Taming a Neighboring Beast

(OOC: As those of you who have been following this idea know, I’ve been working at this thread for a good while now. I just wanted to warn you all that, while some parts of it are certainly right up my alley, I don’t think of this thread’s writings as the best of my work. Besides that, they work much better as one post leading into the next rather than one single post, then another. So my posting one daily may not work as well as I would otherwise hope.
But, regardless of my perceived quality of my work or the potential lack of unity, please enjoy Taming a Neighboring Beast.)
Coyden, Stratarin, February 29th, 1953

“…and we will not let Bourun dictate what we can or can’t do. Joint military exercises for a secure Gondwana and more economic agreements are HAPPENING!” President Galerkin’s voice carried around the stadium, to the uproarious applause of the people. “And to Bourun threatening vague ‘consequences’ and ‘regretful action,’ I’ll say this: let 'em try! LET THEM TRY! We…” he paused, letting the applause die down some. “We are not going to bow to the whims of a nation that has time and again demonstrated its hatred for our great nation. For we are Stratarin! Say it with me: WE ARE STRATARIN!”

The crowd - comprised of citizens young and old, rich and poor, male and female - bellowed back, “WE ARE STRATARIN!” Galerkin smiled at his audience, satisfied by this display of patriotism.

After the shouts and cheers had died down, a voice from the throng declared, “Stratarin shall perish!” For the second or two following this announcement, confusion reigned on each citizen’s face as he looked around for the speaker.

And suddenly, all was chaos.

An explosion sounded in the back of the crowd, followed by three or four answering explosions. Each detonation was accompanied by a fainter shout of, “For Bourun!” Panic spread like a wildfire among the audience as they began to scatter in all directions. The Secret Service rushed forward instinctively, shielding the shocked President and dragging him from the podium.

“Wh-what is…?” he began, too startled to speak completely coherently.

“Sir, we need to get you away from here!” A Secret Service agent interrupted, pulling the President further away from danger. Though perhaps “danger,” is the wrong word, as the peril had passed. All that remained in the stadium were corpses, cries of sorrow, and screams of pain.

Several hours later

“Casualty reports are in.” One of the agents that had shielded the President earlier tossed a report onto Galerkin’s desk. “Over 80 confirmed dead, with an additional 40 wounded.” He sighed. “It’s a mess, sir.”

Galerkin leaned forward on his desk, his hand closing into and opening from a fist as he looked down at the papers. Glancing up, he opened his mouth to ask a question.

Immediately, a rapping came from the door to his office. “Oh, yes, yes, come,” Galerkin beckoned, his voice much less confident and unshakable than before.

Secretary of Intervention Abamon Bovarin stepped in, military cap in hand. “Sir, we’ve just received word that Bourun has declared war and attacked Mirovgrad.”

The only sound for a minute was the light tapping as Galerkin set his spectacles on his desk and buried his face in his hands. Eventually running his fingers up and through his hair, he retrieved his glasses and uttered, voice deathly grim, “Get me congress.”

Zhadar, Stratarin, March 3rd, 1953

Dmitry Yerkhov, Leytenant of the 4th Strataric Nationalist Army, felt the grim coordination in his and his comrades’ actions as they readied for war. Due to the armed forces being delayed slightly by the bureaucracy of the Republic, Bourun had time to solidify its position in Northern Stratarin. They had a firm grip on Mirovgrad, Galergrad, Kalivk, Braslov, and a few other small cities. StratIntel reported that their next attack would be at Konsovyy.

And that is where Bourun would be stopped.

Dmitry checked his equipment again, making sure everything was in order. His thoughts and actions were interrupted by the sound of a command vehicle outside and the officer shouting orders from it. Sighing, he rose and left his tent.

The army would be moving out later that day. And they’d be giving Bourun hell.

Konsovyy, Stratarin, March 8th, 1953

Explosions. Screams. The sound of gunfire. Shouting.

Dmitry was lost in it all. His platoon had been all but wiped out. His actions were purely automatic as he fired. And fired. And fired.

He hated the smell of death. He hated the smell of gunpowder. He hated the constant, agonizing, deafening explosions.

And yet, here he was. Running towards the thick of it, gun blazing, for his homeland.

He didn’t really feel hatred for the Bouruni that he shot and killed. They were soldiers, like him. They were doing their job, same as him. Just maybe not as well as he wa-

His thoughts cut out as a bullet struck his forehead. All went dark.

Khovr, Stratarin, March 15th, 1953

The clear sound of another Bouruni plane flying overhead caused the men in the building to curl into balls as it passed by. Not that it would help, of course. Leytenant General Ilarion Yemenin watched from the distance as another several Khovr buildings were blown to smithereens by a Bouruni bomber. He wondered how many men were lost during that one.

After the crushing defeat at Konsovyy, the Strataric army had retreated to and been surrounded at Khovr. It was defensible, at least, though its stock and reserves were starting to dwindle due to the constant air strikes and supply routes being cut off.

Not to mention the men dwindling. The remnants of the 4th Army were nothing compared to what they had been. A proud, strong military unit laid waste to by these… these foreigners. It was embarrassing, yet almost hilarious. If not for having to watch more and more of his brothers, countrymen, and subordinates die, Ilarion would laugh.

