River Andal, Part 3
Hi folks! Hey, sorry I’ve been so neglectful of the blog here lately. Part of it is due to a recent freelance editing job I did for a friend of a friend the past several weeks, for which I even had to skip a weekend update for the Heroines Blog. Anyway, I’m back to writing for myself for the time being and can hopefully get more posted to this blog and continue my story of the River Andel.
“Six feet high, but has dirt packed against the inside high enough for the fuckers to kneel behind the palisade and bloody pick us off at their leisure,” Brenal informed Major Kanel, drawing a map in the dirt. “I also saw a handful of two- and three-pounders mounted on swivels along the wall and a half-dozen howitzers facing the river. Past that there’re two more lines of defense. The first is a ring of seven sandbagged artillery emplacements, with two to three falconets per battery. Two of those emplacements overlook the entryway facing the forest, easily within grapeshot range—that’s four falconets they can fire one at a time at whomever comes through the gate.”
“Shit,” Kanel grimaced, glaring down at the diagram. “So anyone through the door ends up shredded meat. You said something about one more line of defense?”
“Their encampment is at the top of the hill where all of their tents and all twelve mortars are housed,” she continued. “It’s surrounded by a partial palisade, open on four sides with paths running down to the batteries and main wall.”
“So the only option we’re going to have is a night attack,” the major mused, scratching at his four-day beard and scowling. “Fuck, I hate night attacks—too many factors we can’t control.”
“You estimated three hundred defenders?” a fusilier corporal asked from nearby.
“More than enough to cover all of the cannon in shifts over the course of the night,” Brenal nodded. “They’re alert but not edgy,” she went on. “I suspect they’ve been told to expect an attack, but don’t know that we’re this close.”
“And a night attack should help keep it that way,” Kanel agreed. “Still, I don’t like the idea of sending your grenadiers headlong into four barrels of grape.”
“Scout chief Ina suggested that since the walls are only six feet, it should be easy for our men to boost each other up and over,” Brenal told the major.
“You know, the stupidly obvious solutions have always been my favorite,” Kanel admitted, eliciting a few chuckles among the gathered officers and noncoms. “Alright, here’s what we’ll do,” the major decided. “Captain Bartz and I will take the voltiguers and most of the line infantry and launch a feint against that east entrance to try and draw their attention that way. Lieutenant,” he addressed Brenal, “you take your grenadiers and Sergeant Ashe’s fifty fusiliers and go over that southern wall. Make those two batteries overlooking the gateway your primary targets. Once you’ve taken those out, the rest of us will storm the gates and join you. We’ll take the high ground and capture the camp and mortars as a group. Questions?”
No one had any.
“Good,” he continued. “We’ll let the men rest up for a couple hours, then move on the hill come sundown.”
* * *
“…and clearly he’s the most pompous, dumb-fuck king who ever lived,” Ina was telling a group of soldiers gathered about as Brenal sat down with them, around a half-hour to sundown. “Lady Aress stands there, mud and blood splattered in her copper hair and across her legionary armor—some of that blood from two of the king’s sons and several of his elite guards. Her husband, General Garran, stands before the throne in his officer’s cuirass. And this dimwit king has the gall to tell the general to send the Lady away, that ‘surrender talks are no place for a simple woman.’” The others started laughing, partly at Ina’s imitation of the arrogant king’s earnest-but-stupid voice and facial expressions, but mostly at the thought of someone finding the legendary Lady General Aress to be a simple woman.
Brenal had to admit that Ina was a very talented storyteller. Her facial expressions added as much to her tale as her tone. She adopted a regal and competent expression for Lady Aress, a stern and annoyed expression for General Garran, and an arrogant and obtuse expression for the king.
“So General Garran, being the smooth bastard he was, takes it in stride, aye,” the scout continued. “He looks down at the fat little fuck and says, ‘I agree. It’s a good thing there’s nothing simple about my wife.’ And the king looks completely shocked, like he can’t believe some lowly general would talk down to him.” Her imitation of the king’s shock and indignation sent the group into another uproar. “So the king sputters for a moment, then says, ‘have they no sense of protocol and decency in your nation? I demand that you send the woman away so we can conduct our business like civilized people.’ The general stares the king down for another moment, then says ‘all of your sons are dead and my men have slain or captured every soldier in your army. You have no room to make demands.’ The little king sputters again, then sneers at General Garran. ‘I’m going to lodge a complaint with your senate,’ the little wanker shouts. ‘I refuse to be bullied by some common, barbarian thug.’” Brenal smiled and the others laughed at the little woman’s arm-waggling imitation of the king’s angry tirade.
Ina continued, “‘I agree,’ Lady Aress told the king before General Garran could reply. ‘It’s a good thing there’s nothing common about my husband.’” The lieutenant chuckled and the others burst out laughing at her punchline. “The general somehow manages not to laugh,” Ina ended her story. “He just gives his wife this look as if to say ‘thanks a hell of a lot, dear.’” They continued to laugh through her imitation of the general’s amused/annoyed look.
“Excellent story,” a private applauded. “You almost sound like you were there for the conversation.”
“Don’t be silly, aye,” Ina chided sassily. “I was home, taking care o’ their kids, obviously.” That got a few more chuckles.
A young man in voltiguer uniform stretched as he stood. Brenal thought she remembered his name being Tannis. “I wish we had someone like General Aress fighting beside us tonight,” the infantryman commented.
“Din’ need her, lad,” Grenadier Sergeant Koss told him, grinning between his grizzled mutton-chops. “Ye obviously ain’t seen Lieutenant Brenal inna scrap. She’s better tha’ any half-mystical heroine what’s been dead three-hundred years.”
A chorus of “hear-hears” broke among the grenadiers and some of the veteran infantrymen. Brenal found herself glad she’d outgrown blushing at others’ praise.
“Really?” the skirmisher asked, looking over at the one-eyed, battle-worn, and probably rather unheroic-looking Lieutenant Brenal Derron. The expression on the young man’s face suggested he couldn’t tell if they were putting him on or not.
“Aye!” another Highlander put in. “Storming those bloody entrenchments at Annamore, the lieutenant took a focking grenade to the face, blowing her on her ass, like. To her whoreson pretty face,” he repeated. “And she gets right back up, bleeding out the right side her face—eye, ear, and nostril—just like nothin’s happened. Pulls that bastard sword of hers and leads the Thirty-Second rest of the way up the focking mountain. All the while, our buglers are blowing retreat.”
“Really?” Tannis asked Brenal, looking awed.
“More or less,” Brenal shrugged as she got to her feet. “They exaggerate, of course. I didn’t hear the withdrawal blown because my hearing was blasted all to hell, and these bastards are too dumb not to follow me,” she admitted. A few laughs and a couple cheers followed her comment. “But keep in mind one doesn’t make officer in a Highland infantry regiment by being meek and complacent,” she continued, patting the young man’s shoulder as she passed.
The hero worship in the young man’s eyes was hard to miss.
Thanks for reading, folks! Any comments and feedback are most welcome. Continued in part 4.