From the Diary of Alfried Hanley Vodorson, Royal Volpone 9th Cavalry, Book 1
The tale of a Volpone nobleman who is taken from his comfortable lifestyle and forced to become a soldier in the Royal Volpone 9th Cavalry regiment.
Today, mother and father brought a letter to my attention regarding my proposition to Lord Halcock. Though I had - as recorded previously - recommended I join his regiment under the rank of a Junior Officer (purely a strictly temporary arrangement while I get my feet wet, of course), I am informed that I am to be joining at the lowly rank of a Guardsman. Mother and father are absolutely livid, and I am certainly of a like mind. Though I cannot say I have ever fired a lasrifle, I am the most capable rider within my family and of noble stock, much too high a station to be some foot slogging fool dragging along their backpack while the officers get all the glory. The nerve of this man is beyond belief! I am most displeased, to say the least.
Father does not know why the Right Honourable Lord Halcock would personally go so far out of his own way to spite me. He says he has no recollection of any bad blood between them. Thus far, he has put it down to clerical error. I would normally be assigned to the Bluebloods. Ah, the glory boys. Alas, I am too old - time lost forever, sacrificed in my scholarly studies while my friends and fellows fell to those of the martial variety. It was then suggested that I join a cavalry regiment, though it is apparent that the presumption that I would be given my rightful place to an Officer's Commission was spectacularly unfounded.
Alas - I depart tomorrow, in the eve. Mother and father have told me they will do all they can to complain about these atrocious circumstances, and so all I can do is simply go. The die have been cast, and all that. Perhaps it is the Emperor's will. Hopefully, as my parents endeavour to get into contact with Lord Halcock, it will be His will that sees me return sooner rather than later.
Chancer - the only true companion I have in an uncertain world of ignorance and foolishness - will nevertheless be accompanying me into battle by my personal request. I shall not ride some flea-bitten horse of poor stock. Chancer is my pride and joy; half Volpone Trotter for elegance and nobility, and half Attilan for wild strength and ferocity. She is truly my most prized possession, and if I must be dragged to some desolate planet I have never heard of to fight in a war I have no stake in, I would have no other by my side.
As I imagine myself galloping across the battlefield atop her fine leather saddle, slaying the xenos and the heretics as I merrily go, I seem to be rapidly falling under the impression that this has not been such a bad idea, after all.
This was a terrible idea.
To start with, the journey to the Imperial Command garrison was utterly horrific. Never have I experienced such sickness of the motion from father's personal transports as I have this horrific "Valkyrie" contraption. Some lowborn pissant was fascinated by the thing - began spouting nonsense about how fantastic and robust its design was, despite its inelegant nature. Naturally, I shunned him as I attempted a losing battle not to throw up all over my would-be comrades. How one such as I was put into a tin can filled with my lessers is a travesty and an injustice upon my person and family, one which I assure will not go unheard or unpunished.
On the subject of the degenerates, I am amazed that they are all fully functioning bipeds. Their insufferable drawl bounces about the contraption, even above the grinding, gnashing whirs of the engine. I do not think they can even speak High Gothic. Uncultured swines.
Even as they saw me attempting to keep my composure as I was subjected to the wanton whims of the wind, the five other men began ringing off introductions to one another. It was almost as though we were not hurtling through the air in a deathtrap of nightmarish proportions. The two men sat together on the left suggested this, and at this point I realised they were almost identical-looking. Heavy-set and appearing rather simple, they grinned moronically as they deduced that "now would be the best time to get to know each other, wunnit?" They said they are the van Houlton twins. I know of them - youngest sons of a minor nobleman in the valleys. My father had dealings with theirs' once, or so I am told - he found him to be an insufferable fool, and it seems that these things run in the family. Still, they are at least of good blood, which is more than I can say for the rest of the fools.
Another man spoke up, saying he is... something... Jallus. I have wined and dined with some of the most prestigious noble families in all of Volpone, but I have never heard a name so incomprehensible. Perhaps he is of some long lost, dishonoured family? More likely, perhaps his mother hated him. Regardless, he is a squinty, shifty-looking individual, shambolic and rather ragtag in his appearance. I do not look forward to further interaction with him.
