Act 1: The Republic Is Marching On
Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.
Collab by Serpentine8, Wernher and The Captain
17 years ago...Late Autumn 936AA On the fields of Ponemagique. Where it all was going to end. Thirty three years it took... Thirty three years worth of sacrifices for nothing. Sabino lamented silently as everything came crashing down. Sabino looked over the battlefield and he knew his long campaign was at an end. He promised the Continental Republic a victory at the beginning of their impossible war... Now he knew he was not going to be able to keep it. The armies of the Coalition outnumbered him six to one with yet more imperials coming. Even his usual advantage of superior quantity of cannons was no more. The Tiberian Republican Fusiliers and Grenadiers of the first army that had already been engaged were being pushed back towards where the Republican Guard and Sabino himself was located, the Republican-ESK flank would also soon fall. With that damn bastard Melissanides betraying democracy, not even Sabino's backup plan was viable. Bringing back from his hopeless brooding, Marshal Boliver approached on horse back. "Lord-Protector, Our reinforcements from the capital... They are not coming. The Senate has already surrendered and given your title over to Helicon" the man said with a resigned face just as the rest of the commanders wore. Now even the republic had betrayed democracy Sabino thought.
"The royalists will be arriving at this battle in the event we actually defeat Crown Prince Karl then"? Sabino asked. The marshal nodded solemnly.
"Alexander will be leading the charge himself... They will be here shortly". This was it then. Sabino knew he was fighting an unwinnable battle. Even if the Cornadians at his flank (which had arrived from their camp in time to witness the retreat of the first army) proved to continue their seemingly untarnished reputation of victory today, even if he once again performed another 'miracle' for the republic and win the battle... They have lost this war.
"Boliver, we have lost this war. I need you to follow through with the instructions I put forward in the event of my defeat. Move to Cromwell. Send the excess you can't take or don't need to the communists in Zakat. Make sure my fellow Sabino brethren don't try and install a monarchy in what little our republic has left... Do not allow our sacrifice to be in vain". Sabino stated as if reading off his will.
"Lord-Protector, we can sti---" Sabino suddenly glared at the Marshal and putting up his hand as a sign of silence.
"Marshal, I am not going to flee this battle. I have failed Tiberia too greatly to do so. Perhaps martyrdom will absolve me of my failures to Tiberia and liberty, perhaps history may remember me as something else than a coward". Though the Marshal looked like he was going to protest further accepted what was a near certain fate and turned to leave.
"Long live the republic Lord-Protector, I will see you in Zaic's realm" The marshal said upon finally parting ways, leaving the battle entirely to continue the revolution even after the deaths of Sabino and the Republic.
"Now then.... The Cornadians..." Sabino muttered to himself as he saw a Cornadian officer dismount and approach him, obviously sending word from General MacHugh.
Republican Army Flank, Cornadian Foreign Army... Moments before the final clashThe camp was emptied. The soldiers of Cornade, as soon as the missives had been received, filed out to the earthwork-lined perimeter to the disharmonic chorus of shouting officers and signal horns. Despite the energy of last night, and all the cocksure machismo of those eager Cornadian souls, today's atmosphere was entirely different. Many had woken up to the reality of the whole situation; to the truth that more than a few of them weren't going to be making out of this scrape alive. Rumblings of defeat and total withdrawal had filtered down the chain of command despite the eerie calm that many in the Cornadian upper echelons had maintained. They were entirely committed, funnily enough. They had millions back home rooting for them, and perhaps that was why. Rooting for the dawn of a new day under the republican world that so many writers and politicians had waxed on over on the pulpit, in the novel, or in the legislative assembly.
Besides, Cornade didn't raise no cowards. They were a different, stronger breed than these northern monarchist bastards, or so General MacHugh had told them the night before in a heartfelt, brutally honest, and brutally irreverent address to all the assembled companies. And, even despite the grim tidings from the returning scouts and bushwhackers, his words had stuck with many of them. No one had deserted. Not yet. No one had decided to call the war off. Even despite the full knowledge that this may be some grisly last stand to be romanticized by future generations, the Cornadians had stuck with it. They assembled at stoic attention, under the dim gray pall of that overcast morning, out facing the field that, presumably, they'd be fighting and dying on later.
