Imperial Artisans => The Imperial Office => Topic started by: rufus sparkfire on May 01, 2017, 11:25:37 AM

Title: The Water [a story]
Post by: rufus sparkfire on May 01, 2017, 11:25:37 AM
The Water

[Lukas Handler's journal, found on the Ostland-Talabecland border during the summer of 2512]

21st of Vorgeheim

We crossed the river before dawn, then ran alongside the Freital road for six miles, under cover of the trees. When we reached the track to Grünfels we stopped and dismounted. The Captain sent Johan ahead. While we waited I checked the loose buckle on my harness, and Fritz passed around a flask of spiced apple brandy. The sun hid behind the clouds. A little drizzle was in the air.

Johan came back alone, for which the Captain cursed and threatened him. But Johan was not easily cowed, even by the Captain. I'd never known a man more careless of danger. He faced the Captain down, insisting that there was no need to take a prisoner. The village gates were open and the way was clear. Even if there was a squadron in the area, we'd be back across the river long before they could reach us. The Captain spat on the ground and ordered us to remount. We shadowed the track for two miles, deeper into the forest. Then the Captain gave us his orders: draw swords. Ride in.

There was a high wooden fence around the village - like the others - but the gate stood open, as Johan had said. They were confused, of course. 'Who were we?' they demanded, 'what did we want?' The Captain told them. 'We're not at war,' they said, and 'Crown Prince who?' That was as much talk as the Captain allowed. He gave the order to cut the stakes and set them up around the well in the middle of the village. It was enough. The villagers gave in.

'During the days of the Heresy,' the Captain told us later, 'the Ulricans would line up stakes like that, and they'd stick all the priests they could find on them. Sigmar's priests. They'd die slow.' He spat into the fire. 'That's what these people are. They haven't changed. They're not our brothers.' He drained his mug - of ale taken from the village. The air smelled of smoke. Some of us nodded. Johan shook his head. I said nothing.

22nd of Vorgeheim

We were up and moving before dawn again, following the road. The Captain told us he could scent prey on the wind. Perhaps he could: late morning we found a caravan of eight wagons under armed guard. The soldiers wore the hated red and yellow.  "Remember what they did to Crown Prince Hergard," the Captain said. "Remember Otillia the tyrant. Remember what they are." He need not have spoken. This was what we came for.

It was only when it was over that I realised we outnumbered the soldiers four to one, and that they were old men long past their prime. Even so they had killed Fritz and wounded Pietr. 'Wolves!' the Captain spat, 'mindless animals!' He set about one of the wagonmen with his fists. Some of the others did the same. Then we put Pietr - and Fritz's body - onto one of the wagons and set off for the river. The dead Talabecland soldiers we left on the road.

I rode beside a wagon for a while so that I could speak to the driver. He was a heavy man with the thickest beard I'd ever seen. His face was bruised. I told him that he'd be released once we reached our boats at the riverside. He only glared at me. I told him the war would only last until the Grand Duke admitted his crime and made reparations. He didn't answer. Eventually, I heard him mutter 'the Father of All will avenge.' He meant of course that Ulric would strike us down for what we had done. I wondered if it was true.

At the river we signaled for the boats to come. We loaded the wagons onto them, and the wagonmen too. They were to be prisoners. I looked away so I wouldn't see the eyes of the man I'd spoken to. We rode away and made camp.

23rd of Vorgeheim

The Captain wanted to do one more village before we went back. The land was wild there, the trees threatening and foreign. But late morning we passed a group of children playing beside a stream, and knew we were close. They waved at us, laughing, one of them raising a stick like a pistol and pretending to shoot at us. Will mimed being shot, then returned the gesture with his own pistol. The child dived comically into the mud, performing a death-scene worthy of the theaters in Altdorf or some other fine place. The Captain's brows furrowed. With a harsh word he urged us on.

