On The Matter of Asking (a sort of follow up to ‘A Singular Circumstance. One Summer’s Day’) September #BlogBattle-Eschaton

End of Days

Storms whose furies dwarfed the worst of winters past, driving the might of seas up rivers and into the least streams. Lands turbulent, restless as fever haunted sleepers. Mountains in anger threw down rock, snow and ice or hauled up worse from the depths of the earth. Disease flourished in the resultant death. And in the terror came myriad small wars.

For those charged with remaining calm and analytical the evidence led to one plausible conclusion. This in turn begged further examination for this conclusion flew against hard won rational beliefs founded in the sciences and many a mighty machine.  Yet all pointed to lore based on creed of the heart and ephemeral faith . The urgency of the matter compacted what might have otherwise been years of debate into mere days, for the process envisaged was innovative, an appeal to Devine Agencies. Across the breadth of consensus, there was, however, no other option. As one put it.

‘It’s worth a try,’

‘Lady Betrügerin? The Ghost of?’

‘If you likes Custodian Vastberaden. I’m  not fussy. Thanks for recognising me though. A girl likes to have a bit of a reputation. Quite a bit of effort there, getting yourself noticed by us. Took a risk. I could’ve nobbled you without discourse,’

‘It’s a time when risks don’t matter,’

‘I suppose it would be fer you folk, down on the ground there,’

The brief conversation concluded as the mist cleared, and light blue passageway ended with a simple wood arched door. The woman of youthful appearance and three centuries notoriety, knocked with deference, but spoke otherwise.

‘He’s ‘ere Guv’nor,’

‘Thank you Betrügerin,’

Opening the door and with a less than sober gesture of invitation Betrügerin stood to one side allowing the Custodian to pass through.

‘Best of luck with your pitch mate,’ she said and passed back into the mist.

Although the atmosphere of the room seemed clear Vastberaden discerned more mist, of a soft coastal sort, the variance made the task of focusing on the man at the other end of the room, problematic. The only detail The Custodian was certain of, the fellow was tall and studying a map laid out on a table, which might have been bigger than first inspection. Vastberaden supposed there would be challenges to the senses when meeting someone who was arbiter of the fate of the world.

‘Custodian Vastberaden,’ the voice was quite ordinary, paradoxically Vastberaden would have been disappointed if he had been addressed in majestic echoing tones, the business to him would seem to have smacked of ostentation. ‘You did not journey here of your own volition. Sent at the behest of eminent and intelligent people, though you did volunteer,’

No questions,’ thought Vastberaden, ‘It would also be disappointing if he had to ask. He is supposed to have a quite comprehensive knowledge,’

Then there was the silence. Vastberaden concluded he was going to have to do the talking.

‘Correct,’ the fellow said ‘You are here to state the case for Preservation of Your Civilisations’ Status. In the light of evidence to the opposite,’

‘Of course, he can hear my thoughts. But speaking can be more coherent,’

‘After all the study and conclusions based on investigations over the past century. We discovered this link or pathway, and felt a direct approach was the correct thing to do. After all the effort in forging our civilisation, fatalism could not be countenanced,’

There was a sigh.

‘Whereas your response can be considered positive in its level of determination, you must appreciate against the weight of evidence the achievements are outweighed by the mistakes, abuses and of course hubris,’

‘We are aware of the shortcomings. We are not complacent or uncaring. I would also point out that the current amount of suffering of the innocent is comparable to several of our more profligate wars. We struggle to see The Justice, nay even The Example being set by Higher Authority if I may use such a term,’

The figure looked up from the map, Vastberaden discerned emotion, though which one he found he could not make out.

‘You appear not to have perceived the disadvantageous changes you folk are bringing unto the World,’ one hand drifted across the map ‘Here, these are plain to see. For Humanity is not the only concern. Other Life. And Other Dynamics. They have precedence,’ there was a brief neutral gesture for Vastberaden to draw closer. ‘Come closer. You may be able to discern why things are unravelling the way they have been,’

Vastberaden looked down upon a map, whose basic outlines seemed distantly familiar, although total perception was made difficult by the movements and interactions of shapes, some geometric, some reminiscent of clouds or oceans while others tested the senses to comprehend. The Custodian shook his head in bafflement, at this one hand rested lightly on his shoulder, and in a jarring interlude there was a focus, albeit blurred.