Solid blocks of blue and gray uniforms, worn by men and women of so many different colors and creeds, standing shoulder to shoulder as far as one could see in either direction. That's what Major General Machugh rode out to, once he and his staff had been informed that all forces were assembled and prepared. They, MacHugh and his closest officers and advisors, proceeded out on horseback, coiling around the right flank of those assembled forces to ride down the line and perform a cursory survey of the troops. Even despite himself and his reputation as an undefeatable, iron-willed bastard, he couldn't help but feel the weight of the impending defeat crushing down onto his shoulders, and he looked all the grimmer for it.
He and his command group came to a halt before the heart of their line, and he drew his saber from the sheath affixed to his saddle. He looked left and right at those assembled ranks of Cornadians, and then yelled out, "Zaic damn those crown-loving sons of bitches, am I right?!"
"Zaic damn them, sir!" A roaring wave of assent came back his way, and more than a few of those assembled soldiers grinned, despite themselves.
MacHugh took a moment. He was gathering his thoughts. He couldn't send them off without giving them a few more words first. His horse canted side to side underneath him, shifting and ambling restlessly. Then, he said, "Our scouts, and Sabino's scouts, they tell us that we're outnumbered six to one. Six. To one. Pretty damned alarming, now isn't that?" He looked them over again, and was pleased enough when none of them quailed at that number. None of them moved to agree. "Well," he continued, "here's a little secret I'll let you in on, boys and girls. They forgot that every Cornadian I have out here, whether it be with a rifle, a pike, or a saber, is worth at least five of those soft tools over across the way!" He turned, his horse wheeling under him, and pointed with his gleaming blade across no-man's-land, to where the enemy was presumably waiting. He turned back to his troops, and then finished off strong, "Take that into account! Now, for all you who know arithmetic, consider that we also have these Tiberians on our left over there, ready to help us out. I say the odds are even, or, hell, in our favor! So don't for a Zaic damned second think that this is hopeless! Don't you cower! Don't you stop shooting! I will personally drag you forward into the enemy line myself if you even think about it! We're going to give them hell, and we're going to show them the big mistake they're making, fighting for one man at the top! We'll show them how the working man gets his hands dirty! We'll show them how liberating a bayonet in the gut can be, when a free man's wielding it!"
At the height of his speech, the army forces broke into elated cheering and yelling. They took off their caps and waved them, they jabbed their blades and guns into the air. And, as they did, McHugh grinned and turned to one of his staff and shouted, "Send the word to Sabino! I think they're ready to go."
Central Republican Army, Sabino's Republican GuardWith Marshal Boliver gone, and with the news that the Cornadian Army was fully prepared to fight to the end, Sabino turned back to the battle. This was going to be his final stand he thought. He had his horse move from the command area towards where the men were preparing for the Imperial advance. If he was going to become a martyr so that in the future, perhaps centuries from now, the world will be liberated... He was going to going to go out in blazing glory. A battle that will not soon be forgotten.
"Men! Soldiers of our most GLORIOUS REPUBLIC!" Sabino yelled, believing perhaps a speech now would motivate the men to fight a battle they knew they could not win. "Today and no other day in the history of Halvalla has the worlds future hinged on one battle! This is the battle we have all known would come. Victory in this battle will mean the absolute liberation of the world! If we break the tyrants here, the republic of virtue, our free world awaits..." Sabino then brought his horse to the front of the infantry, who started to march upon hearing trumpets and drums beginning to play. "There can be no defeat today! The enslavement of humanity ENDS HERE, ON THIS DAY!!" Sabino then draw his sword in the most dramatic way possible, encouraging his troops with whatever theatrics he could. "Brothers! Zaic's truth shall always march on! By his righteous light, long live the revolution!" He shouted, ending his speech.
"Long live the revolution!" the soldiers shouted in unison. The soldiers marched forward seemingly fearless. The line infantry under Sabino's personal command were coming to reinforce the retreating republican soldiers who now upon seeing their revolutionary leader coming himself were already reforming again. A final push to end the Sabinoist Wars once and for all, the combined strength of Sabino's own Republican Guard and Cornade's army on the flank would have to make the decisive blow, now. After marching for some time, the two opposing armies were nearing firing range, they could hear each other's music now.
