A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt VIII

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

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VI

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VII

 

A extra chill in the air, brought on by the cutting wind driving added discomfort in the form of a heavy drizzle. Of course he had known worse, though in those cases the circumstances had been familiar or at least understandable; there was a foe out there looking to harm you and you were willing to return the compliment. Not a village with an odd vibe, intelligence officers acting like local elders, and Her. He knew she was out there, there were types who got so absorbed in their work, that it became the only thing which made sense, and they became territorial about it, no one else could or should do it, so Command let them have their way until the odds played against them and worn out they made The Error. She wasn’t worn out though.

Despite the weather, or maybe because of her positioning the pungent odour of those smokes made her presence known. As he had expected she was signalling. Caution bred of experience would not allow him to look up, there was always that suspicion she was playing a long complex game to lull him, into one killing shot, the one she’d decided to play, not her commanders. Veterans; you could never tell. He started the long, careful process of moving along his right flank, just like she was hefting her sniper rifle, waiting, patient. Slovosskian women snipers had a deadly patience, lying still for a day or more.

An hour later he came upon her settled in a hollow, one she’d no doubt deepened, and she had a covering of local dirt, chin resting on flattened hands, peering contentedly into the gloom. He could not resist, he picked up a pebble and sent it to land just in front of her face, causing the mound which she was to twitch, quick though to turn in his direction.

‘Sergeant,’ she said softly as if greeting an old friend ‘That was very good. I am so glad it was you. Anyone else would have been mortifying,’ and she rolled out, not, he noticed trusting to stand up. She wasn’t sure either.

‘It’s only me. I swear,’ he said, then with the air of someone addressing a member of their own squad ‘Corporal. What the hell are you doing?’

She eased into a crouch.

‘Waiting for you Sergeant. I had to get you out here, by bothering the other patrols. You would eventually arrive. We should talk,’ This said she sat on her haunches hands gripped about her knees, now there was something of the wide-eyed waif about her. That was disturbing. He closed to distance to rifle length and knelt facing her.

‘Have you?’ the words came slowly, because his thoughts were still forming, ones which had a sort of sense, if you embraced what folk who’d never been in War thought of as weirdness ‘Been protecting that village?’ as he spoke he questioned his own perceptions and judgements. Where had that notion come from? Meanwhile she was nodding vigorously.

‘Yes,’ came the firm reply ‘My commanders think I am only out here patrolling. No one ever comes with me,’ she tapped the side of her helmet, her face growing taut  ‘Good.  But too dangerous to be with. It is a good guise for a girl in an army of men,’ the expression brightened ‘I have been sneaking out rations, bringing them to the village for Gadeer, so she can get her strength back for the journey. I’ve convinced her she has to leave,’

‘You convinced her corporal?’

‘Very well,’ she replied buckling under his sceptical tone ‘I volunteered to be an escort out of here, aid the new family to travel to a safer place,’ her face tightened ‘Don’t ask. So you won’t have to make any big lies to your commanders. I’m just asking you to delay that’s all,’

‘Now. Corporal, you are asking a great deal of me. Firstly, are you deserting?’

‘Yes,’ came the defiant retort ‘This is one time too many to shrug off. I don’t care about the politics, like all good soldiers I don’t understand them. Thinking too hard interferes with my fighting ability. This time I just want to see one family get a chance. Did you know most of the young folk have left, with their children. The local folk know full well what’s going to happen. The net is tightening though, more of both our sides coming in, and those who want Gadeer and Eyad removed as symbolisms of an Opposition,’

‘That opposition? Do you know where it leads?’

‘Don’t care. I just don’t want to see another baby die. I can do something good for once. You understand, don’t you Sergeant? Otherwise you wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of meeting with me again. We could have caused a lot of trouble that past night, but we didn’t,’

‘I can’t argue with that Corporal,’ he said, in the act of agreement feeling relief of a burden taken from him. When do you leave?’

‘If I do not tell you, you won’t have to keep the information from anyone. That is only fair to you,’

‘Thank you for that Corporal,’ a question came out, naturally after the years in The Wilds ‘Can you trust those Security Officers?’

She stood brushing off some of the less stubborn dirt. One of those expressions you saw too often on those who went out too often, and he assumed others saw on his face.

