November 8th, 2006
|02:40 pm - Reflections In Blood And Steel|
Right, so, since people are asking, I posteth part the first (or rather, the prologue) of my NaNoWriMo novel.
Kasmira Mekevich swears quietly as the pen blots again. The battle report she was supposed to write for Captain Derriwyn already had numerous spots where the ink had either run or blotted, and she was just making it worse. She vainly wishes for a bottle of alchemical ink-eraser, but it had been hard enough to transport ink, let alone a bottle of rather volatile alchemicals. She was still far too used to using a pencil, from her time as a mechanik – twenty-four is far too old to start changing habits, she thinks wryly.
She runs her hand through her long black hair, sighing with frustration. Every time she had to write a report, this happened – it ended up looking more like one of her son Allister’s fingerpaintings. Menoth only knew if other Journeymen had as much trouble as she did when it came to writing reports. She sets down the piece of wrecked warjack plating that she’s temporarily using as a writing desk, standing up and bumping her head on the canvas roof of the tent that she shares with the other female soldiers of Captain Nash Derriwyn’s detachment.
The small camp bustles with life as she ducks out of the tent, Trenchers cleaning rifles, the Storm Lances’ horses trotting back and forth, the crack of pistols as Arcane Tempest gun mages practise. The scent of something meaty cooking wafts her way, and the rich scent reminds her stomach that it’s nearly lunchtime, and it begins to gurgle in anticipation. Hm. Nothing to do until this afternoon… except the report, dammit. So… lunch! Her stomach gurgles louder, and she ducks back inside the tent to grab her bag of eating utensils.
The scent of stew has apparently wafted across the entire camp, for the area around the cooking fires is packed with people. Fielding and returning greetings, Kasmira joins the queue waiting for food.
“Journeyman Mekevich! Kasmira! Anyone seen ‘er?” A Trencher – Private Gant, a right bear of a man – is making his way through the crowd, and Kasmira waves across at him, wondering wryly what the matter is this time. He spots her – it’s not hard, as her white leather greatcoat stands out amidst the mass of brown coats and blue armour, even when muddy. Pushing his way through the crowd, he comes over to her, saying, “Captain Derriwyn wants ye. Prob’ly got summat to do with the package ‘e got in from HQ.”
“Package from HQ?” Kasmira asks, curiosity rising. Her stomach protests as they walk away from the cookfire and towards the Captain’s tent. Gant nods, his rough face creasing in a smile as he looks down at the woman trotting beside him. “Yup. Fat package, ‘ave no idea what’s in it.” Kasmira snorts in disgust. “Knew ye’d want to know that. Prob’ly orders or somesuch.” They reach the captain’s tent, and he knocks on the tentpole. “Journeyman Mekevich, sir.”
“Enter. Dismissed, Gant. Thanks.” Derriwyn’s voice floats out the flap, and Kasmira swishes it back. The captain is sitting at his camp desk, blond head cradled in his hands, and he lifts it as she comes in. He looks tired, and very much older than his thirty-three years. A puzzled frown flickers across Kasmira’s face as she notes the sad expression on his Caspian features – she’d never seen her mentor look so tired, or so depressed. He was a man whose expression was never far from a smile, and in combat it widened to a fierce grin.
“Journeyman. Your orders.” He scoops a thin envelope off the desk, handing it to her. She takes it with a puzzled frown, flicking the blue wax seal to break it. “Apparently HQ has seen fit to send you off on your own.”
Kasmira slides a sheet of thin grey paper out of the envelope – the peacetime days when orders came on creamy vellum were long gone – and unfolds it. The script is that of a typical Army clerk – plain and neat with few embellishments, and she reads through the letter with growing apprehension.
Journeyman Kasmira Mekevich:
You are hereby directed to proceed immediately to the following location:
And there assume command, for the express purpose of defence of the approach and denial of Khadoran entry to Thornwood through said approach. If a major force should attempt passage, you are to send immediately to your nearest Headquarters (located at Northguard) to inform and request reinforcements. One warjack is present at the Outpost, and you are hereby permitted to add to this armament any warjacks bonded to you, as certified by either the Fraternal Order or your commanding warcaster.
By order of Lord Commander Coleman Stryker, Officer Commanding.
A thick, simple signature reading ‘Stryker’ signs off the orders. At the bottom, in the wide space at the end of the brief orders, in a slightly heavier script, is the note:
Good luck, Journeyman, though you probably won’t need it. This assignment is well within your capabilities, and I look forward to seeing you on the battlefield when you rejoin the Second Army.
