March 6, 2010
Here we are with the first of hopefully many little written story accounts that take place during the Revolutionary War of Arcania, circa 75-79 AC (Remember takes place entirely after 896 AC), when Arcania was trying to separate from the greater Mannish Empire by holding the island.
This initial part occurs in 77 AC, following the successful creation of an Imperial beachhead on Mayhab beach, due South of Charlescoven.
Colonel Augustus Janner surveyed the beach with all the scowling and frowning one would expect from a seasoned military commander. Troops marched from ship to sand with eager eyes and knives sharpened over years of waiting for even a slim chance to meet face-to-face with their traitor kinsmen. The sun made them glint as it cast its last few rays of the day, making the new arrivals seem like bloodthirsty wolves in the night.
Janner himself had arrived with the initial fleet, and had watched as the beach-head grew from a relatively small gathering of ships to the markedly more impressive operation now unfolding, as tents and supply crates littered the horizon for several hundred yards, with new ships and new deliveries arriving, as he insisted, every eight hours on the nose. He always enjoyed the number “eight”, it was his favourite. He dimly recalled his first time on the battlefield, where he single-handedly halted the enemy in their tracks with eight teams of specialist troops, his fixation with the number undoubtably began there.
His jaunt through the haze of memory however as he noticed a number of soldiers fraternizing around a fire. Ordinarily his annoyance would stem from the fire being so close to the medical tents, but for the moment the cause was surely the topic of discussion the unfortunate three had chosen for debate. The topic, as is often the case around campfires in unfamiliar surroundings, was ghosts.
“I hear they don’t even make noise” said one, failing to see his grammatical oddity, “And they can chuck you fifty feet in the air with a look!” said another. The third one attempted to interject, but was perhaps mercifully cut short as Janner loomed over him from behind.
“What is this ridiculous nonsense?” he stated, using his commanding voice, honed through years of quelling such trivialities.
“Uh…we-we were just talking about the ghost soldiers the witchborns* are using, s-sir…” If sheep could stutter in fear, most assuredly this soldier’s name was Dolly. Janner recognised this, unfortunately.
“The witches don’t have any ghosts, private. What they do have is illusions, like those ghost soldiers you believe in.” Janner liked to place emphasis on belief, somehow it gave him a sense of greater power, at least he thought so. “And the sooner you get that scum out of your head, the sooner I get to send you to go find that out for yourself.”
“Y-yes sir”, Dolly whimpered, he most assuredly did not want to continue this discussion further. Nor did his comrades by the looks of things, as they gradually inched around the fire, perhaps hoping to make a run for it when Janner stopped looking in their direction.
“Now, you’ve got twenty minutes of daylight left. I suggest you clear your heads with a nice ocean swim.” He pointed towards the coastline, a sneer covering his face like a hyena looking for flesh to chew. The trio immediately took off, hoping more to be away from their frightful commanding officer than to avoid their punishment in the icy waters. “Psh, ghost soldiers. Those witches sure can tell a story.”
The rest of the night passed with little incident. A few supply crates had been mishandled and some soup was subsequently spoiled, a small team of cadets had foolishly asked Janner for directions to their tents (He suspected they would soon be nearing the halfway point of the route he’d given them, an hour ago), and the three privates had yet to return from their swim, but otherwise rather uneventful for a night in what was ostensibly still enemy territory, virtually untouched by Imperial troops in the two years the conflict had already lasted.
Janner passed the time before his customary nightcap in his usual fashion, examining the pieces on his map of the island in his custom-tailored wartent. An egotistical man as one might presume, the tent was barely large enough to contain the table on which the map was pinned, much less Janner as well.
As he peered closely at a small horse figurine, dabbing a brush delicately to paint one of its hooves, a ruckus began outside. Talk of three privates in the water made Janner realise immediately who the talk was of. A young cadet, one Janner had yet to recognise, peered into the tent. “Colonel Janner, cadet Loren reporting, sir.” He immediately disliked this cadet.
