Author Topic: To the Last Breath  (Read 122 times)

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Offline Arkan VI ve Sherkoz

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To the Last Breath
« on: January 18, 2021, 02:49:04 AM »
From 1914 to 1945, Mundus was plunged into the darkness of the Great War. No nation was truly spared the consequences of the conflict, whether they were a combatant or not. Ikhan was no different, being in open conflict with the Ardian Empire and her allies thrice throughout this period. This is the story of one of these conflicts, as told through the eyes of someone who viewed it firsthand.
Chapters
Prologue
Chapter One — The Calm before the Storm
Chapter Two — The Storm
Chapter Three — The Briefing
Chapter Four — Darkness

Warning: This series of vignettes contains scenes which can be classified as upsetting to some readers. If you cannot handle depictions of violence, please turn away from this thread.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2021, 07:56:31 AM by Arkan VI ve Sherkoz »

Offline Arkan VI ve Sherkoz

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Prologue
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2021, 07:19:57 AM »
Wind swept the streets of Kamat, her venerable walls now a shadow of their former selves and a reminder of an age now long passed. It was the year 1939, and war with the Ardian Empire was now once again inevitable. But the worries of the world seemed far, far away from here, deep within the Vrashain plain. Life was actually rather good, at least for Erel's family. The son of a grocer, he had lived in and around the city his entire life, sixteen years in total. And besides, if anything were to happen, he wasn't going to affected by it. The Imperial Navy and Air Force would be sure to keep that from happening. What did they have to fear from Ardia now? Other than that, he had to worry about his studies more, if he was going to get accepted into the University of Ishkot in the coming years. All in all, even in the unlikely event that war broke out, it wasn't his concern.
            "...Anyways... Nice weather we're having, huh?" Erel said to a friend; he was admittedly terrible at small-talk, but nonetheless he made his best attempt.
            "Yep." His friend, Aren, said in respond, somewhat distracted. Understandably so, given that his father was currently in the Army and war was on the horizon. "Anyways, I should be going. See you tomorrow?" He asked, leading to his friend's affirmation. And so, Erel was left alone, slowly starting to realize that he was late getting home himself. Father was going to be livid if he wasn't home before sundown to help out with the shop, if he hadn't been drinking again.
Fifteen minutes later--
Erel would arrive at his parent's shop a few minutes before sundown, having tried— and failed— to get home on time. Even now, as his gut sank, something felt different. Sure, he was likely to get yelled at, but being this late it was a surprise his father wasn't about to head out and drag him home himself. Just inside, he could hear the radio playing some song that he couldn't quite remember the name of. Nonetheless, he approached the door and prepared, both literally and figuratively, to face the music.
            "Ah, there he is." Erel's father said, surprisingly not angry this time. "You're finally home, huh. Took you long enough." And there it was. While he clearly wasn't angry, it was certain he was annoyed. "Come, have a seat."
            "You're... not angry?" Erel asked, doing as his father had suggested. "That's a first."
            "That tone of yours will change things if you keep it up." He responded before his attention drifted back to the radio. "Nah, today was rather slow anyways, at least where it concerns you. People are really thinkin' this'll be the end of the world... Not that I can't fault 'em."
            "You really think there's gonna be a war, pa?" Erel asked, almost interrupting his father in the process. "Aren se-"
            "Honestly, knowing how these things go, it'll have to take one Ikat[1] of a screwup to lead to one." His father cut him off, being reminded of the last wars. He'd seen war himself; some might say too well, given that it claimed his left eye. "Just so you know, I get you and your friends'll want to sign up if there is one, and that's all well and good, but it won't be the romanticized version of it you read in books and hear about in radio-dramas."
            "I know, I know, focus on your education and keep your head down, as you always say." Erel sighed, annoyed as just about every one of his friends had gone through the same talk with their parents, if they were still alive at least.
            "Actually... I was gonna say that if you want to defend your nation, there's more ways to do it than just fighting... but that works too." His father replied in a slightly less-than-serious manner. "But yeah, as I was gonna say, take your sister. She's studying down in Ishkot to one day be a nurse. Your uncle, before he passed, used to work in one of the steel mills out west, too. Just... do what you think you need to be do-" He was cut off, this time by the station's interval signal, that being a simplified version of the beginning of the national anthem.
            "This is Radio Ikan. You will now hear a message from the Office of the Prime Minister." A voice came over the radio, evidently somewhat shaken, before the radio went silent save for static.
            "That's... odd." Erel's father muttered, though he wasn't entirely certain of what was going on. All he knew was that something was afoot.
            "I am speaking to you from the offices of the National Assembly in Ikan. This morning, following the breakdown in relations over the sinking of the INS Shikan, the Ikhani ambassador in Heyra handed the government a final notice, stating that unless we heard from them by noon that they were prepared at once to withdraw their forces from our waters, a state of war would exist between us. I speak to you now to inform you that no such undertaking has been received, and as such, this country is now at war with the Principality of Heyra."
            "What was that about a serious blunder, pops?" Erel asked, only to receive a glare from his father. It had finally happened.
            "I pray that the Kani will grant us their favour in the trying times ahead, and I know that the indomitable spirit of the Arashin will persevere until the last breath is drawn by us. Have a good night, and may the Kani preserve our Empire."
            "It's happening again." Erel's father said. "Ardia will almost certainly declare war on us... I don't know if we can survive another war, to be completely honest with you son."
            "We'll persevere, as we did in the last war. I know it."
            "I know... Just... wait a while if you're going to sign on. I'd rather you be spared the bloodshed as long as you can, even if it'll happen eventually. Nowhere will be safe."
 1. Arashin conception of the underworld
« Last Edit: January 18, 2021, 06:43:27 PM by Arkan VI ve Sherkoz »

