Perpetual War

Chapter Six - Mud of the Trenches

The Glodoran Trench Line. Eleven years it has existed as a place for men, women, and beast to die. Eleven years that the land itself has been torn apart and turned into a wasteland where nothing can thrive. There are many locations around the world that are currently in conflict, but its Glodoran that has become a true place of horror. The magic sealed away within the halls of that tower should remain locked. Need I remind those around me the destruction at the Pixxelk Plains where over half a million vanished in a blink of an eye? The deaths littering Glodoran are too high a price for the Primordial Tower.

-Marlene Vumos, Letters to End the Madness

***

A freezing drizzle fell from the dismal gray clouds above. Droplets bounced off the helmets of soldiers cowering within the protection of the trenches, but sound of the rain was lost in the loud whistling above. Smokey trails followed the falling shells that pierced through the heavy clouds. The shells hit their targets with a concussive force that caused man and animal alike to panic and scurry about. Dirt and debris rained in every direction. The explosions built upon one another in an overwhelming crescendo that left many to freeze up in their trenches and simply cry. Between it all, a low humming clung to the background, never seeming to go away through all the chaos.

Natalia weaved through the trenches towards the front. She turned a corner and spotted Vykter pushing through a thick muddy patch to the opposite dry side.

“They need us up there, Ludmila!” Vykter shouted back to her.

She saw a final glimpse of his coat before it vanished around the bend of the path. Approaching the mud, she stepped in and was caught by surprise at her feet abruptly sinking in, the sloshing barely audible to her over the sound of the falling shells. Tightening her grip on the strap of her rifle, she reached a hand to the left wall to steady herself. She kept her eyes focused on the opposite side of the section where the trench rose up out of the mud. The mud quickly enveloped her legs to just beneath her knees. Each step she took released more of the decaying mucky smell to fill the air.

A close impact abruptly flattened Natalia into the mud. She flailed about in alarm, her hand searching for something solid, and found it. With all her strength, she pulled herself from the muddy path, only managing to get up to her waist out of the muddy grip. With a shake of her head, Natalia cleared her eyes as best she could and came face to face with the dead eyes of a young girl. Natalia froze as she stared into the brown eyes.

“Ludmila!” A shout echoed between a brief pause before another round of shells landed.

Slowly she released her grip on the barrel of the girl’s rifle, still held in warm hands. Natalia placed gloved hands to either side of the dry path quickly becoming wet with dirty blood. With one foot free, she pulled the other out and scanned her body to make sure everything was still on her as it should be. Her eyes caught on the young girl again; the bottom half of her body was gone.

Another impact nearby shook Natalia, causing her to stumble into a dirt wall. Forcing herself back to her feet she dug her hands into the dirt to rip out a clump of it. Squeezing the dirt between her hands she tried her best to rub the blood away with the damp dirt. Her rifle and the rest of her gear jostled and shook as she kept moving. Mud and bloody footprints were left in her wake before vanishing altogether with the chaos of the trench.

Natalia came around the bend to find Vykter waiting at a corner of a three-way intersection in the trench lines. The wall waited for her at the end of the last line of defense before entering the empty field littered with years of death.

“Where is Lulilia?” Vyker called out to Hukven who sat with crossed arms and head down trying to rest. A flask in hand, unfazed by the shelling as he took another swig.

“She went off to check on the listening post!” he called back. Hukven looked up and waved his hand in her direction. “The girl’s already gotten into a mess without us?”

Vykter stood and followed Hukven’s hand to Natalia. His rifle rested at his feet, freeing up his hands which he now squeezed and rubbed together. “You alright?” Vykter called out. His brow furrowed at the muddy mess Natalia was in. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Natalia shouted in return. She looked to the sky, hands flexed with anticipation, “Why isn’t the barrier up yet?”

Krieger, sitting to the right with cigar in hand, rose up in a crouch. “It’s a joke, honestly! The useless domovoy who set it up must’ve used rodents to power it!” He puffed smoke from his lips. “It’s only been ten minutes of this crap and I’m sick of it.”

“Domovoy are espers just like you Natalia are they not? Surely you could power the barrier,” Marxun asked, rising to his feet.

Natalia shook her hands “I may be an esper like them, but it’s not as easy as waving my hand, you know!”

“Can you at least try?” Marxun insisted.

“It’s worth a shot I’d say,” Teiver added with crossed arms.

“I… maybe?” Natalia tried busying herself with mud caked between her gloved fingers, feeling heated pressure from the sets of eyes on her. Me activate a domovoy’s rune? I barely learned how to create a rune!

“It’s a plan then.” Vykter shouldered his rifle. “The Union are sure to direct their fire to the barrier, so if anything, we can at least help protect it. We’ll use the shields and move there at a slow pace, no need to die from random artillery.” He picked up a heavy metal plate leaning against the trench wall. “You know what to do, Ludmila?”

Natalia looked up at the trails of death soaring through the sky. Her fists clenched and unclenched in anticipation. “I think so.” Not like I’m being given a choice.



CardForge

#1690 in Fantasy
#104 in Epic fantasy
#103 in Action & Adventures
#18 in Military

Story about: dieselpunk, esper, war

Edited: 25.09.2020

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