It was only a matter of time before Khovr fell. And while they might cost Bourun a pretty Dreyk’s worth of men here, was a continued failed resistance worth the lives of the table scraps that remained of the 4th Army?

Another explosion rocked a nearby building as he cogitated further. Then he shook his head.

They were Stratarians, chert it. They always fight. They never back down. They never throw up their hands like those foreign cowards would. They fight to the end, and they win in spite of all odds.

And that is what the 4th Army would do, if Ilarion had anything to say about it.

Khovr, Stratarin, March 28th, 1953

“As…” Major General Joakim Ivchenko started coughing heavily as he stood before Brigadier General Akil Hasawi of Bourun. After a moment and one last throat-wracking cough, Ivchenko continued. “As the current commanding officer of the Fourth Strataric Nationalist Army, I… I surrender.”

It was impossible to read Hasawi’s expression. While Stratarin had lost many men (and the living were in terrible health), the Bouruni military had lost over three times as many from their own number. Khovr, though perhaps won, was no free victory for Bourun.

“I, Brigadier General Akil Hasawi of the Bouruni National Army, accept your surrender.”

Ivchenko felt himself almost fall to the ground out of exhaustion and relief. “Good, good.” He managed to nod. “Thank you. I’ll go report this to my men.”

As he loped out of earshot, he could not have heard Hasawi mutter to his second-in-command, “The minute you can do so cleanly, kill every last one of the infidels as you can.”

Khovr, Stratarin, March 29th, 1953

Ferran Najibullah, 2nd Lieutenant in the Bourun National Army, awoke to the sound of pandemonium and the roar of an aircraft’s engines, followed by a whistling sound and the merciless bellow of an explosion. Dressing quickly and emerging from his tent, his mouth fell open in shock even as the acrid scent of smoke hit him.

The far side of the encampment was burning. An officer, silhouetted by the flame, began shouting at Bouruni dashing by him and trying to maintain order. Their anti-air defenses had begun firing, the tracer rounds rising above the flame’s light and illuminating the night sky. Several times they found their target, and the burning chassis of a plane plummeted from the sky.

Of course, it wasn’t a single bomber. Several more screaming bombs began to drop onto the cantonment below, while Strataric fighters strafed artillery emplacements and tents.

It was a disaster. As more men fell down left and right and did not rise, utter panic began to set in. And then, right at the breaking point of Bouruni morale…

…it suddenly stopped.

No more explosives hurtled down from the heavens, and the aircraft sounds grew distant, followed by artillery fire ceasing. While the flames still crackled and officers still shouted commands, it was considerably quieter.

Ferran breathed a sigh of relief.


Without warning, amid machine-gun fire and cries of patriotism in their infidel tongue, Strataric soldiers emerged from nearby trees and crashed into the Bouruni camp. They were met with some stubborn resistance, but their resolve seemed greater and was tempered with vengeance. Minutes later, the unthinkable was called by the Bouruni.

“Retreat! Fall back! RETREAT!”

Cursing their infidel God, Ferran fired into the mass of attackers and fell back.

“We’ll be back, foreign filth!” He called out. “We’ll be BACK!”

Several hours later

Captain Ludmilla Ilyina walked through the remains of the temporary Bouruni headquarters they’d set up in Khovr. She traipsed past bodies - some Strataric, mostly Bouruni - and the occasional body part. Weapons and ammunition lay strewn about.

She grimly smiled. These foreign ublyduki had been caught almost completely by surprise, and had been driven back. Presumably, they were holing up in Konsovyy again.

They’d meet their defeat there, of course. And in Mirovgrad, which would be the Seventh Army’s next stop. And then on to Bourun, right into the heart of Ifedayo. Hopefully, at least.

Turning, she walked back towards her unit. Bourun had already paid some of the price for invading Stratarin and killing her brethren. Just not nearly enough yet.

Temporary Military Headquarters of the Seventh Strataric Nationalist Army, Khovr, Stratarin, March 30th, 1953

“And that,” Major Dvornikov flourished, moving a piece on the terrain board he’d set up, “is when the land forces strike. The day-long artillery bombardment, assuming it’s successful, should have softened up the defenses to the point that the Second Battle of Konsovyy or whatever history’ll call it will be a breeze, with minimum Strataric casualties. And then, of course, they’ll have a weak and easily overrun position in Mirovgrad.”

Leytenant General Konovalov frowned slightly. “And if the artillery attack isn’t as costly as anticipated?”

“Then Stratarin should still win the day, but…” Dvornikov breathed in. “It’ll be much more costly.”

“Why not simply use planes? We have clear aerial superiority.”

“I can only assume that they’ve prepared better anti-air defenses after their defeat here, in Khovr. Thus, it would be a much costlier maneuver.”

The leytenant general scrutinized his subordinate. “Should this fail, it’s on your head.”

“I understand that, sir.”

Konovalov blinked, then nodded. “Good. Let’s hope you earn that paycheck.”

As Dvornikov opened his mouth, Captain Ilyina urgently ran into the room and saluted. “Sir!”

Konovalov glanced at her, clearly annoyed. “At ease,” he muttered. “Is there something I can do for you…” he examined her uniform, “…captain?”

She coughed awkwardly. “Er, yes sir. We identified one of the corpses.”

“…go on.”

“It seems that we killed Brigadier General Akil Hasawi.”

