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Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » November 27th, 2014, 7:51 am

You signed up for this. The army (or navy in his case) didn't sign up for you.

Corporal Barnaby Grathier heard the scream, as did the other four members of his patrol. They froze, slowly crouched and scanned their surroundings. The shadowy trees and scrub swayed in the breeze as if mocking him. He listened for the whistle of an arrow or the crack of a rifle that would kill him before he hit the ground.

It was from far ahead of them. Something had slipped the patrols and attacked a peasant or lumberjack. The others breathed a silent sigh of relief. Corporal Grathier didn't relax - he couldn't. He was the lead scout. The one who died first in a contact. The one who stood on the first landmine and vanished into a red vapour. When he encountered an enemy, the first one to shoot wins, and the relaxed man never won. It was nerve-wracking, but he was good at it.

Five days had passed since he stepped through a portal (not the red one - he didn't get that privilege) and two since the marching had ended and Admiral Taylor began sighting a base of operations. He had a small army at his command with labourers working day and night to get trenches dug and walls shored up. Barnaby thanked whatever deity waited for him that his digging days were over. His job was patrolling. There had been frequent animal and arakkoa attacks on the march, but since they stopped they had been left alone. Even one day without a single incident either made you complacent or made you paranoid. Barnaby was fairly sure he was leaning toward the latter.

Two minutes passed since the scream. Barnaby looked in to Sergeant Bartholomew, the patrol commander. He gave Grathier the all-clear to start moving again. They were returning to base now, having patrolled for six hours in the forests of... whatever they called this place. Dark forest, rocky foothills and enormously high spires was the terrain.

They patrolled again without incident, before sighting open ground between the trees. When he reached the edge, he knelt down and surveyed the area. It was a clearing they had crossed on their way out. Eighty yards beyond was a logging area, and beyond the rocky outcrop on the other side of that nestled Admiral Taylor's garrison.

There was also a dead lumberjack amidst the tree stumps and discarded work tools being eaten by a ravager.

Bartholomew was at his side quickly and Grathier pointed out the ravager about eighty yards away.

"There's your screamer." he reported, scarcely above a whisper. Bartholomew put a hand on his shoulder as he rose from his hunker into a half-crouch.

"Kill it. We cross when it's dead."

Grathier nodded and tested the grass with his free hand. The crossbow remained in his shoulder, always pointing forward as he slowly lowered his body, pushed his legs out and adopted a firing position on the ground. He had a headwind from the sea beyond. The ravager happily gored its prey, unaware of this new threat.

He didn't mind crossbows, though he'd have preferred his rifle. The principle was the same, at least. Barnaby aimed slightly up, at the things abdomen. His breathing settled into a controlled rhythm. This was shooting 101, and he had done it a thousand times before. His finger curled around the trigger and took up the slack, careful not to jerk the bolt tip off-target with unnecessary movement. He gently squeezed the trigger.

The recoil was nothing compared to a rifle. It was more of a wiggle due to the moving string. The bolt shot out with a suppressed thunk and a moment later, the ravager reared up. Barnaby began winding his crossbow and took aim again. A screech of pain reached his ears as he fired again.

It reared like a horse would, then fell to one side. It didn't move, which was good enough for Barnaby. He wound another bolt, got to his feet and strode out of the tree line. He kept the crossbow in his shoulder, making sweeping scans around his front. He heard the two footmen, one crossbowman and one mage pattering behind him. He weaved around tree stumps toward the ravager. It twitched, so he pinned its body with a boot and put another bolt into its head. That did the trick.

A leg and half a torso remained of the lumberjack. The other marines were stony-faced as Bartholomew ordered them to burn both carcasses. Fresh meat attracted more problems. Private Andrews - their patrol mage - went about the task while the others waited.

"It's dead!" Sergeant Bartholomew shouted out into the silence. "Back to work!"

No reply. Private Marth muttered a remark about civilians, which would have caused a snigger in any other circumstance.

"They'd have run all the way back to the Garrison, perhaps?" Private Collier, the other crossbowman, suggested, voicing everyone's thoughts.

"Probably." Bartholomew said. "Grathier, take us home."

Barnaby stood up and patrolled off, the others picking up one by one to follow him back to the Garrison. Once they passed the first picquet, he relaxed at last.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » December 10th, 2014, 5:28 pm

*bangbangbangbangbangbang!*

Everyone cheered. Corporal Grathier grumbled. Private Exeter held the muzzle of the revolver to his mouth and blew, not so much to clear the smoke away but as a gesture of triumph. All six targets had a neat hole in their torsos.

Barnaby supposed it was to be expected. You don't just bring a weapon into a Marine battalion without finding some savant that could have been born wielding it. The 18 year old Exeter was twirling the thing now in stylish gunplay, to the amusement of the other soldiers. When he was done, he gave the weapon and the gunbelt back to Barnaby.

