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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

The Yogi

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AUTHOR #2

Mud​

Grigory was exhausted. They all were. For more than a mile, the Artillery Brigade stretched along the road. He road to the right of his cannon, as did all the other Lieutenants. The gunners marched on the left. In front of the cannon, the bombardier rode. The cannon itself was draped with virtually all of the crew's equipment. It was all very orderly, given the circumstance.

Grigory commanded the 3d Cannon of the 4th Battery. There were 6 Batteries in the Brigade and 4 Cannon in each Battery, so he was very near the end of the line. This disturbed him. He would be among the last to escape, through no fault of his own. Under normal circumstances, the full procession would fill maybe a half a mile of road, but these were not normal circumstances, and the road, such as it was, was really a strip of mud, in some places nearly a full foot deep. For the last two weeks, the rain had come unmercifully, drenching the gun pits, the forward trenches, food stocks, everything. But especially the men. And the roads.

It did not help that more than 4 full Divisions of Infantry had already marched or fled down this road in the last few days, depending on the circumstances of their departure. It also did not help that, whenever a team was forced to stop moving forward, the cannon would instantly become stuck, forcing the batteries behind to also stop, and to also become instantly stuck. Those ahead, reasonably enough, did not stop to wait for their comrades. Those behind swore and shouted at any who stopped, pushing them further behind and diminishing their chances of escape.

Grigory scratched his unshaven chin and pulled a cigarette from his coat, lighting it carefully. The rains had let up enough for this at least. He looked ahead at the slow-moving train. His own cannon was pressing hard on 2d Cannon. The 3d Cannon's bombardier's horse, had it chosen, could have fed directly on the oats hanging in sacks from 2d Cannon. The driver and gunners of 2d Cannon would occasionally look back in annoyance. Their own commander, Lieutenant Pavel, stared straight ahead. There was a space of almost 100 yards between 2d Cannon and 1st Cannon. The result of an unlucky collision between the Lieutenant's horse and the harnessed team, followed by a 30 minute stop to extricate his mired charge. Pavel's ears were still red from embarrassment.

Occasionally, cavalry or infantry units would overtake the slow moving convoy, passing in the muddy fields on either side. Usually, they'd abandoned their less portable equipment and had only themselves to save. Grigory envied and hated them at the same time. He would have loved to abandon 3d Cannon. He'd grown to hate the massive weapon over the last few days and would have been delighted to simply shift it off the road, carriage and all, and flee to the safety of the new lines. The General, however, had threatened that any member of his Brigade who arrived without his weapon would be viewed as a captured deserter and would need to prove their innocence. Which would be difficult, for by then this whole road and everything on it would belong to the advancing enemy. So, Grigory plowed on down the road. They all plowed down the road, coated in thick mud and grime.

Grigory, staring at Pavel's back, suddenly noticed the other officer sit up straighter in his seat, straining to see ahead. Grigory looked up himself and saw a rider moving down the line, speaking with the Lieutenants as he went. After speaking with Anton, the commander of 1st Cannon. The rider moved towards them at a trot. He was sitting erect in his seat, holding the reigns with one had while the other rested at his side. The horse was white and the man, an officer, was wearing an immaculate uniform. Grigory quickly threw his cigarette to the ground, watching it land in the mud wistfully. Then he smoothed his wrinkled and mud-encrusted coat with one hand, chuckling to himself, for there was nothing he could do right now to make himself presentable.

The officer, now they recognized him as Major Yefimitch, the General's ADC, rode up to the two Lieutenants, his horse prancing almost sideways as he did so. "Well then, you have fallen behind I see. Holding up the whole column now," he said to Pavel. "Listen, both of you, the General has marked out battery positions in our new lines and has been waiting your arrival now for more than a day. Your non-arrival has, I'm sure you can appreciate, caused him no small amount of embarrassment. Especially since our Brigade is usually renowned for it's skill and professionalism. Not only have the Infantry, who, I might add, started off after you, begun to arrive in their new positions, but 2d Artillery has also begun to arrive and even has a full battery setup."

The officer's horse began dancing to the side and off the road some more as he looked farther down the line and sighed. "I might also add, that you stragglers have also caused no small discomfort for the cavalry screen, who cannot retire to our new lines until you reach your positions and you know, perfectly well, that the General does not enjoy spending his days apologizing for your laziness to the cavalry commanders. You shall all, all, regret your decisions to take this fall-back as some sort of pleasure trip." The Major, without another word, dug his spurs into his horse's side and moved further down the line.