Silence followed for several seconds before the leytenant general broke it. “Then let’s catch them while they’re in disarray.”

She saluted smartly. “Yes sir,” and rushed from the headquarters. As Konovalov turned to follow her, he glared back at Dvornikov. “Remember, your head. Not mine.” He made a cutting motion across his neck, then departed and started barking orders.

Konsovyy, Stratarin, April 3rd, 1953

Major Zinovii Verenich inhaled.

Then exhaled.

Then fired.

Switching targets quickly and tracking his new quarry, he inhaled.

Then exhaled.

Then fired.

Near the beginning of the Second Battle of Konsovyy, or whatever the chert they were going to call it, the sniper had selected a good vantage point on one of the rooftops. For the remainder of the conflict, he had simply been breathing in, breathing out, and shooting at another Bouruni trying to shout orders.

He’d not yet missed a single time.

It was understandable, of course. While Zinovii was getting to be somewhat long in the tooth, and no longer favored by his long-held title as “Stratarin’s best sniper,” he was still a force to be reckoned with. He’d trained roughly a dozen various snipers, both foreign allies and native sharpshooters, among them the famed Ivlyan Davyd Vovk and Matvei Ilyasov.

Certainly, Zinovii occasionally missed a shot. The target ducked, or a grunt took a bullet for his superior. Or he simply missed due to personal… issues. But these occasions were few and far between, and the older sniper was still one of the best the Seventh Army had to offer.

Bourun seemed to be in full retreat now. What was left of the army, anyway. Between the fight that the Fourth had given them and the series of defeats that the Seventh had, Zinovii estimated that these foreign dogs were in dire need of reinforcements.

Still, there was one officer left, desperately trying to rally his forces for whatever idol Bourun worshipped. Trying to ignore the tremble in his hand, Zinovii sighted the officer in his scope. He inhaled.

Then exhaled.

Then fired.

Coyden, Stratarin, April 6th, 1953

The capital city was awash with celebration. There was a sort of satisfied smile on everyone’s face. Crowds cheered at the news that Bourun had been driven from their last Strataric stronghold in Mirovgrad. Children ran along the streets, shooting at each other with toy guns while parents tried to subdue them, laughed, or simply rolled their eyes. President Galerkin could swear that he heard fireworks going off nearby, and it wasn’t even evening.

But, amid the many grinning, happy faces all around him, his was grim.

Galerkin was, and always had been, a realist. His brand of pragmatism and practicality was how he won reelection, after all. And, realistically, he knew this was far from over.

Bourun had been driven from Stratarin. There was no denying that this was news to rejoice over. No longer did any foreign military boot tread on Strataric soil. But Bourun was far from vanquished, and was still in an active state of war with the Nationalist Republic. If Galerkin was right, this was only the first attempt at invasion.

He’d heard of foreign nations constantly warring with each other, conducting operations near the borders or even deep within their rival countries. And that, with the constant fear and paranoia it breeds for the people, was something the president simply couldn’t tolerate.

Bourun, quite frankly, had to be destroyed if Stratarin was to have peace, even temporary peace.

And that was exactly what Galerkin, as commander-in-chief of the military, intended to do. Cut the head off the beast, not simply snip its tail.

He smiled for the first time that day, but it was laced with cynicism and devoid of any real happiness. Peace through war. They seemed in many ways to be opposites. But the Urth was an odd, upside-down sort of place. Simply because something seemed nonsensical doesn’t mean that it wasn’t.

Cogitating more, he glanced down at the revelers through his window. He wondered how they might react once the casualty reports still kept coming in. Once that one child running through the crowd would be robbed of his father. Once that young woman would be ripped away from her lover. Once that old man would lose his daughter.

Such was the cost of war. And while Galerkin regretted it had to be paid, he deemed it a necessary sacrifice.

(OOC: Probably my favorite post so far)

Qanil, Bourun, April 17th, 1953

Senior Leytenant Antonina Sokolova surveyed the field of desolation before her. The Battle of Qanil, while it could be viewed with a label such as “costly” by the overly compassionate, had been the first of what would hopefully be a quick and bloody campaign. Bourun would be crushed for the sake of the Nationalist Republic, as would all who stood with the doomed nation.

The corpses of the Bouruni that littered the field were a testament to the reward for invading the country with the most sophisticated military in Gondwana, or even Urth. And the carcasses of the Stratarians? A minor, perhaps even a little regrettable, price for such a valuable statement.

As she trod over the rough ground, she heard the crumple of paper under her feet. Looking down and seeing a gunpowder-stained note beneath her boot, she knelt and picked it up. It was in the Strataric, superior tongue, and not belonging to any of the exterminated savages. Her eyes glanced over the unsent letter.

My dearest Katyusha,

I remember the day I asked you to marry me so clearly. The grass beneath our feet. That pretty floral sundress you wore. That look of joy on your face as you said yes. That smile on your perfect lips as I slipped the ring on your finger. I feel like I’ve been through hell and back, but I’ve still not forgotten that day.

Firstly, I wanted to ask your forgiveness for doing so when I did. While there is no way I could have known that war would break out a month before our wedding, I still cannot help but feel an insurmountable regret in causing you such worry. Rest assured, I will do everything in my power to return.