Life was a part of The World. A factor which lived under the sway of forces able to sweep lands and oceans clean of it, and yet in its own various dynamics capable of causing those forces to react in ways folk had not expected to react. Many forms found balance and accord, some did not. Humanity appeared to be one such, and thus forged an extreme example of unbalance. Vastberaden considered the panorama and the circumstances unfolding, no the correct word be ‘unravelling’.

He looked up into a face saddened.

‘You understand something of the problem. You folk with such inventiveness and ability have this talent for making things worse,’

‘Aye. This much is obvious. We made great efforts to seek out something which when it was staring us in the face,’

‘There is the irony. Consider your example. In your urge to find a practical and rational answer you did not rely on convoluted recitations, nor some of the more questionable religious practices. You worked on the evidence of activities of my,’ here Vastberaden detected a slight laugh ‘Own band’s extended efforts. Concluded there was a distinct pattern leading to some intelligence beyond your own realms. One combating malevolent people in your fields and cities. Thence was a most dangerous bold strategy of placing your people as potential false targets sought to establish contact,’

‘It cost us several brave folk,’

‘It was unfortunate. Some of my own have not yet, even ever grasped the subtleties of operations against the corrosions. Lady Betrügerin, though as ruthless as any is possessed of a certain whimsy which saved your life, physical. Know this here is an opportunity of insight. We have our own missions against Ignorance, Fear and Intolerance and despite our seeming apparel of celestial power, in the scheme of things are but talented dedicated, small folk. We cannot stop these events you have brought upon yourselves,’

In his career Vastberaden had known many disappointments, some defeats and a fair number of those designated as insurmountable challenges. To avoid shock and dismay he had prepared himself for this endeavour to be one of the latter, mixed with something of the first. Speak calmly, though. Good manners cost nothing.

‘You did, still allow me to have audience. Would you then, by definition have some advice?’

‘There is always advice. This would depend on whether the listener truly wants advice no matter how unpalatable, and not just an alleged solution?’

Vastberaden thought this reasonable. The one facet which had weighed heavily upon him was the notion of making an appeal to a celestial being. After all such folk would not necessarily have the same moral compass, thus what might seem a heartfelt appeal to you could be laughable or worse objectionable to them. And as for advice, well you could listen to as much of it as you wished, then filter through the whole flood looking for gems.

‘I would always listen to advice,’ Vastberaden said, as he often had, for many folk had taken this statement as willingness to wholeheartdly accept what they would say.

The conclave which had debated and finally acquiesced to Vastberaden’s mission walked into the most secret of chambers to discuss and speculate what had, was and might be taking place.  Such was their immersion in the whole venture none of them were truly surprised to find him already seated there. He was quick and economical to advise them he had journeyed to where intended, he had met with someone in authority and had positive news to give them. As was their experience in grave and weighty matters none of them hurried him along, even though a nearby substantial river, had driven by great rains broken its banks, rushed upon and caused the collapse of a castle.

‘There is guidance,’ he said, thoughtfully and told them of the great map and the information thereupon ‘The responsibility lays with everyone.  It is not a spiritual, but a physical matter. The resources of the world cannot be taken granted as servile, it is necessary work with the land, rivers, seas, yea even skies. New disciplines and means have to be learnt, old ones adapted. The great forces once thought to be under control are not, much study is necessary. The work will be hard and long. Everyone must understand, bend their minds and bodies to change,’

The first to speak was a graven military fellow, versed in the ways of war and state security, thus with the shortcomings and weaknesses of territories, rulers, influencers of rulers, those who would be either and of course the mentality of mobs and rumours.

