Souls Of Iron (A work of fiction by me/coastwardchippy, taken from the marauders forums)
(As the title suggests , this was written in the forum by me originally this was written in parts so do forgive the frequent breaks as it was written over a two week period during Christmas 2011, a follow up is gradually being written over the course of the last seven months and into the future and can be found on the game’s forums. I have collated the story into one piece and realised this is as good a place as any to dedicate to this game, its developers and its community.)
They came in the night.
A week ago they came, a bandit raid in the middle of the night turned what was no more than an ink stain on the map of the world into nothing more than a memory for those that survived.
Local militia bought us time, their valuable knowledge of the local geography and use of guerrilla warfare held back the intruders valiantly but they were outgunned and ill-equipped, military grade weapons being used by the bandits proved that they would raid any type of settlement, no matter how well defended. The shock baron fortress in the town square was the only fortification that gave our enemies pause, the inclined barrel of the gigantic cannon standing defiantly towards the sky blasting shells towards the bandits with explosive ferocity. By the fourth morning we could see its burning remains.
Lord Stafford sat in the command cradle of his personal atavar tank, the squat bulky tank led the convoy of assault archos, savars and cargo trucks carrying civilians. The mechanized column of vehicles roared across hidden dirt tracks and old highways, the belch of the throaty engines challenging any attackers to try if they had the guts. Lord Stafford was the uppermost authority of the town that no longer existed, he held in his hand a scrawled note that read "Jasmine's Gentleman's Club- Anchorpoint". When he first received this note, he had thought that this destination would fund his luxury retirement in some hidden corner of the Osatian sea through rather salubrious means, as befitting of the establishment's repute, however the events that he had witnessed through the past week had changed him. The destination written on the note was the only hope for the remnants of his community, the funds could provide a new town for those that had survived, letting the memory of those friends, siblings, children and parents live on through the survivor’s future existence. This journey was no longer fuelled by survival; it was his personal crusade to give a new home to his citizens.
As long as hope lived, so did danger. The journey had led them into the Sondar valley, a wooded valley that used to support several rural communities who had been decimated just like his had been. Bandits were rife here, the thick woods were perfect ambush territory, and everyone was all too aware of it, especially after seeing the charred remains of an assault archos at the side of the road. Suddenly every set of tracks was a threat.
Safety felt so far away when the high peaked mountains and foreboding forests was all that accompanied them.
The fast moving column of iron stopped for nothing.
Lord Stafford couldn't help feeling anxious as he watched from the top hatch of his atavar tank, the pintle mounted heavy machine gun sat beside him unused in a position that suggested this was a leisurely afternoon drive, not a group of frightened men and women fleeing for their lives, the former being something that used to be the norm in Lord Stafford's previous life of luxury.
The world rose around him, the peaks of the mountain range that shaped the Sondar valley soared towards the sky, tearing through the cloud layer like a knife. The trees of the wood that surrounded him clung desperately to the side of the mountain, climbing as high up as they possibly could, but looking no more than a green and brown blur as they passed, racing across the open ground of the grassy valley floor. The trees acted like an organic wall, defining the route, continuing endlessly on ahead of us where the journey planned on leading.
It was midday when the sight of wrecks along their path foretold a possible fate. As the interval between wrecks became continually smaller, the knuckles of Stafford's clenched fist turning whiter and whiter as each one passed. When he noticed the gutted coffin of a command destroyer, an involuntary gulp passed his lips and seemed to echo round the hull, the spooked eyes of his loader turning towards him, it was at that point that he ordered the column to bunch up through his oak furnished radio, his only possession saved from his burning estate. His radio represented the transformation that had undergone the entire convoy. What had once been domestic is certainly now military, especially the people.
Half an hour later and they found the scorched remains of a farming community, one that had most likely suffered the same catastrophe as theirs had, it was a sobering thought wondering whether they had been as fortunate as they had been, if you could call them fortunate.
He ordered the column to come to a stop, for what was to come next, they were going to need a rest.
Lord Stafford's martial brain raced as he set about ordering his subordinates, the military indoctrination of one of such aristocratic birth had put him in good stead so far, yet again the privileges from such a high birth overshadowing his own prowess.
"Have the archos covering the tree line and the savars covering the valley, they won't be able to hide tanks under the trees so they would have to come the same way we had. At least we’ll able to see them coming", mutters of assent coming from Lord Stafford's comrades, none of them having the necessary military knowledge or energy to question his orders. "Keep the patrols isolated, if we are sighted, they won't have complete knowledge of our disposition. Thank you gentlemen, dismissed".
He returned to his atavar as his makeshift army hurried around him. The radio crackling into life moments after he had climbed back in,
"meet me in the town centre"
"affirmative" Lord Stafford replied, knowing that only one other person had access to a radio in the convoy.
The tank edged its way through the debris of the town, "good, cautiously now, I don't want anything disturbed", he warned to the humpbacked figure of the driver who muttered an inaudible confirmation, his eyes pressed against the driver's view port, never looking away, even to engage in conversation.
"I knew a friend who was born here" the loader broke in tentatively during the long silence of the tank traversing, the hiss and clank of pressurised gas and hydraulics replaced by his uneven pitched voice of someone in the latter stages of puberty, complete with a greasy face full of freckles and auburn hair. "He's dead now".
There was little that marked the site of the town centre except for the gaggle of civilians huddled nervously around their cargo trucks and the brick skeleton of what was once a town hall. The tank pulled up next to a tall man who stood alone by an archos.
