NATION

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Frontier Stories (PT, Semi-Closed, see OOC Note)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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The Yukons
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Frontier Stories (PT, Semi-Closed, see OOC Note)

Postby The Yukons » Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:33 am

This thread is intended primarily for members of the Legacy of the Yukons region to roleplay stories and events happening in the Unorganized Territories, specifically (for now) the U.T. located west of Atlantian Dominions.

If you are not a member of the region but want to get involved, send either Parina or Atlantian Dominions a Telegram expressing your interest and any ideas you have for how you want to be involved. I recommend reading over our Technology Guide beforehand to get a better idea of the setting for this RP.
DO NOT SEND TELEGRAMS TO THIS NATION – IT IS ONLY USED FOR REGIONAL ADMINISTRATION.

Otherwise, enjoy reading!

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction & Background
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16:18

Perhaps the Yukon Empire was always destined to collapse, but not even the most ardent and bloodthirsty of its enemies ever wished for the Fall. On that horrible day, more than a century ago, a piece of the Heavens was sent crashing to Earth to shatter the bloated and corrupted edifice that the Yukon Empire had become. The island of Yukon was struck directly and utterly destroyed, broken in two by the fury of a wrathful God. Other impacts preceded and followed this climatic centerpiece of destruction, forming a long band running across the northern hemisphere of the region and plunging the region in a long winter. This was the Fall, the moment when the old world finally received the judgement that it had earned. But the Fall was merely the beginning of the False Tribulation.

Civilization, so long maintained by the Yukons, broke down. Even in areas not directly affected by the Fall, the damage it wrought on the climate led to crop failures and food shortages. Nations long oppressed by the Yukons seized the moment to cast off their shackles and soon even once-loyal provinces of the empire were in revolt. Diseases, some deliberately spread by the last Yukon Emperor in a bloody-minded attempt to restore the old order to simply bring humanity down with the empire, ran rampant. In many parts of the world, hungry people turned on one another and committed one of the ultimate sins: cannibalism, consuming the flesh of another human. Civilization shrank back to small pockets of light surrounded by darkness and the cold quiet of the grave.

Out of the chaos of the False Tribulation, new powers arose. Parina claims the mantle of successor to the Yukon Empire. The Confederacy of Atlantian Dominions, independent after centuries as a part of the core territories of the Yukon Empire, seeks to establish a pious nation worthy of being the site of Christ’s return. The Holy Empire of Freiderichsland, the home of the Catholic Pope and many bickering nobles, looks to unify and reach heights of power that were denied to it during the reign of the Yukons.

Many lands remain shrouded in the darkness of the Fall and the False Tribulation. These Unorganized Territories are home to petty kings, minor warlords, outposts of civilized peoples, and man-eating savages. As the new empires expand, the terra nullius begins to fill up…
Last edited by The Yukons on Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:31 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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Parina
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Captain Van Helm Among the Hypee, Part 1

Postby Parina » Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:34 am

Prologue

Once a week, around the communal fire, the people of the small settlement that they called Paisley told stories. Anyone could tell a story, if they wanted to. Normally things would start with the mundane: people would talk about the work that they had done that week, the trials and triumphs of carving out new lives in the prairies. Seven new families had traveled north to make their own homes. It was what was expected of young men and women of the Hypee: once you were married, it was time to make a home for yourself. So they had traveled until they’d found a spot perfect for settling and home-making. A small copse of trees drew water from a deep creek. They had a source of wood for their homes and fresh water to drink and water their small plots of land. Around their homes and gardens, they’d built a low wall for protection just in case. And in the center of all the homes, they gathered every week to tell stories.

When the night ran long they turned to the stories that only a few of them could tell: the ancient tales of the times long past when the Shyatan swallowed up the sun. Even before that, the story of where they came from. It was said the Hypee were made of star dust, created by the Grandmother to fill up the fields of the empty world. Their ways were ways of peace and love, and no malicious harm to any living thing in this world. Before the sun had died, the story said that the Hypee had not eaten any flesh, from any animal. But in the times when no plants grew and the dark ash filled the skies, the animals had gone to the Grandmother and offered their bodies, so the Hypee ate and survived without ever having to eat people flesh. In the mountains there lived the devil-pig men, who loved no one and knew no brothers or sisters. They had eaten each other in the lean times and it had corrupted them utterly.

It was during one of the story nights when Orion, child of Hunter and son of Quinn, asked the story-tellers to tell about the people who lived to their north. The story-tellers had few stories to tell the eager young boy, who had been curious about these strange people ever since they had appeared at the village two weeks ago. They called themselves Kialegee, and the Hypee had greeted them as brothers like all peoples were. The Kialegee had made some proclamation about a great chief and a border and ridden away, and the Hypee of Paisley had paid them no more mind. The Hypee saw nothing wrong with wandering, or with living on land that no one else was using. The Grandmother had made the Hypee to fill up the empty fields, and that was what they were doing.

One week later, the Kialegee came back. This time there were more of them, and they did not ride up to speak their strange language and ride away. This time they came with weapons and malice in their hearts. The Hypee fled from their fields when the gunshots cracked over the wide-open prairie. Atlas, who had married Juniper and adopted an orphan girl as his child, had been slain while running through his field for the safety of the wall. Now his body lay lifeless in the dirt and his dark red blood flowed into the small furrows to nurture the crops. The Hypee had few weapons, and they had little use for the ones that they did have. Hunting was not the way of the Hypee – they abided by the covenant that had been made with Grandmother, and only ate those animals who had offered their flesh in the darkest hour. The Kialegee rode around the wall, firing their guns at anyone who poked their head up to see what was happening or to try and shoot back. When night fell, they crept towards the wall in the darkness and set it aflame. The fire spread from the wall to the houses, and the Hypee were helpless as they ran from the flames. The Kialegee welcomed them with open, blood-dripping arms.

Galveston Colony

The port of Galveston had been named for John Galvos, the commander of the Parinan expedition that had laid claim to the excellent natural harbor. What had started as a small fort clinging to the coastline of a howling, forbidding wilderness had grown in the thirty-five years since that founding into a small but bustling trading post and harbor. A half-dozen ships lay berthed at docks, carrying cargo and mail and people eager to come and try their hand at settling the Unorganized Territory. A single armored cruiser, the Welcome, sat moored below the stone fortress which now served as the administrative center for the town that surrounded it. The Welcome was here for only a short time, to take on more coal and other supplies before setting out for a voyage on the southern sea around the Kingdom of Brazuela and back to Parina. Captain Eric Van Helm had learned this from sailors that he had met in the inn just down the road from the docks, apparently a favorite of crewmen of ships just passing through. Eric was going to be here a little bit longer than the men he drank and swapped war stories with, however. He was here to take up his commission as a captain in the Galveston Rifle Regiment. The unit was officered by Parinans but recruited mostly from locals, especially the fishermen who had been eking out a subsistence living along the coast before Parina had returned civilization to this corner of the U.T. Army life was harsher than fishing but soldiers ate regular meals and received clothes and housing. A fisherman would always be at the mercy of the water’s bounty to provide those things.

