Under the Thirteenth Revolutionary Council
Wealday, Oathday, and Fireday, 29th-31st Desnus, 4719
This is it. The end of the beginning -- the real start of the Conspiracy. You head off into the streets of Isarn, half an hour before curfew, needing to get home before some brainless brute of a city guardsman -- or perhaps worse, a gang member -- spots you and decides to hassle you. And of course they never come in singles, but in annoying little packs. You could easily handle one or two of them, probably three, maybe more, but ... there's the issue of leaving a few corpses behind you, and that probably wouldn't be wise.
Getting back to your troop will probably be something of a relief, because the conversation you'd had with Androk on the way out had been ... well, a bit troubling ...
"I want to talk about Alix," you'd said after getting a fair number of yards away. "You know I want to bring her in and now you're suggesting I use her to help our activities. Is this a sign of your support?" You were blunt, in part because this was important.
Androk shook his head. "No, of course not. For one, I haven't had enough leisure to be certain of her, and for another, you can't yet yourself be so certain of her politics, and her ... regard for you might not be strong enough to keep her from seizing the opportunity to jump a grade or two by turning you in. I'd like to make a bit more sure of her before bringing her into the group. I recommend using her for working with -- or on, rather -- Lieutenant Bonfils. Think of it less as working for us and more working for you. You will, after all, need to build your officer corps, and that with individuals who will follow your lead and your example."
He paused at the termination of the path you'd memorized, with its various branchings, just at the door to the stables, and turned to you. "Helping you is one thing, Lucien. Being a part of our conspiracy, even knowing about it -- you put not just your life at risk, but all of ours, and the lives of every one we know. I know it's a difficult thing to do, but in this at least, learn patience." He clapped you on the shoulder, then nodded you through the door. "Ride safely home, Lieutenant."
So now, with your horse saddled, mounting him in the yard, you can begin to move your way through the emptying city streets, considering the two people you're to find more information about -- Lieutenant Bonfils, and Chantelle Pascal. Come to think of it, Pascal might not be as difficult as it seemed at first glance; after all, Le Commune sort of 'entails' not just that particular section inside the city wall, but its citizen-guardians also roam as protectors across a goodly amount of territory on the south side of the river. Which is where the (somewhat run-down) fortress your own troops are quartered. It might not be so difficult to encounter a few of these 'citizen patrols', and with a bit of luck and foresight, have a discussion with "Deadeye's Judgement" herself ...
Lucien rides slowly southwards, much of his energy focused inwards on digesting the meeting just done.
It begins - finally. The thought provokes a rueful grin from the introspective tiefling. Androk is right - patience, in all things. Or some at least!
One of the advantages of his own peculiar gifts is that, even though he cannot speak to animals, it is easy to feel what Libertie does. It makes riding much less difficult when you know what the horse is going to do almost before it does.
So... Bonfils. Hopefully a social meeting will not be too difficult, Alix may know better. I'll write to her tonight. Pascal... well, their territory covers the south. Perhaps it's time that we do some longer patrols - full gear of course. Leroux should be delighted.
Can we have a discussion thread? I have musings/questions etc that need asking. :)
Unfortunately, it takes longer than a few minutes to saddle up and trot down La Rue de Pain to the Farmer's Gate; even as you're coming within sight of it, the wave of bell-ringing ghosts through the city, and the Isarn City Guard push the one half-open panel closed; as you near the curve of light cast by their torches, it thumps loudly shut, and the guard begin to slide the bolts and braces home.
"Halt!! In the name of Citizen Goss, halt and identify yourself!!" Well, at least someone is on the ball tonight, a guardsman fully aware that she should not be hearing horseshoes ringing on flagstones after the bells sound the start of curfew.
"Lieutenant Fesch, Ninth of the Third." Lucien replies. "I've been on leave in the city but my horse threw a shoe and I had to rouse a Smith to fit another one." He gives a strange half grimace, half shrug 'What can you do?' gesture.
"It is good to see a fellow soldier so prompt in their duty. It makes my life difficult, but that is none of your concern. Good night Sergeant."
With that Lucien begins to wheel Libertie around, careful to do it slowly to fit the story of the new shoe. This does make his life harder, but he can't bring himself to overbear the gate sergeant. They are doing their duty. That alone deserves praise in these times.