Grigory's rage smoldered. "Come on Pavel, watch your men or you'll be stuck again. And don't think I won't just pass you up." The threat was empty, of course. As bad as the roads were, moving one of the massive cannon off road would have been disastrous. With the ADC moving farther down the line, Grigory decided he might have time for a cigarette. Smoking was not permitted during maneuvers, even ones such as these. General's orders. But damn, he needed a cigarette.

As he prepared to light it though, the ADC's thundering horse galloped past him and Grigory, instinctively, tossed it to the ground, but the Major did not stop or even look back and so Grigory cursed himself for wasting a second cigarette and idly wondered how the Major had managed to visit the other two batteries so quickly. Of course, he hadn't. He watched the Major disappear down the road. A crack of thunder started his horse and groans rang out along the tired line as the sky opened up and the rain began to fall again.​
 

The Yogi

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AUTHOR #3

Pride…

Glory…

Ready…

Anxious...


Rage…

Strength…

Pain…

Blood….


Fury …

Fire…

Blood…

Pain…

Desperation…

Fire…

Blood…

Pain…

Agony…


Tired… so very tired…




The new moon is slowly creeping into the sky its weak glow shining on the large plain between the rugged hills. Here, on the edge of the mountains, the dividing river shines like a silver band in the pale light.

On the plain below, on the meadows on this side of the river campfires are slowly coming to live. One, two, two scores in the end perhaps, so few, so very few.

The man slowly shakes his head and watches as more fires slowly come to live on the other side of the river. From his vantage point up on the raw hill he can easily see the full plain. One score, two. An hour later the meadows on the other side of the river is dotted by fires all the way to the low hills fencing the large plain in. Tens of scores, maybe, the man stopped counting after a while.

“Sire, the council is ready.”

The man turns slowly, almost dragging himself away from the view of the valley.

“Have they come?”

The young aid shrugs,

“Your council is ready, Sire, I am not privy as to who has arrived.”

The young man solemnly nods and follows the aid to the nearby camp.

Inside everyone rise as the young heir enters. His eyes slowly moves from one to the other, good men, valiant men, old and young, his father’s trusted friends and allies and few of his own. But too few, too few have made it here, prevented by destiny or decision.

The young man seats himself and nods to the appointed seneschal to speak.

The elderly man was his father’s reliant ally for many a year and as he stands his eyes shines with emotion.

“Sire……

Sire, you must retreat, escape. Last week’s battle dictates it.”

A jolt goes through the gathered men as the young man abruptly rises and knocks his seat over. Staring down the old man, he scowls, but the seneschal does not flinch, nor bend his head to his master’s will.

“I will not abandon the men. I will not run.”

Ignoring decorum and the seneschal’s obvious lack of deference he begins to pace the ground.

“My men trust me to be there for them. I will not desert them to their fate. I can and will not leave. The river crossing will be our stand tomorrow.”

“No, Sire. That cannot be.”

The old man’s voice is firm, but mild, and if he has any qualms opposing his chosen liege then his voice doesn’t carry it.

“We are defeated, soundly, unequivocally and fairly, by a better, stronger and superior force. To stand tomorrow will only compound that defeat and destroy what we have left in vain.”

The young man spins and looks hard into the eyes of every man, but no one casts down their gaze.

“I speak the truth sire, no matter how unpleasant. Destroying what remains of our army and your self will destroy our cause eternally. You cannot let that happen.”

The old man lets his words sink in.

“You must retreat and escape, abroad if need be. You are our cause, without you there is no one to lift the mantle of your father.”

He looks sternly at the young heir.

“You alone carry the name we rally upon. It is your claim alone we fight to restore, if you die heirless the claim is forfeit.”

The young man is about to speak, but a young knight stands, one of his friends, rudely interrupting.

“Look at this.”

An armed, marred by a recent burn, rips the tent wall aside, revealing the very familiar view of the valley below.

“This is the view of doom. Look at their numbers. Even the bravest of men can be overwhelmed by sheer numbers.”

Letting the tent fall back he turns to the young heir,

“My friend we lost. The border barons betrayed us. Another battle will not change that. All it will do is to destroy what little force we have left and if you die the cause dies with you.”

Turning from face to face the young heir can see no one that would support his stand. Finally his shoulders sacks and he turns to the seneschal.

