Nearly a year had passed by since Pierre had been ordered to maintain law and order in Avon town. Jean was now 19 years old, as well as a Captain of the city watch. His brother wrote to him occasionally, sent by the Imperial Postmen from Avon town on the Northern frontline. The letters grew darker as the months passed by and were mostly updates to the growing list of obituaries of the Legionary host in the North. Pierre had spent the majority of his time in the Northern town fighting off the wild tribesmen and insurrectionists that sometimes assaulted the town- in addition to the rebel townsfolk who protested regularly in the streets for their liberation and independence. He'd been promoted several times over the course of his deployment, having been granted his own squad as a result of his display of the ability to survive and work together with his kinsmen in the midst of the depraved savagery of the uncivilised northlands that they sought to bring under the king's reign.
The rioting only continued to grow and worsen, however, as the imperial troops attempted to enforce the taxes that only seemed to increase steadily higher with each passing year. Jean opened the latest letter from his brother after a long day of watch duty over the prison workers in the sprawling imperial capitol. King Louis IV passed a law late in the year 1E78 that ordered the prisoners of Legion to manual labour and public works projects in exchange for a better of life within the prisons in an attempt to appease the people of Legion, who were angry at the King for the unfair treatment of his subjects. The letter had only just arrived in the post and now Jean found himself sat on his own at the shared dining room table for two to brood over the warning that Pierre had sent him from the Legionary frontlines.
My dearest brother,
We’ve taken fifteen more of the townsfolk today to be sent to you in the Royal Dungeons of Dunkirk Castle, though we probably killed twice that. There was another tribal attack on the town today and nearly half of the soldiers here are dead or wounded. We received word here on the frontline that more troops are going to be sent here soon by order of the King. He plans to wage an all-out war on this place Jean- we’re all going to be doomed to die here in these damned pagan lands. One of the tribals can kill ten of ours in the bush and on an open field it’s a fifty/fifty chance one-on-one, but this is their country and they know it best. There is no hope of success in a war here and King Louis has no idea what he is damning his legions to! You must flee the country; I hear the elves are still sending explorers abroad to the eastern colonies across the sea. Go with them, you will find your chances better at starting a new life overseas rather than fighting for it here on the frontline- you must escape the King’s folly.
The letter was roughly a week old, aged in the postman’s satchel on the ride South from Avon-town, the temporary frontline of the Legionary host. The king had just passed a law taxing the cannabis that the Ahglorians brought through Legion lands on their routes to Aenor in the east. The King greatly desired the northern herb, though the tribesmen refused to sell it to the folk of Legion for any offered amount of gold. Jean had been ordered to the frontline with his company to enforce the new tax and after reading his brother’s letter, Jean had made his decision- though it was not easy for him to accept. He stowed some clothes away into a travelling pack and slung it over his back.
He’d already changed into commoner’s clothes out of his silver-plated captain’s armament. He left his shield and armour behind, taking just his sword- along with food, clothes, and some gold to keep him on his journey East. Even as he gathered himself to prepare for his departure, he couldn't help but reminisce on the night he argued with his brother when they'd first made their decision to run away. Jean worried for his brother, though he was confident in his big brother's might. Pierre's devotion, dedication, and natural talent had singled him out during their training for his ferocity during spars, though it had also gotten him placed on the frontlines of what was seemingly leading up to the first war in the imperial kingdom's history.
Putain! I knew this would happen! I even told him so, but no- of course I enabled it to pass... now we will die for the same king who tore our family apart to begin with! Damn it! Jean thought to himself, choking back some tears as his thoughts drifted towards their parents. Even if he wanted to, he could never return there- the soldiers would simply find him and arrest him, in addition to anyone harbouring him for his crimes of desertion...
At first glance, the young deserter would appear to be no more than a freelance adventurer or even a mercenary. The only giveaway was his silver imperial-forged captain's sword and his face if he were recognised by a fellow soldier of the city watch there in the capitol. Desertion and treason were covered under the same criminal offence, punishable by death. Jean decided that it would be easier to escape in broad daylight where an attempt at night would arouse suspicion, in addition to the fact that there were less people around to blend at night with as opposed to the daylight hours. Having served alongside them, he knew firsthand that the guards were lax in their duties during the middle part of the day, only half-way through with their shifts and ready for them to be over with so that they could spend their evening in the pub after the guard change.
So it was that Jean left the morning following the arrival of his brother’s letter- only days before he was due to depart from the city to the frontlines in the North. He crossed the first checkpoint at the bridge that connected Dunkirk and France without any issues, diverting from the road outside France as quickly as he found himself able to. A commotion arose across the River Amstrel in Dunkirk's city centre behind him, though he continued on his travel's without slowing down or diverting his attention from his objective. His heart was racing; Jean feared for his life and fought with all of his might to appear normal- as if nothing were out of the ordinary. He told all the guardsmen at the different checkpoints that he was travelling to Calais to meet with a merchant to escort him on the northern trade route, for he was a mercenary. Bands of soldiers were beginning to rush towards Dunkirk in light of whatever was beginning to unfold, but Jean did his best to remain calm. This isn't my problem; I'm a mercenary on a quest- this is a soldier's concern, Jean thought to himself, ignoring whatever the cause of commotion was in the distance as he continued on his way. Once he'd passed the final checkpoint out of France, he breathed a sigh of relief before turning from the main road towards his true destination in the elvish lands of Aenor, where he would finally be free of his obligations to King and Country.
About the author
Kelson Hayes is a British-American author and philosopher, born on 19 October 1994 in Bedford, England. His books include Can You Hear The Awful Singing, The Art of Not Thinking, and The Aerbon Series.