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

Wintergrasp - No Sleep Tonight

by Grathier » November 3rd, 2014, 10:28 pm

It was a snake.

Barnaby Grathier screamed, adjusted his grip on the shovel to something much more aggressive and attacked it. The narrow trench limited him to overhead swings but he brought the edge of the tool-turned-weapon down five times, ten, fifteen. Every time he hit it, it moved, scattering clumps of dirt. Whatever it was, it refused to die.

By the time Crawford had arrived, he was franticly trying to scramble out of the chest-height trench to escape.

"What in the Light's name is going on here?!"

"There's a snake in there, sir!" Private Winfield replied, who had fetched the sergeant. Barnaby was on his hands and knees shaking at their feet.

"Can't kill it, sarge!" Barnaby wailed. "It's just... A demon maybe - I don't know!"

Nearby work had stopped curiously. Sergeant Crawford peered into the trench.

"Can't see a bloody thing, Grathier." the sergeant said, smacking him over the back of the head. "Get back to bloody work."

No. It was a snake. A demonic snake.

Barnaby saw the churned and frozen patch of dirt he had been attacking. There was no snake. Some of the nearby diggers began laughing and after a short moment, Barnaby laughed with them. It had been two days since he had slept and they had been warned about the effects of sleep deprivation. Disorientation. Hallucinations. Earlier that day, a rifleman had fired at the sky and fled for his life, claiming Deathwing himself was bearing down upon them.

With a self-depreciating chuckle, he jumped back in the trench. Wintergrasp was a terrible place to dig - all of Northrend would be a terrible place to dig a trench now that he thought about it. What made Wintergrasp worse was that nothing stood still. They'd man this trench for five minutes before they withdrew or attacked some Horde force somewhere. Currently, the Alliance held the fortress. They were just outside the walls helping with frantic fortifications before the Horde returned. They had been driven off twice and twice they had come back to reclaim this stupid place.

The 'why' of it never made itself known to Barnaby. The important thing was they keep that fortress, and if they lost it they threw their bodies upon it's walls until it was retaken.

"My turn, man." Winfield said. "Take a break."

Barnaby tossed him the shovel and hoisted himself out of the trench. Winfield attacked the frozen dirt with a vengeance, making good time. He was a hard worker, Barnaby thought. Every part of his body screamed sleep and he fought it. If he slept, it'd be the sleep of the dead and they'd need to kick him awake. Besides, when he slept he saw Marcus clutching at his throat, vomiting something indescribable in that unending sea of plague.

Marcus was dead now. Karl was dead. Bort the surly prick was dead. Part of him knew he should have died back at the Wrathgate with them. The gassing had been followed by two weeks of agony at a field hospital - out of thirty patients in his wing, only one other had survived - and then it was back to the 9th, who were now ankle deep in blood at Wintergrasp. Sometimes it still hurt to cough. And since returning, another four weeks had come and gone. He supposed he was lucky that--

Something hard connected with his ribs. Barnaby found himself looking up at Crawford.

"Get up, Grathier." he snapped. "We sleep when this trench is done."

Fuck. He had dozed off again. Barnaby rubbed his eyes and shook his head vigorously. He motioned for the shovel from Winfield, who shook his head and asked for five more minutes of work. Suit yourself, he thought. But if I'm idle any longer than that, I'll drift off again.

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

Re: Wintergrasp - No Sleep Tonight

by Grathier » November 12th, 2014, 7:47 am

"Want one?"

"I don't smoke."

"Suit yourself." Private Stone struck a match and lit the offered cigarette. Grathier explained everything he had seen the past two hours he had been on picquet before returning to his squad fire. It had started snowing again and after shivering for so long, it felt to walk again. Just as he sat down with the others, he doubled over in a fit of coughing, which burned his lungs something fierce. Private Winfield slapped him on the back twice.

"Still not over that?" he asked, offering his canteen. Barnaby took a swig and passed it back.

"Could be worse." Grathier replied. "Could be shambling around as a mindless husk."

He wondered if Marcus or Karl were undead husks now, the property of some necromancer. It seemed like a bad way to go and something you didn't want to think about.

"You'll be fine." Private Houston offered.

"Just die quietly, hm?" Corporal Jackarand muttered without looking up from his cooking. He wasn't joking. Not even the blackest humour shone at times here. A quarter of the Brigade was less than two weeks out of training, and a good portion of them would perish within the next week. The turnover rate was just that high. According to Winfield, who was one of them, the stories about Wintergrasp didn't hold a candle to the real thing.

"I'll keep that in mind." Barnaby replied bitterly. He unsheathed his sword, cleaned it of hoarfrost and oiled it again, then settled down for some tasteless hard tack. Same old routine. Carson was reading someone a letter. Winfield was sharpening his sword. Others were eating or sleeping.

Far off to the north, a volley of musket fire.

He heard the clattering steps of an armored figure approach behind him. He was still eating his hard tack when the soldier took a seat behind him.

"How're you feeling?"

Barnaby looked up. He knew Corporal Katherine's voice well enough now, since she checked on him often.

"Still like shite."

Katherine didn't laugh, but probed their fire with a stick instead. "I just feel partly responsible for you now is all."

"Because you dragged me out of a toxic cloud?" he asked. "You're getting your medal for that."

