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Author Topic: Jessara  (Read 43 times)

Description: A Frontier Scout

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Jessara
« on: September 12, 2017, 03:03:10 AM »
She was what the rest of the world called a ‘Bastard Selnen,’ her paternal grandfather was a soldier, serving in the Dwarven Mountain Infantry that stormed the gates of Brashad-Quantar with General Cecil Bragg. His paternal grandmother was a Camden woman, a healer and herbalist. She didn’t know the name of her maternal grandfather, only that he was a large Aldoran man that contracted an evening with his grandmother, a prostitute of Elven heritage. She was actually, probably, the most interesting of them all. Her grandfather was due to fight a duel that honor wouldn’t let him escape, and so her grandmother received the largest payout that she’d ever heard of. An entire trunk of diamond silver and gold coins.

“I’ve seen you about, and you’ve a name for a woman with a good heart and bad circumstances,” he said to her. “Rather than let my deceitful whore of a wife have all I’m worth to split with the man she cuckolded me with, I’m going to send you off with that chest in the morning.” She left with a heavy chest of coins and, without knowing it, a daughter growing in her belly. She did hear that the man was killed in the affair, and that his widow was looking for her, and her chest. It did no good, she went north from the brothel in Caste to Brashad-Quantar and set herself up as the mistress of a small inn, where she tolerated no shenanigans with her maids, cooks and serving girls.

So, Jessara Flint, a quarter each of Aldoran, Camden, Dwarven, and Elven blood was born to Baldar and Reina Flint, in a small and very desolate fort in the Frontier, Baldar was a smith a smith and armorer and Reina, with a small stipend from Jessara, established a sulter and trading post. Jessara took to her lessons well at the small post school and after passing her examinations was sent to Talmaran for her military training. She received the notification that the post had been massacred in a large raid, her father and younger brother were confirmed among the dead, her mother and sister, were missing and presumed taken.

Jessara left Talmaran and volunteered for duty in the Frontier, accepted as a cavalry scout, and oddly enough, a bugler, in the Seventh Army. Her time there was mercifully short, as the Seventh and Eights were disbanded and she thought she was about to be cashiered, but was relieved to find a post with the Tamber Militia, then being formed. She saw quite a bit of action, scouting for and locating bandit forces and army units from their enemies along the border serving without uniforms. Killing bandits was not what she’d considered a chore, she saw it as a duty to family lost.

She was not without family here, she had many cousins in Tamber, her elder cousins (she wasn’t sure of degree) were in the Grand Duchess’ household, Dara as housekeeper and Kara as her personal cook. Her uncle Targan was a brigadier serving as adjutant commander to the Third Cavalry Company. Two toher distant cousins were coming out with the newly formed Second Army of the Tamber Militia soon, her letters told her. Legate Sir Darnen Flint as Quartermaster of the 59th Brigade and Legate Sir Gant Flint, as Battle Ensign, 63rd Brigade. Not to mention several lower in rank and stature as engineers in the Tamber Militia and Army of the Frontier.

Trooper 6th Rank Jessara Flint was now a bugler and scout assigned to the Tamber Scouts Company, she was considered very good at what she did and served in the 1st Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Battalion, 1st Legion, 1st Brigade of the Talmar Scouts Company, they joked that they were easy to remember as they were called the All Ones. She took a little amusement that she was also assigned to First Fist, First Squad, as well. Truly All Ones. Her problem now was that she was the sole survivor of her fist and squad, and she wasn’t sure of the status of her troop.

She and Trooper Gerant had finished their second of a three day scout when they were attacked by four men. She’d killed her two when she heard Gerant go down. She wheeled her mount and killed her killer with a savage spear thrust and rode over to the bandit he’d wounded, a thrust of spear point to throat ended him. Gerant was dead, the much older man hadn’t even shared a last word with her. She gathered his gear and lashed it to his horse after burying him. She marked his grave on her map, in case they could make better arrangements for him later, and returned to the rendezvous point and found none of her squad of ten there to meet her. She waited a day and then scouted the area to find them. Sadly, she did.

