Author Topic: The Shakes  (Read 470 times)

Wrath

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The Shakes
« on: July 25, 2020, 10:57:51 AM »
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The ground shakes. I don't know if it's the lightning or the siege weapons anymore from inside my tent. They expect me to rest with the prospect of a possible battle, but no matter how I try I just can't keep my eyes shut. But the thunder wouldn't make it so hard to write if it weren't for my own hands. They won't stop shaking. I'm trying to stay confident for the others, to keep their spirits up- but it's a lie. This deep pit in my stomach is screaming at me to run, to hide. To throw down my weapons and try to sneak out. But it's easier this time. I remember the last time. The last time my hands shook. Amidst the storm and the whistling of Falkovnian artillery at Ameranthe, I'm thrown back in time by two years.

The Battle of Point Sable.

The natural storms balk in comparison to the thundering of war that day. The vibrating boom of cannon fire sending ships to their doom as I stand on the fo'c'sle of my father's Galleon. Hands steady and firm on the wooden handle of my cast-iron swivel cannon, the breechloader mercifully easy and fast to load and fire. The crew later tell me of their pride in seeing me send whistling lead shot into the upper decks of the enemy ships; I suppose they expected me to cower below, to lean on my noble status to avoid the fighting. But if they'd seen me the previous night, their presumptions wouldn't have been unreasonable. It was far worse than now, my memory of it still crystal clear to keep my shame fresh.

Just the night before, my hands clutched the frame of an open gun port as I tried to still the shaking, yet I could do nothing to stop from vomiting out into the waters below. Wracked with fear, anxiety, my panicked mind wished me to beg my father for a retreat, for an escape. Put me on a row boat, let me sail to shore for safety and wait out the battle. Steal one, even, avoid the shame of asking and just sneak away and make for home. Those late night hours felt the longest of my life, spent upending my sore stomach that had long run out of contents for the sea aside sickly bile, or pacing with stricken, pallid skin and trying to hold back the mounting panic in my mind. The quivering of my craven hands.

I can even remember being confused. I had always been confident, always spouted my patriotism and boasted of my readiness for battle! Yet here it came and I felt a coward. Quivering below deck at the thought of coming warfare, pleading with myself for a reprieve from what came. To this day, I curse myself for the many shameful thoughts in my mind that I won't write here. One can be forgiven for thinking that I'm no soldier, at the time I truly wasn't- just a noble sailor accustomed to a life of 'adventure and travel'. Which only meant drinking and laying with foreign women. Boast as I did of my sword training, I'd never used it. Boast as I did of my readiness to fight, I never had.

Yet, when the time of battle actually came, these thoughts all vanished. I'd made it to the morning without action and when the sudden crack of artillery sounded, I had surprised everyone, myself most of all with how quickly I took to the forecastle. When I heard the cannonfire, my thoughts of death and consequence had all but gone- the only thing I could think of was my crew. My father. How their lives would be affected if we lost- how they would die. These thoughts steadily grew to think of everyone- my cousins, my uncle, the nobles, the common people. Farmers, tanners, smiths, artists, tailors, soldiers, politicians, all alike could find themselves dead. Yet there I was, ready to flee? No, I had told myself. For at least a day, I fought for everything I believed in. Be it through some divine intervention, I had managed to steel my uneasy hands and take up the cannon.

I can't speak to my efficacy, we were never close enough for me to really see the results of my own barrages, but I fought. Even the rip of cannonball through our own deck didn't falter me. I shot and I shot until our fleet was forced to flee. 'We lost?' I asked myself. I don't remember how long the battle took place, but it felt fast. Too fast. As if my memory of the morning is as fogged as the Baie. The heavy fog that had obscured the damage, yet our mangled fleet seemed to have at least somewhat survived. They had failed to sink the Blackwhistle, even if my father's beloved ship would never truly recover from this day. I remember my father taking my face in his hands and lavishing me with praise that I can't recall to this day, I only remember the pride I saw glinting in his eyes. Happy at my display in battle. It was bittersweet for me, the guilt of the previous night soon coming back to weigh heavily on my conscious.