‘This will be a very difficult task, like trying to turn around a great vessel in a narrow shallow when a tide has gripped it,’

‘Indeed,’ agreed Vastberaden, then speaking guardedly added ‘The folk I spoke with can offer some assistance,’

At this a woman appeared at his side, she smiled waved, a cheerful little gesture.

‘Lady Betrügerin,’ she said.

‘The Death Maiden?’ asked a man of theological scholarship and thus rather interested ‘Not legendary then Vastberaden?’

‘I can speak for meself.,’ she snapped ‘Quite real thank you. So is he,’ she pointed to someone turning from a mist to a more discernible figure robed, features hidden by a cowl, and in a thin hand holding aloft a scythe. He was silent. Vastberaden took up the discourse.

‘Those whose representatives you see here, are willing to take some time out from their allotted task purging evil dabblers in demonics, to assist as it were. In expunging those of arguably a more important threat. The ones who will not listen either through greed, ignorance or stubborn intransigence,’

‘Of course we can’t be everywhere at once,’ Lady Betrügerin said and the cowled figure nodded agreement ‘And we can’t go taking everyone of the world. Be a bit drastic. Things are bad enough anyhows.  Only the worst and most loudest, let the others learn. Y’know you can help there, by telling folk the ones taken was smited by Devine Judgement,’

As the cowled figure nodded so did the military man and the theologian; it seemed a reasonable approach the pair thought.

To be fair to the assembly being mortal there was a brief hub-bub, but general agreement.

‘Strange times. But necessary requirements,’ said the current chairman ‘You Custodian Vastberaden must be escorted to and speak with the emperor, in secret of course,’

Vastberaden seemed a smidge abashed and hesitant, Lady Betrügerin sniggered and nudged him.

‘G’wan,’ she enthused ‘Tell ‘em,’

‘I visited him first,’  Vastberaden confessed ‘He was annoyed. Said it would interfere with his gold mining enterprises. He was my first case. He’s gone from this mortal realm,’

Vastberaden rose, out of the chair and into the air with Lady Betrügerin and the cowled figure.

‘Initially I did display great doubt, myself. Then Lady Betrügerin, educated me, as it were. It didn’t hurt at all. Think on it, gentlemen,’ he said.

And left.

A Singular Circumstance. One Summer’s Day (August#BlogBattle- Peculiar)

 

https://bbprompt.com/2022/09/02/september-blogbattle-eschaton/

In Memoriam

Twentieth anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks is observed at the Memorial Plaza

The National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York 

Lay aside your views on The Hows, The Whys, The Blame, The Cause, The Effect and above all the social media clutter.

Remember 2,977 died. 25,000 were injured. Then there were the losses of pregnancies, the subsequent deaths and severe anguish of relatives and friends, the abuse heaped on the innocent. The resonances remain raw.

People were and still are suffering.

One stark reminder for us all, one bitter symbol of an avoidable world-wide blight.

      

On Tidying Up. Another Blog For Another Purpose.

Actions and Consequences

I recently joined a Writing Challenge which has been a rewarding experience on many levels. One of the topics which cropped up in responses / replies was avoiding falling into the trap of being ‘Preachy’ and spoiling a narrative; the possibility of your political or social views getting in the way of the plot and character development.

With this in mind it occurred to me it may be constructive to keep, this my original blog for the subjects associated with Writing and Whimsies, with the occasional side-swipe at WP and WORD. In consequence since I cannot keep my political mouth still to set up a quite separate blog for those subjects.

So in spite of WP, not because of it I do believe a suitable one has been constructed. Its spareness intentional.

My hope is not for this new blog to be an arena for my preferential views alone. Over recent years I have taken an interest in International Relations theories in particular the ‘Realist’ school, therefore there should be something of a detached analysis of how things are the way they are and also how they might go. The underlining theme will be the using of Historical Lessons and Examples.

Of course the site will be experimental and which direction it will go is something not to be predicted. Hopefully many subjects in a very broad arena will be covered. There will not be an aim to be inflammatory or suggest ‘this’ is the correct way. However it would be disingenuous to say these posts might not disturb, maybe challenge some conventional perceptions, on occasions sound bleak and others peculiarly optimistic, in a sardonic way.