She found eight bodies over three days, tended to them as best she could. They’d been stripped of gear and horses, which actually made them easier to follow, but she still gave each a grave and marked her map for them. The last she found was Corporal Candaran, a happy-go-lucky man from Wisnore and Knight of the Bard. Bitty laid beside his body, she had dried blood around her mouth and on her paws and chest. “Easy, Bitty,” she said, smiling at the ridiculous name as Bitty was a wolfhound, bred in Wisnore, and she weighed around two hundred quite a bit more than Jessara herself.

She checked the corporal first, and then Bitty. Carefully cleaning her injuries, relieved to find them minor. She trimmed away the hair from the deeper cuts and used the contents of Gerant’s wound pouch to numb, clean and close her cuts. She pet Bitty’s shaggy head and scratched her ears before she set herself to work to perform her final duties to her corporal.  Bitty was a comfort to her, true the large dog wasn’t up to hunting for her meals, and would tax her own resources, but she was an excellent guard dog, and had a fine nose.

The next day Bitty sniffed out two of her squad’s horses and she had them follow her on a long lead. A third horse was close by the rendezvous, she’d returned to gather their cached goods. She laid out three small loads for the three horses she’d now use as pack animals. She took the time to tether them near water and brushed them out and checked them over. She treated them with oat cakes and dried apples, then broke up a ration cake for Bitty, lacing the crumbs liberally with dried varulan fruit.

It was late in the day, so she left the saddles ready, the horses picketed, and set her bedroll in a hollow formed by the bushed around them. She made a tiny, smokeless fire and put on water for tea and stew. Among the things she found in the cache was the Corporals spare dispatch book. Unfortunately, his pouch was gone, so she couldn’t receive dispatches, but she could at least let her sergeant know what was happening. She carefully drafted her report, stating that all were dead save her and she drew a map that marked the gravesites, she made careful mention that the dispatch pouch was missing and presumed to be in hostile hands. She further announced her intention to track down the bandits and that she would report later.

The ink faded to a lighter shade when she made the sign on the bottom of the page, meaning her dispatch was sent. Dinner was bison stew with dried corn and crushed hardtack mixed in. Her kettle had steeped as her dinner cooked. After she ate she heated more water and boiled oats and a ration cake together for breakfast. She sat in a dark camp for a while that night, Bitty curled up beside her, looking quite pleased with life as she gotten to finish the stew and licked the pot clean. Jessara washed the pot in the creek and boiled oats and ration cake together, when it started to thicken she placed the pot off to the side and put the lid on it, breakfast would be cold, but filling. She could eat better, but she was saving that for another time, when she needed to rebuild more strength, feed her body to heal wounds and lost blood. Besides, her meals weren’t exciting, but they were filling and nourishing. She finished her tea and laid back to sleep.

She slept lightly, hearing and feeling each time Bitty rose to check things out, she always came back to lie next to her and they drifted back into their light sleep. She rose at first light and warned the tea left in the pot and her breakfast, enjoying a warm meal before cleaning up and saddling the horses and hanging their gear packs on them as well. Normally a squad would have their wagon with them, but the wagon and their cook, smith teamster and surgeon were off with the troop. She’d survive for quite a while with what she had, but the full wagon would have made it much more comfortable. She shrugged. She hadn’t known comfortable field conditions yet, why start now?

The corporal had been the last killed, and so she returned there to begin tracking them. Now that she knew what had happened, she needed supplies and, fortunately, the spare horses, to make her hunt. She revied what she had seen around her dead comrades. She could guess that there were at least thirty of them, they’d split up to track and kill them, and they’d lost at least half of that number, more if as many were wounded as she thought. She added that bit of information to her next report, and that she was starting the hunt.

She followed their sign carefully, it lead to a farm, a smallholding, by its looks. Perhaps three families, judging by the cottages that surrounded the main house. She dismounted and tethered the horses, hers and the three that now followed her own. She climbed a tree and studied the scene with her spyglass as she nibbled a ration cake, elk, she decided by the flavor, then sipped water. The farm had recently been raided. One of the bodies still lay at the edge of the house yard. A small body, she noted with growing rage. She counted six men, two moving with obvious signs of wounds. The wind blew across the farm toward her and it carried the smell of death, she caught a few whiffs, but the horses were skittish, they had the scent as well. They also heard the occasional screams as well. There were apparently women on this holding. Shite!

