A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VI

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt V

‘We are expected only to bring this sort of information back and let others make of it what they will. Is that not so Sergeant?’

‘If those Security types had expected us to do that, they would not have told us. Might even have taken the risk to put an end to us here and now corporal,’

‘Yes. Instead they tell us, mere rifle carriers and grenade throwers about a movement to involving part security services to support the opposition they are supposed to be hunting down,’

‘Yeah, well with an idiot of a Popular President of The People who thinks he can play the FDR off against the SDR and the other way around, it’s a survival response. Better you control your narrative than have others start writing it for you. It would be a general signal to both sides. ‘You know we have a fool at the top. Let us deal with it. Don’t try and bring your own hirelings into the game,’ . It’s an old part of an older game,’

‘Why tell us though? They should have used the soft, slow lines which get set up once our armies move in,’

The pair sat, for once not feeling threatened in the locality, looking out into the night, towards an horizon which in due course would smear with light.

‘They probably have. But,’ he turned and gestured with his vape ‘Not about this one small detail, though. The last two known members of a prominent opposition group whose leader,’ Faigai thought about the right word.

‘The way that girl tells it, he sacrificed himself so they had time to flee with the most sensitive information. I would have thought it a hard task to place on your pregnant granddaughter until I spoke with her and her husband,’ for an instant her teeth caught the moonlight as she grinned ‘Dedicated and,’ the next word she drew as a blade ‘Sharp,’ followed by a brief laugh ‘She told me everything like a briefing and her just a mother. You would not think her inoffensive nervous looking young husband, was the master tactician of the group, the could put together demonstrations, media attention. The Carpenter,’

‘One of those old foxes mentioned him with some admiration,’

‘Someone approaches,’ she said without turning around. All the headiness of the earlier part of the night was gone from her.

‘It’s the security trio,’ he said, with a sigh ‘What are they about to shovel on us?’

As one the duo turned about to face uncertainty. The fellow who had talked to Faigai was obviously the spokesman, his comrades were wearing the blank expressions favoured by those who were not wishing to intimidate, just judge. Or maybe evaluate. On the whole life would have been simpler if he had not be so good at this job and just another rifle carrier, he would have seen less options.

‘What conclusions have you reached?’ the spokesman asked and was rewarded with two expressions of disbelief. Who asked soldiers, rifle carriers for their thoughts?

‘We have nothing to report,’ the corporal said, ill-tempered as she flicked the remains of the vape away. ‘There is a small village, which our commanders knew about already, and I, for one knew there was someone from the other side creeping around but could not see them,’

Cocked one eyebrow to the sergeant.

‘Not one thing of any importance,’ he said ‘Nothing to do with us. We have our own problems. Which I may add will be coming this way soon. You should tell your people to move away. It’s only a question of time before the shooting starts here. Am I right Corporal?’

‘Ideal place,’ was her bitter comment ‘Two brigade sized forces in a desolate place can have a sparing match. Only light casualties and some civilians of course,’ she studied the skyline ‘I should be returning. You do not want a patrol coming out here to look for,’ more bitterness, this time as a laugh ‘My body. Do you?’

The Banner Sergeant recognised the sudden arrival of weariness arriving on her. The tension of starting a patrol, the rush of relief at a truce, then the puzzlement at the locals’ actions, with a finality with the usual no clear answer. Yeah, you got so tired of it all and worse knowing what was to come upon folk who were just trying to make something out a mess they were part of, and also not part of. 

‘You should try and get them to move,’ he said as a parting comment to the elder men ‘Whatever plans you have won’t stop this village being shot at. Someone will decide we need to take it,’

He could feel that weariness coming now, and sloped off following the corporal.

 

They reached the place they had first met, each facing the way they should go, briefly back to the other.

‘Take care Sergeant,’ she said, shaking her head and dropping low to merge into the cover before moving off.

‘Try and stay sane,’ he whispered and set off in the other direction.

 

To be continued… 

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt V

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

 

‘Hello sir,’ Jagerin said, for want to anything other than the need to say something.

‘Ah Long Range Reconnaissance Unit 12,’ the man said to her, in her own tongue ‘We are honoured to be receiving your attention,’

Jagerin wrinkled her face in displeasure, it was bad enough being on the end of sardonic humour instead of delivering it, having your outfit identified although, considering the man’s badge was predictable, was still uncomfortable. Elites were not supposed to be so easily named. The man meanwhile went back to the Mitch. Good, he could deal with the fellow, she needed another smoke and time to think.