Squished at the very bottom in a remarkably unremarkable print is something that makes her heart jump:
Hey, Kas: pinched this off Cole’s desk before he could send it off. Good luck (though he’s right in saying you don’t need it), and look after yourself: I’d miss you if you got killed, and so would Junior. Remember what you’ve learned, trust your instincts, and trust your men. - A.
She reads it over again, looking at the orders, the realisation that she’s being given her first command beginning to form. Her growling stomach is completely forgotten as the enormity of the fact that she’s got her first orders as an officer of the Cygnaran Army slams home. With shaking hands, she passes the paper to Derriwyn, and he reads over it quickly. One eyebrow quirks at the note at the bottom, but he doesn’t comment on that: he knew the nature of that relationship, and had long since ceased to tease her about it.
Instead, he chooses to criticise something else. “In the old days, that’d have come from Lord General Duggan of the First Army, or Lord General Heltser of the Second Army. Shows you how much Stryker’s got his claws into command.” He shakes his head, handing the paper back to her. “He’s practically running the show now, as far as I can tell.”
“You shouldn’t be saying that,” Kasmira says distractedly, her face pale as she stares down at the orders again. He shrugs, knowing that she won’t see it, and barely even caring. He recalled that he’d had much the same reaction when he got his first orders as a Journeyman – it was something that nobody was ever ready for – and if they thought they were ready, they weren’t.
“Nash, where’s Champagne Outpost?” Her voice is still fuzzy with shock. Unconsciously, she calls him by his first name – unsurprising, given that they have become good friends in the eleven months that he’s been her mentor. He shrugs, “Don’t know. Map?”
At his request, she steps over to the rack of maps, hauling out the first one her hand lands on. Nash looks at the tag, which reads: Caspia, Sul, and their environs. “Nope… the one of the Northern border forts.” She grabs the next one, which turns out to be the Eastern forts, and he sighs, walking over to the rack and flicking through the tags until he finds the one marked Cygnar: Northern Border (1st Army) Forts.
He carries the small map over to the desk, Kasmira drifting behind him to look over his shoulder as he unrolls it, revealing the view of the Thornwood, the cities Fellig and Corvis at its far edges. Then he swears, low and vehement, as his finger drifts to where Champagne Outpost is located. It’s a small border fort, northeast of Northguard, in the rough, half-hilly, half-fen country that is something of an approximated border between Llael and Cygnar. A small note beside it reads ‘KI. Rep. D4, Gol 606’. Both warcasters know the code: ‘Khadoran Incursion. Repulsed. Donard 4th, Goloven, 606’. An attack in late autumn, two years ago.
Kasmira stares down at the map, and the small dot denoted ‘Champagne Outpost’ blazes black in her sight. What men will I have? How big is the outpost? What’s the approach like? Are fortifications from the previous attack still there? A thousand-and-one questions filled her mind, and emotions run riot: overwhelming exultation that she has been chosen as a commander, worry for Nash and his detachment, hope that the troops she gets are good, apprehension – what if the Khadorans attack?, a thrill of power, a hundred different feelings. And over all, a determination and iron will to do this thing: to hold the line, to succeed, to achieve true command.
“No-one’s ever ready for their first command, Kasmira. Don’t worry, you’ll do just fine.” Nash’s voice is quiet and reassuring, and she clings to that reassurance, the unspoken affection of Allister’s note, even Stryker’s generic good-luck message. They thought she could do it.
They think I can do it. I’ll prove them right. I’ll do this, and do it well.
Dmitri Khardovich dips his pen in the inkwell, scribing a neat line under the finished report and signing it. From the small drawer in his writing cabinet, he pulls out a stick of sealing wax and his seal, lighting the wax’s wick with a flick of his fingers and a spark of magic. Smoke curls up, and red wax drips onto the paper. He presses his sigil hard into the warm wax, blowing out the flame as he does so.
He smiles down at the finished report. Not a blot of ink, not a single smudge to make his words less readable, and the paper, despite its low quality, is uncreased. His smile grows prouder as he looks at the seal that adorns the bottom of the page: the sigil of Khador, encircled by a crescent moon, his Rastovik’s mark below. He’d worked so hard to get that seal, and now, at twenty-one, he was just starting out on his road of service to the Motherland. Or rather, my road to greatness, as Jozef would say, he adds mentally, and rather sarcastically.
