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ATST Snippet #2

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ATST Snippet #2
Post by runsforcelery   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:13 am

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

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“Getting a bit thick, Sir,” Gyffry Tyllytsyn, his platoon sergeant said sympathetically, and waded through the soupy, treacherous mess to extend a helping hand.

Hahrlys spat out a nasty-tasting glob of muck and scrambled up as Tyllytsyn half heaved him to his feet. The toes on his bootless foot cringed as the cold, wet mud enveloped them, and he wiped more of the slimy stuff from his face as the sergeant bent to thrust a hand into the churned swamp where the boot had vanished. Tyllytsyn felt around for a moment or two, then grunted in satisfaction as he found it. It took both hands and the full power of his arms to wrestle it out of the deep pothole the sea of mud had hidden, but he managed at last. Then he upended it, pouring out its porridge-like contents in a splattering, splashing stream. The flood dwindled to a trickle, and he shook the boot firmly before he handed it to its owner.

“Happen you’d best lean on m’ shoulder till we get you out o’ this patch, Sir,” he offered. “Might not be a bad idea t’ see if you can convince the quartermaster t’ scare up another pair, too.” He grimaced. “’Bout time you had a new pair — one with laces an’ everything, this time — and gettin’ this one cleaned out an’ dry again’ll be no easy task.”

“And what makes you think the quartermaster has a pair my size?” Hahrlys asked sourly, accepting the boot and tucking it under his left arm as he draped his right arm around the sergeant’s shoulders and started hopping one-footed through the shallower mud that bordered the pothole.

“Well, as t’ that, there’s that bottle o’ whiskey Edwyrds an’ I have squirreled away. Happen that might jog his memory.”

“Bribery is against regulations.” Hahrlys gave Tyllytsyn a stern look, then shrugged. “Besides, it probably wouldn’t work. Boots seem to be in short supply at the moment.”

“Never know till you try, Sir,” the sergeant said philosophically, and Hahrlys snorted in amused agreement.

They reached solider ground, and the lieutenant took his arm from the noncom’s shoulder with a smile of gratitude. That smile faded quickly as he looked distastefully down at the boot. The thought of shoving his foot back into it was hardly palatable, but there wasn’t time to clean and dry it. Captain Maizak had scheduled an officers’ conference in less than two hours, and the company CP was over a mile away. The thought of covering that distance barefooted — or even half barefooted — was even less palatable. Besides, the foot in question was as liberally coated with mud as the boot’s interior, and it would probably warm — gradually — to something almost bearable.

He sighed, wishing the QM did have a pair of field boots — the sort that stayed put under the most arduous circumstances — in his size. Unfortunately, he had big feet, well outside the normal size range, and he’d already worn out two complete sets of proper, laced field boots. Which was why he was now stuck with a pair of the jackboots the Imperial Charisian Army’s mounted infantry wore. Of course, he was scarcely the only member of his platoon who needed new boots. Hopefully, they’d be available soon enough to do some good — like before half the platoon was down with pneumonia!

He grimaced and jammed his foot back into its squelchy nest.

“Best be back to it, Gyffry.” He couldn’t quite keep the sort of resignation a commissioned officer wasn’t supposed to display to his enlisted personnel out of his voice, but Tyllytsyn had been with him a long time now and the platoon sergeant only chuckled.

“Happen you’re right, Sir,” he agreed, and went wading off through the mud — rather more cautiously than Hahrlys, avoiding the more treacherous patches — towards the engineers working to repair what was left of the high road that paralleled the Sheryl-Seridahn High Canal.

Yet another in the endless chain of dragon-drawn freight wagons —laden with barely a third of the load decent road conditions would have allowed — churned by, and Tyllytsyn paused to let it pass. The wagon’s wheels were damned near man-high, yet it was hub-deep in places as the straining dragon hauled it forward. There were a lot of those wagons, and a lot of hardworking dragons, yet in these conditions, they could move only about two-thirds of the supplies the Army of Thesmar’s forward elements truly needed. The ruined high road offered even poorer going, however, which forced them off the road . . . which created the mud which made the going so hard there and slowed the hardworking engineers’ efforts to repair the high road to get them back onto it again.