Bluff: 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (12) + 18 = 30
While the guardsman -- not a sergeant, but a bit of flattery never hurt anyone, right? -- looks entirely taken in by your story, she calls out as you finish your turn on Libertie. "Hey!! Sir!! Lieutenant!! It's curfew, you can't be out. Come here immediately." Her words -- and your clear presence, since you had to have come forward enough to be seen by the light of the many torches -- have drawn the attention of a good dozen others.
"Indeed I can't Sergeant." Lucien replies, twisting in the saddle. "But since I cannot leave the city either, then surely I must return and attempt to find lodging for the night? What else is there? This accident has left me between a devil and the deep blue sea." Easing Libertie around once again Lucien leans forwards in his saddle slightly. "What do you propose Sergeant? I would be grateful if you do have a suggestion."
1d20 ⇒ 17
1d20 ⇒ 13
1d6 ⇒ 2
1d6 ⇒ 6
1d6 ⇒ 4
The other guards -- five, for a total of six -- are currently in a broad arc, sauntering to surround you without, they hope, spooking you.
Sense Motive, DC 15
If you do want to cause Libertie to 'be restive', I'll call that a 'control with knees', which is a DC 5 Ride check; because even though you don't have at least 1 rank in it, you have a +4 bonus due to that 18 Dex, it's a 'gimmie' anyhow.
However, if you want to do that subtly, you need to make a Dex check; Sleight of Hand would be the appropriate skill, but you don't have that.
Note that you can still theoretically get out of this, but 'going back into the city' isn't going to do it -- and interacting with a base guardsman instead of with her actual sergeant isn't going to do it either. (Just tips. ;) )
As the guardswoman reaches for Libertie's bridle Lucien's hand snakes forward to catch her wrist. The lieutenant leans forward, the glinting firelight reflecting oddly off his strangely coloured face.
A long moment passes without (audible) words, just the tableau of the guardswoman, the officer and the horse, standing perfectly still in the manner of a war-trained mount.
1d20 ⇒ 6
1d20 ⇒ 14
1d6 ⇒ 4
1d6 ⇒ 6
1d6 ⇒ 1
The guardswoman opens her mouth to say something as your hand closes around her wrist, but the shock of hearing your voice in her head makes her freeze, then jerk roughly away. In the few moments that that took, the other guards have completed their loose circle around you; escaping them could be a bit bloody. But the woman stares up at you with a blend of fear and uncertainty, and takes a few steps back to put some distance between her and you. "On second thought, just keep an eye on him for a moment, boys." The other five glance at each other, then adjust their grips on their glaives, getting ready for trouble.
The woman goes through the heavy door up a set of stairs near to the gate -- the entrance to the gatehouse and guard tower above it. A minute or so after that, she emerges again at the tail end of a handful of people -- a stocky human woman with a longsword at her hip carrying a shield and helmet, an older man with a shorter sword on his hip also carrying shield and helmet, and several other men and women with their halberds in hand; all wear scale mail. At the bottom of the steps the woman steps aside to get her helmet set, while the older man -- clearly fit, but somewhat overweight as well -- swaggers forward and half-bellows, half-sneers, "What's all this, then? Out late at night, are ye? Don't want to come down off your fine steed and enjoy our hospitality??"
1d20 ⇒ 13
1d20 ⇒ 9
1d6 ⇒ 5
1d6 ⇒ 3
1d6 ⇒ 2
First perception: The woman's armor is not scale male, but a significantly more limber version -- mountain-pattern armor, functionally 'agile scale mail'.
Second perception: While the man is very likely the sergeant -- he's got the bluster of a man long in his position -- the woman with the better armor is likely to be the officer of the watch.
Sense Motive: While the sergeant is probably more than willing to shove around pretty much anyone (and an army officer is probably a special treat, as it were), the officer has a more calculation -- and residual warmth of feeling -- in her expression. Just offhand, she might be one of those types to have joined the City Watch with the intent to do good, but the last number of years have worn that thin. It's still there, though, however thin it's gotten, so if you show proper courtesy, you might be able to get through the gate.
"Captain," Lucien speaks, ignoring the sergeant in favor of speaking straight to his superior. "You have alert soldiers here. They are a credit to you and the city. I seek to return to my camp, but my horse has thrown a shoe, stopping at the blacksmith to get it shod has delayed me past curfew. I request, from one officer to another, that I be allowed passage. I will happily pay for a round of drinks for your men to make up for the trouble."
He speaks politely, but does not swing down from Libertie - just in case...