The cannons were exchanging fire and launching dirt and body parts into the air. Suddenly, when the lines finally reached firing range of each other, the music and even cannons stopped. A great ominous wind blew past, and the tension amongst the men could almost be felt. In a massed clutter of sounds, the infantry brought done their muskets to form an unbroken wall of guns. The drummers begun playing again. "FIRE!" was shouted by officers before the sound was quickly drowned in the wave of musket fire. Whole lines of enemies dropped, before being reformed by more men. Once the smoke started to clear, the opposing infantry brought down their muskets to aim at the Republicans. In that instant, one thought passed through the Republicans minds.
"We are all going to die". The Republicans were then pelted with the furious counter attack. The Tiberian Army held fast, returning another volley into the royalists. Sabino was taking in the battle in depth, his thoughts and calculations working at incredible levels, desperation driving him on to think of some genius tactic to give them a victory in this battle. Before giving up completely, a great wave of inspiration came upon him. He had found it, a way to victory, just like that. Sabino grinned and was given a new burst of hope on his realization. He would reinforce the rapidly collapsing ESK flank, and then order them to retreat in a purposely disorganized manner. He knew that the Coalition would fall for it. The Coalition already knew the ESK lines were collapsing and that the ESK soldiers were hardly as loyal to the cause as Tiberia's or Cornade's. Yes... It would work. The Coalition was also confidant in their numerical superiority. They WOULD send forces to crush the ESK flank and then come around in a pincer. Sabino looked towards the battle at where he supposed Karl was. Once they did that... Sabino would charge his soldiers directly down the central line, capturing the coalitions leaders and cutting off the head of the snake. With Karl and Salduador out of the picture, Sabino would break the royalists and deal with the isolated Tiberian royalist army after. Sabino begun laughing at this new chance, a path that would lead to victory for democracy.
"Karl... I wi-" Sabino's announcement of victory was cut short and the triumphant smirk wiped off his face in an instant as a shot from a royalist cannon fired directly towards him, blasting a hole directly beside where his horse was located. It was like some malicious force of fate or chance had decided that of all the place's a poorly aimed cannon shell could land, it was right upon the leader of the enemies entire nation. Sabino was launched off his horse by the blast wave and a bloody mist filled the air as the bloodied gore of Sabino's guards and aides was scattered from the blast. By some twisted miracle, Sabino survived... To watch as his entire army panicked witnessing their great leader being struck down. Through the pain(Unaware of how badly he was injured) and the disorientation, Sabino cursed inwardly at Zaic and his own twisted fortune.
Though the effects were not immediate, Sabino knew that this would cost him dearly. Before more guards arrived doubtfully hoping to find him alive, the soldiers would now already begin hesitating. He would not be able to continue commanding in his condition and many will think he is already dead. And now the course of the battle and perhaps fate of the world was decided by a single cannon ball.
With no great leader to guide them, the Republican army slowly lost its morale and fighting ability. As the overwhelming numbers of the coalition overcame and isolated parts of the army, segments surrendered or routed from the battle, further launching the Republican Army into disarray was the arrival of the Tiberian Royalist Army, its appearance in battle behind the Republican ESK caused the entire flank to fall once and for all. To the other flank, the Cornadian's were finally beset by the true force of the Imperial Coalition, and those brave souls would continue the fight long after most of the army had already fallen...
Republican Army Flank, Cornadian Foreign Army... The end has come.MacHugh struck a match, and it flared up, a little pinprick of gentle orange light against the gray and brown backdrop of the smoke and mud choked hell that the battlefield had become. He brought the match up to the end of the cigar he held firmly between his lips, and it caught, and he inhaled deeply, sucking in the aromatic fumes. For all the whizzing of rounds all about him and his men, and for all the screams of the wounded, the dying, and those about to become one of the two, he was eerily calm. He was entirely unshaken. And so too, were those last brave few who had rallied around him. The Cornadian lines had collapsed under the sheer weight of the Imperial Coalition's numbers, and so now they drew back to hastily dug earthworks and prepared to repel the eventual final advance of the enemy.
They were now almost entirely surrounded, and an orderly, safe retreat had become an impossible. Any movement, lateral or backwards, would simply expose them to the brutality of Imperial gunfire. Any movement forward would be tantamount to suicide. And so, they waited, with what artillery they were still in possession of, and exchanged ineffectual fire back and forth. All of Cornade's supposed superiority on the field of battle, and for all the gung-ho crowd-rousing theatrics MacHugh had shown had back before the bloody business had begun, had amounted to little. The battle was all but decided. All the doom and gloom amongst the Tiberians that Machugh had mocked so eagerly days before was finally catching up to him and his men.