‘As much as they trust me,’

Faigai heard, saw and tasted the entirety of his service in the span of the few breaths following her her reply. Life had now come sniping him with that ammunition which did not miss…memories. Supressing a crowd of other emotions he fixed her with the exasperated air any sergeant would lay upon a soldier.

‘Corporal. Even in the short time I have known you I have you fixed as a damn nuisance. I don’t know what you have up there in that head of yours, but it is certainly not common sense as to how armies work,’

He did not appreciate the sly grin that comment caused, fired by the minor insubordination he forged on.

‘If you don’t go back, your commanders might be glad to be rid of you, but they will not be content with losing a scout. A patrol will be sent out. If they head in our direction there will be tension, stand off and maybe shots exchanged and generals will not be happy. If they head towards the village with the notion the locals took you there will be unhappy consequences and the politicians and diplomats will not be happy. Worse than that I will be questioned and interrogated by several layers of command and our own intelligences services, the latter I will not like at all, and they will not like my attitude. Since your people will be conducting them, someone who will not have to do it will decide we need to send out aggressive patrols, and we are back to shots being exchanged, with that village in the middle. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes sergeant,’ she said a little meekly because he had been very eloquent and persuasive in her native language. ‘May I ask what you think is the best course of action?’

Faigai had been obliged to carry out many an action most folk would not call ‘normal’. This was because battlefields were not normal. Here however was one which call for action way above and beyond what even was acceptable on a battlefield. But, when you scanned, considered and evaluated in the light of all you had experienced and reckoned could go wrong what other choice was there?

 

The villagers had been warned and prepared. When the patrols arrived, happily at different times they were greeted respectfully by a man of late years, who although dressed in the villages’ garb bore himself with an air that the two sets of soldiers felt might be more than just a village elder. He handed each group a document, the men recognised the writing on the one in their language. There was a heading with a soldier’s name, rank and number and the statement ‘In conjunction with…’ followed by details which obviously belonged to someone of the opposition. 

‘I have, of my own freewill and judgement resigned my position with the armed forces. I can no longer conduct my duties to the required standard and have therefore taken it upon myself along with this comrade in arms to seek out more productive and useful employment of my skills and experience. This will be carried out with the intention of causing no harm to soldiers of either of our armies,’

And was signed.

The documents were puzzled over by each patrol who became a small crowd expressing words of disbelief and astonishment, though not very eloquently. Resigned? Who got to consider they could resign? The conversations continued all the way back to the respective lines where the statements were handed over to officers who once they had recovered from the shock passed this onto other officers and so forth. Under guidance from political staffs of each the relevant hapless liaison officer with a local and unwilling official visited the village. They were advised by the elder, yes, there had been two strangers seen prowling around the village outskirts, but had avoided contact. Yes, their presence had frightened folk particularly when they had finally come in together and thrust the documents to him. Indeed they had bartered for food then, thankfully had left. There was a very delicate conference between officers of both sides, it was decided for the best that it was to be assumed the pair had actually been meeting for a while and since were of opposite genders had formed a relationship and gone rogue, no doubt to try their hands at banditry. It was agreed this sort of thing could happen with those who had been out too long as individuals patrolling. Thus the reports went back that both had deserted (resigned indeed!) and were officially disgraced to be court martialled on being apprehended, which those who knew them thought very unlikely.

It was just as Banner Sergeant Faigai had anticipated. And would have given them and the family a few days start on any attempt to follow. He and Corporal Jagerin shared one question neither could answer.

Who had fired off that star shell, to fall right where they had been?  

 

 

Advertisement

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VII

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

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VI

‘There was someone out there My Major. I could tell they were sneaking around. Maybe it was luck that blinded them too. Who set off that damn star-shell?’

This Major was used to The Corporal’s mix of respectful address to him and general hostility to anyone she had not met personally but she held responsible for some discomfort to her efforts.

‘I was not informed Corporal,’ he replied still unable to rid himself of the feeling he was always reporting to her and not the other way around ‘It was probably The Mitches. Then you didn’t encounter any reinforced or aggressive reconnaissance?’