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (8) + 13 = 21
1d20 ⇒ 10
1d20 ⇒ 8
1d6 ⇒ 4
1d6 ⇒ 1
1d6 ⇒ 3
Reaching the point of Libertie's right shoulder, she braces her hands on her hips and looks up at you. "Name, rank, unit, and station," she requests brusquely -- all in all something of a pleasantry for you, and rather close to a military request of identification. Of course, this is also a perfect chance to catch you slipping up, if you give her a unit that isn't stationed where you say it is.
I am probably going to be revising what I said about both the fortresses and the troops assigned to each, but you may safely place yourself in either Fort de la Briche or Fort de l'Est -- which for Isarn is Fort de l'Ouest (Fort of the West, meaning that it's west of the village St. Denis, which has sprung up to serve the two forts). The distances listed on the fortifications page aren't quite accurate, because the measurements are to the Wall of the Farmers General -- which in Isarn is basically the boundaries of Nord Rivière, Sud Rivière, and the line from R2-R6-R4 that is the 'inner' half of La Lumière Rouge. Lop off the mile between the old and new walls and it's 5300m to la Briche, 3400m to l'Ouest -- or roughly 3.3 and 2.1 miles respectively. Once out the gate, on a horse (50' move) it'd be a standard travel time of roughly half an hour -- 40 or 25 minutes -- or half those at a hustle. In the dark, I'd go a bit slower, making it 50 or 30-32 minutes.
Anyhow. Just RP right now!! :)
"Lieutenant Fesch, Ninth of the Third. Stationed in Fort de l'Ouest." Lucien replies crisply, adopting the tactic that all soldiers apply with senior officers - give the exact information asked for, promptly and without unnecessary details or deviation. that way the superior officer can request more information if they want it, but have no grounds to reprimand a soldier for excessive verbosity.
Lucien learned that particular trick as a private dealing with drill sergeants and has found, somewhat to his amusement, that it works equally well at all ranks. He doesn't bother to lie, the repercussions would be too extensive and it always sits uneasily with him - even in the ciompany of nobles and politicians where it's actually expected.
The guard lieutenant examines you minutely, her expression one of stony mulishness as she looks for signs of falsehood. Eventually, she says in a low voice, "You're missing your insignia, Lieutenant. I'll accept your ... donative ... on behalf of my troops tonight, but I'd appreciate you stopping by in the next couple of days with your own troops." Her eyes flicker towards your horse's rump, and then back up to you. "As a show of fraternity."
After passing off to her sergeant the coins you drop in her hand, the guardswoman pats the side of Libertie's neck, then gestures with her head. "Come along, then." She leads you to the postern, at which you have to dismount; the horse fits through it (if barely), but not with you on its back. There, she holds out her hand for you to shake, and says as you step through the postern, "Looking forward to seeing you, Lieutenant." Your last view is of her closing the portal, her gaze level and reserving of judgement.
Now it's just a couple of miles on bad roads back to L'Ouest, there to sleep and plan on the morrow.
2. Going to avoid meeting Alix right now - she has her own command and I'm really not meant to be out right now!
"I will be glad to make your acquaintance properly Captain. I am currently working my men through a program of longer marches. Full kit, high pace. Perhaps your unit would be interested in some friendly competition? They seem like fine men and women." This last is said slightly louder than necessary and just before he passes through the portal, some (in)judicious praise never did any harm.
On the other side, as she reaches out to shake his hand, Lucien speaks again, more quietly this time.
"My thanks Captain. If you ever need my assistance I would be glad to return this favor to a fellow soldier." Hoping that he has read the woman quickly he gives a formal nod, not quite a salute but still indicating respect, before climbing slowly back onto Libertie and riding off into the gathering darkness.
Arriving back at the fortress is easy enough and, after brushing down Libertie and giving him a warm bran mash as a treat Lucien moves quietly to his tent, but instead of sinking into slumber immediately he sits at his desk and pulls a new sheet of paper towards himself. Not bothering to light one of his few candles Lucien sets pen to paper and begins the most pleasurable part of his day, writing to Alix.
My dear Alix,
Life in Fort de l'Ouest continues much as always. I've taken to riding in the evenings so that I have something to do! Leroux is a superb sargeant, but I still find it difficult not to be involved in the way that I was - the officer's distance is necessary, I know that. But it is hard to maintain sometimes. I find myself sorely missing company out here.
