Monday, February 18, 2013

Frontier Letters(Story)

This is intended to be a drawn out story told through the correspondence of a young soldier on the frontier.  The grammar is intentionally bad for a multitude of reasons.  One because I am not taking the time to check it.  Two because the soldier isn't supposed be well versed in letters.  Three because of One.  Hopefully unlike all my other projects this one will actually proceed and not end up unfinished.
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Dear mum,                                                                     17 February 23

I arrived in Friendless yesterday evening.  there is not much here.  just a few streets and then the barracks.  I have been assigned to the third boat squad of A company and will be patrolling as soon as tomorrow.  They issued me a rifle, a uniform and 2 canteens.  I am expected to provide my own knife and like I mentioned before I left I will be being paid 13 silvers a month.

  I am not entirely sure that the Sgt even knows I am here but he at least pointed me to a cot to sleep on and told me where the privies are.  It is weird.  Because there is water everywhere the whole town sits up on stilts and everything has a wet damp moist feel to it.  At the same time tough it might as well be a desert.  We have to import drinkable water from a nearby safe-spring and we never know if we will run out.  there are extreme precautions made regarding out water supply and many of us are assigned guard duty throughout the night to prevent sabotage.  Outside of water and ammo the only concern is making sure the boats are maintained and that we keep the town secure. 

Besides soldiers there are I guess about 100 civilians in this town.  So when you add the three companies and the supply folk at the fort we might get 300 souls total in the area.

The enemy won’t attack such a number directly I am told but I’m repeatedly assured that they will quickly attack us whenever they can once we leave the safety of “shore” and patrol the deeper waters or thicker forests.

Each of them holds a different set of challenges.  In the deeper water areas there are “things” that live under the water and if disturbed will rise and attack boats.  On the other hand in the thick forest areas the trees are close enough together as to block our visibility and force us to get within touching distance of the branches, which holds the danger of vermin, ambushes, and man-eating vines.

But don’t worry.  I know that only 3-4 soldiers are lost each month and that if I keep my head down and follow orders I will make out all right.  Two years out here and I can save enough to go to school and become a doctor like you always wanted me to.

With lots of love and respect,
Pvt. Karold
3rd Squad A/32/8th River 


Dear mum,                                                                                24 February 23

Last week went well.  I went on several short patrols and am getting comfortable maneuvering the boat and keeping in formation.  I haven’t seen anyone die or get lost since I’ve gotten here and in fact am starting to think that everything will go extra well.

It is difficult to realize how thirsty you are getting because everything is so moist and foggy here but if you don’t remember to drink water regularly you can just pass out.  It happened to me once that I started to get dizzy but Corporal Dawson noticed it and beat me soundly for not drinking regularly.  I have since made it a habit to drink every half hour.

The water around Friendless is so ugly and foul that I cannot imagine why anyone would want to live here much less why our nation desires to protect it.  Everything I own is perpetually damp and I really miss seeing the sun or clouds. 

I am supposed to go on a longer two day patrol next week to investigate one of the so called “tree ponds”.  They are not really ponds but are places where the tree roots have grown so close together that they make natural little valleys or ponds above the water where you can get fresh water and can make camp without fear of falling into the water.  Several smugglers have made allegations that it is being used by the rebels as a base of operations and they are sending a company out to investigate.

I am eager to find and fight the enemy and also to get past the “newbie stage”.  They have been breaking in our company because we are the “new company”.  So we don’t get to go on the long patrols and see action.

With lots of love and respect,
Pvt. Karold
3rd Squad A/32/8th River 


 Dear mum,                                                                                        3 Mar 23

Still haven’t seen combat yet, but have now seen a man die.  We were returning from a fruitless search of the treepond when our scout spotted a trail in the water.  We adjusted course and in the process Pvt Umbrage took his skiff too close to a low hanging branch and the vines just reached out and grabbed him.  The men nearest him quickly pulled up and cut him free using their bayonets but by the time he was free the poison set in and he was starting to turn purplish orange.

The Lt said there was nothing that could be done for him and they shot him and towed his skiff back to Friendless.  We had a brief ceremony at the Chapel and then put him on the pyre and sent his body to join his soul. 

It was shocking how quick he changed from a living person to a dead thing.  The other soldiers have assured me over and over that although the poison would have taken several hours to kill him it would have been extremely painful and there is absolutely no cure for it after that point.  I have resolved to memorized the signs for the deadly vines and will commit myself to avoiding them even when caught up in the excitement of the hunt.

A small package of his effects was compiled to be mailed to his family along with a letter from the Lt.  As for his weapons and ammo they were split among the rest of us as evenly as possible with an eye towards the ones who need particular items.  I received his bayonet as my rifle did not have one.  His skiff will be set aside for the next batch of new recruits.

I am grateful that it wasn’t me but feel bad that it happened and feel bad that I’m happy it wasn’t me.  I am no longer so blissfully positive about my time here and desire that you pray for me at every opportunity.

With lots of love and respect,
Pvt. Karold
3rd Squad A/32/8th River 


 Dear mum,                                                                                  10 Mar 23
We were shot at this week a couple of times on patrol.  No one was wounded but one skiff was holed and had to be towed back.

The first time I simply dove for cover on my skiff and although I was thinking desperately of what I should do I found myself frozen unmoving when the last shots faded away.  Corporal Dawson gave me a firm thumping for my lack of action that night and I swore to make certain I remedied that fact in the next engagement.

The second time I spun and fired blindly towards the sound of the shot.  Repeatedly.  Once again I received corrective guidance from Dawson as I had apparently been stupidly wasteful of precious ammo.  In this case however the Scouts were able to recover a trail and we followed it for about six hours to no avail.

I cannot see how they can follow a “trail” left on water but they have demonstrated it repeatedly without failure around the waters close to Friendless and I’ve been regaled many times about their superb tracking abilities by the other soldiers here at the barracks.

I finally received the first of your letters, the one dated from January.  There is about an 8 week delay in sending and receiving letters and I can see that you sent it while I was still in the Basic Rivermans course.
I am glad to hear about Ole Clever and hope you and the family continue to enjoy the springtime weather.  Say hi to the Sun for me. 

I do not know when I will next be able to write as we are preparing for a longer expedition and I may be gone all week long but be assured I will remedy that with my next correspondence.

With lots of love and respect,
Pvt. Karold
3rd Squad A/32/8th River 

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