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

Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » September 6th, 2014, 9:45 am

He couldn't work out which was worse. The cold or his feet.

Barnaby looked around and wasn't surprised to see most others were limping. Lieutenant Karl, their commander was on horseback, though he was clearly suffering some bad chafe from the saddle. Two days had passed since his bastardised training at Valience Keep had ended and their march to Fordragon Hold had begun. Along with fifty-three other new Privates, he was to join the 9th Brigade here in Dragonblight. All Barnaby knew was they were a new unit, raised as part of the Valience Expedition. No traditions. No battle honors. A clean slate.

That was a thought for future Barnaby. Present Barnaby was cold and had sore feet. Of all the times to start a military campaign, the Alliance had chosen the beginning of winter. Dragonblight was a wasteland of howling winds and endless snow. The convoy of ox-carts and pack-mules they marched with was filled with feverish and frostbitten soldiers. Two of their own number were among the casualties, and another - Private Yates - had died the previous night in his sleep.

The battalion of footmen officially escorting the caravan had lost three to the winter attrition, and a horse in the heavy cavalry company had been put down. Most of the caravaneers were dwarves - none of which seemed to be on the carts with the wailing humans. Dwarves...

A break in the wind showed a cloudy sky, a colossal tower circled by what looked to be dragons to the east but more importantly, showed a structure several miles ahead. The silhouette was distinct enough - an Alliance Guard tower. It's half-company of archers and ballistae operators were no doubt huddled around fires within the structure's walls. Private Grathier didn't care. Above and behind it was tower, flying the Lion of Stormwind from its flagpole. Squatter buildings and bonfires dotted the hill beyond it in the shadow of a menacing Scourge fortification.

This was Fordragon Hold, the Alliance base of operations in Dragonblight.

The sight of it brought the morale back in an instant. The marching soldiers were still too cold and too busy shivering in their armor to cheer, but the relief was in everyone's eyes.

"About damn time..." Private Riley muttered from the rank ahead.

"Grow a pair, Jonathon." Barnaby retorted. "Just because it doesn't snow in Stormwind..."

"Don't make me come back there!" the large footman snarled.

"Shut it, you two!" snapped a female voice from somewhere behind them. Private Katherine was in no mood to hear bickering. A former Corporal in the Stromgarde militia, she had outperformed every other recruit back in Valience Keep with ease, even winning a sparring tournament that had been held on the last day of training. When she talked, you listened.

Barnaby shut his mouth without so much as a grumble and returned his eyes front. The air had shouded their beacon of morale again, but they were less than a league away now. Maybe forty-five minutes? The seconds dragged by as the caravan limped through the snow. The wind played an eerie tune against his helmet. The cold constantly gnawed at his bones. Lieutenant Karl spurred his destrier forward to exchange words with a Captain of the escorting battalion.

The longest forty-five minutes of his life.

The guard tower appeared again and slowly grew in size. Two more modern hexagonal towers - like the ones in Valience Keep - loomed above it, muzzles from the 24 pounder cannons that manned it standing a silent vigil. Her cannoneers were no doubt cowering inside the walls from the cold. As they neared, the single long blast of a horn heralded their approach.

The first sentries were as miserable as them, huddled in their cloaks to keep the heat in. As they came in amongst the bonfires, more faces greeted them. Humans, dwarves, gnomes, high elves, night elves, draenei. Footmen, riflemen, clerics, battlemages, Sentinels, cannoneers. It was a grim yet powerful atmosphere that Barnaby immediately fell in love with. There was a strength here, in each and every soldier he passed. They passed a Captain addressing a company of human and dwarven footmen in an odd uniform Barnaby didn't recognize.

"COMPANY!" Lieutenant Karl shouted. "LEFT - WHEEEEL!"

Without thinking, they followed the drill and speared away from the caravan. The fifty-two Privates walked for a while longer, passing more towers and even more soldiers. Most were humans and dwarves, though every Alliance race was represented by at least one of their kind.

"COMPANY! HALT!"

More attempted drill.

"COMPANY WILL ADVANCE!" Karl shouted. "RIGHT - TURN!"

Lieutenant Karl drew his sword and saluted a charcoal-haired human atop a white mustang. With his armor, it was obvious enough to see he was a paladin. To his left was a stern-faced officer - Barnaby couldn't identify rank yet - and to his left was a dwarf that seemed to radiate power.

"King's Honor, sir." Karl quietly said to the officer. "Company strength, fifty-two able bodies, two incapacitated."

"King's Honor, Lieutenant." the paladin replied, barely audible to Barnaby. "I was told fifty-five soldiers would be marching in today."

"A man was lost to the cold during the march, sir."

"Understood, lieutenant. To your duties." Karl saluted again from his saddle and steered his horse away. The paladin looked at the miserable bunch of footmen.

"COMPANY!" slightly higher register of the new officer called. "STAND AT - EASE!

"King's Honor to you all." he said. "I am Marshal Voidbane, Commanding Officer 9th Brigade, the 'Moonbrook' Brigade. You've all had a hard march, so I won't keep you here long. Commander Sterick."

"Sir!" the armored officer to his left called.

"This is Commander Sterick. Commanding Officer, 77th Battalion. With him is Knight-Champion Thunderhand. Or just Sir Thunderhand."

The dwarf Thunderhand said nothing.

"You will all be under Sterick's command." Voidbane continued. "All I ask from you as your Marshal is to do your duty and give one hundred percent. COMPANY! ATTEN-TION!

"Light be with you all, ladies and gentlemen!"

A handover was conducted between Marshal Voidbane and Commander Sterick involving another sword salute exchange. When Voidbane was gone, Sterick looked over his new men.

"Company!" the more disinterested voice of their battalion commander ordered. "Stand AT - ease!"

"Who here is cold?" he asked.

No one responded.

"Well you damn well look cold." he continued. "So go to that bonfire and warm up. You'll be plucked from there into your companies shortly. I don't give a fuck about drill, just go."

The nervous, new Pirvates tentatively remained, unsure what to make of Sterick. Eventually the cold won out and they all fled to the nearby bonfire and the company of a number of other soldiers. Handshakes were exchanged, introductions made and Barnaby began his career in the 9th 'Moonbrook' Brigade.
Last edited by Grathier on September 15th, 2014, 5:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
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Grathier

Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » September 15th, 2014, 5:21 am

The first few days were a blur. They never left Fordragon Hold, though battle echoed from the nearby Wrathgate. The days were short, a mere eight hours this far north and were expected to be down to six by January.

Barnaby had been reissued a mithril sword, wondering why he didn't get one back in training and a new backpack to stow his rations and other miscellaneous items for marching. He was organized into Charlie Company of the 77th Battalion - the same company as Lieutenant Karl, along with his fellow privates Riley, Katherine and Marcus. Katherine was soon made up to Corporal due to her experience and Marcus was drafted into the same squad as he. They were redrilled, retrained and reeducated - apparently the training doctrine was stuck in the Third War. He was taught the Brigade make up as well as any important figures he should know.

Marshal Voidbane headed up the 9th Brigade in its entirety. A Brigade was comprised of three footmen battalions - Commander Sterick led one of which - which themselves were organized into four Companies of eighty-six soldiers. A Captain or Knight-Captain led a Company, usually from the front. A company was eight squads of ten men, the Captain, a Lieutenant as 2IC, a master-sergeant, an NCO who carried the standard and battle horn and two runners - both Privates. The Delta Company of each battalion was a spear phalanx, while the other three were swordsmen companies.

