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

Worker Bee

Postby Grathier » December 21st, 2015, 9:33 pm

He didn't hear the call to fire due to the storm.

The opening salvo of cannon fire fell far short of the enemy battleship, which they couldn’t even see anymore over the terrible conditions. The water was choppy, rain crashed down with a vengeance, the wind howled and roared and the sailors and marines had to keep a constant hold of something to avoid being thrown about (or overboard) like ragdolls.

“Hey!” Corporal Grathier shouted over the storm at the man beside him. “At least the cannons aren’t making our ears bleed!”

The remark failed to cut through the wind shear and fell on deaf ears. They had been standing ready for three hours now, soaked to the core as the Alliance battleship Trollbane’s Fury sailed daringly into a storm, trying to evade the Iron Horde vessel. After half an hour of a deck that gave even the sturdiest stomach a run for its money, the Captain must have decided it was time to turn about and strike.

It was Grathier’s 26th birthday today, not that anybody on deck knew. Cruel and unusual fun happened to soldiers who divulged that information, all in the name of a laugh. He should know – he conducted it on others every chance he could.

The salvo was answered by the unmistakable boom and rush of enemy cannon fire striking the nearby water. The portside battery launched another salvo into the rain as they continued their manoeuvre. The ship’s shaman – a robed male draenei – stood on the bow, wrangling the spirits as best he could to keep the storm in check. A gnome priestess staggered up and down the ranks, muttering something (probably a prayer) that was lost to the storm. There were two mages about somewhere too, two batteries of six 24lb naval guns each below deck, scores of sailors and crew working the rigging, as well as Grathier and 39 other marines standing ready, soaking up the rain.

A silhouette appeared in the distance, heralded by a deafening thunder strike nearby. A few soldiers pointed, but there was still too much noise to exchange anything but shouts.

This was always the worst part about a ship-to-ship engagement, Grathier reflected. At the mercy of cannon fire and lady luck until the ships came in close. If the ships came in close. Alliance ships couldn’t stand up to a close-range engagement or a ramming attack by their Iron Horde counterparts, and the Iron Horde couldn’t stand up to a boarding action or a game of manoeuvring by the Alliance. More often than not, both sides kept their distance.

The enemy battleship powered up into a headwind, sails down, running on an internal steam engine instead. They were attempting a collision course. They fired their main battery – a massive howitzer on the forecastle with enough power and recoil to check its own momentum. Trollbane’s Fury moved right to left at its 12 o’clock through the crosswind, making a raking attempt before they closed in. The colossal shell sailed high while their own portside 24 pounders fared little better. Most glanced harmlessly off the ship’s solid iron ram, though at least one went high and tore through the deck.

Trollbane’s Fury swung with the tailwind after clearing any ramming attempt while the enemy ship made their own port turn. Both ships were turning in. They were going in close. Twenty rifles – including Corporal Grathier’s – were brought to the shoulder. Both sides were hampered by wild rocking, near-blinding rain and a violent crosswind over a hundred yards. Which meant that nobody was going to achieve anything but a damn lucky shot.

He felt a tap on his shoulder. Sgt Callahan, the man in charge of the riflemen shouted into his ear and the ear of the man next to him.

“DON’T AIM!” he boomed, yet barely audible. “VOLLEY FIRE! GO FOR THE GUNS!”

He continued down the line to pass the message on to the others. The ships were moving in opposite directions, about to make a pass. This would be brief, unless somebody attempted to board. About a hundred yards away, the firing started with a few cracks on either side. After the first snap of a passing bullet jolted everybody into action, both decks erupted in a dull chorus over the rain.

“Challenge accepted, sarge!” he said to nobody.

The weight of fire spurred some to cover but most returned fire. Grathier looked for the first orc on the opposite deck to give a hand signal, finding one next to the (still safely directed forward) main battery. To hell with volley fire, he reckoned he could hit somebody important. He aimed three points left, fired, missed, threw away any notion of aiming off (at seventy yards and closing, the wind was doing less and less on trajectory, fired again and struck a neighbouring orc in the leg.

The cannons fired again. The world shook terribly as each ship broadsided the other at less than fifty yards. Grathier could feel rather than hear the solid shot tearing up the deck below him. A round ricocheted harmlessly off the private to his left, leaving a score on his helmet.

He fired again and missed again, having mistimed the rocking. The other twenty marines armed with swords and their Iron Horde counterparts could do nothing but hunker behind their shields, waiting for a boarding action of any kind.

The pass lasted perhaps ten seconds. As they drew apart, the Iron Horde’s aft cannons fired and a barrage of canister sweeped the deck. Then it happened.