With that in mind I'm planning to try to get to know some of our fellow officers and I hope that you would be willing to aid me here. I know some of our less egalitarian fellows find me difficult so I feel I should widen my circle slowly. Have you heard much of a Lieutenant Bonfils? From what I've heard she seems like a professional sort and her unit's training is legendary around here - if nothing else I'd like to meet her and pick her brain. Any thoughts you have on how to approach her would be most helpful."
Lucien continues for some time longer, providing plenty of cover for his request and inserting a sly challenge to Alix for a competition between their units at some point in the future. With the letter finally done he dries the ink with a simple cantrip and falls into his cot, descending into sleep with the practiced ease of a military man.
Wealday, 29th Desnus
Morning comes early for the dedicated military man, and the next day is no different. The corporals and sergeants roust the barracks, banging on pots with wooden spoons and occasionally using the spoon on a rump or head. Usually it's the sergeants and corporals up first, the privates second, the lieutenants third, and the captain last, but to be honest, only your unit is quite off-the-mark by daybreak. Lt. Dubois is still struggling to get her troop even as sharp as your own (and your own still isn't as sharp as you'd undoubtedly like it to be), but the other two lieutenants' platoons are only stirring by the time yours have formed up in the dawn light for inspection.
In the barrack's 'kitchen' -- an open section next to the large fireplace that heats the place -- a cauldron is on the simmer, the platoon having filled the scoured-clean pot with water last night, and the coals having warmed it. The cook having added wood to the fire, the beans that were on the soak overnight are starting to turn into the serviceable porridge which is the standard morning fare of armies everywhere.
And yes, I just used 'Capitaine'. When writing in general, I'm using (and would prefer to have used) the English-language version; if it's in speech, you can use either, though there's a mild preference for the French spelling if it's both spoken and specific, e.g. 'Capitaine Humboldt'.
As a side note, I'm likely to handle the bureaucrats team as a blend of actual paper-pushers and go-fers, i.e. bureaucrats and lackeys: an actual cook, your personal assistant, a scribe, that sort of thing.
In regards to the Versatile Performance, please put the skills it applies to into the sheet as you do your other skills, but add the bonus that replaces it. So for example:
Sense Motive +0 (0 ranks, +0 Wis) / +13 (Versatile Performance: Oratory)
This allows me to look for the actual skill I'm looking for and understand that you gain its benefit from something else, as compared to not seeing the skill and needing to look under spoilers or for 'SM' (which abbreviation, please note, I despise) to find out that though you don't have points in Sense Motive, something else substitutes for it.
Lucius generally keeps to the routine from his sergeant's days and rises before the men, although he generally doesn't appear before the platoon is ready - that allows the corporals to dress their men properly and generally ensure that everyone is present and correct. Today however he does take advantage of his rank, snatching a precious extra ten minutes in bed before emerging to inspect his platoon.
As always he examines every man, checking equipment first and only then considering the finer details of uniform. One of Kinney's worst qualities had been that he judged his soldiers purely on the quality of their turn-out, and not on their discipline or fighting ability beyond how well they lined up on parade.
Passing down the line Lucien remains generally quiet, praising a couple of men for superb maintenance of their, and often their mate's, gear and assigning three soldiers an extra shift on guard duty for assorted missing equipment. That punishment, coming as it did with at least one guaranteed check up from their Lieutenant, was about as harsh as Lucien likes to go for parade misdemeanors. Some officers would flog their men for any mistake, but those men presided over some of the worst 'spit and polish' units in the army and Lucien had sworn never to be like them.
"A commendable turn out on the whole Gentlemen." He concludes, "Dismiss the men for breakfast." He notes with internal satisfaction that Dubois' unit, despite her best efforts, are still only half done with her inspection. "Sergeants remain here."
He waits until the men have marched off for breakfast and his junior lieutenants and sergeants are all lined up before him. "The men are progressing well but we need to work on stamina and long distance training. If we have to relocate into the city quickly I want every man to be able to do so, on foot, and fight at the end when necessary. Therefore today we will be completing a six mile march in full kit. The target is Fort la'Briche and back. Assemble the men in full gear after breakfast and may the best squadron win."
With the morning's business concluded Lucien heads to the officers mess and is slowly eating his breakfast when Alix arrives and he stands to offer her a place at the table.
"Good morning Lieutenant." He offers with a smile.
Ranks, noted. I will try and remember. What is the name of my Captain? Is it actually Humboldt?
