Back in the Trenches

The trenches in the Northern Regions were very different than the ones at White Beach. They were much deeper, having been continuously improved since the beginning of the war. Most of the artillery guns were buried in deep concrete bunkers. There was also a much more rigid structure for advancement to the front. An Infantry Regiment would come in to the rear line, where the 202nd was now. It would spend a week there, going on any raids necessary, and resting in the relative safety. The next week would be in the fall-back line, with the job of repairing the wire. Finally, the third week would be in the front line trenches. Their job was too watch, hope, and pray. This line rarely got any sleep, due to the near constant machine gun, rifle, and artillery fire.

These trenches felt much safer to Evans. It didn’t hurt that the front line was a few hundred meters forward. He snaked his way past the signs, looking for “Smithies Hole,” the trench where Second Platoon was. He wondered who Smithie was. And why this was their hole? Was it innuendo? Probably. Would Newey make a joke about it? Definitely.

Once Evans found it, he walked into the Lieutenant’s dugout and saluted, “Sir! Message from the Captain!”

“Um… Yes. Very well Lance Corporal… What is it?”

“A Raid Sir. Captain Kestel will be leading, and she wants to use Sergeant Chilcott’s team.”

“Thanks for telling me Lance Corporal. Um… You are excused?”

“Very well Sir,” Evans did an about face and left the dugout. He walked to one of the soldiers on watch and tapped them on the shoulder.

Kempe turned around, “Evans, need something?”

“Yeah, do you know where Chilly is?”

She pointed at one of the dugouts, “I think he’s in their. See you around.”

“See ya,” Evans walked into the dugout Kempe had pointed at. It was much less nice than the officers’ dugouts. Less deep too. He picked up a candle by the entrance and walked in, casting the flickering light on the various cots until he found Sergeant Chilcott.

Sergeant Chilcott was attempting to sleep.

“Chilly” Evans whispered.

The Sergeant let out a thin, slow, “Fuuuuuuuuckkkkkkk” and opened his eyes, “What is it Evans?”

“Captain sent me. She wants your team on a raid tomorrow. You should meet with her after stand to for details.”

“Dammit,” Chilcott rolled over, “I hate doing things.”

“See you later Chilly,” Evans walked to the entrance and put the candle back in place. He left the dugout and walked down towards the exit. There was a rustle in one of the wall scrapes, a smaller dugout for two or three soldiers covered by a curtain. Tiscornia rolled out, stood up and brushed off his uniform. Giuliano slowly scooted out a few seconds later and stood up.

A flare went up and Evans waved, “Hey Dom and Corp.” He paused a moment, “Um… Corp, your, ah, fly is undone.”

She blushed, “Dom, broke one of the buttons off.”

Tiscornia interrupted, “Yes, while we were sitting and doing platonic things with each other.”

Laughing, Evans walked past them, “I’ve gotta go stare at the front lines. Corp, don’t let Dom get you platonically pregnant while I’m gone.”

He then wandered his way to the front line. It was somewhat quiet tonight, much less artillery than usual. Flares only were coming up every few minutes. Evans quickly patted his pockets to check if his periscope and notepad were there. They were.

127th Infantry Headquarters was somewhat quiet. Evans walked into the deep headquarters dugout and saluted the first officer he saw, “Sir, I’m here from the 202nd to check out the bunker before tomorrows raid.”

The Captain nodded, “You’ll be Lady Demetria’s assistant then?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, I guess I will show you to the position lad,” The Captain put his helmet and greatcoat then walked towards the entrance.

“Thank you Captain.”

“Sorry, not Captain. I was promoted about a week ago have not had time to put on my new tags,” The Major gestured to the insignia on his helmet, “At least I still have the Captain target.”

“Yes sir.”

The Major then led Evans through the trenches to a listening sap. The two crouched low and walked to the middle of No-Man’s Land. A few shells dropped nearby, and a green flare lingered a few hundred meters down the line. Once they got to the end of the sap, the major pointed to a small bulge in the ground about sixty meters away. He whispered into Evans’ ear, “It’s well hidden in there. It has a machine gun facing the opposite end, facing down two companies worth of trench. The last attempt got hit by a machine gun,” the major turned and pointed towards the Vledscan line, “There. So you will have to watch that.” He gestured to a few other locations, “As far as we can tell, there are more machine guns there.”