When we reached the village the gates were shut. The Captain fired his pistol into them - only out of frustration, for he knew the shot could cause no real damage. From behind the walls, the villagers called to us to leave. 'The Baron's men are coming,' they said, 'and he's promised to kill any bandits he finds.' The Captain yelled to them that we were no bandits, but soldiers on campaign. 'What right have you?' a villager replied. 'Right of vengeance,' he told them, 'for Crown Prince Hergard.' The villagers insisted they knew nothing of Crown Princes. And how could they? Their world had nothing larger in it that this local baron they threatened us with. To them, the Elector of their province was just a name, and the Emperor himself almost a legend.

The Captain would not listen. He told the villagers about the stakes, and that we had seen some of their children nearby. Let them open the gates or face the consequences. He made Will go back and fetch one of the children. Will frowned, but he did it. He came back with a boy of maybe seven years. It wasn't the one who'd pretended to shoot at us. One of the villagers threw a rock over the fence, which whistled past the Captain's head. He discharged his pistol at them to keep their heads down, and he ordered Johan to cut a stake. Johan refused. I realised that the Captain really meant to do it this time. It wasn't just a threat. I found my pistol was in my hand though I hadn't known I was going to draw it. It was so easy to pull the trigger. I think I did.

24th of Vorgeheim

I rode alone through the night until I lost my horse to an unseen ditch and had to continue by foot. All that day I stumbled through the forest, flinching at every sound, certain that pursuit was only moments behind. I think I walked in circles, because I came across the corpses of my comrades hanging by nooses from the trees, and so knew that I had come back to the village. One of them was Johan.  Someone had painted a white wolf's head symbol onto one of the trees, with eyes that wept red like blood. I could do nothing. I ran.

This time I found my way to the river. I fell down beside it and rested, drinking a little of the water. It was very cold. It tasted sweet. Perhaps I only imagined that. There, on the far side, was Ostland. Here was death. I had no way of crossing, far from the boats that had brought us into Talabecland to raid and burn. Would the river god save me if I swam? I took out my journal to review the facts as I had recorded them. Did I deserve to cross the river? Did I want to? I thought about the Captain, who had been made by cruelty and hatred into something less than a man; and about the Grand Prince who had sent us, to the cheers of the crowds in Wolfenburg; and about the weak Emperor in Altdorf who had failed to control his subjects. I thought about Talabecland, our ancient enemy. I thought about the people I had found there, who only wanted to live their lives.

The light was failing so I lit a fire. I knew it would guide the pursuers to me. I thought about Lord Sigmar, and how he must surely have turned his face from his squabbling children. I thought about Ulric, the Father of All. And I thought about the river that divides us, one people from the other, and how important it was, and how it was only water.
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Artobans Ghost on May 01, 2017, 12:22:37 PM
Really good Rufus. It makes you think who the monsters are. The ones who lead or the followers. More! 😺
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Karl Voss of Averland on May 01, 2017, 03:11:23 PM
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Artobans Ghost on May 01, 2017, 03:38:14 PM
Ha! Ha!👆
That sums it up. Understanding that this takes a lot of time and effort, the plebs do enjoy more. This also goes for 023 and his halfling merchant train 😺 - just me sitting back applying pressure while doing nothing but enjoying other people's work😸
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Zygmund on May 01, 2017, 05:43:38 PM
Good stuff. Enjoyed the read.  :::cheers:::

Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: rufus sparkfire on May 03, 2017, 12:14:40 PM

The river = the Channel.
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Xathrodox86 on May 05, 2017, 10:27:18 AM
Good read right there! Thanks for that. :smile2:
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Doc J on May 12, 2017, 08:05:25 PM
That was really good, was it just a short story or will there be more?
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: GamesPoet on May 13, 2017, 12:18:25 PM
A good read, thank you!
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: rufus sparkfire on May 15, 2017, 11:04:25 AM
Thanks all!

It's just a short story. That's it!
Title: Re: The Water [a story]
Post by: Artobans Ghost on May 15, 2017, 12:32:05 PM
Thanks all!

It's just a short story. That's it!

Boo! Hiss! Grr! More! 😸
Just kidding, thanks for the story.