Outside the footmen, there was a battalion of ranged soldiers - two companies of sixty dwarven riflemen and a company of sixty human/elven archers or crossbowmen - they were trained to do both. A squadron of thirty gryphon riders, led by a Wing Commander. Two cohorts of knights - heavy cavalry. They were Lords and 'Sers', and held only disdain for the common grunt. Two more cohorts of medium cavalry - these weren't nobles but enlisted men led by a Captain. Also present were a handful of mages, priests, dwarven mortar operators, a team of Sentinels and various others.

The 9th weren't blessed with siege weaponry, but could receive teams of ox-drawn cannons, ballistae and even steam engines if needed.

He learned that Marshal Voidbane was formerly a Silver Hand knight and held the title, but the Knight- prefix was never used for Marshal. Commander Sterick had risen from the ranks, going from Corporal through sergeant, lieutenant and finally Captain in a single six-month deployment in Alterac Valley. Back in those days, he was told, sheer brutal courage and skill in battle was all you needed to gain rank - which had led to many brutes in high-ranking positions whom couldn't lead or make tactical decisions. Thankfully, Sterick knew how to command a battalion. His Company commander was Knight-Captain Wallace, a contemptuous man who carried himself above those he led. Karl kept him in line where he could, but it was hard to put up with the man. Wallace was well-liked amongst his peers but disliked by the men. Karl was new to war, being only 19. The young Lieutenant was bold and well-liked amongst the ranks, though word was that his superiors hated his attitude for he didn't carry himself like a gentleman.

By three days, Barnaby's head hurt from the assault of knowledge. He mostly just wanted to go out and fight something. He was making up some hard tack around a bonfire when Master-sergeant Kettleworth appeared.

"Charlie!" he bellowed. "Form up on the double!"

The men hastily put their things away (a delta spearman offered to watch Barnaby's cooking) and formed up by the bonfire. It was a full thirty seconds before everyone had fallen in with various states of dress.

"Company! At-TEN-tion!"

Some half-hearted drill.

Lieutenant Karl and Knight-Captain Wallace looked over the group while Kettleworth about-turned, saluted and handed the men over to their commander.

"Men!" he started. "You were all told to form up, yet I see heads without helmets and belts without swords! When I give the order to form up, you are to adopt the correct dress from now on!"

A few quiet groans at the bullshit. Thirty seconds notice and they were expected to also be in full dress?

"Now!" the tall captain began pacing. "We've been given the order to march! Two days notice! Our destination - the Ruby Sanctum, south of here."

A chill made everyone shiver, though the Master Sergeant death-glared them all for doing it.

"At sunset tomorrow, the Master-sergeant will go around and check to see if everyone is packed and ready to go! If your equipment is in shambles, it'll be fifty lashes to be carried out when we arrive at our destination."

The Captain droned on though Barnaby tuned it out. It was easy to see why no one in the ranks liked their captain. Eventually they were finally dismissed and went back to their duties.

"Man, what an asshole." Marcus said as they headed back to the bonfire. "Remind me to take a dump on his desk one day."

"Take a dump on his desk." Barnaby replied. "And what was with the flogging threat?"

"Given the folk we're serving with, I think some incentive to not be an idiot is needed."

Marcus was right. Over their three days of staying he had heard of four helmets going missing, packs and crates vanishing, a Private requiring a new sword because he hacked his old one against a chunk of stone for training until it was mangled and useless and a Private in the 76th being flogged for spitting tobacco juice on the ground and an officer stepping in it five minutes later.

"When I signed up, I was expecting a bit more professionalism." Barnaby mused.

"Likewise."

They grinned and offered a game of poker with a group of Privates. Decklyn had been made a battalion quartermaster like he wanted, and frequently supplied free beer. Like Barnaby, their opponents were country bumpkins though unlike Barnaby, they were idiots. The pair of them worked together to destroy the other four, and left splitting eleven silver that night. On one hand, he saw Marcus slip an ace from his sleeve to create a three-of-a-kind. Barnaby didn't condone cheating but if you weren't sharp enough to know, then you deserved to be cheated.

Jack Marcus was a rogue like that and now that Jon was in the 10th Brigade, Barnaby took a liking to the Kul Tiras kid. They were of a height, though Marcus was blonde and had a set of brown eyes he boasted could loosen any legs he aimed them at. Jack had seemed to take a liking to Barnaby in return, saying that at a glance, he looked like someone you really didn't want to screw with. Even Riley with his size grudgingly agreed on that one, though neither said why they felt that way. It wasn't until he brought it up with Katherine later did she explain it.

"Have you ever watched a cat stalking a mouse?" she asked, answering his question with another question.

"I have."

"The cat has a certain focus." she said. "You look in its eyes and you see a hunters eyes. The eyes of one who's been hungry and has needed to kill to survive." she looked at him. "Have you ever killed anyone before, Grathier?"

"Mhm." Barnaby replied vaguely. Katherine knew not to inquire further - some things weren't pried out of people.

"Well, when we're facing an overwhelming enemy where death is certain, it's men like you I want next to me. Men born with that killer edge." she grinned. "It's mostly in your eyes, by the way."

"Got them from my old man."

That had been the day after they arrived and Barnaby thought about that as he played with the others. When he tried, when he bored his gaze at an opponent, he was surprised how often he could make them capitulate and avert their eyes. Only Marcus was immune, replying with a grin that read 'Nope. Not even going to work, mate.'

Grathier
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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » September 16th, 2014, 6:11 am

At least they were sheltered from the wind, he thought.

Lieutenant Commander Sleet - a man who lived up to his name - held control of Alpha and Charlie companies as well as a medium cavalry cohort and a dozen Sentinels as they descended into the narrow, winding gullies that lay between them and the Dragonshrine. The west was a highway used in strength by the Horde and the east lay the Dragon Wastes where exposure would kill whomever the frostwyrms didn't.

The cavalry led the way, vanishing around corners and through passes as they scouted ahead of the main body. Charlie led the main body with the Sentinels, moving in two files through rock and snow over two feet deep in places. The elves interspersed themselves in the ranks, much to Wallace's displeasure. Sleet and his command group were in the center and Alpha in the rear - by then the two narrow paths Charlie had carved were comfortable highways.

Barnaby was seventh from the front, his squad second in the order of march and a pair of Sentinels between his squad and the lead. Lieutenant Karl and his destrier were up front where Wallace should be. The Knight-Captain no doubt believed his place was at the rear - safer and closer to Sleet. To his right was Private Bort, a middle-aged man who could pass for a tall dwarf. A head shorter, a full, black beard and the cherry nose of a life of hard drinking. Stout summed him up nicely, followed closely by surly.

"Oi!" he grumbled at the elf in front of him. "I can't see in front of your damn hips!"

The Sentinel marched on stoically, while a snicker broke out behind them. No doubt Marcus's doing.

"Shut it, Bort." Barnaby said with a smirk. "Just enjoy the view - you're about the right height."

More snickering.

"You don't tell me to shut it!" Bort snapped. "Back in my day--"

"Back in your day the trolls held a bonfire feast every night?"

"That's it, I'm coming over there!"

"Just two feet of snow, mate!" Barnaby replied, grinning. "Don't get lost in--"

"I'll come up there and put my boot so far up your arse, you'll be tasting snow, leather and shame for a week!" boomed Sergeant Cuttle from two ranks back. "Grathier, shut the hell up! Bort, enjoy the view!"

The Sentinel let out a 'hmph' and the squad chuckled. Sergeant Cuttle always had something good to say to settle things. A bear of a man and great to drink around, he seemed likeable and a good enough Sergeant. Apparantly he had six children and thus plenty of practice.

A horn suddenly sounded up ahead. Riders began streaming in from all directions to form up. Commanders barked, demanding information. A young cavalry officer brought his reins up by Karl who was no doubt mistaken for the Captain.