I am not so boastful as I once was, for I remember that night well. It tempers my ego and reminds me that I am but a man in the face of larger forces at work. Forces of life and death, bowing to the whims of rich men and their politics. But of it all, I knew one thing for certain, I would NEVER be taken by such thoughts again. I will fight and, if need be, I will die.

Vive la Republique
Dominique Travere

(Bit of a mistake with my family lore before, sadly. Since been corrected.)
« Last Edit: July 25, 2020, 09:49:16 PM by Wrath »
Dominique Travere

Wrath

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Re: The Shakes
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2020, 12:54:40 AM »
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Solidarity. Peace.

For just a short while, the rain stopped. The sun shone, the sky was blue. As it did, I was at peace. I stopped to look at my free hand and mused at how steady it was. Her hand in my other, her head on my shoulder. Maybe it was the battle. Maybe it was inevitable. But for a moment we focused on each other and relaxed. We forgot the trouble.

For a short while.

We sat like that as the whistle called for us. The ground shaking from the sudden, sheer barrage of Falkovnian artillery. The kiss driven from our mind as we pull our weapons. Dead men on the ramparts as we find the wall. When the soldiers moved in, they fell. We slaughtered them in droves. Wave after wave, the fruitlessly threw themselves at us. 'Why?' I kept asking. They couldn't lower the drawbridge- they had no chance. Then I heard the voices.

Women. Children. We balked as we realized what was about to happen. The Sargent had warned me about this tactic- but horrified as I was, I had brushed it off at the time. Doubting their capacity for such a crime. Yet as I saw them being marched down the bridge, the truth was laid bare before us. Human shields. We started shooting, I tried to aim past them but I can't account for every arrow. Every missed shot haunts me as I imagine it thudding into an innocent chest. Afterwards there was nothing but corpses. So many of them small, broken, like discarded and unwanted toys. A small voice in my head bid me to climb that rampart and just jump, but I defied it. I would not let thoughts like that take me again.

My hands are shaking again. She offers to share a sedative- I accept. It's the only way either of us will sleep tonight. There are no words I can put to paper to stifle my grief. To display my guilt. Words powerful enough do not exist. I can't keep writing. I can't keep the quill steady.

Dominique Travere
Dominique Travere

Wrath

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Re: The Shakes
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2020, 06:29:19 PM »
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Blood. Fire. Screaming artillery and shattering walls. Ameranthe was the longest three days of my life, yet what truly upheaved my status quo was not the siege, but the aftermath. We put our lives on the line to defend Dementlieu against the Falkovnian menace and the Council used it. They used our heroism as a crutch with which to limp into our City and take it without resistance. They took the honorable Duc Marius de Mortigny, he who seemed to truly value our lives during the battle and they made him kneel before them as if there was mercy he must beg for. Any crime Duc Marius de Mortigny may be accused of, in my eyes, is pardoned by the lengthy, gruelsome siege that he endured for so long just to keep the Falkovnians at bay from truly savaging our country.

The Council was merciful. But I give them little credit for this. After all, the last thing they want is another revolt- what better way to fan the flames of unrest than to behead the immediately returned war heroes of Ameranthe? To appease both the masses and the great many nobles whos deaths would have caused unwanted trouble, they dispersed unimportant titles and gave a heartless thanks, the only one of which that felt genuine being the reward to Sieur Roland Steele. Only the truly monstrous could deny his heroism that day. As for their pittance of rewards, some were named Maitre and Maitresse, our Commander was named a Baron, a couple were Knighted.

