The Journal & Journey of Brazen Phoenix (Warhammer)

~late evening, Nordenwatch~

It is a curious thing, the manner in which peasants become peacocks when the soldiers are nearby. Throughout my time with the Griffon Order, through the first villages and warcamps I’ve visited, almost without exception, the local peasantry stride and whoop as if they have won the day when a battalion arrives with news of distant victories. I suppose if one is used to a life of farming and mercantile – where the biggest risk is whether or not that woven fabric you spent this year’s harvest money on will sell – it must seem exotic and exciting to know those weary souls have been face to face with death and still walk to tell the tale.

As if most would care to do so.

War is a gritty and damned ugly business, by any definition. The insanity of the Chaos legions is something I’ve yet to truly grasp. Are they such fools as to miss entirely that the plague neither knows nor cares what race you happen to be?

I have heard tell that the goblins and orcs will happily fight to the death for ‘shinies’; which are as likely bits of glass and tin as anything of actual value. And it is a certainty that the Chaos fighters know the ultimate futility of the notion that this is a war they can ‘win’. Particularly being that the victory they seek would result in utter annilhilation of life as any of us know it. The dark elves… I suppose there is no limit to the folly that pride will induce in a people. I did not believe the tales of narcissism and arrogance, abject cruelty and malice until I witnessed it for myself upon the battlefields.

I find I sigh much more often of late. I am already weary and there is much to be done. The shadow of taint and acrimony that spreads across the world seems almost an evil tide. It is difficult to feel a sense of hope when the waves seem so endless. For all that it is a certainty there are many of the enemy who will be no more bother; Their ashes I have, myself, spread across the fields of Nordenwatch. It is a small satisfaction, but I suspect I will need to take it where I find it.

The duties I am given in this place are hardly all war, and I should be thankful for it. But I find myself annoyed with the petulant faces of the locals as they demand I see to the wolves that harry their flocks, or find some confounded necklace that some widow simply cannot abide living but that it be restored to her. Simple needs. I know I should not resent them so. I imagine any of these people making it even a week in the war torn city I knew as ‘home’ and it seems somehow unfair that their biggest concerns in the midst of a world-wide conflagration is so easily centered on hearth and home.

It is, of course, my own issue to bear. A servant of the Empire does not take their frustrations or resentments out upon those they are present to protect. Would they, I wonder, feel thankful to know the anger that is stored and unleashed upon the fields? Perhaps I should be thanking them…. more than once that annoyance and anger has made the difference between a charred enemy and my own demise.

It is not all grit and grousing, of course. I met a young orc upon the far fields of the Darkwood Bandit camps today. He was swollen with the pride of Destruction and it occurred to me to offer him a demonstration in humility. Indeed, he strutted and swaggered his red-faced pride before me until I was really quite tempted. But it would be foolish to battle even such a one in shouting distance of the large bandit camp. Bandits care not for sides and would be as likely to join him as myself.

As fortune would have it, the patience was rewarded. Later in the day, I spied him swearing and spitting across the battlefield; at the fortress of Nordenwatch. I do wonder if he knew the same wizard he had clucked and taunted at within the depths of the woods, amongst the bandits, was the wizard who sent his flesh and bone to crisp and ashen doom.

I like to think so…. but then again, he was only an orc. I have heard it said their memories are only as long as a meal and twice as likely to dribble as they are. Who can say?

I’ll share a secret with you, my friendly, discrete journal…. I overheard today that the Emperor has sent my father’s battalion into Gotland. I am sorely tempted to request immediate transfer, as it is scant miles from this place. But the recent efforts seem to have received more publicity than I would like, and thanks to that blathermouth of a company liaison, Rupert Pfeiffer, everyone has heard of my efforts in Nordenwatch. I hardly can move but that someone’s friend of a friend’s mother isn’t asking for help. Worse yet, what times I have taken the front lines within Nordenwatch, the Order themselves have cheered me on.

I never realized one could be famous (infamous?) for doing one’s job. I arrived to my quarters tonight and, upon this very desk, a short and rather terse missive from Reginald Vance awarding me a title.

Me. A title. I laughed aloud for it! And no mere silly ‘ladyship’, mind you. I suspect this is some manner of male bonding or perhaps even a trial of temperence. The title is, I am sad to report, “The Mauler.” As if I would sully my hands to touch any of those misbegotten beings. Nonetheless, I am informed it is some high honor and I should be appropriately humbled to receive it. Bah. As if I care for ribbons or pagentry or little letters that mean something only to those who collect little letters.

This said, I cannot deny that I do enjoy the way my peers and the young ones straighten up and look proud as I pass. Such a thing would never have happened in Kislev, even were I to singlehandedly send the plague to ground. No, I will not deny the feeling of accomplishment and yes, pride, that I take in knowing I am doing my job, doing it well, and others are noticing.

Now if only I could get some of my comrades to listen when we’re breaching the Fortress. Ah, yes, that is the thing I meant to write here. (How distracted I have become! Note: Remember to take a spot of time off and find a good library when finally we reach Altdorf.)

I have uncovered an almost foolproof strategy for victory at Nordenwatch. In this last week of skirmishes, only thrice has it let me down. I record it here informally until such time as I may submit it in regulation format to the company commander.

—-Nordenwatch Tactical Assessment—-

The battlefield of Nordenwatch consists of three targets — the lighthouse, a barracks, and the main fortress. The landscape between the three is encompassed in something of a triangle. The secret entrance of our Empire is (as it seems from reconassaince reports) not yet detected. The forces of Destruction are forced to supply themselves via a dock located on the northern beach. We have not yet managed to overtake the docks, but the barracks are open to raiding as opportunity allows.