And the retreating Dohlarans had made sure his men wouldn’t have much to work with, Hahrlys thought glumly as he followed the sergeant through the gently sifting rain. At least it wasn’t another downpour . . . at the moment. Winters in the South March were less brutally frigid than those farther north, but that was about the best that could be said for them. They might not freeze as hard or as often, but they were cold, wet, miserable, and — within the next five-day or two — the weather would get cold enough to start freezing the mud overnight. By the end of the month, it might get sufficiently cold to freeze it solid enough to provide decent footing instead of a crusty, treacherous skim that only looked firm until someone was stupid enough to try walking across it. It might not, too, though. Frankly, Hahrlys doubted the temperature would be considerate enough to do anything of the sort.

Mother always said any of a pessimist’s surprises were going to be pleasant ones, he told himself. And given the weather’s track record so far, anyone who isn’t a pessimist’d have to be a frigging lunatic, instead!

He stopped and turned, looking westward in the freight wagon’s wake as distant thunder rumbled. Despite the current rain, that thunder had nothing to do with the weather, and his jaw tightened as the artillery growl swelled louder. It was a reminder of why his men were working knee-deep — even waist-deep — in mud and water to restore the high road to something remotely serviceable. The front line was less than five miles from his present position, and the Army of Thesmar’s advance had slowed to an agonizing, mucky, sodden crawl.

He wiped rain out of his eyes, removing another swath of mud in the process, and peered along the canal as if he thought he might actually see the muzzle flashes. He couldn’t, of course, but he didn’t have to see them to know what was happening. The difference between exploding mortar rounds and the bellow of heavier guns was quite distinct to an ear which had heard so many of both, and the artillery duel was no longer purely one-sided.

Sir Fahstyr Rychtyr’s Army of the Seridahn hadn’t been heavily reinforced — the Royal Dohlaran Army seemed to be finding it difficult to come up with trained manpower — but the men in its regiments had received a steadily mounting trickle of Dohlaran-designed breech-loading rifles. That was bad news; the fact that a growing number of banded, rifled artillery pieces — including the first Dohlaran-built angle-guns — had come forward was even worse. Fortunately, there were still very few of the latter and neither the Dohlarans nor the Army of God was able — yet — to match the indirect fire of Charis’ mortars and angle-guns. That meant their artillery remained far more exposed to Charisian counter-battery fire, since their guns had to have direct lines of fire, which meant their opponents had direct lines of fire to them. The Dohlarans had become steadily better at building protected — and much harder to destroy — emplacements for them, however, and they no longer had to deploy within range of their enemies’ rifles, which meant their gunners were no longer being picked off by snipers in large numbers. And those angle-guns of theirs were trickling forward. It was unlikely Dohlaran artillerists would be anywhere nearly as proficient in their use initially, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be painfully effective, and the Charisian Empire had discovered the hard way that Dohlarans learned quickly when someone was shooting at them.

And Earl Hanth doesn’t have as many mortars and angle-guns of his own as he’d like to shoot at them with, either, he thought unhappily. In fact, the bastards outrange his thirty-pounders now, and that’s still two-thirds of his total field artillery.

But they were still driving towards the Siddarmark-Dohlar border, he reminded himself. Even at its present snail-like rate of advance, ther Army of Thesmar would cross into the Duchy of Thorast before the end of the month.

Unless something new was added, of course.

In the meantime, the men cursing, bleeding, and dying at the sharp end of the stick still needed to be supplied, and Klymynt Hahrlys turned back from the distant thunder to the men laboring to get those supplies to them.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Sorry, Sir.”

Sir Hauwerd Breygart, otherwise known as the Earl of Hanth, grimaced and waved his hand, actually grateful for once for the wet air’s damp cold as it eased the sting in his fingers.

“Firing squad at dawn, Dyntyn,” he said, giving his personal aide a stern look. “Make a note of that!”

“Yes, Sir. Of course, after you have me shot, you’ll have to find someone else who can find your maps for you.” Major Dyntyn Karmaikel smiled crookedly. “That’s my secret weapon, you know. I figure if no one else can find anything for you, you’ll have to keep me around.”