The very thought of you, my one true love, is what drives me. You’re the reason I wake up in the morning and feel a wonderful hope of seeing you again, rather than the dulled grimness I’ve seen in the faces of my fellow soldiers. And in the night, though I feel almost unbearable sorrow for any comrades who have departed this life, a thankfulness that I have not left you alone still resonates within me.

It makes my heart sing to read in your last letter that you are well, yet I cannot help but feel a small measure of melancholy that my departure has cost you some happiness. I wish to assure you that nothing so insignificant as adversaries of flesh and bone will prevent my coming home to you, and I can only hope that their Creator has mercy upon me.

Be well, my precious flower.
Lukyan Durchenko

Antonina looked at it for several more seconds, before crumpling it and throwing it back to the ground. What a waste.

Raniid, Bourun, April 24th, 1953

Private First Class Sasha Bazin, huddled close to the trench wall, sipped water out of the shell hole held by his trembling hand.

Strataric religious teachers and philosophers had claimed for centuries that there existed a hell, Koshmar, where the unfaithful would be punished for their unrepentance for all eternity. Even the Bolvans of old claimed its existence, with a slight difference to how one ended up there: dying dishonorably. Regardless, from any account or tome or book you read, Koshmar was supposedly this prison of unimaginable pain and darkness and despair.

Only, Bazin could imagine it. Clearly. He could have died and now be in it, for all he knew.

They’d been in the trenches at Raniid for days, having lost all momentum from taking Qanil and that city Kairdhar which was taken shortly after. In that time, Sasha had been more terrified than ever before in his life, having seen more horror and gore than any sane man should. He’d heard stories of men going raving mad from being in the trenches, and hoped and prayed that he would not join their number.

The scream of another however many shells being lobbed over pierced his heart with fear. His drinking shell slipped from his hand, the little water that was left in it splashing out as it hit the ground. He closed his eyes and crossed himself, his hand shaking all the while.

He heard an explosion go off, surprisingly close. Or, at least, he heard the start. Almost immediately after it stuck, all was quiet.

Or, not quiet. Not quite, at least. There was a faint ringing in his ears; much softer than any artillery or gun or aircraft. Enjoying the odd silence for a moment, he swatted for whatever insect was buzzing into his ear. His hand found no target, and the sound persisted.

It’s at this point that Sasha looked up and saw the sergeant yelling at him. But oddly, the private couldn’t hear any words…

…dear God in heaven, why me? his thoughts screamed. He might’ve screamed it aloud, too, but he couldn’t hear his own voice.

Just the unceasing ringing.

(OOC: Missed the post yesterday. Uploading two today)

Raniid, Bourun, April 29th, 1953

Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a! The BaY-17’s autocannons roared to life as they targeted an enemy bomber. The fighter’s deadly fire paused for several seconds as it followed the bomber before raining more explosive shells upon on its target.

“Bomber is smoking,” Artem Yozhikov reported into his radio.

“Stay on him, Mat-2.”

“Copy that.”

Angling the fighter again, Artem fired another short burst at the bomber. All misses. Chert me. Seconds later, he shot again at the bomber. Its left wing shredded off as it began to plummet to earth. “It’s down. I repeat, it’s down.”

“Copy that, Mat-2. A little help with this fighter would be appreciated.”

Artem allowed himself a terse smile. “On my way, Mat-6,” he replied.

Kairdhar, Bourun, April 29th, 1953

Artem climbed down the ladder on the side of his plane partway before hopping down the rest of the distance. Examining its chassis, he noticed a riddling of pings in its side where it was struck by bullets. He patted the fighter affectionately, before glancing around the makeshift airbase that had been set up.


He turned to see his squadron leader, Koshka Zhivenkova, walking towards him. Artem leaned against his plane tiredly and managed a salute. “What can I do for you, ma’a-”

She cut him off with a quick embrace. Not a romantic or loving embrace, but instead one between friends. “Nice job out there. You saved my skin against that Bouruni Kl-5. Good riddance to all those.”

“Always a pleasure, Captain,” Artem nodded, removing his helmet and holding it at his side.

“Another thing,” she commented, her face ever so slightly more serious. “Apparently, our 27th Fighter Regiment has been taking its toll more than we knew. Bourun’s air presence over Raniid has been slowly declining thanks to our efforts, and while we’ve… not been without our own losses, we’ve hit them harder than they’ve hit us.” Koshka half-smiled. “Though they’ve still got anti-air emplacements, we should be facing a lot less resistance during our air raids. That’ll be something to look forward to.”

Artem straightened his back. “Just doing our part.”

“You’re chertovski right we’re doing our part!” she grinned slightly. “Anyhow, I hear our boys here just got a senikhost shipment in, courtesy of our homeland. Care to join me?”

“Lead the way,” he gestured, and the two set out in search of the alcohol.

Press Release
Dated May 5th, 1953, in the year of our Lord

People of Stratarin:
After the longest and costliest engagement of the war so far at Raniid, Bourun finally withdrew due to losses sustained. This could not have been accomplished without the great sacrifice and skill of our pilots and troops. We overwhelmed the enemy on land and outmatched it in the air. There is no greater testament to the tenacity of our soldiers than the Battle of Raniid.