‘So Banner Sergeant, 5th Rapid Deployment Brigade. Are you authorised to explain the origins and rationale behind this unusual co-operation?’

‘The FDS is here to monitor the activities of and assist in forestalling any aggression by the SRD forces,’ he hoped the man was sharp enough to appreciate the monotoned official response was simply a way of getting out of giving a straight answer. He was relieved the fellow broke into a wry smile. Meanwhile the corporal was fidgeting again. Faigai shrugged at her.

‘I am going into the village,’ she said getting up ‘There is a mother and a new born baby who may need help,’ she tapped the pouch hanging from her belt ‘The BDD always come prepared,’

The two men watched her walk off, the local security officer sighed.

‘As well trained as BDD troopers of the their Long Range Reconnaissance Units are, I very much doubt if she has mid-wife skills. Still at this stage Propaganda and Hearts and Minds are the games to be played. I expect she will appear helpful and that is what matters,’

‘Sir.’ Faigai asked ‘I do not suppose you can tell me why this event is the concern of the local Security Services?’

‘Since neither of you are obviously stiff necked liaison officers but soldiers whose pasts are whereas not as murky as mine or my colleagues do not bear examination and your teaming appears to something caused by chance; that was a very good veiling you pair did along the road by the way, we missed you completely. The shepherds appraised us. Taking all those factors into account are you ready to have a long conversation? We have coffee. Your sort of course. Not our strong sort to be slowly sipped,’

Fergai’s experience of being out in The Wilds had taught him that initial civility was no bad tactic.

 

He looked upon his wife with love, pride and of course some concern, she was weary from the labour and yet she tenderly fed their child. Their beautiful child. How would he keep them both safe with the regime and now two hostile armies to contend with…. and the lack resources?

One of the women who had aided his wife through the delivery bustled back in, there had been some strong conversation going on outside, when it came to labour and birth men deferred to the women who care for and surrounded the mother. The woman, tough stocky and weathered gestured to the new entrant.

‘It’s alright,’ she said brusquely ‘Despite all appearances she is a woman and allowed in,’    

He knew enough to tell the difference between this darker green of the SDR slovosskian and the mottle of the FDS, and so greeted her in her own language.

‘May I ask your reason for being here?’ at this her unsure expression eased and she started to rummage into a small bag hanging from her belt, before stopping and looking about the candle lit room.

‘Is there water to wash my hands?’ she asked very politely, not the usual abrupt demand of those carrying weapons, in this case all manner of weapons it appeared. ‘I have some modest gifts but do not want to give them with these being filthy,’ she gestured a little embarrassed by the state of her hands.

‘There,’ he replied taken aback and pointed to a pot of still clean water, at which she glanced to his wife and babe then to the woman guarding the room solely by her presence, this done she knelt and at the pot and vigorously washed her face and hands. The village woman observed that free of dirt the girl looked quite presentable, if she wasn’t one of the interlopers she’d make a presentable bride, her hands certainly looked used to hard work.

Jagerin  returned to him, now confidently rummaging in the bag.

‘These,’ she said bringing out five small green packs ‘Are concentrates. Empty them into boiling water, stir,’ she started to make the movements ‘And they will make a nourishing soup, for your wife, replace some of the loss the effort of birth has taken out,’ she placed them into his hands ‘These,’ smaller blue backs with a white star on each ‘Are to ease pain. Place in cold water. Stir. Only one a day and only when the pain is very bad,’ she nodded for his understanding which he gave ‘And finally,’ three white packs ‘In here are wet wipes for cleaning and cooling the face,’ she glanced to the woman ‘And other part of the outside of the body,’ she made some brief, possibly immodest gestures, to which she received a matronly grunt of understanding. Jagerin had not felt so nervous since her basic training. The gifts seemed appreciated though.

‘Thank you,’ he said ‘Are all slovosskian soldiers so generous?’ catching on the hesitancy and despite of himself he grinned, then all attention was on his wife asking if she could see the visitor closer and speak with them.