“Sneaky bastard, aren’t you?” Hanth stopped waving his hand and examined it carefully. There was no sign of blisters, although the back of his ring finger was undeniably red-looking.

“Let’s try that again, more carefully,” he said, and took the enormous mug of hot cherrybean tea from Karmaikel’s hand without further misadventure.

It wasn’t really the major’s fault the hot brew had slopped over the brim, and at least he’d kept it off the map spread out under the dripping tarp’s protection. Besides, as long as no fingers were burned entirely off, a little scorching around the edges was a small price to pay.

The earl sipped deeply, treasuring the warmth and the caffeine. His addiction to cherrybean was relatively new, acquired only after he’d come ashore in Thesmar. It wasn’t a common beverage in the Old Kingdom of Charis, although it was popular in Emerald. It was even more — one might almost have said ferociously more —popular in the Republic, however. That wasn’t hard to understand, given Siddarmarkian winters, and restocking the militia companies who’d held Thesmar in the teeth of everything the South March Temple Loyalists could throw at them had been a high priority once Charisian galleons were able to reach the port city. It was a staple at any senior officers’ meeting — especially early ones; Siddarmarkians in general seemed incapable of rational thought before their first cup of the morning. Under the circumstances, Hanth’s addiction had probably been inevitable, although he remained a little bemused by the fact that he’d actually succumbed to drinking it black. For a man who’d been brought up on milder teas and hot chocolate, that was going a bit far.

What happens when a man falls into bad company, I suppose, he reflected, wrapping both hands around the heavy earthenware mug to warm his palms. And there’s worse habits to get into.

“Anything more from Brigadier Snaips?” he asked out loud.

“Not a full report, My Lord, but he sent an update right after breakfast.” Dyntyn grimaced and gestured at the the charcoal-gray sky’s low, drifting cloud belly and misty curtains of blowing drizzle. “Not too many heliograph or semaphore reports making it through this muck, so he had to send it by runner. His forward units are still counting noses, but he says the casualty totals aren’t going to be quite as bad as he thought. According to Colonel Brystahl, the platoon he thought had been completely overrun held its positions, instead. It sounds like it took more wounded than KIA, too, and its CO actually had twenty or thirty prisoners to hand over when he was relieved.”

“Good!” Hanth nodded vigorously.

Brigadier Ahrsynio Snaips’ 4th Brigade was his leading formation, and Colonel Fhranklyn Brystahl’s 7th Regiment had been 4th Brigade’s point for the last two five-days. It was a thankless task, especially in weather like this, and Hanth worked hard to rotate the duty. That was why 8th Regiment would be moving up past Brystahl’s men to take over the offensive next five-day. The miserable terrain was cramped enough — and logistics were poor enough — that a regimental frontage was about the widest advance the Army of Thesmar could support at the moment. Clyftyn Sumyrs’ Alyksberg Division, its Siddarmarkian pike companies made back up to strength and rearmed entirely with rifles, was deployed to cover both of his flanks, but they were rather far back from his spearhead — if such a slow, slogging advance could be called that — because they could move no farther forward than the repaired high road unless he wanted to starve his entire army.

Those same considerations had put a stop to the repeated turning movements he’d used early in the year, working around the Army of the Seridahn’s flanks to force Rychtyr to pull back instead of grinding straight into the Dohlaran’s prepared positions. He’d tried to contunue them after the rains set in in earnest . . . for a while. His men referred to that unhappy experience as “Grimaldi’s Mud Bath,” which he had to admit was thoroughly reasonable of them. He could still have moved infantry and cavalry cross-country — slowly — and he knew the men would have done it for him, but moving the supplies to feed them was another problem entirely. For that matter, he was finding it damned hard to keep his advance grinding forward even along the direct line of the canal!