Evans frantically drew out the positions in his notebook as best he could in the low light.

The Major shrugged, “That’s about it.” He reached into his pocket and fired a red flare. A burst of rifle and machine gun fire opened up about a hundred meters down the line. The Major smirked at Evans, “That’s for the party coming up. They will be extending the sap a little closer to the nest. We will try and do something to draw the fire a little tomorrow night. But, you can use it a little to get a better look.”

“Yes sir. Thank you sir,” Evans stood up a little to get a better look at the bunker. It was sunk somewhat low in the dirt. He could see a few scars where artillery gunners had fired a failed direct hit. He could make out a little sap that made it’s way to what Evans presumed was the entrance to the bunker. He noted it on his drawing.

A flare went up nearby. Before he had a chance to duck, Evans noticed about four members of the previous party, torn to shreds by a machine gun. He ducked down to avoid joining them.

The Major then waved him back and the two walked back down the sap to the main trench. They passed six soldiers with picks and shovels. They worked their way back to the dugout. The Major took off his greatcoat and helmet, “Righto, stop by before you kick off tomorrow night.”

“Yes Sir.”

Dugout

Evans brushed the snow off of his uniform. Once he was relatively clean, he walked downstairs into the deep dugout. He saw Captain Kestel in the candlelight, making notes on her map. She looked up, “He… Hey… Ja… James. How is the wea… weather up there?”

He smiled, “I just checked my watch Cap. It’s midnight. Happy Birthday.”

She laughed as a shell burst overhead, shaking the dugout, “Ha… Happy birthday to you too James.”

Evans grabbed a blanket and tossed it to her. She caught it and wrapped it around herself, “You know what I did for my birthday last year?”

“I don’t really follow the tabloids Cap.”

Standing up, the Captain acted as if her blanket was a dress, “Huge party. I wore the most beautiful dress. I should show it to you sometime. I danced most of the night. The feast was amazing, and the cake was exquisite. When the time for presents came, I revealed to my parents that I intended to join the army.”

“What kind of presents did you get Cap?”

“Well, my favorite one was a new horse. My older horse I had gotten when I was twelve, and she was way to small for me. Next… Ooh, I got this most beautiful golden necklace that went amazingly with my dress. Then of course a few new dresses, a few books for my collection. You know normal stuff. And, two of the gentlemen I danced with proposed to me,” The Captain smiled, “I turned them down of course, but you know how that is.”

“I must say Cap, I do not think that is normal gifts, and I have never experienced multiple people proposing to me on the same night,” Evans laughed, “Last year for my birthday I got a book.” He sighed, “Also, that list of gifts make my present look really bad.” Pulling an envelope out of his pocket, he extended it to the Captain, “Happy Birthday?”

Laughing, she accepted the envelope and opened it up. Inside there were several folded paper animals, “You probably put more effort into these than most of my gifts last year, and at least I can carry these with me. You know how hard it is to wear a frilly red dress into combat?”

The Captain then reached into her desk and pulled out a gift wrapped in brown paper, “Now, I did not really know what kind of things poor people would buy each other, but I did notice the Bernard Sharpe book in your kit during inspection last month.”

She handed the gift to Evans and he opened it up. Captain Kestel smiled, “He’s a family friend, so I sent a telegram to him, and he sent me one of his manuscripts.”

“Wait,” Evans looked through it, “Holy Shit Ma’am. I’m pretty sure this is worth more than everything I own. Um… Wow… Thank you.” Evans carefully wrapped some paper around the gift and placed it into his kit underneath the Officer’s Assistant cot. He worked on a letter while the Captain went back to her paperwork.

After about half an hour, Captain Simmons walked down the steps, “Good Night Lady.” He paused, “It still feels weird using that as a greeting.” He took off his helmet and greatcoat, then walked to Captain Kestel’s desk. She walked up to him and extended her hand. Captain Simmons accepted the handshake and sat down. Captain Kestel followed suit. “Plus, it’s weird that your promotion to Captain went through before mine to Major. Ah well.”

“What do I owe the pleasure of this visit Captain Simmons?”

