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The Picquets Before Dawn

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The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:07 pm

Bennett shivered and drew his cloak tighter around himself. He found that he was regretting his offer to Waldegrave and the Rifles officer now that he had been out and about in the rain, cold and dark for a few hours. It was miserably wet and he wasn't even sure that his pistols would fire, let alone the picquets weapons. To keep himself occupied (and warm) he was doing the rounds of the picquets again, stopping at each post to check up on the guards and the NCO in charge. He nodded at a corporal as he appeared out of the rain, acknowledging the man. It was the third time he'd seen the fellow tonight, so his identity was well established, even if he hadn't been challenged.

"Corporal Duncan. Anything to repot?"

"No sir, nothing sir. Just more rain an' foul weather." Bennett nodded. The French weren't likely to attack as it was, and the weather just made the possibility even more remote. Still, better safe than sorry. The officer blinked out into the rain at the sounds of horses and hurried stepped back from the corporal as the man leveled his (most likely useless) musket at the oncoming strangers.

"Halt! Who comes there?"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:31 pm

Trooper Förster and the Portugese guide, Costa, were in the lead now, with the small group of officers close behind. Förster had been startled as the second stranger mounted his horse and revealed the grey uniform of the 3rd Hussards, and had almost drawn his sabre again, but his officer's unconcern stayed his hand. What a strange night it was, he thought.

Just as the guide tucked on the rigns of his horse and spoke to him in rapid Portugese, he thought he heared a hail in English, but between the torrent of Portugese and the officer's conversation behind he wasn't sure if he hadn't imagined it.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:32 am

There was no reply from out of the pouring rain and Bennett fidgeted nervously. He beckoned one of the privates of the picquet detail over and leaned over on his horse.

"Run back and fetch the sergeant of the guard and his men as quick as you can. Go." The man nodded and hurried off into the dark and rain. Bennett frowned and drew his sword, resting it lightly against one shoulder as the corporal called out again.

"Halt! Who comes there? Or I fire!" Not that anything could fire in this weather, really.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:05 am

After a temporary lightening of the sky around first light, the rain had returned and now everyone was hoping that the guide's repeated promises that soon they would be where they wanted were the truth. On the roan beside him, Peter was sitting white faced and grim. Raoul thought about offering to carry him as he had before, but the boy was determined to show his mettle.

The guide ahead of them hesitated. Edrington passed him, his face showing his own exhaustion. "Was ist hier los?" Raoul rode forward, to bring his horse alongside. "What is it?" he asked, tiredness making his French accent more pronounced. "Are we lost again?"

Then they heard the challenge "Halt! Who comes there? Or I fire!"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:06 am

"Erste Husaren der Königlich Deutschen Legion!" Förster called out.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:10 am

Bennett heard faint voices, then in reply to his sentry's challenge a language that was most definitely not English, whatever it was. The French? It had to be. Who else would be blundering about in front of his picquets at this ungodly hour?

"Fire!" Fortunately for everyone involved, the powder had been thoroughly soaked by the rain and the resultant attempt by the corporal and his remaining men to fulfill the lieutenant's order were met with snap of the lock and the faint fizzle of wet powder refusing to catch.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:14 am

"Fire!"

Förster shouted in alarm: "No shoot! No shoot!"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:23 am

Bennett cursed at the misfire, glanced back into the dark and rain in hopes of seeing the guard coming to his assistance. But nothing was there in the black. Of course not, he'd only sent the man back but perhaps thirty seconds ago.

"Company! Load!" He glanced at his small detachment of picquets, miserable and wet. Reloading wouldn't do much good. But he might make the enemy think there were more of them then there really were.

"Corporal! Have your men prime their muskets, and for God's sake keep the powder dry if you can." He hissed, voice barely above a whisper. In all honesty, there wasn't much hope of that, but he had to try.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:27 am

There was an English voice ... and an order which really was too much. Edrington was aware of Raoul, pushing the boy down onto the roan's back, and then the voice of the trooper, mustering at least enough English to call back. There was the smell of unsuccessful firing, and v Lossow was beside him.

He moved up with the Rittmeister, opening his greatcoat to show his uniform. "Do not fire," he repeated.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:27 am

In front of him, chaos had broken loose. Astonished v Lossow heared shouting and watched his trooper urge his horse into the bushes to the side of the rack, and then he had his horse alongside Edrington's.

"Do not fire!" the Colonel called out and v Lossow added: "We are Allied cavalry! Allies!"


[OOC *bounce bounce bounce*]


Last edited by von Lossow on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:34 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : OOC)

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:30 am

Bennett's face drained of color as he saw the uniform and recognized the voice coming out of the night. He swallowed and immediately brought his sword up in salute.

"My Lord--! I didn't realize--! I thought that you were Frenchmen!"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:36 am

"Only one of us," Edrington said, gesturing to Capitaine des Sabličres behind him, who was helping Peter to regain his seat. "Mr Bennett - I think you have not met Rittmeister v Lossow, of the 1st Hussars, King's German Legion...."

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:38 am

v Lossow urged his mare forward and growled down at the redcoated Lt.