The sad-looking man standing before the Governor of the colony was certainly no fisherman. Boss River was a short man with balding gray hair. He was dressed in what Eric supposed was formal clothing for the Hypee: moccasins, long trousers that flared at the ankles, and a nearly knee-length long-sleeved garment. The poncho-like piece of clothing had sleeves and a hood and it was woven out of many different vibrant colors of fabric, creating a bewildering pattern of colored streaks. The garment had clearly seen better days, and its colors were faded and worn. His hair was wrapped into long, thick braids that ran brushed the top of his shoulders. This strange-looking man was the Boss of the Hypee town of River Station, at the meeting point of the Platte and Cimarron Rivers. He was here to ask Parina for help; specifically, he was here to ask Governor Lee William Fitzhugh for help.

“The Kialegee be burning four villages in two weeks,” Boss River was explaining. “They be calling us stealers of land. By the Grandmother I be swearing that no Hypee ever be stealing anything, no not one thing that be belonging to a brother or a sister.”

The man’s dialect was confounding to follow, with a strange way of crafting verbs that left Captain Van Helm struggling to figure out whether the Hypee was talking about things that had already happened or something that was going to happen. He knew that the Fall had stopped the advance of progress dead in its tracks, and the False Tribulation had cast humanity back to the brink of a savage return to nature, but he never expected that language itself could be so ruined.

“We be needing help from the soldiers you be making practice the war art here at Galvos Town,” Boss River was saying. “No Hypee ever be going to be fighting as a warrior. Grandmother be forbidding any Hypee be taking up the death tools except for to be making food for the table. If Parina not be helping us by be going to be fighting the Kialegee, the Hypee be burying many more dead.”

Governor Fitzhugh was quiet, either considering Boss River’s words or just trying to parse what exactly he had been saying. After a few moments, the governor finally spoke.

“I must go and ask my superiors for instructions in this matter,” he told the Hypee leader. “Parina has no quarrel with the Kialegee. My heart does ache for your people, Boss River. But I may not act before I have sought the guidance of those who command me.”

“You be needing to talk to the big High Boss across the water?”

It was such a strange title that Eric Van Helm had only just figured out that Boss River was referring to the Consul in Parisus by the time Governor Fitzhugh was replying.

“Exactly,” he said. “They have the wisdom of one who can look from a great mountain, and see all the lands beneath it. I must ask them what course of action to take.”

“I be thanking you for be agreeing to be hearing my case,” Boss River said, raising one hand and extending two fingers in a V. “Peace and love be coming to you, Governor.”

“And to you,” the governor replied. As the Boss was escorted out of the room by one of the soldiers posted at the door, Eric Van Helm stepped forward to present his commission papers and formally introduce himself. His dress uniform had been expertly laundered upon arrival, an expense that had drained most of his commission bounty but one which made the crimson red of the uniform appear pristine. His officer’s sword was polished to a shine, though of course that was impossible to tell while it remained in the scabbard at his side. Governor Fitzhugh unfolded the stamped commission papers and glanced at the pertinent details at the top.

“Ah, a new officer for the Rifles, eh? By choice or by assignment?”

“By choice, governor,” Eric replied proudly. The colonial regiments promised action, and action meant chances for promotion and possibly even fame back in Parina. He had thrilled to the exploits of men like John Galvos or the garrison at Mandalay when he was a boy and he had been practically destined for military service. His family had sent its men off to fight for the empire for generations. Van Helms had served up and down the length and breadth of the region, battling pirates and savages and Yamese and Gilani fanatics. The empire was at peace with the major enemy powers, and so Eric had chosen – and gotten, no guarantee except for the most well-connected – a posting on a colonial frontier where he might be able to distinguish himself.

“Ah, excellent, excellent! We need good men here.” The Governor handed back the commission papers and rang a small bell which summoned one of his household staff. She was a local girl, skin slightly darker than Eric’s and luscious black hair that ran loose past the nape of her neck. Her pleasant curves were stuffed into a servant’s dress in the dark reds and blues of the Parinan flag.

“Ah, Chella here will show you the way to the stables. Not many motorcars out here yet. Hope you’re a good rider!” The governor chuckled and waved a hand in dismissal. Captain Eric Van Helm followed Chella out the same doors that the Hypee Boss had exited and towards his new home in the Galveston Rifles.
Last edited by Parina on Sun Aug 04, 2019 1:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Captain Van Helm Among the Hypee, Part 2

Postby Parina » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:18 pm

The Captive

The Kialegee had not killed them all. It was still uncertain whether those Hypee who still lived were luckier than those who been gunned down in the attack on Paisley, or whether the dead had in fact met a better fate than that which awaited the living. They had been arranged in a line, their hands bound in front of them and linked together by thick ropes. The Kialegee sat on their horses holding the end of the rope chain, urging their captives forward with sharp yanks when someone stumbled or slowed down. Those not leading captives instead rode around them, glaring with menace and occasionally pointing their rifles at the Hypee and laughing when they flinched. They traveled this way for two days. At night they made a small and simple camp and hammered stout iron stakes into the ground to secure the captives’ ropes. The first night, Hazel had tried to undo his ropes and help the others escape. The Kialegee had caught him, beaten him bloody, and then they had made the other Hypee watch as they held Hazel down and drove a tomahawk through his skull. Hazel’s wife Iris had wailed the whole day, especially when the Kialegee had forced them to move on and leave his unburned body laying out on the prairie.

On the morning of the third day they arrived at a village that sat along a wide river. Dozens of bark-skinned longhouses and even a few study log cabins were clustered behind a thin wall, taller than the one which had failed to protect Paisley but made of weaker materials. Small fields of corn and millet and other crops sprawled around the outside of the village. Women and children were walking among the fields, tending to plants and pulling weeds. The Kialegee raiding party dragging along the Hypee captives was arriving at the same time as a hunting party, carrying a few large furry animals on poles between them. The Hypees gasped and averted their eyes from the dead bears, which the Kialegee had killed in clear violation of the covenant with the Grandmother. One of the Kialegee in the hunting party also carried a clutch of severed heads with their tongues out in horrifying visage. The hunter gripped the grisly trophies by their long, greasy hair.

