Saturday, 4 December 2010

For King and Country

Been a while since I've posted anything here but now that I've finished this story I'll have two stories I can post. This story is the second story I have written about Graham Drakkon, who is a distant descendant of Nathaniel Drakkon. On TWC several of us started an RPG set 2000 years after what is known as the current period of For Honour and Glory history, although it is not a definate future, only a possible one. In this time period things have moved on, technology has advanced and instead of clear threats like evil monsters, people are dealing with other nations and the dreams of conquest they all hold. While my writing in the FHaG current period is rather grey in terms of morality at times, something I think brings it more in line with the excellent writing of Chadden and also Mordus rather than some of the White Realm originals (apart from maybe Andy and his rather grim Chronicle), this is a setting which is darker in tone, yet my writing in it so far is pointing back to more idealistic times as a balance. Kind of backwards. So on to the story, the first chronologically about Graham Drakkon, although the second written. The other story will follow shortly.

For King and Country

Graham Drakkon dived over the table and rolled on his back before coming up into a sitting position behind the table which was on its side. He had both felt and heard the musket shots roar overhead. With his back against the wood the Weissland officer assessed the situation. His musket lay across at the other side of the tavern and there were three armed rebels trying to kill him. Under other circumstances he would laugh with his troops about a fight in a tavern, not today though, the things these rebels were doing were not a laughing matter. Drakkon's pistol was loaded but one shot against three men was little better than none. Graham had heard the report of two muskets so one man had not fired. He could rise and shoot one rebel reloading before being shot in return. No, I don't think that's a good idea, Graham thought glibly. This uprising in the Weissland colonies, in what had recently been part of the Eastern Empire, was becoming more and more troublesome.

Here they were, men from the 22nd Regiment of Foot as well as the 4th, clearing a town street by street, building by building, of the rebels. This had been going on for a month. When news had reached Weissland of the rebels trying to overthrow the rightful leadership it was deemed necessary for a show of strength. If anything all that achieved was to provoke more people to side with the rebels. As always politics had created a mess which his men had to clean up.

Drakkon gripped his pistol in one hand and drew a throwing dagger from his belt. In a fluid motion he stood and swung around to attack. With a look of grim determination on his face Graham took in the scene. One rebel to the left near the stairs, one in front of the bar in the open, and the third by a table. The man by the table was reloading as was the one at the foot of the stairs. Drakkon did not hesitate, the time between rising and attacking almost instantaneous, shooting the rebel at the bar in the chest and hurling the dagger at the throat of the scum using the table for cover as he reloaded. The dagger slammed into flesh and the rebel pitched sideways over a chair. The first rebel was propped backwards against the bar like some obscene parody of a drunkard.

In a split second Graham was running forward. It was a race between him and the reloading time of a musket held by a man without proper military training. It was no contest. Drakkon grabbed the musket barrel and forced it aside, kicked the rebel in the groin and flipping his pistol, cracked the handle into the enemy's skull. The man barely reacted beyond collapsing to the ground and groaning in pain. In ten seconds Drakkon had killed two men and incapacitated a third. Quietly he was more impressed than disturbed by this information.

Graham drew his sword with a sigh and said "You know what really angers me about you rebels? You turn your back on King and Country because you want everything handed to you on a platter while trying to kill real soldiers who put their lives on the line to earn what you want for free. Has greed truly overtaken the world's honour?"

The rebel replied "You're just a tool of the aristocracy. Go to hell oppressor!"

"I'll see you there." Drakkon growled in his gravelly deep voice. He thrust with the sword, killing the rebel quickly. Graham sheathed the sword as he walked away. Unlike the curved swords used by most officers in this day and age Graham's sword was an ancient long-sword. It had a long heritage and was named the Forsaken Path. Once it had belonged to his ancestor Nathaniel Drakkon, and since then it had passed one Drakkon to another through the second great line of the family.

Reloading his musket and pistol Drakkon straightened his blue uniform and headed to search upstairs. He kept his musket at the ready as his boots clunked on the wooden stairs. Drakkon reached the top of the stairs and found himself in a corridor. There were many doors to the rooms of the tavern and at the end of the corridor it turned left into another. All the doors were open. Expecting attack from all directions Graham moved forward cautiously. At each door he saw no attackers, no rebels hiding or lying in wait. The furniture was overturned, and the rooms were a mess, as if the rebels had been looking for something. Looting no doubt, Graham thought. Turning the corner he passed more rooms and saw similar ransacking. Looting was not something Graham Drakkon condoned, it was simple thievery and not a practice soldiers should partake in. He stopped himself and corrected his thoughts. They were not fighting soldiers here; the Weissland Royal Army was putting down a civilian rebellion. This was quite different to other conflicts Drakkon had fought in, though no less bloody.