"Because I dragged four people out of a toxic cloud." she corrected him. "And three of them died an agonising death."

Barnaby waved a hand and finished the last fragment of flour, water and a pinch of salt. "I'll be fine."

Katherine frowned, then got to her feet.

"Riley's found himself something potent." she said. "You should do him a favour and help him finish it."

Getting drunk *did* seem like a good idea. Barnaby got up, dusted the snow off his pants and belted on his sword. The moment that happened, the earth shook with a thunderous crash. Off to one side, a stone had crashed into the crest of a hill, shattering into a hundred pieces and showering the nearby soldiers. All around them men scrambled to form up, rallying on banners and officers.

In the sky, more were plummeting to earth above their position. Hidden beyond the ridgeline to the west would a handful of demolishers and some Horde amassing an attack.

"Maybe later."

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

Re: Wintergrasp - No Sleep Tonight

by Grathier » November 27th, 2014, 9:34 pm

"Good work." Sergeant Crawford said. "Your first task is to go account for rations in the half-company."

"On it, sarge." Corporal Grathier replied. "I'll get a gold star if I do good, perhaps?"

"Get the fuck out of here." Crawford said, not unkindly. Jackarand had been killed by artillery fire, and Grathier had been promoted in his place. Corporal didn't seem so bad. You worked harder and got paid a fraction more. Corporals were also line-closers, which meant you got to manhandle the privates during an advance.

"Rations, rations, rations." Barnaby said to the first of four fires. He recognised only Privates Carson and Winfield. The others were fresh faces to be thrown into the meat grinder. Eight weeks in Wintergrasp and most of those left of Grathier's generation had shaking hands or insomnia.

They all checked their packs and muttered something between two and three days. Private Cooper - a mountain of a private - had half a days rations left and Barnaby offered to push for double rations.

"It'll be deducted out of your pay, so less drinking money."

"Can we get more mage food?"

Half the fire groaned, including Barnaby. They hated mage food. It was bland, always had a slightly odd texture and the 'pure' nature of conjured food meant long-term eating made the body prone to ailments.

"I'll ask."

He went to the next fire. Riley was blatantly drinking himself into a stupor, despite alcohol on duty being illegal. No one cared out here though. Katherine was off on an errand of her own.

"Rations, rations, rations."

"FUCK OFF!" Riley shouted, and everyone laughed at the outburst. Grathier got his ration count and continued like so for the last two bonfires. When he was done he reported to Crawford.

"Got a rough estimate." he said. "How many days do we need?"

"Four days rations." Crawford said. "If you know what you need, go to the quartermaster and report to me when you're done."

Barnaby did just that, finding the stacks of crates and sacks that was obviously where the supplies and quartermaster were. The quartermasters were off meeting with the logistics officer over something or other, and his company quartermaster didn't return for another ten minutes.

"Sorry about the wait." Emily - or Private Mercer - said. She was striking, even in her cold weather gear. "The boss is being a control freak again."

He chuckled and removed his helmet and dropped the wool face wrap underneath to reveal his face. He hadn't shaved in two months yet had little to show for a beard. "Just need some rations if you don't mind."

"Certainly." he followed her into a tent. She sat down and removed her own face wrap. Barnaby struggled on some math to work out what he needed.

"I need about eighty days worth." he said. Forty soldiers in a half company and an average of two days needed per man.

"So a hundred and sixty pounds of grain and eighty of dried meat. Do you have an exact figure?" she dipped a quill into an inkwell and began writing nonsense he didn't understand.

"That's pretty rough." Barnaby admitted. "I can't exactly get a list going."

"Why not?" She looked up at him. Her eyes were dark brown and her hair in a raven black ponytail. She was about twenty if he had to guess.

"Can't read or write." he admitted. He wasn't exactly ashamed of it and it showed in his voice.

"You ought to learn." she smiled. "Makes this job much easier."

Barnaby didn't really care. Katherine couldn't read or write and neither could Jackarand before he was killed. Mercer finished the form speedily.

"Done. I'll send this up and you'll have four sacks of grain and two of dried meat in an hour."

"I can't take the food here?"

"We get a steady supply of eighty days rations." she said. "But that's across the entire Company. You want this for a half-company, so I have put this up."

"And what is that?" he asked.

"This?" she held up the parchment she had just signed. "An opdem. Like a requisition order."

"Ah." Barnaby knew what a requisition order was from his time as a gunsmith, though had never learned put one in himself. "How quickly do I get it?"

"Opdems are your vital equipment." she told him, seemingly happy to explain. "Food, water, whetstones, replacement weapons, medical supplies, etcetera. You also have your pridems and maitdems."

"What's the difference?" he asked. This seemed like something he ought to know as an NCO.

"Time." she said with a smirk. "If you need it now, you put in an opdem. If you need it soon, it's a pridem. That can be stuff like digging equipment or rope. Important, but won't kill you to not have it immediately.

"Maitdems cover unimportant things like a new tent or cooking pot or an inkwell. If you don't need it today, you'll probably put a maitdem in for it."

"Thanks." Barnaby said, beaming a smile. "I'll be back later, then."

She smiled back from the desk. "Come by anytime."

His gaze lingered a moment and she fidgeted with her hair a little, still smiling. He turned to leave. It was below zero, and he had a hard-on.


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