 

‘I expect you will be wondering how to explain this to your officers. If you try and leave out the cop-operation with a slovosskian elite scout they more experienced of them will notice certain gaps not usual in a man of your experience,’ and enjoying some sort of private, not so jolly joke the man left him. 

Fergai prided himself in a small way of having some political knowledge, not so much of this land, yet; but of how things worked in the broad way. This situation should be one of those you reported straight back followed by the expected interrogation by the bright intense eager young folk the colder sharper of The Cloaks liked to send out to test the lands. You would probably have to accompany your interrogator out into The Wilds and try to keep them alive. ‘Should be one of those’ . Here there were twists though and he would have to consult. Consult? The full weight of his twenty-six years, eight in this gig, dropped on his shoulders; he was definitely getting too damn old for this sort of…

She was wearing the sort of overwhelmed expression universal amongst soldiers on receipt orders. Not the stupid sort which caused sourness or the very complex ones that left the ranks in a derisive ‘Yeah, like that’s going to go well’ mood. She’d been told, something he reckoned similar to him, when someone actually bothered to sit you down and give you the whole picture, one which despite all previous experiences might just work… 

‘You look as I feel,’ she said drawing alongside of him ‘We need to exchange information,’ there was a fumbling amongst the nest of pockets, followed by a soft swearing ‘You have any of those dainty sticks you Mitches like to call smokes,’

‘I’ve got some vapes. Clear as a stream, will flush out those tars you’ve been coating your throat and lungs with,’

‘Like inhaling kettle water. Still, they will do,’

Together, left alone they sat against a shed and smoked, looking to the clear bright moon for inspiration to start.

To be continued…    

I Wish I Had Not Been Inspired To Write This

Since the mean-spirited, the fantasists, the intolerant and the selfish are not letting up this season it seemed like a reasonable idea to take a swipe at them…

These are a collection of thoughts which are available to be used as quotes, no copyright laws were invoked. As an alternative you may wish to shake your head sadly and say ‘Poor guy. How did he get that way?’; to this there is an easy answer….. I’ve been around for 70 years. …..

Anyway…..

Apparently only other people are gullible.

Conspiracy Theories are for folk who can’t cope with the concepts that Human Folly and Natural Planetary Activity are two of the biggest influences on Societies.  

It’s not Politics, it’s not Religion, it’s not Economics which are the problem. It’s People.

Two ways of avoiding responsibility, not caring about others and being selfish, would be either to going out to a pub and getting hammered, or embracing Libertarianism.

Simplifying a Tax System is process by which The Rich Keep it and the Poor pay for that.

The Market Economy is a great idea on paper. A Planned Centralised Economy is a great idea on paper. The trouble is The Paper doesn’t have a say in the running of either operation.

The Irregular Verb of Politics. I have firm, resolute beliefs. You have been misled. They have dangerous ideas.

Of course there will be a very special place in Hell for the very wicked. It’s next door to the larger room for the Apathetic.

Misogyny is the first resort of the male inadequate.

On encountering opinions described as ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ check which orifice they originated from.

The Enlightenment was fine but Intolerance, Greed and Cruelty are still around.

Who the heck would want to travel all that distance, using all those resources to reach this world? And why would they set up home in a chunk of American desert. OR if they are so clever in getting here how come they allowed themselves to be hijacked to a chunk of American Desert?

I might be impressed by Hunters if they went out barefooted, dressed in nothing but hide skins, armed only with pointed sticks or bows fashioned yesterday from branches and twine and were hungry. 

In this 14 (more of less) billion year old and maybe 60 billion light years in diameter Universe, can anyone take me to the vacant place and say ‘Look this is where Your God should be,’??…. Thought not.

Democracy is a process whereby you vote and hope you got it right. Then sometimes get to be disappointed. Then you vote again and hope a lot of people agree with you…

Elections are usually lost and the other folk benefit.

Not voting helps those you least want to be governing you.

There’s nothing wrong with being joyful and having a good time, just don’t try and shove it down my throat.

Denying Climate Change is assuming there are set of controls somewhere on the planet just like your central heating, air conditioning, lighting or plumbing.

Did Trump becoming a political item make you wonder if it was God’s way of saying ‘Yep. The Russian Orthodox Church were the ones who got the message right,’ ?

History is a wonderful teacher. It is also a remorseless shredder of romantically held views.