After sending one last report, she removed the picket pins and left the spare horses under a tree in plain sight as she rode forward, she made sure her bugle was in position and rode towards the collection of houses, riding through the broken gate with her spear half-advances and rode up to the house. “In the house, come out, Tamber Militia,” she shouted, then made a point of looking back at the horses and nodded her satisfaction. Spear in her right hand, bow strung by her left knee with a full quiver, a sword at her hip, one on her saddle, and knives everywhere. She was ready.

“What can I do for the Army?”

“You live here?”

“I do,” he replied.

“Your name?”

He paused and started to answer twice. “Save it,” she snapped. “Whatever you say is about to be a lie. I want everyone out of all of these buildings,” she raised her bugle. “Or I call in my platoon to face hostiles.”

“Steady there,” he smiled. “Why do you think there’s trouble?”

“For one thing, you’re wearing stolen boots, Royal Army issue. Same with that knife in your belt,” she growled. “So, everyone out, or I call them in, ready to deal with bandits and slavers. Care to guess how we deal with that?”

“We’re freeborn folk, and this ain’t Tamber, why should we listen to you?”

“For starters, because if you’re really the land holder, then you are a citizen of the Realm, as all of the Frontier are citizens of the Realm. We made that point clear by burying tens of thousands of invaders, thieves and rapists. I say for the last time, call them all out. Men, women and children.” She raised the bugle and blew a three note warning, the horses she left raised their heads called out, but so did several in the barns.

“I see,” she said with a small smirk. “Next notes I blow calls in my troop. Everyone out, now,” she raised her voice with authority.

The man studied her for a second. She didn’t seem to be tall, but she had wide shoulders and her arms and legs looked thick, there was likely muscle to her. She shifted and heard the grown of the dog, now behind him, in position to strike. He’d seen the huge dog when they rode up, but he’d lost track of it.

“He’ll take you by the ballocks,” Jessara said in a cold voice, her smile disheartening.

“Eveyone out,” he shouted. “Come meet the army lady.”

“I mean everyone,” she added. “Don’t forget that we’re scouts. We’ve made a count. Men, women and children. All out, and we can keep things civil.” Bitty growled again.

“Everyone out, all of them!” The man repeated.

“Men, over there to the left,” he replied, and Bitty backed up to watch them.

“You, Madame, is this all of them?”

She licked her lips and looked nervous, but saw the young soldiers confidence and shook her head.

“You bitch!” The man snarled and the others shifted to glare at her, and Bitty’s growl was lower and filled with menace.

“One of you killed her master,” Jessara said flatly. She raised her hand and made several gestures, making the men look around to see who she was signaling. “And wounded her, she hasn’t tried to take any of you, so where are they?” She looked back at the woman. “Are they in the house you were in?”

She shook her head.

“Are these all of the women and children? Aside from the murdered boy by the fence?”

She nodded her head.

“Are any of these women with these men?”
“Her,” A little girl screamed, pointing at a woman standing behind the rest. “She killed Rennie!” She pointed out to the body of the boy by the fence. From her seat above them Jessara saw the woman pull a knife.  She danced her mount sideways and lunged hard with her spear, taking her through the upper slope of her left breast. She felt her point hesitate for a second and she suspected a leather garment of some sort under the dress. At the same time she heard a man scream and as she withdrew her spear point and danced her mount back out, she saw a man on the ground with the meat of the back of one thigh torn out, arterial blood sprayed and Bitty slipped away.

Jessara had watched Corporal Gerant working with Bitty for hours at a time, and had a good idea of what she was capable of doing.

“Women and children into the house, bar the doors and shutters,” she ordered.

They hesitated.

“Move!” She snapped and they hurried to do her bidding, the Door slammed and she could hear the shutters being closed as well. Seven before her, one down. “Bind him up or let him bleed out,” she shrugged. “As it suits you.”

They let him bleed, it only took a few moments, he was as good as gone anyway. They knew the threat of the dog. They looked at the woman coughing up blood. “No hope for her,” Jessara said flatly. “No hope for child killers.”

“Bitty,” she ordered and pointed to the cottages. “Seek!” The huge dog loped off, sniffing the ground, then she caught a scent that raised her hackles and she followed it to a barn, soon there was more screaming and snarling.