Lyric had never seen a devil-pig cannibal in her life, but she knew that was who the heads had belonged to. She had heard enough stories about what the people-flesh eaters looked like to recognize the signs. It was only a shame that the Kialegee chose to fight their brothers and sisters instead of using their war strength solely to fight the enemy of all people. The cannibals lived in the Tall Peaks, what some foreign traders called the Cascade Mountains, and descended from their caves and their strongholds to take plunder in goods and unfortunate doomed people for their dinner tables. They had no firearms or even good blades, for they could only use what they stole and otherwise had to make do with clubs and stone-tipped arrows. A devil-pig raid had been what the wall around Paisley had been intended to fend off.

Lyric stumbled forward in the line as someone ahead of her tripped and nearly lost their balance. Only the firm grip of her husband Dakota, ahead of her in the line of prisoners, steadied the teetering Hypee and kept the whole rope line from being pulled down. Lyric reached out and let her hand rest briefly on his back, as if reminding Dakota that she remained with him. The Kialegee on the horse ahead pulled on the line, jerking her hands forward and away as the rope went taut. They were marched into the village and herded into a longhouse. There the Kialegee tied them to the support poles driven into the ground, three people to each beam. A while later some women came into the building to spoon warm food from bowls into their mouths and offer long drinks of water from clay jugs. Then they too were gone and the Hypee were left to contemplate the many possible fates that awaited them in the dark of the night.

The Captain

Captain Eric Van Helm laid back on bed and grinned like a Cheshire cat as he watched and felt the red-haired head of his new servant Nova bob up and down. She knelt at the bottom half of the bed, working on him with her plump rear end pointing up. She wore nothing, while Eric had a pair of linen drawers that had been pulled down to around his knees. The rest of their clothing was laying around the bedroom: hers in a messy pile stretching from the doorway to the bed, his in a nice neatly folded stack on a chair where Eric had told Nova to put it after he had disrobed her. After several weeks of enforced celibacy onboard the ship which had brought him to Galveston, it had been only a matter of hours after riding up to his quarters before he had pulled the local-born woman into the bedroom for a bit of fun. She had been expecting as much and was willing, and they’d had quite a bit of fun together. In between bouts he’d learned a bit more about her: she was part Hypee, the child of a Hypee woman and a Parinan trader. She’d found work as a laundress with the Rifles and it had been decided that she would be assigned to Captain Van Helm when word had reached the regiment that he was on his way.

A knock on the door interrupted his blissful calm. It was light but insistent, which meant it was someone who wanted his attention but also knew what was going on behind the door. That meant it was most likely Sage, his new orderly. That man was also part Hypee, though his mother had been one of the coastal fishing peoples that Parina had absorbed into the empire when Galveston was founded. He shifted into an upward reclining posture, reaching out to tap Nova on the head and stop her. She came up for air and looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and concern.

“Was I doing something wrong?”

“Not at all,” Eric said with a smile. “But I believe I’m needed elsewhere.”

He sat up fully and pulled his drawers back up to his waist, then swung long muscled legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Nova put on a delicious little pout and then crawled off the bed herself and began picking her clothes off the floor, making sure her teasing rump was raised in his direction. Eric reached out to smack it as he passed by and cracked the door open slightly. It was indeed Sage standing outside in his Rifles uniform.

“Sorry to be disturbing you, Captain,” he said apologetically, keeping his eyes fixed on the Parinan officer and pointedly not looking past his shoulders to the naked woman bending over behind him. “But Major Battson from the Mounted Battalion has requested your company for dinner.”

The Mounted Battalion were dragoons, infantry who rode rapidly from place to place on horseback and fought dismounted with carbine rifles. Here on the frontier it was a necessity to have some fast-moving troops who could keep pace with the mounted raiders sent out by the Kialegee or track a cannibal band back to their hideout in the foothills. Captain Van Helm hadn’t met with Major George Battson yet, since his own commission was with the regular foot infantry of the regiment. He’d had a brief introduction with Colonel Charles Semmes, commander of the whole Regiment, but that was about all. If Battson wanted to meet him early, and pay for dinner while he did it, Van Helm saw no reason to deny him that pleasure.

“Please let Major Battson so I’d be delighted,” Eric told Sage. “And then please get my dress uniform ready.”

“Of course, Captain. I should be getting done with that in plenty of time.” He glanced behind the captain to where Nova was now taking her time putting her petticoat on and glaring at the orderly. “The Major did be making the meeting time for not another few hours, Captain.”

Eric laughed. “Thank you, Sage. Once you’ve got the uniform ready I won’t need anything else until dinner. Tell the orderly club that your meal goes on my tab.”

“Thank you, Captain.” Sage saluted and closed the door as Eric walked back to the bed where Nova was just finishing up putting her petticoat on. He reached his arms around and pulled her close. She laughed as he began undoing the buttons at the bottom.

“You brute!” She giggled. “I just finished putting that on!”

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Parina
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Captain Van Helm Among the Hypee, Part 3

Postby Parina » Sat Aug 03, 2019 7:44 pm

The Captive

The captive Hypee had spent a sleepless night bound in the longhouse of the Kialegee village, waiting nervously for what would befall them next. Some had tried to loosen their ropes, but the thick hemp cords were tied too tightly for any of the exhausted Hypee to work free. Instead they had all stared towards the entrance to the longhouse as the sun rose, anxiously anticipating whatever unknown fate their captors had in store. They had also been kept up by chanting and whooping from outside; apparently either their capture or the successful hunt was cause for celebration. A single Kialegee, stinking of alcohol, had wandered into the longhouse late in the night apparently by mistake. He had pointed and laughed at the Hypee, full of drunk mockery for the helpless prisoners, and then he had stumbled out the way he came and disappeared.

When they came for the Hypee in the morning, they released them from their bonds and herded the group with shoves and strikes from the blunt ends of tomahawks and rifle butts out of the building towards the center of the village. Seated on a small raised platform were three older people, two men and a woman. The man who stood in the center wore an elaborate costume that included several decorative animal parts like feathers and bones. He had a long rifle slung over his back and carried a richly decorated tomahawk in his belt. The other man was less well dressed but still cut quite a figure, wearing a bright red shirt than ran down to his knees. The woman was wrapped up in blankets and long robes and sat on a small stool, while the two men stood. The Hypee were shoved forward until they stood in a small clear space between the platform and the Kialegee villagers.