‘No My Major. I got as far as the outskirts of the village,’ she pointed idly to the map ‘Saw some shepherds doing shepherding. Whoever was out there was doing the same as I was, I suppose. Only locals in the village and most of those all huddled up for the night,’

The Major’s aide, a lieutenant recently from some layer of higher command, still bridled at her slouch and when they were not active, hands hooked by thumbs into pockets, but The Major told him, for his own sake, she was off-limits when it came to the niceties of military convention and discipline. There was a specific reason why she worked alone, the lieutenant did not know what that was, all he had learned was no one wanted to work with Corporal Jagerin, even if she was reasonably approachable around the battalion lines.

‘I will go out again this night My Major, if you so wish,’ she offered ‘See if I can find out who is out there,’

‘You can Corporal. You will not engage in exchange of fire. You will only defend yourself if close combat arises. Now get some rest,’

‘Yes My Major,’

When she had left the command post The Lieutenant dared speak.

‘My Major. If I may ask. A soldier given orders, not to return fire, even when their life is in danger?’ he hoped from appearing to be concerned for her, he might find out something else.

‘Corporal Jagerin will not allow the situation to arise Lieutenant,’

It was a disappointing reply.

Banner Sergeant Faigai was sitting in the battalion commissary, true the construction was a rudimentary thing of plastic and metal sheets into which were fitted two folding tables and six chairs whose association with comfort was distant. The place had a coffee making machine and five containers holding sandwiches and tins of things claimed as edible, all supervised by a thick set sergeant renowned for being unsympathetic but inventive when he was in the mood for concocting hot meals . In comparison with many places Fergai had served it was luxury, particularly after three days of reports, visiting Brigade Headquarters and briefing members of scout teams on his week’s worth of exploring these Wilds. He had kept his comments about the slovosskian to a bare minimum ‘Someone from The Other Side was out there’ as for the village; ‘it’s another village, like any other, hoping we leave them alone…and watch out for those shepherds, there’s carrying guns folk,’ He swirled the black liquid masking as coffee, wondering what Jagerin had been up to.

‘Flags,’ at the familiar voice using the informal term for his rank he sat up, turning to the man, a thin, rangy fellow who had served five years and did not usually wear a wide-eyed and furtive expression, nor sound urgent, nor move that quickly to sit next to him, leaning across the table like a recruit about to confess some minor infraction.

‘What’s the hell is wrong with you Orolig? You got to take some colonel’s fresh-faced lieutenant son out on night patrol with strict orders to make sure he comes back with clean undershorts?’

‘Flags,’ the man was agitated enough to ignore the old banter ‘You’ve been out there for a full week. Did anything freaky happen. Y’know the sort, ones that don’t fit in reports,’

Faigai stiffened, of course a patrol would be sent out eventually, and he would tell himself he was not the only one trusted to  go out into Neutral Wilds.

‘You urban boys. Walk out side of the city boundaries and any half acre of land with three or more bushes, a tree and five rocks is freaky,’ You had to start with banter, this time it was to draw out what had troubled another long-timer.

‘Give us time Cookie,’ Orolig said with deference to the man, who could to be fair make something edible from the inedible contents of various tins, he nodded and left to stand outside the door to block it. When scouts wanted to talk in private places were off-limits.

‘You not gonna believe this Flags. There was someone out there sniping us with small stones and pebbles. We’d got to the trail beneath the hill. There was a clink and Benz hisses out ‘My helmet. Someone bastard’s throwing stones,’ . Next thing I hear is Longshot saying the same thing. Then there was this giggle,’

‘You were sniped with stones by kids?’ Fergai was sounding he was sounding surprised, surprise was not the emotion, he was already ahead.

‘Not a kid’s voice. Lower, and like they’d been smoking too much. Then a stone clips my boot, right on the heel, another giggle. Night Owl swears he can see someone sloping off, but they stop, turn, wave and then gone, like they dropped into the earth. Lucky none of my guys panic and start shooting, we spread out to trying and keep track but they had gone. The stones though. It was a triangulating pattern. Point, Right Flank, then patrol command. Like they read us, knew we were not in true combat readiness,’

‘Did you get any prints, tracks?’

‘Oh yeah. Tracks. Bare feet. Who professionally works over a patrol with stones and giggles, goes about it in bare feet, then waves you off? There’s either someone out there trying to provoke us into shooting first, or has long gone. Still got their skills, but their mind is lost.  Tonight it could be slit throats. I tell you Flags I can’t figure how to report this without sounding like a fresh intake,’

Fergai had let the the man go one, it gave him time to formulate his reply.

