The Bridge Burners
The Moonwreck Desert
“Crossing it had etched the souls of the three companies that would come to be called the Bridge Burners. We could imagine no other name. The Moonwreck burned our pasts away, making all that came before a trail of ashes.”- Thoughts of Kalam Mekhar, assassin.
Whiskeyjack gives an extensive account on the formation of the Bridge Burners.
“Well, the city the Protector was holed up in was breached, the walls sundered, slaughter in the streets, the madness of battle gripped us all. Dassem struck down the Holy Protector – Dassem and his band of followers he called his First Sword – they chewed their way through the enemy ranks. The Protector’s cadre of sorcerers, seeing the death of their master and the shattering of the army, fled. Dassem ordered my company in pursuit, out into the desert. Our guide was a local, a man recently recruited into our own Claw.
That guide was Kalam Mekhar. He led them through the Moonwreck desert, in pursuit of the cadre, which didn’t split up as it was expected to. The trail to the cadre led into the heart of Moonwreck. The leader of the company was Whiskeyjack.
According to Whiskeyjack, following him was a rag-tag collection of 70 soldiers, a collection of marines, engineers, infantry and cavalry. They were soldiers Dassem deemed able to be spared, sacrificed even, a collection of soldiers from different squads which were effectively dead. Nobody predicted these soldiers would form the core of one of the most elite companies in the Emperor’s Military.
While pursuing the renegade mages, the squad came across shriveled, old bodies which appeared to have been dead for years, though that was impossible. Whiskeyjack and Kalam suspected magic. Though the mages they were chasing were on foot and without many provisions, they led a chase which exhausted the soldiers. Had not the mages led the company to one hidden spring after another, they surely would have died in Moonwreck. The possibility of the mages using gateways was out of the question however, due to Kalam claiming that he would have lost the trail of their victims if they had used gateways.
Every mage except one had perished during the chase. The men began to realize the desert had changed them. Their pursuit finally led to a natural amphitheater where the last sat atop a boulder.
This was their encounter:
“Whiskeyjack said nothing. He angled his mount past the assassin, approached the wizard.
‘One question,’ the wizard asked, his voice barely a whisper yet carrying clearly across the amphitheater.
‘Who in Hood’s name are you?’
Whiskeyjack raised a brow. ‘Does it matter?’
‘We have crossed Moonwreck entire.’ the wizard said. ‘Other side of these cliffs is the trail leading down to G’danisban. You chased me across the Holy Desert…gods; no man is worth that, not even me!’
‘There were eleven others in your company, wizard.’
Adaephon Delat shrugged ‘I was the youngest – the healthiest – by far. Yet now, finally, even my body has given up. I can go no further.’ His dark eyes reached past Whiskeyjack ‘Commander, your soldiers…’
‘What of them?’
‘They are more…and less, no longer what they once were. Moonwreck, sir, has burned the bridges of their pasts, one and all – it’s all gone.’ He met Whiskeyjack’s eyes in wonder. ‘And they are yours, heart and soul. They are yours.’ …
‘…The game we played Whiskeyjack? It was only a game of survival, at first. We didn’t think you’d make it, to be perfectly honest. We thought The Moonwreck would come to claim you – I suppose she did, in a way, though not in a way I would have anticipated. What you and your soldiers have become…’ He shook his head.
‘What we have become,’ Whiskeyjack said ‘you have shared. You and Kalam…’
…Grimacing, Whiskeyjack twisted further to survey his soldiers. The array of faces could have been carved from stone. A company, culled from the army’s cast-offs, now a bright, hard core. ‘Gods,’ he whispered under his breath, ‘what have we made here?’
The first blood-letting engagement of the Bridge Burners was the retaking of G’danisban – a mage, an assassin, and seventy soldiers who swept into a rebel stronghold of four hundred desert warriors and crushed them in a single night.”