggest telling them whatever they want in exchange for a girl or three. That way you get to sit out the war with company."
He snorted and then grinned and nodded. I checked his fingers to make sure the bindings were not cutting off the blood. I put the blindfold back on and undid the bindings on his fingers, "wiggle them. I have a pair of gloves I will put on later."
An hour and I worked my leather gloves onto his hands and tied the fingers together. I sat beside him and ate and removed his gag and gave him half my ration and some water. The men watched and shook their heads but the sergeant nodded and gave a thumbs up. A couple of hours and we started to move again and this time I guided the blindfolded mage.
It was morning and the sun was up when we walked out of the forest. The sergeant sent one of the men ahead and we had a full colonel and our lieutenant waiting with a dozen guards. I gave the mage a pat on the shoulder, "okay sir, time for me to turn you over. Relax and tell them what they want to know and ask for the girls. You will be treated fairly."
He nodded and I looked at the colonel who gestured and the guards moved in. I was tired as we headed to our area. First we had to clean weapons and the women and girls appeared. They brought food and juice. They grinned when the two chests were opened and the gold counted and split into equal piles.
Two hours later and I carried my pack and a heavy bag of gold down to my bunker. I set both down and went to the shower as I stripped. When I got out I put a robe on and went to empty the pack and see what needed cleaning. I looked at the door when someone knocked and the curtain was pulled aside.
The lieutenant grinned as he stepped in, "the army commander is awarding the whole squad a medal."
He held up a case, "but since you were the one to capture the mage you get the reward."
I blinked, "what reward?"
He smiled, "there is a standing reward for the capture of any Nees or Rus mage."
I accepted the case and he left as I went to the table. I opened the case and stared at the stack of gold certificates. Each was for one hundred gold pieces and altogether it came to ten thousand. I was stunned and closed the case and finally shook my head and headed to bed. I woke in the afternoon and got up and dressed.
I left the case and grabbed the bag of gold before leaving. I was going to do some shopping and headed out. As I walked up the stairs I heard the girls and women. They were setting out bottles of beer in tubs of ice. A few of the squad were up and relaxing in chairs and the sergeant grinned and lifted a bottle.
I held up the gold, "I was going shopping."
He nodded, "get a good jungle knife and maybe a set of forest mocs."
I grinned, "I was going to see if the base store had a small ice maker."
Anything made by a mage was very expensive. He sat up and looked around before standing, "the locals are to the east. Try Almore's shop and tell him I sent you. If you need more money tell him I will pay."
I shook my head, "I have more if I need it."
I started to leave and stopped as the lieutenant, the captain and a major walked towards us. I sighed, expecting another mission. Of course they had two teenage girls following them so I was not sure. The lieutenant gestured to me and the major cleared his throat, "you captured and brought the Nees mage out?"
I had snapped to attention and nodded, "yes sir."
The major grinned, "you were the one that suggested he ask for a girl if he talked?"
I blushed as I looked at the two girls, one was blonde and plainly from back home. The other had dark hair and looked like she was from Han or Clar. I nodded, "yes sir. I told him the war was over for him and to find a way to be comfortable."
He laughed, "well it worked and he is talking. The general and head mage are extremely happy."
He turned and gestured to the girls, "Qing is Clar and the general was asked to find her a man, he has sent her to you. Kristy is the daughter of a consort for the head mage and he sent her to you also."
He looked at me, "great job private."
.... There is more of this story ...