"Haven't we used to talk with people instead of shooting them? It's hard to remember." - Leo Sole
The last battle took a significant toll on the company. Half of the faces around Leo were hardly familiar or totally new. New but not fresh. Men from other companies, from other wars, from all over the Empire. Most of them touched by the war. They were coming to fill the gaps left by the dead and maimed. Only a few young faces with very distinctive spark in their eyes. Spark of lust for adventure and glory. Talebot Dupont had those. An Ocetanian kid, build for grenadiers, but somehow landed in a company of Dragoons.
"That one is not fit to ride a horse, but surely he could eat one", joked the old mustaches: Jordan, Omer and now Leo, while finishing the meal and knowing that the next one could be weeks away.
A village in front of the group seemed to be peaceful and miraculously untouched by retreating Blake's army. Although still quite a distance away, Leo could feel an intoxicating smell of fresh food, or was that his imagination? Private swallowed saliva and walked after the sergeant towards the village while loading his musket.
Frenchmen entered the village and walked straight to the central plaza in front of a small church, greeted only by shut doors and windows. The smell of food was not imaginary, others felt it too. Omer glanced at Leo, is it time to talk? But sergeant did not had time to say anything before a group of men, armed with forks and scythes, entered the plaza from the opposite side. Leo managed to notice at least few of them carrying hunting muskets and pistols.
"Form the line!", the locals seemed to hesitate as dragoons took firing position. Maybe they will be smart enough to run? Then one of the men raised his musket...
"Fire!" Omer did not hesitate, and so did Leo's trigger finger.
When smoke cleared, seven villagers were lying in the dust, some of them writing and shouting in pain, all of them covered in blood. The rest were running for their lives.
"Quick! You and you, check those doors! Felix, take two men to check this basement over there! You three, that door! Dupont, go up the belltower and take wach!" Omer just did not waste any time to dwell on what happened. Leo almost envied him.
It's funny how quick one could forget the dread of war when faced with prospect of a good meal after being hungry for so long. The dragoons were cheering as soldiers were bringing more and more food from the surrounding houses, and dropping it in the center of the plaza, trying to avoid pools of blood and ignoring the lamentations of the dying.
They even managed to find a cart with a sad looking donkey to bring all the supplies they found back to the camp, when private Talebot started waving hands, then decided just to descend down from the tower.
"There is a group, approaching from that direction", he was pointing in a general direction, while trying to catch his breath.
What kind of group, he could not explain, but the sergeant was not in a mood to take an unnecessary risks, and commanded the group to take everything already gathered and to hastily return to the camp.