This is just a little something that I’ve been working on. I try to make something a little different something not fantasy (I hate fantasy) but not to science fictiony. This is just the prologue that explains the characters so it doesn’t have much action or violence. See the following parts for that. The background is basically this, a lot of fantasy stories have there own little worlds that they take place in and to try and add a little originality so does this one, with its own nation states and allegiances and weapons that I just made up. It starts out in the middle of a World War 1 esque war that’s been going on for two years now. The two sides consist of the Entente Powers of Leonia, Lamont, Bardia, Naholland, Cadalainia, Ballogne, Malacene, Lylania, Soldessa, and the island nation of Albia from which our heroes here hail from. The opposing side is the Pact Nations of Geridia, Transkallono-Salbia (consists of the Empire of Kallogne and the Kingdom of Salbia) Mallainia, Kyrkysman Empire, and Naphalla. I’ll try and get a map for it sometime but I’m really lazy. So, uh, enjoy!

 

Boys in Company C

Prologue

By Patrick Dowds

 

It fluttered and frolicked, danced almost, beautiful and mysterious as any other thing of nature. It would bank and swoop like a vulture much too often seen circling high above it all as though to try to gain some sort of prospective of the desolated seen before it, incomprehensible to a thing of nature such as it. Or just looking for some morsel of what it would call food, which is all too abundant for such a place as this, well, for a vulture anyway. At the same time it would float, seemingly perfectly still, hanging in the pale, cold mist. Something all too deserving of the name butterfly. Descending to the ground landing at a stagnate pool of grayish substance that could be presumed as water. Its snaking proboscis probing at the crevices between the clumps of mud at the edge of the puddle. It would be hard to consider how it could obtain sustenance from a source such as this. Probably just to keep it going till the next puddle or flower, flowers do those things even exist any more, until its inevitable expiration and flutters to the earth one last time and eventually consumed by the all encompassing mud. It seemed so out of place to actually see something with color. The fiery hue of its orange wings stood out from the suffocating surrounding dull brown grayness of pretty much everything everywhere. As it drank its subtle fluttering sent calm ripples through the gray murk, which distorted the reflection of an even duller sky. Even though there was a chill breeze the gray clouds hung motionless occasionally taking familiar shapes, some not so familiar, changing in the wind; warping, altering, mutating into a new shape completely different from its original shape, if it ever had an original shape.

The rat sat there on a crate, took another puff from his cigarette, and continued to stare at the curious little butterfly that sat at the edge of the puddle, his mind adrift, oblivious to the commotion and movement around him, brought back to reality by the cordial banter of that talkative hare.  “Moving out already?  I swear, as soon as we’re put on leave they ship us back out again.  At least they could have sent us some place just a little bit nicer, not even the front is this gray, eh Jenny?”  The rat followed the butterfly as it fluttered up out of the trench and disappeared in to the dull mist, his steel blue eyes falling to the cockeyed rabbit.

“I whish you wouldn’t call me that.”  He got up and stretched his shoulders “Where we goin’ this time?”

“I donno, you’re the Corporal. You should know.”

“Corporal don’t mean much here, Private.”

“Private First Class thank you very much,” he pointed prestigiously to the single stripe on his arm “You’re gonna have t’ ask the Cap’n that. Besides, that doesn’t matter right now, what does matter now is food, it’s chow time. C’mon, I’m famished.”

“You’re always famished, rabbit.” He strapped on his cumbersome pack, picked up his rifle, and clunked the flat-pan shrapnel helmet on his head. He took a last drag of his cigarette and flicked it into the puddle with a sizzle “I wonder what’s for lunch?” 

As they trudged through the back trenches, they took notice of all the hustle and activity that broke the relative static scenery that had been imposed on itself for the past few months; troops marching in columns, dismantling tents, emptying depots, and other temporary buildings. Cargo laden lorries rambling through the muddy roads, packed full of soldiers and supplies or towing gun carriages and ammunition, often getting stuck in thick mud and have to be wrench out with horses and mules. The epitome of mechanized warfare: to be able to move faster than soldiers can march, well, at least till it gets all wet and sticky and you have to use less “mechanical” means.

The beleaguered and overstressed quartermaster, a thick accented squirrel, yelled and waved his roster cards at the bumbling trucks stuck in the congested intersection “Hey! You! You’re not supposed to be being here! You’re suppose to be…” he flipped through his sheets and charts “There! You are suppose to be there. Does this look like there to you? No! It is here! Now back up and be driving around now.” He banged his clipboard on the side of the cab as he continued to argue with the truck driver.