Captain Simmons pulled a stylus out of his pocket and tapped it on the map, “Boxer’s have set up a bunker here. Don’t ask me how we missed it, but it happened. The machine gun there enfilades a large part of the line over by the 127th. We’ve tried shelling the area, but we can’t seem to get accurate fire on it. Thanks to your actions at Urbs, Fox has been re-designated as Shock troops in the official books, and as such, when the General was told he needed someone to take it out, he specifically asked for you. The horrors of competence Eh?”

He sat back in his chair while Captain Kestel circled the bunker. “It goes down tomorrow morning at One. The team should meet at Regimental HQ an hour beforehand. Arty is going to fire a quick barrage of smoke shells, so, every single Vledscan Machine gun will be firing on that position. You’ll be given a pack of explosives, fifty meters of wire, and a blasting machine. Since this is your first time in charge a raid, I could give you some advice.”

“Yes Captain. That would be very much appreciated.”

“Well, I’d recommend sending one rifle team, along with an officer, and a runner. No rifles, a pistol for the officer, Sergeant, Corporal, and Runner. These should only be used as a last resort, because the Vledscan’s will open up on you. Everyone should have shovels, clubs, and bayonets. Politically, I’d recommend going yourself, since there are a lot of officers who think that Urbs was a pushover, and trench raids are where real officers are born. Speaking of officers, if you can take one prisoner, do it. Try not to disembowel them this time,” He laughed, “And stay low. If a flare goes up, close one eye and freeze. Try darkening your face with mud before hand.” He tapped his hand, “Right, and sense the smoke shells are a beacon to gunfire, move fast. Once it goes up though, it might be wise to stay in cover for a while to give the fire some time to cool off. Unless the Boxers fire rifle grenades at you, then run like Hell. Most importantly, get some good sleep today. Got it?”

“Yes Captain. Thank you.”

“Righto,” Captain Simmons looked at his watch, “Well, I’ll be off now.” He stood up, put on his helmet and greatcoat, and left the dugout.

Captain Kestel looked at Evans, “So, want to have a bit of fun tomorrow night?”

“I’m always looking for an opportunity to give Anna one of those lifetime dead spouse pensions Cap.”

“Good lad,” She paused, “Privates Lewis and Riley have experience with explosives right?”

“Yes Cap. And they are in Sergeant Chilcott’s team.”

“Very well, wake Boswell and have her inform Lieutenant Windsor and Sergeant Chilcott of the raid. Windsor might have to rework the watch schedules to allow the team some sleep. Then have her go down to the 127th and sketch the bunker.”

“I can do it Cap.”

“Alright James, we can let Boswell have some sleep for a little longer.”

Pack Inspection

“Ma’am, your tea,” Evans held the cup out to Lieutenant Kestel, “And I have some good news Ma’am.”

The Lieutenant grabbed the cup and took a sip, “Thanks, and what is it Evans?”

“I’ve been talking with the other runners Ma’am, and rumor is, Captain Simmons is being promoted up to Battalion, and they’re giving you the company.”

She nodded, “I somewhat expected that. Because otherwise we would have to bring in someone else, and, well, they want to make me happy, because they want to make my father happy.”

“Well congratulations… Future Captain.”

“Thank you… Lance Corporal?” She shrugged, “Well, I guess your rank will now make more sense. Who ever heard of a Lieutenant with a Lance as a runner? Now, on to business.” She picked up a folder, “Surprise Pack inspection. Muster everyone full kit on the parade grounds fifteen minutes.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans ran into each Platoon’s tent and rang the bell, “Muster! Full Kit! Ten Minutes!”

He then ran back to the Lieutenant’s tent, “They’re mustering Ma’am.” He picked up his clipboard and his kit. Evans then followed the Lieutenant outside to the parade ground and took her position at the head of the company. Evans stood at attention next to her. The Lieutenant shouted, “Company Atten… Tion!”

The company quickly adjusted to attention.

“Open Order… March!”

Second and Third platoons adjusted to Open Order. First Platoon, with only one Squad of soldiers, stayed in place.

“Right… Dress!”

The Platoons adjusted to their order.

“Alright! If You Have Not Guessed, We Are Having A Pack Inspection!” The Lieutenant grabbed Evans pack and rifled through it. She found his book and flipped through the pages, “Good Evans.”