"Sir!" the young red-haired Lieutenant said. "Some spiders tunneled up on us in the next pass. Lost a horse getting away, but we think--"

"--That they could hit us anywhere." Karl finished. "And I'm a Lieutenant like you, so it's just Karl."

"Sorry Karl. Name's Fauser." they shook hands. "I need a path to the LC."

"Roger. COMPANY!" Karl shouted. "CLOSE FILES!"

"Belay that order!" came Wallace's voice as he trotted up the left flank of the column. "What is the meaning of this?!"

"Sir!" Fauser said. "We've got--"

"Do the cavalry forget saluting, Lieutenant?"

"No, sir." a quick salute by Fauser seemed to appease the Knight-Captain. "I need to reach--"

"You will tell me what the situation is first, Lieutenant." Wallace insisted. "And I will pass the information on."

"Fauser, just go onto the Commander." Karl ordered. "I'll brief the Captain here."

"You will not!"

"Sleet will react better with first-hand information." Karl insisted.

The entire front half-company was watching as they marched with interest. Karl had just questioned his superior's authority in front of the whole Company.

"Ha. Undermiiiiinnnneed." Marcus sang quietly. Everyone sniggered as Fauser - red-faced - trotted along the flank of the column back to Sleet. The men all moved for him, though didn't quite close the files fully. Wallace exchanged a few quiet, heated words with Karl before turning about and leaving. As he turned, the ground suddenly erupted next to him, spooking his horse. Holes sprouted around the files and up on the cliff faces of the gully in small rockslides.

Immediately, Nerubians poured into the ranks.

"AMBUSH!" someone shouted. Everyone drew weapons and sprang to action. Wallace struggled to command his horse while Karl spurred his destier over to the hole that threatened his commanding officer. A nerubian emerged in the path of the young officer's sabre and was cut down as quickly as it appeared. Orders to form up were given, but everyone was interested in their own personal threat. A spider landed in their squad from a hide above them, tearing Private Hollister to shreds before the others brought it down. The Sentinels had their bows and fired up at the overhead threats.

It was absolute chaos. Barnaby lunged at the nearest enemy, running it through to the hilt of his sword, twisting, removing and thrusting again. It took a few seconds of experimenting, but in the end it was an upward thrust to the thorax that dropped it and another into the head to finish it. Another leaped on one of the Sentinels and he crash-tackled it. The Nerubian flailed on the ground, scrambling to find its footing before the elf silenced it with her glaive. She offered him a hand up and he raced to his Sergeant's side.

"FORM UP!" Karl was shouting desperately, slashing at a spider while his warhorse kicked another. Wallace was feebly giving the same order and Karl took off down the column, trying to rally the men into a cohesive unit.

"FORM SQUARES!" someone at the rear shouted as Charlie company struggled to repel the spiders. Karl instantly repeated the order and soon the sergeants began to gather men into squares of three. Barnaby had no idea what was, but fell in with Cuttle who had hastily organized a square of seven footmen and two Sentinels. He wasn't sure why it was squares - that was an anti-cavalry formation - but he soon realized its purpose.

From the rear, Lieutenant Fauser was leading LC Sleet and his mounted command group in a charge up the left-hand flank of the squares, cutting down and trampling anything that stood in their way. In the front, half the remaining cavalry had started at the head of the column and poured through the gaps. Noticing the other group's direction, they also took their left to avoid collision. The result was a core surrounded by death. The soldiers were in tight squares while the cavalry began to race clockwise around them. The narrow gully prevented the Nerubians from going anywhere but back into the ground, which they soon did.

By the time it was over a few minutes later, Charlie had lost eighteen men out of their eighty-six. About a quarter of those remaining were injured in some way. Only Hollister was lost in Cuttle's squad, and most others got off lightly. A Sentinel was crushed by an ambushing spider and suffered a broken leg, the cavalry had lost just the initial horse, and over thirty enemy were dead - most from the final flurry of cavalry.

For the rest of the march, Charlie was placed at the back with the healers that were part of Sleet's command group. No one really spoke after that, but Barnaby managed to get a question to the sergeant.

"What formation was that?"

"Hell if I know." Cuttle replied as they marched through the winding gully. "But it worked."

Grathier
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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » September 19th, 2014, 5:47 am

It hadn't occurred to him until later that he had killed his first enemy of the King earlier that day. Barnaby smiled when he thought of that. A single Nerubian wasn't much and he had to stab it half a dozen times, but it was a good start. And it had felt good, he remembered as they marched. He could get used to doing this for a living.

They were last in the order of march, so they got the message that they arrived before he saw it. The Ruby Dragonshrine was unlike anything Barnaby had ever seen. He had once seen Stranglethorn Vale from the coast, but even that had nothing on this. It was an oasis in this frigid, miserable wasteland. A towering tree that bloomed autumn surrounded by lush grass and ancient dragon bones. Even the sky seemed more welcoming here.

Except for the fighting. Or the fire.

A red dragon - also a new sight to Barnaby - smashed into a smoldering, skeletal wyrm and the two interlocked beasts plummeted, tearing, biting and shredding one another. Fires bathed the ground as drakes breathed onto whatever plagued ground they could find. Everywhere there were Scourge. A sea of mindless ghouls not unlike the horde at Valience Keep, necromancers, grotesque constructions of sewn flesh that lumbered with a frightening ease.

"HALT!" Captain Wallace shouted, amplified by Master-Sergeant Kettleworth's echo.

The pass that separated their half-battalion with them was an Alliance outpost. Perhaps one Company of humans and night elves in a red plate armor that Barnaby couldn't identify. How many damn uniforms did this army have?!

Lieutenant Commander Sleet was speaking with a high elf armed with a greatsword as big as he. When they were finished, the about-turn order was given, and they marched away. Barnaby was confused at first, but when they were given a right wheel and began to climb out of the gullies did he understand.

They marched for another ten minutes over the top, with the endless plains swallowing any sign of the gullies or the Dragonshrine until they reached another pass and were halted again. Barnaby was facing forward, so he couldn't see what the commanders were doing. Barnaby was quickly learning that his job wasn't to think, and soon stopped trying to guess what would come next.

"COMPANY! FIVE RANKS!"

The sergeants and corporals quickly reorganised the two columns to five ranks of twelve. They were at three-quarter strength now after the ambush, with six of the remaining men too injured to march. Another half dozen were walking wounded, but stoically took their place in the formation. On the right, the Sentinels formed up and the left, the other company along with Sleet's men and the cavalry marched past them. Out front of the ranks was Karl and Wallace astride their steeds along with a Sentinel who no doubt commanded the elves that marched with them.

Wallace and the Sentinel Commander exchanged a few words and she made a signal. With no regard to drill, the elves simply broke ranks and ran ahead. When they were gone, the colours sergeant blew the horn that was reserved for advancing to contact. Barnaby was suddenly excited again.

Marching in ranks was difficult and with every other step came the shouting of some Corporal to slow down, speed up or correct a line. Barnaby found himself out of line himself twice, but fixed it before anyone addressed him. They descended into the gully and wheeled right, finding it too narrow to accommodate twelve abreast. They funnelled a few times, but by the time they saw the Dragonshrine from this new angle, they were marching properly again.

Up ahead was a similar sight to last time. A Company of red-armored soldiers behind rows of stakes and makeshift barricades, battling waves of Scourge. Behind them were others resting and recovering and up on the bluffs to each side were their Sentinels. Six to a side, some were pointing out targets while others loosed arrows at them. Whenever a spell came too close to their overwatch, they would jockey and reappear somewhere further up or down the ridgeline.