Bourun started a war that it has proven time and again it couldn’t finish. The terrorist bombings committed in its name in March proved only to strengthen our resolve. Their army was incapable of holding Khovr, Konsovyy, Galergrad, Kalivk, Braslov, or their supposed stronghold in Mirovgrad. In turn, they have lost the major cities of Qanil, Kairdhar, and Raniid. The question no longer is if we might be victorious, but when.

To those who lost loved ones, though I may not know you personally, my heart goes out to you. I, too, have lost a relative in war. My own brother was killed during a conflict with a violent Gondwanan tribe in 1921. While I cannot offer you any sort of comfort of meaning, know that you can rise above the sorrow, though never quite forget it, and continue to be the best that you can be for this country.

I wish to bolster the resolve of those who still doubt that this war is for a good cause. For indeed, there could be few better. This campaign is in retaliation for the lives spent driving Bourun from our great nation, and will help to ensure the present and future security of our nation. This is not due to petty leadership or warlust, but for your children, and their children, and their children to be free from the danger that the Siadan Theocracy of Bourun.

I can assure you that we will not fail, nor will we be broken. We have lost too much, gone too far, and invested too many hopes in this to falter. Let it be known that Stratarin is capable of anything, and this will be the proof of that declaration.

All for Stratarin!

-Makar Galerkin, President of the Nationalist Republic of Stratarin

Dhariadh, Bourun, May 11th, 1953

Hasna Lellouche lay in her bed late into the night, listening to the far-off artillery of the invaders as they lay siege to Alik, a neighboring city. It was a relaxing sound to the young girl, despite the terrifying reality of what caused the noise.

She had heard of these southern, paler-faced brutes, who cared only for war and Bourun’s death. Even in the olden days, the Empire that it had been laid waste to the Bour tribespeople. Hasna had learned in her classes that the invaders - or “alghaza” - may not even have come from Gondwana. Invaders from the very start.

The sound of explosions and faint gunfire intensified. However, she knew that it was the will of Siada that Bourun would not fall. As they were his people, she certainly knew that he would protect them from the false God Troitsa.

As the booming continued at a steady tempo, Hasna found herself blinking away sleep. Rolling over and closing her eyes, she let the sound lull her into a peaceful slumber.

Alik, Bourun, May 14th, 1953

The last vestiges of the retreating Strataric army, pursued by the Bouruni forces, disappeared over the hill. General Taysir Wajaitub watched them, incredibly satisfied, as he poured Tamar Bouri into a glass and slowly sipped it.

They’d be back, of course, after having their morale regained at their hole in Raniid and vengeance stoked in their hearts. And Taysir was looking forward to it.

He looked up towards the sky, ever so happy to find it completely clear of enemy aircraft. The heavy anti-air emplacements that he had equipped in Alik were well worth their investment. And the Bouruni tanks, while admittedly less powerful than their Strataric counterpart, had more than proven their worth on this day.

Taking the final sip of his drink, he set the empty glass down on the table, stood, and strode off. There would be preparations to make for the return of the Stratarians. For they would certainly be completely prepared, this time.

Taysir smiled. And to think that this city would be where the Bouruni subjugation of Stratarin truly started to take off.

Alik, Bourun, May 26nd, 1953

There comes a time, in every soldier’s experience, where the cause that he is fighting for is questioned.

As he fired at the Bouruni defenders, Ermolai Yakov experienced such a time. It was a wonder to him that this war had only started a little over a month ago, as it felt like an eternity. Day after day of ear-shattering screams and explosions, of little sleep and little morale, of shooting and killing and watching your brothers be shot and killed…

What brought it to mind all the more was that the Strataric advance had been almost completely stagnated at this stronghold of Alik. The first offensive failed to overcome it, and the second seemed to be going much the same way.

Narrowly missing a Bouruni soldier and ducking behind cover as the soldier attempted retaliation, he muttered a profanity. Because of the pride, no, arrogance of the Strataric leadership, every last one of the people he valued and fought side by side would die in this foreign, heathen land.

Several minutes later, he heard it. The call that everyone knew was coming, but hoped and prayed would not.


With machine gun fire hitting the ground around him, Ermolai ran, crouching, as he withdrew. He cursed Bourun. He cursed the Strataric generals. He cursed the President, and the Secretary of Intervention, and the whole chertovskiy government. He almost cursed Troitsa above, too, though the Stratarian stopped himself before he could.

As he looked around to his other comrades retreating, he saw the same expression on their faces as his own: grim hopelessness. Ermolai wondered if the Strataric military would ever make it this far into Bourun again. He certainly hoped…

A bullet, or maybe several, struck his leg; bringing him down with a shout of pain. Barely a second later, one struck the back of his skull, and he knew no more.

Raniid, Bourun, June 6th, 1953

It had been eight days since Raniid was under heavy artillery fire, six since the Bouruni army had besieged it, three since the Strataric commanding officer had been slain, and approximately four hours since it had finally been effectively cut off from all aid.

It was over.

General Taysir Wajaitub looked at the city from a distance, estimating that it would take at least another 8 days for the stubborn alghaza to surrender to Bourun’s military superiority and Siada’s divine might. This entire offensive simply proved which was the real god in Gondwana, and which was the fraud.