First the more extravagantly dressed man spoke. He spoke in a language the Hypee could understand, and he apparently was speaking mostly to them and not the Kialegee crowd gathered behind them.

“You Hypees trespassed onto our lands, given to us by the Sky Father and the Corn Mother. You were warned, and you did not heed our warnings. So now we have defended our lands from the intruders. You tried to make our lands serve you, but now you will serve us in the ways we choose. This is the will of Maknac, chief of all the Kialegee.”

The Hypee listened to the man who was apparently called Maknac speak, and they were scared and confused. They did not recognize the gods that he spoke up, though they did not dismiss their power. The Hypee had been taught by the Grandmother that they were to respect all gods and spirits, even those of other nations. Only Shyatan was to be given no respect, for he had swallowed the sun and given life to the devil-pig cannibals who ate people flesh. The Hypee looked around, wondering whether one of them was supposed to respond to this Chief Maknac’s pronouncements. Instead, the other man began speaking in a language the Hypee did not understand. He was talking to the Kialegee behind them, it seemed.

It was not true that the Hypee had no understanding of what was said. Juniper, whose husband Atlas had been killed in the attack, knew a few words of Kialegee from trade. He tried to translate what he could for his brothers and sisters.

“I think they will be sending some of us back, to be bringing the message of Chief Maknac,” he guessed from the handful of words he recognized. “Others will be getting traded…it sounds like they be taking us somewhere else and be selling us to other people. And…” Juniper’s face fell as he listened to the final part of the man’s speech. “And others they will be killing, to be making right our trespass.”

Several of the Hypee cried out at this revelation, and they were cuffed hard by Kialegee to silence them while the man on the platform spoke. He finished soon after, and then it was the old woman on the stool who began to speak. Her words carried not just meaning, but instructions. At her apparent command, Kialegee began to separate the Hypee from each other. Juniper and Lyric’s husband Dakota were dragged away, and the Hypee woman sobbed as she saw the tomahawks and scalping knives come out of the belts of the Kialegee who carried them off.

The Captain

Major George Battson was a lithe man, who looked every bit like the rough riding frontier patrolman that he was. His skin was tanned from long hours spent riding on the prairies under the sun, leading mounted troops in pursuit of Kialegee or cannibal raiding parties or simply making sure that the handful of roads leading to Galveston from the interior were safe. He had a scar on one cheek that, he explained, had been inflicted by a Kialegee warrior’s lance. The rider had been charging straight at the major, who had been a captain like Eric Van Helm at the time of the skirmish. A fortunate intervention from fate, delivered via the barrel of another Mounted Battalion carbine, had unhorsed the Kialegee at the last moment and sent the tip of the lance skimming along his cheek instead of piercing into his heart. Major Battson had plenty of stories from his time on the frontier and he was willing and even eager to share them with Captain Eric Van Helm over a sumptuous dinner in the officer’s club. The Major had made sure that the club reserved one of the corner tables for the two officers, allowing them to talk in relative privacy. Serving women came and went, bringing out their platters of food and taking away the cleared dishes when they had finished. They also brought out a steady stream of drinks for both officers.

“The man-eaters up in the mountains had gone and raided River Point,” the major was saying to Eric. “This was before we helped them fortify the place, mind you. Damn stupid Hypees didn’t think to put a wall around themselves, or even a fence, and then had the gall to be shocked when the cannibals came knocking at their doors! So we’d sent out a party to try and track one of their raiding groups, to see if we couldn’t rescue some poor souls before they went under the butcher’s knife.”

Eric nodded, listening but not intently. Almost all of the major’s stories were about the same: raid was followed by counter-raid, ambush avenged with punitive expedition. It was the kind of work that unsympathetic liberals back home would call butcher and bolt. The young captain was starting to wonder if he’d made the right decision in asking to be posted here. Perhaps he might have gotten a chance to see more exciting action at Mandalay or Miskito, or a calmer posting on Nova Yukonia.

“So we track the savages for three days, and finally we catch up to them just before the falls,” the major was still saying. “Shame to say the only reason we got to them was because they’d stopped to have a bite out of some of their captives.” Battson shivered. “We attacked the camp just as they were halfway through with some poor man. Most terrible sight I’ve ever seen. Anyway, you won’t see too much of that.”

“What do you mean?” Eric asked, taken aback by the sudden comment.

“Well, the foot companies rarely leave Galveston except on the big expeditions. Most of the small stuff is handled by the Mounted Battalion. It’s the distance, you see. Too hard to get a large body of unmounted men anywhere fast enough to do any good.”

The major must have seen Eric’s face fall, because he was quick to offer some consoling words. “Now don’t get worried about going home without getting blooded, son. There’ll be time enough for your boys to get stuck in with the people around here. Besides,” he added. “Most days in the Mounteds isn’t anything to write home about either.”

“What about the Hypee Boss asking for our help?” Eric probed. “Think we’ll be going out to settle whatever feud they’ve got with the Kialegee?” That, at least, would require the foot companies and Captain Van Helm’s services.

“Most likely,” the major replied. “The Hypees aren’t fighters but we’ve had a good time of it with them. They’re accommodating and easy to deal with. I can’t imagine keeping them happy isn’t worth the trouble of going out and burning down some Kialegee villages. A taste of ashes and charred fields will cool their blood for a while and make them focus on rebuilding. And then when the lesson has worn off, we’ll do it again.”

“What a country,” Eric muttered into his cup as he drained the last drops of ale.

The rest of the evening passed pleasantly. The two officers swapped news and stories from home. Battson reminisced about his time in the military academy, and Eric supplied some updates on old professors and instructors who were still around and terrorizing new cadets. When Eric finally took his leave and made the short walk back to his quarters, he had nearly forgotten about the major’s comments about rarely seeing action.
Last edited by Parina on Sun Aug 04, 2019 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Captain Van Helm Among the Hypee, Part 4

Postby Parina » Sun Aug 04, 2019 2:58 pm

The Captive

Lyric moved like an automaton, emotionally and mentally shattered by the experiences of the last few days. The tomahawk that had finally split Dakota’s skull had been a mercy after what seemed like hours of torture at the hands of the Kialegee. His cries of pain had mixed those of the other older men that the Kialegee had taken prisoner, including Orion’s father Quinn. The Kialegee had not explained themselves to the Hypee any further beyond the short speech from Chief Maknac, so the survivors – women of different ages and young men and boys – had listened from their prison in the longhouse in terrifying noncomprehension as the Kialegee apparently “made right their trespass” by ritually torturing and killing three men. The sounds of her husband dying slowly, suddenly cut off with a dull wet thud as iron blade broke skull and scattered brains, had landed on her with all the weight of the awful events of the last few days. She had no tears left to cry, and her mind seemed to be completely blank. Her whole world was gone.