Grathier felt himself go down under a shower of splinters and shot, along with both soldiers on either side of him. His leg was on fire. One of the others screamed; the other was still. The pain overwhelmed everything. He couldn’t think. But before he blacked out, he did get a quick glimpse of his leg.

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

Re: Worker Bee

Postby Grathier » December 24th, 2015, 3:00 am

"I told you, we're going home."

--

“All right, watch your step here.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Hey, a squirrel over there! Can you see it?”

She trailed along wordlessly. She still thought this was some joke. Any minute now Matron would jump out and laugh at her. “Oh Miranda,” she’d say. “For a moment you actually thought you were going to leave!”

“You’re not leaving because nobody wants you. Nobody likes you, haven’t you realised?”

The other kids would laugh and laugh and all she could do is hide her face in her hands and cry and wait for it to pass. Every corner she prepared for it. Prepared to be embarrassed and laughed at and thrown back into her room.

But after each corner was another corner. Then they entered Elwynn and the corners became trees.

Miranda watched her brother walk. He had a cane now. Sometimes when he put too much weight on it, he would wince. It was a long walk, since they didn’t own a horse and she was too young for a gryphon. The forest was in autumn now, covered in reds, yellows and browns. Lots of people thought it looked pretty but she just felt more miserable.

They walked to Goldshire and he bought her some moonberry juice. Then he found the two of them a patch of grass to sit on.

“How’re you feeling?” he asked. She kept her eyes on the grass.

“Miranda,” a little firmer. She looked up at him.

“We’ve walked a long way. Are you tired?”

Miranda shook her head and went back to mulling over her drink. He didn’t ask again. They sat in silence until he told her it was time to keep walking. They were still walking away from Stormwind.

“Barnaby?” she asked.

“Hm?”

“Where are we going?”

“I told you, we’re going home.” He insisted. She wondered if he was telling the truth this time.

They walked along an old track with the grass had overgrown, down towards the river. She felt tired, but didn’t complain. If she complained, Barnaby would stop and they would be late because of her. After an hour or so, he pointed with his cane at the trees.

“There! Can you see it?”

She saw the outline of a house in the trees, slowly revealing itself as they came closer.

It was made of wood like most others, but this one looked bigger. The roof was brand new and a chimney poked out of the top. In front of the house was a small overgrown field which separated it from the river. On the left was some old rubble of something and on the right near the water was an outhouse. There were weeds everywhere.

It looked terrible. Barnaby limped over to the front door of the house.

“I’ve taken a day to make it habitable already.” He told her as he fumbled with a large key. “New roof, new beds, fixed the outhouse and so on.”

Inside was equally miserable. Miranda stepped into this dark, empty room. Just one room, like most houses, with two beds far to one side and a table and chairs near the fireplace. One corner of the floor looked rotten. There was nothing else. It was bare.

“Home.” Barnaby said cheerfully, limping over to put the key on the table. Some of his things were already here, she saw. “First thing tomorrow, I’ll be getting to work on it.”

Miranda sat down on the floor in the middle of the room. It was dark and empty and scary. But that was alright. She had waited a year for this. For her brother to take her home. And this was it.

But she didn't deserve it. She was nobody, and didn't deserve anything.

She started to cry.

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

Re: Worker Bee

Postby Grathier » January 2nd, 2016, 9:48 am

"We're now inhabiting that wreck of a house back yonder. That makes us neighbours, so I figured we'd come introduce ourselves."

--

Routine was established quickly. Miranda was gently shaken awake at dawn by Barnaby, who was always already dressed, hair wet from bathing in the river. She usually resisted - getting out of bed was hard though most of it was waking to realise she was still the nobody she was the night before. Sometimes she wished she could stay in bed and dream forever.

This failed after about a week, so Barnaby instead made breakfast earlier. It was usually a stew from whatever bread and meat was left over from dinner. It was always a hot breakfast - winter was almost upon them and the mornings were getting colder - so she had to get up before it got cold. It was usually quiet, though Barnaby sometimes talked about the day ahead.

Then she dressed and did some chores - washing clothes and the cooking pot for now while he chopped wood - and then they walked to Goldshire. They bought food for the day and Barnaby ran whatever errands needed running. Miranda usually trailed quietly behind him, looking at no one and talking to no one.

After a week, on the way home, Barnaby told her the new plan for the day.

"After lunch," he said suddenly, breaking their half-hour long silence. "We'll go visit the neighbours, all right?"

"Okay." she replied automatically.

The rest of the day usually involved work until dusk. Clearing the field in front of the house so he could plant crops later, weeding and fixing things. She had little to do after her chores were done so she sat on the doorstep and did nothing. Today he cut down some trees over where the rubble was, dug the stumps out and then cut the grass down with a scythe. By lunch he had a nice patch of green by the rubble and had marked corners out with stones from it.

