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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » January 25th, 2015, 7:53 am

"PARADE IN 15!" a sergeant major shouted into the darkness. Men and women stirred sluggishly and climbed out of their new, comfortable bunk beds, groaning about life.

Barnaby was no exception. He had drawn night picquet on the night the barracks was completed, and now this? His head was reeling from rolling off a top bunk. He wasn't even hungover - he was still drunk.

"Wonder what's happening." Collier muttered as he put his undershirt on. Grathier rummaged around his footlocker for his pick-me-up.

"This better be good..." Grathier replied, though in his state Collier didn't understand him. There was still about a gill of rum left in the bottle he had taken to the previous night. On an empty stomach too. He necked the contents and started getting dressed.

Ten minutes later, tired soldiers streamed out of the barracks. Grathier and Collier found the half of India that were just off night watch and fell in. They had been given fifteen minutes, but it took nearly twenty-five for every soldier to get into place. By the time Admiral Taylor emerged from the Town Hall, it was first light. Three lashing posts had been set up in front of the gallows.

"Garrison!" he shouted, crisp and clear. "At-ENT-TION!"

The customary drill. Barnaby's rum had kicked in and he felt a little buzzed. Fortunately he wasn't in the front rank. Taylor stood them at ease, accounted for the men, berated everybody about timings and other ranting crap. Behind him were twelve men and women in manacles and stripped to the waist, or to a white undershirt for the women. Women usually weren't lashed as it was seen as a man's punishment to take the pain. Taylor was definitely pissed off about something right now.

The Admiral finished his rant and passed off to Dumberlin, who read twelve names from a scroll. One of them was a sergeant; again, not usually flogged.

"You are hereby charged with the crimes of dereliction of duty and graft!" Dumberlin said among other crap.

"What is 'graft'?" someone whispered.

"Taking a bribe." someone else replied.

"Shut up." Bartholomew hissed.

The punishment was forty lashes a piece, demotions where possible and twelve months hard labor at some penal camp or another. Then came the long process of the lashings. Three at a time, they were brought forward (none struggled or fought), secured to the post and in the case of women, their shirt was pulled over their head. Then the lashings to a drum beat.

Barnaby watched, mostly because it would be rude not to. He'd never been lashed before but the concensus was that forty was the standard, and with a healer nearby it certainly wasn't lethal. It just hurt like fuck, apparently. The soldiers took their lashings until their backs were in ribbons and then were taken to a nearby priest as the next were brought forward.

"It's official." someone whispered. "The man hates bribery."

Some snickering. Half an hour later, they were dismissed to their morning duties. Whether it was watching the punishment or the fact he skipped dinner in favour of the rum last night, Barnaby was starving.

There was a mess hall now. It would have been good if not for the order for half-rations as of the previous day. Breakfast was a thin beef stew and some bread. It was good. Half rations of stew was better than full rations of hard tack, he decided. Even with the restriction, most got a second helping out of the leftovers. Waste not, want not.

Seating himself back down with his second helping, he saw Kashka set herself down opposite him.

"You hear the good news?"

"You're pregnant?"

She gave at him a look that could cut diamonds. "We are on forage duty now."

That was good news.

"Don't we have hunters for that already?" he asked.

Kashka shrugged. It made sense with the half-rations that they'd divert resources towards acquiring food. Barnaby assumed there would be a fishing detail being put together as well, with the water being as close as it was. He grinned.

"Just us two?"

"Two per company on hunting, three on fishing." she said. "I'm hunting and I'm taking you with me."

"Well I'm flattered. Who's fishing?"

She shrugged again. "Bartholomew's problem to find them."

They finished their meals and left together. He was being paid to hunt game today.

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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » January 26th, 2015, 8:52 am

The wilds was always a good change of scenery. Even with the stresses of enemy, Barnaby liked it more out here than inside. He walked with Kashka south, staying in earshot of the shoreline. Neither felt like venturing into the orc-infested forests and Barnaby wanted some fresh air. The ground was wildly undulating with long lines of sight whenever they crested a hill.

Their quarry would mostly be ravagers and wasps. Maybe a rylak if they're lucky.

"I do not like this." she said after a while.

Grathier took his eyes off the wilderness and turned to face her. "Scared of ravagers?"

"I mean at the garrison." Kashka said. "You have not seen it?"

He had. "The rift."

"Yes, the rift."

They were well out of earshot of the sentries now so they didn't bother to hush their voices. There was nothing but rocky foothills and the sound of the tides.

"Whoever organised the squads is a fucking idiot, no offense." Grathier blurted out. "It seems like everybody is in their cliques now."

"Schuson handled the reshuffle." the draenei replied sternly. "He did not even consult his sergeants on the matter!"

Grathier had had little interaction with the lieutenant. The man was an officer's officer and generally associated with his own kind. Being a 2IC meant he was even less visible than usual, often inundated with what administration and minor crap the boss drops on his desk. Still he was elusive.

"He's young." Grathier tried, hating himself inwardly for saying such a thing at twenty-four. "Probably thinks he can handle anything?"

Kashka slapped him. "For your stupidity!"

Grathier's head was whipped to one side and came back grinning. "Then enlighten me, O sergeant Kashka."

"Just Kashka to you out here." she said in a rare display of affability. "We have been through enough in the past, am I right? Anyway, Bartholomew and myself are sure he has skipped the chain of command on this matter. And other matters."

Grathier looked around at the landscape, as if expecting someone to be listening in to this conspiracy. "Cap'n would notice a thing like that."

"The captain is busy." Kashka said. "Besides, he does not patrol so he will not notice."

"So why does Schuson want everybody in their cliques then?" he asked.

"Bah! I do not know." she said. "Perhaps--"

She paused and crouched. Grathier instinctively did the same and turned to the threat. In the distance was a fairly large ravager, picking its way through a rocky outcrop. Four hundred yards? It was hard to guess with the uneven terrain between them. Kashka was already building a firing position. She was a sniper by trade and he'd seen her hit smaller targets at further distances. No problem.

The report bounced all over the landscape, echoing half a dozen times. A short moment after firing, the ravager reared up and collapsed out of sight.