“Give the order. We retreat at first light. First regiment is to hold the river crossing for as long as possible.”

He looks at the tent wall, seeing the enemy’s campfires before his eyes.

“We go north, into the mountains.”



The scout slowly eased his mount to a stop in front of the heir. The weary man made a move to get of, but the heir merely waved for him to stay in the saddle, unsure if the ragged looking man would be able to support his own frame.

The skeleton horse stood completely still, the snow already gathering around its hooves, but it made no move.

“Well?”

The heir felt he had given the scout enough time. Everyone here were worn, hungry and cold, no use dragging it out.

“They are still there.”

The man pulled out a small damp piece of cloth,

“And they are not going to give up. They are well fed, well rested, and apparently very well aware of our position.”

He held out the small package to the young man. Puzzled he opened it to reveal a small loaf of freshly baked bread,

“Stole that of their camp, wasn’t much trouble, hardest part was trying to look like them.”

He stole a brief glance at his liege,

“Fit, rested, well equipped.”

He patted his horse,

“I’ll get a meal, sire, then return.”

Then young heir merely nodded and held the bread close to his face. Smelled very fresh. Did they bring ovens? He gave the bread to an aid who eagerly tore it apart and stuffed it into his mouth.

The seneschal was still with him, his wiry old frame seemed almost unaffected by the cold,

“We lost another group last night, sire, skirmishers mostly, by the tracks they went south by south west.”

“Will they get through?”

The seneschal shrugged,

“They travel light and the skirmishers know how to track, if they give our friends a wide enough berth…”

The young man nodded, this was the third defection in as many days. He could hardly call it an army.

“I don’t blame them.”

He cast his arm wide,

“It is not as if we offer them a lot here.”

His gaze fell upon a group of men huddling near a small fire. He had no idea how they had found dry kindling to get it started. Three quite forms were slowly being covered by the snow drifting across the high plain. They would not run, but they had left him nonetheless.

They walked the small camp in silence, each group of men clumped together for warmth and whatever protection they could find against the elements. More still forms in the snow, so many.

“How much longer can they march?”

The seneschal didn’t reply.

“How much longer?”

The old man seemed to shrug,

“As long as we have to, they do not have much choice, but…”

“But what?”

“Those with frostbites, the ones with severe cases, we may have to…”

“I will not leave them behind.”

“You will doom us all sire, with your high morals.”

The young man could hear the touch of pride.

“That may be.”

“You are destroying them almost as surely as the last stand would have. Only it takes a bit longer.”

The words bit deep into the heir. The council had convinced him to retreat, it had turned into a flight and instead of a regrouping he was losing his army just as certainly as he would had he stood his ground in a last battle.

The walk stopped as often before near the infirmary, or the tent were the bone cutters tried to save those that still could be saved. It huddled morosely near a large boulder, the only shelter they had been able to find.

Most of the ones who had been wounded in the last battle were gone now, but new men kept arriving with their frost inflicted wounds. The young heir winced as a shrill cry cut through the air.

“Amputation, gangrene.”

One of the aids was taking a break outside the tent, choosing the chill wind over the stench of dead flesh. The young man swallowed hard and turned to the seneschal.

“We move on tomorrow without the infirmed, I hope we can trust the pursuers to show mercy?”

His voice carried a note of pleading that the seneschal chose to ignore,

“Certainly, even your cousin is a man of honour.”


The steep rock wall towered menacingly over their head. Grey small waves beat ceaselessly and hard against the pebbled beach, the waves outside the protected cove would be large, driven by the same wind that had driven the retreat these last weeks.

Retreat.. a rout, flight would be more appropriate. I should have stood my ground and be done.

What remained of the council had given the young heir some space and he stood alone at the beach staring into the sea. No campfire or pretty new moon here. If the moon was out it was hidden by a low sky, the colour of molten lead.

A ship would be waiting they had told him, indeed a long boat was making its way around the head as he stood there, chopping through the crappy waves. Not a good day for sailing.

He turned back inland,

“I cannot do this.”

The seneschal nodded,

“You have to.”

The young man shakes his head, ignoring the wind, the grating sound of the long boat beaching and the nagging feeling of defeat.

“I cannot leave them.”

He throws his arm in a small arc encompassing the small groups of men, a gesture so much smaller than the one on the plateau and infinitely smaller than the one he had used by the river valley two months prior.