“Top of the morning, Mike” the hare greeting him a bit too chipperly.

“It’s Mikhail, rabbit,” he grumbled annoyingly.

“Hey, what’s going on? We moving out, or something?”

“Huh, what? Oh, Corporal, I don’t know. They got me up this morning, gave this, and said ‘Get your bristly ass out of bed. We’re moving.’ And when I asked where they said ‘out.’ And these bumbling idiots don’t know a road map from toilet paper.” He would have continued complimenting on the efficiency of the logistical system when a wagon wheel bounced into a ditch, spraying him with brown water splattering his long coat in muck, making the rest of his rantings unintelligible. “Bah! You are seeing what I am meaning. I just had this cleaned. I could have been in artillery or mechanic, but no, I chose logistics. Mother, I am never listening to you again!”

A courier mouse rumbled up next to them in a loud, oversized motorcycle. He killed the engine and pulled up his driving goggles “Hey Mike, howdy corp.”

“It’s Mikhail!”

“I see that you’re your usual cheery self.” he rummaged through his saddlebag and pulled out a folder of papers “Got your new deployment orders here that I’m sure you’re so exited to get.” The rat, seeing that the squirrel was currently preoccupied in ringing out his matty tail, took the folder.

The courier leaned on the handlebars and spat a wad of tobacco “Lovely weather we’re having, just love how it makes the roads all wet and sticky, perfect for Jenny here for rippin’ through.” He thumped his paw on the bike, grinning with pride.

“Ah, how affectionate. He named his bike after you.” He ignored the hare’s obnoxious comments as he flipped through the folder.

“Says here that nearly the whole garrison’s being shipped out, including the 128th.”

“The whole battalion? Must be something big. Where we going this time? Hope’s down south: were the sun’s hot and the shelas are hotter.” The courier slapped paws with the hare in agreement.

“Nope, says here that we’re going north, to Ankirk.”

“Ankirk! All the way up there, nothing’s happening up there. Nothing’s happening anywhere! Sometimes I forget there’s a war going on, might as well send us where it’s comfortable. Besides, it November, I’ll be freezing my ears of.”

“Well, sucks for you.” The courier said unsympathetically, pulling his goggles on, jumped on the kick-start, and made a quick salute. “Gots more stuff to deliver. I’ll be seeing ya, hopefully not.” But they didn’t hear that last part, for the throttling of the engine droned it out.

They both stood behind the squirrel, shielded by his bushy tail, as he was again splattered in mud as the motorcycle sputtered of. The rat handed the quartermaster the folder, who was now a darker shade of brown, and asked him where the mess tint was. He just pointed down the road to where the rest of the town was. He thanked him and slapped him on the shoulder, which he then wiped off on the hare’s jacket. As they walked down the road, they heard the squirrel venting himself on another unsuspecting lorry driver, that went over a pothole that caused the tailgate to open and all the 55 gallon barrels of petrol to fumble out and roll around in the road. “Well, at least he’s keeping busy.”

            The line to the mess tent was long, but went by quickly. It was set up in a courtyard in the southern part of the town of La Croix. A lovely little town set in the rolling planes of southeast Lamond. It was attacked sporadically at the start of the war, but the Geridian and Mallainan forces were eventually forced back to the now more static fronts 10 or so miles to the south and east. That was nearly two years ago. The town now serves as a transit station and supply depot; with its hastily built railways, airfields, and factories. It is mostly used as a staging area for the city of Locateau where most of the fighting in the south has taken place. Though there hasn’t been much fighting for a few months or so, its just been steady grinder, more going in than coming out, and what does come out is not its full self; turning the once fruitful and prosperous surrounding fields and farmland into vast expanses of mud, craters, trenches and the ancient high standing buildings to ruble.

            The line was closer to its intended destination. The thick smell of beans and meat hung over the courtyard, greasy and intoxicating. Corporal Samuel Jennings stood with the all to eager hare Jason Biggsley; then little Karl Waltz, a bright eyed squirrel who dreamed of going to universities and colleges with hopes of becoming a professor of physics or math; Albert Ross, a large and powerfully build badger, wrestling champion and all around jock. He was issued one of those heavy bulky machine rifles, which he always kept strapped over his back. He can be a bit obnoxious, but a good guy wants you get to know him. All roughly 19 years old, Waltz was about half a year younger and Ross nearly 20. What he lakes in brains he makes up in muscle, he’s not stupid or anything, just a little slow. They were all just out of school, exited and restless, released upon the world from the tedium of schoolwork and wondering what to do next. Biggsley, convinced by the posters and recruiters, came up with the idea of joining the army. Jennings and Ross didn’t need much convincing other than: “Women like guys in the army” and they were in. Waltz, on the other hand, wasn’t as thrilled at the idea. He wanted to go to college, to learn. The hare employed his clever convincing skills: “ You’ll learn in the army. It’s called: boot camp,” and pushed him up to the recruitment desk and handed him the pen.