Intolerance, Bigotry and Ignorance are held in equal measure on The Right and The Left. The difference being, those on The Right tend to bawl out their views, whereas those on The Left tend to add a layer of self-righteousness.   

Whether Racism is a result of or will cause chronic inbreeding has yet to be clarified.

Claiming to know what your Rights are does not necessarily tie in with knowing what your Responsibilities are.

In the Western World one of the more unnecessary professions is that of the film critic whose affected opinions have done as much damage to the film industry as any censorship board.

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…(Pt II)

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

‘Small to Middle-sized village,’

‘With deference to your rank Sergeant, why do you Mitches have to be so precise?’

‘It’s the small details which keep you alive corporal,’

‘And being fretful over the unnecessary can get you distracted and thus killed. It’s a village,’

From the rise with the aid of binoculars the pair had studied the possible source of so much interest to travellers and locals alike. Aside from the occasional animal sounds usually the villages would be silent and mostly dark, folk at their beds. You could expect a few muted watch lights and some nocturnal comings and goings. Here with nearly every habitation illuminated and knots of people in communal discussion the pair agreed there were more noteworthy facts than scrapping over the official area designate of the neighbourhood. Corporal Jagerin concluded the particular part of the observation with a brief and humorous puff of breath.

‘Now I am pressed on small details. Most of the attention is going on around a small place, almost a barn,’

‘Perhaps those elders are in closed council discussing if the villagers should move before the fighting starts,’ as soon as he had made the suggestion Faigai was dissatisfied with it ‘Although why would they wait for visitors to make up their minds for them is another matter?’

‘Maybe local priests or similar,’ she scratched the back of her neck ‘When you live out in The Wilds or even just the farming lands you grow up accepting all sorts of conventions. You have to in order to get by. Poor folk, Life is hard enough without us,’ she gestured between them ‘Turning up,’

‘It could have been worse. We could have come in from opposite sides and started a fire-fight,’

She looked at him very thoughtfully, chewing on one lip.

‘Some maybe Sergeant,’ and shook her head ‘Not us, though. Not on this narkomanskiy night. Rogue star shells, old fellows out riding, shepherds quitting their flocks. Narkomanskiy,’ she repeated shaking her head again.

He had to admit she had a point, and maybe the freakiest part was the two of them acting as if they were on the same patrol with the same concern not for their own lines but a remote village and locals wandering across their paths. The situation had fixed them with an uncertainty, and he could not figure out the whys of it either. Something was nagging at their differing instincts born out of the experience of these nocturnal patrols.

‘It’s unusual,’ he concluded ‘We should look closer,’

And they made their way crawling down the slope and into welcoming cover which led to the trail into the village, the trail being guarded by four men, two of them the shepherds. Both soldiers kept their own opinion to themselves, one they shared. They could drop those four with barely any effort. Her hands shook at the fleeting thought, his stomach clenched. Neither dared look at the other for fear of somehow giving away a thought once a simple assessment now turning into a reminder of what they had become. The nerves had their say and Jergain whispered.

‘We will have to be careful. We don’t want to scare them off into shooting into the night,’

‘No. The sound would carry too far. Make our own think we had made hostile contact,’

A conversation which once would have been a laughable gallows-humour parody acted as a communal balm and the pair slipped into a settled observation, once more uncertain of themselves.

The sounds of conversations and unsettled animals were suddenly subsumed by a very loud scream scything into the night, at which Corporal Jagerin’s head would have shot up had not Banner Sergeant Faigai’s hand not stilled it.

‘Steady corporal,’ he warned ‘ I’ve never come across a helmet that was bullet proof at short range,’

‘Damn it Sergeant. Adjust your ears. That was the cry of a woman in labour. They’ve all gathered to witness a birth. An important event?’

He was struggling on how to respond to her question being a demand, bordering on an order form him to give his latest opinion in this tangled-up journey, when there came another sound, which still the murmurings in the village and caused the outpost of shepherds to turn.

A thin, but persistent cry of basic protest.

‘Birth,’ Jagerin’s certainty had her wriggling into a low crouch and fumbling into another of those pockets, one hand holding something, with the other she flipped a small stone a short distance. Before Faigai could reprimand her for this act of blasphemous giving away a position taking advantage of the light from the village, still tucked down she was waving one hand as the guards turned, only to turn the gesture into an index finger gesture of ‘wait’. What followed was something he could only describe as the dexterity of a puppet show without the characters as with only her hands raised and visible she tied a packet to a stick and threw it out. Slumping back down once more she pressed a finger to her lips.