They didn't wait, couldn't wait. She picked up and they both moved in, sticking to the gullies and dead ground where possible. Foraging or no, this was still a hostile environment and any number of enemies could investigate a rifle shot. It took them nearly ten minutes of quiet walking to reach their kill - only to find it in the dual maws of a rylak.

"Son of a bitch!" Grathier exclaimed, snapping his own bolt-action rifle up. "Oi! That's our kill you flying lizard!"

The rylak turned as the two of them fired, striking the beast in the torso. It roared, more angry than hurt. It charged and Grathier and Kashka darted in opposite directions. The rylak took flight when this failed, but seemed unable to fly properly. Probably too injured.

Grathier chambered the second round, fired and operated the bolt action again. Except the bolt stopped halfway shut. Wrong. That is wrong, the drill side of his mind immediately registered. He was forced to take his eyes off the beast to identify the problem.

It looked just fine. He pulled the bolt back, took the round out (which looked just fine) and tried to ram the next one home. Again, something stopped it halfway.

"Fuck!" he screamed as he slung his weapon and drew his revolver. The rylak advanced on Kashka, having aborted its attempts at flying. She shot it in the torso again and then dived away from its snapping jaws. Grathier closed on the rylak, stopping within ten yards. He aimed for the nearest head and fired. It reared and Kashka took that moment to shoot it herself once more.

The rylak collapsed, thrashing in its death throes. Barnaby walked up as close as he dared and put a round in each head. Done. Sorted. The rylak went limp after that.

"Rylak tonight." Kashka said. Barnaby was too busy troubleshooting his rifle to hear her.

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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » January 29th, 2015, 6:00 am

Damn the luck! Grathier had fought tooth and nail to bring his guns out here with him, and the first chance he gets to use his rifle, the bolt breaks after two shots.

"What'd you do to it?" Exeter inquired. He had been watching Grathier with interest once he started dismantling his rifle and laying it out over his bunk bed. Grathier tossed him the cracked bolt.

"Two fucking shots." he replied. "There was no doubt a hairline crack in the thing I didn't see before coming out here."

"Oh yeah?" the kid said, tossing it back. "You sound pretty damn sure about that."

"I was a journeyman gunsmith at sixteen." Grathier said with a proud smirk. "Machining parts, repairing damages and reloading ammunition every day."

Exeter shrugged. "It doesn't look that hard."

"You know what face milling means?"

"Does it involve your face and my fist?"

"Almost, but don't quit your day job." Grathier took a swig out of a rum bottle and looked at the problem bolt again. It would need to be completely replaced. He'd talk to Hawn later about that; until then, he had an 8.8lb club.

Exeter was also grouped up in his clique-squad along with Kashka. The groups hardly mingled and Grathier noticed it much more clearly since his conversation with Kashka. One group - the one with all the mages - completely withdrew from the social scene. He could have blamed the atmosphere on the floggings that morning, but it just wasn't the same.

----------------------------------------

The next few days were a blur. A completely uneventful patrol, an unsuccessful attempt of reacquiring a new bolt from the quartermaster, watching a flogging for some reason or another among other things. The reason why it was a blur was the inn that was now complete. That kept morale through the roof and Grathier's funds through the floor. The quartermasters ran out of a storehouse he may have been able to access his bank by proxy, but that wasn't possible - he had pre-empted that with a visit to Stormwind bank before his deployment. That account and the three hundred gold inside was locked out to him for six months under his own order.

Still, they had cheap bourbon and the provosts were surprisingly not stone-hearted. Drunks - including Barnaby - were being dragged back by the armpits to the barracks by the dozen every night. But since morale was so high, action generally wasn't taken. Fraternisation was also up, though Barnaby wasn't guilty of that - he was usually too drunk to try.

The armoury was also done, which meant daytime taskings were almost nothing. The workday became three PT sessions with rest time in between. Barnaby could now punch out eighty-two pushups in short order and sprint a hundred yards in eleven seconds barefoot. He hadn't been this fit or strong since he was nineteen, shortly after his deployment in Icecrown.

Two things still irked him. The insivible division in the company, and Exeter was still out-shooting him. Other than that, life was good.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
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Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 1st, 2015, 11:18 pm

"India Company!" Captain Albert shouted. "Stand AT ease!

"Gentlemen!" he called, beginning the day's parade. "Some good news and some bad news. Well, bad news for some."

Grathier was hungover again, but years of this practice meant that he could still stand up and pay attention, even on the worst of days. A good number of the guys and girls around him were also as bad as he no doubt looked.

"Item one. Ephial has requested a provost on night watch at the farm. So anybody caught fraternising back there again will be charged. Find somewhere else, lads and lasses."

Everyone snickered.

"ITEM TWO." he said sternly over it. "We're losing half of Bravo Company as of today. They're being sent south to assist in establishing an outpost for the Lunarfall gentlemen. They'll be back in a few days.

"Item three: yes, Taylor is aware there is still no food. We're doubling numbers for forage duty. If you need more than your half-rations, there's the Briny Barnicle. But keep in mind it is getting more expensive."

"Last item: All the rank are disappearing to Nagrand today. The Admiral is taking most of his champions with him, leaving us grunts to fill in their shifts. Dumberlin will be in charge while he's gone. Schuman will be organising that, and a good many of you have been volunteered."

Some groans, but not as many as Grathier would have thought. He supposed it was better than nothing.

The major points were covered and Barnaby zoned out for a bit. He came to when they were ordered to attention and fallen out. He'd probably be hunting again, which he enjoyed. Kashka was the best hunting partner he had ever had. As he prepped his weapon, he watched Schuman and Bartholomew brief their forty soldiers on their extra shifts. Grathier watched them closely. Something about them seemed off. It was as if-

"Grathier!" Kashka shouted before appearing beside him. "We are splitting up today."

"Please honey, I can change!" he mock-wailed, grinning at the daggers that were her eyes. "A new partner each?"

"Yes, that is right." she said. Only then did he notice Exeter and Collier standing nearby. They both had issued shotguns, identical to the one he was reduced to using until his rifle was fixed. Two 12 gauge slugs were still better than winding a stupid crossbow.