Versatile Performance has been added into the stat block as you requested.
When the men respect you, and know you're doing your best for them, they'll give their best for you. And it's been clear from the start, even as a sergeant, that while your core focus was success, you weren't going to throw your men's lives away on foolishness. And you know as well as the men do that there's an ancient saying about the inverse relationship between battle-ready and parade-ground-ready ...
After being dismissed to their sections, the juniors and their sergeants confer about their troops' readiness for the march, and how quickly their particular group can get ready; it's clear that with Fort de la Briche being only a mile and a half away, even though you'll be adding on an extra mile or so by going out of the way (perhaps, in part, so that everyone gets a greater familiarity with the roads hereabouts) they expect -- or at least hope -- to be back in l'Ouest in time for a late lunch.
Which is certainly possible. Not necessarily likely, but possible.
The gentlemanly formality of you standing and offering her a seat makes her smile back at you, and she accepts the courtesy -- you are an officer and a gentleman, she is an officer and a gentlewoman. "Good morning, Lieutenant," she replies. "I noticed your men preparing their packs. Going somewhere?"
Lt. Bonfils -- not sure if I'd made a determination, but if not, here it is -- is in Fort d'Ivry, to the North-North-West of the city. Going around the city as you must, it's about a nine-and-a-half-mile march between the two forts -- probably doable for a long day's round-trip march with a good hour or so in-between; might be better to make it two days, though. Judgement call which I leave up to you. ;)
"We're doing a rapid march to Fort de la Briche." Lucien replies, sitting down to his breakfast again. "I don't want the men getting slack with these long postings. I'm going to work up to full circuits of the city ideally. I want them to be able to march fifteen miles and fight at the end of it. Pray the Songbird we won't have to do that, but better prepared."
After a few spoonfuls of breakfast he picks up the conversation again. "I saw your men out on parade, I'd say they're getting better. Faster at least. You'll have them into the mess hall first - which would good for my men, they're getting used to first pickings! What would you say to a little competition of some sort? I find it works wonders with getting the men fired up and once they're used to doing it then excellence becomes a habit. We could try to get Verdun and Cheverolet in as well? Make it a fort-wide contest? Drill, sports, distance marches and running - that sort of thing." He shrugs to show that this is all airy speculation and finishes his breakfast.
"I feel like we don't get out enough here, this army is meant to be a bro... sisterhood, we should do more to get to know other officers when we can. That's part of what the marches are about, I want to get out to the other forts, even just to know our fellow officers by face would be good I think."
Lieutenant Dubois listens while she puts honey and a hint of cinnamon into her porridge, considering your intent and nodding in agreement; of such maneuvers are what a good and proper army should be capable, and it's training that makes it so. "For all the Chairman's bombast about foreign enemies," she sighs, "we really aren't in a good way to contest such if they did act. I think ... that your idea is a good one." She glances towards where the cooks are getting Humboldt's breakfast ready to be taken up, his servants a bit jittery to get it up to him. "Definitely," she repeats, the direction of her gaze a criticism which leaves nothing that needs to be said,"a good idea. I'll see if I can't attract interest from Verdun and Chevrolet before you get back, maybe ... hm. Formation movement around the fort ..." She trails off, clearly thinking about what she could (or should) be doing.
At your quasi-slip, she smiles, and says, "Fraternité works for me," she teases. "But yes, I agree. The more of our fellow officers we know, and the better we know them, the better ... we should be able to mesh with each other. You start work on making contacts elsewhere, I'll see if I can't get our two sous-lieutenants here interested and involved."
The two of you talk about a few other items, details of equippage and such, before one of your senior soldiers shows up and, saluting, informs you that the men are geared up and ready to go.
"Thank you Reynard." Lucius says, before turning back to Dubois and placing one hand atop hers briefly. "Good day to you Lieutenant."
"I'll see you later." With his back to Reynard and the rest of the room Lucien flashes her a brief, wide smile before turning back to his subordinate - official mask back in place.
"Right men, I want to be back for lunch and I'm sure you do too! Full pace. Drummers - 'Marching Home!'." A slightly odd pick for an outward bound march but it had a strong beat which always made the march easier and most everyone knew the words of a tune that had been popular since before the Revolution began.
As the drummers set the pace Lucien suits actions to words, falling in with the front and waving away the groom with Libertie to the rear of the group. Surrounded by his oldest friends Lucien looks from left to right, catches their eyes and beats time in the air for a few moments before launching into song with his men.