‘What in hell?’ he nonetheless hissed at her, and was gifted with a blank face, until from the night came a local voice with possibly as much irritation as his but with a layer of bemusement, at least she seemed to find the challenge funny. ‘Corporal. You might enlighten me since you have picked up some of the local’s language,’

‘They said,’ she failed to stifle a snigger ‘Come out little sore arse,’

‘What?’

‘The name those shepherds gave me, when I made up the incident with thistles,’ she said, scrambling over the cover and walking out rifle slung again and hands raised, while whistling some tune of a jaunty celebratory air. He told himself the whole event was no more different than those times when filled with the fury of battle you simply charged the opposition, certain you could take the place, all rational thinking gone. Satisfied he had made the skewed sort of sense which only existed in places of conflict he slowly made himself visible, also with weapon slung and hands raised.

Not expecting for Corporal Jagerin to take off her helmet and shake loose shoulder length dark hair, while continuing to walk towards the group of men. Whatever expression the girl had chosen it had frozen the men’s collective response into one of surprise. Two more steps and she jerked back a thumb over her shoulder to him, stopped and sat down on a stone looking up at the group.

Not too sure whether she was a sharp reader of situations or simply prone to bouts of craziness he strode forward narrowing the distance to the group, two of whom were fidgeting with their guns, stopped by a loud click of the corporal’s tongue her index finger wagging slowly back and forth, her free hand resting on her still slung rifle. Fixing the men with a hopeless expression he nodded to her tapping the side of his head. This seemed to satisfy them as one said something to another who sped off to the village whose inhabitants’ voices were now drowning out some of the new arrival’s protests. Faigai meanwhile scowled down at Corporal Jagerin who was now wearing a faint smile and a wide-eyed look.

‘I would suggest Sergeant, they’ll be getting one of those elderly riders,’

‘You were chosen you to go out on single patrols because no one would work with you. Am I right?’

‘I am only required to give you my name, rank and military number,’ she replied ‘You should know that,’

He told himself he shouldn’t be that angry, everyone who spent too long out in The Wilds was prone to crazy spells. The hell of it was, she was right. Her performance had broken the ice. Of course it made a another piece of skewed sense. In this conservative land a skimpy girl soldier would defer to a tall well-built man, to them obviously her officer, she simply being the expendable one who sniffed the ground ahead. She’d effectively promoted him from Banner Sergeant to Officer on a liaison mission. Maybe she was actually from her own army’s military security the VRN and he was being played. What for, he would have to wait and see. Meanwhile she lit another of those foul smokes, sitting patient only like slovosskians could do.

He didn’t have to wait long, one of those elderly men was accompanying the villager and moving at a spry pace, attention on Fergai, giving him the feeling he was being reconned in detail.

‘Not a word,’ he warned the corporal.

‘Of course not sergeant,’ she replied with a sincerity so heavy it could only be mockery.

‘Banner Sergeant,’ the elder man said in Fergai’s native Brittonic and not so heavily accentuated as the corporal’s version ‘May I be of assistance to you?’

Fergai was about to open with a general civic address to anyone of some station when his attention was drawn to the man’s upheld palm, the frost of the clear night lending a sheen to the inlaid metal of the badge.

Now there was a badge of a security and intelligence outfit.

The local nation’s own Security police.

Jegerin’s eyes were of saucer dimensions and the cigarette dropped out of her open mouth, causing her to jerk one leg away from its descent.

After her recent antics Fergai was sorry he could not take some enjoyment from her surprise

To be continued…..

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…(Pt II)

Jagerin thought maybe she would not add any potato wine to her next ‘comfort’ mix, at least not to take on an empty stomach. Still, there had been fun in surprising the Mitch that slovosskians were not all dourly singing sad songs about never returning home and to be buried with the handful of earth from the Motherland. Something, apparently the Mitches believed every slovosskian soldier carried. Seriously, who would go through a war with a pocket full of earth? There was enough of the stuff on the outside. She drew in a long breath of the sharp night air to clear her senses.