Grathier looked at Exeter. Judging by the look he gave back, the choice of who went with who was already decided. He'd have preferred the mild-mannered Collier who had some hunting experience. Exeter would no doubt scare everything away with his relentless chatter.

"Shall we go then?" the kid asked. Grathier grumbled under his breath and nodded.

----------------------

Grathier burst out laughing. "Yeah, righto Harrison Jones!"

Now that he was out of uniform, Exeter had a broad-brimmed hat (under a sun not nearly intense enough to need it) and leather holster across his back for his gun. Except his belt, issued boots and hat, everything else looked fairly new. Barnaby had to struggle to keep from laughing any more than he did.

"Yeah, yeah. Just watch as I bag more kills than you."

"It's not a contest." Grathier said seriously. "We can enjoy this as much as we like, but we're doing it to eat, not for sport."

He had been serious. Grathier didn't even fish unless it was to eat, nor did he appreciate people who did it for fun or relaxation. You want to have fun? Go get shitfaced at a bar - leave my quarry alone unless you're going to use it.

The hunt was short since he and Kashka had learned all the best places over the past several days. They found ravagers within fifteen minutes, shot four of them and sent Exeter back to fetch some hands while he guarded them. They did that several times throughout the morning and afternoon. Exeter carried himself well and learned quickly due to the soldier skills he could fall back on. Overall, they bagged eighteen ravagers and a rylak to help feed the garrison.

Like every other evening, Grathier went to the inn, intent on getting shitfaced with his meagre pay.

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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 3rd, 2015, 8:39 am

"Okay, try to look like you're going to spew." he half-whispered, as if part of a great conspiracy. As far as he was concerned, it was.

The brunette whose name he didn't remember giggled, comically slapped a hand over her mouth to quiet down and nodded. All he remembered was that she was a cook since he met her delivering a ravager carcass that morning.

"I'll count to twenty and go whichever way you didn't, alright?"

They were both almost too drunk to stand but she swayed to the door, gripped it for support and left the Briny Barnicle. She turned left and Grathier started counting. When he reached twenty, he staggered out, turned right and followed it around behind the inn. There was just a kennel back here, but the pug was inside with the patrons.

She was waiting for him, and they giggled like children who knew their parents who would kill them if they discovered what they were doing.

"It's like going truant at school." she giggled in a very quiet, very high-pitched half-squeal.

"I never went to school." he whispered back. "Though this is hardly AWOL."

He took her against the back wall of the inn. The night was overcast and dark and they stayed mostly-clothed. Poor performance as drunken sex generally was, but they still enjoyed it. Ten minutes later they were both against the wall, his arm around her and sharing a cigarette. They watched the starless sky.

"Ugh. More bad weather coming." she said.

"Pressure's dropped." he replied. "Might even storm."

The small talk didn't last long as a new couple staggered around the corner, clinging to one another drunkenly for mutual support. When they saw Barnaby and the cook, the woman let out a startled squeal.

Awkward silence. Grathier cleared his throat loudly.

"Suppose we ought to get back, aye?" he looked at the girl, who was just as eager to get away as he was. "Spot's all yours."

The other three were all red-faced now but Barnaby thought this was hilarious. He put his arm around his girl and left the other couple to their privacy. Curse that provost guarding the farm - that had (apparently) been the fraternisation spot until today.

They encountered another - a sergeant - as they staggered along the track back up the hill to the barracks.

"Halt." he said sternly. "What are you two doing."

"Just escorting this nice lady back to the barracks." Grathier slurred amiably. "Unsavoury types lurking in these parts y'know?"

The cook giggled. "Just off to bed, sergeant."

"Do you two realise fraternisation is illegal?"

Grathier did. He had been demoted back to private for it once before. "Aye, sarge. I'll keep that in mind."

The provost glared at them, but they just swayed defiantly. He couldn't prove anything and they knew it.

"Get out of here." he said. "Remember that we have someone checking the barracks regularly."

"Aye aye, sarge! Good night, sarge!" Grathier said cheerfully. They continued on.

"Fuckwit..." he muttered.

"I know, right?" she chimed in and they laughed.

When they reached the barracks, he stopped and lit another cigarette. "You go on ahead. I'll see you around."

"Those things will kill you." she said with a smirk, snatching the cigarette and taking a draw.

"You sound like a green-haired friend of mine."

"Who?"

"Never mind." he said. "You go on."

"Goodnight." she said and went to bed. He sat on a barrel, nursing the cigarette and enjoying the taste. This was the second-last one of the hundred he bought from Decklyn - an ex-quartermaster he had known since his first day as a soldier - back in Stormwind who ran a small business in the Canals. He'd be bartering for the local crap tomorrow.

Across the courtyard by the gallows, two men staggered out from the darkness. They were both fairly plastered and aggressively agreeing on something. They were big men, so Grathier guessed it was the half-rations. Word was going around that they were down to a day's supply now before they'd be entirely dependant on foraging.

"I'm HUNGRY!" one roared, taking a swig from a bottle. It was dark but Grathier identified their clothing as cannoneers. They stood outside the town hall and screamed at whoever was inside.

"TAYLOR! GIVE US SOME DAMN FOOD!" the second one roared.

"FUCKING OFFICER CUNTS!"

"Ah shit..." he knew he ought to defuse this but in their state, they'd probably just turn on him. It was too late anyway - the provost sergeant was crossing the courtyard to confront them.

"Hey!" he shouted. "This is your first and only warning! Quiet down and return to the barracks before I write you two up on a charge!"

"FUCK YOUR CHARGE!" the first one replied. "WE WORK FROM DAWN TO DUSK AND WE DESERVE SOME FOOD!"

"That's it. You two are coming with m-"

The second one hurled his bottle at the provost, shattering glass at his feet. Grathier facepalmed. The sergeant tried to detain the man when the first drunk turned on the sergeant. Then everything happened fast. Grathier was up in a flash, suddenly too sober. By the time he and a few other onlookeers had sprinted across the courtyard, the sergeant was on the ground being viciously stomped by these drunks. It took three men each to restrain them.

In no time, three more military police had arrived with irons and chained the two men to a wagon. One immediately passed out while the other barked some more until a blackjack silenced him. Grathier and the others wandered back to the barracks. Just as they entered through the door, it started raining again.

