French/German border, encampment of the cavalry sector of the French Army; 1806, February
Steering the horse almost diagonal down the track, the soaked figure let his eyes move over the camp settled into the nook of the hill. At best, it looked ramshackle even from this distance - no signs of pickets, not a single patrol from what he could tell. And what was perhaps worse was that he'd seen no glimmer from telescopes on the road leading to it. That, of course, indicated that they'd only be aware of his presence after he was almost on top of them. Pitiful. With a sigh, he jerked on the reins and sent the animal at a brisk trot down towards the encampment.
A portly gentleman, his balding face completed with the distinct sheen caused by a drinking indulgence, had to backpeddle rather sharply to avoid getting trampled by the frisky dapplegrey that had pulled up shortly in front of him. Well, backpeddle was too polite a word - stumble and stagger with a grunt was more appropriate. The sentries outside the tent that he'd appeared from looked up sharply, eyes wide with something bordering on fear as the rider managed to manovere himself with reasonable ease off the horse despite the hand lacking on his left arm. But, pulling himself upright and returning the grumble with a sneer of his own, he simply moved the sodden flap of the canvas tent aside, dipped his head and entered.
"Ah, Alain! I recieved your letter saying that you were on your way. You do look rather journey worn, join me for a drink?" The speaker, a thin and almost feminine man with an unpleasant harelip caused his head to jerk to the side, sending the plumes of the riding helmet still on his head moving before he moved the strap off his chin and situated it beneath one arm.
"I'll remain in your company Major, but I must decline the drink. It's done me little good in the recent months so a little fast of the substance will do my liver some good," he retorted smoothly, letting a smile appear beneath his now stubbled upper lip as he inclined his head. Removing the oilcloth greatcoat from around his shoulders, he gave it a quick jerk to shed any residue away before taking his place beside one of the Cornets. At 16, the young man had recently paid his way to this seat and the senior and now battle-scarred officer could almost sense the containted enthusiasm and willingness to prove himself to those around him. But when he sent Alain a perky smile, it faded when it was returned along with a deep scowl. He had his prejudices, that was for certain, and wasn't about to let them go because of this new assignment. As the tension cranked up a notch, one of the Sergaents who'd been assigned to explain this whole occurance cleared his throat - just enough to draw the attention of those around the table.
"We've received orders from our Emperor to advance towards the East of the Rhine."
This statement brought a series of mixed reactions; the Cornet straightened up a little, the identical Majors both blinked owlishly back while Alain and the disfigured remaining officer choked a little on the drinks they'd just sipped from.
"Why? There's nothing there but a bunch of squabbling states that can't seem to keep themselves from each others throats. We could take over them within a month, not six," was Alains' opening statement, one hand used to rest his fingers against his nose while the other idly turned the now empty glass of water in front of the candlelight. The Major next to him gave a fraction of a nod, stifling a belch for a moment before wiping the corners of his mouth with one already stained cuff. The twins, both of equal rank but opposite aspects of personality, shuffled in opposite directions to settle more comfortably against the wooden seats supporting them. The Cornet, whose name was still yet to be given to his superior, looked momentarily crestfallen before turning his blue eyes to the duo nearby with an amused look. The twins were something of a camp oddity after all. The Sergaent smiled a little.
"Correct Major. Welcome back, by the way. Your presence is familiar once more. And he wants us to at least start organising ourselves. We don't know how many we'll be facing, after all. They might be an enemy that cannot rival us but they are an enemy and one to be judged nonetheless," was his retort, paired with a complimenting nod towards the man in question then to his fellow officers.
"What are these Prussians like to fight?"
Alain tilted his head to the side as the youths voice broke the silence with a sort of strained tone. He scowled a little, scratching at the underside of his chin for a moment before deciding to answer.
"The Prussians are like most other armies to fight boy. They might be from a smaller nation but they're a nation nonetheless. Ignore what some will tell you of cowards and cheaters. That's a lie. Everyone in this room, bar you, knows that. They have similar divisions, similar weapons. But we are led by a man who can exploit all of our potentials without opening up or sacrificing anyone or our ranks. We will defeat them under the look of the banner eagle is what poets will say. But it's cold steel, the weight of the horse and the cannon that will secure the day," he murmured, both unwilling and unable to raise his voice as he kept his bland eyes on the lad who looked progressively more ill at-ease as he ended each sentance. This had to be done; the boy had to be convinced that warfare was not something glorious. Of course, words alone wouldn't do at all. Only seeing the sweat, sodden clothing and aftermath of a real skirmish would make his mind accept what he was describing.
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Finally got out of my writing rut! Starting from where I got stuck, here's what I've got thus far Some of the historical details, yes, do need tweaking.
"I've just written a very warm, bubbly character who has happy plans for her future. You'd like her. But I was writing it, I was thinking - she's gonna die." - Andy B.