"I am not French," his accent was stronger than ever, "and neider are my men." He took a deep breath, "and if I vas, I'd hafe run you ofer! Ve're cafalry, man! You need to get your men in a line across the track, at least 2 deep, better 3 or 4, and recieve us vid planted bajonets! Hafe the front rank kneel. The horses von't charge home into bajonets, and in the darkness ve vouldn't dare to sverve around you, ve do try to not break our horses legs!" Apparently this reminded him of something, and he sat up straight and bellowed "Förster!"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:44 am

"I have not, my lord." Bennett began before v Lossow cut him off and he felt all of a sudden as if he were being scolded by his schoolmaster again. He fidgeted on his horse a moment, returning his sword to its sheath.

"My--my apologies, sir. I was checking on my picquets when your men arrived, and they replied in a language I didn't know, so I ordered them to fire. I had no idea there were KGL cavalry out here. And I haven't that many men. Just the picquets. I sent for the sergeant of the guard, but..." As if on cue and to compound his embarrassment, the guard detail and the sergeant came clattering down the muddy road, the men looking very soaked and miserable at being rousted out of whatever meager shelter they had secured while waiting.

"please, accept my apologies. And my relief that the rain kept anybody from being hurt or killed." Now was the time to be humble. He had made a mistake, and if it hadn't been for the rain he might have shot the Colonel and his party off their horses.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:53 am

v Lossow was already mollified, "No, no, you did allright. We might have been French, and you reacted accordingly. Just remember that horses won't charge home into bajonets..."

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:08 am

"It would not have been a good start to your time in the 62nd, that is true..." Edrington's mouth twitched. "The Rittmeister gives good advice - on the reception of cavalry. And in this weather, you are going to have to rely on bayonets. The only good thing is that the other side will in the same - rather damp - situation."

He looked down at the sopping youngster, who would have been up most of the night, having only just joined the battalion. Bennett did not have the comfort of a bed to look forward to, either. "We shall have to review the arrangements for picquets - you should not have been left on your own, on your first night. But that will do for later... I too am glad that your muskets misfired, Mr Bennett. Good night - Good morning to you."

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:25 pm

Förster had pulled the guide to one side as the officers discussed the situation. That would have been a disaster, and for the first time since they reached Oporto he thanked the Lord God for the rain which had meant that the Rittmeister - and his friend the Colonel - had not been shot by their own side.

It did not seem as if they were going to order the immediate execution of the picquets, or the arrest of the worried young officer in charge. As for him, he would have to face the Rittmeister - and Sergeant Hassler. He pulled his horse round, back into its place, braced against shouting, or a blow. He should not have ridden into the picquets, even if the officers behind him were making too much noise - he should have told them to hold their tongues. And he should have been quicker to respond to the challenge, with something other than German.... "Herr Rittmeister?"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:40 pm

v Lossow left Colonel Edrington to deal with his piquett and turned toward his own errant trooper. "Förster, you..." The Rittmeister released a torrent of German curses on the trooper.

"So, what are you?" He demanded from the subdued trooper.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:20 pm

"I am an idiot, Herr Rittmeister. I am a dangerous idiot, and you wish that the French had kept me, so that you would be spared my incompetence. Sir!"

Förster hunched himself into his wet uniform, like a tortoise withdrawing into his shell. "I did not hear them at first. And I did say who we were. No one..." And he gave a look that he had intended as an accusing glare, but which turned into a plea. "No one told us the sign and counter sign, Herr Rittmeister."

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:44 am

"That's no excuse. You are an incompetent idiot!"
What v Lossow meant was of course that he himself was the idiot who hadn't thought ahead, but he'd never say that out loud to one of his troopers.

"Report yourself for punishment drill... once we have dealt with these running Frogs we are chasing."

"Sgt. Hassler! Find our new Leutnant and tell him he's to make sure that every man knows how to say 1st Hussars KGL in understandable English!"

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:17 am

Hassler saluted, falling the men back in to a decent line, not to straggle all over the place in front of these English foot-wobblers.

Förster winced, and wondered if the Rittmeister meant when the war was finally over ... probably not. But if they caught up with the French, he might be able to do something heroic enough to militate against his stupidity. He would have to try, since Hassler's punishment drills were notorious.

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:24 pm

Bennett touched his hand to the brim of his soggy shako and nodded at the colonel.

"Yes, my lord. Good morning to you as well, my lord." He turned to the sergeant of the guard with exasperation, shaking his head.

"It's nothing. Go back, you lot." There was a quiet rumble of grumbling from the men that was quickly silenced by a glare and growl from the sergeant, and then the small column turned about and began its trudge back to their positions. Bennett half-listened to the torrent of angry German, not understanding a word, but getting the idea that some poor soul was getting quite a tongue-lashing. He retreated back to his picquets, nodding at the men. It was going to be quite a few more hours until it was light, and he was going to need what little rest he could get....

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Re: The Picquets Before Dawn

Post  Guest on Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:15 am

The Hussars' horses were close to foundering, muddied to the withers, and the men were not in much better shape - soaking wet, and filthy, and held in the saddle by pride, and knowledge that they were the King's Germans. Raoul and Peter had passed on towards the village, in the hope that they at least could take up the beds they had been allotted for the previous night.

Edrington held his own tired Bryony back, and shook the water from his hat. "We will be looking for billets for the men and for the horses, so you may see or hear us about for some time - do not worry, and don't shoot at us." There was some sympathy behind the smile, but he was too tired either to reprimand, or to issue fresh instructions. "Good morning, Mr Bennett."

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