Off-road conditions were even worse than he’d expected, and he began most mornings by kicking himself for not having paid more attention to the local Siddarmarkians who’d tried to warn him about that. It wasn’t that he hadn’t believed conditions would be bad; he’d simply been unable — or, he acknowledged, unwilling — to think they could be this bad. In his defense, no one else had ever tried to move entire armies through the area, even during the wars between Desnair and the Republic, which meant they hadn’t experienced just how shallow the water table east of Fyrayth and the line of the Fyrayth Hills truly was. As a result, not even his Republic of Siddarmark Army allies had been able to warn him about the swamp the nice, flat ground would turn into as soon as he sent a few thousand infantry, cavalry, and supply wagons churning across it.

The Army of the Seridahn’s logistics, unfortunately, were rather better than his. All his intelligence reports indicated that the Royal Dohlaran Army remained short of trined men, and even shorter of new weapons for them to use, but they seemed to have ample stocks of food and ammunition, and the high road behind General Rychtyr remained intact. Worse, the terrain west of the Fyraythswas far better drained — and a lot less less swampy — and the canal was still operable to within thirty miles of his front line. Rychtyr’s troops might be wet and miserable, but they were well fed and full of fight and he was becoming more confident . . . or at least less timid about risking casualties of his own.

He’d also assigned command of the units in contact with the Army of Thesmar to General Clyftyn Rahdgyrz , arguably his most competent division commander. . . and certainly his most aggressive one . Last night’s counterattack launched under the cover of last night’s darkness, was typical of Rahgyrz, unfortunately. His men didn’t call him “The Slash Lizard” for nothing, and he’d chosen the conditions for it well. The low cloud base and rain had reduced the effectiveness of the Charisians’ illuminating rockets and the even newer “star shells” with which Admiral Sympsyn’s gunners been supplied. That had let Rahdgyrz’ men cross what both sides had taken to calling “no man’s land” with far fewer casualties than they ought to have taken, and the fighting had been close, nasty, and costly. Brystahl had retaken the lost ground, but the Dohlaran attack had cost him time, as well as men, which had undoubtedly been Rahdgyrz’ primary purpose. There’d be no further advance before tomorrow; given its casualties, 7th Regiment would need at least all of today just to reorganize.

Hanth considered that unhappy fact as he held his cherrybean mug one-handed and ran his left index finger across the crayon-marked lines indicating 4th Brigade’s positions on his oilcloth map.

“I think we need to see about asking General Sumyrs if Brigadier Snaips can borrow the Third Alyksberg to shore up his right for a few days, Dyntyn,” he said thoughtfully. “We might ask for the Seventh South March, too. The high road’s in good enough shape to get them forward, and I want to pull Major Klymynt’s battalion completely off the line while it refits.”

“Yes, Sir,” Karmaikel said, jotting a brief memo in his notebook.

“And after you’ve gotten that message sent off, send another one asking Admiral Sympsyn to plan on joining us for lunch. I’d like to discuss how to get the best use out of our new angles, once they arrive.”

The earl tried — mostly successfully — to keep the bitterness out of his last three words, and he knew it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. But that made him no happier that so far he had one — count them, one — battery of the new 6-inch angle-guns. Despite how hellishly difficult they were to move under current conditions, that single battery already proved worth its weight in gold, however, and if Ehdwyrd Howsmyn’s word was as good as usual, he’d see at least four or five more batteries within the next few five-days.

“I could wish they were sending us a few of the new four-inchers, as well,” he continued. “Langhorne knows I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but angle-guns and mortars can only do so much, and I’d love to be able to pull the thirty-pounders completely off the line right along with Klymynt’s battalion. Still, let’s be grateful for what we’re getting.”

This time Karmaikel only nodded as he went on writing, and Hanth stood a moment longer, looking down at the map.

You’re only trying to delay the inevitable, Hauwerd, he thought. It’s still going to be raining whenever you finally get your arse into the saddle.

He entertained an ignoble temptation to send young Karmaikel on the scheduled trip to inspect the progress of Ahrthyr Parkyr’s engineers’ without him. Surely the major could bring back all the first-hand impressions he needed!

They need to know you appreciate the way they’re busting arse, he reminded himself. And having the general lean over their shoulders can’t hurt their . . . sense of urgency, either. Especially if the general’s feeling wet, cold, and grumpy while he does the leaning! Just remember they need positive encouragement, too. And that it’s not their fault you’re going to be wet and cold.