            Behind them were Lou Mahoney, a collie and farmer with a wife and a somewhat lucrative cornfield; and Sergeant Pete Richardson, the squad leader. A gristle veteran from the start of the war, hard-bitten and square headed with the right side of his face and ear chewed up from a grenade which made him look all the more gruff and rugged. Like Ross, Richardson was badger with black fur and stripes. Unlike Ross, he wasn’t as nearly as big and powerfully build, but what he lacked in muscle and brawn, he makes up with his quick wit, intuition, and good humor, which is why he’s the sergeant. Lou and Pete were both in their early 30s but looked to be in their 50s, both survivors of the battle of Maliquet. That was back when they were in the Albian 1st Expeditionary Force, which was completely destroyed. Cut off and completely surrounded, the entire regiment was out flanked and attacked from behind. 20,000 out of nearly 60,000 men were left to be redistributed to other battalions and companies and the city of Maliquet raised, which is how they became a part of the 1st company of the 128th battalion known as the Orphan Battalion. The battalion is used to funnel what is left of other units that take high enough casualties to where it’s impractical to refit or supply, are dissolved and reassigned to the 128th. There are even some foreigners in the company; Angus MacDuffy, a hedgehog in the Highlander regiment and still wears his regimental uniform and kilt; Georges Le Roi, a Lamond cabdriver cat, absorbed into the company when his position at Baldaux was over run by the Geridians, everyone annoys him by calling him Leroy; and then there’s Antonio Bocceli, a short Ballognen mouse who escaped westward when the Mallainians (one of Geridia’s allies) invaded Ballogne. A tough little dago, who doesn’t take crap from nobody, especially when it refers to his height.

            “Come get yer vittles!” the portly round rat cook called to them as they approached the cookhouse. “Ah, my best customer” Cookie gave a smile as Biggsley stepped up and held out his mess tin. “What’ll ya be havin’, rabbit.”

            “I’ll be having the filet mignon with a nice glass of chardonnay.”

            “Nope, but what I gots is beans,” Plop. He ladled out a big dollop, “And more beans” Plop.

            “Great,” he smiled halfheartedly.

            They all sat around a splintered stump on a raised grass covered planter that once used to be an elm tree that was toppled by a stray shell, it now serves as a bench. They sat around the stump; Karl sat, staring reluctantly at his mess tin, not quite use to army rations yet: beans, soup, some kind of sausage, and cornbread. “Ain’t gonna get eaten that way, son.”

The sergeant slapped him joshingly on the shoulder. He picked up his spork and sighed, it wasn’t the best of food, but he’s hungry enough to eat the laces of his boot, and the sergeant knows beast.

            Karl stretched out on the grass after having his fill, Ross and Biggsley continued to be their ravenous selves, this now their forth helping. Sergeant Richardson gnawed on a block of tobacco, Lou puffed on a cigar, and MacDuffy passed around a fifth of whiskey. It eventually made its way over to Karl but Ross, being his obnoxious self, snatched it away saying: “This is for men with a little more fur on their chest,” and took an overconfident swig. He immediately winced, followed by hacking and coughing.

            “Aye, that’s good stuff. Ain’t it laddie?” commented MacDuffy

            “Yeah,” he croaked.

            Pete spat thoughtfully “Ain’t we missing someone? What happened to Fitzsimmons? You know, the beaver.”

            “Sucked in to much gas, puked his lungs out” Ross added bluntly.

            “I thought that was Atkins?”

            “No, that was Walsh, Atkins got typhoid” added Randal Dordry, a fox from the Air Corps. Shot down over Maliquet losing his left eye. Always getting in to trouble with the ladies, which isn’t that very hard, they never seem to be able to keep their paws of him. The eye patch made him look all the more dashing. He and Joe Doyle walked up and sat on the step. “Fitzsimmons was hiding in the wrong crater hole at the wrong time. Apparently shells can land in the same place twice.” He dug feverishly into his full mess tin.