"Your turn."

Grathier buckled the gunbelt on, emptied the six empty shells out of the cylinder one at a time and chambered a fresh six bullets in their place. The weapon didn't break apart unless you properly dismantled it, so you fed them one at a time through a feeding port. The footmen, marines, riflemen, cavalrymen and other bored, off-duty soldiers were exchanging fresh wagers in light of Exeter's performance.

Barnaby holstered the gun again and adjusted the belt. The six targets stood motionlessly with their neat holes in each. The closest was five yards, the furthest fifteen. He cracked his knuckles.

In a flash the revolver was in his hand. Barnaby fired the first round at the furthest target, held the trigger down and fanned the hammer five more times. All in all, it took perhaps a second and a half. Everyone cheered, moreso at the noise than him.

The far target had keyholed - both Grathier and Exeter had fired that one first, using their first and most accurate shot on the most challenging target. Three more had fallen within an inch of the first shot. One was high - between the collarbones and another was dead-on while Exeter had fallen low.

When the smoke cleared, an army sergeant inspected the shots.

"Private Exeter! Step forward!" he bellowed. The private did so, and the sergeant held his arm up like a boxing champion. Cheers, booing, exchanging money and heckles aimed at the referee sergeant. Like most uproars, someone somewhere said something funny and it simmered into a laugh. Barnaby shook hands with Exeter and promised to buy him a beer as soon as something that resembled alcohol officially arrived.

With that, the crowd dispersed. Two marines took out hatchets and practiced on a target as they walked away.

"Good show." Barnaby said. "Though the gunplay was a bit much."

"Says you, old man." Exeter replied. "If you could do it, you would have."

"If you had one of these," he countered. "Would you engrave something on it?"

"Hell yeah." the kid replied, bursting into an description of patterns of what would go where. Eventually Barnaby cut him off.

"Yeah, yeah." he said. "Showing off. Shit that doesn't help you when you need to shoot a person coming at you."

"I know." Exeter replied. He was a veteran of the Siege of Orgrimmar, Barnaby remembered. "But still. It pays to look good. You can shoot someone, or you can shoot someone and make the guy next to him think you did it effortlessly."

"That's what snappy drills are for."

They argued the importance of style back to their company bonfires. Since everything was still being constructed, it was tents and fires until the barracks was up. The other off-duty marines in their company were napping, eating, chatting, sparring, writing letters (or in the case of Private Marth, dictating as Andrews wrote), etcetera, etcetera. Some things never change. The two of them sat down for less than five seconds when something else was happening.

"Grathier!" someone shouted.

"Sir!" he shouted automatically, before he even checked who called him. He found Bartholomew waving him over and Sergeant Kashka at his side. Some kind of administration task probably needed doing.

"Sarge." he said when he arrived. Bartholomew handed him a wad of letters.

"I also need to know who was on picquet night before last." he said. "Before I write up tonight's list."

"Got you, sarge." Barnaby said as he skimmed the first letters. Private Kelly had one with a lipstick kiss on the front - he'd be reading that one out in front of everyone. "Anything else?"

"Yeah." Kashka said. "Stop costing me my money."

"Spoken like a true gambler." he retorted.

"Or I'll make Andrews expose your genitals to a hundred below zero."

Barnaby cringed. "Gee, I... thought you were going to go with fire there."

Kashka leaned in over him. "Fire doesn't let you to watch it suffer gangrene and fall off on its own accord."

He paused and looked to Bartholomew. "Can I go, sarge?"

"Go. Fuck off."

"Hundredbelowzero." she hissed with a chuckle, making Barnaby shudder again. Only Kashka could have made that as cringeworthy as it was - a womans voice completed it. Barnaby fled the two company sergeants, eager to take his mind off the word 'gangrene'. The letters were all to his half-company, so he only went to those four bonfires.

"Collier, Bram and Dunce!" he called. Collier and Abraham got their letters. The 16-year old Dunster whined about his nickname again first.

"And who was on picquet night before last?"

He got four hands and wrote their names down with his mechanoquill. It made him think of Dinpik, who was a more comforting thought than genital frostbite. Before he left, he took two letters to be mailed back off and went to the next fire. And so on.

"...and I will never forget when we made love by the stream." Kelly half-mumbled, monotone and red-faced. "When I felt you inside me, I was like a great fire..." Everyone was doubled over with laughter - men and women alike - including Barnaby. The love letter went for some time and as Barnaby left with his names and letters, Kelly was describing that time by the stream in greater detail for the others.