"Coming to stretch your legs?", Lord Stafford asked his crew,
"Nah, their was a farmer's wife that once told me she would haunt me if I touched her daughter. Can a ghost penetrate armour plating?" he replied with the naivety of youth.
Lord Stafford chuckled meanwhile the driver grunted a reply.
The figure that greeted Lord Stafford as he climbed out was somebody who would have formerly been considered his butler, a long distance exile who had committed some war crime that he considered so atrocious that he would never speak of, even under the harshest questioning. They hugged each other like they were brothers. He had taught Lord Stafford the lessons of life that Lord Stafford's father should have. The exile had a bronze complexion and far taller and slender than most.
"Henry, how are our provisions holding up?"
"well sir, we should make it as long as we don't lose any of the supplies stashed on our cargo trucks" he replied in his wistful foreign accent, Lord Stafford nodded anxiously in response.
Before they could say any more, they noticed a pair of horseman racing down the side of the mountain before disappearing amongst the trees, Henry and Lord Stafford were both certain that the horseman were heading straight for them.
Fear is a strong catalyst of animation.
Word spread quickly down the chain of command and within minutes Lord Stafford's ragtag army was thundering away from the small settlement. The atavar tank of Lord Stafford ran ahead of the main body of the army acting as a makeshift scout, designed in particular for close range warfare and armoured to cope with such dangerous situations it was perfect in the role.
Wearing his thick furs Lord Stafford pulled himself up through the top hatch, taking the heavy machine gun to brace against the onrushing wind, as well as any hostiles that dare show their faces. It was a sensible vantage point to survey the battlefield but little would have prepared him for what he was about to see.
Lord Stafford turned to see the rest of the column trailing behind his lead, the town that they had briefly stopped at now disappearing quickly into the barely visible distance, suddenly a tide of horseman burst out from underneath the canopy of the woods identical to the pair of horseman that had foolishly tipped the convoy off about the ambush, charging in the wake of their fleeing targets.
"What do we do?" Henry crackled over the radio,
Lord Stafford instinctively reached down for his radio, an action that saved his life. At exactly the same time a wrecker came crashing out of the tree line from the right, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, centuries old trees being snapped like twigs by the seemingly monstrous machine, the dual caterpillar treads churning the grassland into muddy oblivion as it traversed. It charged directly at the atavar tank, the huge iron wrecking ball swinging wildly ahead of it as it went for the almost tiny tank in comparison. Fortunately, the speed of the atavar meant the wrecker shot past harmlessly behind the atavar, the wrecking ball swinging disconcertingly close over the top hatch where Lord Stafford’s head had been mere moments ago.
Lord Stafford was ill prepared for the dilemma that raced across his synapses, attempt to outrun the cavalry, or make a stand against the cavalry charge, hoping that distance and the fact that they were unsupported would outweigh the sheer quantity of horseman.
“Fight!” Lord Stafford screamed down the radio, not considering the ear-piercingly loud level of volume for the recipient at the other end of the radio before scrambling to the defence of his own tank.
Lord Stafford, barely aware of the great wrecking ball that had swung just above his head , jumped to the heavy machine gun mounted to the top hatch. Steel nerved he clenched the bulky weapon with both hands and gritted his teeth so hard his mouth went numb. With sheer determination he yanked the unwieldy thing round so it faced the rear end of the tank.
In the ever increasing distance Lord Stafford could see the engagement between his forces and the onrushing assailants, the details of which were far less important than the ominous wrecker looming broodingly over Lord Stafford, its two huge, upward exhausts that sat behind the glass cockpit roaring with the power of a mythical beast and drowning at all other sound including Lord Stafford's own thoughts of self preservation. The driver of the wrecker certainly looked like a stereotypical thug, a black leather trousers paired with a sleeveless black leather jacket. The jacket's unbuttoned state allowed the toned muscles of his torso to poke through meanwhile the lack of sleeves clearly showed his well endowed biceps, the torn threads around the shoulder making it look like he had torn the sleeves off himself. He was also bald with a strong forward set forehead matching his cheeks and chin, finally he had small beady eyes and a one-toothed grin created by his malevolent, single-minded intent on everyone else’s demise.
Lord Stafford pulled the trigger and released a salvo of tremendous firepower at the glass cockpit that made not a sound compared to the audible barrage of the wrecker, the considerable recoil diminished by Lord Stafford's iron grip. Much to his infinite disappointment Lord Stafford realised the cockpit was made from bulletproof glass, however the driver of the wrecker grinned even wider than before as the high caliber ammunition made harmless impacts around him.
The wrecker was finally coming about and beginning to chase down the atavar, the opportunity that had arisen through its large turning circle wasted by the unwanted surprise. The weighty nature of the wrecker disguising an unnatural speed, a fact that Lord Stafford discovered as the wrecker closed infuriatingly close. Lord Stafford dived back into the relative safety of the compartment as the wrecker swerved across the the trail of the tank violently from right to left, using the momentum of the wrecking ball to swipe at the tank, but the imprecise method of the aiming thankfully meant that it failed to hit, but then tried again, the wrecker's persistence rewarded with a glancing hit across the rear of the atavar and the sound of rending metal reverberating around the cabin of the tank.
Lord Stafford knew he had one option, if he could stop the tank at the point where the wrecking ball was at the farthest point of swing then it would pass harmlessly in front of the vehicle meanwhile the wrecker would overtake allowing the main gun to be used. But to do that, there was only one extreme course of action.
Last edited by thechippy
Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:53am