Some time later, the Kialegee entered the longhouse and selected Lyric and Iris, wife of the dead Hazel. They were led out and placed on horses, their arms bound around the waist of a Kialegee rider. Other riders mounted their own horses, one of them carrying a bloody sack in his hands. Lyric looked away, unwilling to think about what might be inside the woven hemp bag. Chief Maknac walked to the gate where the party of riders was gathered and addressed the two Hypee women.

“You will go to your chief and tell him what has happened here,” he explained. “You will tell your people that these lands are for the Kialegee and no one else.”

Neither Lyric or Iris said a word in reply. Chief Maknac said something in the Kialegee tongue to the rider at the front of the group, who replied in the same foreign language. Then the Kialegee were spurring their riders forward, bounding across the prairie with a grace that even their hard and fast pace could not fully overshadow. The Kialegee did not speak to the Hypee once during the journey. They barely interacted with the women at all, except to occasionally reach back to steady their passengers on the horses, and handing them food to eat and water to drink when they made camp at night. The two women remained bound at the wrists but otherwise unrestrained, yet the thought of escape or violence never entered the Lyric’s mind. All she heard at night were his screams, and the whooping cheers of his torturers. Days and nights blended into each other. She slept not out of conscious choice but because her body lacked the energy to remain awake. She moved where her captors told her to go and otherwise stared blankly forward.

They reached the town of River Station, where the Kialegee delivered their prisoners, their scalps, and their message. The joes – the Hypee word for the picked men of the Boss responsible for keeping order in the town – nearly shot the whole party down until they saw the two women they had with them. Iris and Lyric were both taken to the home of Boss River and put up as his guests while they recovered from their ordeal. The message was soon traveling down the Platte River to Galveston.

The Captain

Major Battson of the Mounted Battalion had evidently taken a liking to Captain Eric Van Helm. It had been a week and half since their lunch together at the officer’s club, and now Eric’s orderly Sage had brought him another invitation from the Major. The calling card had been vague, merely asking him to meet Battson in an hour and a half in dress uniform. While Eric had been hoping to spend some of the day with leisure, maybe with the apparently always-ready Nova, it seemed business had instead taken precedence. Leaving Nova to pout in the new underwear she had bought – a daring sheer piece that she had ordered custom from a clothing merchant in town that offered up almost all of her smooth tan skin to the eyes – he had Sage ready his uniform and was at the appointed place at the appointed time. Major Battson arrived a few minutes late, which was his prerogative as the senior officer.

“Thought you might be interested in seeing this,” he said by way of explanation as he gestured for Eric to follow him towards the home of Colonel Semmes, commander of the Galveston Rifles Regiment. Eric struggled to figure out what might be going on, and he said as much to the major as they neared the steps to the Colonel’s porch.

“More news out of the north,” Battson elaborated. “Seems you won’t have to wait long to get out of Galveston and into the field for a bit. Thought you might benefit from hearing a little more detail, see how things work around here. The Colonel has invited the top officers for a briefing, and I asked to bring you along. Colonel Semmes agreed.”

“Thank you, sir,” Captain Van Helm replied. “I’m honored.”

“Just soak it all in, captain,” Major Battson advised. “If you’ve got questions, wait till the very end. You’re here to listen, not to speak.”

“Of course.” Eric nodded as the two officers ascended the steps and nodded their heads in recognition of the crisp salute from the soldier standing guard at the door. The men of the Galveston Rifles were well-trained and Parinan discipline had rubbed off on them over the years. They were still unruly in camp, but Eric had discovered that on the parade ground, under the watchful eye of himself and his Parinan subordinate officers, they performed like fine soldiers. He wouldn’t bet on them against a company of men from good Parinan stock, or even the Yukon-descended residents of Nova Yukonia, but he imagined that they could beat anyone on this continent in a fair fight.

“Major Battson, and Captain Van Helm,” Colonel Charles Semmes announced their arrival to the other officers in the room – the Regiment’s lieutenant colonel, artillery chief, and some other supply and administrative officers that Eric had met and dealt with during his time at Galveston. “Welcome, gentlemen.”

Both newcomers snapped off crisp salutes and said their own short greetings. Battson found a spot near the lieutenant colonel, while Eric slid to an empty space on the edge of the ground where he could still see the large map laid out on the finished wooden table. It was an annotated topographical map, with icons indicating the major settled communities of Hypee, Kialegee around Galveston. On its far eastern edge was the Fraser River, which marked a sort of generally acknowledged boundary between the Hypee and the Kialegee in the west and the Kumanch people in the east. At its northern end was land which belonged, or at least was the most used by, the Qualla people who straddled the border of the Unorganized Territory and the Confederacy of Atlantian Dominions.

“We, or I should say our friends the Hypee at River Station, have received an ultimatum from the Kialegee. Apparently they’ve got some big Chief up there named Maknac, and he has it in his head that no one who isn’t Kialegee should be permitted to settle in the lands north of the Cascade. He’s burned at least four Hypee villages, killing the military age men and either enslaving or selling the women and children. Now Maknac is claiming to be chief of all the Kialegee, and he’s using his victories against the Hypee, small as they are, to build support for his claim. Gentlemen, it is the opinion of the Political Service that we should prefer a disunited frontier. In short, the Unorganized Territories should become organized unless it by our hand.”

Eric nodded. It would be much easier for Parina to operate and expand in this land if the primitives – he had quickly learned the difference between a primitive who had not reached or recovered true civilized status before or after the False Tribulation, and a savage who had survived the hard times by regressing to animalistic tendencies and eating the flesh of other men – were divided into their little bands and tribes. Parina could play them off one another until it was time for their assimilation into the Empire. If the Kialegee were united under this Chief Maknac, who seemed to have little interest in being assimilated, then that process would become much more difficult for both sides. A slow expansion and assimilation were much more benign for the people of the Unorganized Territory than the sort of slaughter-filled expulsion that the Atlantians had performed in the lands north of the Rappahannock River.

“So, it has been decided that we shall come to the aid of our primitive friends. A punitive expedition will be launched from Galveston to strike the Kialegee, and hopefully this will both stop the attacks on Hypee settlements and also break the political power of Chief Maknac. If he is killed during this expedition, all the better. Major Battson, your Mounted Battalion will of course take part. You will be reinforced by several Foot Companies, who will report to you for the duration of the expedition.”

