Saturday, 10 April 2010


Sven ducked down in the trench and began to shake almost uncontrollably. He jammed his back against the facing wall and put his face down into his hands as the noise of battled roared in his ears. Every now and then there was the stomach churning thud as heavy ordnance struck somewhere on the battlefield and the force could be felt through the earth and up into the body. Sitting opposite him, in the trench was Gregor. Gregor was staring open mouthed at Sven, which probably wouldn’t have been too surprising until you noticed that his entire left side was missing; replaced by a mix of blood, sinew and filth. Gregor was dead, of course. He had been staring open mouthed, wide eyed and with a look of horror for about six hours now. Sven couldn’t even glance in his direction without feeling the inevitable urge to throw up. This really wasn’t what he was expecting when he took his oath and started service in the Grymn army. He felt wretched. His hands were shaking, he was sweating profusely and he was clinging onto his SMG with such force that before he laid it across his knees, his hands had bled from contact with the trigger guard and the cocking handle. Every time there was the sound of incoming fire Sven jumped with surprise, even though there was no surprise to the constant chatter and thud around him. He removed his hands from his face and left bloody streaks where they had been. Grabbing his SMG Sven tried to get to his feet but his legs didn’t want to move. He was completely in the grip of shell shock and he was in no state to be in a battle. His head started to spin and he inadvertently glanced at Gregor with the expected response from his stomach; bile and his last meal exploded through clenched teeth all down the front of his plate armour and fatigues as Sven’s body convulsed. It was the final straw and he couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down his cheeks as he began to sob like a child.

‘What’s going on in sector three?’ Asked Hella; she was particularly annoyed because her brilliant battle-plan was going extremely well apart from over in section three which was currently collapsing under heavy resistance.
‘The defences are being over-run by the Bohkin assault troops. We need to reinforce as soon as possible’ replied Johan.
‘What do we have available?’ Hella asked.
‘There’s always Kjaran’s heavies’ came the reply as Johan studied the tactical display.
‘Yes...get Kjaran over to reinforce sector three and while you’re at it, arrange for some caffeine; I’m starting to lose my edge’ Hella rubbed her eyes and started pawing at the maps on her table as she spoke.
‘Right you are Ma’am’ he said as he disappeared from the tent.