Empty gestures, in my eyes. I was grateful I was not offered titles- for my mind had been made up to leave. I had previously sworn that, should the council abuse our absence to seize power, that I would resign from the Gendarme. Though initially I had intended to sign on with the Red Vardo and work for Captain Rory- someone I consider a friend, this changed. Lucius von Braccen, who I looked up to, and his woman Saskia d'Auvergne have both left the city. That combined with the fact that nobody has heard from Rory in evidently some time? For now, I resolved to leave the city entirely. I hold no ill will for Dementlieu nor its people, in fact I swore to Norman Smith, my respected Sargent, that I would return if the Hawks came yet again.

Grace and I accompanied Roland Steele to Barovia, she is perhaps the only reason I've chosen such a cold place for my new home- it was her idea after all. For a night we sheltered in his Order Hall, we were greeted by a priestess upon our entry, who was surprised to see us. But no more surprised than I was to see the extense of Roland's influence. Surprised that such an evidently renowned Knight chose to aid us in our conflict, one which he had no stake or reason in, yet stood part of regardless.

I would be remiss to not mention the acknowledgement the Duc and Duchesse, to which, while grateful, I was apathetic towards. They passed out to us medals to honor our service- I was not disappointed by the lack of gold or title, truthfully I'm grateful for the lack of such. I saw even the medals as too much. When Madame le Duchesse handed it to me, and I looked at it in my hands, I thought only of the women and children I saw fall on the bridge at Ameranthe. Innocents suffering for nothing more than the greed of monstrous humans. Renaud says that humans are not the biggest monsters this world has to offer, but until I see an example of this, the human shields the Falkovnians wielded has convinced me otherwise. I could hardly look at my new medal, I stuffed it in my pocket and I rejoined the crowd. I can't bring myself to even put it on.

I'd send it to Lucius, if I only knew where he was. I know he wouldn't wear it anymore than me, but the old soldier deserves one of these medals more than myself. I killed eleven Falkovnians, with sword, with bow, even with grenades. But that doesn't compare to his number in the field, no doubt- though I'm sure he didn't count.

My rambling writings should come to an end now. The self reflection helps me focus on something other than nightmares and whispered voices of the dead coming to haunt me. I confess, as much as the tragedy of war shadows me, I have been able to both survive and overcome it thanks to Grace. Love was not something I expected to find in the City, let alone a siege. Yet after the shared upheavel at Port-a-Lucine's loss and Lucius' sudden departure, we seemed to only bind together all the more. I'm loathe to put too much about us to paper, if a combination of my selfishness in wanting to keep the way it makes me feel to Grace and myself, and to deter any future readers from labelling me a love-stricken sycophant. But I will write it clearly- I love her. I haven't said it clearly, but I can feel it.

I suppose the future, our future, is now open. A cold, monster-haunted land is now my home. Danger will come for us and we will meet it with a flurry of axes and swords.

Silver in Peace, Steel in War
Dominique Travere
« Last Edit: July 29, 2020, 06:48:53 PM by Wrath »
Dominique Travere

Wrath

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Re: The Shakes
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2021, 09:37:51 PM »
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The shakes are oh so long gone, yet I find I miss them. Once a fresh face with ideals and a wide smile, I've since become less. So much so that I see it myself. I've since lost my naive idealism, any notion of making a real difference in Dementlieu seems to have faded from my mind. Contemplating that course no longer brings me the same passion it once did, it only makes me look to the scars and bad memories past attempts have wrought. We stood side by side, strangers mostly, to defend our country against the Falkovnian menace that came to wreak havoc. They killed innocent men, women, and children in their conquest- we bled and died to keep our country safe; Yet while we did? The Council, Martineau, they slipped into the city while we weren't there to defend it and just took it out from under us. A deep cowardice, yet they have the bravery to smugly look down upon us the next day.

I turned in my blue uniform that day. I couldn't serve that Council. I didn't speak my reasons too plainly to most, even to my friends and fellow Gendarme. I have nothing but respect for them, even with them deciding to stay. How can I fault them for wanting to protect our people? I just couldn't wear that uniform with pride any longer.