“Yes sir,” Major Battson answered. “I will have the men ready for march by the end of the week.” He turned and smiled right at Captain Van Helm in a way that made Eric understand that his company would definitely be one of the ones selected to accompany the Mounted Battalion.

“Very good,” Colonel Semmes announced. “Then, gentlemen, I suggest we retire to the parlor for a spot of tea and put such dreary matters aside for now.”

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Parina
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Founded: Dec 13, 2009
Ex-Nation

Captain Van Helm Among the Hypee, Part 5

Postby Parina » Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:17 pm

The Captive

Boss River had been very kind to Lyric and Iris. The two women were told that they were guests of the Boss, and could remain in his home as long as they desired while they recovered from their ordeal. The Boss’ wives – the Hypee did not frown on polygamy, though it was uncommon – were very sympathetic and caring. They brought the two former captives fresh clothing from their own closets to replace the dirty and torn garments that they had been wearing since their capture. They fetched water and heated it to give both women baths, allowing them to scrub clean. Iris had scrubbed herself almost raw, furiously pushing the brush up and down her skin as if trying to peel it off of her body. Lyric had found that she did not have the energy to make her arms or legs move. She was forced to ask for help from the other Hypee women, hating herself for her weakness. That they were so willing to help and so insistent that Lyric had done nothing shameful by asking only made her feel worse. She wanted to scream, to take all of the horrible sounds and images in her head and shout so loudly that they were expelled from her mind. Instead she found that words would not come easily, even for simple things. She knew that she was sleeping and eating, and that days were passing by. None of it registered until the day that Captain Van Helm came to meet with Boss River.

Lyric had seen a few Parinans when she was younger, but they had mostly been traders who came into her village. They had been pale, much paler than the Hypee, and they had worn strange clothing that looked nothing like the simple colorful garments that the Hypee wove for themselves. She had never seen one of their joes, their soldiers, before Captain Van Helm arrived at the Boss’ mansion in River Station. She had been in her room, the one she shared with Iris on the second floor of the estate, and heard a great commotion from downstairs. Lyric had nearly opened the door before she realized that she was still wearing her sleeping clothes. It was the middle of the day, judging by the dull light of the sun trying to get through the curtains that were drawn over the large window on the opposite wall, and she hadn’t gotten out of bed until the sounds from downstairs had drawn her attention. Lyric walked over to the closet and picked out some simple, basic clothes: a blue-colored pair of the long flaring trousers that were common for Hypee men and women, and a soft green shirt that was cropped at the midsection and left her midriff exposed. Then she opened the door and padded down the hallway to the staircase.

Below on the first floor, Boss River’s wives and hired hands were rushing around in a great hurry. They seemed to be preparing for some kind of event, judging by the large table being laid out with the Boss’ finest dishes and the rich smells of cooking food coming from the direction of the kitchen. All of the Boss’ wives were dressed in fine clothing, richly colored cropped shirts like Lyric was wearing and the traditional short skirts of the Hypee people. The Boss came through, dressed in his own formal wear, shouting encouragement for everyone to move quickly. He looked up to see Lyric standing at the top of the stairs and gestured for her to come down.

Chick Lyric,” he addressed her with the honorific of an independent woman. “I be feeling glad to be seeing you be coming out of your room.”

The words were said cheerfully, and obviously meant as a friendly greeting. But the acknowledgement that Lyric, and Iris, had spent much of their time since arriving in River Station locked away in their room still hurt her. She tried to smile past the feeling of guilt and embarrassment.

“I be thanking you, Boss River,” she said. “I be feeling very grateful for everything that you and your house be doing for me and Iris. What be going on that be having everyone be moving around so much?”

“After all the things that you be going through, I could not be doing anything less,” Boss River reassured. “As for all this, a War Boss from Galveston be coming into River Station today, and he be asking to meet with me.” The Boss hesitated for a moment before adding. “This War Boss, he be saying that his mission is be going out to be attacking the Kialegee, to be punishing them for what they be doing to us. That be including what be happening to you and Iris.”

Lyric felt the dull pain, now as familiar to her as an old ache or a bruise, at the mention of “what be happening” to her and her husband, and the other former inhabitants of Paisley. She nodded and asked if there was anything she could do to help the house prepare for his arrival. The Boss shook his head.

“No, my wives and the help be having it well in hand,” he answered. “But I be hoping that you will be accepting an invitation from me, to be joining me and this War Boss for the meal. I be knowing that you be going through a terrible time, but I be thinking that this War Boss might be having questions about…”

“He might be having questions about what be happening to me, and the others,” Lyric finished as the Boss trailed off. “I be accepting your offer, Boss River.”

She couldn’t do anything to save her husband, or Iris’ husband Hazel, or any of the other people she had gone off to start a new life with. But maybe this Parinan War Boss could do something to make the Kialegee suffer like they had made Dakota suffer in the end. The Hypee were a forgiving people – they believed that all people, except the devil-pigs who ate people flesh, were brothers and sisters and deserved peace and love. But when Lyric thought about the Kialegee, all she could hear were their whoops as they tortured her husband. They had gloried in his suffering and his death. She thought about what it might feel like to hear those same Kialegee cry out in pain, or watch their loved ones suffer as she had. That she could even contemplate such a thing horrified some part of her, but that voice was small and distant.

Boss River, of course, didn’t see any of this on Lyric’s face or in her stance. He simply smiled and beckoned one of his wives over to help Lyric get ready to meet the Parinan. She followed the woman back up the stairs to clean herself and get into a more suitable formal outfit. While the Boss’ wife brushed and styled her hair, Lyric thought about rifles cracking in the darkness and homes burning bright in the night. She wondered how the Kialegee would sound when they died.

The Captain

“So this is Hypee Town,” Captain Eric Van Helm of the Galveston Rifle Regiment remarked as they rode through the main road in the center of River Station. The town nestled in the V formed by two bodies of water. To the north was the Platte River, flowing west from its source somewhere in the Cascades. At River Station it branched off, and the Cimarron River forked sharply back to the east before flowing out to the sea at the Kaijun town of Station Point. The Hypee settlement was surrounded by a stout wooden wall, but there had been many homes outside the wall as well as fields where corn and millet and other small crops were grown. The town had two gates, one facing the river where traders and others moving by water could enter, and another facing the land. Eric and his First Lieutenant, a Nova Yukonia-born man named Roland Mayfair, had taken a small bateau inland from Galveston, crewed by coastal men who knew how best to navigate the waters of the Platte. The journey had been two days of rowing against the current, stopping to camp along the riverbank when darkness fell. Upon their arrival at River Station they were greeted by some of the local militia, who wore brown trousers with fringe and loose-fitting green shirts, plus wide-brimmed hats with flat peaks. They carried old single-shot black powder rifles that were two generations out of date.