He may as well accept that fact that he'd been beaten with a sort of Cornadian dignity, though. He'd give those crown-loving sons of bitches a fight to remember before he had his men prop up that white flag.
Already the staccato crackle of the revolving guns, emplaced on high ground, at the heart of the Cornadian redoubt, filled the air. Darts of fiery, lead death weaved back and forth across the field. Surely, the devastation they can, and already had, wreaked on those traditional line-fighting Imperial forces would give them pause about making that final push. Those and the few field artillery pieces, a motley assortment of cannons and mortars, kept the enemy at bay while the troops braced themselves. They were out there, though, vaguely visible beyond the haze of gun smoke. They were waiting for the order, or maybe they were in disarray out there. MacHugh couldn't be sure from where he stood. The whiplash crack of the bushwhacker long rifles, which had been employed with deadly effect against enemy officers and flanks already, continued to reach his ears even despite the constant roar of the big guns just up the hill from him.
Then there also came the sounding of horns. Drummers drumming. Fifers fifing. That was it. There they came, right into the line of fire. They could afford it though, with all those damn soldiers they had.
"Sir," a lieutenant called, marching over in tattered uniform and throwing up a haphazard salute, "The Imperial forces are on the move."
"That they are. I've got ears too son," he muttered back, "Give the order to be ready. Coordinate fire on a squad level. Fight until I say otherwise," he marched over and clapped a hand on the young commissioned officer's shoulder, "There's no turning back now. You make sure they understand that."
The lieutenant, though clearly shaken by what he supposed was imminent death for him and his comrades, nodded, and saluted again. "Yes, sir," he mumbled, before turning to rush off and distribute the order to make ready.
And so, as the monarchist armies descended upon them, the soldiers of Cornade unleashed a stubborn, furious hell onto them. Fear was swiftly replaced with fury, and a resignation to what they supposed were their fates. Mumblings of defeatism and fear were spontaneously, from end to end, replaced by a low murmur of another kind. Somewhere in the formation, some folk had begun to sing, and it spread like patriotic wildfire. It could be heard even over the roar of gunfire and the screaming of those who were victim to it. A final cry of defiance from the soldiers of Cornade.
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord .."
Enemy artillery brought forth its own equal vengeance upon them.
"He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored .."
Revolving guns jammed. Whole stacks of cannonballs were depleted.
"He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword .. His truth is marching on!"
The enemy was in a full advance, aiming to assault the Cornadian fortifications and end the fight. Volley after volley from the stubborn, zeal-filled defenders felled rank after rank of charging foe, but it was not enough, and soon the fight came to such means as blade and bayonet and pike. The first line was soon to fall, but the will of those defenders did not falter. The second line continued its volleys even as the first was beleagured and swamped by masses of gaudily uniformed enemy troops. And so the first rank was forced into retreat, and then the second, and line by line they were pushed back or defeated, with the line behind them providing deadly and furious fusillades to stymie the tide of enemy forces.
All the while, they screamed that furious hymn to Zaic.
"Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on!"
By the end of it, MacHugh had the white flag flown. The defense was as stubborn as could be, but he knew it was doomed to failure.
He would not waste the lives of his men just to make a statement. At least some of them had to come home.
A few days later...
The sea was in storm. It had been 3 days since the Coalition troops had won the battle, although vast parts of Sabino's armies had surrendered, a core of loyal veteran had fought to the last men in the battle, the few survivors being those to gravely wounded to continue fighting. Sabino had been captured, tried and then executed to be buried in an unmarked grave so no future republican may use his grave as a shrine... Such was the official word at least. In the cabin, only Crown Prince Karl and some of his loyal guards around a man tied to a chair, an execution hood on his head. A guard removed the hood, revealing the face of Sabino. He had been taken care of by Karl's personal doctors, he didn't want him to die either, not now, not before a very long time.
Karl walked to him. Sabino was looking toward the outside, only a feint light visibly in the distance. As he came from behind him, Karl waited for a moment before proceeding with slow steps, turning around Sabino to be in front of him. "I'm probably a bad Avonian for what I'm about to do... You know what I'm about to do. This is the Island of No man's Rock and it will host you, for the remainder of your life on this earth before you are to be judged by Zaic."