“You used to woman as bait? Didn’t you?” Jessara grinned. “Didn’t try it with me, guess you knew I wouldn’t be blinded by tit.”

They looked uncomfortable, but the man that did all of the talking looked up at her. “I think you’re alone.”

“That implies you can think at all,” she shrugged and set her heels into her mount, it leapt forward powerfully as he spear lowered, and the weight and momentum of the horse drove the point into his body all the way to a pair of short cross-guards, a flick of the reins and her mount stopped suddenly and backed out, helping her disengage the point. Her left hand swept up her bugle and she blew recall, she heard the horses in the barn call out again and the horses she brought raised their heads and started across the pasture at a gallop.

The men saw the horses approach and panicked, which is what she wanted, especially with six to one odds showing. She let her bugle fall on its strap and pulled her sword in her left hand and launched her horse at them, the spear sank into another and she spun her horse, a nudge and it lashed out with its rear hooves and another was down. Five more ran out of the barn, Bitty on their heels. One went down when she sank her teeth into the back of his knee, another went down a few steps later when Bitty leapt and sank her teeth into a man’s neck, dragging him down with the sounds of rending flesh and bone.

Jessara kept dancing her horse around them, her spear point wounding and killing when opportunities arose. One came in with a knife and made it close enough to feel the bite of Dwarven steel, a blade made for her by her father and he fell under the hooves of her horse, who made short work of him. They were learning a painful lesson, the warhorses of the army and militia weren’t just transportation, they were somewhat bad-tempered weapons in their own right.

Her spear hung up in a man and she danced her horse away as it pulled from her hand, sheathing her sword she had her bow up and shot into them from a distance as Bitty dodged attacks and launched her own.

“Oh blood and shite,” one of the men gasped, ”she did have more of them!”

She heard horses coming and pulled up her trumpet and blew the alarm, and seconds later heard the charge blown in reply. She let the bugle fall. “Bitty, to me!” she ordered, smiling as the three horses milled around her. “Lie down on the ground!” She ordered the men. The few not already on the ground complied as the rest of 1st Troop rode into the house yard.

“Search the buildings,” Jessara shouted, then actually blushed. “I mean we should search the buildings, Sergeant Yander.”

“Second and third squads, search the buildings, fourth, stay mounted,” he ordered. “The house?” He looked at Jessara.

“Women and children?”

“Dead woman on the porch?”

“She killed the little boy by the fence. I expect that the bodies of the men of this place, and the goods they stripped from my squad, are around here somewhere. At least one of the dead bandits was wearing army boots, brand new cavalry boots. Look like Corporal  Gerant’s.”

Sergeant Yander looked down at Bitty, covered in blood. “Looks like you have a dog now,” he sighed, looking unhappy.

“If she wants me, I suppose so,” Jessara replied.

“Think she does, she hasn’t left your side, since you called her. Anyone tries to claim her, you send them to me. Deren would be glad to see you with her,” he looked around the farm. “Damnation,” he shook his head. “Should have sent two squads.”

Jessara shrugged. “You followed the way we’ve done it,” she replied. “Scouts are used to working in singles and pairs.”

“I’m going to recommend scout squads be raised to six and that we use only two and three man teams for scouting an area,” he shrugged back. “May make a difference, may not.” He looked around. “Report!”

She laid out her actions, recounting what she’d written in greater detail. Yander laughed when he figured out her tactics. “Very good, you fought with the muscle between your ears, before the ones in your arm. Go roust the people from the house. I think we’ll need to see if they’ll evacuate to Tamber.  This place is nothing but death for them now.”

“They women don’t seem very strong,” Jessara observed. “I’ve seen a lot of it in the Frontier. It’s a man’s world says the men, and they treat women as breeding stock and property.”

Yander nodded. “That’s why I’ll see if they’ll evacuate.” He looked across the field. “There’s Fifth Troop with the wagons, we’ll have the surgeons see to the ladies, and get the cooks at work.”

“More of our horses in the barns,” she added as she rode to the house.