“You have no choice. Your cousin is only two hours ride away. Board the ship, find support abroad and return stronger, we will be here.”

The young man finally nods, turns abruptly and moves towards the waiting sailors. The remainder of the council waits by the gunwale and he slowly makes his farewell with them one by one. So few left, dead in the battle, succumbed to frost and hunger, or merely skulked away during the retreat.

The young heir doesn’t look back as the sailors push them boat into the cove. His long march is over, this is his final retreat.

With the longboat clearing the point and heads into the open sea beyond the seneschal shares a look with the last councillors. As one they mount their horses and heads up the narrow path to the top of the cliff.

Up in the open they are greeted by a group of horsemen, unseen from below. One rider breaks from the group and approach the councillors. The seneschal dismounts to greet him.

“Is he gone?”

“Yes my lord, and if you honour your word he will not return again.”

The cousin nods with satisfaction and turns his steed around.​
 

The Yogi

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AUTHOR #4

A Hot Retreat

Dear diary,

This is the first day of my retreat. I am on my way to the port of Hair with a trusted company of the royal guard. The fall of the city was very picturesque and I must admit to a certain fluttering of the heart as my palace was overrun by unshaven ruffians, clearly no gentlemen, but my guard managed to snatch me from what my mother would have insisted was a Fate Worse than Death, had she not burned jollily on the pyre of father's palace (and I doubt she really preferred that fate!), and my chambermaids and ladies in waiting had all the fun.

It was a gorgeous fire.

I cannot find my poodle, Estremedella. I will have to ask the captain of my guard to detach one or two of his hale soldiers to find her. Not one of those who bleed all over the place, that would only scare Estremedella.


Dear diary,

This is the second day of my retreat. The screams of the wounded interrupted my sleeping last night, which was most inconsiderate. I guess it is true what I was taught – commoners lack the willpower to endure deprivation.


Dear diary,

This is the third day of my retreat. I am most dissatisfied with the performance of my guard. Not only have they failed to find Estremedella, they are also rationing the wine! I set fire to a tent.


Dear diary,

This is the fifth day of my retreat. The usurper's forces caught us in an ambush just before noon. With a cry of “Protect the princess!” my captain led his soldiers in a charge straight into the ambushers – it being better tactics to spring an ambush than to suffer in it, or so my Young Ladies Primer to Tactics states – and the two parties spent half an hour chopping each other to bits. It was most Romantic. I declared double wine rations since we had more than enough to share afterwards, which cheered the men no end – it is this sort of decisive leadership that raises us over the rabble!


Dear diary,

Today I killed an innkeeper over a bath. There are limits to what comments one should have to accept, even if one is slightly unkempt. I set fire to the innkeeper and gave his wife and daughter to my soldiers.


Dear diary,

This is the eighth day of my retreat. Dear Estremedella joined us today! I have no idea how her soft paws managed to bear her all the way from the capital, but they did, they did! I'll have the captain of the guard make a litter for her, so she can be carried from now on. Such loyalty must be rewarded!


Dear diary,

Gossip in the countryside indicate that not only the capital, but Hair as well, has fallen. Sighting of usurper patrols are on the rise, and the western barons have betrayed us all. This is most distressing. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.

On the positive side, both of my brothers and my older sister are confirmed dead, which makes me, or to be precise, us, queen. There's always a silver lining!

An enemy patrol escaped us today, and we will have to seek refuge in the great forest, just temporarily, before we return us to the throne.


Dear diary,

This is day 42 of our retreat. We have run out of pig hunting opportunities in the vicinity and may have to survive on veal. There are constant usurper patrols in the forest and we need to constantly keep moving to avoid capture. This will not do! We have ordered the men to raid outlying farms for pigs.


Dear diary,

One of our men sought unsolicited intimacy with us last night. This erosion of standards is most unbecoming for the cream of our military might. I set fire to him. That'll teach him.


Dear diary,

This is day 71 of my retreat. The usurper's men have driven us from the forest. I am getting a bad feeling about this. Can't he just leave me alone until I have raised a force to retake my realm? He really does not seem to understand how things are done in civilized countries! That reminds me, I should probably get around to doing the whole “raising a force” thing one of these days.


Dear diary,

This is day 73 of my retreat. Cavalry overran my baggage train and poor Estremedella was trampled by nasty big horses during the fight. She was the bravest poodle on life and deserves a medal. I set fire to the horses to celebrate her memory.