The militia, who the Hypee called joes, provided the two officers with horses for their procession into the city. This was apparently some measure of respect and standing, because Eric saw several other river craft docked at the water-side gate and their occupants simply walked into the town on their feet. The two Parinan officers rode into River Station on their loaned mounts, headed for the largest building they could see – the two-story mansion at the center, with its walls of logs and mortar. At the front door they were greeted by two more joes who took charge of their horses, while Boss River stood at the top of the steps that lead up to the veranda of the mansion. Behind him stood a handful of women, all wearing very short skirts and midriff-bearing tops. Eric shared a glance with Roland that told him the other officer was enjoying the view just as much as he was. They strode up the steps and greeted the Boss, who made that two-finger V and then shook both of their hands.

“I be feeling very happy to be meeting you,” Boss River told the officers as he ushered them inside. The women – the multiple wives of the Boss, apparently – scattered to go bring the food for their meal.

“We actually have seen each other before,” Eric said. “The day you spoke with Governor Fitzhugh was the same day I arrived in Galveston. I saw you make your presentation.”

“Well then I be feeling glad to see you again,” the Boss replied with a hearty laugh. “I also be feeling very happy to know the Governor be deciding to be sending out his joes to go be fighting the Kialegee.”

“Well we could not let their offenses go unpunished,” Eric replied. “And this Chief Maknac who leads them, he is a danger to Galveston as well as to your people.”

“I be agreeing with you,” Boss River said as they took their seats around the table.

The Boss sat at the head, with the two Parinan officers sitting to his left. The rest of the spots around the table were filled by the Boss’ wives. Eric took particular notice of one woman with coal-black hair who was looking at him very intently. He smiled at her from across the table, but her gaze did not change. Eric mentally shrugged and turned back to the Boss.

“I be introducing chick Lyric,” Boss River said with a gesture at the same woman. “She be surviving when the Kialegee be attacking her village. The Kialegee be taking her as a captive, and then be releasing her to be carrying Chief Maknac’s message to us. I be thinking she might be knowing some things which could be having some use to you.”

Eric raised an eyebrow. Quite different from just another Boss’ wife. “That is very thoughtful of you, Boss River.” Eric turned to the woman, Lyric, and inclined his head. “You have my sympathy, ma’am, for the trials you have endured.” The woman did not say anything in return. The poor thing probably went through hell. Eric had heard stories of people who had endured such terrors that they lost the ability to speak, as though their experiences had destroyed the ability of their mind to function. But Eric suspected that she wasn’t that damaged, especially if the Boss thought that she might have useful information to share.

“I am indeed here, along with my second-in-command, to gain more information about the Kialegee,” Eric said to Boss River. “Anything and everything that you know. Any little scrap of information could be of use.”

They talked for several hours. The Boss did not know nearly as much as they had been hoping, but he had more information that they had been expecting. The Kialegee had struck all of their targets in the same way, riding around shooting at the inhabitants until nightfall and then sneaking in close to light fires. They had repeating rifles, better than anything the Hypee had, and were good shots from horseback. Their attacks had all been aimed at newer settlements with small populations – a few larger, more established Hypee villages on the edges of what Chief Maknac had declared as exclusively Kialegee territory had not been attacked. Boss River thought that it might because the Chief was picking easy fights that he knew he could win. Boss River didn’t know how many warriors Maknac commanded, but the attacks on the villages had involved probably several dozen riders at least. Now that he was a successful war chief, he likely commanded the loyalties of many hundred able fighters.

Lyric answered a few questions when asked. She knew little of where she had been taken, besides that they had ridden north away from Paisley and that the town where Dakota had been killed was along a wide river, which Eric recognized as the Fraser River. She had seen Chief Maknac and the red-shirted chief of the village who supported him. She did not know what had happened to those the Kialegee had not killed, but Boss River supplied their likely fate: either they had been adopted into the Kialegee, or they had been taken to the large settlement of Logstown and sold as slaves to the Kumanch or the Qualla. If they were lucky, maybe an Atlantian missionary or trader had purchased and rescued them.

At the end of the meal, the woman made her request. While the wives were clearing away plates, Lyric turned to Captain Van Helm.

“I want to be joining you,” she announced. “I be doing whatever you want. Be making me a cook or be putting me to be working on something else, I be washing your shirts if you want. But I be wanting to be coming with you.”

Eric was taken aback. “This expedition may last some time,” he said slowly. “And it will be rough living.”

“I do not be caring,” Lyric protested. “Dude Eric, I be wanting to see you be fighting the Kialegee. They be taking everything from me.” Eric could hear the emotions that Lyric worked to keep down as she spoke. “I be listening to you be talking with the Boss, and I be understanding what you be planning to be doing to the Kialegee. It be looking like what they be doing to me and my home. I be wanting…”

Eric looked to the Boss, who seemed taken aback by this sudden request from the Hypee woman, but he said nothing and made no motion to shut her down. Some of the wives were peeking around the corner from the kitchen, listening with wide eyes to Lyric’s words.

“I be wanting to see them be suffering like they be making my husband be suffering,” Lyric said finally. “I be asking you strongly.”

Eric considered the woman before him. He could see the start of tears in her eyes, but there was fire there too. He nodded his head slowly.

“I’m sure we can find something for you to do,” Eric Van Helm said to Lyric. “Welcome to the Galveston Rifles, Miss Lyric.”

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Parina
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Posts: 215
Founded: Dec 13, 2009
Ex-Nation

Captain Van Helm Among the Hypee, Part 6

Postby Parina » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:29 pm

The Captive

I be doing whatever you want, Dude Eric. Be making me a cook if you want,” Lyric said in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of her own voice. “That will be teaching me to be opening my mouth and be letting my words be spilling out.”

Lyric had returned with Eric Van Helm and the other Parinan back to Galveston, where she had almost immediately been put to work. The Parinans had not left the city for several days after the meeting in Boss River’s mansion, but throughout that time Lyric had been kept busy by a constant parade of work. With one stroke, she had become one of the Regiment’s appointed laundresses, helping to clean the shirts and uniforms of the men before they marched out for the punitive expedition. And then she had discovered that she was to serve as Captain Van Helm’s personal servant for the duration of the campaign. His other servant, a woman named Nova with bright red hair, had glared daggers at her the entire time she had been in the captain’s home. No doubt she thought Lyric was potential competition for the man’s attention and affection. Lyric tried her best to show her disinterest in the Parinan officer as anything except her opportunity to see the Kialegee receive the same pain they had inflicted on her husband, without success. Nova had still been mad when Eric Van Helm and a large force of Parinan joes began the march out of Galveston.