Graham believed in things that were rare in these days, honour, courage, loyalty, and justice. It was because of these things and his love of Weissland that Graham had joined the Weissland Royal Army at as young an age as was possible. Through some of the bloodiest battles of recent history Graham Drakkon had risen through the ranks to become Major of the 22nd regiment of Foot, leading the regiment's company of grenadiers to war in the name of the King and all that was righteous. His family had a long and proud military tradition, one Graham was sure would continue after he was gone. Graham had received honours and medals for his actions; he was a very well-known war hero in Weissland. But in such times as these, where honour and nobility were rare or twisted, being a war hero in one's homeland made you a villain in other lands opposed to yours. Graham had married young, to his beautiful wife Kari who was as beautiful as the sun rising over the capital. They had two children, Elizabeth and Sean. Graham was sure his son would be a great soldier one day, and his daughter would marry an officer, a good officer that Graham would be proud to call son-in-law. That was if things went well, which he truly hoped they would.

At the end of the corridor was a door only slightly ajar. The difference to the open doors made it stand out acutely to Graham. He raised his musket higher and edged forward cautiously. Drakkon knew that making a lot of noise would alert any foes within the room. Even the sounds of fighting in the rest of the town would not dull the sounds of his boots moving unstealthily on the wooden floor. Reaching the door he took a moment to listen. Hearing nothing but a dripping sound Drakkon levelled his musket and kicked the door open with a thud, ready to shoot.

Graham Drakkon found no enemy he could fight. Inside the room he witnessed the source of the dripping sound. Lying on a bed against the far wall was a body. Head back, hanging over the foot of the bed, face up, the dead eyes of the girl stared at him as blood slowly dripped from her slit throat into the pool on the floor. A wave of revulsion washed over Graham as his mind processed what his eyes saw. A man of weaker constitution might have been physically sick. Graham looked around and saw the other bodies in the room. The child's father was slumped against the wall in front of bloody smears, a hatchet clutched in a death grip. The girl's mother was lying face down as if she had been facing away from the door, stab wounds from a sword in her back. As Drakkon stepped into the room he made sense of the woman's positioning. She had been moving to shield another child, barely old enough to walk and talk from the looks of the boy, who had been shot. The tavern owner and his family slaughtered, and for what, a few coins, some trinkets? The whole situation insulted and offended Drakkon's sense of justice and morality.

He muttered through clenched teeth "In the name of Aracen this will not happen again. These rebels will be stopped!" Drakkon retreated from the room, a hollow look in his eyes, and made his way to one of the ransacked rooms on the right hand side of the corridor. He checked out of the window and saw the soldiers of his company beginning to gather in the streets. The fighting was over. Striding out of the tavern Drakkon approached his men and said gruffly "Sergeant Cribbins, report!"

The sergeant saluted and replied "Sir, we have scoured the town. There are no more rebels hiding here. We have secured a number of prisoners, the last group of rebels surrendered. We ah, we have found over a dozen dead civilians sir..." Cribbins was a good man and often had a twinkle in his blue eyes and a cheerful smile. Not today, not now, he was clearly disturbed deeply by this.

Graham cleared his throat and put a hand on the man's shoulder reassuringly before saying "I know Cribbins, I found four more. It's ok, we'll sort this out. We'll make it right."

Without thinking Cribbins answered back "How will we do that?" Some officers would not react well to backchat like that. Drakkon was of a different ilk, like his mentor Colonel Foley.

Drakkon looked at Cribbins hard, not harshly but seriously and honestly. He said "I don't know but we will. I should have gotten here to protect these people; I will not fail Weissland's people again." Graham Drakkon had a classical face, strong chin, square jaw, proud nose. His chiselled features were slightly marred by the grime of battle and a scar on his left cheek. The scar ran almost straight down his cheek apart from where it curved towards his ear like a hook. The scar was not deep but it was darker than the rest of his skin, so much so that when his face was slightly flushed from anger or exertion the scar was almost vermillion. With determination in his deep gravelly voice Drakkon said "I promise you that."

Cribbins nodded "Yes sir."

Drakkon asked "Have you done a headcount? Did we lose anyone?" Drakkon never asked his men for 'casualty reports', he felt it was important that they realised their lives were important to him.

Sergeant Cribbins answered "Eight men dead, five injured, one seriously, sir."

Drakkon sighed "Not good but with the rebels hiding in buildings it could have been much worse. The dead men will be missed, and I want to know exactly who we lost before we return to camp. I'll visit the injured men before we leave." Turning slightly Graham finished "Now, show me to these prisoners."

The sergeant led Major Drakkon over to the town square which included a well and some street lamps. The lamps were unlit even though it was early evening; the lamp lighters with their long poles with oil-soaked cloth were dead or fled. Graham knew the refugee camps were quite full, as were the cities. This campaign had been split between guarding such areas and hunting for the rebels. He had heard the rebel leader was like a damn ghost, always evading capture.