There is a knock on the door, and he grins, “Come in.” He’s in a good mood – the report finished, he had an entire afternoon to himself. The door swings open, and a Winterguard trooper – Solov?, he was terrible with names – enters, giving a smart salute to the young officer. “Magziev Varzov requests your presence in his office, sir.” The man has a rather thick Kossite accent, but nevertheless he gets the formal words out clearly and precisely, though slightly haltingly.
Dmitri nods, folding the report neatly. If he was going to hand this in to Jozef, he may as well take it now. He rises, pulling on his thick wool greatcoat and the fur hat with the Greylords’ badge. Despite the fact that it was spring, there was still a chill in the air – Elsinberg was far enough north that the bite didn’t really come out of the wind until early in the first summer month of Prautes.
“Do you know what this is about?” he asks the trooper – yes, he is called Solov – wondering what Jozef was summoning him for. The Winterguard shakes his head, replying, “No. The Magziev did not see fit to inform me. No doubt you will discover.” There is a wide and slightly impudent grin on the man’s face, and Dmitri laughs lightly, his good mood improving. No doubt this was some minor matter, and he would hand in the report early, which would no doubt make Jozef pleased with him.
They make their way through the barracks. The Llaelese architecture – light and airy – still bothered Dmitri after the massive solidity of the Druzhina, the training academy in Korsk where he’d learnt his skills as a warcaster. Even after a year in Llael as Jozef Varzov’s apprentice, he had yet to get used to the Rynnish liking of excessive ornamentation. He vaguely wondered if he ever would.
Solov knocks on Jozef’s door, calling, “Rastovik Dmitri to see you, sir.” “Come,” is the impatient call, and Solov opens the door, holding it for the young Greylord. “Thank you, Solov. Dismissed.” Jozef’s voice is tired, and the Winterguard nods, clicking his heels together as he salutes, and closing the door quietly.
Dmitri steps over to where a fire burns in the small hearth, warming the cool spring light that filters in through the window. His white-haired mentor is sitting in the big wing-backed chair that was the sole comfort of his austere quarters, and Dmitri frowns at the expression on his face: something of sadness, something of pride, and oddly, resignation. To Dmitri’s familiar eye, he looks strangely old for his fifty years. Jozef Varzov was not a man to wear an expression of resignation – he was one would fight with utmost determination in the service of the Motherland. If he was wearing such an expression, then it could only mean… The Motherland has taken away…?
Before he can speak, Jozef holds out a small envelope. “Your orders, Rastovik.” The formal title shocks Dmitri for a second, and he takes the envelope without comment, flicking the red wax seal to break it. “It seems that your time as my apprentice is over.”
Dmitri slides a sheet of thin grey paper out of the envelope – if vellum existed in this time of war, then he had yet to hear of it – and unfolds it. The script is that of a typical Army clerk – plain and neat with few embellishments, and he reads through the letter with growing apprehension.
Rastovik Dmitri Khardovich:
You are hereby directed to proceed immediately to the following location:
And there assume command of the detachment prepared for you, for the express purpose of proceeding then northeast to the following location:
And there assess the defences and possibilities of securing this outpost for the uses of Khador’s forces. If a major force should at any point assail your efforts, you are to send immediately to High Kommand to inform and request reinforcements.
Two warjacks have been prepared as part of this detachment, and you are permitted to add to this armament any warjacks bonded to you, as certified by either the Greylords Covenant or your commanding warcaster. There are to be no more than two warjacks in your detachment.
For the Glory of the Motherland,
By order of Kommandant Gurvaldt Irusk, Kommandant of the 1st and 2nd Armies, Anvil and Hammer.
An elegant signature reading ‘G. Irusk’ signs off the orders. At the bottom, in the wide space at the end of the brief orders, in the same elegant script, is the note:
Good luck, Rastovik. This assignment is well within your capabilities, and I expect it to be carried out with excellence. I look forward to seeing you on the battlefield when you join the Anvil or the Hammer.
He reads it over again, looking at the orders, the realisation that he’s being given her first command beginning to form. With shaking hands, he passes the paper to Jozef, and he reads over it quickly. “My first command,” he says, his voice shaking with the excitement that courses through his mind.
“Yes. Your first command.” Jozef stands, placing one hand on Dmitri’s shoulder. Now the resignation is gone from his expression, and only pride and a slight sadness rest there. “I am very proud of you, Dmitri. You have proved yourself, and you are more than worthy of this command. Now, let us see this outpost you are to reconnoitre.”