In the weeks that I have been on active duty at Nordenwatch, I find that the key to victory in the area is to secure the lighthouse and fortress targets and defend them at all costs. The barracks themselves are easily ignored; both because they are too near the Destruction docks to make them viable and they are surrounded by inhospitable ground that often proves more impediment than aid.

Our forays consist of a rush to the lighthouse, which seems (for whatever reason) to be unguarded. The majority of our force continues onward past it to the fortress. We leave only two or three at the lighthouse to insure its security, and they join us at the fortress immediately thereafter.

In most cases, the real battle occurs at the fortress. But our ground cover is naturally superior (particularly the bridge and canyon areas) and in most cases, we are victorious. Then, it is simply to refuse to chase the Destruction forces, make them come to us. It is an easily defensible area. Other than this, to have a force of three or four check upon the lighthouse with regularity, as inevitably they attempt to sneak in a small force to take it.

Should either of the targets be lost to us, we immediately proceed by coast to the barracks and capture them. This has the almost predictable effect of turning the Destruction forces as one to retake it, which leaves the fortress or lighthouse open for recapture and ultimate victory.

In fact, most times, simply by taking the barracks and forcing the enemy forces into a foot race for defense, we can keep two of the three targets at all times and easily win every time.

I am working tirelessly to drum this information into the heads of the younger recruits. Almost to the point of annoyance, but as they see it works, they lose the resentment and over time, I have become something of a field leader in these efforts. I am embarrassed to write that they have actually cheered my arrival upon the field of battle. There’s no telling what manner of ribbing I will endure should THAT get whispered to Rupert or the Griffon Sergeant. I will hope it’s simply exuberence and certainly will say nothing of it myself.

For now, I think a warm bath and a hot toddy. It has been a dreadfully long day and I doubt I will be given leave to proceed to Gotland for at least another week. Dazh help me, perhaps this time, I will catch my father before they march. He does not yet know I am enlisted, and I am certain he will be pleased.

~ Morning, somewhere in Ostland ~

I write this as a reminder and a warning to myself – It is a certainty that any disappointment we find in life is the direct result of the sum total of our expectations. The key then, is to learn not to have them, or, if one must carry them, to learn they are always more indicative of one’s own perspective, need, and inner situation than any others.

I am stationed in this bedamned place and directed to assist in seeing an end to the onslaught of chaotic menace, undead and diseased encroachments. The only thing worse than the smell of burning flesh is the smell of burning dessicated flesh. There is a certain perverse revulsion in me with regard to these marionettes of plague and decay. I think perhaps it has to do with the simple reality of finding something ‘out of order’ (ye gods, what an awful pun). Perhaps I become more religious than I think. This too, is a wretched thought.

All the world is shaped upon a foundation of paradox. If one looks deeply enough, all order is chaos and all chaos begets order. It has not escaped my thought this is so, for all the mentors and priests would flay me (verbally or otherwise) to speak it. Still, I do speak it here, in the one place I may. Heresy? Sacrilege? I cannot say I know as to the truth one way or another. What I do know is that there are cycles and seasons to this world and to all things in it. Is it so far fetched to wonder if this is but another cycle with crests and valleys we, as beings within the world, cannot see?

I suppose it is obvious that extremes of this sort bring out the maudlin in me. I have yet to resort to pining in some dusty corner of a tavern swilling ale until I cannot shape such thoughts, but then, I’ve been on duty.

There is another reason. One I have been studiously trying to avoid all these many letters. Such interesting games we play with ourselves, ducking and weaving through the labyrinth of ourselves as if we know ourselves not. Always ending in the same place, whatever we seek to avoid hovering like a fog all about the mind, and still we would run five hundred miles rather than walk the one set before us.

Sometimes, I read these entries and laugh for my own avoidance. What there, fair blank page? What secrets will you tell if not by my own careless giving? You are safety and solace, the empty and accepting length of you, bound and thirsty for my scratchings.

I evade. I laugh. Very well and well enough. Let it be said.

He denies me existence.

I spoke with the Marshal here at the edges of Ostlands only to find his battalion scant hours ahead into the High Pass. My courier did, in fact, arrive in time to catch their preparations. The letter did, in fact, reach him. Breathless and giddy with success, I hied me to his quarters and most rudely woke him from a deserved sleep. He minded not much, as the gold promised upon success was eagerly awaited. He was, in fact, most clever in timing his delivery of additional information of the encounter until the coins were safely tucked away.

He told me that he is well; far more hale than one might expect for his age. I credit the road and battle for it, and was glad to hear him vigorous. He told me also that he bears the countenance of a man who is courting death. This, I knew already, more than one report along the way of his insane charges or suicidal defense. The ribbons and accolades mount about him, even as he leaves them behind. The courier delivered the two garnered there to me, a kindness unexpected. I warrant it made the remainder of the telling more comfortable for him.

When he attempted to deliver the note, he said, eyes looking anywhere but at me, he was informed by my father than he was mistaken, that there were no daughter in his line. Insistence proved a poor choice, judging from the healthy purpling under the courier’s cheek.

I paid him extra for his trouble and injury and bid him good eve. I sit here, now, and ponder if there is point to pressing the matter. Is it anger? Disdain? Pain from losses greater than may be born? I do not know. I may never know. All I do know is that, in the light of day, under colors of unity in cause, my very birthright is denied and all connection with family, now severed.

I find myself thankful of the training within the college walls. One learns that pain has no true distinction. It is, or it is not. The fire burns equally, no matter what feed it, and this night….

…. I burn.

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