Trefshire. An ancient stronghold established by the Trefjalli framrekkers on their arduous journey to the northern capes of Candanadium, exiled from their native land. It sat on the border between the Westland and Karelograd, scarcely 700 kilometres from Trefjall itself. Although dominated by the Westland Trefjalli, there was a sizable Karelo population in what was affectionately known by the locals as "the Shire". Trefshire was known far and wide across Candanadium as a city of temperate weather, good food, and majestic Trefjalli architecture, making it one of Candanadium's most popular tourist destinations, often teeming with Kanadiaans and Oseanian families during the winter months.
Today, though, the city enjoyed none of its normal peacefulness, as tensions hit fever pitch between the Candanadian races and the Karelos. The border to the west was sealed to all Sonvarians belonging to non-Candanadian races, and the city was at its boiling point. Protests had erupted in the Karelo quarter, and two Candanadian soldiers had been beaten to death by ethnic Karelos when they tried to arrest a particularly violent protestor.
The border checkpoint had been sealed, with roadblocks and sandbags set up and armed Candanadian soldiers patrolling the streets before it, trading their usual riot shields and batons in for C-7 rifles and tear gas launchers as the protests grew deadlier. The sign that stood just outside the checkpoint welcoming travellers to Candanadium was now covered by a heavy black tarp. Among the soldiers was 19 year old Robin Kesselring, a private in the 1st Royal Belkhomir Regiment. He, along with two hundred other Belkhomirians, had been sent to Trefshire just a week prior to the announcement from Magnarplatz Palace about the closure of the border, almost as a precautionary measure. Now, with the city at boiling point, Robin could do little more than quietly pray for an end to this chaos. The Sonvarian side of the border had been relatively quiet, but he did not relish the thought of having to shoot anybody on either side of the fence. He gripped his tear gas launcher tightly as he paced back and forth between two piles of sandbags, biting his bottom lip in anxiousness. He continued to pace, throwing nervous glances into the gathered crowd, hurling words of abuse at him and his compatriots in all of Candanadium's national languages. The crowd carried with them giant Sonvarian and Trefjalli flags, and some had brought hand-crafted banners from home.
One of them stood out to Robin, a black banner with the words "Geh' zuhause, Belkhi" in sharp white letters, along with a picture of a Candanadian polar bear standing on a dead Belkhomirian eagle, grinning from ear to ear. The grammar was unnatural even to a Belkhomirian, but that did not hinder the banner's meaning in any way.
A masked man lunged at him from behind the barricade, and Robin drew his sidearm almost instinctively and pointed it at the man.
"Stay away from the barricade." Robin said in Oseanian. He was aware of his obvious Belkhomirian accent. He had traded in his Royal Belkhomirian Regiment unit patches with the eagles and maples for the crossed maples of the border service and wore the crowned maples of the federation instead of the eagle ensign of Belkhomir, but his accent remained a dead giveaway of his origins.
"Too ashamed to even wear your own flag, Belkhi? Happy with being Candanadium's bitch?" The man didn't sound like an Oseanian himself, possibly an ethnic Trefjalli or even a Karelo. Fortunately, the man stepped back. Robin holstered his sidearm as the gathered crowd jeered. He began pacing back when a voice came over his headset, speaking in the familiar Belkhomir dialect of Kanadiaans.
"We have permission from the Trefshire command to disperse the crowd. Do not use lethal force except when absolutely necessary."
"Zum Befehl, mein Herr!" Robin answered. He grabbed a loudspeaker off a Trefshire policeman and put it to his mouth.
"You have been ordered by the Trefshire Military Command to disperse at once. Force will be used if you do not comply." He repeated the sentence in Kanadiaans, then handed it to a soldier of the border service, who repeated it in guttural Trefjalli and what Robin could only assume was Karelo. The border serviceman's words were suddenly interrupted by a shot ringing through the streets as the protesters took cover. A split second later, Robin felt a sharp pain in his right leg as he crumpled to the ground, grabbing his wounded calf out of agony.
"This is Stevens, shots have been fired and Kesselring is down. Get me a Sanitäter out here, double time!" The border serviceman was suddenly at Robin's side. "Hang on, Kumpel. Help is on the way." Slowly, Robin raised his hand and pointed at the protesters surging over the barricades.
"Ach, scheiße." Robin heard a voice on the radio say before everything faded to black.