            “What about Manley? Hear he got his head blown off from a canon shell.”

            “No, that was Charlie,” he spoke with a mouthful of beans “Manley got a bullet in the gut, got sepsis. Charlie got hit in jaw with a ball from an airburst shell, I guess he’ll be eating out of a straw for a while. It’s just a blighty wound though, he’ll be back.”

            Ross decided to add to the conversation “Did you hear about Stan? Got trench paw. Guess he’ll be going without a foot for a while.”

            “No Bert, that was O’Hannle, the lucky bastard.”

            “Then what happened to Stan?”

            “He was in the same crater hole as Fitzsimmons.”

            “Oh, yeah. I never much liked him anyway, uppity beaver.” Bert continued in emptying his tin.

            Bocceli got up abruptly, “I have to be taking, what is word…”

            “Piss?” added Bert.

            “Yes, piss. I have to be taking a piss.” He spat out his cigarette and set his tin on the stump “No one toucha my food. You toucha my food, I breaka you face. Especially you, rabbit.” He pointed his bayonet at Biggsley.

            Biggsley waited till he was gone “What he don’t know won’t hurt him.” He reached out for Bocceli’s plate.

            FUTHUDDDD

            The bayonet stuck in the stump just below his paw, which he then retracted.

            “Wonder what’s his problem?” inquired Jennings.

            “Oh, he just lost a bit too much money last night.” Explained the rabbit.

            “Ugh! Don’t remind me.” Joe grumbled. The otter held his head in his paws.

            “What did you all do last night? Whish I could’ve gone, but I had to do picket duty.” Lamented Jennings.

            “Oh, my head.” Joe popped an aspirin, snatched the bottle from Shamus and washed it down.

            “You should’ve seen him last night. I ain’t never seen anyone drink as much as him.” The hare reflected.

            “Aye, chundering to the wee hours of the morning he was.” Shamus laughed as he snatched the bottle back.

            “So I get a little carried away.”

            “You guzzled a whole bottle of champagne, bought the whole tavern a round, kissed Bert here on the mouth,” The hare reflected.

            “Yeah, I’m gonna have to ask you not to do that.” Ross rubbed the back of his neck remembering the awkward moment. There was a sickened expression on Joe’s face.

            “…And you asked the coat hanger to dance.” Joe groaned miserably. He obviously didn’t remember a thing. “Of course that was a after me and him won all of Tony’s, Randal’s, and everyone else’s money that he started to get friendly with the drinks.”

            “Wow, you must really love your liver.” Karl added.

             The fox swallowed another mouthful, “At least he didn’t get much past that. He fell flat on his face after his little tango with the hat rack. As for me, I’ll be checking myself for spots for weeks.”

            “You know Randal, its not always such a good thing to be so prevalent with the ladies.” Jennings interjected.

            “They weren’t ladies Jenny, they were prostitutes, and I was drunk, not as drunk as Joe here, but drunk enough.”

            “Hey,” Doyle sat up, “how could you afford one when I won it all in that poker game? And what happened to that money? I couldn’t have spent it all on drinks…You.”

            “What?” Randal said innocently, “You weren’t using it.”

            “You spent my hard earned poker money on some cheap floozy?!”

            “Hey, she was a very classy floozy, and expensive. Besides, she was a mink. You know how I got a thing for minks.”

            “Darrel’s a mink. Why don’t you screw him?!”

            “Darrel? Well, maybe, if I was drunk enough. You almost did last night…”

            And with that, the enraged otter jumped and tackled the fox. Along with the two of them rolling around on the ground and everyone else laughing hysterically, Darrel Kidd, the aforementioned bush mink, sat by himself sharpening his oddly shaped blade, an L shaped kukri, which he kept strapped next to his standard issue bayonet. He too was a foreigner, a conscript from the empire’s colonies in the Far East. An expert tracker, with a broad brimmed belted felt hat with one side pined up and lined with bullets. He is the most cutthroat of them all, keeping to himself, always sharpening his knife and annoyingly refers to himself in the third person. He barely cocked an eye at the childish antics of the rest of the group.

            Pete drained the rest of the bottle, walked over to where the two were rolling on the ground and smashed the bottle over Doyle’s head, who immediately rolled over clutching his head. He then stood Randle up and decked him right on the end of his nose.

            “Ah! My head! I hope you get the clap, fox!” the otter slunked off holding his head.