There appears to be sign of dissension in the ranks.


Dear diary,

This is day 74 of my retreat. I set fire to the captain of my guard when he completely misunderstood my intentions towards him in a most insulting way. I had called him to my palanquin, given him a smoldering look, told him that my body was all aflame with desperation for him and wanted nothing more than to sink into his fiery embrace – this always worked in the Young Ladies Primer to Tactics – but he backed off, screamed that I was a crazy bitch (the cad! Toying with a woman's emotions like that), and tried to escape my righteous wrath and pursuing flames.


Dear diary,

This is day 117 of my retreat. My loyal soldiers are gone, all gone, and the hounds are closing in. The usurper will catch up with me tomorrow and my retreat will be done one way or the other. I gave it a good go, but the people failed me, incompetent to a man.

I am having a good long bath and I caught a peasant to set my hair. I will put on my last good dress and prepare to receive the usurper as the queen I am. And when he comes close enough, which one way or the other he surely will, we will all burn together when we burn.​
 

Avernite

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Story one:

Text error in line 1, very annoying when it starts that way :)

Otherwise an interesting story, though I absolutely despise the accent :p
I do wonder what the secret is, and frankly I am annoyed by missing it. Maybe I just didn't read properly enough?

Overall, I sort-of thought it was the ACW before they mentioned Sherman, but okay, it's nice to have clues rather than facts thrown in your face first.

Two:

Thought it was Nappy, but then the divisions and the cigarettes made me think otherwise. The names, too, put me fof, so now I think it's just a general retreat in some Napoleonic situation rather than Napoleon retreating from Russia.

An somewhat boring story, I guess, but well done for one. I just am not overly interested in stories where little happens.

Three:

Interesting start, to say the least. First to go with a sort of narrator piece, though I think it started that a bit weakly. The words were good, the description was not overly informative. I also guess it's not a native English speaker.

The story is traditional, in some sense, though the betrayal at the end is a strange twist. I think that, even without treachery, the seneschal's story would be perfectly valid and logical.

The text needs maybe a bit more body, all the white lines annoy me (I have been known to include too few when given the chance, though ;) )

Four:

Strange way of doing it, a diary, but interesting.

And definately a spoilt brat if ever I saw one :p

a truely funny story, and a lot of Peter Ebbessen about it. I don't think I need to say more than that, even IF I am completely wrong :D
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Another two weeks gone ? Boy, time passes too fast. But look what we`ve got. Four nice stories. Maybe a general statement before I start: Unfortunately the Authors were too strict in heeding Yogi`s counsel:

(And for once I will qualify that this must not be interpreted as a the kind of contemplative holiday a priest could go to, nor as a place to hide from the world.)

It would have been nice to read such a story. But heck, its war at all fronts so let`s begin.

Oh, no, another remark. This month`s topic was "A retreat" and all Authors decided that it should be some kind of military retreat or individual getaway. So I think there should be people on the move and the description of that.


Rank 4: Author 1 - The South will rise again...ehm...or maybe not

It is the 16th of September 1864 (I love Wiki) and somewhere in the South a mother decides to flee with her children from the approaching Union troops toward the next Army HQ to deliver some classified information. End of story.

Remember my definition ? People on the move. Unfortunately the story is all about Martha`s decision-making whether to leave this place or not and the story ends when the "retreat" starts.

I agree with Avernite, that it would have been fine to know, what the secret information was. On the other hand the South has already lost, so it doesn`t matter really.

There was a quite good balance between dialogue and description (well, maybe with a small bias toward description).

Finally I like Martha herself. A resolute woman who does what is necessary to protect her family and puts aside her worries about her husband and son. A small drawback: She left her father-in-law behind, who is obviously already a little benighted. That`s pretty cold.

All in all: Nice story, but a little bit of topic.


Rank 3: Author 4 - Paris Hilton goes pyromania

The good news first. This story is frickin` funny. I really had to laugh, and usually I`m not attracted by comedy that`s so wound up that much. But lines like these

On the positive side, both of my brothers and my older sister are confirmed dead, which makes me, or to be precise, us, queen. There's always a silver lining!

are simply too hilarious. So far, well done.

Now you could ask me: "Hey, Stuckenschmidt, why just Rank 3 ?" I tell you. People on the move ! Okay, the princess (or should I say: the blue-blooded-brat ?) IS actually fleeing. But to make the story funny, the Author had to skip the whole realism. That`s not a deadly sin, especially if one wants to entertain in the first place. But I don`t like it that much. Period.