The horn blew again and the two officers drew their swords, prompting everyone else to draw. Barnaby wanted to run, to charge the lines. Their quick-march was painfully slow. The order was given to spread out. Three ranks covered them from cliff to cliff with a few spares. They marched through the defenders who either stepped back through them or joined the ranks somewhere. Barnaby had made it into the front rank on the left.

Everything seemed so... sharp. He could hear every arrow the Sentinels loosed above him, see every ghoul, skeleton and necromancer moving around as if in slow motion. Private Gerard - the man he had beaten on the final day of training - was on his left and Corporal Darcy was on his right, ever so slightly out of step. He felt a fury welling inside him, like his chest was on fire.

He wanted to kill something.

The necromancers and other rear echelons began to turn and withdraw rather than face the incoming wall. The unco-ordinated skeletons ran at the line one at a time, making for easy pickings for the armored soldiers that awaited them. Barnaby saw one run in his direction, but was struck by two arrows fired from above.

"COMPANY! HALT!"

Barnaby grudgingly complied. Karl took half the soldiers back to the rear while the remaining thirty formed up in three ranks. Those soldiers called away began assisting the others in bringing up barricades and stakes while a combat engineer co-ordinated these movements and Grathier's half-company stood guard. Two more skeletons climbed out of the ground, both finding arrows before they even freed themselves from the earth.

When the defences were brought up, the Company mustered and began organising guard rotations. Barnaby was disappointed, but knew that another skirmish was bound to happen soon enough.

Grathier
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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » September 23rd, 2014, 8:16 am

As it turned out, roaring dragons, whistling arrows and the occasional sound of swords rending flesh and bone was easy to get used to. Barnaby sat by his squad's fire and busied himself honing Private Chambers's sword with the squad whetstone. His own weapon had been sharpened, oiled and the rime cleaned from his sheath immediately after standing down from their rotation, but he had nothing better to do than pass on some knowledge to a struggling squad member. In return, the 15-year old Private was cooking for him.

"See what I'm doing here?" Barnaby said. "You want to go back and forth. Circles will fuck it."

The Private nodded as he watched and tended to their breakfast. Sharpening a blade was easy, yet so many men had been fighting with dull weapons that the Master Sergeant conducted an inspection every day before they relieved the group manning the line.

"See the edge forming?" Grathier said, angling the surface so it struck the morning sun for Chambers. "You just make sure it's uniform along the whole length. An unevenly sharpened weapon won't give you a good cut."

"Where did you learn this?" the younger soldier asked. Barnaby pointed over at Katherine at the next fire, who was sleeping in the warmth of the fire, her pack serving as her pillow.

"She showed us in training - the dark blonde haired corporal yonder."

"Oh."

He handed the weapon and the squad's whetstone block to Chambers with a grin. "Just finish it off like that. Master Sarge will cream himself over that edge, he will."

"Thanks for that, Grathier."

"Thank me when you get it right yourself, aye?"

He checked his food, listening in to another short skirmish a mere thirty paces away. It was more hard tack for breakfast. He would eat that and go to bed like Marcus and the others. Bort was snoring faintly and Sergeant Cuttle was reading something. After three days of helping man this line, routine had set in quickly. Fight from midnight till shortly after sunrise, sleep and maintain your equipment for the rest of the time.

"How old did you say you were, Grathier?" someone asked. Barnaby looked up to see Cuttle looking at him. "Teaching like you're a pro already, eh?"

"Seventeen, sarge." Barnaby replied. "If I'm stealing your thunder, by all means step in and stop me."

"I'll take the lazy way out and leave you to it." the sergeant replied with a chuckle. An awkward silence ensued as Barnaby had nothing to say to that.

"Where'd you learn to read?" he asked suddenly.

"Self-taught." Cuttle replied. "Had the Light's scriptures beaten into me enough as a kid - I just picked up a book and worked out which word was which. You can't read?"

"Never learned, sarge." Barnaby replied as he fed a log into the fire. "I was busy tending the farm, shooting crows and brewing moonshine. Like to think I grew up learning more than a schoolkid."

"Well you're cocky, I'll give you that. Where do you hail from?"

"Theramore."

"Lordaeron before that, I take it?"

"Aye. Yourself?"

"Same as you. Near the Greymane Wall."

"Never saw the thing." Barnaby admitted. "I lived near Andorhal."

"Ever see Hearthglen?"

"A few times. Never visited the capital, though."

"You didn't miss much, believe me."

Barnaby yawned. Small talk was good, but it was just an idle time killer. "I'm off to crash for the day. I'll hit you up about teaching me to read sometime."

"And maybe I'll tell you to fuck off."

He dreamed of dragons that night, no doubt inspired by the ones that battled over his head. He was standing in a field with a green drake and whenever he would go to pet it, the thing would growl or snap at his hand. Another one then landed and offered to let him pet it. But for some reason, he didn't want to anymore. He told the dragon to fuck off, which it did after letting out a sad growl.

He woke up as he was walking away from the two to Marcus sharing a laugh with Corporal Hockster, a dark-skinned man who had been blessed with the early stages of balding at twenty-two. Whatever the joke was, Barnaby had missed it.

"Anyway, the look on her face when she sees it." Marcus regaled, fighting to keep a straight face and losing. "She freaks out, right? Runs out the damn bar. Gone! We find her four hours later in the middle of a fountain, of all places and-- Barnaby, you're up!"

"What if I am?" he replied, rolling over. He immediately knew he was not getting back to sleep and opted not to try. It was mid-afternoon now, which was enough sleep. "More drinking stories?"

"Yeah, man. One day you'll start drinking and you'll have a few yourself."

"Keep that up and I'll have to go on about my week in Gadgetzan." Barnaby countered. "Nothing you have compares."

"Bah. You exaggerate everything in that story."

"If you had been there, you would know I ain't kidding." Barnaby replied with a grin. He actually did exaggerate his time in Gadgetzan a little, though the biggest changes were his own actions. Such as not being a two-pot screamer or not crying after losing his virginity to a chestnut-haired whore as young as he had been.

"What's this story?" Hockster demanded. "If there's a story to top this one, I demand to hear it."

"But I think Jack here has some kind of fountain story." Barnaby replied as he started cleaning the rime off his armor. "Wouldn't want to--"

"CHARLIE COMPANY!" Kettleworth shouted. "FORM UP!"

"The fuck do they want now..?" Marcus muttered as they donned their equipment to fall in.

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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » September 30th, 2014, 4:55 am

More miserable marching to the next pass was the order of the evening. The wind had picked up and the temperature was dropping with the sun. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be shot, Barnaby thought.

Cuttle and Hockster had procured some rum to make the trip a little more bearable, but the cold won out over everything in the end. For the next few hours, the pack in front of him was Barnaby's universe. He could've been asked whether it was day or night and he wouldn't have been able to answer. Somewhere in the ranks ahead, a crack and a scream as a man broke his ankle in the treacherous snow.

Three hours later, they were halted and it looked like the Captains and Sleet had a small chat while they were still in formation. Then they were turned around and marched back, much to everyone's dismay. What was the point in this? Do they have their heads in their asses? What is even happening?

All the questions they thought, and a few expressed them vocally. Kettleworth promised one man who had spoken a bit too loudly a flogging back at the Hold for insubordination. Someone collapsed somewhere. To his left, Marcus's canteen had frozen up so he offered his own.

"I put my salt in mine to stop that." he said as Marcus took a drink. Unprepared for the saturated salt water, Marcus almost spat it back out but managed to hold on.

"By the Light, that's salty..." he complained.

"Says the man who can't drink his own."

"I'm wearing my armor." he retorted. "I can't hold it close to my body like usual."