"Marching home, cross the hills.
Marching home to see my lass, my pretty lass.
Too long I've been away!"
Marching songs have a long, long, long history; it is entirely possible that during the War in Heaven, the hosts sang as they marched to seek a field that would give them the advantage over their foes. In Fesch's company as in others since the beginning of time, the veterans help teach the younger soldiers the songs, the stride, the drummer's beat that keeps spirits up and energy at a steady flow.
That their officer marches with them (in boots that, let us be frank, are likely not made for marching) gives them a bit of an extra boost; an officer should be willing to put his shoulder to the wheel, to move among his men, and yet must be able to command their respect and direct them into the teeth of Hell itself. It is things such as this that make that possible.
If you want to interact with those at de la Briche, you can go ahead and hail the fort at the end of your post, and we'll get into some interaction. ;)
Lucien declines to make the march easy for his men, leading them (as in the children's nursery rhyme about the Prince of Taldor) up hill and down, before halting them half-way down to 'receive a charge' from a cavalry unit. The company then forms into tight ranks and advances at double time as though through a crowd, keeping a firm rank of pikes and halberds at all times.
Between the maneuvers and the various detours the two mile march takes a good two and a half hours and everyone, Lucien included, is thirsty and in need of a rest. When Fort de la Briche comes into view the men give a rough cheer. Lucien gives his marching companions a grin and climbs into the saddle.
"Wait here men. We'll have fresh water shortly."
With that he heels Libertie forward and hails the gate.
"Lieutenant Fesch, Ninth of the Third. My men are on a marching exercise. May I bring them in for a short rest and some fresh water?" He offers a full salute and waits calmly on his steed.
The soldiers at Fort de la Briche seem alert, at least; while there doesn't seem to have been any ready response when your troops swing into view from around one of the dozens of hamlets scattered around the city, by the time you reach the gate on Libertie there are two heads peering out from behind crenelations above the gate. While one stares (somewhat stupidly) down at the well-dressed lines of your approaching unit, the other glances at the first one, then down at you, then calls down, "I, uh ... I'll check. Wait there, um, Lieutenant."
It takes a few more minutes, and from the sound of it there's some amount of soldierly bustling occurring behind the gate; soon enough, the postern opens up and out steps another lieutenant. "Sir!!" he calls out smartly, his hand on his sword, though it is not drawn. There are, however, more soldiers on the walls at this point, just in case. "Please dismount, advance and be recognized." Ah, yes, the interminable 'papers, please!' request. Fortunately or not, it's a common thing -- almost critically necessary, when you leave your own camp and expect to encounter other officers -- as criminals and bandits have been known to create mock-ups of Galtan Army uniforms and insignia. Papers are, however, more difficult to forge than with just a needle, thread, and cloth that 'looks close enough'; one must be literate, first, and one must know what it should look like, which few enough outside the Army itself care to know.
The fort's lieutenant waits for your salute, returns it, and accepts the papers you produce; examining them for a moment, he hands them back, salutes you in return (and waits for your response), then says, "Lieutenant Fesch, you and your men are welcome to Fort de la Briche." He half-turns and gestures, after which you can hear the gate's braces being removed and the gate being opened. The lieutenant waits for you to retrieve your horse and, with your return, walks in with you. "Lieutenant Danial Bernot, Fourth of the Fourth. Training exercise, huh?" He eyes the men with interest as their formation marches in through the gate, and remains in formation after doing so. Bernot looks somewhere between approving and impressed.
"Merci Lieutenant Bernot." Lucien replies, continuing the conversation as his men march in. "Is there anywhere you want my men? We will not disrupt your usual routines." With a safe area pointed out Lucien nods, the sergeants give their orders and the water carriers (one to every six men) fall out to the well to collect the promised water rations.
The rest of the men prop their polearms in the pyramids which constitute the easiest and most space efficient way to store eight to ten foot long weapons and settle down to soldiers amusements, dice, cat-naps and, in more than one case, observing the men of Fort de la Briche. Lucien's relentless drive for perfection is mirrored by many of his sergeants, and orders to observe their fellow soldiers are unnecessary.