The last fire wasn't nearly as interesting and Barnaby returned with twenty names, including his own. Half the half-company. He also dropped off three letters to Bartholomew who promised to pass them on to the quartermaster.

This wasn't so bad, he thought. The bonfire setup reminded him of Wintergrasp and the early days of Krasarang, before Lion's Landing was up and running properly. The walls of Taylor's Garrison progressed rapidly, though it would be a week and a half at least before the barracks was ready. Before long, they'd be on lumpy matresses instead of sleeping bags.

On the way back to his own bonfire, he passed a new debate at Kelly's fire about men, women and who had the better orgasm. He took a lot of grief when he offered his input that was in fact women who had it better. How many men squeal, moan or outright scream as loud or as often as the average woman in bed?

He left to a flurry of boos and heckles from the majority-male crowd and returned to his fire. He had a letter to write.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » December 17th, 2014, 12:46 pm

Dear Miranda,

I hope you're feeling better and the orphanage is treating you well. Some folks here went to that very place and they tell me it isn't so bad. They taught you to read, so I'll believe them. Are you still practicing your letters and numbers? You're better at both of them than me, and you're only seven!

If nothing else, you can reply to these letters to practice.

Nothing to report here, just making friends and working hard. Food is terrible, but that's nothing new. I want a rare steak right now.

-- Barnaby


It wasn't going to win any awards, but Barnaby wasn't a writer by trade and never would be. The mechanoquill went back into his bag and (after checking nobody that smoked was looking), his tobacco pouch was out, a cigarette rolled and lit by Dinpik's lighter and the pouch stuffed back in. The letter was placed in an envelope (also supplied by Dinpik), sealed and addressed to the Stormwind Orphanage and also placed in the bag. He wouldn't bother a sergeant about this until a few others had letters to go.

As soon as it went away, he heard Bartholomew.

"INDIA COMPANY!"

Once the initial confusion was shrugged off and they realized it was them, the men and women began to parade. Captain Albert was discussing something with Roderick, the 2IC. After a time, Albert took his attention back to the company. Kashka conducted a handover and the Captain stood them at ease. He was formal like that.

"Okay Echo." he said almost conversationally. "It's come down from higher that guards outside the walls are to be doubled. Apparantly we're losing too many lumberjacks. The Admiral has sent out patrols, but we're not part of that. We're providing the company in its entirety tomorrow to watch over the loggers for 24 hours.

"We'll be digging trenches where we get the time."

A faint groan.

"The good news," Albert continued. "Is we aren't on picquet tonight because of tomorrow's task. Parade will be here at 0600 tomorrow."

They were dismissed and Bartholomew and Kashka gave some more details to the group. We're bringing packs, we're on rations, yes we are digging and stop asking.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » December 23rd, 2014, 9:09 pm

His digging days were, in fact, not over. Though technically he wasn't digging.

Barnaby threw the mattock down and double-checked the rope's hitching. He gave a thumbs up to Marth, Dunster and Collier and they picked the rope up.

"Heave!" one of them shouted.

They heaved.

"Heave!"

The tree stump budged, but stubbornly held its ground.

"HEAVE!"

"Ho!"

"Shut up!"

The third time the stump tilted. Barnaby called for them to wait and inspected the damage. Most of the roots were loose now. He attacked a few of the thicker ones with the mattock, failed to break one of the thickest ones newly exposed, traded up for the lumberjack's axe he had 'requisitioned' and broke it with that. This tree had been about a foot and a half thick - the thickest among the bunch they were tasked with clearing.

He gave another thumbs up to the three privates on the rope who began pulling again. He pushed the stump along with them. The first heave this time yielded a lot of movement from the stump.

"We nearly have it!" Barnaby shouted encouragingly. The second thrust lifted the stump up to forty-five degrees and he got his hands under it to lift it out. The stump still wouldn't budge, but the third heave uprooted the thing for good. A few final swings from the mattock and the stump was free.

"I hate yardwork." Collier muttered as the other three collected the rope and stump. Barnaby had his shirt off and was swinging the axe at severed roots that still poked out of the hole.

"Don't like getting those delicate hands dirty?" Barnaby sneered before showing Collier his hands. They were covered in dozens of old, small scars from his childhood of farm work and freshly cracked from today's labour.

"I don't like doing a peon's job for them." he whined, examining the damage to his own hands from the day. "Why the hell aren't *they* making this road?"

"Because they're busy making walls and cutting trees down." Marth said. "Besides, we're soldiers. We do everyone elses job for them."

"Dunce," Barnaby said, tossing him the mattock. "Finish up here and fill in what you can when you're done. The rest are smaller, so we shouldn't need three men on a rope."