"Sounds like a 'you' problem." Barnaby said with a smirk.

It took four hours to get back, on account of thirteen men collapsing from the cold, one of which died before they reached camp. When they returned, they were ordered back to their original posts. Everyone grudgingly rebuilt their fires and set up their squad tents. Ten minutes of complaining amongst themselves went by before Lieutenant Karl arrived in their tent and hunkered down by the fire.

"Evening, lads. Just letting you all know," he said. "That march was supposed to relieve a Company three passes over. You may not have seen it, but we intercepted a messenger reporting that a company from the 79th had arrived already and the situation was under control.

"Don't worry." he said. "He may not look it, but Sleet is furious. When we get back to Fordragon Hold, he's pushing for three days standdown for this."

"What's that?" Chambers asked.

"Leave." Cuttle answered.

"Now." Karl continued. "Do you nine want the good news or the bad news first?"

"Bad news." was the unanimous reply.

"Bad news is we're manning the picquet line in two hours, so sleep while you can. Good news is it may be the last one you'll do." he saw a few faces light up at that. "The Captain is heading with Sleet to an orders brief over in the next pass soon and I reckon it'll be either we attack or we pick up and move elsewhere."

He stood up. "Get some sleep while you can, gents."

"Let's hope it's an attack." Marcus said with a grin. "There's Scourge to kill."

"And Horde on the other side of the Shrine." Cuttle said. "In case you didn't know, which I suspect none of you do."

"We're privates." Bort snorted. "We don't get told nuttin'."

"What about the Lieutenant just now?" Barnaby asked. "I don't know about you, but it sounded a bit like information for us."

"Who else do you think does that?" Bort asked rhetorically. "No one, that's who. The Captain won't bother telling us, he won't, and the Lieutenant will stop bothering soon."

"I'm sure there's complaining at every fire." Barnaby said idly as he got up. "But I'm going to try my luck at another."

He left the tent, glanced over at the quiet picquet line - manned by alpha company at present and searched for Katherine's and Riley's tent, finding it next to his own. This group had a bottle going around inside by their fire.

"Aww, what's this guy doing here!" someone sneered, joined by most of the others. "Go back to your own fire!"

"Barnaby!" Riley called. "Ignore him, he hasn't been laid in a decade." A few laughs and a death glare from the Private who had spoken. "Bring the bottle over here."

"This is our bottle!" its owner - another Private protested. "Fuck those guys."

"And this," Katherine said quietly. "Has been my time here in a nutshell."

Riley got up to fetch the bottle and when the drunk Private protested, the large sailor punched him in the mouth and snatched the bottle. The Sergeant stood up to protest, but Riley just shrugged.

"Wouldn't have happened if he wasn't a fuckwit."

"You're lucky Kettleworth didn't see that." his sergeant replied. "It'd be a flogging and probably death from a fever for that. Don't fucking do that again!"

"Anyway, how was your march?" Barnaby asked with a smirk.

"Fucking SHIT, that's how it was!" Riley replied as he sat back down with the drink. "I'll be fighting with blisters for the next two days."

Katherine waved a hand. "It happens. Marching for no reason is half the job."

"I want to KILL SOMETHING!" the sailor shouted. Barnaby realised Riley was drunk as well and smirked.

"We'll get our chance." he said.

Katherine shrugged. "It gets old after a while."

Most of them couldn't sleep because of the rather strong wind that even the tents failed to keep out and they rushed outside once to witness a poorly secured tent blow over. They couldn't help but laugh at the other groups misfortune though only Grathier and Katherine went over to help. By the time the picquet duty came around, the entire company was either drunk, asleep on their feet or both.

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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » October 7th, 2014, 5:36 am

The wind had picked up.

Reveillie was some ungodly hour and the entire half-battalion paraded before dawn. The red armored soldiers manned the picquet line and the Sentinels quietly maintained their weapons off to one side since they never did such ceremonies. Beyond them at the end of the valley was the Dragonshrine, warm and welcoming with its greens and its fires. Except for the Scourge, that is.

Sleet held a quiet council with his sergeant major, alpha company's Captain, the Sentinel Commander and Wallace, seemingly oblivious to the shivering mass of nearly one-hundred and forty men. Barnaby couldn't hear them because a scrap of wool cloth that wrapped around his face under the helm covered his ears, something a lot of the footmen were doing. When the commanders were done they returned to their respective charges while Sleet addressed the half-battalion.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" even when speaking this loud his voice was icy. "At dawn we are launching an assault on the Dragonshrine! That piece of lush, green warmth you've all stared at for a week now over there!

"First in order of march will be Charlie company, with the Sentinels forming a skirmish line ahead of them!" he declared. "Where the snow meets the grass, they will halt, open ranks and allow alpha to push through!"

Not quite the glory they wanted, but Barnaby's company was at three-quarters strength as it was. Their job would be just to eat the Scourge waves until they reached the objective proper, then stand aside while the full company attacked. After their weapons were inspected and Kettleworth promised another seven floggings to various privates, they were formed up behind the picquet line.

The valley was a bottleneck, wide enough for twenty men abreast at its narrowest. Charlie was formed up in four ranks of fifteen whilst alpha was split into half-companies - four ranks of ten each. All twelve night elves formed an extended line in front. Their bulky cold-weather gear left Barnaby without curves to watch, much to his disappointment.

He found himself in the front rank again, with a view beyond the picquet line of their goal. They had to advance perhaps two-hundred yards to reach the edge of the Dragonshrine, littered with bones the entire way. A handful of ghouls shambled about, sometimes launching themselves mindlessly at the picquet line. The wind howled as they waited for the order. He could hear the faint rattling of shivering soldiers.

"Fight like bastards, aye?" Cuttle muttered to his men.

"But I was thinking of trying the 'pissweak noble'." Marcus replied and chuckled.

"You don't need to try to be pissweak." Barnaby said, matching their tone.

A horn blew behind them, signaling to advance. The Sentinels trotted ahead of the main body, working in pairs. As if on cue to the horn, undead began to climb out of the ground and necromancers, nerubians and even some kind of stitched abomination were filling the path between them and their goal. A red dragon strafed them with a blast of fire, burning the blighted ground. The stitching in the abomination simply gave and it fell to pieces. Grathier let out a low whoop - at least they aren't fighting that.

"COMPANY!" Kettleworth boomed. "PRESENT ARMS!"

The picquet line fell away to the flanks to allow them passage, swords drawn and shields up. A ghoul slammed into the formed body at full tilt, staggering someone. It lasted half a second before longswords had slashed it to ribbons. A corporal had already shoved another soldier up to take his place while the staggered private would need to be content in the back rank now.

Delving into the valley cut them off from the wind, allowing the Sentinels to fire to good effect. One struck a gargoyle, making it harden to stone and fall from the sky while another struck a necromancer, causing his comrade to turn and cast a spell on him. The fallen spellcaster joined the mindless ghoul ranks and was shot down a second time a moment later. The spotter in each pair had a heavy, elven sword designed for chopping drawn and killed the occasional ghoul with a chilling fluidity.

Barnaby wanted to charge. He had a hard on and felt his hand shake with excited nerves. As the charging undead increased, the Sentinels fell back to the flanks and resorted to volley fire. Another dragon strafed the enemy ranks with a terrible, cleansing fire.

A hundred yards to go. The Dragonshrine loomed welcomingly with its reds and greens. The charges were getting harder now and a footman in the centre collapsed with his throat torn out. A gargoyle tried to grab someone but the Sentinels dropped it with an arrow, inadvertantly crushing a corporal in the back rank in the process. The necromancers were hurrying back to the Dragonshrine.

Then disaster.

