The airship rocked side to side as it floated above the burning city of Pumpgrad. The city was still a war zone, but soon the troops in the city would die of starvation and thirst and the imperial forces would be victorious. Hopefully. The city was completely surrounded, and imperial troops were making steady victories everyday, but it was a grinder, men went in, bodies and broken equipment came out.
The Emperor lifted a spy glass with his good hand a scanned the dark city streets, until an explosion grabbed his attention for a few seconds. He could see black silhouettes of men running from burning building to burning building, bullets erupting around the blackened shapes and then they disappeared into a structure, or trench. He couldn't do anything from this perch above the battlefield, but it was the only safe place he could be.
The week before he was dragged out of the burning shell of his landship on the outskirts of the city, the battle was supposed to be fast and decisive but it turned into a disaster. Early reports illustrated a force of militia and city guards, not brigades of well drilled cadets and a landship squadrons. And the sandstorm that followed the engagement tore what little hope the Emperor had for a victory into a dream.
His left arm was still bandaged, but it still was painful to move. He didn't show it though, not to his troops. They've been through a lot, a week's march, a disaster of a engagement and now a grinding siege. There was no way the Emperor was going to leave the front, even if it may cost him his arm.
The troops that were left were rough and battered, but the amount and intensity of the fight has culled out all the chaff and now what was left was a force to be reckoned with, but there numbers were few and far between what he needed to carry on this campaign. the Emperor could have raised the reserves, that would bolster his ranks but there would be blood. Lots of it.
There was a fireball erupting out of a deserted street below him, the airship rocked as the hot air rushed by the ship. “Must have been a supply cash” said the pilot. The Emperor just looked at the aging airship men and nodded. In the airship the Emperor had with him five guards, and two commanders. both commanders were what is known as “Letzter” or last ones, for all of their men were killed in the city below, it was dishonorable to lose a command to fighting and not die yourself, it has only happened twice since the empire was created, now it happens more often than not.
The only way to lift the stigma of being a letzter was to enter battle looking for death, and if you survive the battle, you are redeemed and allowed to join back with the army. There are strict customs that must be followed also. You must wear a black sack coat, it identifies you as a Letzer to other Prush forces That will then ensure you go in first. Next you must wear a bright sash. It must be large, so your enemies can see and aim at you easily. Lastly you may only use bladed weapons. The use of any firearm is prohibited. But if you survive not only are you redeemed from your dishonored passed, you gain an even higher air of honor among your peers, also you must keep your black uniform as a symbol of your willingness to die for honor. No one has ever been able to claim this prize, for everyone who has attempted has died.
The airship floated over the stone spires and through the black ember filled smoke clouds until the Emperor spotted a perfect landing zone. It must had been a park at one time, but the shelling and fire storms had turned it into a pummeled lot. The airship circled the target for a few moments then descended. Meer feet from the ground gunfire erupted. The pilot took the first hit as the bullets ripped into the cloth and wood bulkheads. The airship started to rotate hard to the left until it smashed into a brick building.
The dust settled as the Emperor woke up. Dried blood had caked in his hair and face. He heard the yells of men and there footfalls as they ran up to the crashed airship. Two of the guards were still alive. Along with one of the Letzter. One of the guards was loading his rifle, as the other was silently counting the men approaching, “ten men are coming my Emperor!” The guard whispered. The Letzter pulled out his saber and crouched near the door, ready to attack. The guards sighted in targets, and the Emperor lifted himself from the airship floor and clenched a longsword with his good hand. Any moment now, they would pounce.
Somewhere behind the approaching men an explosion sounded, shooting and and debris high into the sky. The men hit the deck trying to hide from the razor like shrapnel. The Emperor and his men charged out of the destroyed airship and started slaying the men on the ground. More shells were incoming, the shreks form the falling bombs for closer. Then they exploded midair, raining iron splinters everywhere. One splinter found its make in the Emperor's left leg, but it didn't stop their advance as they cleaved there way across the lot and into some buildings.
As they entered the halls of what had been a store, they found themselves in back of a volley gun position. The shells must have been trying to it the volley guns but over shot into the lot behind the building. The guns were focusing fire across the streets and parkway into another building. On the outside of the targeted building was a tattered imperial flag. The Emperor quickly tied a piece of cloth on his wounded leg and pointed with his sword at the guns. One of the guards pulled a hand grenade. He chucked it right into a volley gun operator, nearly knocking him out.
The explosion rocked the building as the volley gun flipped and landed in the street. One of the operators was caught on fire and started running about until a sniper put him down. It was quite. No Confederate troops came to bolster the destroyed position, or imperial troop came to take it. The group waited five minutes. Then the Emperor got irate and grabbed a flag from one of the guards and marched out into the street. At first he was meet by a badly aimed gunshot that landed feet in front of him. His blood was boiling. He marched across the street and into a building, where six men were awestruck. The Emperor grabbed one and though him out the door and then continued to kick the other men until that made it across the street into the building.
By then the rest of the men in the building saw what was happening, droves of them poured out of their fortified position and raced across the street into the enemy stronghold. As the Emperor waved his men on in the distance were gunshots and explosions. A airship hovered over the block and circled the area. It had imperial flags hanging off of it, and men leaning out of the doors pointing to the ground. At first the Emperor looked about to see what they were pointing at, until he realized they were pointing at him. The airship glided over the building and landed out of sight. The Emperor and his guards moved back through the building and walked into the lot where they had crash-landed moments before. The airship gingerly parked in the open lot. Men jumped out and formed a ring around the ship.
A man in a red coat and torn trousers and a bandage around his head appeared out of the airship holding a note. The man started to walk, but the Emperor held his hand up. He meet the man halfway. With a quick salute the man handed the Emperor note. He studied it twice and tucked it into his pocket. Another man poked his head out of the airship. It was Sir Otto Landry VanHus, the war master of the Empire. “Sir you are needed elsewhere, we have secured the city and our scouts are reporting that the confederacy has issued a general retreat back to their capital.”
The Emperor crawled into the airship. He didn't realize that he'd been hit a few times. The medical staff started pulling metal and other things out of his arms and legs. “We shall pursue them! Wipe them from the field” shouted the Emperor. The airship started to take off. “Well sir, it's not that easy, the confederacy and Prushland has made a deal, Prushland says if you push any feather into the confederacy they will invade. We have no more forces sir to hold them back if they move on us. The confederacy wants peace.” Whispered Otto.
The Emperor looked out the airships door. The city below was in ruins.”raise the levy infantry, put them in reserve positions along the front line, place 3 units near the border of Prushland, call them a defensive countermeasure.” Ordered the Emperor. “also I will need to make some meetings in Antiford, there are a few interested parties that could aid us for a price. Have we heard back from any of our teams in Prushland?”the Emperor added. Otto smiled and said “ah yes the madam is ready to pounce, and our team are spreading disinformation. I believe that is one of the real reasons Prushland is willing to invade. There leader needs to show that he's strong or something. It won't matter for much longer tho”
“Fine” stated the Emperor, as he eased himself back into a sitting position, the medics continued their work. “Go to the Prushland border, set up a field HQ, I'll have some things shipped to you. Ensure that the Antifordian Script writer is there as well, we are going to end this once and for all.” And with that the Emperor let go of the conversation and nodded off to sleep with the aid of a few drugs. The War master looked at the note, then pulled out his notebook and started writing down orders. The airship glided across the early morning sky heading for parts unknown.