===============================================
Jessara stepped into the barracks for the first squadron, there was a door at each end, one for men and one for women. In truth people walked back and forth all the time, but there were still rules and rules said a door for each. She stepped to her bunk and dropped her pack and saddle bags and sat on her bed heavily. Bitty sat by her and she smiled down at the keen eyes of the dog and patted the bed next to her smiling as the dog curled up on her blanket beside her.

It would take her a week to mend her kit, she realized, then looked to the locked chest at the foot of her small bed. At least she had her garrison uniforms yet. She made a point of not looking at the men that stepped into the room, after announcing themselves, room was a bit of a stretch, there was a curtain rigged to separate the two areas. The rest of the women of her squadron, six of them, arrived in time to see the chests of the three that wouldn’t come home unlocked from the foot of each cot and carried off. They watched blankly, but they all knew a few tears would be shed before too long. In the field they were too busy to think about it, and now, with garrison duty they’d finally have that time. No shame in it though, a few tears would be shed on the other side of the curtain as well.

Their faces were still set in stony silence as they all doffed armor and gear, leaving piles for later, as they gathered what they’d need for the baths. Field baths kept the stink down, but didn’t really promote a fresh feeling when done, harsh soap, the same as they used on their horses kept away the bugs and other nastiness, but no one really felt clean when they smelled like a horse.

Each of them, in their bathing kit had the scent of soap that gave them a feeling of being home from the field. They were each issued a cake of plain unscented soap, and Jessara would use that for Bitty, before she had her own bath. It was some time later before they were back at her bunk. Bitty again curled up, now on her spare blanket at the foot of the bed. Fortunately Jessara was short, tall for a camden, short for an Aldoran or Elf, and barely tall enough for a Dwarf, so her feet and Bitty wouldn’t get in each other’s way very often. She sorted her gear, filthy and off to the laundry went into a cheap linen sack with her tag ties to it. It would come back in a new bag after they’d washed it all, or condemned it and sent her back new.

New was a bit of a pain, it would need to be altered, she was thin, so issue never fit right. The laundresses would see to that, quickly if a bit of a bride was involved. Her leathers were left to her to clean, easier to clean that chain, which made the scouts happy they didn’t wear heavier armor, until the fighting started, then a bit of chain or plate would be nice. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” she sighed as she laid down in her sleep shift and fell into a deep sleep.

===============================================
“You’ve been called to the Legate’s office,” Yander told her at the next morning’s inspection.

“What did I do to have to see the leggy?” she gasped, trying to remember an infractions she could have committed.

“Just make sure to call him leggy and you won’t have to wonder what trouble you’ve found,” Yander growled. “Off with you, you look fit to be seen, barely.”

She left at a quick pace, Bitty hot on her heels. She sat nervously on a bench and was finally brought in by the Legion Color Sergeant, after formally reporting she was offered a stool to sit on across from Legate Warland.

“Trooper and Bugler 6th Rank Lessara Flint,” he read from a report. “You’ve seen a bit of action.”

“A bit, Sir,” she agreed.

“You passed through your soldiers training at Talmaran, but left in your second year,” he read further.

“Yes, Sir, after...”

“Yes,” he interrupted kindly, “after. I want to send you back to school, he said, as he set the report aside. You have two years of field service, and you’ll make 5th rank in a year, or you will if you decline to join the incoming class at the Tamber Academy. If you accept the appointment, you’ll receive your warrant as lance corporal. Either way, you’ll receive the Tamber provincial service medal and the Tamber provincial commendation medal, and you’re being submitted for the Royal Service Medal and a Royal Commendation.”

“Thank you, Sir,” she managed to speak past a growing lump in her throat.

“There is a lot changing out here,” he said quite seriously. “It wasn’t long ago that I was a sergeant of scouts in the old Sixth, my record put a commission on me and a few fast bumps after that. You know of the rise of the Lord Marshall. There’s always room to advance those that are good enough, and you show the signs of being good enough. You’re almost eighteen?”

“Almost nineteen, Sir,” she corrected. “Half a year out, anyway.”

He nodded. “Well, I have a warrant with your name on it, I wish to forward it to the Lord Marshall for his approval, and her Highness the Grand Duchess to sign, am I going to send it off, or are you going back to your barracks?”

“I would be honored if you’d send it off, Sir,” she replied.

 

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