by English Bob
A maverick soldier goes in search of her father in wartime.
Captain Welling swatted down a loose leafed file that was well on its way to becoming a book with an attention grabbing snap, pulling Cadence from her memories. Settling in a chair at the long wooden table the officer considered the woman on the other side. Dirty brown hair pulled back and tight in a braid. Icy blue eyes that refused to look away, sharp features accented with dirt and grime. Her thread bare green uniform marking the woman as to belonging to the Pyrat infantry. Bored fingers fidgeted, working at the splintered tabletop as she awaited the Captain to begin.
"Cadence Dunn. Says here you have served for five cycles in her Majesty's infantry. A dozen confirmed kills, three of them Imperial officers. Impressive. Spiked four Imperial cannons, completed ten sorties. Obtained the rank of Sergeant a cycle ago. Stripped of rank two days later, striking a superior officer." The Captain said looking up from the parchment.
"Dinna like the hat. Sir." Came the short reply, voice flat.
"Barely graduated the academy on Fendra. Yet your scores place you in the top percentage. Numerous infractions against authority, reports of theft, forgery and arson!?!"
The last charge brought a flicker of smirk from Cadence. "The charges were dismissed, sir."
Combing through the papers, Captain Welling captured the pattern of what he was looking for. "Yet they have been logged. By the looks of this, you have purposely made sure you would be assigned to the Breach and I will have you divulge why."
Tugging a toothpick splinter loose from the table, Cadence rolled it between her fingers. "Just wanna kill some grey coats, sir." The soldier said, slowly growing uncomfortable with the digging into her record.
Closing the file, the Captain snorted. "Indeed. You will be assigned to Captain Kennedy's long patrol. You will have your fill of Imperials soon enough. Dismissed."
As the Captain gathered the file, Cadence flicked the splinter at the man. The small wooden shard struck and stuck in the officer's felt cap unbeknownst to the Captain. Nodding at her handiwork the soldier made her way out of the office, treasuring the mental image of him discovering the thing later.
I dislike mutton, which is always served mid-day in every unit I have served within to date. The press of the unwashed was the only comfort I would likely get today. Focusing on the parapet of the fort, then to the banner of Swenton, land of the free. The wet slap of stew lands in my tin followed by the grate of wooden spoon. A nudge in my side sets me in motion to move along with the rest of the lot. Finding it too crowded in the mess tent I settle in with Rothman near the supply wagons.
Nodding a greeting the man resumes combing grease out of his beard, sucking on his fingers. Poking at the bowl I fish out a hunk of potato.
"One would figure they be having pork eventually or goat. Blazes, I would even eat horse if it be cooked right." I say, curving my words to wistful prayer.
Slurping the stew noisily, Rothman shrugged, patting his expanding stomach. "We have not been here two days, could be different in the morrow."
Pausing, I look at Rothman and the man returns the gaze as we both burst out laughing at the joke. "Sure, and it will one day be raining men." I say, while chewing on the undercooked potato.
"In the rain no less." Replied Rothman still laughing.
Pushing aside the taste I force myself to eat the slippery cubes of mutton. Looking about the fort that housed near three hundred soldiers, most of them men. The hay dust and spring pollen was thick enough to taste, stirred up by every boot and hoof in the yard. "Any word from yer uncle Corbin?" I ask, downing the juices left in the tin, bitterly.
"Nay. He be busy with restoring lore and doing accounts on the Noriscan war with the Empire." Rothman said, shielding his eyes with a hand from the growing brightness as the sun emerged from the clouds.
"How can those gray coats be fighting a war on two fronts is beyond me."
"They ain't. Those Imperials be fighting with Norsica while they skirmish with us." Rothman said.
"Well if they brought more Dunn over, this would nah be an issue." I say with a smirk.
"Or more Rothman to talk'em to death." Came the cheerful reply as the man moved closer, a look took to the man's eyes.
Arching a brow, I already know what the man is thinking. We did have a few hours before we had to resume our duties. Still, I just was not in the right frame of mind for a good toss. "This mutton fails to agree with me. Tender stomach." I say putting up a verbal barrier.
Persistent, Rothman sighed. "It wouldna take long, Cadence."
"Yer self sabotage be noted, Rothman." I said, playfully cutting the man off.
Rothman were a crafty sort; they could make most things seem like a good idea the longer the conversation went. I had to shut the charm down before it began. The soldier pouted, before withdrawing. Gratefully the man changed the subject, "Ye really think he be out there?"
Staring at the banner of Swenton its bone white Farmers Moth on a black field fluttering in the breeze. Tapping my heart, I struggled to keep it light. "I know he be, especially after the encounter with those orcs."
"Ah yes, the orcs that ye say fight with their fists." Rothman said, still only half believing the account.
Shaking my head, I firmed up my words. "They fight using the Dunn style. I know what I be seeing."
"Orcs have had no business with us since Swenton became free. They do their thing we do ours."
I hit him with a barb he knows is coming. "What about Gnat Mate-Taker, the Wall-Breaker? She fought that way."
Frowning, Rothman tiredly replies. "Lady Dana's tale of that battle makes a two line mention of Gnat. Which be in my eyes poor of her to do so, and even poorer to make a case upon. There be near one hundred accounts of what actually happened that day."
Rothman is trying my patience, he knows better. "Swenton be free for three cycles, yet there be no firm word of the man? Just...just show me the maps."
Opening a small journal, Rothman flipped through it, taking out loose pages and arranging them on the wagon bottom forming a map. His look was sympathetic to my plight. "We be here, just west of the Unseen mountains."
Hunching over the map, my hair standing on end, the thrill taking hold. Rothman motioned with a finger, "To the south, then west along the border be a series of farms. All of them abandoned or so the scouts say. If the stories be true, he be south of those. On the Empire side."
"How close do the patrols get to that area?" I ask, hope growing.
Rothman shook his head, dismissively. "Not so close these days. Word is the activity be nonexistent. No chance to sneak up on anyone in that area. They only check it to make sure an army be not camped of the opposite side of the mountain."
Falling to thought, I would have to break orders if I wanted to investigate it myself. Scooping up the pages, Rothman arranged them back in the journal. "I understand what ye be feeling. I used to be wanting to meet me father when I be younger. Never met him and ye have to face the growing fact ye may not either."
Listening to the bells signal it was time to resume duty I shrug, sudden misery gnawing at my insides. "Least it be a step of from ye saying he donna exist at all."