Now, he would wait. Reinforcements from Idefayo had just arrived several hours ago, which would prove crucial in keeping Raniid’s defenders outnumbered, outgunned, and outclassed. He sipped his glass of Tamar Bouri, reflecting for a moment how much he loved the drink, before turning and walking back towards his command center, out from the punishing noonday sun.

Raniid, Bourun, June 13th, 1953

“We must NOT surrender!” Polkovnik Volikov slammed his fist on the table that the Strataric officers had huddled around. “Do you not remember what happened at Khovr? No one will be taken alive.”

“There are few, if any other options, sir,” Major Dvornikov replied, keeping an even tone. “We can’t equal their might, their AA has effectively neutralized our aerial advantage, and we cannot flee.”

“Then why not die like men?”

“This is a different commanding officer than the one killed back at Khovr. He might be more merciful-”


Volikov and Dvornikov both quieted instantly at the smooth yet firm voice of Major General Bretchko. With both their eyes on him, he continued, "Here’s what we do. While I officially surrender tomorrow, I want you two to find a way to sneak out as many men as you can. Get them back to Kairdhar, and see if the government can send reinforcements.

“What about you, sir?” Volikov asked, his tone somewhat less harsh than before.

“I did my duty for Troitsa and country. Someone put that on an epitaph for me,” he smiled wanly. “Tomorrow I will probably meet my Maker, and that might be the only scheduled appointment I’ve looked forward to in all my life.” He straightened. “You have your orders. Dismissed.”

As the officers shuffled out of the room, Dvornikov glanced back towards Bretchko. He hesitated a moment. “Sir?”

“Yes, Major?”

“It’s been a pleasure serving with you, sir.” Dvornikov snapped a salute.

“Thank you, Major.” Bretchko returned the gesture. “Now, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to be alone now.”

The major nodded, shutting the door as he left. Bretchko glanced around the room, pulled out a bottle of senikhost, and poured it into a glass. “I might as well enjoy my last night on Urth,” he muttered to no one in particular. Toasting an invisible drinking partner, he sipped the Strataric beverage.

“Good stuff, that.”

Raniid, Bourun, June 14th, 1953

The two parties, having agreed to be unarmed met at the entrance of Raniid. Major General Bretchko, followed closely by Dvornikov, stepped toward the Bouruni officer. The light wind made the ends of the Siada-worshipper’s hat flutter slightly.

As they neared, Bretchko extended his hand. “General Wajaitub, correct?”

The Bouruni general nodded, clasping the Stratarian’s hand. “Major General Bretchko. Your defense here has been valiant and honorable. It is almost a pity that I must draw it to a close.” He nodded towards Bretchko’s companion. “Who is this?”

The major general turned slightly. “This is Major Dvornikov.”

Wajaitub nodded to himself slightly, looking Dvornikov up and down. Before opening his mouth to speak, a lesser Bouruni officer approached him and muttered something to the general in their foreign tongue. Instantly, Wajaitub snapped up a previously concealed gun at Bretchko. “I have reports of some of your men escaping my forces. Is this true?”

Bretchko breathed a sigh of relief, at least content that the Stratarians chosen had a fighting chance of survival. “Ye-”

He was cut off as Wajaitub readjusted his aim and fired. Dvornikov, bleeding from a head wound that had suddenly appeared, crumpled to the ground. The Bouruni’s gun snapped back to pointing at Bretchko. “Such is the action of a coward, Major General,” Wajaitub remarked, a cold fury burning in his eyes.

The Stratarian recovered quickly from his shock, and replied in an equally angry tone. “Says the man who just violated an agreement and killed an unarmed man. Where is the honor in that?”

Wajaitub blinked, then fired again. Turning to the Bouruni who had approached him, he said, “Charge the city. Let no more of the vermin escape alive. We will bring them under our heel.”

The junior officer nodded and ran off to relay the general’s commands. He smiled, and turned away. This, at least, would be a victory. The men inside were malnourished, tired, and expecting that the surrender had gone well.

They would be in for quite a surpr-

General Taysir Wajaitub stumbled forward and fell to the barren ground, his last thoughts those of surprise.

From a high window, Major Zinovii Verenich smiled slightly, reloading his rifle and suppressing the tremble of his hand. “If I’m to die now, I’m going to make it worth my while,” he muttered to himself.

Misto Doschi, Ivlya, June 16th, 1953

“I can’t do it.”

Royal Prince Alejandro Lautaro Durand Rios shook his head, almost to himself, as he answered his Secretary of Foreign Affairs. “I’m sorry, Illya, I just can’t do it.”

Viscount Illya Abrahamovsky’s foxlike ear twitched slightly in annoyance as he met his monarch’s eyes. “But if you won’t do it, Your Royal Majesty-”

“Can’t,” Alejandro cut in.

“-then Stratarin might fall.”

“Against the feeble might of our third-world next-door-neighbor?” Alejandro chuckled slightly. “I think not.”

“Your Royal Majesty, according to the reports that the Strataric Secretaries of External Affairs and Intervention sent over, they’ve been driven back in their advance into Bourun, lately-”

“That’s of no concern of mine. I am not my grandfather, who fancied Ivlya as Gondwana’s police force,” the Royal Prince replied, slightly bitingly. “If Ivlya is to survive, I must keep her citizens safe. If I am to keep her citizens safe, I don’t rush into some war between historically hostile neighbors. If I don’t rush into some war between historically hostile neighbors, than Ivlya survives.” He looked the irritated vulpine in the eye. “Is that clear, Secretary?”

