Their first battle was their last….
By: Johan Hetsau
This story was originally submitted to Mythic!

During one summer in the Empire near the province of Averland, a wagon from Altdorf pulled sixteen youths to a training camp outside of the city of Aufenburg. Johan sat near the end of the wagon across from a young soldier who was not over twelve summers. Johan at the time was ’bout sixteen summers. “What’s your name?” Johan asked.
“Uhm, Harold Gutenstir.” the boy said. Harold was extremely shy and usually kept away from the other trainees.
A nobleman’s son. Johan thought. “Were you come from Harold?” Johan said.
“From my father’s estate near Altdorf.” Harold said with pride.
Ha! I knew it! Johan roared in his head, “What town does your father own?”

“Haufen. Itt’s a small farmin’ village five leagues from Altdorf.”

The name of the village sent a chill up Johan’s spine. Haufen was were Johan was born and were he nearly died. When Johan was about five years old, Haufen was attacked by a Beastman raiding party. Fortunately, Johan’s family had escaped, but the visions of the slaughtered towns people and the burning buildings had been burned into his mind. It was there and then that Johan’s hate for chaos in all its form had started to kindle. After an unfortunate bandit ambush that killed both his parents, he reached Altdorf. Johan would go the Sigmarite temple, and would read different books on how the Empire fought Chaos. He read on Magnus the Pious, and the various Chaos Incursions.

There was sudden jolt as the wagon hit something. Johan looked out and saw that they had hit a rock.

Five hours later the wagon had reached the camp. The afternoon sun burned intensely. Johan and the others were sweating profusely. “Attention!” Roared one of the captains. “Stand straight you lil’ maggot! Chin up, chest out, now!” The sixteen youth hurriedly formed a line, and stood like statues, despite the intense heat. “Look it all of you. Pathetic! I can easily tell that by the time I’m through with you, your gonna’ be asking me to give you to the Priests of Morr.” The captain went down the line and examined each soldier. As he passed by Johan, he gave him a quick look, and moved down the line. “Alright! Your first exercise for today is twenty laps ’round the perimeter of the city wall.” There was a long silence. “You think I was joking, maggots? Go now!”
“Yes sir!” roared in unison.

Two years passed.
Johan was stirred out of his tent by the various sergeants yelling at their men to wake. He yawned loudly as he put on his gear. It has been almost six months since they had came to the training camp. He stepped out of the tent and saw the entire camp was rushing and quickly running to their regiments. He saw and grabbed a nearby soldier of Von Daufen’s handgunners and asked, “What is going on?”

“We received a message this morning, a nearby city has been besieged by beastmen!”

“Beastmen?! I thought they were only monster that people made up to scare small children.”

A new voice had cut in. It was more harsh and deeper than most of the soldiers at the camp and cut through hope like a sword on flesh. “No, Private Hetsau. Beastmen are very real threat here in Empire.”

Johan looked behind him at Captain Neurhauten, his regiment leader. The captain stood on a crate, and called all attention the Drachen Halberdiers. Johan stood attention with his fellow soldiers.

“Gather ’round lads!” Neurhauten roared. “Today we go to relieve a besieged city. Its attacker is the vile of all enemies. For today we fight the foul beast of Chaos.” There was a long silence after he had mentioned that the six-month old Regiment was fighting an enemy that even the most seasoned of veterans find impossible to defeat.

Neurhauten spoke again. “Jus’ remember lads if you live today, keep your pike sharp and strong, and keep your faith in Sigmar, and you shall live to fight on!” He raised a fist into the air.

“For Sigmar!” Then the entire camp roared “For the Empire!” and set out to the besieged village.

They reached the city after a couple of hours. When they arrived most of the men wished they had not. Around the burning village were thousands upon thousands of beastmen, circling the city, and screaming in their foul tongue. Johan could make out the shapes of handgunners and crossbowmen shooting down at the attackers. The Beastmen were attempting to scale the wooden walls.

The Beasmen caught wind of the reinforcements, and had split up forces to deal with the new prey. The sergeants and captains now formed the Halberdiers and Pikemen. Pistoliers were placed at the flanks. Jittery handgunners now readied themselves for the oncoming horde. Engineers from Nuln pulled their cannons and a mighty Helblaster Volley Gun on the top of the hill they stood on.

