Sergeant Knickers and Paddywhack
Updated: Jan 22, 2020
Daylight. Bright and blinding daylight. It flooded through every panel of the office's bay windows, casting long shadows inside. The masses of soldiers standing at attention in the courtyard below would have been quite happy to share some of that shadow, or at least a place to hide from the piercing voices of their Sergeants running them through drills they'd already done a thousand times.
"So ravaging our own farmlands, ma'am." The coronel balled her hands up and rested them, palms down, on her desk.
"Not ravaging. Requisitioning," the mareschal reminded her. She paused to take a sip of her rice tea. "Any commanders should use their signet rings to mark letters, and we'll recompense the farmers for whatever we take. But this is the only way. We'll have to outrun our supply lines if we hope to catch the enemy."
"A maneuver like this has never been done before in the history of the Empire."
"We're not in the Empire anymore, Coronel Hartford. Technology evolves, and so does war." The older woman's voice was clear and firm; if age hindered either her faculties or her confidence in any way, she never showed it.
"Well, let's hope this coin flip works." Hartford paused and looked to the side out at the practice field. "If it doesn't, it's been an honor serving under you, ma'am."
The mareschal chuckled dryly. "Always so dour. Let's focus on winning this. Do you have the rest of the Third Irregulars chosen?"
"Yes, ma'am." Coronel Hartford nodded and opened a drawer at her side, before withdrawing a leather portfolio folder. She unwound the thong that held it securely shut and withdrew a handful of pieces of paper; they had had a hole punched through them collectively, then were tied together by a short piece of red cord.
"For a second-in-command, I've chosen Sergeant-Engineer Nicodemus Rose." Hartford paused as she produced the photogram.
"...Anna." Her commander's voice was flat. "Why is he dressed like a tart."
"He's been written up for uniform violations a few times, ma'am," the coronel murmured evasively, her voice dropping low.
"I presume he has skills beyond looking like a costumed clothiers' guild trollop." The mareschal's voice was arch.
"He is, after the Sergeant-Major, probably the most effective enlisted soldier we have. He was previously with the rebel militia the Lost Boys, out of Midbury."
The mareschal almost dropped her tea, excess spilling onto the table. "As in the-"
"Midbury Massacre, yes." Now that they were off of his looks, Hartford was on stronger ground. She continued, "He was one of the few survivors, and is directly responsible for the handful of rebels who survived and managed to escape to Lanva. He's as good as any of the aerinyes, even with that non-traditional wingpack of his, and a crack saboteur, his companies say. First one in and last one out of every fight. Half the infantry in my regiment won't work with him, but half the rest would take a bullet for him."
"...Anna." The mareschal bent forward, reaching out a leathery finger to tap the photogram. "Is that a rabbit on his shoulder?"
"Could be?" Hartford dissembled. She knew damned well that's exactly what it was.
"Is this the boy I hear about that talks to rabbits? Calls it 'Paddywhack'?"
Safe to say she was back on unsafe ground. The coronel winced. "Alright, ma'am, well, you know how some of our mages keep familiars--"
"He's a mage, too?" The mareschal's voice raised in surprise.
"Well... no," Hartford admitted. "But you did say that half the point of this was to find uses for hard-to-use soldiers."
"...A fair point." She resumed sipping her tea. "...Next one. Please."