Evans put down his pack, pulled out his pen, and looked at the clipboard. The Lieutenant started walking towards First Platoon. The inspection got part way through First Platoon with only two alcohol violations. The problem came at the fifth soldier. She pulled a book out of the bag and started to look through it. The private looked nervous, “You don’t need to look through it Ma’am.”

“Write him down, talking out of turn. Private Sau…” Her face went white. She then started yelling, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS! DROP RIGHT NOW AND DO NOT FUCKING STOP PUSH UPS UNTIL I FUCKING TELL YOU.”

She walked to the front of the formation, “ALRIGHT! PRIVATE SAUNDERS THERE THINKS IT IS APPROPRIATE TO HAVE…” She flipped through the papers with a look of scorn, “A SERIES OF DRAWINGS OF ME HAVING MARRIED TIMES! IF ANY OTHERS OF YOU HAVE COPIES OF THIS, TURN THEM IN NOW. IF YOU DO NOT, I WILL FIND THEM, AND YOU WILL BE PUNISHED VERY FUCKING SEVERELY.”

The Lieutenant walked back to Private Saunders, “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THESE?”

The Private paused his push ups for a moment, “I bought it in Strongfield Ma’am. On Leave.”

“Did I Tell You To Stop Doing Push Ups Private?” She walked back out and stared at the company, “Anyone else bought this garbage?”

Three privates stepped forward. The Lieutenant yelled at them, had them start push ups, and ripped through the companies packs. Once she was finished, she let the four privates recover. She assigned a Corporal to them, and ordered them exercise for the next four hours.

The Lieutenant dismissed the company and went back to her tent. Evans picked up his kit and followed. When he got back, the Lieutenant was crying in the corner.

Evans dropped his kit and knelt next to her, “Are you OK Ma’am?”

“I just feel so… Ew… Start the stove for a shower…” She stood up and held out the drawings, “Burn these with it James. Once it’s started… Leave. I want to be alone.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans grabbed the drawings and folded them. He turned around and paused for a second, turned back and hugged the Lieutenant, “Sorry if this is against regulations.” He then turned around and walked to the shower’s stove. He built a log cabin and shredded the drawings in his hands. After a moment, he placed them in the center and grabbed the slowmatch. He tended the fire until it had flared up to a reasonable amount. He stacked the extra wood on top of the stove and shut the door. He then tapped the side of the water tank, “It’s pretty full Ma’am. I’d say an hour or two of water.”

Evans walked out the room. The shower started up. He walked to Second Platoon’s tent. After a pause, he walked in and to Team 3’s room. Sergeant Chilcott was doing paperwork with Giuliano and Tiscornia. Chilly looked up, “Hey Evans. How’s the high life?”

“Can I ask a favor?”

Chilly looked at Tiscornia, “No one makes social calls these days. It’s this generation. Too focused on work.”

“I know what you’re talking about Chilly. Ever since telegraphs got cheap, kids just expect everything to be done right away,” Tiscornia looked at Evans, “So, what do you want Evans?”

“It’s about the Lieutenant…” He paused, “She’s… well. Very shaken up about what happened at inspection today. When I got to the tent, she was collapsed in the corner.”

“So you want teach them a lesson?”

Giuliano put down her pen, “I’m in.”

Tiscornia nodded , “Me too. Ustinov, Newey, and Cain will probably agree. Nazarri too. Maybe Hardin. Chilly, can you keep watch? Since you’re a Sergeant, people will do what you say.” Tiscornia looked at Giuliano, “Tell the Corporal in charge of the punishment detail that the Lieutenant ordered you to take over. The rest of us will find a nice empty tent to take them to. Evans will be smoking outside it. It will be a battalion headquarters tent from where the 125th was staying.”

It took about half an hour, but the group was assembled at the empty tent. They cleared out a back room. Evans walked outside and lit a cigarette. Eventually Giuliano jogged into view, with the four soldiers behind her, all exhausted. Evans stepped out in front of the group, “Hey, LT needs this tent cleaned. Congratulations on being the randomly selected detail.” He blew some smoke in one of their faces. Turning to Giuliano, he smiled, “You can take off early Corp.”