He picked up the axe and they moved along. Everywhere there were soldiers assisting the labourers (or peons as they'd taken to calling them, mostly because they hated it) in various unskilled labour jobs like hauling lumber and helping make this road. The other half of their company were on sentry and patrolling tasks. And the officers were nowhere to be found as usual.

And for the fifth time, he saw two mages in hushed argument out of earshot.

"Say." Barnaby mused, gesturing to the pair as they examined the next stump. "Anyone else been seeing shit like that?"

The others shook their heads. One of the mages spat at the other one's feet and stormed off while the other walked back up to the Garrison. It didn't matter, he supposed. There was work to do.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » December 27th, 2014, 7:41 am

It wasn't that something was wrong. It was just that something wasn't quite right.

Maybe the mistrustful looks folks shot at one another was his imagination. Or the cliques among soldiers that he reckoned would not normaly exist were his way of overrationalisation. Seeing problems where there were none. The mages that seemed to always conspire or argue with one another. The peasants that reacted strangely to certain sergeants and officers.

"You're just paranoid, mate." he muttered to himself.

"What was that?" someone asked.

"Nothing." Barnaby replied. "Forget it."

The walls were up now, as was most of the officers and civilian quarters. The barracks was still at least a week away and the groundwork for a bunker was being developed. It was the company's day off today, since they had spent the past twenty-four hours digging trenches, building a road and conducting sentry duty. Barnaby felt good. He hadn't felt this exhausted (from hard labour) for quite some time. To quote an old sergeant: it was good for the soul.

The sun had skipped a quadrant of sky and he realised he had fallen asleep. Yawning lazily, he sat up. A private soldier was speaking confrontingly to two mages by the storehouse. Judging by their body language, the mages were stonewalling the soldier somehow. The private seemed distressed, and eventually stormed off in defeat.

"Ladies and gentlemen." Bartholomew said to the array of dozing soldiers. Most stirred awake and awoke the others. The sergeant was reading a notepad.

"Who here is a good fisherman?" he asked, reading a piece of parchment.

Six hands went up. Barnaby ignored it and suppressed a smirk.

"Good." he gestured to the men and pointed behind them. "You six report to whoever's in charge by the cannons. They need some muscle."

"Awh, what the hell?!" one private protested.

"You just volunteered. Go help the artillery boys."

It was the oldest trick in the book. Barnaby was awake now, so he figured it was time to hunt for some alcohol. They weren't entitled to a rum ration (since they weren't on a ship) but since there was no barracks or inn, the quartermasters had a few barrels on hand. The drawback was they were limited to a daily ration and it was deducted from their pay.

Private Hawn was India's quartermaster, a gangly man with spectacles and not a day over eighteen if Barnaby had to guess.

"Here for my ration." he said.

Hawn checked his name against a register and scratched his out, before handing Grathier a small, dirty steel cup. Barnaby looked inside it with amusement.

"...really?"

"Spit polish it if you're not happy." Hawn said indifferently. By the amount of paperwork on his desk, he was a very busy kid. Barnaby went to a barrel by the opening of the tent and knelt down to put the cup under the spigot. The daily ration aboard a ship was a quarter of a gill but since Hawn wasn't looking (and probably not caring), Barnaby skulled his, refilled it and knocked a second back. The second was enough to make him gasp.

He handed the cup back and went back to his bed roll. He scarcely felt the double shot, courtesy of the years of resistance his body had built up. He found Lieutenant Schuson, the company 2IC having a word with Dunce next to his bedroll but failed to escape to his dreams in time.

"Corporal." he said. "You look like you've been around..."

"What's up, sir?" Barnaby asked in reply. He really couldn't be bothered chatting to an officer right now.

"Private Dunston and I were discussing warlocks in military service."

Barnaby sighed and hiccuped. "Not a common thing, sir. Though I suppose warlocks aren't common in general."

"Quite right." Schuson replied. Dunce had melted away, given the chance he had provided. "But have you ever seen one in a fight?"

"On our side?" Barnaby genuinely had to think about that. Warlocks were a rarity, after all. "In Icecrown, yes... And Gilneas. They tend to do the same job as a mage."

"I see." the lieutenant nodded solemnly and Barnaby noticed a massive emerald on a pendant around his neck. That thing would be worth a small fortune.

"Nice pendant." Barnaby said.

"Oh this?" he looked down at the emerald with a subtle yet very false suprise. He was blatantly flaunting his wealth. "It's a family heirloom."

"You could probably retire with that."

"Perhaps." he said. "But I could never part with it."

"If you say so, sir." Barnaby said, hoping that would be the end of it. A lengthy silence followed but he didn't leave.

"Do you hunt, Corporal?"

"How do you mean, sir?"

"Game." he clarified. "Elk, deer, etcetera."

"From time to time."