            “Well, that’s not a very nice thing to say. I was going to pay him back.” Randle held the end of his muzzle, trying to stem the blood pouring from his nose. He sat down and attempted to change the subject. “So, wonder where we’re going this time? Wish we could stay here.” He laid out on the dead grass of the planter still holding his nose. “This place is nice, much nicer than Locateau. Wading around in mud filled trenches all day not being able to stand up fully or have your head blown off.”

            “Ankirk.” Jennings answered.

            “Ankirk!” he sat up, “Why are we going up there? Its cold!”

            “That’s what I said.” The hare agreed with him.

            “Hey, you can ask the quartermaster if you want to. Not going to do you much good, he doesn’t know either. Nobody does.”

            “That squirrel doesn’t know anything anyway. Wherever it is, I’m sure it can’t be any worst than where we were.”

           

            The skunk walked into the officer’s billet, a small office at the top of the administration building. It was slightly nicer with a few of the luxuries: brandy, cigars, furniture, caviar, all the inherited preferences of the officer corps. The record player played hokey old operetta that hissed and skipped out of its tulip shaped speaker. “Ah, Captain Peterson.” He saluted and clicked his heals as the colonel welcomed him into his quarters. “Please come in, sit down. I assume you know Major Dawson?” He shook paws with the hare that sat in front of the desk. He knew the hare, the pompous ass. Thinks he can start hob-knobbing and brownnosing with the COs ever since he got promoted to major on a fluke due to the fact that the person next in line is currently dead. He pulled up the fine leather bound chair and sat himself in front of the colonel’s desk. “Drink?” he poured out a glass of cognac, another one of the perks of being an officer. He turned it down.

            “Certainly.” The hare took up the offer of the drink and gulped it eagerly. The beagle reclined in his chair and kick his fine mud caked leather boots on top of his desk. He lit a cigar, took a heavy puff, and tossed them a folder. “Just got these in this morning.” They looked through the contents of the folder: battle reports, army movements, aerial photos. So the rumors were true.

“What does this all mean?”

“It means Major, that we are all screwed.” Smiling as he saw the confused look on both of them, he explained a little more. “That photo there, the one with the predominately large circle on it,” He looked down at the picture. The circle was actually a massive crater. “That crater is currently where Fort Bradley used to be.” He took a puff of his cigar as he saw the looks of shock on them both.

“But, what could have done something like this?” The hare inquired.

“A mine.” Peterson answered flatly.

“A mine? Why would the Geridians blowup a mine so far up north?”

“Who’s to say it was the Geridians?”

“The Naphallans.” Peterson answered again.

“The Naphallans? Why would the Naphallans attack Fort Bradley?”

“Oh,” the colonel took another drag on his cigar, “they probably struck a deal with the Geridians and the rest of the Pact Nations; territory, land, resources, the usual. Oh, and they’ve done more than just attacking Fort Bradley. There are reports there from the eastern front of them attacking territory in Soldessa. And they took it upon them selves to invade Naholland and Cadalainia.” He snuffed out his cigar in an oversized ashtray and rolled out a large map. “So far they have established beachheads here and here. They’ve managed to take the city of Anchorheim and at this rate they’ll be attacking the Naholland capital in weeks.

“I got these orders from Home Office this morning,” the colonel pulled out a yellow telegram letter. “And I read,” he cleared his throat, “ ‘From the Albian Department of War, to Colonel Harper commander of La Croix base, priority urgent. Naphallan forces have begun attacking Naholland and Cadalainia. Stop. Forces on the southern and western fronts are to be diverted north. Stop. You are to send all of the stationed reserves northwards to meet this new threat. Stop. I know you are all stressed on supplies but for now you will have to make due. Stop. Reserves will be sent as soon as able. Stop. Lord Admiral Canenburg, Albian High Command. Long live the reign of king Charles V’ blah, blah, blah.” He crumbled up the telegram and tossed it at the wall aiming at the trashcan, but missed anyway. “Well, as vague as that was, I can confidently say that it’s finally happened.”

“What’s happened sir?”

“Shit, my fine Major. We all said it would and now it has. The AEF is overextended as it is. We’re having enough trouble keeping this place stock incase the Locateau front starts up again, much less than where we’re going now.”

“Sir,” Peterson leaned forward, “where exactly are we going.”

The beagle motioned to the map, “Somewhere between them and the Naholland capital.”

They all looked at the map. Between the red highlighted area that represented the Naphallan held territory and the capital Osalo, was a single labeled dot: the town of Ankirk.