Saturday, October 24, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 39

Captain Kessler felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as Ryke made his way forward, surrounded by the new troops.  While he was aware that he had lost what little control he'd had over this situtation, he'd had a vague hope that he would get out of this and regain at least some measure of dignity.  Ryke's apparent status suggested he wouldn't.  Instead Ryke would be stepping over his figurative corpse, and possibly his literal one, to take the credit, the glory, and the position.  Ryke had always struck him as one of the more quietly ambitious Prince's Men--not so much hard working as very eager to appear so to those above.  And apparently he'd done it again.

It was exceedingly bad for Kessler's mood, already poor thanks to a truly awful headache, the result of last night's drinking. 

Bres seemed even more ill at ease than Kessler, though given the debacle of the soldiers' mutiny, that was perhaps unsurprising.  His narrow ratlike eyes kept darting over the Ryke's men, performing some sort of unfathomable mental mathematics that were the little man's alone. 

As for Ryke, the handsome Prince's Man gave a roguish chuckle and a satisified smile as he stepped forward.  "Well, Captain,"he announced cheerily, "I understand there's been an incident."

Kessler coughed nervously.  "Well... several, really," he muttered nervously, then glanced at his feet.  Beside him, Bres went pale.

"I am taking command here," stated Ryke.  "I assume you have no objections."

Kessler tried to say something, found he couldn't, and simply nodded. 

Bres was less agreeable.  "You jumped over my head," he muttered.  "Before this even happened... you..."

"And it's a good thing I did," said Ryke walking past him.  "Now... to begin with I believe there are trouble with the soldiers."  Kessler gave another weak nod as Ryke strolled past him into the center of the camp.

Corporal Adge glanced up from the bonfire.  "Come to talk sensible terms at last?" he stated.  "As I keep saying, the laws of war have been written to avoid exactly this sort of..."

"I'm the new commander," said Ryke  "And there will be no terms."

"Another Prince's Man," said the corporal with a scowl.  "There irregularities are not only illegal, they harm morale and the chain of com..."

Ryke glanced at one of his subordinates.  "Kill him."  The corporal seemed about to respond to that, when the quarrel buried itself in his belly.  There was a shout from the mutineers, many of whom scattered.  "Right," declared Ryke cheerfully, "I want you men assembled within an hour.  We retake Laodegan Town at dawn."   As men milled about, he smiled at Kessler.  "See? That's all it takes. A bit of hardness."  He chuckled.  "I'm surprised I had to think of it."

"Yes, it's almost as if we lacked the loyal men to do something like that," murmured Bres.  "For some... strange reason."

Ryke raised an eyebrow at that, but said nothing.

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