Wogan Nance, more commonly referred to as Boot Chuck by his squad, looked out over the sprawling camp of the army. Tents were lined up orderly in rows for as far as the eye could see. Soldiers milled around cook fires, sharpened swords, and fletched arrows, mostly staying close to their own squad's compound of tents and supplies. He wondered how many soldiers were like himself, hiding their true nature to keep from being used up in short order. He wondered how many secret mages, or at least those with the ability to become mages lurked in midst of the throng of these men and women.
Mages were a hot commodity in the Imperial Army as it swept across the continent claiming new lands for its own. Magic turned the tide in battle for whichever side had the most numerous mages. While ability helped greatly, a large number of fledgling mages could overcome a seasoned magical user in due time, at the cost of a large number of their own mages. The empire relied on numbers more than ability. However, that tactic was beginning to wane as less and less mages were readily available to the commanders. Pretty soon, they would have to start using real tactics with the mages or risk having none left.
Boot Chuck held his secret tightly. He didn't want to risk becoming like the hundreds of fledgling mages before him, dead in their first battle because of poor magical strategy. The Mage Imperator had died in the first engagement on this continent over one hundred days ago. Yes, the commanders had replaced him, but there was no one with magical abilities even close to what his had been. And, they didn't have the strategy to command the position properly. So, whoever was placed in the position usually ended up getting more mages killed than surviving. The army commanders knew strategy, but they didn't have a clue in how to fight magical battles. That was what the Mage Imperator was for.
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