 Faigai was for just passing over the instance and getting with the task to hand. They would precede in a standard pattern. One at the fore for 100 metres, with the other covering. Stop the one at the fore covering as the other moved up and passed them for another 100 metres and so on, using judgement if there was suitable cover before or after. The signal to dive down in an emergency would be, in this place a fox bark. She had a good fox bark. Handing out these orders had at least driven out the urge to be whispering the old ‘Goin’ Down The Road’ folk song. He would have to get the recipe for that drink of hers. This was a crazy night.

They’d covered a klick without any issue, half way along they’d started to move under the shadow of that looming hill. He never liked hills, locals always made them their own, every dip, hole, rock and gulley they could vanish into. And here was another peculiarity, by all what was sensible and battlefield-right he should be letting her be bait, not sharp for her safety and scouring those hills for the slightest move. She might move like as well as bark like a fox, but those were not her hills. 

He barked.

Jagerin swung to look to the grim hill. And there they were. Four, moving down in a line, showing they owned the place. Locals, carrying rifles. Of course she took cover into another patch of scrub, only to catch a glimpse of dogs. And dogs would not be fooled by any human pretending to be a fox; they probably had her scent already. If there were dogs the men, must either be shepherds or hunters. A brief snatch of moonlight caught the metal, guns, probably hunters then, never ones to pause when something unexpected appeared. She was planning to stay low, but one of the dogs did their own barking out an alarm, they’d caught her. She hoped that sergeant was staying true to their truce, this was likely to end in an exchange of fire. Before she resolved to take aim at the first man, in the distance came a bleating conversation, causing the men to stop.

Oh Shepherds. She eased her finger from the trigger, although hoping the bigger of the two dogs was not feeling too bold to clear the scrub, you could not hate a dog for being, a dog. 

Faigai tensed caught tight between the instinct to line up the targets and start taking them at the first instance, and the very strict orders not to be on the side which was the first to start killing locals. For the present politics was having The Say, and personally he didn’t mind, it beat being on the business end of an artillery strike. And there would have been the small problem of trying to explain why, he a noted veteran scout had broken a no-shoot order to save the life of a slovosskian. A fine time to be conflicted and stifled by a clutch of options flying through his mind. That damn star shell had spooked him; could happen to anyone going out night after night down unknown trails, one shove too many. He gave himself a stern order to hold still and see how she played it. The scene being viewed down the night sight of his rifle.

Seeing her casually standing up and seeming to be finishing the hitching up of her trousers, rifle slung was as much a surprise to him as it obviously was to the group suddenly halting, to be greeted by a nonchalant wave of one hand. He supposed slovosskians had to have clowns too. The dogs barked and growled around her which she ignored as she drew out a packet from another uniform pocket, from it took one of the long slender contents and with the flash of metal then flame lit it, drawing in smoke, having displayed apparent no more concern than bumping into other folk about their business she offered the packet to the men, who after the briefest of pauses accepted the gift, and the lighter. There followed some stifled coughing. She’d given out some of those foul ration cigarettes slovosskians delighted in. The theories amongst his own army as to what the contents were made from varied, none of the suggestions pleasant. Meanwhile without taking here eyes off of the men and letting the dogs caper about her sniffing and growling, from another of the proliferation of pockets she tossed the pair something out of her rations which they were swift to catch and chew on. Some sort of conversation was going on which the corporal peppered with vague hand gestures, shrugs and the general slouch of someone who really didn’t want to be out here, this included a lot of pointing back the way they had travelled and at one stage a general outbreak of laughter. At her mime of riders the party grew still, there was some gesturing towards the village and a shaking of heads and attendant waving of hands, to which she nodded, jerked a thumb back the way she had come and this time with rifle unslung began to walk down the road, turning around frequently to wave to the party, pointedly stopping until they were out of sight. At which point she sagged, this time in obvious relief.

‘Banner Sergeant,’ she said softly ‘I hope you were my guardian angle,’ 

‘You were dealing with the matter very capably corporal. What did you learn?’ now he was speaking to her as if she was one of his own teams, come to think of it, she was acting like she was.

‘They are definitely locals, those sounds,’ she nodded to to the bleating ‘Are their flocks, but for some reason those four were having to get back to the village. They wouldn’t say why. Nor would let me follow. Reminded me of my own home folk back in forest lands, Very careful with strangers,’

‘They didn’t notice you were a woman then?’