Then came Barovia. I left with a woman I cared for- a love discovered amidst rubble and riot in a siege. I should have known then that a bond forged in chaos could fall apart, but I digress. Barovia was a beast of its own. A vampire blight upon the land, the von Khorvich family was already causing problems when we arrived. I was willing to do anything to combat it- but one of their own thralls was in the guard itself, a thrall that had me banished for my known intention to unseat them. When their true nature was revealed and they had been turned into a vampire, a spawn, whatever, my banishment yet remained.

Another slap in the face- willing to fight and bleed for a country and I found myself whipped, caged, and exiled from the city I wanted to stand for. On top of that, the affection I had previously known withered. We no longer looked at each other with the care we had before. The parting was friendly, if dim, but it was the last break upon a whipped back that pushed me away from the country. I had no reason to try and help these people anymore; What good had it gotten me?

I returned to the city, old, familiar faces were plenty welcoming to me when I did. Yet they remained in the same paths as they did when I knew them before. As if the war hadn't really changed them. Everyone handles it differently, but I wanted something new. No more ideals, no more notions of heroics and goodliness. I signed on with the Red Vardo, one goal in mind. Money. After the tiring, nay, exhausting ordeals that trying to be a good man had put me through, I decided to be the noble I was born to be. Rich, uncaring, and relaxed.

To the Traders credit, it certainly worked. I sat amongst the outlanders, I sold magical bags, goods, the like, and I made a killing. Good food, lodging, a luxurious enough life in the palm of my hands. Two problems. One, I grew bored. Two, it appeared the Siege and the nonsense in Vallaki had all but killed my already thin patience for noble formalities. Talking to old friends, skirting around their titles and listening to talks of fashions made me long for the old days of sailing the seas. The crew as crude and crass with my father and I as they were with each other. The songs we'd sing as we bobbed along the waves, all the liquor and beer we could ask for, I never thought at the time that those would be the memories I cherished the most.

With my father gone, the ship gone, the crew split up or dead, those days are gone forever for me. The temptation to buy a new ship and start anew is there, yet something compels me to stay. Despite everything, I don't want to leave the City again. The Traders have new work for me, work that's more than a little challenging. It doesn't make me feel living again, but at the least it keeps my mind turning. With my recent return from business, the City has a new pretty face. House Artois. Apparently part of some council to decide whether we should aid a breakaway Falkovnian state. Ezra save, it took some restraint not to spit in the dirt before the Falkovnian prince when I saw him. But the Traders want neutrality, so I begrudgingly stay my tongue on the matter.

Hopefully these lamentations will help quell the nightmares that plague my sleep. I won't forgive the hawks for the phantom cannonfire I wake to every morning, nor the faces of dead children that sing to me in my slumber. Let their country burn in a civil war that lasts forever. Perhaps they'll see the terrors they wreak upon others for once.

Silver in Peace, Steel in War
Dominique Travere
Dominique Travere

Wrath

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Re: The Shakes
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2021, 10:29:47 AM »
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The classics of adventure were almost forgotten to me. Braving the treacherous tombs of Har'Akir reminded me how much I enjoy the fight, the thrill. Making ancient locks bend and break, rendering fatal traps useless to let my company through. Last year I had started adventuring this way and enjoyed it quite a bit, but after I returned from Barovia, I had stopped. Focused on trade, making money, relaxation. It's only after my most recent trip to the desert after so long since my last that I realized how apathetic I had become. But this recent adventure helped wake me up from the stupor I hadn't even taken note of.

To fulfill my duties to the Vardo and continue to train myself through adventure, I'm going to need help. The Vardo is unfortunately undermanned when it comes to ventures like this, so I think it's finally time House Travere hired some retainers. Though, with most of my friends either occupied with their own titles, sworn to the Gendarme, or languishing in Barovia, I've no clue who I'll sign on.

Silver in Peace, Steel in War
Dominique Travere
Dominique Travere