"Yes, training exercises. I've seen too many good units in the army fall into bad habits when posted out here to the Forts. Much of my early time was spent on frontier patrol - the threats and real work of defending Galt do wonders for the units out there. They don't have much time for spit and polish, but they can out-march and out-fight most of Isarn's regiments without breaking sweat. I want to reverse that. Guarding the capital is a vital role and we can't have our men seeing it as anything less that that. Hence the training exercises." He offers a grin. "It's becoming something of a competition at l'Oest. My fellow Lieutenant had her men up near an hour earlier than usual today to try and beat mine into the mess hall. Speaking of which, may I prevail upon you for a glass of wine?"
In the slightly more congenial setting of the officers mess Lucien continues his exposition cum gentle interrogation. "I confess I brought my men to de la Briche for a particular reason Lieutenant. I've heard good things of you and your colleagues and I was hoping to meet some kindred spirits. You serve with a Lieutenant Bonfils I believe? She has a reputation as a stickler. If the two of you would consent to inspecting my men I would be grateful for the opinion of my fellow officers. I'm hoping to get a little system going, competitive marches, mock skirmishes, war games. That sort of thing. We do them at l'Ouest, but competing with other regiments would be far more satisfying all round!"
Diplomacy, Take 10: 10 + 13 = 23
And having just reread the thread I realise I've ballsed up. Briche has been the fort I've talked about the whole time but you determined a little way back that Bonfils was at Ivry instead. Doh! The whole point of this maneuver was to get to meet Bonfils so I'd have marched the men to Ivry but I've said Briche the whole time.... my bad. Let me know how this plays out, if I'm at the wrong fort then so be it and I'll swing the men home via the Farmer's Gate to meet that City Watch Captain who let me through last night.
Just as a reminder on locations and all, this image (albeit rotated 180 degrees) is serving us as a layout for the forts, batteries, and fortifications around Isarn.
Bernot frowns thoughtfully as he thinks. "No Bonfils here," he muses, "but the name does ring a bell." He thinks for a few more moments, then shakes his head. "No, not coming to me. But you have a good idea there, Fesch. Competition between troops, between the companies of different forts. Get us into fighting trim, eh?" A long glance sideways at you, then he nods. "Let me introduce you to my captain."
The fort is, of course, nearly identical to Fort l'Ouest, built on the same plan with variations only for the lay of the land; if you overnighted here, you'd barely need to open your eyes late at night when you needed to go to the jacks, and except for minor things -- a corner with still-sharp stone as compared to the worn-smooth ones at l'Ouest, the wear patterns in the floor -- you don't need a guide up to the captain's office.
But Bernot escorts you up anyhow, giving a sharp couple of raps on the door before opening it. "Capitaine Yount, Lieutenant Fesch, Ninth of the Third out of Fort l'Ouest, to see you. Mentioned Lieutenant Bonfils."
There are a few moments of silence, filled only by rustles of paper, and then a brutally-used voice rasps, "Enter."
Lieutenant Bernot steps in, salutes, then moves to the side, turning to face your entrance and coming to attention; once more, his hand is upon his sword, ready for the draw as he makes way for you to enter. Once you do so -- and salute, of course -- the middle-aged woman at the rough wood table within the room nods in acknowledgement of your salute, then gestures for you to stand at ease. "Out for a walk, Fesch?"
The age, the roughened voice, and the name finally all combine, clicking in your head to give you some idea of the woman behind the desk. Though not on the Council some twenty years ago, she was a swiftly-rising star in the military-centric Imperial Council, an officer very much in your own mold -- a field commission earned during the destruction of the witch coven known as the Eye of Law by the military junta that came to be called the Imperial Council, a rapid rise to colonel, her inability to secure the city with the reduced troops she had available for the task, her capture at the destruction of the gatehouse of Le Levant, subsequent trial, and -- in a rare display of leniency for the council -- 'mere' demotion to lieutenant. She has, however, stayed in the Army, despite the fact that in over fifteen years she has received only one promotion, that of the rank (and assigned position) she now holds.
"Capitaine Yount." Lucien says, "Working my men on formation marching and drills. I believe that we need to keep our men as ready as possible. Too many officers sit around and steal their men's pay without actually leading them. I've got my men into reasonable shape but its time to get them out of Fort l'Ouest and perform other tasks. I've heard good things about Lieutenant Bonfils, and her unit, so I'm working my men up to marches around the city. The kind of thing we need in case of disturbance." He leaves it there, without mentioning his feeling that the Imperial Council proves his point precisely. Not that Yount would probably disagree, its just not polite to say so.