Kevo-Grod stood at rigid attention in Hoard-Brigadier Rauoo’s office. He knew he was in trouble but damned if could figure out for what this time. And for once that really bothered him. He was only eighteen months away from the twenty year mark and retirement. That is always the point when the career killer event happens to someone. Working his way up the ladder again would put eight years on his contract and frankly he wanted to be done with the whole damn thing. Retirement beckoned with her siren’s song, it was time to get out the boat and besides his knees were totally shot.
The Hoard-Brigrider was studiously ignoring Grod while he reviewed a TPFFD order, making a few pen and ink corrections here and there on the eleventh draft.
Grod surreptitiously looked around the office. The general impression it gave him was one of luxury had been brutally imposed upon spartan tastes.
There was a tall and well crafted hickory bookcase with shelves neatly and precisely packed with expensively leather bound editions of every item on the Army’s Required Reading List. The books had gold gilt edged paper and the titles were engraved on the leather rather then printed. They were as pricey as they were beautiful and there was no doubt in Grod’s mind they had never left the book case.
The office was large enough to accommodate two sofas. The one nearest the main desk was gigantic, a richly brown leather nailhead, stuffed so deeply that, sitting upon would be like resting on a cloud bank (without the cold and wet). The only thing that got to enjoy that sofa were the stacks of overflow paperwork that had migrated from the general’s desk, plus several dogeared paperbacks chronicling the adventures of Jorax the Barbarian. The other at the back of the room was cheap, faded and threadbare with a distinctively Rauoo shaped dent across it’s length.
A massive, yet stately desk formed the locus consular of the room and was treated with similar contempt. Framed by battle standards and colors. It was a near to threatening antique, blackened with age and intricately carved with reliefs of the great orc battles from former times of glory. It was clear that the only use Rauoo had for it was as an external filing cabinet. Almost hidden by the gigantic desk was an extremely battered field desk that looked as if it had been dragged across half the world. It was however kept neat, tidy and had been carefully mended. It was also the one Rauoo was using to massage his deployment schedule on.
The only expensive thing that appeared to be receiving any kind of respect was a cigar humidor made of finely chiseled cedar that had been a gift from King Ronald.
Okay, this isn’t getting better with time and I’ve been a good boy or at least as good as I can realistically manage, Kevo-Grod thought to himself. “Career Banner Sergeant Kevo-Grod, requests permission to speak, sir!”
Rauoo’s pen kept scratching for a few seconds more. Underlining here, circling there, scowling and striking out a particularly displeasing word somewhere else. Finally he answered without looking up, “speak.”
“Be advised sir. Paragraph seven, subsection b. Reads as “puppy” wear it should be “small warg.”
Rauoo’s pen broke.
He threw down it’s shattered remains and then looked up at Grod. Who genuinely blanched at the Hoard-Brigadier’s ’s fury.
“I heard you had some trouble during the Field Pageant?” Rauoo said in a voice that was too calm to not be very dangerous indeed.
Oh. That, Grod thought to himself. Yeah, getting into duals with members of the Royal Family probably did standout in one’s SRB. “It was a private matter between gentlemen…(sigh)…gentlebeings that was satisfactorily resolved. The affair is now closed sir.”
“Grod, you have no idea how much it pisses me off when you play stupid.”
“I…don’t understand, sir.” And for once Grod didn’t. He had expected an ass chewing for insubordination and some kind of “here’s my shit-bird” punishment detail just for public show. But nothing worse than that because someone would have to charge Duke Bryan with fraternization just to make a real charge sheet stick. Who was going to do that? Well Bryan’s mother for one but she wasn’t actually in the chain of command. So Grod was pretty sure his ass was covered. Although it was a little strange that no one had spoken to him at all about that little misunderstanding with the crown prince.
“Why didn’t you kill him?”
Well, that just took a dark turn, Grod thought to himself. If you do something stupid in the military and it works out, you have used, “good initiative.” But if it doesn’t work out…
”I thought that would have been bad judgement on my part, sir”
Rauoo breathed deeply and steadily for a few silent moments before finally speaking, “I am going to ask you again. Why didn’t you kill him?”
There are times in the Army that you are expected to lie to your superior, in truth your superior would rather be dragged over a mile of dragon’s teeth and dipped in lemon juice than have to listen to you telling him the truth on those occasions.
And then there are those other times where you would be better off swimming in molten lead then lie. The career enlisted orc knows which one is which.
“He’s goofy but he’s basically a good kid, sir,” Grod didn’t say more then that.
Rauoo clenched his good eye and rubbed the socket of his bad “eye,” Then he took a deep breath to calm himself.
“I know Grod,” Rauoo said with something that could be accused of being sympathy, if you had never actually seen sympathy in your life and had only heard it described to you.
Rauoo waited for a few moments more. Just to see if Kevo-Grod had anything more to add. He didn’t.
“Grod, we can’t afford to have Branadoc on the throne. That’s all there is to it. That kid will be the death of thousands just because none of his enemies can take him seriously. We’ll lose hundreds in border skirmishes in the first month as they probe at our boundary defenses.
And you are smart enough to know that, Grod.”
Grod nodded his head silently, while he chewed on his lip thoughtfully. It wasn’t like Rauoo could order him to commit high treason. He could probably Request Mast on that point. It certainly sounded like an illegal order. Except that Rauoo wasn’t ordering. He was just point all of the things that Grod already knew.
Finally it was his turn to talk, “Sir, I request annual leave of absence.”
Rauoo turned back to his field desk. “Why are you bothering me with that? Take it up with your S-1’s office.”
“Aye sir,” Grod said quietly. It wouldn’t be too difficult. Just go back to the Capitol on leave. Drop in to briefly say, hi to his Grace the former Regent. And while I’m there come up with some pretext to see the Prince. We laugh about our dual and I offer him a chance to spar with with me. He’ll accept because that’s how that kid is hard-wired. The training accident writes itself. Naturally I’ll be quietly carted off and staked but that’s only to be expected after all. No mistakes and no second chances for the boy this time.
Grod then added, “I’ll deliver your coronation gift to the Prince Branadoc myself.” Which would take care of the pretext.
Rauoo looked up briefly startled but then mentally worked through the details. “Ah, yes,” he peered over at his expensive book case, filled with costly books he would never read. One of those would work nicely.
Grod swept the clearly much beloved humidor off of the General’s desk.
“Hey, asshole!” Rauoo was so startled he could only manage indignant instead of hyper rage.
“A thoughtful gift should require some sacrifice sir.” Grod twisted the knife just a little. Just enough.
The room fell silent for a moment and then Grod made his farewell, “By your leave sir.”
Hoard Brigadier Athor ab Wellsinion ab Iweriu-Rauoo rose to the Position of Attention, and then said in a formal salutary tone, “I wish you fair winds and following seas, Banner Sergeant Kevo-Grod.