Living in interesting times

Watch is quite possibly the worst part of military service.

After a very long day of marching from one pitiful and lumpy patch of dirt, you dig a ditch and collapse onto an equally pitiful and lumpy patch of dirt several miles from where you started the day. It goes without saying that one must be extremely tired to sleep under these conditions.

Watch involves one poor, exhausted fool trudging over to another poor, exhausted fool and waking the second fool up to stare out into the night for several hours so that other poor exhausted fools can’t sneak up in the night and make sleep a bit more permanent.

Some small, tired stupid part of your mind is always hoping something will happen to make it easier to stay awake.

I will never again give that any ground to such stupidity…

About an hour into my watch, I heard three twigs snap in the space of a minute. Something was in the trees near the camp. I alerted the rest of the watch and made sure my crossbow was loaded.

Then, they started slinking in from the trees. Tiny, forms with malice in their hearts crept forward with blades out.

The first of the nasty little things crept out of the trees a dagger in each gnarled claw. Moving quickly yet maintaining almost unnatural silence it locked its gaze on the sleeping form of our company bard…

Just a few short weeks ago, my life was filled with utter tedium. Late to bed, early to rise, trudging through days filled with repetition. Hour after hour we drilled with weapons. Truly infuriating for a company mage, what need have I for a crossbow. I will always have either an army or my magic to protect me… Hour after hour of sending darkwood bolts into straw filled forms shaped to look human.

Control your breathing
Raise the bow
Visualize where to bolt will strike
Exhale
Gently
Ever so gently squeeze the trigger

Standing over the bard, the first of the enemies raised dagger filled claws to strike, exposing ribs that exploded with pain.

The goblin’s death rattle served as an alarm to bring the company to action.

The ensuing battle had a frenetic and dreamlike quality as my existence became little more than:

Control your breathing
Raise the bow
Visualize where to bolt will strike
Exhale
Gently
Ever so gently squeeze the trigger
Reload

We bound a few minor wounds and tossed the fallen goblinoids over the cliff to keep the scavengers from our camp. A few of us managed a fitful sleep the rest of the night but we were all glad when morning came.

This unfortunately, was when we learned that last night’s battle was the least of our problems. The breakfast wagon never came. There are a great many bad things I can say about the military. Hunger was not one of them. Meal times bordered on sacred. The army worked you hard and knew that to drive men this hard, those men needed to eat. Early, often and with great enthusiasm.

The breakfast wagon had never even been late before… After an hour it was clearly not coming.

Living in interesting times

Obsidian Fane Nightbane