They reached the square and Cribbins said "This is them sir. Don't know how talkative they'll be."

Drakkon looked at them. Seven men were kneeling in a line with their hands tied behind their backs. Like all the rebels they wore typical colonial dress with an armband dyed red. Since the main colour used by Weissland for uniforms and the like was blue the armband was as much an insult as a way of identifying their affiliation. Drakkon knew it was mostly just so the untrained fools would not shoot each other. They did not seem to want to hide when they made attacks; none had infiltrated the refugee camps to sow confusion. Perhaps they believed in their cause so much they refused to hide who they were. Behind the rebels stood fourteen grenadiers with their trademark bearskin hats on, each one a battle-hardened elite soldier. They stood one to either side of each prisoner with their muskets ready. Two more of Drakkon's men stood several feet in front of them, more than enough to prevent the rebels attempting escape. Handing his musket to Cribbins Graham clasped his hands behind his back, legs slightly apart, and addressed the prisoners "My name is Major Graham Drakkon. You will answer my questions or suffer my wrath!" With Graham's deep and rumbling voice the prisoners looked intimidated. He continued "We have found the bodies of dead civilians. Why did you murder them?" Most of the prisoners avoided his stern gaze. When no response was forthcoming he roared "Answer me damnit or Aracen help me I will tear you apart!"

One of the prisoners, a blond-haired young man with the cockiness of youth said "Because they were just like you Weisslander. They'd rather live under your king's boot heel than be free like us."

Graham said with grim amusement "You're not free now boy."

The rebel snarled "All your kind will die and we'll have our homes back."

The anger was growing within Drakkon with each passing moment. He said "You killed children you filth, families. You have turned your back on the crown. You are all worthless scum."

Another prisoner smirked "So what, they were just pro-Weissland, little better than animals."

Drakkon stalked forward like one of the big cats in the deserts of Ahm-Shere. He punched the man hard across the face, knocking him down. The Weissland officer booted the man in the gut for good measure. Stepping back Graham said angrily "You rebel scum, none of you have an ounce of honour or decency. You are murderers and I will permit your existence no longer."

It was at this time that Lieutenant Clay arrived with a squad of men. He saluted and said "Major Drakkon. I led a group of the men out of town. I had a suspicion some rebels had retreated to the woods."

Drakkon turned to face the newly arrived man and asked his junior "And had they Lieutenant?"

"Yes sir," Clay explained "we caught up to them and took them by surprise. They died to the man, no losses on our side sir."

Graham nodded "Good, good. Well, you're just in time Lieutenant, I'm about to order the rest of this scum executed."

Clay blinked before looking at the prisoners and his superior officer. Clay, who was actually a few years older than Drakkon replied "But they are prisoners, sir."

Coldly Drakkon said "Your point, Clay?"

Clay was slightly taken aback. He replied "Sir, standing orders are to bring prisoners to camp to be transferred to the city prisons. You can't just--"

"--Can't I? Because I think the sort of scum who murder children should hang." Drakkon cut his friend off before looking at the men to say "String them up."

The men were nervous but seemed prepared to carry out the order. Clay protested "I don't think this is wise sir. Don't get into trouble over a few prisoners."

Drakkon was not going to back down. His anger was at boiling point. He flung his hands up "Wise Clay, wise? They killed the people in this town who were loyal to Weissland. They murdered civilians! I will not let this stand."

"They're still technically civilians themselves sir. That's why orders are to take prisoners. There are codes of conduct to consider, this is not what an officer should be doing."

"No Clay," Drakkon shook his head "they are rebels. They turned their backs on King and Country; they are traitors no matter what the current policies of the local authorities are. And even if they are civilians they are still murderers so as far as I am concerned I will be enforcing the laws of the crown!"

Clay swallowed hard. "Very well sir. Carry on men, you heard the Major."

Drakkon wondered if what he was doing was right. Still it seemed the just thing to do even if it was not fair or pleasant. Graham thought about what his old friend Hattori would make of all this. Was it avenging the deaths of innocents or the sort of ignoble act of barbarism he felt most governments and armies carried out in this day and age? It was strange being friends with an assassin who harked back to older ways that Drakkon believed the world had mostly lost but were sorely needed. Graham spoke to his soldiers even as they began the grisly work. He declared "Any consequences of my orders will fall on my head alone and no other, this I swear. If there's a hangman's noose waiting for me in hell so be it but these bastards first!"

It seemed most of the men were with him as there were shouts of agreement. The enemy here had done things which were wrong, reprehensible, and they had to be punished properly. If this acted as a warning to the rest of the rebels then perhaps it would hasten an end to this conflict, even if it meant the death of every rebel rather than taking prisoners. As he walked away to visit the injured men of his company Graham Drakkon thought, where is the honour in all of this? Then again, where is the honour anywhere in this world? Drakkon had to content his troubled conscience with the fact that what he did, he did for King and Country.

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