The next to introduce themselves was a younger commoner. Ladley, apparently. I could tell before he even stated it that he was a stablehand, as I have seen certainly seen my fair share of stablehands in my lifetime. He could not have been older than sixteen Terran cycles. Certainly he does not have aspirations to be a soldier when he cannot even call himself a gentleman yet? Regardless, he is as ill mannered and slack-jawed as the rest of them, only with the excuse of youthful ignorance.
The last man is what I assume to be the Sergeant - Sergeant Rollan. I have not heard of the Rollan family, and so I deduce that he is of the peasant stock. I certainly hope that he is under no illusion as to think that that I will follow any order issued by his kind.
Regardless, I have made contact with solid ground (thank the Emperor) and I am informed that Chancer will be joining myself and the rest of the cavalry and their mongrel lesser-breed horses in three days time. I imagine that we will all be given a well-deserved rest for this period. I wonder what brand of amasec we shall be sampling as we retire tonight, what books they will have in the regimental library? Time will tell.
Apparently I was mistaken in my image of what regimental life would entail.
I am still getting over this fact, attempting to rationalise the sequence of events that have unfolded. I was under the (not altogether unfounded) assumption that we would be allowed to rest and rejuvinate ourselves after such an arduous journey of terrific longevity (it took a whole day's travel to arrive here!). Evidently not, I feel myself recording, having spent the day performing tasks of an arbitrary nature.
At any rate, we were given lowly tasks such as arranging our uniform (the Guardsmen already stationed there told us that they had mastered the art of polishing their boots to an allotted time of around three hours - by the Throne! Have these people not heard of servants?!) and then... even as I write this, I fear I will faint from how ludicrously evil it was... then we had to clean out the stables in preperation for our horses. I was horrified, even as the peasantry that were to be my brothers in arms merely shrugged at a task they no doubt were well suited for, I leaned against my pitchfork (hardly a gentleman's instrument) and looked on, aghast. Every now and then, the men would look up at me, frowning. Surely they did not expect me to participate? I have had it up to here with their unreasonable demands.
Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day, with the initial organisation of my bunk and quarters arranged and the stables hollowed out for my noble companion.
Damn and blast.
I find myself in the peculiar circumstance of being wrong once more. As we were still awaiting our horses before we could begin practicing, some upstart Sergeant got the foolish notion within his head that we should practice for the day with the infantry, so as to "not waste time better spent improving skills that could save our lives". Bah, hogwash. I quite very nearly died performing the work of horses and commoners this very day.
Firstly, we were issued a lasrifle (a weapon I have no intention of ever holding again, I assure you) and informed that we are to commence target practice on a few dotted effigies of Orks created from old timber and globbed together with the mucking-outs of last night's stable clearances. While I despise the position I was put in, I must say it was a spark of creative genius to fully simulate the smell of the creatures, if altogether rather disgusting.
Now in a firing line, I took up my natural position at the back. Apparently this was wrong, as this was the Sergeant's position to issue firing. I attempted to explain that my birth put me far above his own in the chain of command, but he had the nerve to rough-house me and pushed me to the front! Fool. From there, we began discharging our weapons at the targets.
Though I call his spotting into question, apparently I did not make many confirmed hits. If this is true, I feel it is simply because I am genetically not suited to this form of task. I pointed the evidence of this was that the commoners in the group were performing quite amicably. In hindsight, perhaps this is because of my presence amongst them - perhaps I am the perfect officer. After we were done with this pittance of an obstacle, I was sent back to the barracks early. Clearly this is an indication of my theory (they cannot, after all, improve while I am bolstering their morale), but I am unsure why the Sergeant seemed so displeased as he issued the order. Perhaps he had piles? After that ride in the Valkyrie, I daresay I would not blame him.
Nevertheless, Chancer arrives tomorrow. It is sad that only such a simple beast can understand my talents better than these fools ever can.
I made the damned Sergeant eat his words today.
As we came out, our horses were presented to us. Poor Chancer had been towel dried - towel dried! The poor creature must have been mortified as whatever fool they had cleaning her was certainly not as good at his job as my old trustworthy stablehand, Mr. Gerwash. I dread to think what horrors were inflicted upon her as she was transported to the Command structure... but I digress. Back to how I demonstrated my superior abilities.
