C O C K A T R I C E
Written on June 28, 2019 (♋)
Author's Notes: I'm pretty sure my belief that Wiegraf is actually a bit of a dork and that the Death Corps are kind of tired of his speeches is based on my supreme exasperation with having to endure his big talk before the Velius battle so many times (I'm also pretty sure that Golagros' crush on Miluda comes from my own crush on Miluda :P). I'm not 100% sure what I think of this ficlet, as it's a bit of a departure from my normally grim takes on this game for a group who has the utmost reasons to feel really grim. I like the idea that Golagros is not quite certain what he's getting himself into and that Miluda is the one person who ocassionally tells Wiegraf to knock it off, though--I wish both of them had gotten more characterization!
Also the Beoulve family crest actually is a cockatrice and it looks really really silly.
Golagros took a deep breath as Wiegraf stood up to address them. Only twelve men had managed to drag themselves to the rendezvous, and he had every reason to assume that several the stragglers were unlikely to be joining them ever again. The rain that fell freely through the rotting roof of the barn caught the moonlight in patches that struck him as somehow ghostly, and the sink of so many days hunger left his mind to think morbidly on details and possibilities he'd rather not contemplate.
"Gustav's put us in a... unique position." Wiegraf began. "It seems the cockatrice has turned its gaze on us."
"Cockatrice?" Miluda asked incredulously, her cloaked figure suddenly appearing at the door.
"It's a beast that's half rooster, half dragon--said to shoot death from it's eyes," Wiegraf explained, his voice losing some of its edge as the arrival of his sister caught him off guard. "It's also the Beoulve family crest."
"You mean that we're dead, then?" somebody asked sharply.
"No," Wiegraf clarified with a bit of frustration. "I was using a metaph..."
"Aren't a rooster and a dragon very different sizes?" Miluda inquired wryly, raising an eyebrow. "I mean... is it a very big rooster or a very small dragon that helps to... ah... beget this oddity?"
Much of the assembly laughed as Wiegraf raised a hand to his brow, evidently not having anticipated that he would meet with this sort of reception. Golagros grinned and made room on the surface of the overturned manger that served him as a seat. He had not been happy about much these days, but he was extremely glad that Miluda had returned to them alive and ready to knock some of the wind out of her brother's sails. He imagined that Wiegraf, for all he loved to make speeches, felt very much the same way.
"Look... the cockatrice isn't the point," Wiegraf finally said as Miluda sat down. "The point is that the Beoulves--and by extension the Hokuten--are out for blood, and we need to do something decisive. I propose we strike off the head of the serpent..."
"Wait," a swordsmen interjected, "Where does the serpent come into all of this? Is it part of the dragon bit?" Wiegraf shot him the weary glare of a leader who had just stabbed one of his better lieutenants and couldn't afford to stab any more.
"So, we're going to kill them," he said gravely, ignoring the failed quip. "They aren't going to expect an attack on Igros itself--not when they think we're on the run."
Another murmur arose from the crowd, although the very pointed questions, objections, and concerns that floated about the room did not find any voice to raise them for a while.
"Could you clarify who you mean by 'them'?" a young woman in a bandit's headscarf finally asked laconically. "I think we're a little lean to kill every man, woman, and child in the castle."
"We make a quick strike. Take out as many Beoulves as we can. The Hokuten will scatter without a leader."
"Perhaps we could start with one target, brother?" Miluda asked. "I met a Beoulve recently, and I sincerely doubt the Hokuten would have scattered had I gotten the upper hand."
"How many Beoulves are there again?" asked somebody not terribly informed as to the genealogies of noble families.
"There's Dycedarg, to whom Gustav apparently was apparently whoring himself out," Wiegraf said bitterly, "and there's Zalbag, the Hokuten commander... and after that I suppose there's whomever Miluda ran afoul of...."
"Wiegraf," Miluda said softly. "If you don't know how many Beoulves there are you could have said so."
For all the frequent accusations that they were anarchists, Wiegraf seemed to have little taste for actual anarchy within the ranks of the Death Corps--and it was anarchy to which they all seemed to descend once it became clear how rudimentary a plan it was that he presented. Despite the universal gnawing hunger and general sense of doom, Golagros found the atmosphere rather convivial. With Miluda present to deflate him, Weigraf was forced to listen to a lively and meandering banter as everyone debated which Beoulve was most killable, which most deserving of being killed, how many of the damned bastards there actually were, and which of them might respectively represent the dragon, snake, and cock that formed the whatever-it-was on their family crest. It felt a little like the bad old days of being Death Knights--when they were only slightly less desperate and slightly better fed but somehow better able to keep up a good humor about the whole affair. Back then, he'd still made every attempt he could to catch a seat by Miluda, who laughed next to him now, her red gold hair dewed with rain.
Then as now, he'd considered making a lot of bad decisions as regarded her. Now as then, he thought better of them, especially given the degree to which her brother's patience was being tried.
When he finally made the bad decision he did make that evening, however, there wasn't really a precedent he could find for it. He wasn't sure if it was the rain, the girl, the hunger, or just a willful sense of the absurd that had affected his brain as he watched himself raise a hand to volunteer, but he found himself unable to lower it once the room broke into a laughing applause.