A screech from above heralded an emberwyrm that swooped down and breathed fire into the ranks. Four columns in the centre were wiped out completely as soldiers screamed and cooked in their armor. The beast came around for another pass, but the red dragon intercepted it with an impressive crash and the two careened into the snow somewhere, tearing and biting one another. Kettleworth barked for them to close up.

The men broke instead.

Men and women turned about and fled back around alpha and few became many as it turned into a rout. Barnaby shield bashed a ghoul and ran his blade through the things throat. Still not dead, he slashed down, taking a brittle arm off and finishing it with a slash to the head which seemed to do the trick. When the others routed, he turned and looked.

"What the hell?!"

Karl was screaming to rally on him and Barnaby spied Katherine put down three enemy undead in short order, fighting with a savagry one couldn't imitate in training. Riley had abandoned his shield and was hacking mercilessly with his longsword in a two-handed grip. There were maybe seven others he couldn't distinguish, with Grathier and Karl making eleven - those too stupid or angry to flee. The Lieutenant was on foot, trying to regain some semblence of organisation.

Within moments, Alpha had caught up and marched through them while Karl arranged Charlie's remnants into a squad, acting as its leader. They moved up on the left flank and advanced alongside the full-strength company. He turned to see some soldiers reforming back at the picquet line under Wallace, but they probably weren't coming back. They passed into the Dragonshrine where alpha now split up into half-companies as planned. Far off on the right, another company of footmen had emerged from a valley, and far to their right was another.

It felt good to walk on grass. The horde of ghouls and skeletons was gone - the bone piles back in the valley. Nerubians, gargoyles and Cult of the Damned were the enemy now. Necromancers threw terrible spells at the ranks, causing men to scream and claw at their armor.

"COMPANY!" Lieutenant Commander Sleet bellowed from his steed behind alpha. "CHARGE!"

Another horn heralded the order as everyone was freed from their shackles. Karl held his sword two-handed and roared a challenge as he charged. Cultists fled from one distant company only to discover themselves trapped in the path of another. Barnaby screamed and threw down his shield, running at full tilt at the nearest enemy. The cultist stood with a ceremonial sword which broke under the weight of his mithril longsword. The parry jarred his arms, but Grathier still found enough rage to chop down into his enemy's neck, tracking down to about his sternum. He twisted the blade and wrenched it free.

His battle was over. As men charged around him, Barnaby dropped to his knees and began looting the cultist's pockets. A quick glance around showed he wasn't the only one. The enemy was routed and the most exciting thing he could see was some kind of epic duel between a Light-radiating paladin and someone else.

"Grathier!" someone shouted. Barnaby looked up to see Private Riley supporting a wounded alpha footman, his leg soaked in blood and seething. "A hand!"

Barnaby leapt to his feet and helped remove the legplates and chainmail. They needed to pick pieces of ringmail out but they revealed the wound where an axe had bitten into the bone. Bright blood spurted out everywhere, causing Barnaby to pause and almost panic in confusion. He didn't know how to deal with an injury - he wasn't a medic or a healer. Riley removed his helmet and torniqueted the leg with his face scrap and a nearby stick. The blood began to stem, but not before the private passed out from blood loss.

"Oh, shit." Grathier was saying. "How do we-"

He saw someone kneeling over the dead cultist - his kill - and checking the man's pockets.

"OI!" he barked. Barnaby stood up, dashed over and planted his boot on the man's helmet, sending him sprawling. He was on his feet with his sword drawn in moments. Barnaby's longsword was slaked halfway to the hilt in blood and his gauntlets soaked from the arterial bleed and he levelled his own sword at the other footman.

"He's mine!" Grathier snarled from behind his helmet and facemask. "Back the fuck off!"

He wanted to kill this man. They stared one another down for a moment before Barnaby realised who it was. And though the other soldier couldn't see it - he grinned.

"Fuck off, Jack." he jeered, sword still raised but without the hostility now. "Go kill your own cultist."

Marcus lowered his weapon and laughed. Then Barnaby laughed, then they were clapping one another on the shoulder. Marcus also had a bloodied weapon from his own fight.

"The fool just stood there waiting for it." he exclaimed. "Said something about his life for Ner'zhul." he produced a ceremonial dagger he had obviously taken from the man's corpse and spun it idly, the tip against his finger. "Sure made it fucking easy."

"Remind me to ask the next man nicely, aye?"

Riley was gone and the footman dead, bled out over the grass. Marcus left in search of greener pastures and Barnaby continued his looting.

"Cough it up, you bastard." he muttered as he began to cut open the seams of the dead man's clothing. The broken ceremonial blade had what looked like silver in the handle but he'd only know for sure when he actually inspected it, he told himself. He removed the man's boots and - not being his size - sliced the sole open. This revealed three silver coins - not Alliance money - actual silver. Barnaby fistpumped and pocketed that, checked the man over again and found nothing of value. He took the blade he had broken as well - he'd look it over later.

With that done, he went off in search of Karl, finding him organising a casualty collection point (for their own soldiers - enemy wounded were summarily finished off) which was filling fast. It was time to make himself useful, he supposed.

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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » October 11th, 2014, 5:29 am

"Hey!" someone shouted from the mouth of the hollow. "What in the Light is going on in there!"

"Just fetching medical supplies, sir!" Barnaby shouted back, assuming the man was an officer. "There's a casualty collection point about a hundred paces away from here and I'm scrouging for them!"

His left hand clutched a private's throat, his right the pauldron of another. Marcus (who had appeared at the last minute to his relief) was locked up with a third man. The two on three fight was frozen until the officer left. The one with the hand on his throat had his arm raised mid-punch, aimed at Barnaby’s face.

"Well be quick about it!" the officer shouted down. "And don't make so much noise!"

The officer strode away from the light above them, and the struggle briefly started again. He had been hunting for medical supplies among captured enemy stores and found three privates looting a hidden cache. He wanted those crates, and the others refused to yield it. After a few minutes and a few dozen punches all around, everyone was too exhausted to care anymore.

"Just take that one." one of the looting privates said, panting and rubbing his throat where he had been choked. "Take it and fuck off."

They did and left the other four. It was timber, waist-height, filled with expensive looking robes and not moved before Marcus stuffed one into a leather bag he had acquired. The two of them painstakingly hauled the rest out and back to the waiting Lieutenant. By the time they reached the grass, they were both sweating. The adrenaline had worn off and already they were exhausted.

"Over here!" a female voice called. Barnaby looked up and found Lieutenant Karl pointing at an incredibly tall night elf manning a triage line. She was dressed in leather, feathers and other oddities, but was clearly a healer. Dripping sweat into their facemasks, they maneouvered the heavy crate over to her. When they reached her, he threw the lid off.

"What do you have?" she asked.

"Robes." Grathier announced through his panting, holding one of the expensive-looking garments up as if to model it. "Top quality." With a grin, he started shredding it into strips for bandages.

"Hah!" the woman remarked. "Best use for them."

He tossed strip after strip to her and she first wiped the blood off her arms first. "Ugh. I need to wash before I go back on the rounds."

"You look gorgeous enough even with the blood." Marcus replied, removing his helmet and pulling his rag down to reveal his face. He passed her another piece of robe with a wink. The tall elf chuckled.

"I'll be right back." she said, getting to her feet - she stood head and shoulders over Barnaby, who was just shy of six feet himself. "The Shan'do set aside snow to melt."

"Don't stray too far." Grathier replied. "Folk tend to bleed to death without healers."

The woman returned a short time later with a kettle whilst Barnaby had busied himself applying bandages as best an untrained private could do, wondering what the hell a shando was. He assumed it was that kettle. Flanking the woman were two other healers.