"What is going to go there?" Miranda asked as they made lunch from some of the bread they bought that morning.

"Chickens." Barnaby replied. "Perhaps three or four of them. Probably a rooster too."

After lunch they set off, not using the path back to Goldshire. They cut through the forest and Miranda saw a deer. Barnaby had his pistol (which he took everywhere) with him and seemed to know where he was limping. Miranda hoped they wouldn't get lost like this.

After more than half an hour, they found a fence. Past some trees Miranda could see a house and a barn, with a field in between them. Their field was much bigger than the one Barnaby was clearing. A man was working on the field, where the grass was up to his shoulders. A horse could be seen next to him.

"Looks like they're harvesting." Barnaby remarked, looking over the field. "The crops look shorter than I remember."

"What are they?" Miranda asked.

"It's wheat." Barnaby said, gesturing to the field. "This is how bread starts its life."

A dog barked. Barnaby took a step back from the fence as it came out of the crops, running straight at them. Miranda cowered behind Barnaby, who ruffled her hair.

"The fence is there for a reason, Miranda." he said. "Don't worry."

It stopped at the fence, barking, growling and jumping around angrily. The man in the field noticed the commotion and looked over. Barnaby waved from the fence. Miranda stayed behind him.

He soon came over with a boy about her age carrying a gun.

"Afternoon, stranger!" Barnaby called out as they neared.

The man nodded seriously but the look on his face changed when he saw Miranda.

"Afternoon." he replied. "Bandit, sit!"

The dog stopped barking and sat.

"Name's Barnaby Grathier." her brother said, stepping back forward and offering his hand across the fence. "This here is my sister Miranda."

He shook hands with the farmer.

"Afternoon Barnaby," the farmer said. "Name's Conrad Patton and this is my son Isaac."

"Hello, sir." the boy said politely.

"We're now inhabiting that wreck of a house back yonder." Barnaby jerked a thumb back over his shoulder. "That makes us neighbours, so I figured we'd come introduce ourselves."

Barnaby glanced back at his sister. "Come out and say hi, Miranda."

"Hello." Miranda said quietly, stepping out from behind her brother.

"Oh! Hello, miss." Cornad gave a friendly smile. His face was lined and tanned and had short, blonde hair. He was shorter than Barnaby, but stood straight and proud. He looked back to her brother. "Sorry about this reception - nothing good has come from this direction before. If you're our new neighbour, then come in and let me introduce you to the family."

"Lead the way." Barnaby replied.

He climbed over the fence after struggling with his bad knee, causing Bandit to start barking again. Conrad told him to sit again as Miranda was helped over. She thought the fence looked daunting, but proved to be easy to cross.

The adults walked ahead, talking about Barnaby's bad knee. Miranda walked with Isaac.

"Hi, Miranda." he said, beaming a smile. She liked him already. "I'm Isaac."

"Um, hi." she replied shyly. She felt beneath him. But then again, she felt beneath everybody. They walked a little in silence.

"So." he tried to continue. "What do you like to do?"

"Er... I like reading?" she replied. He laughed and she immediately regretted what she said.

"Er, sorry. Anna likes reading." he said. "She's my sister, you'll meet her soon. She wants to be a mage someday.

"I can't read." he went on. "I like running around with dad's old sword and stuff instead."

"Oh, well that sounds like fun maybe." she tried.

"Well I'm going to be a great warrior someday!" he said excitedly. "Fighting orcs and demons and stuff."

"I think Barnaby was in the army." Miranda said. "That's how he hurt his leg."

"Really? Cool!" he ran up to the adults ahead, leaving Miranda to feel abandoned and trailing miserably.

"Hey mister, were you in the army?" he asked, interrupting them. Conrad smacked him on the back of the head.

"Don't interrupt like that, boy."

"Sorry, pa." he said. Barnaby laughed, though Miranda felt bad for him.

"Marines, actually." her brother replied. "Saw the world on the King's silver! I'll tell you about it sometime if you're keen to listen."

"Thanks, sir." Isaac fell back to Miranda. They were almost near the house now.

"Are you all right?" she asked him.

"Yeah." Isaac rubbed the back of his head. "It's all right, it didn't hurt none."

A woman and a girl about their age were at the door.

"Look, honey." Conrad said. "Looks like we have new neighbours!"

"Afternoon." the woman replied.

"This is my wife Marianne and my daughter Anabelle." Conrad said proudly. "Mary, this is Barnaby and Miranda. Can you set our guests up with some drinks?"

"Sure, just a sec." Mary disappeared inside. Annabelle smiled at Miranda and she smiled back.

These people seemed nice, she thought.

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