"It's a noble sport." he said, very officer-like. Barnaby began straightening out his bedroll and other such menial tasks that would perhaps suggest the corporal did not feel like talking. It was a lazy afternoon and he was still tired.

"It is, sir."

He looked over his shoulder from his random, menial tasks and found the 2IC was gone. Five paces away speaking with Private Chester. He drifted off to sleep thinking about that emerald and what kind of life he could give Miranda with so much gold.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » December 29th, 2014, 11:07 pm

"Stand to!"

Barnaby awoke to men running about. It was Watch Commander Branson bellowing the order and echoed by everyone who could hear. He didn't need to be told twice. He hurriedly joined the marines around him in donning gauntlets, spaulders and picking up weapons. He'd work out why they were doing it later.

Soldiers everywhere marshalled around sergeants and officers to be accounted for. Labourers and tradesmen were corralled into the houses by guards. Branson hurried inside the half-completed keep to inform the commanders what was happening. Grathier found Bartholomew and most of his half-company and mingled into the crowd.

Outside, there were drums.

"Is it the Iron Horde?" someone asked.

"Are we under attack?"

"Where's the boss?"

Bartholomew shouted for them to keep down. "Sounds like we have a fight on our hands, gentlemen!" he announced to the forty excited soldiers. "We'll head on down just as soon as the generals work out what is happening."

Battle commenced without them at the foot of the gate. All they could see was the artillery arcing overhead, followed by explosions and crumbling stone. The commanders finally emerged after what felt like an eternity, and orders were disseminated. Captain Albert materialized fairly quickly with theirs.

"Listen up!" he called. "We are being hit by an Iron Horde scout party! Our own scouts have confirmed what the artillery is telling us as we speak - that an assault is imminent!

"We are being assigned to the East gate with Echo and Fox-trot. India's task will be manning the walls with the riflemen. Move!"

No formation marching. Not with drums or the fact they're walking into artillery fire. Everybody ran in a disorganised blob east with swords and crossbows.

"That's a fucking Iron Star!" someone - Exeter from the sound - shouted. Everyone muttered agreement. Barnaby had never seen an Iron Star before as they weren't made until after he left Krasarang. Call it what you want. It was artillery and like every soldier, Grathier hated artillery.

By the time they arrived, the scout party was driven off. Companies of soldiers lined up outside the gate. The east wall still had scaffolding around it, and the crossbowmen helped one another up to the ramparts where the riflemen were waiting. Grathier was out of breath by the time he got up.

"Took yer bloody time!" a dwarf grumbled.

The other marines got a look outside the walls now.

"Aw, shit." someone muttered.

There were hundreds of them, advancing up the hill. A sea of iron. They were a few hundred yards off still, but battle beneath them was perhaps half a minute away. Grathier saw warriors, riflemen, what was probably shaman and all backed up by their artillery that rained down. The Iron Horde was here.

"Ready!" a dwarf sergeant shouted. They complied.

"Fire!"

The dwarves deafened everybody with a well-drilled thunderclap of rifle fire. The crossbows seemed weak in comparison with their inaudible thunk. From the other side of the gate came another thunderclap of fire. Each time, a score of the orcish front rank fell and were trampled by the soldiers behind them, as if absorbed back into the host.

"Fire!"

Another shattering volley. As the other side launched a second barrage, the vanguard clashed with the defenders outside the gate. The sheer momentum of the charge literally pushed the Alliance shield wall back, but defenders left and right found their footing, and began to slash back at the attackers. The shooters were firing at will now, picking targets slightly beyond the line. For the first time, Barnaby noticed there were battlemages in the midst down there.

Still, the orcs gained and gained. Iron Horde riflemen returned fire on the walls, but achieving few casualties due to the protection of the vantage point. There was less than a hundred yards between the melee and the gate, which would be a chokehold for their own men as much as the Horde. They needed to fall back before they were pushed into the walls that was supposed to protect them and were massacred.

The horn sounded, as Barnaby assumed would happen. The footmen began a systematic withdraw through the gate. Next to Grathier, one of the marines was struck and slumped over. Someone unceremoniously hauled him aside so she could stand in his place to return fire.

They would get their own order to pull back. They would--

"Incoming!" someone shouted.

Barnaby got a fraction of a second to watch it descend before the Iron Star scored a direct hit on the wall and detonated amidst his company. Something smashed into his head and the last thing he experienced before he blacked out was that intense pain he often got with head injuries.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » January 2nd, 2015, 8:58 pm

All that existed was pain.

For the first few moments, he was unable to register anything other than that. He saw or heard or felt naught but this crushing headache. He couldn't think.

After what seemed like an eternity, he began to regain his senses. He felt his face pressed against grass. The ground shook faintly when something exploded. He could smell blood and when he opened his eyes, he saw blood.