"Check the ones on the left!" one barked. The tall elf nodded and trotted over the grass to her new charges. Seeing nothing else to do, Grathier joined her with an armful of robe-bandages.

"That one needs changing." she said, pointing at a particular soldier. "The others..."

While Barnaby set about his task (sniffing the bandage to check it wasn't infected first), the elf knelt beside another and placed her hand on the woman's stomach. She sung something in Darnassian. Her back was turned to them and he glanced toward Marcus, who made a few thrusts at the air with a snicker. He couldn't help snickering himself.

The elf's hands began to glow a faint green-gold, and her patient seemed to relax some. The song began to deepen and the magic glow spread to the neighbouring casualties. Barnaby kept following the line, changing bandages where they were needed and such. The mornings excitement was starting to weigh him down and he yawned. Will this damn day ever end?

"--to be changed." she was saying. Grathier looked over his shoulder to see she had moved. "I think... This one's infected."

He wearily trotted over with his armful of bandages. The soldier in question groaned.

"Oh harden up." he told him.

A shadow crossed the elf's face and she pointed at him with her foot. "No.

"The wrong kind of infected..."

She didn't need to explain. The thought gave him pause.

"I didn't see anything spewing plague..." he said.

"I can smell it!" the elf insisted.

"I- No!" the man snarled. "I can't become..."

The elf called out to her superiors who walked over as if there was no rush. They conferred while Barnaby punched the injured man's pauldron reassuringly. "It's all right, man. She's an elf, what does she know, right?"

The damage was done. The elves were still huddled in their little conversation and the soldier began panicking. He bucked and flailed, trying to get up.

"Oi!" he pinned him back on the ground. "Less of that, all right?"

"What's his problem?" Barnaby heard someone ask. He looked up to see Lieutenant Karl with his bloodied sword arrive and knelt down. On the man's other side, the elf did the same.

"There is no cure for the Scourge's plague." she said grimly. Barnaby rocked back to sit down, feeling extremely tired now.

"What she said, sir." he replied. "Stepped in something he shouldn't have."

"Don't worry." she reassured the soldier. "We won't let you turn."

Karl nodded. "Relax, private. I'll see what I can do." He got to his feet and walked off, hands cupped to his mouth. "I WANT A PALADIN HERE!” he screamed, scanning for one as he did so. “NOW!"

The officer went to another duty, shouting the demand once more. The elf frowned in confusion. "But a paladin can't..."

"Try telling him that." Grathier said. Though in truth, he was more inclined to support Karl than a leather-wearing, feather-adorning, teapot-carrying night elf on the matter. If Karl believed a paladin could fix this, then he was probably right.

The other soldier was still freaking out. "I'm not becoming one of those monsters!" he snarled. "No! Never!"

"IF it is plague, there is nothing anyone can do." the healer said. "It may be infection complicated by contact with the undead forces."

"Try to heal him." one of the other elves ordered and she sank down to try. While she unbounded his leg bandage, the soldier grabbed Barnaby who - unprepared for it - instinctively grabbed his wrist to retaliate. He checked himself and took a breath.

"Sit on him!" she ordered. "On his chestplate! I can't do this with him flailing around!"

This was stupid, he thought. He was gripped by a man with the terror of undeath instilled into him. He tried to relase himself, but the wounded soldier was too strong.

"Fuck it." Barnaby brought his arm up and smashed his gauntleted fist down on the man's head. It dazed him, and the second knocked him out cold.

"Thank you!" she said, though he felt like he was being mocked.

She unwound the bandage and inspected it. "Nope, not plague. Just contamination."

Barnaby blinked. All that commotion had been because she believed he had been plagued and now she just casually says otherwise? And she had said it like she had mistaken a horse breed. He began to fume. To top it off, both of her superiors now stood over her shoulder, and muttered something about proper greaves.

"Yeah yeah." he muttered as the other elf began singing the infection away. "Outfit five thousand soldiers and come back to us about proper equipment.

“Bloody elves..."

One of the two standing elves glanced his way and dismissed him. The other cuffed the tall elf on the head. "Don't be so quick to trust that nose of yours when not in bear shape."

He felt his hand twitch. He wanted to hurt those arrogant bitches, but he checked himself. They were still healing his fellow soldiers - even if they cared little about succeeding or not.

"Go wash up and check for more incoming wounded." one of the elves said. The tall elf nodded and loped further down the line where another elf waited for him. Karl was still co-ordinating things there, so he went along. The elves had set up a tub of steaming water that she used to clean her hands. Barnaby couldn't be bothered.

"I'm Moondream." she said.

"Private Grathier." he grudgingly replied. They didn't shake hands, on account of the blood on his, and he left her to see his boss. Knight-Captain Wallace still hadn't arrived yet.

"Wasn't plague." he reported. "Just an infected cut."

"Bloody elves..." Karl muttered. "Marcus is dragging men in from the pass. Go give him a hand."

Without a word of affirmation, he set off to task.

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Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » October 14th, 2014, 6:04 am

When all was said and done, Charlie Company sat at half strength. Cuttle was dead, as was Hockster, the fifteen-year old Chambers and several others. Due to some divine injustice, Knight-Captain Wallace and Kettleworth were still alive, though fortunately as was Lieutneant Karl. Word went around that he had been mentioned in dispatches and was in Sleet's good books.

When the work parties were done, control of the dragonshrine transferred to the dragons and red-armored soldiers and everyone was paraded, Wallace didn't appear happy.

"Breaking ranks!" he said to the thirty-eight footmen. "One setback, and you flee like rats!

"This Company - this Brigade - is only newly raised!" he continued. "Yet you insist on making its first action one of disgrace!"

He droned on, but Barnaby zoned out. The man was speaking such hypocrisy - he had fled with them while his subordinate had rallied the remnants and helped win the day. Kettleworth had his little spiel about discipline and such - promising forty lashes to every private and corporal who had retreated. Karl frowned at this and there were collective sighs all around. The man liked his lashings.

After that, squads were amalgamated and everyone packed their equipment up. Barnaby and Marcus found themselves with Katherine and Riley's squad, as the two meshed perfectly to make eight privates, a corporal and a sergeant. Tents were struck and rations distributed. No one bothered to clean up after the camp - a tracker could have guessed almost to a man what strength force had been here. The dead was distributed amongst the other units and the newly rejoined cavalry carried what they could.

The march back was as miserable as they thought it would be. It had snowed and the passes were filled with two feet of snow. It was exhausting, and a private broke his ankle on a rock. Barnaby's pack felt like it weighed a literal ton. He sagged under the weight of his equipment and the endless cold bit down to the bone. Halfway back it started raining, and three soldiers under Sleet's command had died from hypothermia before Fordragon Hold was in their sights again.

It was not unlike his first arrival from Valience Keep, he thought. The looming towers and constant specks of distant bonfires welcomed them with open arms and a sentry's horn. Arriving at the place was the same drill as the dragonshrine. Sit down, set up shelter, cook something, clean your weapon and wait for something to happen. The fire was warm and the sky was clearing so he was happy - the simplicity of the soldiering life.

Barnaby felt better being around Riley and Katherine. Between the two of them, more than twenty ghouls, a dozen cultists and other assorted undead had fallen at the Dragonshrine. Katherine had also shredded one of the spare tents before they left and used the canvas to waterproof the squad's legs for the march. The leather underneath their greaves was waterproof already, but that meant nothing to two feet of snow. Another trick she had picked up, she said.

And to top it off, Marcus produced two bottles of rum from his loot bag.

"Oi!" Barnaby almost shouted, leaping at Riley before he could neck the entire bottle. They scuffled (without spilling the bottle) but the ex-sailor had him on the ground in moments. Everyone laughed at them and Riley paraded the bottle just out of reach.

