The first impression that Elias had of Captain James Baulder was that of an old grizzly who had turned the hunt over on a group of hunters. The man was viciously disciplinarian toward his crew, with a near-psychotic devotion to the Queen's honor. As Elias and his men approached Baulder's ship, moored in the harbor of a tiny fishing town in the recently-seized colony of Cuttmarsh, the Captain was shouting orders at his men. Just before Elias could step onto the boarding ramp and address the Captain, Baulder turned around to see the group of new soldiers on the dock.
"Good," he said curtly. "We need others to replace the ones who were just killed. You lot will do." He sighed and turned back to his crew. "Alright ye bunch of useless louts - you heard me! Come on, come on, step lively! I want that shot stored below-decks before I finish talkin' to these new recruits!"
The Captain's greying black hair and hardened features made him look just like a typical middle-aged sailor; what made him stand out was his local accent and the old scar running along his right cheekbone until it reached his upper lip, which was split at the spot where the scar ended.
"So," the Captain barked at Elias' squad. "This is the sorry band of misfits I get when I ask for a fresh batch of recruits, eh? Well, fine - we'll make ye battle-ready before we reach Kiev, anyway. Welcome aboard, I suppose. If you'll follow me, I'll give you the grand tour and assign you all your stations before we set off."
"Set off?" One of Elias' group members, a younger lad by the name of Cynric, nervously asked. "But - sir - I thought..."
"Thought what, exactly, private?" The Captain snapped. "Thought we'd just put our feet up here on the sunny Cuttmarsh shores and let the army grunts do all the work and get all the glory?" He shook his head and swiped an arm to the side dismissively. "No. This unit will be getting directly into the mix. We will be leading a series of strikes against Kiev before the army even dares approach the Wall."
"W-Wall, sir?" This time it was Kail, a boy from the south.
"Yes," the Captain snarled. "The Red Wall of the East. We're finally going to smash it down. Then, we're going to level the whole kingdom of cowards that lies behind it."
"What about the innocents?" Elias asked. "What about all of the citizens, who had no choice in this conflict or any of the others?"
"There are no innocents," Baulder roared. "Sooner you learn that, soldier, the better - there are NO innocents behind the Wall. Each an' every one of 'em stood by for six generations as Nikula slaughtered our kin and stole our land. Each one of 'em put in their labor to build the Wall and to kill our people."
Elias decided he would not risk punishment for insubordination by continuing the argument.
"Right then," the Captain said, taking Elias' silence for agreement, "Now, as I was saying - this way." The men all followed silently as Baulder led them into a small chamber with a round table and four chairs. When the five men reached the room, Baulder gestured toward the table and commanded Elias and his men to have a seat. Once they had all been seated, the Captain began his speech. "Welcome aboard, again," he said, as though he were bored with the entire proceeding. Perhaps he was, Elias thought. "You've all been brought here to serve in Her Majesty, Queen Helena the Great's Royal Navy in the ongoing war against the forces of Kiev. Now, undoubtedly, some of you are frightened - perhaps you fear for your lives, or maybe for your families, or for some other thing - none of that matters." He pulled out a map which was riddled with slash marks and bullet holes and burns as he growled, "each one of these marks - every hole, scorch and slash - indicates a place where I've fought. The point is, I'm experienced. If I can keep you safe, I will. However, if it's the protection of my crew or the well-being of a couple of disobedient troops, I will choose my crew as the higher priority. Don't do anything stupid, don't disobey any orders, and you should be just fine. Now," he pointed at William and Elias. "You two will be gunners. You two," he said, pointing to the other two men, "Will be serving as powder monkeys. Your job is to assist the gunners in any way you can. Report to your posts now, and the rest of the men should take you through the basics of artillery."
Elias and his men reported to their stations as ordered, and after a few hours of instruction were sent out to find dinner for the crew. Elias and William formed one group that went out into the village, while Kail and Cynric formed the other group. William and Elias wound up hauling back three bags of local spiced bread and two more filled with thick slices of chicken soaked in gravy and spiced with slices of a local fruit. When they returned, the crew ravenously dug into their meal and the Captain brought out a bottle of whiskey. Each man's glass was filled to the brim, and Captain Baulder raised his own chipped glass for a toast.
"To life," he began. "To the open seas. To brotherhood. To friends, and last but never least," he grinned. "To a delicious meal eaten in good company. Dig in, all o' ye!"
And with that, the feeding frenzy resumed.