The two walk over to the wall behind the desk, which is festooned with maps of all sizes: some drawn by artists, some rough soldiers’ sketches, and Jozef points to one. Known Cygnaran Positions, the title box at the bottom of the map reads, and it shows little blue Swans contending with little red Khadoran sigils across the breadth of Llael. He scans the map, and then his finger stabs at a little black dot – nearly insignificant – that is labelled ‘Champagne Outpost’. It’s a small border fort, northeast of Northguard, in the rough, half-hilly, half-fen country that had been a major headache to High Kommand when it came to getting troops into Thornwood.
Dmitri stares down at the map, and the small dot denoted ‘Champagne Outpost’. Emotions run riot: exultation that he had been chosen as a commander, curiosity as to what troops he is being given, apprehension – what if we have to fight the Cygnarans?, a hundred different feelings. Over them all is an overwhelming desire to succeed, to prove himself, to win.
I shall do this. For Jozef, for the Motherland, for myself. I shall succeed.
Hope you all like it. I'm currently just starting Chapter 3. Considering they're around about 9 pages of MSWord per chapter, I don't think I'm doing too badly. :)
And that's even with the studying. :)
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Sting - Russians
Seems I've missed a lot since Kas' Witchfire adventures :D
She gets a whole novel? Maybe not to herself, but...I shall devour this with pleasure.
Man, war sucks :(
*Grin* You speed demon! I'm drudging along at my tortise-pace, but pleased I've caught up from my two low/no productivity days last week. I'm printing out your chapter - commentage after I read it this evening. Thanks for posting! :)
Are Kasmira and Dmitri going to end up as a couple? You know, kissing? More? Canoodling, even?
I'm curious. And short of sleep.
Now I see where the 'reflections' in the title comes from. Excellent start! And... I think I like Dimitri, too, so this is going to be a nail-biter of a story.
Snickered over the difference between Stryker and Irusk's form letters. Hee.
Also loved Allister's PS. :D
Postings near the Thornwood... uh... isn't that where the Circle, and Cryx all come out to play? Yeep.
*grin* That was the idea: different, but similar. You think that's nailbiting, wait 'till I get to the nasty stuff. *evil grin* And Thornwood... heh. Just you wait and see. :D
And as for the form letters... difference? What difference? :D I think all military form letters come from the same source...
Couldn't resist putting in a PS. Just because. :P
Couldn't resist putting in a PS. Just because. :P
Hee! His Lordshipfulness would so have kittens over that PS, just coz it's so ... Allister. :D
Ah yes, the Thornwood - rather like the Girl Scout camp of my youth in the Phillippines. Bugs, snakes, big monsters, undead. :0 I hope Kas packed some marshmallows at least for the campfire. *grin*
Oh yes, His Lordship would have more than just kittens, I think he'd start having Shredders if he knew Allister got into his office, pinched papers, then put them back without anyone noticing. :P And yay that it sounds like Allister, for that was the idea. :)
|Date:||November 10th, 2006 08:14 am (UTC)|| |
Little Shredders :)
Yep, it definitely sounded like something Allister would do, and snigger about all the rest of the week. Why do I think seeing Allister cheerful would worry Coleman? :D
and I were kicking around the idea for a nanowrimo-like thing sometime after the holidays, but instead of "write a novel" it would be more like "draw a comic or manga". Would you be interested in something like that?
I'm planning on adding on to my Visit the IK
manga and would be working on an extended storyline for that.
Thought I'd mention it now, so you have time to ponder. *grin*
Re: Little Shredders :)
Ooooh. Hells yes, would be very interested. I think my art would get better under pressure... *crosses fingers* hopefully. But I wanted to do random Journeyman stuff (possibly Reflections) as a manga. That or Moonlight Serenade.
And Allister being cheerful would so worry Cole. Just like Cole being cheerful would worry Allister. :P
|Date:||November 10th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Little Shredders :)
Coolness. I think stuff like manga and comics helps us get better and faster, I know I can do certain things with greater speed since I did the IK manga and I'd like to keep going and learning. Art is so kinetic for me as far as learning goes.
All the things you listed sound great. :) We were thinking maybe March for the official month - gives time for the holidays to careen by and for us to rest up (ha! well, that our theory). Would March work for you?
Cole being cheerful wouldn't bother me too much as long as it was simply Commander Stryker; now Lord Commander Stryker being cheerful... *sweatdrops*
And Sorscha being cheerful would just be wrong. Well, unless Vlad was around and staying around. ^__^
Thornwood huh? Coincidence, or plain Mystery?
*puts on Atinborough voice*
"And here, we find the rare Hockingsbird in it's native evironment.."
*laughs* No, no, no coincidence! David got 'Thornwood' from the IK originally. :)