Yes, that`s splendid arbitrariness. But I never said I`m objective :)


Rank 2: Author 3 - Why is the Dark Age called Dark Age ?

Because the people were not that bright :)

Honestly. If the seneschal wanted the Heir to die, why didn`t he say at the start: "Yes, Sire, you`re right. We have to fight the enemy." ? Then the Heir would have lost the battle and been captured and maybe killed in Richard II.-style. Of course he didn`t say that, because there would have been no retreat and no story if he did, but you get my point.

Apart from that little weakness I liked the story. The beginning is inventive and perfectly describes the actions and moods of the Heir. There was a battle, it`s lost and now all are despaired.

That`s when the story real starts. And the story has people on the move. Finally ! The Author made a good job describing the problems of an army (and its leader) when trying to escape from a superior force and being short / out of supplies. Hunger, disease, desertion. It`s all in it.

The twist at the end of the story came unexpected (and surprising the reader is good per se), although it was a little bit unsatisfying, as been said above.

All in all a good idea turned into a well-written story with a gripping start (yes, I really like it).


Rank 1: Author 2

Let me tell you a story. I know, that`s a little bit absurd, since I should criticize here. But I simply like to tell stories. So please lean back and imagine:

It`s the first week of December 1991 in the middle of nowhere in the german Harz mountains. Private Stuckenschmidt and the other 17 boys of 2nd Platoon, Fernmeldeausbildungskompanie 941 are on a seven-days-drill. It`s darn cold, one wakes up benumbed, a plate of warm clear soup (or kind of water gruel) appears like a blessing, two of the corporals are complete pricks, the ensign unable to read a map at night and after a few days in the same clothes without a shower you smell as if a cat is rotting in your underpants. Yes, it was nice.

Why do I tell this ? Because I`ve had a lot of flashbacks when reading this story. And that`s always a good sign. Another one is, when it`s really easy to empathize with the main character. As in this story.

The description of the conditions like weather, road, troubles to keep up marching formation is really good and before my mind`s eye there is a russian army on the move after having lost a battle and is now marching toward a new emplacement. In short, the ambience of the location is excellent described.

Now the main character. There is not much information about him. And that`s great. I mean: Who cares if he is tall or slim or red-haired or whatever ? He is there, dirty, unshaved, angry. The author decided, that it is better to let me know how he feels and what he thinks. Great job !

Another interesting character is the ADC. I admit I had to use google to look up what that means. "Adjutant" would have been more clearly. But what I want to say is, that I think that probably everyone knows one of these guys: Crawling to the bigwigs and bullying the underlings. A guy you like to kick in his arse, but you can`t since he is either your superior or belongs to your boss` staff. Yes, I really hate this Major. And Grigory does that too, which makes him even more likeable.

So what`s the summary ? This story is fantastic. It would be a great start for an AAR and I`d like to see this story being continued. I hope, Yogi choses it for the AARlander so more people would read it and maybe encourage the Author to make a narration out of it. I would read it. Heck, I would pay for it ! Well, at least a small sum :)
 
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Alfred Packer

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Okay, I'm going to drop mine into rankings as I critique. For my rankings and consideration, I consider "A retreat" to be the events around the retreat (either the cause of the retreat, the retreat itself, or the implications of the retreat).

Author 4 - A Hot Retreat: Rank - undecided, but high up!

The Good:
Oh how I delighted in reading this piece! It was so much fun. The character of the Princess is developed so richly in those brief diary entries and so, clearly, character development is a strength of this work (redundant, but you get my point). I didn't fully comprehend what she meant by "set fire to" - only realizing rather far into the tale that she was a literal witch as well as a figurative one. That this was allowed to develop without ever being overtly stated was a great move on the Author's part and, I think, added a clever element of discovery to the work.

Estremedella was a great touch.

The Bad:
Not very much. On a couple of entries, the Princess' voice sounds un-authentic (specifically, the "that'll teach him" after the soldier is burned for his attempt at intimacy) and I think a more "in character" way of saying the same thing could be found.