Offline Arkan VI ve Sherkoz

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Chapter One — The Calm before the Storm
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2021, 07:12:16 AM »
One Year Later--
Over a year had passed, and Erel, now aged 17, had volunteered to join the army alongside much of his class. Every night, the black wings of death descended upon coastal regions of Ikhan, but the sinking of the INS Shikan, the Pride of the Imperial Fleet, in October was the final straw for him and many of his newfound comrades. It was funny, in a way, that the Class of 1940 had, because of a ship if not a deep sense of patriotism, become the 2nd Company of the 32nd Vrashain Infantry regiment. Three months... Hard to believe it had passed so quickly, and now they were camped out along the coast near Ishkot. Whenever a ship passed into view o'er the horizon, they'd be called to their stations, just in case it was the anticipated invasion force. Day in, day out. For the next couple months, in fact, they were gonna be subjected to this treatment.
   “Maybe Otho'll actually try to take this beach soon..." One of the privates said while the Sergeant peered through his binoculars, searching for any sort of identification on the vessel.
   "If he does, w-we'll give him a g-good thrashing, right?" Erel responded, nervous as he didn't know whether he would make it through the coming battle.
   "Oh, 'course. Just like we did in the last war. No Ardian will set foot on this beach so long as I live." One of the Corporals, Varen Kasta, said as he watched the horizon, unaided unlike the sergeant.
   "Heh... You've probably just jinxed yourself, Varen." Aren, who had signed up alongside the others in his class, responded to his most bold statement.
   "A-anyone want to make bets who'll go first?" Erel asked, still nervous but nonetheless trying to make the best of the situation.
   "Private Ikit..." The sergeant, Berai Tanas, seethed, putting his binoculars down. "...Would you kindly shut up, for Ishen's sake." He continued before turning to the rest of the squad. "Alright, looks like it's just a merchant ship... Kasta, Ikit, I want you two to take the first watch. Adras, Nisak, you'll take second watch, and... Amat, you and I'll take the third. Keep your wits about you, and whatever you do, do not draw attention to yourselves."
   "Aye, sarge." Varen said in affirmation before he and Erel would take their positions watching the coast. They were, of course, not the only ones in the area, but that was because they obviously wouldn't be expected to hold the beach on their own if attacked, unless it were by a raiding party. And so, the first night of many began. Day in, day out, for months on end. In the weeks that followed, the military steadily increased it's garrison, believing more than ever that an attack was imminent. And then, one day in February, 1941, black smoke appeared on the horizon. They were coming.