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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 4th, 2015, 8:14 am

"Man, I hope we eat something soon." the weary night watchman grumbled to his partner. "I'm tempted to kill a hound to eat something."

"Sure could use a steak right about now," the second footman muttered.

It was an hour before sunrise and the rain was still coming down, as it had been all night. When they stopped under an awning to light a cigarette, they were approached by another guard.

"Morning," he said.

"Good morn-"

The first footman didn't finish his sentence as his helmet plume was pulled back and a thin blade sliced his throat open. The second guard didn't even register what was happening as the footman in front of him drew his sword and ran it him through. Someone cried out in alarm - a labourer on his way to work. The throat-slitter had a crossbow ready and promptly shot the man in the chest.

"Let us get these out of sight." the throat-slitter said. "We can take them to the ritual when it's safe."

"Aye." the swordsman replied.

-------------------------------------

"On whose authority?!" the Captain demanded in front of the entire morning parade. Grathier stood motionlessly in the ranks as the exchange went on.

This kind of crap was bad for morale. This whole morning would be bad for morale. The rain was pouring down with a vengeance, everybody was hungry and now this. The officers were arguing with raised voices before the entire paraded garrison. Dumberlin gestured to a sergeant who brang the two cannoneers forward. But this time there were no lashing posts made up.

"Please." one said meekly. "It was the drink, it was. I don't even remember what I did."

The other one stayed defiantly silent as they were led up the stairs onto the platform.

"YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO SANCTION THIS!" the artillery captain roared. The ranks shifted uneasily. This was wrong, and they all knew it.

"I didn't mean it none. Light, I'm hungry..."

"Shut up and let's get this over with." the second cannoneer growled.

Dumberlin didn't even step forward to give a speech. The entire garrison watched as a sergeant first placed a burlap sack over the first man's head. He was still babbling as the noose was tightened into place. He begged for mercy, promised to give up the drink, pleaded that he had a wife heavy with child.

The second cannoneer simply spat in the executioner's face just before the bag went over.

The captain stormed over to the gallows when half a dozen footmen stepped forward, drawing swords. The captain drew his own and before the stunned parade, he stared them down. The officer was a hulking mass of muscle, perhaps a relic of the post-third war days when men were promoted on their fighting skill rather than leadership skill. Whatever the case, Grathier admired him for standing up for his men like this. Albert would not do that for one of his marines, that's for sure.

The footmen encircled the captain. He wheeled around, waiting for an attack. The first cannoneer was praying to the Light now, which Barnaby found amusing. The sheer number of people that can turn religious in the face of death...

Dumberlin nodded to the sergeant, who pulled a lever.

"NO!" the captain roared, lunging at the nearest footman. The platform gave under the two cannoneers, who dropped the customary six or so feet with a sickening thunk. Grathier winced. The drop had been too long and the first man was outright decapitated by the rope. The second was more fortunate and simply twitched in place, his neck broken.

The captain took down one soldier before the others hacked him to bloody pieces. The parade watched on, horrified at the turn of events. Now, Dumberlin gave a short speech. Just crap about justice and discipline and even mutiny.

"You had no right!" someone shouted.

"Murderer!" came a female voice.

"Do it yourself next time, you pussy!" Grathier shouted. Somebody smacked him on the back of the head. He grinned anyway - he couldn't help it.

A chorus of booing and shaming filled the garrison. The provosts drew swords and took a threatening step forward. Dumberlin spoke again.

"This insubordination will not be tolerated!" he shouted. "Effective immediately, I am enacting martial law!"

Wow. The man sure knows how to piss people off, Grathier reflected. The workers hurried away and the soldiers were ordered back to the barracks, despite being allowed to roam under martial law. Grathier went back to his bunk and changed into his hunting attire.

"That wasn't right." Exeter said.

"World ain't fair, mate." Grathier retorted. "Get used to it."

They dressed slowly for forage duty. He didn't feel all that motivated but it was still business as usual. Somebody had to feed the starving soldiers. Exeter was in his Harrison Jones getup long before Barnaby was ready. He cinched his gunbelt, holstered his revolver, sheathed the bayonet he couldn't use (because only his broken rifle had the necessary lug to attach the thing to) and grabbed his piece-of-shit issued shotgun. They made it two paces out into the downpour before they were halted.

"Hold it!" the guard said. "ID."

They showed their footmen medallions.

"Did you not just hear that you're to remain in the barracks?"

"Forage duty," Grathier said. "You wanna eat tonight?"

The guard - a private - looked doubtful. Grathier didn't want to wait for him to clear this with a corporal or sergeant, so-

"Look buddy," Exeter said. "Nobody would be foolish enough to cancel forage duty. We're practically feeding everyone right now."

The private still looked doubtful so Grathier simply walked away. The guard looked as if he were to protest, but made no move to stop him. The kid grinned as if he just negotiated world peace. They were stopped again at the west gate by a sergeant.

"Turn back." he said. "Nobody is to enter or leave the base."

"Forage duty." Grathier said. "I'd rather not starve tonight."

This guard was adamant. "No. Nobody. Dumberlin's orders."

"You can't be serious."

The sergeant grasped his sword hilt. "Leave. Now."

They shook their heads, exasperated. Grathier and Exeter took a few steps back before Grathier turned around.

"Weren't you on duty yesterday?" he asked curiously.

"Aye."

"You were meant to be relieved an hour ago."

The sergeant didn't reply, but looked more determined than ever to unsheathe the sword. They hurried back to the garrison. Kashka was absent and Albert was no doubt at the Town Hall, so there was nothing he could do for now.

"Oi!" Grathier shouted to the room. "Hope you like cannibalism, because they've canned forage duty!"

"WHAT?!" there were outbursts of anger and confusion. Grathier almost regretted saying that; he was practically inciting mutiny.

The hours passed as they starved in their bunk beds. Some played cards and others drank stashed rum. Nobody exercised - not with the food situation as it was. Outside, it still rained.

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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 4th, 2015, 9:00 am

Grathier stepped out for a cigarette as Bartholomew passed him, heading toward the sleeping quarters. To avoid the rain and guards, the barracks doorway was now the smoking area. This was his last cigarette.

