[March 22, 1499]
Saint Sebastian: patron hallow of soldiers, steadier of the archer’s hand, protector of souls taking their flight to heaven after being parted from their earthly anchors in an honorable Christian death, known best not for his life but for his passing – martyred twice. When being shot full of arrows had not been enough to take his life, it had required a second beating to dispose of him in the vilest of receptacles. And even then, he had returned to the mortal realms as an apparition, unable to rest until his remains were given a proper rite. His resilience gilded him as the idol of Olympians and his adamant refusal to accept death attracted the desperate prayers of Plague victims.
Basch, as one who had been killed in vain by his enemies far too many times to remember, thought it fitting to have been given his sanctified name. How unsatisfying it must have been for his foe to run their blades through him only to meet him in combat the next day. Like the Roman king Diocletian, they must have been equally infuriated and confused to see the flesh alive and well.
And at the same time, there was a bitter irony about the situation. The pseudohuman had left his blood on more swords and pikes than he could remember and still hadn’t earned his way into a peaceful afterlife where he could feast with the saints and virgins for ever and ever amen. Instead of respite, each death was followed by a reawakening and another charge into battle, and another death, and more war ad nauseam.
But, Basch considered as he shifted the polearm over his shoulder, he didn’t mind the arrangement altogether. The work was hard, but rewarding. The patch of jagged alpine land and the peoples inhabiting it he’d come to consider a family of sorts, and that family had been growing. A handful of peoples living in Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden had formed his nucleus, other cantons joining not long after and even others pledging their eternal loyalty. And although they weren’t as unified as some kingdoms surrounding them, Basch had learned that he was connected to all of them in ways he was not yet able to understand. All that mattered at this point was that they were his responsibility, and his to protect.
This latest war provided him with yet another opportunity. Those Habsburg devils had gotten carried away once again, claiming Swiss mountain passes and valleys as their own, leaving the Eidgenosensschaft with no choice but to defend what was rightfully theirs. The feuding was bitter, and the hostilities were bloody, but after several months, the Habsburgs had yet to claim a major victory. They would learn, and the lesson would be severe.
Not more than a few days’ march south of Alsatian territory, and loaded down with the spoils of a successful raid, Basch was moving southward in formation with a company of Bernese and Luzerner pikemen when the alert came.
“How many did you see?” Basch demanded of the scout, his mind already beginning to go into the preparations for battle.
“I cannot say precisely,” replied the young man in a dialect Basch had only just recently and yet somehow quite thoroughly begun to grasp. “But they numbered in the thousands, I’m certain.” A quiet rumbling fell amongst the Swiss troops at the news, the battalion’s leaders already debating tactics. A hill, Bruderholz, stood between them and the threefold numerous Swabian soldiers, providing a definite tactical advantage for the side able to capture it first.
A decision was finally passed down, and Basch nodded in agreement, turned to his comrades and announced, “Advance!”