To men who study war, and Col. Baron Patrick Callahan had been a student all his life, these great conflicts have a definite pattern. In the beginning, it is all hearts bursting with pride and dreams of glory. Too soon the gleaming brass buttons on crisp uniforms tarnish. Feet that marched smartly to a vibrant, tattooing, drumbeat grow weary and plod from one battle to another, scuffing up puffs of dust or sucking through mud deep enough to bury a good size mule and wagon. The days of family picnics on the hillsides as opposing armies gathered below to deal death were long over and the reality, the work, of war had set in.
Callahan had settled into war easily. It was as if something he had waited for all his life had finally arrived, wide-eyed and faunching at the bit to be off on the grand adventure. He would have loved it more, if that were possible, if its arrival hadn't also delayed something he had waited for just as eagerly, his marriage to Lorena Dobbs McKenzie.
His chest ached with the knowledge that they would have to move the date, losing, he was sure, the deposit on the church, so he distracted himself from the disappointment with the work at hand.
This seashell brocade was completely wrong for a mountain pass battle after Labor Day, camouflage or no, and he wouldn't use it, no matter what General Carter had to say about it. Seafoam, though—that was a color for an epic battle. But not in bursting hearts this time; that pattern was so last season. No, this conflict's pattern definitely would be plaid and then, if he could talk the General into a second campaign . . . nautical! He just hoped his bolts arrived in time to redo the uniforms. Of course, he and his cadets still would be up all night stitching on buttons and polishing the boots, but they always managed in time for the carnage.
And then, he promised himself, it was right back to designing the bridesmaids' dresses.
The door of Callahan's office burst open, and a young man staggered through. His face was wan and gaunt, his tattered uniform stained with dirt and dried blood.
"Sir!" the soldier rasped through cracked lips. "The enemy has taken the village!"
Callahan sighed. "I know. Damned nuisance it is, too."
"They caught us unawares during the night. Half of our troops are dead!"
"I was supposed to be married today," Callahan mused. "Lorena baked the cake herself and everything. It had little daisies iced on top."
"They're raping the village women! They're robbing the elderly! I saw my brother's brains blown out right before my eyes!"
"Good God!" Callahan cried. "I just realized we'll have to re-book the band. This is all so blasted inconvenient."
"You can worry about the band later," the soldier said impatiently. "And then you'll have to find a new church, because the enemy corralled the children inside the chapel and burned it to the ground!"
Callahan gasped in shock. "Book the band before we even have a venue? Priorities, man!"
But then Lorena Dobbs McKenzie was found stuffing secret maps and plans into her corset, just as she was to depart for the annual Spring Ball. The sentry who caught her pilfering the plans also unwittingly revealed that, beneath the lace and finery, Lorena Dobbs McKenzie was, in reality, Lawrence Joel Dobbs, the illegitimate child of Colonel Dobbs and an Orc washerwoman.
Thus freed of convention, Col. Baron Patrick Callahan announced to his shocked family that he had indeed known it was Lawrence all along, and that while he still wished for the adventure of matrimony, he could not in good conscience do so with an illegitimate spy.
Thus, with a heavy heart, he drew his service revolver, and shot Col. Dobbs. Hand in hand, he and Lawrence escaped to the enemy camp.
And so our story begins.
A knocking. Patrick turned from the table. "Come," he instructed.
Reverend Phillips popped his head round the door. "Will it be much longer?"
Patrick held up his hand to silence the visitor and turned back. He turned a card. Six of spades, matching the six of diamonds. Still no winner.
Lorena sighed. "Will we ever get married, for this stupid, random game?"
P1: Hyphen in good-size. (or sized). Though perhaps it's not necessary to specify the size, as mud deep enough to bury any size mule and wagon would be pretty deep (and pretty hard for a soldier to walk through).
I can't tell if the last sentence is saying that in past wars people gathered above to watch the battles, but that's not true in current times (in which case it doesn't follow through with the theme of the paragraph, which is that all wars follow a similar pattern), or if it's saying that in the current war people gathered above to watch the battles, but they're no longer doing so, in which case you've switched from discussing war in general to one specific war, without making that clear.
P2: "wide-eyed and faunching at the bit to be off on the grand adventure" sounds like it should describe Callahan, but the way it's worded it describes the war. If the phrase were placed before "Callahan" or after "easily" in the previous sentence, no problem. Except that "faunching" implies anger, so if you are looking to suggest merely eagerness, you want "champing."
I'd just put the entire first paragraph to the side as a reference. Then I would use the second paragraph as the opening. It's the better choice for an opening. Then at various points in the story, you can insert the thoughts of the first paragraph.
EE, I got the distinct impression that this was the Civil War (or a facsimile thereof), when people did indeed picnic on hills overlooking battles. At least, until things got bad and the picnickers were routed.
Sorry, I have been absent. and late in responding.
Fun continuations. Thanks for giving me a laugh.
EE, regarding the picnics, yes, during the Civil War, they did have family picnics at the beginning of the war. The first Bull Run was seen as entertainment. The rebels would be whooped in one fell swoop and this foolishness would be over in a day.
I appreciate the comments and help. Thank you.
Thanks for the suggestions. Let me see what I can do.
To Everyone who posted the most excellent and hilarious continuations, thank you. They were great. I love it and love you all.
That's the second comment suggesting that My comments implied that there were no picnics above the battles. My only comment was that no matter how it was meant, it isn't working.
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