Offline Arkan VI ve Sherkoz

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Chapter Two — The Storm
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2021, 05:23:07 AM »
11 February, 1941--
It was strange to think of how quickly the ships had arrived. Just a week ago, the seas were calm, and save for the occasional merchant vessel or allied destroyer, they were empty too. Now, however, things had changed dramatically. Out there, just on the horizon and shrouded by darkness, the Ardian fleet lurked, blockading the city by sea. Overhead, Ardian and Ikhani aircraft fought for control over the skies, but this too was a losing war. It was obvious that they intended to attack soon, but none there on the coast knew when. Erel sat in the dugout, talking to a Aren and another private about home and, of course, the war.
   “Obviously, nobody could've predicted that our little 'prank' would go that far, even us." Erel said with a chuckle, fondly reminiscing over his time in school and the mischief he and his friends would get into. "But given that it could've gotten Jishek hurt, you can imagine the teacher was fairly livid."
   “If I remember correctly, so was your pa, right?" Aren asked, trying to hear more of the story even though he'd heard it before.
   “Oh, yes. Very angry." Erel said with a sigh. "Told me that what I did had 'brought shame on my family, even your late mother' or somethin' like that." He glanced down at the candle. "Gotta say, that definitely did the trick."
   “Huh... Hey, Ita, what about you. You got any stories you want to share with... And he's gone." Aren said before coming to that realization. With a bellowing laugh, he said "Guess your stories are boring enough to get even him to leave, huh?"
   “Oh sod off, you." Erel said with a grin; he couldn't help himself at that point. Then, after a moment, his expression shifted to one of concern. "How long is it 'til sunrise?" He'd ask Aren, who had his watch sitting on the table near him.
   “I'd say about an hour, maybe an hour an' thirty? Why?"
   “Just checkin', that's all." Erel said with a sigh, though it wasn't clear if that was out of relief. As he pulled a cigarette out of it's tin, he'd pass one to Aren before asking "What do you think?"
   “About?" Aren asked as he lit his; it was clear he was concerned about the enemy's presence just off the shore.
   “About them." Erel said, either referring to the Ardians or to some of the new recruits, his tone made it hard to tell. "Eventually, they'll storm the beach."
   “We'll drive them back into the sea. Don't worry."
   “Yeah... I hope--" Erel said as what sounded like thunder rolled across the sky. Strange. Immediately, Erel and Aren shot up, uncertain of what it was until a loud boom was heard. The ground shook and the air filled with dust and debris.
   “THEY'RE ATTACKING!" The sergeant called out. Boots were heard running towards the firing line. Soon, Erel and Aren joined them, not even having enough time to put their helmets on before they got out of the dugout. Fire rained down from the heavens, punctuated by thunder in the distance and a distinct hiss falling from the skies.
   “Grab your weapons!" Someone shouted. "Move it! Forwards, go, go, go!" Another called out. Chaos fell over the trenches faster than the shells and bombs could. "Take cover!" A man shouted as a shell struck nearby, showering the men nearby with splinters, dirt, and sand. As they Erel reached the firing line, yet another shell landed nearby, followed by another. He could feel the heat wash over him; it was almost as though the world was about to be consumed in flamed.
   “Shit, they're falling short!" One of the new privates shouted, deeply confused as he had only barely been roused by the attack.
   “Those aren't ours, damnit! Keep your head down!" Erel shouted back, turning his gaze towards him just as another shell landed nearby.

For a moment, Erel thought he had seen his life flash before his eyes and fear washed over him with the heat. Yet despite that, he felt at peace as he experienced those memories once more, but it was short-lived, as soon, he hit the floor.
   “-re-!" A voice called out to him, but he couldn't make sense of it. His ears rang loud enough he thought he was going to go deaf. "--me o-, ge- u-!" The voice said as slowly started to wake. "Erel! Get up!" The voice said; it was his sergeant rather than Aren. "You ain't dying on me today, son." He said as he dragged Erel into cover; Shells continued to rain down on them from on high, but it had started to slow down a bit. One of the younger privates, clearly below the minimum service age, was on the verge of tears as he was gripped with terror. But thankfully, at least for the moment, as the last shells felll, there would be peace. But of course, it would not last long, and by the end of the day, the first Ardian troops had landed.