He curled up, clutching his head in pain. No further than a foot from his face was a twisted, unidentifiable pile of gore in a footman's uniform. He rolled over and tried to get to his knees. The headache was still debilitating, but Grathier could hear at least that the fight was still on.

And he wasn't dead yet.

He saw his crossbow just out of arms reach and sluggishly crawled through the dirt to reach it. He put a hand on it and pulled it back to his body. It was still loaded, which was good. He looked around, but his vision was blurred and doubled. Figures were clashing everywhere in a disorganised melee.

Up the slope.

Grathier tried to stand but his head protested too much. He crawled for a time before something connected with his ribs. He was forcibly rolled over to see an orc standing over him with an axe. Without a moment to spare, he brought his axe up as Grathier brought the crossbow up and fired without thinking.

He caught the orc high in the stomach, and the upward angle let the bolt head mash some good innards in his chest. As he doubled over, Grathier scrambled away. What self-preservation instincts he had were kicking in now and it was enough to get him to his feet. He turned and staggered up the hill.

Then the hill exploded. Barnaby staggered two steps back, shielding his face and felt a lot of deflections on his armor. He tried to wind his crossbow but found it mangled so he dropped it. He was still trying to work out what was happening when a hand clamped on his shoulder.

"By the Light!" a footman said. "Are you hurt?!"

"My head." Barnaby replied drunkenly. "I washon the wall overdere."

"I saw what happened there!" he exclaimed, putting his head under Grathier's arm to escort him. They passed through a score of footmen charging the other way. "I can't even believe it."

"What? What happened?"

They passed a few more solders and a few more hazy seconds passed before the he was blinded by something. Then all of a sudden his headache was gone and he could see. There was a priest who had healed him. The kind footman was getting an injury to his side seen to. Around them were cannoneers and down the hill-

Cannoneers?

"Wait, wait." Barnaby said, pointing downrange at the gate. "I came from there?"

"We did." the other footman replied. "I hit the dirt when I heard them give the order."

Then it clicked. The hill had exploded. His crossbow and the deflections of his armor.

Barnaby grabbed the nearest cannoneer's collar? "Did you fire canister shot at me?!"

"Hey! We fired canister shot at the orcs streaming through the gate." an NCO answered for him, prying him off the poor private. "In all my years, I ain't never seen anyone as lucky as you, son."

He looked at the three cannons lined up again. He had been a hundred yards in front of three blasts of canister shot. And he had been unharmed while everyone around him that didn't hit the dirt had perished.

Canister shot! At a hundred fucking yards!

He went pale and doubled over hyperventilating. Then he dry-retched. It was another stroke to the 'I really really really should be dead' tally. He should have been minced up like the marine he woke up next to.

"I need to go find my unit." he said at last.

Now that the Iron Horde had gotten through the gates, everyone was now everywhere to deal with them. Houses were ablaze with melees and random gunfire, though the main fight had been pushed back outside the gate, courtesy of the cannons and a counterattack. Now the cannoneers were firing over the walls, probably duelling the Iron Star launchers outside.

Artillery duel meant get the fuck away from them. Barnaby ran to the storehouse, where a pair of footmen were being overwhelmed by a pocket of perhaps four orcs left over inside. Strangely, he felt good now. In fact, he felt great.

He crashed sword-first into the back of an orc and almost toppled with him. The orc slumped down and Barnaby twisted and removed the blade. The others still didn't notice him, focused on destroying the two remaining soldiers. He stabbed another in the spine. The two remaining orcs killed one of the soldiers. It was two against two now. Barnaby was up against a massive hulk of an orc armed with hammer. He had a sword and no shield.

The orc swung at him. Barnaby took a step back. The orc took a step forward to swing again and Grathier lunged instead now. The orc twisted to dodge his blade and struck Barnaby in the face with the handle of his hammer. He staggered back and the orc swung overhead now. He side-stepped, pinned the hammer with his boot and slashed at the orc's eyes.

Rather than let the hammer go, the stubborn orc took the swing. The sword cut him across the temple and minced one eye, deep enough to kill. Which it did. Stupid orcs...

The last footman had been knocked down, holding her shield up against a flurry of blows from the last orc. Grathier unceremoniously stabbed him in the back like the others. It was how most fighters died in a confusing melee.

He helped her up.

"Are you hurt?"

"My arm is broken." she seethed.

"There's a priest up there." he said, pointing to the cannons. "Go on."

He found another fight in a house, but the orcs holed up inside were dead before he arrived. He arrived to find Private Exeter covered in blood. Around him were the remnants of the fight: five dead orcs and five dead Alliance of various races.

"Grathier!"

"Exeter!"

"Where is everybody?" he asked.

