Legend of the Fire Rangers
“Old man Nic!” The children shouted who had gathered in his small home that late afternoon. “Will you tell us a story?”
Nicolay was indeed old, the oldest man in the village by far. Nobody actually knew how old, and by now people thought it impolite to ask him. If the less reluctant children asked he would just smile, and say “old”. Most people were actually a bit afraid of him, as his hands were scarred by fire and he had a rough way about him. He used to work as a smith’s apprentice, he said about his hands.
“A story you say hmm.” He told stories often to the children of the village, sometimes fairy tales, sometimes myths, sometimes of faraway places, and some of historical events.
“Do you know the story of theLacarde Company? Or the Fire Rangers as they were later recorded in history.”
Nicolay had a group of a bit older children seeking him out today, they could handle this story he thought. None of them responded positive on his question, not that he expected them to know the tale, as it was by now to long ago to be told around much. Except by old folk like him.
It happened in the end of autumn, I don’t remember the exact year. But it hadn’t rained all year, the last wetness that came down from the sky was snow on old years day. The creek where the Lacarde Company stood guard had dried out long ago. The creek ran through the Mïtsha forest, which is completly gone nowadays. But back then the forest had dried out, the trees had dropped their leaves. Bushes where bare, and the grass yellow. Animals where gone, looking for water or died of thirst. But the Lacarde Company, a group of rangers, was there, defending the Haafy Kingdom from an attack of their western neighbours the Dutchy of Silä.
Mister Richard, where is that? One of the brighter lads asked.
Both countries are now gone, and the areas are provinces under a new name of the Wart Republic, to the east. There little war was futile in the grand scheme of things.
Even though the Wart Republic was far away from the village, the children knew about it at least, not that they could imagine how far it actually was or what it was like. But they had heard the name.
Captain Nonac was the leader of the Lacarde Company, and he was desparate to hold his defences. They had already given up the fertile farm lands of The Bond to the west to the attacking Sillans. And behind them lay the town of Swatch, it housed thousands of refugees, who all fled to the city because of either the war or the draught, the city was well known for its naturals springs, and in that day it was the only water source for dozens of leagues around.
The Lacarde Company had run out of water five days ago. Captain Nonac had send out a few messengers, but supplies from the Swatch where slow. The town officials had more eyes for their inhabitants and refugees, and where reluctant to give their resources to the Army who would not pay for them. The Lacarde Company, desperate for a drink and unable to leave their post, resorted to killing their horses and drinking the blood.
The troops of Silä never stopped attacking, every day again and again, and the Lacarde Company was losing people every day. But they still held their position, the creek served as a natural breastwork, they had a bit of a higher ground on their eastern side, and there where about a dozen steps of grassy meadows on the western shore, but it wouldn’t be long or they would be overrun by the superior numbers.
Captain Nonac was already thinking about retreating to the city of Swatch, and giving up another precious bit of land of the King. But the city had no defence works and laid out in the open, surrounded by farmers fields, without any natural possibility to form a defensive line. It would be impossible to defend with his small group of Rangers. Besides that, Swatch did have ample water, but with the thousands of extra people in it, it would run out of food fast if it were to become besieged. In confidence the Captain discussed his desperation with his first Lieutenant, whom also wasn’t sure what to do, and could only suggest to send another letter to the General. But their need for water was very high.
A day later three wagons arrived from the supply caravan from the Army, carrying water from Swatch, and the decision was taken from Captain Nonac as the supplies came with orders. Orders to attack across the creek, in two days time. Together with other companies to the north and south. To drive the Sillan invaders out. Captain Nonac thought it was a stupid order, as the troops of Silä where much better equipped, fed, trained, and there were just a lot more of them. This was a suicide mission to him. The General who wrote the order knew it, but most likely he was forced by the King. His Lieutenants knew it, and the men knew it too. But that night only one of the soldiers left. A young corporal from the east of the kingdom, who had just wed before the war started. And Captain Nonac thought he had made the best choice, and just added his name to the list of lost in combat the day before and secretly wished him good luck.
All other stayed on their post, two hunderd and twelve of them where left. It was when the a corporal came and asked if he could maybe read the message himself. And the guy clearly having troubles with his letters read the order aloud in a stumbling voice. That Nonac had an idea. The orders where signed with the Kingdoms motto; By fire and flame we shall remove evil. Captain Nonac hadn’t even read that part because it was under every letter of the Army.
That night they made torches, one for each of the Lacarde Company's Rangers. And an hour before sunrise, when the dawn just started to crawl over the countryside, they crossed the creek with a slight breeze from behind. Having enjoyed their last drink of water, they had sent the remaining wagon back to Swatch. They entered Mïtsha forest, lighting the bushes, grasses and shrubbery around them as they went forward in a long line towards the troops of Silä. with sword in hand. Soon the forest behind them was in flames, reaching taller then a man could jump, and the wind pushed the smoke and heat against their cloaks. There was no going back now, only forward.
The troops of Silä where surprised in their beds in their camp in the woods, and the fire made them run, they where three days marching into the woods at that point, but they ran trying to outpace the flames. The Mïtsha forest burned for a week, and the fire spread all the way to the north and south, and from the creek to the western border, no tree was spared, branches burst out in flames from the approaching heat, trunks cracked open exposing their dry cores adding fuel to the raging fire, roots turned to coal in the ground. The earth it self seemed to be alight. But the survivors told tales of figures among the flames, figures clad in armour that appeared to glow, wielding flaming swords. Killing those who tried to run.
According to reports from Silä 3000 died that day in the fire, and they didn’t push their attack further into Haafy. That ended the war, The Bond, was part of the Dutchy now. And even tho the winter brought loads of rain, the Mïtsha forrest remained a pile of ashes marking the new border.
The Lacarde Company was never heard of again. No bodies were found in the burned forest, as there where only ashes. Not that the Army looked for them. The last attack of the Lacarde Company was but a footnote in their reports of the war. No memorial was placed for them, no medals given. If it weren’t for the letter Captain Nonac had given to the last wagon driver he sent back to Swatch their story wouldn’t have been known.
The children left one by one after old man Nic had finished his story, and didn’t say anymore. The sun had set and the small fire reflected in his eyes while he stared into the flames, lost in thought.
“Nicolay Richard Nonac” He thought. ”It was today, 176 years ago to the day.”
Nic took off his shirt to take a bath before he went to bed, and if anyone would be spying through the windows they would see that Old man Nic’s scares didn’t cover just his hands.