Offline Arkan VI ve Sherkoz

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Chapter Three — The Briefing
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2021, 07:33:57 AM »
11 March, 1941--

A month had now passed since the Ardians had landed in Ishkot, and the war had taken a sharp turn for the worse. What was once thought to be an impenetrable line of defense along the Kynean sea had been breached, and even now the number of enemy forces had steadily increased. As a result, in the weeks that had followed, Ikhani forces had steadily been pushed back, though not without fighting tooth and nail for every scrap of land they could. But those on the ground knew that they would not be able to hold if the battle lasted much longer. Indeed, even now it seemed as though all had been lost and the city would inevitably fall. That is what had led to a mysterious shipment to members of the Ikhani army in the city, though only a few knew what it was when they first saw it.

2nd Company had found itself encamped within a building along the Royal Avenue, gunfire ringing out in the distance. For the moment, they were safe, though they were awaiting their orders from command and waiting to know what they were to do with some of the new equipment they'd received in the last few hours. Whatever it was, it was hoped it would help in the days to come. And yet, in this small corner of the city, things were rather peaceful, though terribly boring. But that would soon come to an end, when orders finally came in over the radio.
   “LIeutenant Keitan, come in." The voice said over the radio, to which the company's commander, First Lieutenant Bershai Keitan, would soon respond.
   “This is First Lieutenant Bershai Keitan of the 32nd Vrashain Infantry, go ahead." He responded as many members of the company, including Erel, gathered around to listen in if they could, though of course this would largely be a pointless endeavor.
   “As you know, the battle has not been in our favor as of late. Top brass wants you to secure the old fortress of Ateshun, from which we will make a drive for the sea, cut off the Ardian forces from their ships, and eliminate them as necessary." The voice began, following it up with "It is absolutely necessary that you utilize the equipment which has been provided in the last few hours, otherwise the safety of you and your men cannot be guaranteed."
   “I understand. Thank y-"
   “Bershai, we cannot afford to fail. I hope you understand that the fate of our nation is riding on your shoulders."
   “Yes sir. We will not fail. Long live the Emperor!" Bershai said before putting the transmitter away.
   “Sir, if I may" Sergeant Tanas said before following it up with "What are our orders?"
   “Berai, assemble your squad and take the equipment from those crates over there." The lieutenant said, pointing to the crates. "You're... gonna be going in under the cover of a chemical attack. Should take out most of the defenders, but... Oh, Ishen help us... We don't know if there'll be civilians there too."
   “What do you mean we "don't know"?" Erel piped up, concerned, only to be chastised by his sergeant.
   “Private Ikit, how dare you speak to your superior officer without being spoken too first." Sergeant Tanas said, though this was fully expected given that he'd always been a stickler for tradition. Lieutenant Keitan, on the other hand, was perfectly fine with his question.
   “No no, let the Private speak. It's a good question, Berai."
   “With all due respect, sir, is it really wise for us to be gassing a structure like that when, just a week ago, we had visual confirmation that there were civvies holed up in there?"
   “...You're right, but..." The lieutenant sighed, himself feeling the same concerns as many of his subordinates had. "...We don't have a choice. If we fail here, then the city will fall."
   “...Understood, sir." Erel said with the respect he owed his CO.
   “Anyways, Berai, I want you to take your squad and secure the building, after which we'll move up once the gas has cleared. I doubt you'll face much in the way of organized resistance, but... be careful."
   “Yes sir. Lets go." Berai muttered before walking towards the crates. In a few minutes, it'd be time to move up.

Offline Arkan VI ve Sherkoz

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Chapter Four — Darkness
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2021, 07:55:44 AM »
11 March, 1941 - 1600 Hours--

Fog and smoke had overtaken large parts of the city, fires raged all around. Off in the distance, though muffled by mask and gunfire, the shouts and roars of combat could, though faintly, be heard. Here, however, in the shadow of Ateshun, an eerie silence had now overtaken the area, pierced only by the footfalls and strained breathing of perhaps a dozen men. The near silence was almost certainly disconcerting for those among them, including Erel. The journey was undertaken in near-complete silence beyond that which could not be avoided, after all, they were to move in only after the shells had hit. Then, as they reached the edge of the structure, Berai signaled for them to halt and take cover, which everyone present did. Now, they just had to wait a short while.