"Afternoon, sarge."

"Grathier!" he said, before coming close. "I want to talk to you."

"That provost can't prove anything!" he immediately protested. "She was practically-"

"Shut up."

"Aye aye, sarge." he said meekly.

"Look." he leaned in close and dropped to a conspirital whisper. "I know how to get some food."

"Go on..."

"You know Wrathion?"

"The... whatever the rumors reckon he is now." Grathier smirked. "Super time-travelling dragon demigod whatever."

"He's leaving today. He's promised food and gold for whoever pledges to him."

Grathier turned to face his sergeant square on now. He looked around to make sure nobody could hear. "Go on..."

"Look." his sergeant said. "He's alleging that there are rituals going on. He forsees this garrison as a crumbling ruin."

"You want me to desert with you?"

Bartholomew cringed at the word. "Look, Grathier. I've been a soldier for nine years. I signed up as a lad during the Ahn'qiraj war effort when I was 18."

Grathier did not know this. He had been 15 when that went out - if he hadn't been stuck on a merchant vessel that year, he might've signed up two years earlier than he did.

"But this is fucked up." he whispered. "I didn't sign up to starve to death under the rule of a tyrant."

"Once Taylor's back..."

"Read a map, corporal!" he snapped. "He's in Nagrand! We'll all be dead before he gets back, just you watch."

"You're still asking a lot from me."

"Just think about it. We're marching in one hour."

Bartholomew turned to leave before Grathier grabbed his arm. "Is Kashka part of this?"

"I don't think so, no."

"Shit..."

He suddenly had a headspin now. Bartholomew and Gods know how many others were deserting? Bartholomew was left to conspire with the men and women inside. He had sad 'food and gold as well. In Barnaby's current position, gold was everything to him. He had a half-sister to think about.

He thought about Miranda for the first time in two weeks. He now felt more guilty than ever for leaving her behind. He promised her the world, and ran off to fight instead.

"It's this fucking war!" he snapped.

"What?" another smoker asked.

"Shut up!"

But it wasn't the war. It was him. Miranda was seven - too young to understand his actions. Hell, he scarcely understood his own actions sometimes.

Bartholomew passed him on the way out, shadowed by half a dozen soldiers. Dunce was one of them. When the corporal and sergeant locked eyes, he conveyed his decision. Sergeant Bartholomew sighed and strode out of the barracks.

Grathier wasn't deserting. He had made an honest living since he was 11 - he wouldn't stop now.

-----------------------------------------

A shot rang out outside. They were under attack! Everybody grabbed their weapons, flung themselves off their bunks in various states of dress and steamed out of the barracks.

In the courtyard was a host of soldiers - a few dozen. They were escorting a hilariously (under any other circumstance) dressed human down the hill to the gate.

"STAND DOWN!" Dumbelrin was shouting from the Town Hall. Soldiers were lining up to fight these deserters.

Wrathion didn't care. They just kept marching. The soldiers had grabbed guns and began to fire, while the host fired back. Nobody was sure what to do.

"They're sacrificing people!" someone shouted.

"He's a cultist!" someone else shouted.

Dumberlin ordered everyone to attack the column of deserting soldiers. Grathier saw Bartholomew in the rearguard and decided not to. Fuck him. Nobody else joined in.

The host descended to the gate and fanned out to storm the posted guards in case they resisted. They did. He could hear fighting down there. The troops in the courtyard didn't join in, though.

They turned their weapons on the crowd.

"HE'S A TRAITOR!" an officer shouted. Grathier saw Captain Albert appear from his left, from the road that led to the mine and farm.

"Ephial is sacrificing men in dark rituals! He is killing our own men!"

Guards rushed to silence him. Captain Albert drew his sword and dared them to approach. Ephial was standing quietly behind Dumberlin, in the doorway to the Town Hall with his arms crossed.

"EPHIAL!" he shouted. "I'M PLACING YOU UNDER AR-"

A soldier lunged at Grathier's company commander. Albert parried the blow and stabbed the soldier in the throat. Another was beaten back, but now he was overwhelmed. A sword pierced Captain Albert's breastplate. Without thinking, Grathier drew his revolver, took a step forward and shot the attacker from twenty-five yards. The man crumpled, leaving his blade inside Albert, who went down a moment later.

Under the deafening rain. Everyone heard Ephial speak. "Kill them."

A soldier raised a shotgun at him. Another soldier raised a crossbow at that soldier. The man to Grathier's right drew his weapon and stabbed another without warning.

In the dreary afternoon, all hell broke loose.

Grathier
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Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 6th, 2015, 8:33 am

He went scavenging that night.

Nobody had eaten for over twenty-four hours now. Soldiers were trained to persevere on less, but Grathier was sensible enough to scavenge before he got desperate.

There was no longer any shooting in the courtyard, the no-man's land of the garrison now. Between Dumberlin's forces in the Town Hall and the loyalists (they declared the others the traitors despite the fact the loyalists were the ones who rebelled) sitting on their stockpile of ammunition in the armoury, so much as a silhouette was shot to pieces by both paranoid sides.

Grathier would try the farm. The storehouse was perilously close to the west gate, the inn was barricaded as well as most of the peasant houses like the one he planned to return to. The rain was still coming down. It was almost monsoonal, despite Barnaby being 99% sure they weren't in the right part of the world for that - the previous weather was wrong and the sun crested too far south in the day.

He passed the lumber mill, being salvaged by a half-equipped soldier. A volley of gunfire up the hill somewhere startled him and he fled down the hill. He went around behind the barracks, where he had been only four hours earlier until the loyalists barricaded inside fell to infighting and slaughtered one another. It had been worse than the Cult of the Damned infestation back in Northrend in there.

Behind the barracks was a two-man patrol - Dumberlin's men, no doubt - walking away from him. Over by the wall was what could only have been the handiwork of a firing squad. Grathier didn't bother creeping - the rain masked his movement - and simply walked around them as they stopped to forage a crate for food.

He passed the now-boarded up mine but stopped short of the farm. There were half a dozen men walking around with lanterns. Grathier double-backed to the mine, pried the lowest board off and crawled underneath.