The soldiers walked inside. Evans waited a second and followed, “Back room. Supplies are in there.”

When they walked in, Evans picked up a sock filled with soap.

Half an hour later, and the group left. They left the privates inside the tent.

At Evening muster, the Lieutenant gave a long talk about not fighting other soldiers. Afterward, she called Evans back to her tent. She frowned, “If you ever do that again…” Changing her tone, she hugged him, “Thanks. You are a good… person.” She looked down, “A good friend. There. I said it. Now do not tell anyone I said it or else.”

Torture

Evans put the little stove on the counter top and started it. Once he got a suitable flame going, he drew the bayonet Lieutenant Kestel had given him and balanced it on the stove. Next, he turned around and moved the heavy chair to the middle of the room. He dragged a table to it’s feet and started placing the tools: A sharpened piece of rebar, some copper wire, a lighter, a lot of rope, a gag, some cotton swatches, and the bucket of water.

He looked at his watch. Just in time. He walked over and opened the door. Lance Corporal Tiscornia and Private Head were dragging the bruised Sergeant Knowles along. They sat him down in the chair and secured him. Tiscornia waved and left the room.

Evans quickly secured the gag before Lieutenant Kestel walked in. She slowly walked around the chair while staring at the Sergeant. She pointed at Evans, “Wake him up.”

Nodding, Evans picked up the bucket and tossed the water in Sergeant Knowles’ face, startling him into consciousness.

Lieutenant Kestel smiled at him, “Sergeant, we know about you. We talked to Boswell. We read Claybrooks’ journal. The other sergeants. We know everything. You are going to die. Slowly.” She picked up the piece of rebar and slowly poked it into the Sergeant’s shoulder. The Lieutenant then looked to Evans, “See, that’s just boring. Sure he’s in pain, but it’s expected.” She then took the lighter and copper wire, “This way is more fun.” She stuck one end of the wire underneath the Sergeant’s fingernail and put the lighter underneath the other end.

Evans watched the Sergeant’s eyes, which were weeping. They slowly got wider as the pain set in. After thirty seconds, the Lieutenant dropped the lighter, “Still boring. But.” She pointed to Sergeant Knowles’ groin, “Evans, undo his pants and take it out.”

Evans stared at her for a moment, “Ma’am? Do I get gloves?”

“Just do it Evans.”

Cringing, Evans slowly undid the Sergeant’s pants and fished around until he found it. Evans delicately pulled it out and draped it outside of the Sergeant’s pants.

“So now,” The Lieutenant turned around with the knife from the stove. She paused and put the knife back down. She crouched and stared, “That’s it?” She pulled out a pen and poked it, “I thought they were bigger, and less, floppy? How would that even fit?”

“Excuse me?” Evans stared at the Lieutenant, “Do you know how sex works?”

The Lieutenant straightened up, “Of course I do. My mother told me.”

“What did she tell you?”

“That some day, when I was married, my husband would use his staff on my flowered garden to create life, just like in the beginning.”

“Wow,” Evans looked at his feet, “Your wedding night will be full of surprises… Ma’am.”

“Well what makes you the expert Evans?” Her tone got defensive.

“I’m married Ma’am. And my wife is currently pregnant. Ma’am. Which is evidence that… I have experience in the matter,” Evans laughed slightly and gestured at Knowles, “See, that is what a penis normally looks like. When guys are turned on, then it grows bigger and um… more rigid?” Evans bent over laughing.

The Lieutenant blushed, “Why are you laughing? It is not funny. Now, tell me how to make his… staff bigger.”

“It’s a little funny Ma’am. And… As I said he… needs to be turned on. So um… you would need to either play with it or take off some clothes.”

“OK… Evans, can you… touch his staff and make it bigger?”

“Two things Ma’am. One, it only works if a woman does it. Any two, I find it hilarious that you won’t say penis or vagina. Just ‘Staff’ and ‘Flowered Garden’. I’ve seen you kill people and you are acting like an awkward ten year old.”

The Lieutenant covered her face and walked into the corner, “Those words just are not Ladylike OK?” She picked up the heated knife, “Let’s just do this already.”

Evans grabbed and the Lieutenant started sawing through, “How old are you even Lieutenant?”