Neurhauten drew his sword and said to his Halbirdiers “Remember lads, you’re the proud Guherberg Halberds of Averland, and it is your sole duty to protect Sigmar’s lands.” A chorus of “Ayes” followed. All of the men made the sign of the hammer and said a small prayer to Sigmar.

The beastmen got closer and closer. The pikemen lowered their spears, and halberdiers braced themselves for the charge, but it never came. Johan almost went deaf as the cannons and handguns fired all at ounce. He saw the oncoming beasts disappear under a cloud of smoke. The only way he knew they were hit was the limbs that flew into the air or torso and such that came tumbling in front of them. But more beasts burst forth from the screen of smoke only to be shot down by the hail of bullets that came at them. More beastmen kept coming through and the handgunners could not keep up with them.

Soon the beasts had reached the line, were skewered on pike and halberd, but still they came. Johan ducked under the strike of one beastman and chopped his halberd into its chest. Another one came at him. Johan ripped the halberd out of the first foe, and smashed the end of it into the second one’s face. In its rage the beastman chopped down with its great axe breaking the halberd in half. Johan ditched the shattered halberd, and drew his sword. He stepped back from the beast’s swing, and slashed the monster’s sword out in one single swipe. It grabbed its throat, trying to stop the bleeding but Johan finished off the beast by taking its head off.

Johan saw all the men around him dying. He saw one halberdier’s arm ripped off by one large beast, before the man could strike back the monstrous beast man bit down on his head and took it off in one bite. He saw another beheaded by a beast’s axe. Then the unexpected came. Gunther was in combat with the beastman leader. It was an ugly brute with a dog head and wielded two axes, and charged Gunther. He avoid the first strike and buried his halberd deep into its leg. The angry beast knocked him aside and pulled the halberd out its leg. The beast picked him up by the neck, and with it free hand took Gunther’s halberd and chopped him in half.

“No!” Johan roared and charged the beast. Johan chopped down two more beastmen with his longsword. He saw the dog-headed monster that had cut down Gunther. “Daemon! Come and die on my blade.” Johan roared.

The Beast gave a twisted smirk and said in a deep, bestial voice, “You talk big for such a small thing.” The beast spat on the ground “Too bad I have to kill you.” The thing beat on its chest and charged Johan, but he ducked under the first axe swipe then jumped back after the second.

Damn, he thought to himself, I should’ve let the bloody handgunners get killed. He parried the next several blows. Johan knew he was fighting a losing battle. He felt his strength give way after every blow. The beastman struck again but Johan caught the shaft of the axe, and ran his blade through beastlord. The beastlord roared and dropped to one knee. Johan took advantage of this momentary distraction, and took another sword from a fallen comrade, then took the beast lord’s head off.

With their leader dead, the Imperials cheered and reformed again. Johan looked for any surviving halberdiers. There were none. The Drachen standard was stuck into the ground. Johan went near it to check for any survivors. “Dak! Neurhauten! Kraus! Franz! Anyone?!” Johan yelled again. Then Johan heard a voice “Johan…” Johan found out it was coming from a pile of bodies near the standard. He saw one figure that sat upright against a pile of beastmen.

Johan recognized the soldier as Captain Neurhuaten. “Captain!” Johan said rushing to Neurhauten’s aid. The man was in horrible shape. His armour was ripped and torn. Blood gushed from tears in legging and chest. How much of the blood was from Nuerhauten, Johan couldn’t tell. His right arm was nearly hacked off. His face was bruised and beaten with blood pouring from his lips. “Johan…come here…”

“Yes captain.” Johan said tears filling up his eyes.

“We gave those chaos one hell of a fight didn’t we.”

“Aye. That we did, but Captain we must go and patch up your wounds immediately.”

“No. No, I am spent Johan. Leave me be. I have done what Sigmar asked of me, and now I shall return to him…”

“No. Sir you can’t leave-“

“Johan…don’t be an idiot. You…” the Captain coughed out blood. “…you think they can honestly… patch me up? No they can’t.”

“But-“

“No Johan…no… take my pistols… and my saber… and…keep fighting… keep Sigmar near to you and he… shall…. protect…” Neurhauten closed his eyes and died.

Johan and the rest of Guthenherr’s army had lifted the seige of the city of Durrhaufen. The coast was great. Thousands upon thousands of young troops of Guthenherr army had died and the defenders of Durrhaufen were all but spent. If this army of beastmen had burned through the Averland unchecked, the Empire could have lost more innocent lives to the dark Gods.

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