It was pitch-black inside, but he found a lantern fairly quickly. If there was food, it would be near the entrance. It looked deserted. He rummaged through opened ration crates, coming up with some spoiled meat, an apple core and half a bag of weavil-infested flour partially soaked by the rain seeping in. He ate the weavils, feeling nostalgic. He would eat bugs for a copper a piece when he was seven, mostly just to gross out the girls.

There was little else Carlton or Aberdeen but he took the sack anyway. Grathier left the mine, smashing the lantern on a support beam as he reached the entrance. He could hear some sporadic gunfire over by the Town Hall. He approached the rear of the barracks again, only to see five soldiers organising into a firing squad for two women by the wall.

Grathier stopped, watched and waited. He had enough rounds to take the squad on but after the madness of today, he had become determined to survive this ordeal. That meant no stupid chances. He couldn't hear because of the rain, but the women looked like they were sobbing. The rifles took aim and fired. One went down quickly but the other screamed in agony until another, single round silenced her.

"Fuck these crazy people." he muttered to the rain.

The bodies were dragged toward him and Grathier ducked into some scrub to let them pass. Fifteen minutes later, he emerged and kept walking. Past the lumber mill where the half-equipped soldier was now dead with an arrow in his back. Past a few peasant houses until he found his. He banged the door four times with a fist.

It was cold, damp and miserable in here. Carlton was asleep on the floor as he had left him. Aberdeen sat down with the sack on a chair.

"Flour?" she asked.

"We can make hard tack." he said. "I'll get a fire going."

Aberdeen just watched the door as Grathier picked up the other chair in the cottage and smashed it against the brick hearth. It splitered to pieces and he fed half of it into the fireplace. There was a prayer book that Grathier tore pages out of for tinder. In ten minutes, he had a small blaze going. He mixed the unspoiled flour (picking the weavils out and eating them) with some rainwater and got them cooking. He also removed his shirt and placed it next to the hearth.

"There are patrols out." he said, sitting on the floor next to Aberdeen. Twenty-four hours ago they had drunkenly made love behind the Briny Barnicle. Funny how things change quickly. "And they're not taking prisoners."

She just nodded and Grathier sighed. Aberdeen was not a strong woman. She was a twenty year old cook who had never so much as had a black eye, much less be fired upon by people she was paid to feed.

"Still some scattered fighting up the hill. The farm is well-guarded. And..."

She wasn't listening so he gave up. He sat in silence for a while, drip-drying on the floor. After a time, he noticed her face was buried in her hands.

"Aberdeen. Aberdeen!"

She looked down at him.

"When the food is ready, go to bed." he said. "I'll keep watch until sunrise."

"Okay."

"We just need to wait for Admiral Taylor to get back."

"I know."

Her depressed, monotonous answers reminded him of Miranda. He wasn't sure how reliable she was in her state, but following basic instructions still worked. He knew he ought to comfort her, but didn't. Hopefully she would harden on her own soon enough.

When the food was ready he broke a third for her, kicked Carlton awake, gave him his third, endured the old man's grumbling and then ate the rest himself. Aberdeen went to bed but didn't sleep. Grathier sat on the chair and kept guard.

After twenty minutes, he heard her bare feet patter up behind him.

"I can't sleep." she said.

"Try." he said.

"I'm still hungry."

"Tough shit." he said coldly. "I did the best I could."

"Sorry." she said. "I didn't mean-"

"If you're not going to sleep, sit down then." he said. She sat on the floor and he abandoned the chair to sit next to her.

"Could you... tell me a story?"

"To keep the hunger away?"

"Aye." she said.

"About what?"

"Anything."

Grathier thought for a moment. He wasn't a storyteller unless it was exchanging drinking stories.

"How are you're so calm about all this?" she asked.

"This is nothing." Grathier said airily. "Gilneas was worse."

"Were you stationed there?"

"For a time."

"How was it worse?"

"These people don't gas you." Grathier said. "They aren't poisoning wells and bombing everything with so much plague that you can die just walking within ten yards of a slime pool."

"How did you survive that?"

He couldn't help but grin. "Learning quickly. And Forsaken aren't that hard to kill."

"How are they easy?" she asked. She sounded genuinely curious.

"They're walking corpses." he explained. "You can't run them through, arrows do little and bullets less, but most chopping weapons can take arms and legs off without much effort. Against more heavily armoured opponents, blunt weapons like mauls were a good trick. They're more prone to breaking bones than a living creature."

"Did it work?"

"Well, I'm still alive." Grathier remarked with a wry smirk. "You can pump as much magic into a brittle, half-decayed corpse as you like - it's still a brittle, half-decayed corpse."

"Then how come they're dangerous?"

"Because until recently, fighting them required a departure from doctrine." he said. "You know how regimental the army is - our weakness is inflexibility. I say 'until recently' because after Gilneas, the 7th Legion adapted our doctrine on Scourge tactics toward fighting Forsaken."

"You were in the 7th Legion?"

"No." Grathier said. "They just poached me for my tracking skills."

She would eventually start asking for specifics, and he didn't much feel like talking about his time there. He didn't much feel like talking at all now.

"Go to sleep Aberdeen." he said. "I'll keep watch."

"Call me Rose."

"Okay Rose." he said. Rose laid down where she sat and struggled to get comfortable. She didn't sleep for some time, but eventually did. Grathier watched the door, feeling a little better. He remembered that being tired, starving and unable to trust anybody was a walk in the park. This wasn't hell. Not even close.

Grathier
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Grathier

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 8th, 2015, 4:31 am

The day started quite promisingly. It was Carlton's turn to scavenge. He stepped outside, closed the door behind him, took two steps and was shot by a sniper.

"We can't leave him out there!" Aberdeen protested. Outside, they could hear the old man was groaning in pain.

"Look," Grathier said acidly. "If he can crawl back inside, then I'll do something about it. But I don't feel like being shot today!"

She cringed at his words and he rolled over on the floor, determined to sleep the night off. It was still raining hard and he decided that was a good thing. The men outside couldn't burn their stronghold down around them.

