Marshal Kirghiz Jagatai clenched the officer's pistol at his side. It was an S-pistol, that fired shells, like the pistol that any officer in any army on the planet carried, in case they needed to defend themselves personally. They wouldn't do much in a pitched battle - they were more for a sense of security. Jagatai was clinging to that sense of security now.
He was at Hangayn Nuruu, a huge stretch of land up against the Russian border. His commandos and scouts had found a huge allied force massing on the other side of the border. The invasion was imminent - and terrifying. Battle on Mongolian soil? It hadn't been seen in centuries. Jagatai had been cold and confident when leading his men into Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. He wasn't certain if he could take seeing Mongolian villages burned, Mongolian civilians killed, and Mongolian land being taken.
They'd already begun the invasion of the empire. They'd formed a great hammer and smashed through the occupied Russian territory and had now reached what had once been the border of Mongolia and Russia, where the civilians were Mongolian citizens but still loyal to Russia.
A figure flittered in front of him. He drew his ornately carved S-pistol and pointed it at the shadow.
"Who goes there?"
"Messenger, sir! Important message from General Dariganga to Marshal Jagatai!"
"Well, let's have it!"
"The marshal's ears only, sir!"
"Look at me, messenger. Do I look nothing like myself?"
"My apologies, marshal. The general says: 'The snakes are leaving their nest'."
Jagatai nodded. Strangely, he was not afraid, though he thought he would be. The Allies were finally moving, eh?
"Only, 'They're poisonous, possibly deadly, and they're coming in your direction.'"
Poisonous? They were measures of the size of the force moving. Fangless was a certain, small size, fanged but not harmful was larger, harmful was larger, and so on. Deadly was the entire Allied force, and poisonous only slightly smaller. He'd have to call for reinforcements immediately.
After doing so, he sat down to work on his maps of the Hangayn Nuruu. He awoke with a start. He’d fallen asleep over the pile of maps and papers. There was shouting and yelling outside his tent. He stood up and walked outside.
“Let me in! Let me in you lousy bastards! I’ve knifed a hundred Ivans to get here, I’ll knife you two too, if I have to!”
A battered, bloody sergeant was there, holding a huge knife in his hands and struggling with Jagatai’s guards. He seemed exhausted and was badly hurt, but was still making the guards struggle as hard as they could to hold him back.
“Let me see the marshal! I have to see Marshal Jagatai! I fought through half the Popov army to get here, and my own men try to stop me?”
“Let him through,” he demanded.
The two guards happily relinquished their grip on the sergeant and took up their rigid sentry postures again as though nothing had happened. The sergeant stumbled up to Jagatai. He tried to salute but collapsed from exhaustion. Jagatai caught the falling man in his arms and held him up. He was still conscious.
“I have to see Marshal Jagatai,” the man whispered.
“I’m here, sergeant. What do you have to tell me?”
Blood was oozing from the man’s mouth as he spoke.
“The Ivans are moving, marshal,” he whispered, “General Dariganga can’t hold them back. God damned Popovs...”
The sergeant trailed off and nearly fell unconscious. Jagatai shook him violently to rouse him again.
“Sergeant, sergeant, what else?”
“The general said that we’ll fight to the last man. The men are going to, too. No surrenders. Sent me to tell you. Ran out of ammo two hours ago. Been fighting the Popovs with nothing but a knife. Still...got through their lines. The general says, even with fighting to the last man, we can’t hold the god damned Russkis off for more than an hour or two. You have to be ready, marshal. They’re coming your way.”
“I’ll promote you for this, sergeant,” the marshal said, trying to comfort the man, “Give you some medals. Just have to get you to the infirmary first.”
“Give them to me posthumously, marshal. I’m sorry but I have to die now.”
The sergeant died in Jagatai’s arms. The marshal let the man slip down to the ground. He ran into his tent and grabbed an Imperial Honor Medal and placed it on the dead sergeant. Then he ran down and woke his generals and colonels. They’d have to be ready.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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