Again, more silence. "... You tried to overthrow the order of things, caused the death of countless men, noble to commoner, among them my own brother on the battlefield and another that couldn't survive your Tiberian winter. You ruined countless nations, your own included and the scars of this war will still be seen for generations, the echoes of its cannons will be in the hearts and the minds of the people for centuries. What says you!?" Sabino stared at what seemed to be nothing, almost aimlessly. Quietly muttered "I did what had to be done".
Karl didn't reply immediately, in many ways, he had expected more. "And you failed, your plans were thwarted and monarchy lives on. Please, as if it ever came close to death, you led your people like an emperor and I'll be the first to admit that your 'Senate' made our job far more easier than it would've been. You can't trust a million people with no idea of what they're doing and each with conflicting ideologies to actually make good decisions if make one at all. Democracy is a weakness to both the country and its people and in times, people will come to realize this... I will leave you to your thoughts and when the storm clears out, we will land. Enjoy this chair, it shall be the most comfortable thing you will experience for the remainder of your life time. Guards." The men circled around Sabino and gagged him so he may not bite out his own tongue and kill himself.
Current time, No Man's Rock Dungeon
A loud 'CLUNG' was heard throughout the prison as the door to this facility's now only prisoner opened. A tall blond figure dressed of white appeared. "My, my, my... the legends are true. Good day, you may not know of me, but I know of you, Sabino..." Serclaes took a few steps toward what used to be a man. The figure was anorexic, scared, its face was caste in iron so no one may look properly at it. "Yes, good day, I am Alexander Serclaes, Hochbachen Citizen, industrialist, business man, count, patron of the arts and science and all around philanthropist, or so I'm told." Visibly, Serclaes couldn't hold his excitation of encountering a man such as Sabino, his gloved hands twisting around. "I was told they sometimes do what I am about to do, on the new year generally, the Imperial Post's year in review. I own that journal now, you know? And countless others, but I must admit it is my finest, even if the Daily Press sells more, which I own too, funny... Cat's got your tongue? Haha, oh no, the torturer got it, I remember now."
Serclaes took a sit on a small bench in the cell. Sabino, chained to the wall, didn't bother turning his head, but Serclaes knew he was still there, inside his mind. He opened his journal. "On the first page of course, news of the happy couple that is Prince Karl Junior and Princess Veronica De Astra of Veluca. I even got an invitation, haha. Haaaa, there will always be this charm of knights and princesses to royalty, that I think even you must admit. We could argue it is more charming even than freedom, 'tis why you were defeated after all. Other than that, Waldeck and Muler are at it again, some fear parties of the extreme right leaving the conservative coalition could threaten Waldeck's hold of the parliament." He had a smirk while turning the page. "Some of us, of course, know better. I'm sure even your republic had its good old 'invisible hand' around, no?"
Serclaes went through the paper. Finance, Serclaes marches on, international news in Cromwell sending another diplomatic insult to the ICA's office in Chaleroi, General Armquist laughing in public about it, miscellaneous events and sports, giving particular attention on the polo teams of Praven and Tour University that faced themselves, the Tiberians winning only by a few points at the end of the match. 'To be fair, it was the home team, very little crowd for Hochbach in Tiberia these days, Basil really invested his money well in that team. You know of Basil?'. A few hours went by as Serclaes closed on the comics in the journal, placing the journal in front of Sabino so he may see the characters in funny little situations, a banging came on the door, it was time.
Serclaes bowed slightly toward Sabino, a mocking smirk on his face. "You know, I have great admiration for you and what you were trying to achieve. It is noble on paper, buuut then again, I tend to agree with the consensus of the world's strong men by saying that the populace can't be trusted in thinking on the long term and do what must be done, rather than what is easy... At least it's my opinion, can you believe 12 years after the republican menace is defeated Hochbach would become a, haha, constitutional monarchy? Funny, now Hochbach is more democratic than Tiberia is today! Helicon with his iron fist, Aurelius and his parties. Ever heard of prince Aurelius? Oh he would have been such a tool for propaganda, If there is something closer to the out of touch noble image of monarchy, it must be him... You know, I don't even know why they keep you here, what good could you do anyways. Cromwell's an island with no hope, Cornade moved on and prefers to export stuff and get money rather than... export democracy and get an ass kicking, hahaha! ...Yes, we should probably just let you go..." The door opened and Serclaes slowly moved to it, leaving the journal in the cell. "...We should..." As the door was closing behind Serclaes, he stopped it and looked back for but a moment. "But not today... 'Lord protector'". The door slammed shut.