If they had been anywhere else, it would've been a miracle for them to be spotted. Perhaps it was just blind luck that they hadn't been spotted here either, or so he would've thought if it weren't for this likely being in the plan from the get-go. But of course, Erel had no time for such musings, as not too long after they arrived, the roll of distant artillery was heard, followed shortly thereafter by... nothing. Did they fail? If so, then what were they supposed to do? After all, they almost certainly didn't have enough men to take it otherwise. Then, shouts were heard, though as they were in Ardian, nobody there understood quite what they were saying. Just based on the tone, however, it was clear that there was a panic. Upon hearing this, Berai turned to his squad.
   “Alright. We're going to secure the fortress and hold until reinforcements arrive. Ikit, you're on point." He whispered, pointing to Erel and then to the path they were going to take. "We'll follow you once we're certain the route's clear. Kasta, Tysei, Emin, you're with me. Rest of you will follow Kusai." He added, first referring to Varen, Aren, and another private before then speaking to the rest of the squad. "It's time you proved to Otho what you're made of."
   “For the Emperor!" The others would say while Erel prepared himself for what horrors lay within. His heart began to race as his breaths became more shallow. He couldn't even make out anyone else in the group because of the protective gear they were wearing, so he could (though he really wished he didn't) only imagine what those inside had gone through. But nonetheless, at the orders of Sergeant Tanas, he began to move up, followed at a distance by some of his squad.

A few minutes later--

This was quite possibly one of the worst moments in Erel's life, waltzing into a warzone largely without support and no idea what the strength of the enemy in the area was. He clutched his rifle and held it close, ready to open fire at a moments notice if he was spotted. The main structure of the Ateshun fortress towered far above him, an oppressive silhouette in the late-afternoon sun. He was surprised by how eerily quiet it had become, even the trip over was louder. Indeed, if someone were to drop a pin on the other side of the grounds, he wagered he might have a good chance of hearing it. But then, as he turned a corner, he heard something which, in it's cold, dark cry would never grant him solace nor reprieve. In that moment, as his stomach sank, he knew that not only had the shells worked, they had worked too well. A man— No, a boy no older than himself gasped for what little air he could, his lungs turned against his body as he drowned in fluid. And he wasn't the only one. Erel turned another corner, his allies not far behind him, and just... stood in place. His fears were realized, his dreams of glory shattered in an instant alongside his soul. He had seen many horrors in the last month, but this was almost certainly the worst.

Strewn about what was once a place of hope and guidance for the residents of the city were the bodies of the dead and dying, innumerable as they were varied. Their intel had been wrong, despite very precaution being taken. Here, both soldier and civilian alike suffered the most cruel of fates that Erel could imagine, and their blood was on his hands as much as it was on his commanders. How could they still go through with this?
   “By Ishen..." Varen muttered as he approached, though Erel remained silent. "T-This wasn't supposed to happen, w-w-was it?" He asked, though yet again, no response came from his comrade. Instead, Sergeant Tanas spoke up, undoubtedly to give new orders.
   “What are you waiting for?" He asked for a change, following it up with "Put them out of their misery. Maybe the Ardians deserve this, but our own civilians? No. Give them an honourable death, a quick death."
   “No... Surely we can save some of them." Erel finally spoke, looking around for a medic, but there was none to be found.
   “Don't be a fool, Erel." Berai said in a calm but unintentionally demeaning manner. "Even if we had resources to treat them, they'd die before we could get to them. Do the honourable thing and let them have mercy. Not an order, just... a request. I won't force any of you to do it."
   “Thank you, but... I can't do it." Erel said, soon joined by a few others in his squad but not all of them. Instead, they would, upon ensuring that the are was secure, take up positions in order to keep an eye out for the inevitable counterattack, all the while gunshots resounded out from the courtyard. If things were to be the norm, then he knew he couldn't fight for this regime. Maybe for his homeland, for the Emperor, but not for the Marshal.

It was going to be a long night...