"Hell if I know. Still at the wall?"

They looked at the wall where the iron star had struck. There were dozens of dead and injured being seen to by the priests though surprisingly the wall had survived almost intact. Grathier spotted Sergeant Bartholomew amongst them, barking orders.

"There's the sarge." Barnaby said. "Let's go make ourselves useful."

Outside, the battle ended without them as well.

Grathier
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Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » January 9th, 2015, 7:18 am

He had spoken too soon. His digging days were definitely not over.

"How wide are we digging this thing?" someone asked.

"Sixteen feet." Bartholomew said, pacing along the edge of the hole and scuffing the dirt about two feet beyond the graves end. "About here. Now you have something to aim for."

There were about ninety dead soldiers, half again as many Iron Horde and a few dozen civilians who were caught up in the middle. Admiral Taylor wanted everyone buried, including the orcs which meant this was an entire day's work. The mass grave was a hundred feet long by sixteen wide and six deep. About wide enough to lay two rows of soldiers shoulder to shoulder.

"So I was on corpse duty before." Private Collier said, sitting on the edge of the hole as it was his time to rest. "Have any of you seen how many of them were stabbed in the back?"

"Actually, yeah." Exeter replied. "Benson was like that and so was Andrews."

"Andrews was a mage." Barnaby said as he dug. "You got so much as shouting distance of him and he'd turn and try and make distance."

"It's not just mages." Collier said. "It's gotta be at least one in six."

"Shit happen, eh?" someone else replied as he swung a mattock into the dirt. "I stabbed four orcs in the back outside them walls. It's just how a melee goes."

"He's right." Barnaby added.

"Yeah, what am I? Some damn pleb?" Exeter asked. "I know how a melee goes."

"Course you're a pleb!"

"You shoot like one!"

"Shut up!" Bartholomew shouted from across the pit. Silence followed and then everybody started sniggering for no real reason. Soldiers were such children sometimes.

"So what's this I hear about you getting fragged by a cannon?" Exeter asked.

Barnaby paused his digging for a moment but didn't reply. He didn't need to.

"Saw the whole thing." some footman replied. "He was about a hundred yards directly in front of the cannons. The melee is about twice that distance and most of our boys dive to the ground at the signal.

"This is just before Dumberlin led the counterattack, you see. The cannoneers see this wounded footman stagger into the line of fire. They shouted at him to hit the deck, then just said a prayer for him when he didn't."

"That was you?" Collier asked.

"Apparantly." Grathier replied without looking up from the spot of dirt he was burrowing in to.

"Anyway," this footman continued. "BLAM! Three damn loads of canister shot! The orcs by the gate are shredded like mincemeat and this guy doesn't even so much as fall down."

"Were the cannons even pointed at him?" Exeter asked.

"Of course!" the footman replied. "There was an orc that couldn't have been thirty yards away whose face disintegrated from this blast."

Barnaby ignored it. All he remembered was an exploding hill. The odds of surviving canister shot at one hundred yards was pretty much zero. If it happened, there had to have been some mitigating factor like a priest shield or something. At any rate, he'd rather not think about it.

Bartholomew barked at the idle chatters to get back to work again. They were four feet down and still had a few hours of digging to do. He felt like writing another letter to his sister, though it had only been five days since the first one.

Grathier
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Posts: 127
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Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » January 15th, 2015, 9:21 pm

Barnaby woke to the men murmuring amongst themselves outside the tent. It was still raining outside but everybody was braving it. One pointed at the main path and Barnaby emerged to get a look. It was Sir Harris walking up the hill with an oddly-dressed human flanked by guards of both Alliance and plainclothes variety.

The two were conversing, and it was clear the Lieutenant General was not happy about what was happening. In a flash, rumors were abound of varying levels of nonsense. Someone even said it was Prince Anduin in disguise.

"What do you think, Grathier?" Collier asked.

"I think the brunette with the crossbow is pretty cute." Barnaby replied. "And is that a nosering she's s--"

"All right I get it, you don't care."

"It's an officer problem to me."

Admiral Taylor greeted them in the courtyard outside the town hall, flanked by Lady Claudia and some guards. The customary salutes first, then the talking began. The Commander looked concerned, but seemed to be siding with the stranger. Sir Harris was fuming and barked something, jabbing a finger at the visitor.

All of a sudden, the orc on the visitor's left had her crossbow in Harris's face. Soldiers fanned out in an arc and raised their weapons. Claudia was holding some colossal beast of a weapon with at least six barrels and twenty pounds of weight to it. Part of Barnaby wanted this confrontation to go south if just to see her fire that thing.

He and everybody else around the bonfire touched their weapons to reassure themselves they were still there.

