Sergeant-Major Camille Seule
Updated: Jan 28
It was dawn. The earliest part of it, when the sun has not yet escaped the horizon. The occupant of the fine office had returned, along with a guest; they were both seated at her desk. The first woman's skin was a reddish-tan tone; she had a narrow-but-tall frame, and closely-but-quickly maintained black hair only a few zigs long. The paired brass wings that adorned each of her epaulettes marked her as a grand coronel. Opposite her was another, older woman, her back to the office door; this one was silver with age, her hair placed in a neat bun atop her head, with stars and crowns on her uniform that signified her as a grand mareshal. There was a fresh, piping hot carafe of coffee at the side, the brew as dark as the covers of the leather-bound books that populated desk.
"And that finishes the second. Well-done. They'll have about as good a chance as anyone can hope for. Now, the third... we'll need someone special to lead this one, Coronel," the older woman said.
The younger one hesitated briefly and took a sip from her mug before answering. "May I ask why this one in particular, ma'am?"
The grand mareshal steepled her fingers and leaned forward over the desk. "I'll explain more later, but there's more at stake than the troop convoy. I know this is a bit unusual, but I already have someone in mind to lead the third squad. Sergeant-Major Camille Seule." She tapped a photogram on her side of the desk and slid it over to the middle.
There was a long pause from the other woman. "...Permission to speak freely, ma'am?"
"Always." The elderly woman finally reached for her own mug and sipped quietly as the other spoke.
The coronel shook her head vehemently. "No one's going to work with her, Stasia. They call her the 'Buckaroo Banshee,' for pits' sake. They say that she walks among the dead and talks to the fae."
"Superstitious fears from silly men who talk too much," the mareshal said dismissively, before placing her mug back on the desk. Then in a more conciliatory voice, she added, "Half the point of this operation is to find uses for hard-to-use soldiers, Anna. We're not winning this war. "
"Point Forlorn, the Magma Fields, Prester. Every unit she's worked with in this war has been wiped out." The coronel swept her arm across an invisible plane, as if dismissing the pawns from a chess board.
"But she wasn't." The old soldier plucked a book from a pile on the side, flipped it open, and turned it around to face the other woman. It seemed to be someone's handwritten journal. "She's a skilled wrangler from the western marches who single-handedly brought down a raging hipaitne, with countless eyewitnesses and photograms. You've seen them, Anna. They're nine yards high and erupt lava from their horns, for pits' sake! And she managed to escape imprisonment from Chelsea Keep; Westhouse is still there, on the other hand. You can say what you want, but she's high-performance."
The coronel waved her hand to dismiss those comments. "You know as well as I do that individual performance doesn't always translate to good unit performance. How do we know she's trustworthy? How do we know her units don't die because she expects too much out of them? How do we know they didn't let her escape Chelsea?"
"When a battalion gets wiped out, the sergeants are not the ones to blame," the mareschal said reproachfully. "It's an open secret that Westhouse gave her companies the worst missions, and she managed to survive anyway, with no reprimands and more than a few commendations. What, you think they released a Sergeant-Major to be a mole? Don't be silly."
"...She's a witch." The coronel brought down her fist and slammed the desk hard enough that the carafe wobbled; she stared hard at the other woman. "That's no superstition. The magic they use scars their hair and eyes forever."
Before answering, the mareschal took a moment to adjust the carafe, putting it in a slightly more stable position. When she did respond, there was a smile in her voice. "All I'm hearing... is that she has the toolkit to succeed." She quickly sobered back up. "Look, Anna. I'm not going to make you appoint her; that's your call to make. But if you appoint her and it backfires, I'll cover you -- for whatever's left of our rebellion, anyway."
The coronel relented with a sigh. "...It'll take me some time to find four soldiers that might be able to work with her that wouldn't be better on the field of battle."
"The ship flies this afternoon and we march tonight. Make your choices by mid-morning and let them know immediately -- hazard pay and all. I'll want a quick briefing shortly before launch." The mareschal stood up.
"Yes, ma'am." The coronel saluted respectfully.