It wasn't easy, but he drifted into a light, dreamless sleep. He woke up around midday, feeling better. Carlton had stopped groaning outside and Aberdeen had fallen asleep herself. He didn't mind, since an intruder would need to make a lot of noise to gain entry anyway. He lay there on the ground, listening to the sporadic sniper fire. He guessed there were three of them, and he knew the sound of Kashka's rifle anywhere. Two were up the hill, while his sergeant was off to the south in the hills.

"For fuck's sake woman," he muttered to the ceiling. "Just go south and fetch Bravo Company for us."

She didn't need to. At what must have been mid-afternoon, heavy fighting erupted at the gate. He had carved several loopholes into the walls the other day and one gave partial observation on the fight. It was a mess of footman against footman. He watched them for a time, unable to render assistance - the gate was over a hundred yards away, and the only weapon of his that could reliably fire at that range was his broken rifle.

So he watched. It was the courtyard yesterday all over again. The outnumbered gate guards were winning because the marines were turning on one another out of paranoia. Did Dumberlin have men in their ranks too? Probably.

In the end, Bravo Company broke and scattered. Most fled back to the forest while others made it inside to join the confusion. There was little left of the gate defence though. Even a small orc raiding party could overwhelm them easily.

They both went scavenging that night. Aberdeen took the shotgun and Grathier his two pistols and they split up.

He found a mass grave behind the Town Hall but the dead had already been looted. The entire scene faintly reeked of shadow magic, sort of a blend of burnt meat and an approaching storm. There was nothing useful to scavenge. He made his way to the Briny Barnicle.

The inn was still barricaded and Grathier tried banging on the door. Nobody replied and as he turned to leave, he was winged by a sniper. Shit! He dashed around the side of the building to take cover. He checked his arm. Fortunately it was just a graze and the bleeding had already stopped. Small victories, he supposed.

He remained there for a time. After about ten minutes, he saw two men on the road patrolling up the hill. Grathier watched them. One looked familiar, but he was too hungry to try and think about--

The familiar one looked at his buddy and he got a better look. It was Schuman. With that pendant.

"Son of a..." he muttered.

That was all of his rank accounted for now. Albert was dead, Bartholomew was gone, Kashka was on a hill shooting anything that moved and Schuman had sided with Dumberlin. He and his crony went up the hill and Grathier shadowed them. The sniper that had fired at him would definitely see these two but since nothing happened, Grathier assumed the shooter was on their side.

He was going to kill Schuman. To hell with surviving and to hell with caution. Schuman was a traitor and a poser, and around his neck was enough pendant to buy a small patch of land in Elwynn.

And it wouldn't even be murder. The lieutenant had forfeited his life when he sided with that traitor Dumberlin.

The pair skirted off the road and went around behind the barracks. Grathier drew his knife - the revolver was too loud and he only had six rounds left for it - and began to close.

Out of nowhere two more guards appeared and the four began conversing. Grathier abruptly stopped, turned and walked away instead.

"Lucky..."

"Halt!" one of the guards shouted. "Who goes there?!"

Grathier glanced back and noticed they were all looking at him. He kept walking, trying the incognito escape. That failed. He heard someone come after him and he broke into a sprint himself. He was weak from hunger but so were they. They were encumbered with armour as well. He ran back to the house and slammed the door behind him.

Aberdeen was there and pointed the shotgun at him in a panic. For a second, he thought she was going to fire. But then she lowered it and he slammed the door behind him.

"Company!" he said, going to the nearest loophole and peering outside.

"What?"

"Give me the gun!"

She gave it to him. He had not run fast enough to enter the building out of their sight. In fact, he cursed himself for not thinking to lose them first before returning here. The four of them were running painfully slow. Schuman - the only one without a helmet - slipped and fell into the mud. Grathier chuckled at that.

He broke the shotgun open. It was loaded. The loophole was cut just big enough for both barrels and an eye. He rested the end of the barrel on the splintered wood, taking care not to let it protrude.

"Come a little closer, why don't you?" he said. "Aberdeen, are these slugs or shot?"

"What?"

"Oh for fuck's sake." he snarled. "Let's hope they're slugs."

Shot would be useless against plate armour. Slugs wouldn't fare much better, but they stood a chance of at least injuring them. The lead man was twenty yards from the door when he fired.

They were slugs. The lead man fell but got back up with a dent in his breastplate. The slug had been defeated.

"Shit..." he said. "Aberdeen, grab a weapon!"

"I don't have one!" she wailed. "What do I do?!"

"Grab the chair then!" he snapped, taking position next to the door. "Bloody hell, do I have to think for you as well?!"

The door burst open. Grathier swung the shotgun like a club, aiming high. The stock connected with the first mans helmet as he ran inside, protecting him from harm but knocking him down all the same. He turned the weapon around so he was holding it properly and as the second man entered, Grathier stuck the barrel up underneath his chin and fired the second barrel. Attacker number two was dead before he hit the ground.

The next man was right on his comrade's heels and having seen the carnage, immediately turned on Grathier with a slash with his sword. Grathier caught the blow with the shotgun and tried to swing back like a club. Footman #3 surprised him with a front kick which sent him sprawling. He lost the shotgun. Aberdeen was in the far corner and held the chair out awkwardly, screaming for them to stay away from her. Footman #3 went for Grathier, who scrambled back. His position was too awkward to draw the revolver. So he went for his other pistol.

BLAM! Footman #3 screamed as his right kneecap exploded. Grathier's other pistol - a monster .50 calibre ball-and-powder percussion cap pistol - tore through the chainmail-covered joint and shattered the bone. He dropped the now empty pistol and got to his feet. Footman #1 was back on his feet as well and there was no sign of the Schuman yet. Grathier crash-tackled Footman #1 before he could react and they went sprawling.

The fight was sluggish. Both fighters were too weak and hungry to accomplish much. Grathier had mounted the other man and was attacking his head with his own helmet, but every hit was guarded and it achieved little. Footman #1 pushed him aside and tried to get up. The unarmoured Grathier was up faster and kicked the man in the head, putting him back down. The shotgun was on the ground near Aberdeen, still cowering with her chair. He went to grab it.

Footman #1 wrapped his legs up and Grathier fell forward. He tried to kick the man free. He noticed his enemy was reaching at something of his.