The initial post will cover the first use of Nuclear Weaponry upon Japan. A subject redolent with opinions and beliefs. One which in its demonstration of Humanity’s ability to kill many, swiftly, caused a social shock wave which still resonates down the decades making it almost an article of faith that you cannot not have an opinion. I will not intend to justify, I will not intend to dismiss those who are still angered by its use. The intention will be to use this event as an illustration of one of Humanity’s Marches to a fearful outcome, mostly because of the near inevitability caused by a herding surround of circumstances.

The reader will be left to reach their own judgement.

A link:

A Question of Inevitability?

Places of Resolve

Awaiting

‘My poor darling,’ her hand touched his forehead ‘What a dreadful cut. I do wish you would wear your helmet,’

‘My sweet,’ he replied with warmth taking her hand and kissing it ‘There was only a brush of steel against skin. You know how I feel about helmets, they do impede the vision,’

There came the endearing little pout as she set to scolding him.

‘Your vision will be lot more impeded if your silly head was cut off,’ she tugged his nose for emphasis ‘Now let me clean that gash up properly The Good Lord God knows where that rag pretending to be a bandage has been,’

Thus he did sit patiently by the log fire of their apartment as she tended to the wound with her own astringent, following with application of the clean linen bandage. He thought himself the most fortunate man in the Empire to have found this beautiful, caring, able woman who had consented to be his wife, doubly so her being willing to share his lodgings at the outpost while the campaign against the stubborn clan continued.  

Once she was satisfied with her ministrations, a simple evening meal was partaken of and as was their custom, they sat before the fire, she curled up on his lap, head and one hand resting on his chest, each savouring the closeness of the other.

‘I worry for you so,’ she whispered ‘Out there upon those bleak fields and slopes. The risks are so great, and for what? A piece of ground an emperor does not even know about much less care for,’ her breath caught and she looked up at him, deep brown eyes pleading ‘You have rank and some say in the matter. They might listen to you,’

His frustration was shaped as a sigh with a groan.

‘Lord Frygem still wishes to raise his profile with Duke Mereth who remains the favoured advisor of Prince Nahdel who……’

‘…..wishes to prove to the Emperor that he too has his princedom completely under his sway,’ her completion of the litany ended with her own sigh ‘While the troublesome Clan K’ith Sondours refuse to trust the word of known Oath Breakers,’

‘It seems the only Oaths which count are those to The Emperor, know ones dares cross a strong emperor who also has the confidence of The LifeGuard. Everyone else thus scrabbles for their joint or separate favours,’

The frequently visited topic discussed, they sat in silence holding each other, until he said, kissing russet hair ‘Away with our gloom for this night. Let’s read the play: ‘The Adventure of Stefan and Alosia,’

‘This time I’ll be Stefan and you be Alosia,’ she announced, the previous plaintive sadness replaced by a rather appealing nuance in tone and glance. By the time he had returned with the bottle of wine to aid their intended comical narration she was curled up peeking over the script of the popular comedy. They had, a while back agreed the tale of a couple facing an arranged marriage turning the tables on the arrangers to suit the couple was a theme in which they found certain strands of empathy. Their efforts at acting this slightly bawdy theatre always raised their spirits.

She awoke tender with memories of the night. He had, of course risen before her, for duties and profile elsewhere called. As was his practice he had left breakfast dishes laid out, oatmeal and water for coffee bubbling in pots hung over the fire, while there as always a dainty vase of dew damp small star petalled flowers, she held them up and breathed in the freshness. As she drank her coffee she would read her copy of ‘Varow and Betherelle’s Encounter’, based on another factual couple, and the first of a series of verses recording their rather controversial deeds, popular amongst folk at the lower end of society. Good for resolve, she thought in the dawn still a measure away.