‘Sounds like the one I encountered might be getting cute. Which since there’s no such thing as a cute slovosskian we could have BDD trooper who has indeed long gone; maybe their commanders have let them loose to cause a ruckus. Tell your team to keep it to themselves, unless they want to look fools. Just report in you established a single scout. You due to go out tonight?’

‘Fitch’s crew,’

‘OK. I’ll have a quiet word,’

 

The next dawn, Fitch a stocky phlegmatic fellow whose reports normally bore the words ‘Nothing’, ‘Light’ ‘There’s trouble’  or ‘You don’t want to go there without support,’ approached Faigai in a very irritable mood.

‘Somebody is fooling with us. Throwing stones and giggling. Kept dancing away. I think they are looking to provoke. If we weren’t on this Look But Don’t Shoot routine I would’ve given them a taste of triangulated fire back,’

‘That’s provoking Fitch,’ Faigai pointed out mildly ‘And giving away a position,’

‘It’d would have shoot an’ scoot Flags,’ it was a reasonable reply, if the fellow hadn’t sounded like a teenager being told to clean their room.

By then it was impossible to keep the gossip and rumours from seeping out and command concluding the seeming routine replies to be veterans trying to hide their frustration and embarrassment. Faigai said he would go out alone again, and make sure there were no damn start shells this time. He was assured, once more than no one on this side had fired off a start shell that night.

He could sense the tension, so tight you could play a strong tune on it; this would have to stop. He needed to grab hold the scruff of her neck and figure out if; This was some new BDD trick, or maybe she had long gone and was fooling with everyone….

Or gone local???

To be concluded….   

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…    

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……. 

Thinking about and hoping for Jill Dennison -Filosofa’s Word

As many of you may know Jill has not been in the best of health in recent times. I e-mailed our battling girl the other day, and sadly she is still in hospital suffering with serious heart and kidney issues.

She gave me permission to post this up-date so in her words  “as many of our mutual blogging buddies know what is happening”

As I’ve outlined she is quite unwell and can only manage short messages, but I am guessing will appreciate messages of support and concern.

We all know Jill for her ceaseless battles against political irresponsibility, sheer opportunism and downright hate.

I think I speak for us all, when I write how much we already miss those delightful Monday morning compilations of cartoons, captions, photos and cute videos; along with the adventures of Jolly and Joyful which start the week so well.

And although always ready with a well-aimed tirade against some deserving target or another, Jill has also been there to remind us there are folk who are working so hard to make the world a better place with her Wednesday slot of Good People Doing Good Things.

Let us all give some time in the day to turn our thoughts to Jill Dennison, her family and ‘moggies’, and for those of you in the USA, for her sake don’t give up the fight, the rest of us around the world have got your backs.

Let’s hear it for Jill then and put your own posts up in support of her 

Keep on keeping on kid, you’re a true American patriot 

Folajimi Olubunmi- Adewole- Remembrance

Folajimi Olubunmi- Adewole

This young man dived in the Thames in an effort to rescue a distressed woman. She and another rescuer were thankfully saved. This young hero paid with his life.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-56886435

He is now amongst those who laid down their lives so that others may live. No greater love.

Take some time today and then from time to time in the rest of your life to remember these folk who by their acts enriched the world by reinforcing our belief and hope.

May we never forget.

Union Jack half mast 

Placeholder Image

Musings on Writing (Another series). A Few Words About Sales.

cropped-cropped-mountaindawn-1

It has to be said. There is one great benefit in non-existent sales on your self-published Kindle Volume; when one pops up out of the blue.

That little buzz makes are the effort worthwhile.

 

Sailing Ship

Keep on keeping on people.

Another Launch (Persistence Doesn’t Always Pay, But It’s Satisfying)

To All of You

Easter Day

This the message which I personally embrace. This is the way I see. But it is not for me to pass judgement on other paths.

If you are on a journey which beckons you with Compassion, Respect and Tolerance then who am I to seek fault. That is arrogance.

Whoever you are, wherever you are and if you are striving to work with and for those three you are as worthy of praise and blessings as any. 

May you be rewarded in kind for your efforts.

Best wishes