As we all mounted up, I could tell that many among my number had not ridden a horse before. As the session went on, they were taken steadily to one side, no doubt to inform the ill-educated buffoons about proper equestrian practice. Soon it was only myself, one other, and the Sergeant left. More targets were set up, and we were given the instruction to charge them with our swords. What fun this was, diary! As I blazed ahead, leaving the lesser Guardsman and the Sergeant at my side as Chancer thundered across the grass, I beheaded all three targets before the others could even raise their swords. I even performed a victory lap, having Chancer vault over each of my fallen foes to demonstrate the superior breeding of both beast and rider.
Apparently (though I could tell the Sergeant was impressed), I was not following his orders correctly. As far as I could tell, I had killed all three filthy Orks, disgraced their honour, and not gotten a single drop of foul-smelling manure on my uniform. I had achieved a flawless victory. We were issued laspistols. Again, I showed my disgust with such an ungentlemanly thing, but within moments I came to realise just how elegant a weapon it truly is. As we weaved between the targets, practicing formation, it was utterly enchanting as Chancer moved to accommodate my aiming, sending one after one of the vile things to their burning doom.
As I went to bed that night, I could help but feel that things were not as bad as they had first appeared.
Haha! Finally, a good stab at glory!
Today we were informed that we are to be deployed to our first warzone in a week's time. Finally, I know exactly when I should send word to home to prepare for the arrival of my medals! They shall look most dashing next to my riding cups and awards.
I was up before dawn this morning driving Chancer around, the both of us relishing in what two weeks shall bring us. The Sergeant seemed impressed mostly by our attitude, moreso than our skill - said he had rarely seen a soldier with the drive and determination I had. The others all seem glum and depressed - bah! Laziness and idleness, far too common amongst the lowborn stock.
Soon we shall breach the enemy lines, slashing as we go. I write now hardly able to sleep from excitement, despite my early rise. Still... one must rest, if one has any hope of saving their energy for the war!
An old, grizzled man in a long black and red coat visited the camp today to observe our sessions. When he asked why I was not following the Sergeant's orders to the letter, I said that to do so would not allow me to kill the enemy fast enough. He was having us ride in pointless formation while the the makeshift Orks stood living and breathing, for the Emperor's sake! I pointed out that the Orks shoot us to death by the time half of the members of my unit could remember what position they were supposed to be in, and I stand by that comment as I sit watching one of them trying to open a ration tin with his molars.
The scarred gentleman looked at me a moment, staring daggers, and then to my surprise he turned around and backhanded the Sergeant! As much as my "comrades" disdain me for being better than them, they could not resist chuckling at his expense.
The Sergeant does not seem pleased with me, however. I apparently showed him up in front of this "Commissar" chap. Well then... he should be giving better orders, shouldn't he?
I awoke in strange spirits today.
I have been... thinking. "Naturally!" You would say, knowing that a scholar and a gentleman such as myself would find it inherently against his nature not to do so. However, I have been thinking about war... specifically, the dangers involved.
Though exactly what the life of a soldier entails is known to me, it feels as though the harsh reality of it has hit me in one single blow. I am... uncertain. Dare I say it, I am afraid.
I think the others see it too. Though lowborn and not as bound by the curses of the intellectual path as I am, I see now why they mope around and walk as the would wont to do throughout the day.
Chancer senses it, I think. As I drift around the riding session in a haze, she trots around like some show pony to attempt to raise my spirits. Little does the poor beast know that in a matter of days she could be being hailed upon by lasfire... or chased by Orks... or...
No. Best to lay these thoughts to rest for the night.
I find myself at a confusing juncture.
The Sergeant took me to one side today. He explained that aside from what he perceived as arrogance and a lack of ability to follow orders (pah), I was really the only new recruit he had at the moment that could ride effectively enough. While I am unsure as to whether or not I should be insulted or grateful for this "compliment", he also presented something that has given me mixed feelings about this whole affair.
He had a servant bring across a long, thin lance. I frowned, thinking and recalling the barbaric hunting lances of the Rough Riders of Attila - Chancer was half Attilan, after all. But then I saw it in all of its majesty.
As he raised it, a single piece of embroidered, shredded cloth waved in the wind like blood-red dust. I watched it a while, enchanted, before the Sergeant presented it to me with full honours. This spear, so he told me, was one of many given through the cavalry squads of the regiment. It an old tale of when their previous regimental standard was captured by the enemy and - rather than risk his men to retrieve their lost honour - the officer in charge had the enemy stronghold razed to the ground. Upon finding what pathetic tatters remained of it, they were distributed and tied to lances much like this one throughout the regiment, in memorium of a lesson long since learned. What lesson was learned here, I wonder? Cowardice? I cannot comprehend this.