Lord Frygem, a stocky man of nearing middle years believed himself to know something of warfare, yet was possessed of enough basic sense to appreciate advice and experience, so was glad to see the outline, albeit hunched, almost furtive. Mercenaries were a variable crew, he would thank Duke Mereth for this one. Checking the large clan raiding force, holding them and pushing them back. Frygem ruefully had to admit his border troops liked the man and his skill. Also he had kept to his ducal contract, some might have given up on the task, particularly with a pretty and shy little wife in tow. That was a puzzle. Risking her safety in The Wilds. Still a man needed his comforts.

What did rankle Frygrem and touched on a raw spot was having the damn LifeGuard here. Observing. Five of them, long dark green coats, wide brimmed black hats. Their officer a hard faced major intoning ‘Imperial Stability’ at him. The Clan was a local problem. Did LifeGuard not have better things to do? He scowled in the direction of the far off group. Beneath their dignity to take part.   

‘Captain Leiding,’ he hailed ‘Surveying the ground I trust?’

‘From dawn Lord Frygrem,’ the mercenary said ‘The Clan has quit the hill and removed themselves. They have given up on the incursion. We can take back the hill and await re-enforcements. The crisis has passed,’

Emboldened by the encouraging news Frygrem’s irritation at Imperial Supervision took hold.

‘A retreat?’ his eagerness unsettling the mercenary captain  ‘We might pursue them,’

‘If we had a larger reserve,’ Leiding said, intending to bring neutrality into the conversation. ‘Our current force needs rest and recuperation,’

‘Whereas I can appreciate your caution captain, as your profession values conservation of resources, in my world, political demonstration is equally as weighty,’ this was accompanied by a brief twitch of his head towards the LifeGuard. ‘I would like to consider the ground myself. Accompany me,’

Since there was no evidence of Clan numbers Leiding saw little point in arguing here and hoped he could dissuade Frygrem during the ride. He gestured to four men selected for skill with crossbow to accompany the lord’s small entourage.

‘This is Lord Frygrem’s idea. Keen eyes,’ he said to his own ‘Bows loaded, but aloft to avoid accidents,’

The approach was not the issue, the slope and the sparse cover would be a risky place for an ambush. Leiding insisted his group reached the crest first, sharp eyed they scanned, dismounting, to avoid being an easy target.

‘Captain,’ the lord called out impatient after the slow climb ‘I would advance,’ Leiding surveyed the grasses, heathers, gorse  and small outcrops; the only true cover a copse in the far distance. The land  appeared safe, though ‘Appeared’ was never a word he trusted.

His pause obviously did not suit Frygrem, the man advanced his horse at a swift trot, until he was amongst Leiding’s group, disrupting their watch.

‘My Lord,’ Leiding said, command in his voice ‘Dismount,’ Frygrem having briefly looked ahead turned his attention back to the LifeGuard.

The brief warning was the gorse bush twitching against the direction of the breeze, too fast though for the message to go from eye to head to hand. The figure rose already losing off their own bolt, before starting to duck. By the time even the swiftest of the party at the crest was physically reacting Frygrem was tipping back from his mount, either it was the bolt in his chest or the fall from his horse, killing him.

Whether he was dead by the time three crossbow bolts flew towards the gorse, one hitting the ambusher it was of no consequence.

Against the backdrop of clamour from the entourage Leiding and his men viewed the body, caution staying them.

‘High Holy,’ breathed one ‘He was swift,’

‘Little,’ added another ‘That’s how he hid,’

‘Patient,’  said the third

‘Steady,’ concluded the fourth, adding, alarmed ‘Captain?’

He was uncaring of the warnings from his men and the indignation from the entourage, drawn to brief view of russet hair loosened as the ambusher fell backwards. There should be anger, anguish, at least confusion. Why was there admiration, laced with hope, melding with confusion?

Voices were but sounds as he reached the body, eyes flickering, the grimace of triumph softening to a smile.

‘It was a lovely breakfast,’ she said, raising her cap ‘Look I wore your posey,’

Her accent was no longer regional encompassing three princedoms, there was the distinctive rolling lilt of these clan folk, an urgency caused a cough, blood running from her mouth.

‘I taught you too well,’ he said.