"You want this?!" he asked, smiling menacingly. "Come and get--"

The bottle vanished from his hand and he spun around, ready to destroy the world. Marcus was already five steps away taking a swig from the bottle, doing a little triumphant dance with his feet. Riley charged him and suddenly the bottle left his hands. Barnaby saw it coming, and caught it without spilling a drop.

"No one is ever clumsy when alcohol is at stake." he jeered, took a swig and tossed it at someone else. The process continued until Riley grabbed a slow-throwing private - Bort - and headbutted him. Tossing him aside, he grinned and finished the bottle in a few hefty gulps.

"Sarge!" someone shouted, causing sergeant Perth to stand up and receive something from a private. He was dressed like a messenger - both of Charlie's were killed - one from the battle and one on the trip back, so it wasn't from their company. They spoke a little more while Bort was screaming at Riley, who was a foot taller than him. At the end of the rant, the taller soldier just knelt in close and calmly told him to shut up.

"Hahaha." Marcus jeered. "Staunched."

"Staunched?" Katherine asked, looking up from her sword and the squad whetstone. "Like a wound?"

"It means sort of intimidated." he tried to explain. "Putting someone in their place by being threatening."

"Slang." Barnaby added.

"Oh." she went back to her weapon, uninterested. Perth returned to the group with some paper.

"Mail, ladies and gents." he announced, handing out letters. "Marcus. Bort. Bort. Grathier." Grathier stopped listening when he got a letter. A letter? How lovely. He couldn't read, so he simply looked it over.

"Can anyone here read?" he asked.

"Send it this way." replied Private Carson, a quiet lad who had stayed in the fight when the others routed. Barnaby sat by his side and offered him the letter.

"Go on." he urged. "Let's hear what someone has to say."

"Well..." he looked at the back of the envelope. "A man named Jon Redfield is the sender."

"Yeah, I know the man. Open it, curse you!" he said with a laugh. He was excited to receive a letter, even if was from someone he had only parted ways with a few weeks ago.

Carson did so, reading aloud as he spoke.

As dictated by Pvt J. Redfield.

Dear Barnaby,

Hope Dragonblight is treating you well. We aren't doing much here - fortifying positions and such. We've fought the vrykul a few times, though a company of riflemen always minces them before we get a chance.

Elizabeth made quartermaster and she's always asking about you. Ha ha! I think you made quite an impression. She often blushes when I speak about you. Oh, and she's the one I'm dictating this letter to. She's begged me every sentence to not write this bit so far!

Carson squinted. "Says 'I hate you Jon' underneath that in small text." Barnaby laughed.

Let's see. We held a tournament when we arrived - we'll be doing one every month now, apparantly and it's probably no suprise that Daniels won it. Got a letter from Angela - she's aching for me (Elizabeth is blushing again). I suppose I ought to marry her when I get back, y'know?

Oh, and I got a letter from Mr Fuckwit - better known as our old landlord. House was good and we're not getting billed for anything. He told me to tell you that your mother arrived a few days before he wrote with a boquet of flowers. She seemed sad and pensive. When -

"What does pensive mean?"

"Thoughtful, but more a reflecting kind of way."

"Oh."

-and pensive. When he informed her you had left for the army, she shed a tear and walked off quietly with the flowers. Not sure what that was about, but you ought to speak with her some time.

Barnaby thought back to their last talk shortly before he left for training. Two months ago? Longer? He didn't feel much sympathy - his mother was a drunk and he hadn't spoken to her in quite some time. She wanted to make amends?

Too little. Too late.

I'll keep it short - fight hard, man and we'll catch up as soon as possible.

Jon.

Barnaby took the letter and stowed it in his pack. He felt good knowing Elizabeth wasn't struggling over in the Howling Fjord. When he composed a letter of his own, he'd subtly suggest he wanted to see her. She would be reading it after all, and he was fairly sure that he could make a sure thing out of the girl.

Still no order after he ate. Or after his weapon was clean. He took an hour's nap at sunset and chatted half the night away with his squad. It was almost midnight before he fell asleep in his sleeping bag.

Still no order.

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

Re: Dragonblight - A Trial by Plague

Postby Grathier » October 16th, 2014, 7:01 am

Come morning, still no order.

The company woke, maintained their weapons and armour, cooked breakfast and the sergeants went off to find what was going on. Being the 2IC, Katherine inspected their equipment, deemed them all good and told them to go back to sleep. Barnaby did just that.

He was booted awake what felt like five minutes later.

"Form up, lads."

The order spread through the bonfires like a plague and soldiers scrambled to don their equipment, not wanting a repeat of last time. Barnaby threw his equipment on and finished buckling his belt when he reached the ranks, bleary-eyed.

The battalion was assembled. First order of the day was an address by Sterick and Sleet. From what he could see, Bravo company was down to three quarter strength, with one officer missing from the lineup and delta had lost very few. Sterick was talking but Barnaby wasn't paying much attention. He gathered that Bravo and Charlie companies were being fused together (he still didn't know what amalgamate meant) and they apparently did a good job thusfar.

Next came the floggings. Kettleworth had eight privates alive to do, along with a man from delta and a man from bravo. All except one received forty for poor weapon maintenance, but the delta soldier received a hundred for theft. By the time it ended, his back was mincemeat and bloody. Barnaby didn't want to watch such a pointless punishment, but those men were 77th men - comrades. He owed it to them to watch.

When that was done, Sterick addressed the men once more.

"In a moment the Brigade will be paraded before Marshal Voidbane!" he announced. "He has been receiving orders from Highlord Fordragon this morning, and has requested he address the men himself."

Fordragon. The man was a legend amongst the Stormwind folk - Riley had almost thumped him when Barnaby first admitted to not knowing who he was. He commanded every force in Dragonblight and answered to the King himself. So if he was giving Voidbane orders, Barnaby guessed it was something big - perhaps a proper battle.

The now-three companies were marched to a larger clearing where one other battalion awaited. The 76th were still full-strength, while the 79th (he remembered Karl mentioning them being the faster reinforcements back at the Dragonshrine) had collapsed into three themselves. Ten companies of footmen and six of cavalry paraded before Marshal Voidbane, along with numerous auxiliary units of dwarven riflemen, night elf Sentinels, scraggy cannoneers, tattooed gryphon riders and many others.

"BRIGAAAAAADE!" the Brigade sergeant-major screamed from the front. Barnaby was impressed at how far his voice projected. "ATTEEN-TION!"

The drill was still terrible, but couldn't be heard amongst the other thousands of men assembled. The sergeant-major about-turned, handed the brigade over and fell out to let the mounted paladin address the men.

"BRIGADE! STAND AT EASE!

"Right!" he shouted. "Our efforts here in Dragonblight have helped us secure this part of the continent against the forces of the Lich King! As you have all seen," he gestured at Angra'thar, which loomed over the base. "The enemy is many and unrelenting. But fear not!

"At dawn tomorrow, Highlord Fordragon will be leading an attack on Angra'thar. We will gain entry to Icecrown Citadel from here and take the fight back to Arthas!"

The men cheered, Barnaby among them.

"Get some sleep! The Brigade will be paraded at dawn tomorrow! FOR THE ALLIANCE!"

They cheered again, Barnaby among them again.

They were returned to their battalion commanders, and again on to company commanders. By the time they were given their orders and timings, it was midday and they returned to their tents and bonfires. There was a static charge in the air and Barnaby could see nervousness, excitement and a plethora of other emotions on the men's faces. He was personally excited.

His first major battle was coming and they would be the first soldiers to breach Icecrown Citadel.

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