• Sunsette

Trooper Polly Farthingale

Coronel Hartford took a deep breath and peered into the face of her superior officer. "Now, I believe you are very familiar with the next soldier I've chosen." Then she flipped the booklet over to the next page.

Gnarled fingers curled up into fists placed on the other side of the desk. "Mm. Yes. I am."

The coronel continued, assuming a brisk, professional pace. "Trooper Dorothy Farthingale, alias Polly the Iron Gale; consistently places well in competitions for sharpshooting and hiding, an expert locksmith, excellent physical condition..."

"...Found guilty of sixteen counts of petty larceny, nine counts of robbery, seven counts of manslaughter, three counts of premeditated murder, and two counts of burglary. And that is simply what we have proof for. The so-called Gale Gang was rumored to have a hand in almost every road crime incident in the savannahs of Chauntelunia March." The old woman held her voice steady, but it grew increasingly dry and strained. "There will be no tears shed for this wretched villain's death in the line of fire, of that, I am certain. She has all of the skills necessary to do this job; the question, however..."

The mareschal picked up her mug of tea; the drink trembled ever so slightly as she held it, before she took a quick, heavy draught and put it back down.

"Will she follow orders?" the grand mareschal finally asked.

Coronel Hartford looked back at her mentor for a long while before answering, as if she was searching for something in the older woman's face. "To be honest, Grand Mareschal... I think the answer is yes. Especially with the Sergeants we've selected. They're capable enough to keep a mere bandit inline."

There was an almost imperceptible delay before the other woman answered. "What have her professional reviews looked like since her sentence was commuted to conscription?"

"You can see them for yourself." Hartford flipped through a few pages. "Spotless. She has a bit of a problem with mouthing off, but she doesn't flinch from combat, does as ordered, she even earned a promotion to Trooper last month."

The mareschal's voice was careful, controlled, neutral. "And yet, you've chosen not to include her in the regular army for our campaign to Bambugh."

"To be honest, there are simply very few troopers who have the skillset she does."

"That's a fair point." The grand mareschal raised her mug for a sip.

"Stasia," the coronel said, with some hesitation. "Are you alright?"

"I am fine," came the swift response. "This is not the first convict I have seen assigned to Operation Sanguine Mischief, and I will be very surprised if she is the last I see today. I do wonder, however, if you have perhaps mistaken shrewdness for subservience. She is no fool; I have stared into her eyes. Cunning, calculating, clever; vulgar she may be, but simple, she is not."

"With all due respect, Grand Mareschal..."

The old woman signaled for the middle-aged one to continue.

"I had a day to choose. I understand your feelings about her, but I did not see another option."

"You are, of course, correct. I apologize."

"I do too." Hartford let out a long, slow breath; she hadn't fully relaxed since they'd opened Farthingale's file.

"And, of course, now is the time that we play every card we have held in reserve. That said, Coronel, I do believe you owe me a new cup of tea. If you would be so kind."

The mareschal held up her porcelain mug, handle first, to the other woman.

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