Grathier went for it but wasn't quick enough. The footman drew Barnaby's own boot knife and stabbed him in the calf with it. Grathier cried out in pain as Footman #1 twisted and removed the blade. He kicked the man in the face with his good leg and freed himself. Footman #1 slashed at him and he checked the cut with the sole of his boot.

"Aberdeen!" he shouted, removing some cartridges from his gunbelt and throwing them at her and the nearby shotgun. "The gun! The gun!"

She looked at him, dazed and confused. He pointed at the shotgun between them. Then she finally clicked and put the chair down. Grathier continued the horizontal battle against the footman, avoiding his slashes and kicking where he could. He couldn't get up quickly due tot he leg injury and neither could Footman #1 whom was too heavily encumbered. He saw Footman #4 at the door now.

Schuman just stood there for a moment. Aberdeen was struggling with the shotgun, hands shaking, trying to put a shell in the wrong way. The lieutenant surveyed the room, the dead soldier, the screaming soldier, the two men fighting on the ground in the middle and the woman in the far corner trying to load a shotgun. He advanced on Aberdeen with his blade.

Grathier still had his revolver and drew it on Schuman. The lieutenant simply kicked his hand away and the gun skittered across the room. He didn't have much energy left. He threw everything he had into an attack and lashed out at the man's legs.

He failed to knock him over, but it was enough to give Schuman pause. The lieutenant turned on him, shoved him off with his sabaton and stomped on his ribcage. Grathier heard something break, but somehow managed to lock his leg up with a bear hug. Footman #1 was back on his feet. Grathier looked up at Schuman who was getting ready to finish him off with a sword thrust.

He was looking up at his death.

"I'll be waiting." Grathier snarled.

Suddenly, the shotgun went off. He watched Lieutenant Schuman's head burst into a pink mist in time with the report. The entire room went quiet. The body crumpled lifelessly next to him. The other two footmen were looking at Aberdeen, who stood frozen in shock with the shotgun.

It was deathly silent but for the distant rain outside. Grathier agonisingly got to his feet, hopped over to her and took the shotgun which she passively relinquished. Footman #1 fled for the door before Grathier could act, taking the boot knife with him.

"No! No! NO!" Footman #3 wailed, still clutching his mangled kneecap as Grathier advanced on him. He grabbed the mans helmet by the plume and removed it, kicked him onto his back and unceremoniously shot him in the head.

"Fuck you all."

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

Re: Still Not as Bad as Gilneas

Postby Grathier » February 8th, 2015, 6:37 pm

It stopped raining outside.

"Aberdeen." he said quietly.

She didn't respond. He sat down cross-legged in front of her, wincing as his cracked ribs complained.

"Rosemary."

She looked to him at that.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

She slowly shook her head. For the past hour, Aberdeen had been unresponsive. While Barnaby had tended to his injuries, looted the three dead and up until dragging them out behind the house, she had sat there, staring into Lieutenant Schuman's empty eyes.

He was concerned she was slipping away.

"It was them or us, Rose." he tried. "You did the right thing."

She cast her eyes down and said nothing. A minute or so of silence passed.

"Rose."

She didn't look up.

"Rose, look at me."

She slowly looked up.

"Let me tell you a story." he said. "Okay?"

She faintly nodded. Grathier took a deep breath and collected his thoughts.

"Okay. About ten years ago when I was fourteen, my drunken lout of a mother remarried."

She half-blankly looked at him while he spoke.

"We lived in Theramore." he continued. "For the past three years since da died and we crossed the sea, I had provided for the both of us. My new stepda and I butted heads. Alpha male shit, y'know?"

She nodded faintly.

"Anyway, he won that battle. He convinced ma to send me to sea for a year."

He seemed to have her attention, though she probably didn't know where this was going.

"So I was signed up as a deckhand. The day we sailed from port, the bosun pulled me aside. Told me to sleep with my knife on me that night. I confronted him, asked if he was threatening me. He said he wasn't. When I asked why, he just walked away.

"I hadn't worked it out, but I took his advice anyway."

Rose was attentive now. Grathier kept going.

"That night, I was pulled from my cot." Barnaby continued. "Before I even knew what was happening, somebody backhanded me across the face, bent me over a crate and started trying to remove my trousers."

"Oh." she said. A response of any kind was good.

"I had the blade in the band of my trousers." he said. "I got a hold of it and lashed out at whoever was trying to do this."

He started idly picking at one of the floorboards with his fingernail. "Turns out there was two of them. First one got off lightly - I stabbed him in the hand. In the confusion, I managed to turn around and stab his friend in the chest."

She nodded.

"He died about thirty seconds later, with the blade still stuck in him." Grathier said. "It didn't hit me at the time, though the next morning I vomited."

"That was the first time you killed somebody?"

"Aye."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"I recovered quickly from that." he said. "I was in the right, and I knew I was in the right.

"You need to know that you were in the right as well, Rose. After he killed me, he would have killed you without hesitation."

"I know."

"I'm not going to coddle you over it. But you need to get over this quickly, okay? You've got nothing to beat yourself up over."

"I-" something caught in her throat. Tears were welling up in her eyes. "I don't think I can come back from this."

"Rose, listen to me." he gave her a level look. "There is no food. Every crate has been scavenged, every hound butchered. Short of eating human flesh, we may not survive before Admiral Taylor returns."

"I know." she said meekly.

"We may have to take to the forest." Grathier said. "But our odds of surviving out there at night even if we get food are slim."

"Why?"

"I've been on forage duty, remember? We found camps where the orcs had slept that night. We've found rylak nests and ravager dens and enormous wasp hives. Hell, some Horde - the original Horde - have been spotted nearby. They have a terrible track record with prisoners of war.

"If we choose to take off, we'll need to engage the forces at the gate, and then endure any or all of the above. You may have to kill again. And I need you to be okay with that."

Aberdeen buried her face in her hands and started sobbing. "This is a nightmare."

"I told you, this is nothing." he put a hand on her shoulder. She reached for it reassuringly. "So deal with this quickly, okay? Get some sleep."

She kept crying. Grathier left her to it while he kept watch.

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