She tugged at her uniform.

‘Not with these dirty baggy rags. I lowered by voice and spoke gruffly, and its night. Just a short fellow. Ideal scout,’ she ended the explanation sounding somewhat proud.

‘You got a laugh out of them,’

‘Thistles,’ she replied dryly ‘Everyone laughs at someone complaining they had sat bare-backsided onto a thistle,’ she growled out the local word ‘One of the first ones you learn out here. Yes?’

‘Experience is always valuable corporal,’   

‘Says one who has only half as many risks,’ her attention was then to the direction the quartet of locals had walked ‘ We are continuing? Yes?’  

He was glad she couldn’t still her own interest in The Why of this night. Made him feel better about his own stirring enthusiasm. One sensation he had nearly forgotten about. Of course he would have to keep on telling himself this was all for military reconnaissance. It didn’t do to dwell on anything outside what you understood. This was simply part of the mission.

One brief nod in response to her question. 

Damn, she took off like a hound on the scent.

To be continued……. 

Pakistan’s Ulemas Condemn Priyantha Kumara Killing As Un-Islamic — The Human Lens

Almost one week after the horrific lynching of the Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara on allegations of blasphemy in Sialkot, the nation reels in the tragic aftermath. The Human Lens covered this case with a detailed story titled “Condemnation: Blasphemy Attack On Priyantha Kumara.” The deseased victim Kumara was the general manager of operation for a […]

Pakistan’s Ulemas Condemn Priyantha Kumara Killing As Un-Islamic — The Human Lens

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

Jagerin without thought of Faigai’s rank, never mind being enemy impatiently signalled for him to stay still and get low. It was quite obvious, someone of slight build would do better surveying the road. She crept to one of the bushes not sporting thorns and making the best of the sparse cover while risking a serve crick in the neck peered towards the oncoming group.

There they were, horses ridden at a slow steady pace, no furtive glancing or the instinctive hunch of the suspicious. Yet, the idea of three locals simply out and about at night time in a remote tense land between two armies struck her being just plain implausible. As the group drew nearer she sensed a steady confidence about them which made her shrink back, one hand behind signalling for the sergeant’s benefit, three extended fingers for the number, then a slow side to side waggling of splayed fingers the universal indication for ‘Uncertain,’

If there had been the correct accompanying sounds, judging by the ‘khmuree’ ‘s reactions and apparent misgivings  Faigai, would have thought she’d seen a small motorised column pop up. Three unknown riders she couldn’t figure out though?  He shuffled up to get his own view, only to be greeted by a pinched expression and one angry finger to her lips. Trying not to feel chastened by this he still proceeded until they were both unprofessionally crowded in the same cover, stilling their breathing. Faigai  trying to come to grip with the idea of two hardened veterans trying to hide from three…

Well dressed middle-aged to elderly riders? Out here, in sparse lands which could be fought over at any time?

‘That is disturbing,’ Jagerin said after the trio had passed by far enough for whispering to start ‘Folk of that age and some wealth have no business being out here that certain of themselves without a large escort. Who or what are they?’

‘Maybe they are,’ Faigai mulled for the right slovan word, not wanting to be the first to break their informal convention ‘Elders?’ her grimace of agreement encouraged him to continue ‘There’s that village, we  are still sanctioned from. There is maybe some council of the local elders,’ 

Jagerin peeked up over the cover in the wake of the riders and tapped her teeth with the rag covered barrel of her rifle.

‘Old guys,’ she began in a passable version of The Mitch’s own twang ‘Doing a stitch up?’ and seemed quite pleased with her grasp of his native slang. ‘Work out some ploy, to fool our commanders into thinking they are buddies with us both? Keep us off their turf? Playing down the middle?’

And there it was. Thinking like that showed she too had worked out in The Wilds. There were always The Wilds. The places where conventional battles were not fought, where you carried Shield for The Cloaks as they wove their webs with the militias, gangs masking as volunteer police, village patrols and criminal cartels; Deal Making, Promise Breaking. A month in that fog and when back at base camp some ordinary rifle carrier said ‘Hi’ you straighways wondered ‘What did they mean by that?’ You could never brush that dust off. Sometimes it paid not to. It seemed here was a time. 