Illya’s ear twitched yet again. “Perfectly, Your Royal Majesty.”

“Good. Now,” he paused, “I’m feeling a bit thirsty. Would you have some mechtaridyna sent in?”

“I’m not sure we have that, Your Royal Majesty. Do you mean-”

“No, not senikhost. Mechtaridyna.” Alejandro sighed in frustration. “How do you not know the difference?”

“I thought the only alcohol in the building was senikhost,” the vulpine replied defensively. “What is the difference, Your Royal Majesty?”

“Well, mechtaridyna is Ivlyan.”

Silence followed for the next several seconds. “Is that the only difference?”

The Royal Prince blinked. “Yes, why?”

“It’s just that most Ivlyans, myself included, simply call it senikhost.” Illya hesitated. “That’s essentially what it is, after all, Your Royal Majesty.”

“Well, it’s mechtaridyna now, Secretary,” Alejandro waved dismissively. “Or it will be. I’ll have to make it a royal decree. Now, will you send some in?”

The vulpine shook his head. “Your Royal Majesty, if you’d put more effort into changing the name of alcohol on a whim than aiding another Christian nation, albeit Catholic, in its time of need, then…” Illya sighed, “I’m stepping down, Your Royal Majesty. You’ll find my resignation form on your desk in the morning.”

Without another word, the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs turned and left the room, leaving the shocked Prince Alejandro to his frustration.

Kairdhar, Bourun, June 18th, 1953

Senior Leytenant Antonina Sokolova had finally been released from the temporary Strataric medical headquarters that had been set up in Kairdhar. While she, along with the few dozen other men who escaped at Raniid, and certainly not arrived back at the city in excellent condition, the military woman doubted that keeping such a devoted officer as herself for three-and-a-half additional days due to “medical concerns” was really in anyone’s best interest.

Sighing and taking refuge in her quarters, she began cleaning her gun. It never hurt to be prepared for when the next wave of Bouruni savages came crawling out of whatever hole they were spawned from. And Antonina had a suspicion that it would be soon.

According to StratIntel, General Taysir Wajaitub had been killed at Raniid. That had bought Kairdhar some time to prepare for the attack. And there was a rumor of reinforcements en route from Coyden.

She grimaced. Not from Ivlya, of course. When called to help end the scourge of Bourun, they just turned the other way like some sort of feeble-brained milksops. They were incapable of recognizing Stratarin’s greatness, and even more incapable of seeing Bourun’s danger. Even a wild beast, such as the soldiers of the heathen nation, could slay the most disciplined warrior. Antonina only regretted that the Imperialist Stratarin of old had never succeeded in conquering Ivlya.

But alas, there was nothing that she could do about that. Nothing. While she’d love to put a bullet through the Prince’s head, that would be both impossible for her to do and stupid diplomacy.

She shifted her focus from her hatred of Ivlya back to her hatred of Bourun as she continued to work on her weaponry. Antonina looked forward to killing every last vermin out there when they arrived. For her country, for her fallen comrades, and for the innocents caught in the middle.

Of course, though, her country remained the most important in her head. Long live Stratarin, and may Bourun die quickly had been a toast adopted in Raniid during the siege. Her men, at least, toasted neither the sacrifice of the dead nor the courage of the living. They simply cheered for their proud nation and against the foreign filth.

She’d taught them well.

A klaxon sounded from somewhere in the building. Finishing the final cleaning touches on her rifle, she stood and prepared for combat. The enemy was here.

And they would all die.

Kairdhar, Bourun, June 23rd, 1953

The night was long for Private Usama Yaasiri.

Other than the constant artillery bombardment as both sides took shots in the dark, there was little combat to break the monotony of it all. Kairdhar had been besieged, though not yet surrounded. There was considerable resistance whenever his fellow Bouruni tried to outflank the Stratarians. Many of his Bouruni brothers in the forces tasked with this had gone up to Siada to enjoy their heavenly virgins.

Only, Usama Yaasiri was not in one of these forces. He had been assigned, along with his squad and sergeant, to defend one of the anti-air emplacements that the army had managed to set up. As long as they could keep the skies clear, eventual victory was all but assured.

Occasionally, there would be a squeal of a Strataric plane overheard. Once, one even managed to destroy one of the AA guns. It had been swiftly avenged, however, and the alghaza had lost another plane.

However, such activity was rare at best. As of now, Usama’s task was that of tedium. While there is a good deal of boredom involved in a siege, this was somewhat ridiculous to the Bouruni private.

The night was far too long, though it would soon be cut brutally short for Usama.

Kairdhar, Bourun, June 23th, 1953

Antonina Sokolova couldn’t suppress a slight chuckle as she looked at the Bouruni corpses in front of her. While she generally detested outwardly showing emotion, she occasionally allowed herself an exception.

As the leader of one the small squads, all containing survivors from Raniid, sent out at night to find AA guns and destroy them, Antonina allowed herself some small amount of pride in her work.

She examined the gun, noting the several hash marks in it for the number of planes it had brought down. Four. Four pilots who would never return home to their families. More importantly, four planes that would no longer be usable in the war effort.

However, thanks to her and her squad, it had been silenced forever.