‘I did not play thee, dear husband. There was no long plan. It was only when your contract drew you here. I had prayed there would just be scraping like wee dogs, then going away,’

He stroked her hair. A lord’s death. Who cared?

‘You do not hold Clan deaths against me?’

‘They should have stayed in our own lands,’ she slurred ‘My father, always counselled  The Chief to stop raiding. Yet, Frygrem had to go, a warning,’

‘It was deftly done,’

‘While you boys were out brawling I learnt the exits,’

 ‘There’ll be reprisals,’

A pained little laugh.

‘With The LifeGuard hovering around. Them and their adherence to Stability? Look not surprised, a Clan Chief’s niece learns a much of politics,’

A tearful chuckle was his response.

‘That was the marriage you were running from,’

‘I think I saw him die yesterday,’

‘What in the Second Hell is he doing?’ someone on the crest demanded.

One of the crossbowmen shrugged. The arrival of the LifeGuard Colonel stilled all conversation.

Their shared laughter stopped, his face grave as he placed the knife in her hand.

‘Also as I taught you,’ he said ‘It makes sense, for I let a lord die on my watch, grave mistake. More to the point, I can’t spend time on this realm without you,’

Her eyes were losing focus, breath ragged.

‘I could not leave you alone,’ she said and plunged in the blade.

Only the Colonel of LifeGuard did not seemed surprised.

The Colonel of LifeGuard bore the tirades of the Duke and Prince with an impassive disinterest. They owed more to the Oakhostian Empire than it did to them. They knew full well. When they ran out of ire, he spoke.

‘You were fortunate The LifeGuard was there to return the young woman’s body to the Clan, the whole business could have spread from Clan to Clan like a gorse fire. Never mind this Clan was an inveterate nuisance, Clans rally when Princes push their luck. The LifeGuard will have to attend to this,’ he let the words hang, the warning, LifeGuard were arbiters of this Emperor. ‘Captain Leiding was obviously being generous in tending her last religious rites. Being confused she stabbed him. Unfortunate. I will tender my report on the matter, both to The Grand Oaken Throne and my Commanders. You should await the Emperor’s Word. Do not venture beyond that crest. It is his wife I feel sorry for, secretly fleeing in distress,’

He left.

The winds blew across the freshly raised twin mounds. Four men crossbowmen, and four Clansmen had stood watch all the day. The sun settled, the quartets nodded to each other, and returned  to their own ranks.

Newly planted flowers quivered in the wind.

The tenth draft might be the foundation for the official report. Only LifeGuard’ s grim fortress Drygnest would know the captain was their own, despatched to act as mercenary, mining fertile battlefields for nobility’s indiscretions. Dangerous road, sometimes a LifeGuard went in so deep they lost perception. Usually going hard rogue taking lives like tankards of ale, conspiring for thrills. Instead here a fellow had stepped off the road, onto softer pastures, tripped when he came back onto the road. Tendered his way out with dignity, and it seemed love.

The Colonel looked to the copies of play and verse. Romance. Just as likely to kill.  

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I Ask Of You A Difficult Task

Truth be known. Some might think this as two tasks. Some might feel the source material and sentiments are not appropriate. Stay with me though.

Firstly I would ask you to read the following Russian (there’s the current trigger word) WWII poem by writer and war correspondent Konstantin Simonov, written in 1941 to actress Velentina Serova. The moving work was carried by many USSR soldiers, wrapped with a picture of their wife or girlfriend, it became an unofficial icon, a means of coping, a hope the bearer would survive.

Wait for Me

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that did not wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
How I made it, we shall know,
Only you and I.
You alone knew how to wait –
We alone know why!

That was the easy part.

Now I want you to think of that poem not as a soldier to his love, I want you to see the writer as HOPE, writing to you. I ask you to not to think on how moving to read of such intimacy between two people. I want you to think of this notion HOPE we hold so dear, speaking to you. Of course, within you, some of the words and phrases will change to fit your perceptions, this is fine; the necessity is to cling to HOPE.