He snorted again, this time in amusement, and took another long swallow of cherrybean.

“All right, Dyntyn,” he sighed then, lowering the mug. “I suppose you’d better go collect the horses.” A harder burst of rain pattered on the shielding tarp, and he shuddered. “I’ll just stay here and finish my cherrybean — and hope the morning gets this —” he waved his mug to indicate the rain splattering across the tarp “— out of its system while you see to that.”

“Is this another of those ‘rank has its privileges’ moments, Sir?” Karmaikel asked with a small smile.

“Why, I believe it is, Major.” Hanth’s smile was considerably broader than his aide’s. “I believe it is.”



.II.
HMS
Serpent, 22,
and
HMS
Fleet Wing, 18,
Trosan Channel,
Gulf of Dohlar.


“Bugger’ll be up to us in another two, two and a half hours, Sir,” Lieutenant Karmaikel Achlee said quietly in his CO’s ear. “She’s faster’n we are, damn her.”


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by ErikM   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:44 am

ErikM
Lieutenant (Junior Grade)

Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:44 am
Location: The Netherlands

An interesting exposition on why the allies' invasion of Dohlar might be a bit slower and a lot more expensive than people have been thinking. The situation reminds me a bit of what I've read of Napoleon's invasion of Russia though the allies don't intend to live off the land.
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by PeterZ   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:59 am

PeterZ
Fleet Admiral

Posts: 6375
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:11 pm
Location: Colorado

Oh, Joy! Hektor's first combat encounter as a commander.
I hope Irys doesn't jog his arm too much.

Sunday & Thursday snippets. I'll have to adjust my schedule.

Happy, happy joy!

Edit: Once a week snippets it appears. Better for comments.
Last edited by PeterZ on Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by Thrandir   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:02 am

Thrandir
Commander

Posts: 160
Joined: Sat Feb 04, 2012 8:08 am
Location: QLD., Australia

Thanks RFC
Nice to see both sides are enjoying mud baths.
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by XofDallas   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:30 am

XofDallas
Commander

Posts: 156
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:50 pm

Thanks, RFC!

Hmmm.... it does look like it's slowly grinding down to trench warfare.

Merlin and Cayleb, however, have access to the history books. I don't think they'll make the mistakes (or let Hanth make the same mistakes) the trench commanders of World War I made.

Now... exactly where is the Trosan Channel? My maps don't show it. I should know this, but...
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by ksandgren   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:47 am

ksandgren
Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 342
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:54 pm
Location: Los Angeles, California

Thanks for ANOTHER snippet, RFC. I may not be addicted to cherry bean, but I definitely am to snippets. The withdrawal symptoms had already started.
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by PeterZ   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:57 am

PeterZ
Fleet Admiral

Posts: 6375
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:11 pm
Location: Colorado

XofDallas wrote:Thanks, RFC!

Hmmm.... it does look like it's slowly grinding down to trench warfare.

Merlin and Cayleb, however, have access to the history books. I don't think they'll make the mistakes (or let Hanth make the same mistakes) the trench commanders of World War I made.

Now... exactly where is the Trosan Channel? My maps don't show it. I should know this, but...


The Trosan channel is between Hilda island and the Dohlar Bank. Effectively between Hilda island and Trove Island. Young Hektor is developing a reputation for owning los huevos de latón masivo or ceilliau pres mawr might be more appropriate.
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by bigrunt   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 10:01 am

bigrunt
Lieutenant Commander

Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:34 pm
Location: St Augustine FL

I wish TOR did e-ARC's like Baen, but I do love the snippets.
___________________________________________________________
I am the runt of the litter (Granted it was a litter of really big pups)
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by XofDallas   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 10:03 am

XofDallas
Commander

Posts: 156
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:50 pm

Thanks, PeterZ! :)
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Re: ATST Snippet #2
Post by roseandheather   » Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:23 pm

roseandheather
Admiral

Posts: 2055
Joined: Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:39 pm
Location: United Kingdom

Another one so soon?? Thank you, Your Celeryness!!! :mrgreen:
~*~


I serve at the pleasure of President Pritchart.

Javier & Eloise
"You'll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley..."
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