When the Lieutenant finished cutting through, she held the heated end to the stump to cauterize the wound. She looked at Evans, “I was born on the First of December 1306. So I’m almost twenty.”

“No shit Ma’am!” Evans laughed as he grabbed some of the cotton, “Me to. We’re twins Lieutenant.” He then held up the severed penis between his fingers, “So what do I do with this Ma’am?”

She blushed, “I am not exactly sure.” She shrugged, “Make him eat it or something?” The Lieutenant then slowly undid the gag.

The Sergeant’s teeth were gritted together and sweat was pouring down his face. The Lieutenant needled the rebar around until the Sergeant screamed. She pointed at Evans, who tossed it into his open mouth. The Lieutenant then put all her weight into forcing his mouth closed. Evans quickly put the gag back in place.

The Lieutenant stared at Evans, “I am not really sure what to do now.” She shrugged, picked up the heated knife, and thrust it into the Sergeant’s neck, leaving it there as he slowly gargled and bled out.

“What are we going to tell the Lieutenant Colonel Ma’am?”

“It is my duty to make sure the soldiers under my command are safe, and he was a threat to my soldiers. He had to die.”

“I’m talking about the obvious torture Ma’am.”

“We’ll bury it in the courtyard, with the Vledscans.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans then looked at the Lieutenant’s uniform, “You may want to clean up a little Ma’am. Quite a bit of blood.”

She looked down, “I believe you may want to clean up a little. When we get back behind the lines, you will need to clean off my uniform.”

“You would make my life much easier if you never ever took part in anything violent or dangerous Ma’am.”

“Well then I wouldn’t be doing my job,” She played with one of the buttons on her jacket, “Also, this button is falling off. You need to fix it Evans.”

Duel

The Two Lance Corporals had taken as long as they could to cook the food so they avoided doing any real work. They finished just in time for the Lieutenant to call for them. They picked up the trays of food they walked into the courtyard, where someone had set up a dinner table with two chairs Evans and Tiscornia started setting the table. A few minutes later the Lieutenant emerged from the building, surprisingly, freshly bathed. Evans was unsure how she had found enough water or soap to take a bath, but it apparently had been done. He shrugged and finished setting the table.

Lieutenant Kestel walked past him towards the Vledscan’s main building and knocked on the door. A disheveled looking enlisted man opened the door, paused a moment, and then yelled back to someone behind him. In a few moments, the Baron came out and offered his arm to the Lieutenant. She took it and the two walked towards the table. Evans and Tiscornia pulled seats out as they approached. The officers sat and ate their meal.

Taking their leave, Evans and Tiscornia ran back to the kitchen and ate the dinner they made for themselves. Much better than the usual food they had. Once they finished, they ran back out to the officers, in time for them to clear the table. When they did, Lieutenant Kestel kissed the Baron on the cheek and walked back to the Ethslin side to prepare herself for the duel. She grabbed Evans, quickly ordered a Private to clear the table with Tiscornia. She sat down, took off her helmet, undid her hair, and pulled a letter out of her jacket, “Evans, if I die, I want you to deliver this letter to my father. Do not let it go through the censors.”

Nodding, Evans responded, “Yes Ma’am. Do you want me to tie back your hair so he doesn’t grab it?”

“Don’t worry, the Baron is an honorable man. He won’t try anything like that,” The Lieutenant retied her boots, “When the duel happens, I will take off my jacket and scabbard and hand them to you. You will walk back to the unit and stand with the rest. If I die, place them back on me. Now let us go. I think they are mustering.”

The Lieutenant stood up and walked outside, leaving her helmet. Evans followed her to the center of the courtyard. The soldiers were standing at their respective sides. The Baron was standing in the center, jacket off, sword drawn, talking to the younger Vledscan officer.

The Lieutenant took off her jacket and handed her scabbard to Evans. She walked up to the Baron, grabbed his collar, pulled him down, roughly kissed his mouth and walked back. She whispered to Evans as she drew her sword, “That should confuse him a bit.”

Evans turned around and walked back to the unit, next to Tiscornia. When he turned back around, the Lieutenant was standing about 5 meters from the Baron, facing him, sword in front of her face. The Baron bowed and the Lieutenant gave a quick curtsy. They started to circle, looking for each others weakness.

