"Crossbows--READY!" bellowed Arcadius Pi, as the men under him prepared their weapons. He raised his sword, and gave the signal. The sound of the bolts whizzing through the air blotted out all other noises for a moment. And then they were replaced by the sound of moans, and the screams of the dying.
"Well, this is a merry dance, ain't it?" shouted out Constans Mu.
Arcadius scowled to himself. By rights, he should have been back at the Chateau, looking over the wine supplies--but the old man insisted that everyone had to serve on the lines at least once, and so here he was. And worst of all, he wasn't in Talossa, or Corligna, where the liberation had been speedy--he was in Cazlona, where the local Eremites had torched half the town as they left, and then rushed to the hills. And he wasn't even in Cazlona proper--no, he was in those hills, in the little villages pledged to Cazlona and its Venerable Masters, the little villages that grew the food that the Cazlonians lived off of, marching through the cold wet fields to take down whatever little clump of Eremites were in the region, causing trouble.
He'd never imagined that risking his life could be so tedious.
"All right," declared Arcadius, after taking a deep breath. "We're certain that some of you survived that. Now, if you will be so kind as to surrender, we can..."
A loud thunderous crash was heard behind him. Arcadius turned to see the large stone that had just knocked over several buildings, a stone he was fairly certain had been inexpertly aimed at him.
"Bugger," he muttered, understanding in that moment why Maximilian and Constans were both so fond of the word. He turned to Constans. "You take some men around, and get ready to flank these wretches. I will send two more volleys of bolts--and then I will rush the bastards."
Constans gave a chuckle. "Oh, we will give them hell, won't we?" Then with a laugh, he was off. Arcadius shook his head. His brother in the order was one of those few--either fortunate or damned--who seemed to wade into battle without any thought or hesitation. Arcadius was not one of those, himself. He knew his face wasn't much to look at, but he wanted it to stay as it was.
And also, to stay alive. One couldn't forget that one.
"Crossbows--READY!" he declared again, as his men prepared to fire another volley.