Sven tried to get up again but couldn’t. He had stopped shaking but had no strength. He could hear the battle raging but felt powerless to make any moves to joining in. He looked at Gregor and felt the nausea building again but managed to suppress the feeling long enough to start to think. ‘What the hell am I doing? I’m a Grymn, for feth’s sake. I should be able to stand on my own two feet!’ he thought, as the feeling of annoyance started to flood his mind. ‘What would Gregor think of me if he could see me now? What would Dad think? I know what he’d think...he’d think that I was a damned coward!’ The annoyance was starting to turn to anger as he stared at his comrade’s shattered form. ‘Fething Bohkin, coming into my sector and killing my mates...they deserve worse than I’m giving them at the moment!’ His hands clenched the grip and stock of his SMG until they were white and he automatically began to stand. ‘I’ll show them!’ Cocking his SMG he turned in his trench, stood on the fire-step and began to blast away at whatever Bohkin he could see. There were plenty around and although his aim seemed to be true and he fired many rounds at them, none of them were falling. Sven was screaming as he fired and was beginning to attract far too much attention as the Bohkin finally realised where the shots were coming from. Suddenly from behind him came the sound of something landing heavily in the trench. Sven turned sharply to see a new Grymn standing there.
‘That’s the spirit lad!’ Said Aylton as he knelt down beside Gregor and gently closed his dead eyes whilst whispering a prayer. ‘Don’t worry about your mate here’ he said ‘there’s nothing here that will hurt him again’.
Sven turned away and continued firing at the Bohkin with more ferocity; the tears were starting to well up and he started screaming with more and more anger because none of the enemy were falling to his barrage.
‘Save some for me will you!’ said Aylton as he joined Sven on the firing step ‘you’ll run out of ammo at that rate!’
‘They won’t fething die!’ he screamed a hysterical reply ‘I shoot and shoot but they won’t die!’ By now Sven was sobbing again and his body was shaking with the effort.
Aylton placed a hand on Sven’s shoulder and carefully disarmed him with kind words and reassurance. He got Sven to hunker down in the trench with him while he inspected the SMG that had been so inaccurate.
‘No wonder they’re not dying!’ He said ‘look at this.’
Sven looked down and could not believe his eyes; the barrel and stock of the SMG were pointing upwards at a gentle slope. It was enough to send the bullets sky-wards without making them jam in the barrel and cause a misfire. Sven couldn’t help himself. He began to laugh through the tears that were coursing down his face. He laughed harder and harder until he thought his chest would burst.
‘They will die then?’ He thought as he laughed so hard he nearly stopped breathing.
Aylton broke into his thoughts with a question: ‘Do you feel like getting a bit even now?’
Sven looked at him and said ‘with what? My weapon is gone’.
‘It seems to me that young Gregor may be able to help’ he said as he brushed the mud from Gregor’s pulse-gun and handed it over to Sven. ‘Have you used these before?’ He asked ‘they kick a bit but work very well.’
‘I’m sure I’ll work it out’ replied Sven through the gritted teeth of a manic smile.
Sven took the pulse-gun from Aylton and hefted it from hand to hand to judge the weight of it. He found the safety catch and checked the power meter; he had seen Gregor do it many times and it currently registered three quarters full. He glanced at Aylton who was now standing at the fire-step picking his targets with the precision of a seasoned veteran. Sven almost felt awe at the sight. Here they were on the battlefield with all the death and the danger around and Aylton was shooting away as if he was on a range; he was even humming a tune as he fired. Sven climbed to his feet again and took up position next to Aylton and began to follow his lead. Things were different to earlier because what ever he shot at started to fall down now. Sven’s confidence began to build and he was starting to return to his senses when Aylton spoke to him.
‘How does it feel lad?’ He said through a broad grin ‘Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be in the heat of battle; wiping out the scum that the Fathers send against us?’ Aylton was studying Sven’s face while he spoke.
‘Aye, it is’ replied Sven almost without thinking.
‘Young Gregor would be proud to see his weapon in such fine form today, don’t you think?’
‘Aye, I think he would’. Sven looked at his feet as he spoke but this time there were no tears because he knew that the new Grymn was right; Gregor would have loved watching his gun killing so many enemies.
‘I’m Aylton by the way’ said Aylton ‘you’ll be young Sven won’t you?’
‘Aye’ he replied.
‘I thought so. You are the very picture of the Sven that Stefan described to me’ he laughed ‘I bet you’ll never think of dropping his precious flamer again!’
‘NO!’ came a rather dumb-struck response (there had been an incident where Sven had been asked to fetch a flamer for Stefan and in his haste to help, he had dropped it and been punched out for his trouble).
‘Well, I wouldn’t worry anymore’ laughed Aylton ‘you’ll be joining my unit when we get back and Stefan would know better than to pick on one of ours!’
Sven looked at Aylton in a state of confusion as he watched him casually shoot at the odd Bohkin that popped its head above cover. Why would he want him in his unit? He was just a green light-infantryman with very little experience.
Aylton glanced over at him and grinned ‘I couldn’t possibly let you out of my sight, now could I?’ He said ‘there’s no knowing what trouble you’d get yourself into!’
Sven didn’t say anything and continued firing at the enemy. The reinforcements had done their job and the battle was starting to turn. All along the sector, Grymn units were gaining ground and had begun to force back the enemy Bohkin. There would be an end to fighting by the following day.
Sven stared at his empty glass. The froth from the final mouthful was steadily sliding down the inside of the glass and through his drunken eyes it almost seemed to dance. He felt his pocket for some more money but found none. He realised that it was time to go to his bed and began to climb to his feet when a great weight pushed down on his shoulder and he was forced back into his chair. He looked around to see Stefan leaning on his shoulder with one hand and carrying two tankards of mead in the other. He placed one of the tankards in front of Sven; sloshing some mead onto the table in the process and sat opposite him with the other.
‘You’ll drink with me lad’ Stefan stated through his drunken stupor.
Sven said nothing. He didn’t know what to do so he picked up the proffered tankard and raised it towards his mouth.
‘Not so fast lad’ said Stefan, staring through bloodshot eyes at Sven ‘you’ve got a duty to undertake’.
Stefan climbed to his feet and in a booming voice shouted ‘everyone shut the feth up will you?!’
The bar went very quiet as Stefan was renowned for causing trouble and no one was ready for that tonight.
‘Young Sven here has a toast’ he said as he gripped Sven under one arm and lifted him easily to his feet. He grinned at Sven and prompted him to speak. Sven thought for a moment and looked into his glass. He thought of the battle and the friend that he had lost. He thought of the loss of all the friendly forces. He thought of what Aylton had said to him and he raised his glass to the heavens.
‘TO THE FALLEN!’ he boomed.
‘TO THE FALLEN!’ was the sombre reply.
‘No one can hurt them now’ he continued and got the same response from the room...but he couldn’t hear them as he began to sob.
‘Now that, lad, was a toast’ said Stefan as he put his arm around his shoulders and led him to his seat to finish his drink.
Aylton looked on and just smiled.

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