“You will speak when you are spoken to first cadet, is that clear?” He showed his dislke in the typical manner of not altering his focus in the slightest, there were still two more hooves on his horse to paint after all.
“Now you may report.”
“Sir, the duty roster shows three privates that have failed to report on time. Additionally, we have recovered the bodies of three privates matching their description several meters West along the beach.”
“Drag them out to deeper waters, the tide should pull them out.” Had he bothered to look at him, Janner would have noticed the look of shock on the cadet’s face. “Find replacements quickly, make sure the Western perimeter is watched more closely this time.”
The cadet hung around at the tent entrance, quietly observing Janner as he painted and arranged his figures on the battlefield, before Janner realised the cadet was actually still there. “Dismissed, cadet.”
He quickly scurried away.
At some point between the naive cadet and the eighth group of cavalry figurines, Janner fell asleep in his prized sanctum on the foreign lands. He wasn’t sure precisely when he awoke, only that the moon was near its peak and just beginning to show through the clouds. A full moon, naturally. The beach-head was soon bathed in a luminescent pale light, though Janner stayed little to admire the delicate beauty of the scene, before returning to his wartent.
The one thing that Janner noted in his brief moment of appreciation was the silence, not a single sound of motion beyond the water lapping against the beach could be heard. It must have been past the usual lightout period, for the grounds to be so quiet, yet many tents still had their candles flickering within. He made a note of which tents were in such a state, he would need to reprimand the soldiers therein later.
However, within moments of returning to his painting, Janner was once again interrupted with a ruckus outside. This time the cause was far less evident, a raucous cacophony of voices bleeding together from all around the beach. “Ya got some nice little men ‘ere Colonel.”
“Thank you, and you will speak when spoken to cadet.”
“Oh? I tink ya got me confused wit somebody else.” Janner put down his brush with a thud, before turning around to face the impetulent ward, but his look quickly turned from anger to awe at what he saw.
Stood in the doorway of the tent, was a tall, portly man, covered in tattoos of a tribal sort, pieces of bone and wood dotted about his flesh. The largest piece clothing he bore was undoubtably the cape of leaves and vines hung about his neck, and the most fortunate the expansive furred loincloth draped about his waist. What Janner found most shocking about the man however was that he could see the doorway of the tent through him, as a pale blue light seemed to emanate from his form. “My name be Chief Akatar’is, last chief o’ de Der’o Fasciid.”
“You must be one of Arcanon’s witches. Where are you then?” Janner looked about, masking his fluster remarkably well. “Where are you putting out this illusion?”
“Oh I dun’ think you’d like anyone makin’ me out of illusion, Colonel. I be a far more dangerous sort than ye give’n me credit for.”
Janner was having none of this, whatever phantasm or figment was being used, it was annoying him immensely in his private vault of calm. He swiftly drew his sword and plunged it into Akatar’is’ stomach, straight to the hilt, with neither mercy nor emotion. Glamers would not protect the savage from his steel.
“Yeah, that dun’ work on folk like me. Y’see?”
Janner jumped back, the sword fell limply to the ground, Akatar’is was completely unharmed, his stomach hardly even jiggled from the blow. “Folk like me, ya need sometin extra special ta drive us through wit.”
Suddenly, Janner became immediately aware of how incredibly quiet it had gotten outside, and peered around the chief to see outside the tent. Almost everywhere he looked, another glowing semi-transparent savage stood, facing him, not a single soldier visible anymore, the entire beach-head covered. “Dis island, it’s got a will o’ it’s own.”
Janner looked back at Akatar’is, attempting to maintain his composure. “An’ it chooses who stays, an’ who goes.” The grinning chieftain waved his arms open, “An’ as ya can see, it dun’ like you very much.” Janner sneered at the apparition, hoping he could blink his eyes and wake up asleep at his table again.
“Now I hear ya don’ got many ghost stories back in ya Empire, Colonel”, Akatar’is stepped forward, causing Janner to flinch back suddenly and slam into the table behind him, “Such a shame. Y’see, this one?”
The ethereal chief drew close, until Janner could almost see entirely through him.
“This one’s a real nightmare!”