Author 3 - "Pride, Glory, et al" Rank: Under Hot Retreat, but still not settled

The Good
This is a solid story with a nice twist at the end. I found the Heir's posturing to be quite Nero-ish. I can see why usurpers may have moved against him and, were I the seneschal, I might have moved towards turning on the Heir after the failed battle. I imagine the Seneschal, loyal to the Old King's son seeing the son fail in battle and then afterwards, not thinking of how to turn disaster into advantage, but rather thinking of a 'last stand' - giving up, if you will - once things get difficult. Well, might he then have starting looking at other options. That I can read this idea (whether true or not) into the story, is a testament to a quality piece of work that makes the reader think. Nicely done!

The Bad
Mostly language/Grammar and tenses issues. It is clearly the work of someone who is not a Native English speaker though, so I can't really count off for that.
 
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The Yogi

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First of all, apologies for missing my own deadline. I can only allegate, as a mitigating circumstance, that I have been sick as a skunk for the last few days. I suspect Swine Flu. Anyway, better late than never I will deliver my critique and present this months winner (which will be picked based on the most interesting critique, rather than most popular story).

Interestingly enough, while this round’s writing was of uniformly high technical quality, I found the majority of the pieces a bit bland – I’m probably to blame for picking a too constricting subject, I suppose. I should also add that interestingly enough, with one exception, it’s been so long since I received at the entries that as I review them, I’m not sure which writer wrote each piece, just as it should be.

Author #1
As I will say with others, the language is good. The attempt to mimic Southern drawl mostly worked for me (ie, I understood that it was supposed to be Southern drawl), but I couldn’t testify on how well carried out it was. It took a little too long to understand the setting, the ACW. Whenever I’m left wondering to guess the setting of a piece, it detracts from it for me because I’m searching for clues rather than taking in the story. IMHO it wouldn’t have damaged to establish the setting a little earlier.

There’s a few clichés not too well used. In the beginning, Martha feels or senses that someone is coming. As a result “instinct instantly took possession of her body” and she runs to the house. Now, to me that is not instinctive behaviour, but rational and voluntary. Instinct is more like people bunching together under fire, grabbing something they shouldn’t to prevent a fall, and so on.

Otherwise, my main gripe with the story is that there is actually no story. This is like an excerpt from an ACW full length novel. The Union is coming and Martha and the girls leave, while old Hugh stays to die on his land. There’s some icing and some cream (wounded Confederates, Spy husband, secret papers) but none of it really adds much to the plot, such as it is.

Overall, good writing, but bland story.

Author #2
Very similar gripes with #1, but perhaps even more. The style is good, but we’re never told what the setting is. I was left leaning towards this being a WWI story, set during the Russian retreat on the Eastern Front in 1915-16. I could of course be wrong.

So what happens in this piece? There is a retreat going on. Grigori and his gun are among the last. It’s muddy. It’s slow and frustrating going. They get chewed up by an ADC.

Please, would it have killed the writer to add a little more drama, and a little less info on the TOE of the Artillery Brigade? A few enemy shells landing close, adding some urgency, a stop to fire a few shells back in support of the cavalry screen and utter a few words to express the rage and impotence felt by the soldiers of the retreating army? Enemy cavalry catching up with and wiping out the battery? SOMETHING other than the mindless waste of two perfectly good cigarettes! :) Oh God, the waste, the demented waste of war!

Author #3
Good language, at least to my foreign eye. Spotted a few missing commas though, but a lot of people have trouble with them (I put in too many). I’m not sure what the few first lines are supposed to convey though, perhaps a stream of consciousness or rather feeling from what has happened before the story, the lost battle? It was perplexing but also intriguing, making me want to read the rest to understand what that was all about. Description is unevenly distributed in the story, much in the beginning (the two camps at night, the river etc), not much later.

As Stuckenschmitt pointed out, it’s not obvious in what way the Seneschal betrays the heir. His advice, I believe, is sound and the Heir does well to follow it. It occurs to me that maybe it isn’t a betrayal at all – maybe the Seneschal has cut a deal with the Heir’s cousin (who’s a man of honour, BTW) in order to save the Heir’s life, ie “as long as you leave him alone in his exile, I, the leader of his supporters back here will support your rule.”

The Heir’s character is well carried out, you clearly understand him, his bitterness over being defeated and humiliated, his wish to redeem this by a heroic last stand, and be done with it. But he also comes off a bit like a posturer, he likes to claim he will not abandon the men, as if he cared for them, but he’s also willing to make a suicidal last stand that will get most of them killed. If his only aim was to escape by sea, the best thing he could have done for his surviving troops would have been to disband them – after all, this was a dynastic civil war and likely no one will come to hunt down the rank and file of the loosing side. That way, they’ll still be there when/if he ever comes back.