In the spirt of the poem this is not the soft HOPE we all evoke ‘Gee I hope things will be better’ and then leaving the rest to someone or something else. This is the dogged, persistent HOPE in the face of all seeming evidence to the contrary. The one which keeps us carrying on and not falling into the mires of Fear, Dread, Despair or those wretched excuses for not wishing to face Reality: Conspiracy Theories and Fashionable Cynicism. HOPE which takes you beyond the boundaries of Reason. HOPE which all your experience thus far tells you is a naïve and pointless exercise, because all the evidence, dependant on the situation is whispering or screaming at you there is nothing left but Doom and Gloom, ‘Roll up all the maps’  ‘Shred those inspirational posters’  ‘Sing nothing but lamentations,’ …….and so on. Yet, HOPE is there, just because.

This HOPE is a hard Task-Maker. It does not promise you perfect solutions. It does not try to sell you The Happy Dawn or The Cheerful Ending, Song (and roll credits) This HOPE is about the beginning, the one which is unsatisfactory but better than all the alternatives which could arise. This is the HOPE for a grudging end to fighting and an ill-humoured backing off. This is the HOPE which serves up rations, blankets and some shelter, to stave off the hunger, the dispassionate elements of weather and the fear. But this is the HOPE which lays the groundwork for other HOPES to seed and grow and from them even brighter ones and so on.

This is a tough HOPE. It is used to being mistaken for and called other names such as Fatalism, Cynicism, Realpolitik or Pragmatism. This HOPE knows them well and sometimes even rides in on their vehicles, grinning knowingly because it has turned them to its use.

This HOPE knows it treads a lonely and harsh road. Yet it bids you follows, for without this rough companion your eyes are clouded with grey hopelessness or blood red rage, your ears are filled with screams which will not be blocked out, your meals taste of ashes and you smell burning and dead. Your thoughts are ragged, your heart turns to a husk and your capacities for Compassion, Tolerance and Respect wither away to a sharp stalks fit only to be used to lash out in futility as you stagger in a haze seeking a solace which in the paradox of human nature you deny; Hopelessness.

Wait therefore, beyond the roiling caused by emotions of the latest media feed, and the confusion of a myriad of discordant sounds. Wait not for the perfect dawn, the soft tender brush of first sunlight, the cheer of birdsong and the growing warmth of day. HOPE as you wait for the coming soon of night’s end; HOPE for the storm and the chill to end; HOPE your shelter will hold fast. Then as you rise HOPING for HOPE, embrace its own patch of warmth, its sliver of comfort, its whisper that your HOPE is one voice in a choir which despite all that may be visible never stopped singing HOPE‘s song. For all The World

You may scoff, you may doubt, you may even wonder just what this post was about. You should not be surprised to feel so, I did give you advanced warning of what was ahead.

You may go away, feeling you’ve ‘Got it’. Then in unknown days ahead come to feel the return of the burden of the media feed and things you feel you have learnt and your hold on HOPE start to lessen. You should not feel surprise to feel those either, I know I will. Thus you must return to holding tight to the rough calloused hand of this HOPE.

A Difficult Task to consistently HOPE with all your heart.

Today It Is Ukraine. Yesterday It Was Elsewhere. Tomorrow? This Never Rests.

Where do we begin? How do we explain?

24th February 2022. Another Date To Remember….So many events, actions and commentaries since the day Putin and his court decided to take the next step in their endeavours to bring The Ukraine back under Kremlin control. The avalanche into the medias has been such that I literally had to check the start date. It was as if Time measured in days had ceased to be a relevant method of recording, all that counted was The Narrative, every daily action is affected by The Narrative, even Sunrise and Sunset are but part of the backdrop. So many folk are asking ‘How could this happen?’ Understandable.

Under the lens of the seemingly disturbing and dispassionate study of International Relations’ Realism theories what is happening in the Ukraine is predictable, almost inexorable. However this is not the arena to be bandying terms such as ‘Anarchic World System’, ‘Biopolarity’ or ‘Interests’. Their uses are better suited to academic discussions of less vivid times and not against the scenes of raw death and suffering.