Now, on the trail, she was struggling to see what the other woman wanted so badly to herself. Captain Van Helm was not a harsh taskmaster nor did he try and step past the boundaries that Lyric had thrown up, but he did expect her to fulfill the duties of the position she had unknowingly volunteered to fill. She was still struggling to remember everything that she needed to do, and how the captain had preferred that she do it. Thankfully Sage, the captain’s orderly, had been very helpful. He had spent most of his time supervising her, mostly because there had been little need for a courier on the long march into the countryside. He seemed nice, and he hadn’t lost his Hypee way of speaking like Nova. Lyric found herself comforted by having someone she could talk to and get a response that sounded familiar.

She could have spent some time talking with the other Hypee that were with the force. The gurus, the leaders of the Hypee religion and spokespeople for the Grandmother, had been deep in meditation since the Parinans had made their intentions to march out and punish the Kialegee known. They had emerged with guidance from the Grandmother: while all were brothers and sisters under the great matron above, and all people deserved peace and love, the Kialegee had violated the bonds of brotherhood by attacking the Hypee without cause. Thus, it was permissible for the Hypee to take up arms and fight back. A handful of Hypee joes had agreed to accompany the Parinans and act as scouts and skirmishers. They could move faster and with more concealment than the loud, colorful joes of the Galveston Rifle Regiment. Lyric had spoken with a few of them, but when they looked at her all they saw was the things the Kialegee had done to her husband and the others. They offered sympathy, and it was heartfelt, but they had little to say to Lyric besides promising justice for the wrongs the Kialegee had committed against her.

Lyric did not need their promises of justice. She did not want justice for the Kialegee. The Hypee had taught that justice should be fair, and always tempered with forgiveness for wayward brothers and sisters. Lyric still believed that, and she did not want to see the Kialegee be forgiven for their sins. She wanted them to suffer. The Parinans would make them suffer.

The Captain

Campaigning in the prairies of the Unorganized Territory was not nearly as glamorous as either Captain Eric Van Helm had imagined it or Major Battson had described it. Once the long column of soldiers – the horse-riding men of the Mounted Battalion and two Foot Companies of infantry – had left the walls of Galveston, they had quickly entered a seemingly endless expanse of flat, grassy nothing. The views had been spectacular for the first few days, but now Captain Van Helm was growing tired of majestic sunsets and wide-open spaces. He would have given up a week’s salary just to see a few trees. It was coming to the end of summer, and so it was cool even on the days where the sun beat down from a cloudless sky. The soldiers marched along, wearing their bright red coats and tan-brown slouch hats while Eric and the other officers rode up and down the line making sure everyone was maintaining formation and step. Eric’s company had been one of the last ones raised to fill out the Regiment, and so they did not have any experience in campaign movement or combat. Eric and the other Parinan officers would be watching them closely throughout the campaign to see where improvement was needed. At the moment, however, the men’s ability to march in step or maintain calm under fire wasn’t what was being tested. Instead, it was their physical strength, and Eric’s patience.

“Put your backs into it, men! One, two, three, heave!”

A chorus of straining groans all began at once as the men, stripped down to their shirt sleeves, pulled with all their might on the thick ropes. The lines stretched back to the stream, a tributary of the Platte River running into the prairie, where a cannon sat stubbornly mired in mud freshly churned up by a rainy evening the previous night. The cannon’s horse team had failed to muster the power needed to get the artillery piece out of the muck, and so it had fallen to a group of Eric’s soldiers to pull the light field gun out of its predicament. Unfortunately, the wheels had sunk in deep and there was little purchase to be found, so the process was taking some time. Crossing the stream had been an ordeal, with wagons threatening to topple over as they splashed through the quick-running water and men grumbling as the water soaked their pants and added more weight to the load they had to endure. This final insult from nature seemed to be the crowning act of spite.

And to add insult to injury, Major Battson arrived on horseback. “Better get this thing out and moving soon, Captain,” he said after returning Eric’s salute. “The scouts are saying there’s a Kialegee village not too far from here. That’ll be our first target, and we want to make a good show of it.”

“We’ll have the gun ready for action,” Eric promised the Major. And thankfully, at that moment the straining mass of soldiers finally succeeded in pulling the cannon free of the mud and up onto the grass above the river bank. A cheer went up as the men let the ropes drop to the ground and beckoned for the waiting horse team to hitch the gun back up. Battson smiled.

“Any problems so far?”

“None to report, sir,” Eric said. “The men have been good on the march and their spirits seem high.”

“Good,” Battson replied. “Well, if this village is really where the Hypees say it is, they’ll get their chance to show us what they’re made of. Nothing like a first fight to shake loose the chaff.”

“As you say, sir.”

Battson turned his horse and spurred it away, back to the head of the column where he rode with the Mounted Battalion. Eric got his own horse moving towards the newly freed cannon, which was almost hooked up to the horses that would continue to pull it across the never-ending flatness. First Lieutenant Roland Mayfair was standing and supervising the work, but he turned and saluted Eric when the commander of the company approached. The other soldiers paused what they were doing as well to salute, and Eric was pleased to see they had the same crispness as the men of the Colonel’s personal guard back at Galveston. On a parade ground, they were hitting every mark. But battle isn’t the same as parade-ground maneuvers.

“Very good, Lieutenant,” Eric said. “When we make camp tonight, a ration of rum for the company.” This brought more cheers from the men and a “very good, sir” from Lieutenant Mayfair. Eric returned the salute and rode forward to where the rest of the company was waiting, sitting by the side of the road resting until the cannon had been freed and the column was ready to march. Soon enough, a few minutes later the wagons ahead of Eric’s men lurched forward and began to trundle along the beaten path which the force was following. Officers and sergeants roused the men and shaped them into their formations, stepping off right on queue when the last wagon in front of them began to roll. Drummers played a lively tune, both to help keep the men’s feet on rhythm and to cut through the silent monotony of their surroundings. Watching his men advance down the trail, with artillery rolling along behind them and plenty of provisions in the wagons, Eric Van Helm began to feel his worries about the men subsiding. Even if they were green and untested, how could this power be threatened?


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