The civil war began when the old king died. His oldest son and heir assumed the throne and one of his many bastards tried to assassinate him. He failed and six of the twelve duchies split away from the crown. Of course one of the other duchies was empty and part of the royal lands and titles.
The kingdom was split down the middle, east against west. The King and crown held the western duchies and the bastard and traitor dukes held the east. The king's uniforms were deep blue or Sapphire and the bastard's army wore crimson, well except for scouts. I was the son of a forester just as my father had been.
Most of the weapons were made by armorers but since the start of the war a few mages had stepped in. Instead of a long barreled single shot rifle, newer weapons were created. At least there were only a few like the one I carried. It was short and had a tube like box along the top of the receiver where fifty pellet like bullets went.
Each had a smaller clay like pellet inserted in the back with an extremely thin metal cap. The bullet fed out of the tube box and into the chamber. When the striker hit the back of the bullet it exploded down the barrel. My barrel was twisted and only a quarter pace long with a thick cylinder around it that made it silent.
Besides the rifle I had a similar pistol but the tube was round and under the barrel and it was not silent and only held ten. When I joined the king's army I became a scout. The fighting had been going on for six months when I joined. My first few missions went well and the enemy never knew I was there.
I had returned from a scout and was eating dinner after reporting. I glanced at the scared face of duke Macfearce as he approached my table. I had met him many times, he was my father's lord. I smiled, "sir."
He sighed as he sat, "you look well Samuel."
I shrugged, "they are easy to see and avoid."
He smiled, "and you are hard to see and manage to slip past or around them."
I grinned and he looked around and leaned over the table, "I have a mission for you."
I followed his look, "name it."
He pushed a folded map, "follow the route on the map. It should lead you around their lines and to their main camp. We need you to scout it and try to sneak in and get a look at their maps."
I nodded and unfolded the map and glanced at the marked route to memorize it. I folded it and pushed it back, "it might take several days."
He nodded as he slipped the map into his shirt, "be careful."
He stood and hesitated, "my Ella was asking about you."
I blushed, Ella was sixteen and a flirt, "I am doing well and miss everyone."
He chuckled as he turned, "she was hoping for more."
I grinned, "well sir I can not say I want to bed the vixen to her father."
He laughed as he walked away and I finished eating. I hurried to collect my things and grab my pack. I strode out of camp and headed south. An hour and I was off the roads and moving around fields and through forests. It was several hours before I was through the enemy lines and trotted to get further behind them by going southeast.
It was the middle of the night before I came to the road from the north. I turned to head north and stayed on it since I could move faster. I was not expecting anyone to be traveling on the road and I guess I was tired. I was walking with my rifle in my hand and almost across a bridge. I realized men on horses were almost to the bridge behind me and a wagon was right behind them.
One look at the crimson uniforms in the moonlight and I was kneeling as I aimed and squeezed the trigger. The first jerked and twisted as he began to fall and then I shot a second and then a third. My rifle was very quiet but the sound of the bullet made a crack. I was in the shadow against one bridge rail as the soldiers yelled.
I shifted to shoot another when six more spurred their horses around the wagon. Two were left from the first group and they charged towards the bridge and I fired into the one on my side and then had to twist to kill the other. I spun back and aimed at one of the six and fired while the wagon started to turn off the road.
I shot a second and then a third before the last three spun to flee. I did not need the enemy hunting me and aimed and shot the wagon driver and the man with him. I stood and ran to the end of the bridge and aimed at the three soldiers as they dropped off the horses. I shot one as the other two knelt and the milling horses blocked them.
I dropped to the ground and aimed and waited and suddenly they were on foot and charging the bridge. I shot the first in the center of his chest and shifted as the other fired towards me. I pulled the trigger three times and he stumbled and fell. As suddenly as it started it was over and fourteen men were dead.
First I had to search and move the bodies and then the horses. I found the note and map on one of the men in the wagon. They were to delivery the wagon to a site on the eastern coast. I looked at the small crates in the wagon and opened one and stared. I had heard of it before but never seen it.
The crate was full of tiny bars of gold. Each only weighed four ounces but that was as they were. These were bars of what the mages called essence of gold or mage gold. When the loadstone that was the key touched them they would return to normal. When that happened the four ounce bar would become a forty pound bar.
I slipped one into my pouch and closed the case and began to search again. I found the loadstone in the saddle bag of one of the soldiers. I emptied the wagon as I thought and moved the crates one at a time down to the stream under the bridge. Since it was summer it was very shallow and slow.
I dug a long trench in the middle of the stream and under the water and buried the crates. I moved the wagon and freed all the horses in an abandoned field and hid the bodies. I kept the loadstone as I reloaded my rifle from my small pack and began to walk north. I trotted and walked until the sun came up.
I moved away from the road and slept in a large patch of bushes. I slept for half the day before waking. I ate smoked and dried beef and drank from a stream before I started walking. I kept off the road and out of the fields and slowed even more when I saw glimpses of crimson uniforms. I went deeper into the woods and around and through the sentries.
The huge army was mostly in front of a large manor house. The horse pasture and stable were behind it and had fewer soldiers. I watched from the bushes on the other side of the horse pasture. I took my pack off and hide it and my other weapons. I kept my long knife and the very thin stilettos on each forearm.
I watched the guards walking around the house before I started to crawl. I stayed under the fence that led to the back of the stable where there was tall grass. When I reached the stable I slipped in through a stall window. I squatted in the stall and gave the horse a pat as I listened. I finally moved out of the stall and to the stable door.
I stood to the side and waited for the guards to walk past. I took a breath and walked out of the stable and towards the kitchen door at the back of the house. I opened it and stepped in and glanced around. I was lucky the cook or one of her helpers were not here. I turned to close the door and my luck ran out.
A man cleared his throat and I turned my head to see a mage. I reached out and pulled a large kitchen knife out of a block as I started to turn, "how can I help you?"
I brought the knife up and over as I threw it and followed. I did not expect it to kill him but the blade slammed into his throat. His hands went to the knife in his throat as he turned. I reached him as I pulled a slim stiletto. I grabbed his hair and stabbed the blade through his spine and up into his brain.
I yanked it back and forth before pulling it out. I caught his body and looked around. I pulled him to the other end of the kitchen where a large wood box went through the wall. I lifted the lid and dumped him in and then stuffed his feet in. I looked at the body before I bent and took the rings and an amulet and the thick shoulder bag.
I closed the lid and turned to start cleaning the blood off the floor. My heart was pounding as I worked and tossed the rags into the box with the dead mage. I slipped out the side door on the other side of the kitchen. I was in the back of the main hall and by the door into what should have been a study.
I could hear voices from the other end of the hall and the parlor. I looked at the door into the study before I crossed and opened it. I stepped into the room to see a man sitting with his back to me as he put boots on. He did not even turn his head when he spoke, "I will be right out."
I moved towards him with the stiletto still in my hand as I realized this was the bastard. I grabbed his hair as I shoved the blade of the stiletto into his brain. I tried to lower him as he jerked and spasmed. I looked around and moved to a curtain. I pulled one side down and went back to the body.
I knelt and removed the fancy belt with a pistol like mine and jewel hilted dagger. I pulled my long knife and went to work and cut the head off. I folded and rolled it into the curtain before tying it to my belt and cleaning the stiletto and knife. I fastened the belt with his pistol and dagger over my head and under my left arm.
I stood and moved to the door into the parlor and listened before I opened it a crack. I stared at the duke of the southern hills and a general wearing a sapphire uniform. I pulled the stiletto and long knife as I moved into the room. I walked straight towards them and at the last moment stabbed through the duke's neck.
.... There is more of this story ...