As with most events, cases and mindsets in Europe and East of the Dnieper into Russia to focus on How We Got Here is a long road. In terms of Ukraine one which requires a journeying back centuries. To Kievan Rus of the 9th Century (No Vlad you got that wrong about it not being a nation), its disintegration in the 11th to 12th centuries and the subsequent seven centuries of empires, nations and tribes fighting for territory until by the 19th Century it became part of the Russian Empire. There is a pause. Then with the intense industrial wars of the 20th Century the whole complexity of nations, peoples and beliefs starts again. For nothing is simple in Europe / Russia; arguably a portion of land which in terms of area and populations has been a place of more conflicts than any other part of the world. Heritages, folk memories, ethnicities ,injustices often correct, and always very selective run deep. No coincidence the arms industries and sciences settled then proliferated here. Blame America of the World’s ills? Blame its parents.

None of this excuses Putin and his court. They had enough recent lessons to know this would not be a swift walk in. Finland 1939. Ukraine Nationalist Insurrection 1944 to…1955?. Afghanistan 1979 to 1989; a toxic baton taken over by the West in 2001 to 2021. Chechnya (a running sore, still)  The USA / UK’s hubristic invasions of Iraq 2003 to 2011. To name the more prominent ones. And those were ones with military costs (aside from the minor fracas over the 1980 Olympics). Another big power, deluded by its apparent military might falls into another quagmire, an old, old story they never bother to read. They don’t get to walk away from this one though. This is happening in The First World.

And suddenly Western Europe is flexing financial, political, social, cultural and commercial muscles. China is concerned and arguably the USA is running to catch up. Where did that surge of anger and resolve come from? Two decades of teeth grinding frustration at the rise of suspect money? Two decades of seeing Russia is quite as capable of dishing out even more than The USA can in terms of military ‘solutions’. Maybe all those decades of The Cold War and what could happen if it turned warm and those echoes of two world wars came crashing back? Take your pick; mix and match? Though this is harder to fight against Putin. You can blow up a tank, it’s not so easy to destroy a series of expulsions from an international community; you can try to threaten to invade everybody, but you can’t be everywhere at once.

Not that this is of much comfort for those huddled in a cold basement somewhere in Ukraine, short of food, water and maybe important medicines; children crying, walls and floors shaking; the sounds of war getting nearer. Not much help when you have been on the road for days and are in a situation where you are grateful for the least of shelters and supplies which only go from day to day, uncertain of where you family are, not knowing what will be left to return to. War was ever like this. There will never be a clean, swift, surgical war. They tear, they grind, they are careless as they thrash around once the first plan and initial ideas burn up in the consuming destruction and counter destruction. What is happening in Ukraine is bad, it is unthinkable!… No. Think again. You know war did not stop with 1945, but was not just limited to those which made the nightly news. To a villager in some far away third world location to destruction visited by local security forces, militia or self-styled resistance groups, the horror and the suffering are the same. If you are distressed by one, then you should be equally distressed by them all. Selective outrage just does not cut it for the innocent. Ukraine is on TV, it is an example written in burning letters twenty stories high, laced with the choking tang that comes with the conflagration, the fuel of which you are advised not look to deeply at; your imagination will suit.

You should feel anguish. You should donate aid as best you can. You should shout against this invasion. You should also give some of your wrath to those who try and justify naked aggression or worse divert attention because it suits their own blinkered views. There are folk out there on all sides of the political divides who by default have blood on their hands because they could, but did not react or claimed reaction was wrong. A crime just as bad, in the dead or weeping eyes of the innocent. You see nothing is simple, we are fortunate this very visible one in Ukraine seems so. There are some in small shadowed corners of the world where the lines are blurred and twisted.

So we watch and we wait. But we don’t get to switch channels or turn to the sports entertainment or fashion pages so easily. This is First World ‘Business’. It demands and sucks in the attention of all. But remember, if we in the rest of the First World do get out, without a Covid-like spread, there will be a First World nation to repair, while across this Globe, the same miseries and sufferings will continue.

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?  

 

 

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…