The Baron was the first to strike. He leapt forward and thrust towards the Lieutenant’s stomach. She stepped back and parried the blow, rode the blade forward and attempted to strike the Baron’s shoulder. He took a step backwards, pushed her blade up, and swiped downward. She lightly stepped backwards to avoid the blow. The Lieutenant then leapt forward and stabbed the Baron in the left shoulder. He winced and attempted to grab the Lieutenant’s blade, but she quickly stepped back. The Baron smiled, “You like to play rough don’t you?” He slapped her blade to the side and lunged forward, but she dodged. “Don’t worry, I’ll be in there before too long.”

Looking for an opening, the Lieutenant pointed her blade and said, “Sorry, but I am waiting until marriage to do that.”

Laughing, the Baron whipped his blade in a showy manner, “I think I can convince you otherwise, but your insistence on purity is to be admired.”

Evans looked at Tiscornia and whispered, “Is he hitting on her?”

“It’s part of the whole dueling ritual. When dueling was just between men, it was often over a woman. So, usually they would talk about their sexual prowess. Then, when woman started dueling, they had to be pure or something. And now it’s just part of the ritual.”

Evans shrugged and went back to watching the fight. The Baron lunged, and half a second later the Lieutenant jumped forward. The blade sunk deep into Lieutenant Kestel’s shoulder. The Vledscans cheered as the Baron smirked, “That feels nice, doesn’t it? Want me…”

He hadn’t pulled the blade out fast enough. The Lieutenant buried her sword into the Baron’s stomach, “A bit premature there. Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of men.” She pulled her blade up while she drew it out, cutting open his stomach.

The Baron attempted to respond, but all that came out was blood. He collapsed to the ground and gurgled for a few moments. The Lieutenant curtsied, did an about face, walked towards Evans, handed him the sword, and said, “I need this cleaned and sharpened Evans.” She then stumbled a few steps and collapsed. Tiscornia stepped out and caught her. He walked her to a nearby bench as the stunned Vledscan soldiers stared. Three of them were collecting the Baron’s body.

The younger Vledscan officer yelled a few words to his soldiers. Evans looked at Ustinov, who translated, “Let’s go home.”

Evans walked indoors to the Lieutenant’s office, put the Lieutenant’s gear on his desk. A few seconds later, four soldiers, including Boswell, carried the Lieutenant in. Evans quickly cleared off the desk, giving space to lie her down. Newey came in immediately after and pulled out his medical kit. He pulled the shoulder of her shirts down and started to apply dressing. Evans opened her mouth and started giving her small amounts of water from his canteen.

Once the dressing was on, Newey reached for a syrette, but the Lieutenant waved her arm. Evans stopped pouring to allow for her to speak, “Don’t put any of those drugs in me. I’ll be good.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Newey packed up his kit and pulled the Lieutenant’s shirts back up.

Evans pointed to Boswell and another female soldier, “You two, the Lieutenant needs to switch to a clean undershirt.” He went through her gear, pulled one out, and tossed it to the two, “I’ll stand guard outside of the room.”

Evans led Newey out of the room and shut the door behind him. Newey looked longingly at the door and put on a mocking voice, “Evans, you are the worst friend. My one hope to feel up a noble woman, dashed. I would have been the hero of all men in this army.”

Evans kicked him, “Oh shut up, you could have done it when you were bandaging her.”

“Don’t you dare tell anyone that. I don’t want to ruin my playboy image.”

“Oh, a playboy image? You’re a Lance Corporal. And once you leave the army, you’ll be some farmer in the middle of… Where again?” Evans pretended to think, “Oh, yeah, forty miles from Strongfield. You will be wading through women.”

Newey winked at a passing soldier from 3rd, “Bitches love farms.”

“What the Hell does that even mean?” Evans slowly shook his head.

Boswell opened the door, “The Lady wants you Evans.” She then left the room with the other soldier.

Evans shrugged and walked in. The Lieutenant was sitting up, “Fire the Green flare. Tell the Sergeant Major to send Third Platoon to hold the buildings across the courtyard. And, I’m going to rest. Tomorrow, we torture Sergeant Knowles to death.”