Still, the Sergeant apparently feels there is indeed a lesson to be learned, and I can tell that simply possessing such a weapon does wonders for my stature amongst the regiment. If it shall help me obtain an officer's commission, then perhaps I shall entertain this man's notions a little while longer.
I practiced with my new lance today. Glorious fun to take my mind off of things, or so I thought.
The Sergeant supplied me with some shaped charges which slotted right into a mechanism on the top quite nicely. With the charge in place, I instantly set upon the nearest target, a bullseye that had been set up to practice with this form of weapon in particular.
I struck the target with all of the Emperor's fury - which regrettably was far too much for the situation at hand, resulting in me flying backwards off of my horse and firmly on my bottom.
What a disgrace... the other recruits apparently laughed - one man even walked up to me and offered his hand, which I even deigned to touch, given my predicament. He said his name was Jarrell... something. It is of little regard.
The Sergeant explained that the weapons took rather a lot of practice and getting used to. I personally think he sabotaged me in return for humiliating him a couple days prior, but I digress.
I cannot help but think to myself as I write this, however, how amusing the idea of a man flying off of his horse by an explosion could be. Perhaps I will not hold the humiliation against them.
Two days left.
Informed that we would be fighting Orks. Obvious, in hindsight, due to the nature of the targets we have been practicing on. I have been practicing spearheading the cavalry charges... though of course, nothing has changed there. Chancer remains the finest horse in the group, and dare I say - the entire regiment.
While the good news is that I have grown more practiced at staying in my saddle, the lance is sadly what one would refer to as being rather a "one-hit-wonder", and so as well as my laspistol I was issued krak grenades to practice with. These were glorious fun! Xenos exploding into a thousand bits, fake or not, was easily enough to take my mind off of things. Chancer seemed unfazed by the lovely Imperial explosives and indeed, seemed to join in my relish and delight in them! Have I mentioned that Chancer might be the finest horse in the regiment? It's all in the breeding, you know.
But here I am yet again writing of this dreaded feeling of worry in my gut. Tomorrow evening is when we depart, and we barely even know the name of the planet. Officer's knowledge, I suppose. We are the "hammer of the Emperor", or so they say.
One day, I shall be the man wielding that hammer. This place, this "Armageddon", shall be the first to feel my blow!
I write now atop Chancer, en-route to our designated planetary dispatch zone. Ha! Re-reading that, I cannot help but see how much of a soldier I have become, speaking in their technical military speech and whatnot.
It has been another standard day of practice, but I keep my mind clear and focused. The more beasts I kill in the name of the Emperor when the time comes, the more chance I shall have of doing my family name proud, perhaps marrying a buxom young creature of high status and retiring at a ripe old age somewhere in the triple figures.
I turn to my right. The Sergeant rides slightly ahead, our own unit behind two other cavalry units, the banner of the 9th Cavalry waving in front. As glorious as it is, I seem to be finding myself much more enchanted with the mere rag of an old flag I have now in my possession. The Sergeant catches me running it through my fingers and grins, the first time I have seen him smile. Perhaps there is more to that man that meets the eye. With the threat of Orks on the horizon, I certainly hope so.
I ride up to another Sergeant from a different unit. He nods in recognition of my lance, and so I ask him what the weather is like on "Armageddon" this time of Terran cycle. He laughs and slaps me on the back, and several of his men laugh in turn. What did I say that was so funny? Commoners find everything bloody hilarious.
As we ascend up the hill, my eyes are treated to a spectacular view. Hundreds of tanks and transports of various shapes and sizes roam across the landscape, all form of terrifying and holy weapons atop their behemothic forms. There must have been two entire armoured companies. I wager the Orks will be quaking in their boots before our own even touch the ground! Ha!
Chancer seems to seize up a bit as we make for registration and part ways, her destined to join the other horses in the part of the ship designated as the stables. I dismount, watching her protest my leave for a moment, and then I stroke her mane and tell her everything will be alright. It feels insane to be speaking to an beast in such a manner, but I see her calm near-instantly as she is led to the pens for sorting and allocation. My lance still in hand, I embark onto the ship with the rest of the squad.
I have a good feeling about this.