‘I agree Corporal,’ he said realising she was actually looking to him for orders, there was some sort of universality going on here ‘ Whichever way they are choosing, it’ll benefit both our sides to know. After all locals will understandably work to their own advantage, and we are still uncertain about these lands. It would not be the first time fresh commanders have ended up doing fighting for locals,’

‘We’re going down there,’ she gestured in the direction of the village. ‘To listen in? You are used to the language yet?’    

‘No,’ he drawled back ‘But if we hear some brief grim laughter, then we can guess schemes being worked out. Yes?’

‘Yes,’

‘Let’s take a walk then,

As she rose she suddenly wiggled her hips, half-held her hands out fingers rubbing together and her feet shuffling a quick dance while she murmured in a breathy musical chant

‘And the pretty girls, sing

La-dee-dah. La-la-la-dee-dah,’ **

Well, he thought to himself, that was unexpected. Good stuff she had in her slim flask.

To be continued……..

** With respect and thanks to the Legendary Late Lou Reed     

And to Michael Herr of ‘Despatches’ fame, one of my valuable go-to-books

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

They shared the same first thought. If they survived they would seek out and cause severe harm to whosoever fired off that star-shell, even if the culprit was from their own respective side. It was probably only the shock of staring at the equally exposed and surprised enemy soldier which stilled they impulse to do anything more than breath out their own favoured swear word. Here they were experienced scouts and snipers surviving into the third year of the war, gawping and quivering like recruits. He wondered if this was it; he’d finally lost his edge, time to pay. She felt so damn tired she reckoned this was it. But the other one did not fire the shot. His shoulders slackened, his sniper rifle lowering; her knees eased as she crouched, placing her weapon on the frost hard snow. In response to her dulling eyes now shorn of the predatory gaze of their shared craft, he sighed in fatalistic relief and did likewise.

After nervous interlude of crouching, each at their own edge of the clearing in the scrub, She reached for the slim plastic flask strapped to her helmet and took a swift sip, she tossed it across to him.

‘Will keep you warm and awake,’ she said, although heavily accented he admitted she did speak his language well, reassured he took a swift mouthful, the liquid tasted of strong coffee but slipped down with the gathering warmth of a liqueur; feeling unsettled at the lack of an attack to respond to, for want of some response he was returning the social civility in her own lyrical tongue.

‘This is good. Were you issued or did you,’ the pause took the place of a smile ‘Appropriate?’

‘Nothing but the best for scouts,’ she replied the brief dullness in the eyes replaced with a flickering sardonic glint, he responded with a twitch of a smile and a brief snort.

The silence was growing awkward; comforting as it was, the stimulant could make you twitchy if you did not take some positive action in one way or another, and, anyway these days she was prone to twitches, having your cheek skimmed by a stray shot could have that effect.

He had to admit this situation was peculiar. There had been ceasefires. There had been truces to collect wounded. He’d never just sat down with a Khmuree before and he supposed judging by the shifts of puzzlement crossing her face she had not offered a Mitch a drink before as a matter of good manners. Mind you, this was still officially a neutral land and both armies were only here to protect the locals from the depredations of The Other, or so the story went. So with everyone under orders to be tip-toeing  oddness was bound to happen.   

‘Corporal Jagerin,’ her sudden introduction breaking the silence.

‘Banner Sergeant  Faigai,’ he replied, causing her to pull a face of mock respect and a quick universal salute of three fingers side on to her brow, making him realise they did have a sense of humour…not so ‘khmuree’ then.  In the lessening of tension he felt a general question was reasonable ‘Surveying the land and no more?’

‘Those are my orders. Your people are established but do not appear comfy, sentries keep pacing, officers are examining the land more times than they need to,’ she shrugged ‘I expect you found the same. You are returning yes?’

‘The most difficult part will be getting back to our own positions. Nervous soldiers are as dangerous as foes,’ 

‘I wish they would send veteran battalions to these places. People who can read a situation,’

They might well have simply ended the interlude with another exchange of acerbic comments on their own higher commanders and gone their separate ways, relieved at still being alive. Instead they both stiffened, dropped even lower, rifles to the fore.

‘Riders?’ they said to each other, in disbelief.

‘Not even trotting,’ Corporal Jagerin added.

To be continued…..