As she began to step away, a small whimper came from one of the downed Bouruni guards. Turning, she saw the young man looking up at her in fear, and pain. He weakly tried to speak to her, though she couldn’t understand the heathen tongue of Bourun. After looking down at him for a second, she smiled. “You were likely at Raniid, you know, if you’re here.” Seeing his eyes light up with recognition at the mention of Raniid, she continued. “Lots of good men and women died there. And, of course, some Bouruni plague rats, though they’re not real men. Barely human, really.” Antonina looked down towards him. “And you’re one of them.”

She drew her pistol and held it to his head. He gazed back at her calmly for a second, then closed his eyes in acceptance.

She hesitated a moment. This was not the reaction she’d come to expect from these beasts. This was the reaction of a person coming to terms with his death, rather than a fearful animal.

A second passed. Then another. The Bouruni soldier - a private, from his uniform - began to open his eyes slightly in confusion.

Antonina pulled the trigger.

Coyden, Stratarin, July 7th, 1953

Finally, some good news had come home to President Galerkin. After a series of setbacks in Bourun, the Strataric military had finally triumphed at Kairdhar. Which is more, an infamous Bouruni general had been killed several days before, at Raniid. Perhaps there was a faint twinkle of hope to the war effort after all.

The President could feel a sort of collective relief in everyone he talked with or even so much as passed in the hallway. He also noticed more smiling rather than somber faces. Government officials seemed much more relaxed, rather than as tense as they’d been. Perhaps this would finally lead to a quick and speedy end to this war.

Of course, it would be much quicker and speedier had Ivlya agreed to come to Stratarin’s aid. Galerkin’s brow darkened as he was reminded of the smaller nation’s refusal to take part. Ivlya, with their Troitsan Christianity or whatever they called it, might say that it was prudence and wisdom to not involve themselves in this war. Galerkin thought it cowardice. Pure, unbridled cowardice in the face of a nation which would love nothing more than to wipe both Stratarin and Ivlya off the map. It was nigh sickening to see such hesitation in an ally.

And to think, this had all started the day that Galerkin had rallied for more co-operation with the Principality in spite of the government of Bourun’s wishes. This was poor repayment.

The President cast thoughts of Ivlya from his head. Those were things that couldn’t be changed, at least not until after the war with Bourun ended. For now, Stratarin would have to make due alone.

Speaking of which, he recalled that he’d authorized reinforcements for Kairdhar. The soldiers there were proud, and certainly skilled, but greatly weakened and lacking the men necessary for triumph in the foreign land.

And then, maybe, peace could be restored and Stratarians could feel relatively safe.

Was that too much to ask for?

Kairdhar, Bourun, July 11th, 1953

Army General Joakim Klyushnikov grinned as he dismissed the polkovnik who had taken command of Kairdhar during the recent days. Unlike that last pack of skill-lacking brutes, whom the polkovnik couldn’t help but exemplify, Klyushnikov had promised himself that he would learn from the mistakes of Bretchko and all the officers in command before him.

With the reinforcements that he had arrived with, Klyushnikov was confident that Bourun could be soundly beaten. No force of earth or hell could stop such might as the Army General had brought with him. He could almost taste the sweet flavor of victory that those before him had found so very elusive.

“They held Kairdhar, at least,” he muttered to himself, begrudgingly granting them some credit in his thoughts. Still, Kairdhar was easily defensible, and they were fighting against a weakened foe. No, these last few Stratarians were clearly inferior and needed education on the art of war, or they’d have won Alik or held their ground at Raniid.

Luckily for them, Klyushnikov was an excellent teacher.

Raniid, Bourun, July 21st, 1953

From a distance, the Army General watched another spire in the city fall to Strataric artillery while sipping his tall glass of senikhost. This was not a battle, he knew; this was the slow execution of the Bouruni forces in the city. They defended it admirably well, though Klyushnikov could sense their resolve fading, like a flame slowly dimming into the darkness of night. And thus, with minimal loss of Stratarin life, Klyushnikov would soon claim the city of Raniid.

Life was good.

Raniid, Bourun, July 24th, 1953

Podpolkovnik Aiya Durinova fidgeted with her collar as she waited for the Bouruni delegation. For reasons not disclosed to her, she had been selected to represent Army General Klyushnikov and to accept the Bouruni leader’s surrender of the city.

Bourun… while the thought of the surrender was, quite frankly, enticing, Aiya couldn’t help but flick her ears back in hatred at the thought of those vulpine-abusing Neanderthals. Even at Mirovgrad and Konsovyy and the several other cities they took for that short time, they’d already managed to kill most of the vulpines found therein.

They were scum, and should be exterminated like scum.

She breathed out and tried to keep her ears pointed skyward as a tall, swarthy man emerged from the city. He was flanked by two men on either side. Eyeing her appraisingly, he greeted, “I am Kulunil Sidqi, here to surrender the city and to discuss provisions for the soldiers and citizens who live within its wa-” as he was speaking, he snapped his fingers. The closest man to his right drew a handgun from seemingly nowhere and shot the vulpine female. Aiya toppled to the ground, looking up at them in shock and anger as her vision began to fade. The last sound she heard sounded as a battle cry, and her bleary vision saw men pouring from the city gates before she closed her eyes permanently.