However, the visitor seemed unconcerned and continued to speak coolly to Taylor, who gradually managed to defuse the situation. Weapons were lowered and some kind of deal seemed to have been struck. Before long they all filed into the town hall, leaving the witnesses to spread their rumors. In five minutes, Barnaby had heard some of the most outlandish things from black dragons to time travellers. One person even suggested Vol'jin.

"Shut up the lot of you!" Kashka eventually snapped. "You're worse than schoolkids!"

"I didn't go to school." somebody mumbled with a snicker.

"Neither did I." Barnaby chimed in.

"And it shows." she retorted. "Now shut up or everybody volunteers for night watch the day the barracks are fit to live in."

That shut everyone up. The barracks was only a few days away from completion and something of a beacon of hope, since it had rained every day for the past five days since the Iron Horde attack. It would have been complete sooner, but the soldiers all watched helplessly as manpower was diverted to an armoury and upgrading the lumber mill next door.

Barnaby went back to their tent to shelter from the rain. A fire was going but Marth was using the cooking equipment, so he went down to the storehouse instead and bartered some alcohol from the quartermasters with what money he had made looting the battlefield after the attack. He returned to the tent with three sealed bottles of rum and passed them around, just as the rain stepped up the intensity.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
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Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

by Grathier » January 18th, 2015, 11:59 pm

After a day or so, the facts revealed themselves. It was Wrathion himself. Here! At this Garrison!

Who the hell was that?

Barnaby and the rest of the company were too busy outside the walls to know or care. His squad spent overnight conducting a standing patrol on a hill to the north, then they were relieved at dawn and spent the rest of the day patrolling the forests inland. A mostly uneventful twenty-four hours. Early in the morning they did encounter four orcs trying to salvage pieces of an Iron Star launcher left over from last week's attack. Bartholomew signalled to form an extended line atop a ridge out of sight.

"Grathier." he said under his breath to keep the world from hearing. "Crawl up and shoot them. If they rush you, run back to us and we'll ambush them."

So Barnaby crawled down the slope until he was about fifty yards of the orcs. None of them were paying attention. He shot the guard first, then the three workers one by one. When the last one stopped groaning, he waited another minute before signalling a thumbs up the hill. He saw somebody at the crest pass that signal on. Five minutes later, Bartholomew picked everyone up and they had patrolled away.

As they passed through the front gate that evening, it started raining again.

"So I got the word from some of the riflemen." Exeter told them as they cooked up dinner in their tents. "It's Wrathion! I asked, 'who the hell is that?' and one of them spun this yarn about the last black dragon. Apparantly he pissed off the ogres and came crawling here for protection."

"I haven't seen any ogres around." Barnaby said. "I haven't seen any since arriving here."

"Then that's probably why he's here." Exeter replied. "The armed guards really give a 'no ogres past this point' m-"

"Oi." someone poked their head in. "Rank's floating around, so look busy."

Barnaby started cleaning his sword scabbard out with a piece of scrap cloth and the oil in his food rations. The rain wasn't coming down too hard so they could hear someone approach. Others worked on swords or crossbows or polished armour.

Time passed in the tent and by the time their food was cooked and eaten, Barnaby had polished the scabbard as best he could. He heard some braving the rain outside for exercise and decided to join them. He emerged to find a pushup contest in the mud. Kashka was one of the competitors, and Lieutenant Schuson was watching on. Baranby got a glimpse of that ridiculously large emerald pendant. He also had a signet ring on now; the man was such a poser.

Kashka won out with the last man faceplanting on 93 and proceeded to struggle another seven out for good measure. Barnaby couldn't pull off nearly that many despite his fitness increasing tenfold over the past month. Others were doing their own thing around the tents but most were holed inside. When Kashka was done, four soldiers began their own competition and Barnaby sought her out.

"So who is our dragon guest and why should I care?" Barnaby asked her.

"Apparantly he is a black dragon, though I will believe it when I see it." she said, echoing the others. "And I outrank you and I have no reason to care.

"What I am caring about is that--" she cut herself off. "Bah. Corporals to me!"

The order was echoed and the other half a dozen soldiers that shared Grathier's rank appeared from nowhere.

"Since I may as well tell all of you." she said. "The squads are being shuffled up once we move in to the barracks."

"What? Why?" someone asked.

"Because the people with the rank say so." she replied. "I don't have names yet and I expect that to come out tomorrow. You are just being warned.

"Also, I've gotten a hint from the 2IC that some stabbings will be in order soon. More heads up."

"For what?"

"I have no idea." she said. "Now fuck off."

There was little to do out here so Barnaby went back to relay the news with his tent. Some groans that he ignored and confirmation that there in fact was an officer outside. Though instead of looking busy like the others, he went to sleep. To hell with the poser. He earned a rest.

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