All in all, a solid contribution, which I liked second most of the tree.

Author #4
This was so much fun. It took me almost the entire piece to understand what the Hell Princess von Brat was talking about when she “set fire to” things, beasts and people. A Whitch, no less! The poodle Estremedella… priceless! It was silly, yes, but funny, hilarious even. The line

Author#4 said:
That reminds me, I should probably get around to doing the whole “raising a force” thing one of these days.”

cracked me up completely. Only the end was not in character with the rest, a touch of seriousness when the Queen prepares to die immolated with her enemies. It cut the laugh short and left a bitter aftertaste.

Eminently well done!

Next post will present the writers and the pick for the AARlander!
 

The Yogi

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So, late as usual, here are the writers of the June round of GtA;

#1 coz1
#2 Alfred Packer
#3 Valdemar
#4 Peter Ebessen

Thank you all for your contributions, I've read them with delight!

Thank you also to Avernite, Stuckenshcmitt, Alfred Packer (half a critique only!) and yours truly for contributiting your analysis and critique. I wish there could have been more of it, and I blame myself for not being here to deliver encouraging bumps and harping... was just too damn busy to even think of this!

This time around, we do not pick a winner as such, but the one piece the critique of which is, to my mind, the most instructive and useful. And my choice goes to...


Author #3, Valdemar!

The contribution and the critiques of it will be compiled and sent to canonized shortly (today), and hopefully we will not hold up the next AARlander any more.


Regarding July, I believe it's time for a vacation for GtA. Interest this round was pretty low, which probably has to do with summertime. Also, I will spend the second half of July cleaning out my mothers house before we sell it off, and then take a vacation in Spain with my family during the first half of August - so running GtA during that time will be hard.

Unless someone else picks this up before, I will present a new topic (for september) in late August.

Until then, have a good summer!
 

Rensslaer

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Sorry I completely missed doing feedback this time around!

Looks like I missed some good stories, too.

It's for a good cause that I'm gone, I assure you! :D
 

Valdemar

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Hi Guys :)

Thanks for the very constructive feedback, even if sparse :p

I wasn't surprised by the grammar comments. Though I often can pass as native when speaking it can be harder in writing, especially since I tried the experient of writing in one tense which cramped the writing a bit in my own opinion. Usually I write what feels right, only correcting tense sparringly as can probably be seen in my AARs, in particullar the HOI one as that is more novel style than the EU2 and Free Company writing.

Anyhow, it was great to be back in writing, and I apologise for the odd missing word and mistype despite my attempts to proof read :)

V
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Good work, guys. Especially you, Alfred. So what about it ? Will we read more about Grigory ?
 

Avernite

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woohoo, I was right about the author of story 4! :p


can I ask, coz, what WAS the secret info? Or do you not know, either? :)
 

coz1

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woohoo, I was right about the author of story 4! :p


can I ask, coz, what WAS the secret info? Or do you not know, either? :)
They were a McGuffin, meant simply to provide urgency in their retreat (had I continued the story, they would have required explanation, but in such a short piece, it really didn't matter - might have kept you reading though. ;) ). I disagree with the sentiment that it was somehow not a retreat. It was at least a part of a retreat, the military portion occurring just previous to the post. I found this aspect more interesting and not as potentially typical. Frankly, once I added Sherman (more to give light to the time and place) I really no longer needed the spy papers, but found it interesting enough to leave in.

I would tend to agree with Yogi that it would have been better to be more upfront on the time and place considering that a niggling question like that might take a reader out of the flow of the story as they wondered about such. However, I usually like to allow readers to make up their own mind and it does appear everyone got the time and place without them needing it spelled out.

Yogi - what other cliches would you suggest were included? Frankly, I might disagree with you on "instinct" as it was something she'd come to do often - it was not thought so much as adrenaline carrying her to tell the others. And I just liked the tiny alliteration. ;)

I did not comment on the others as I didn't want to give away that I'd written one and to pop in suddenly might have done that. However each was a good read. I'm rather disappointed to see so few replies as it appeared this project was trucking right along. ::sigh::

I might also suggest to those doing the criticism...constructive does not automatically imply negative or what the author did wrong. What worked is also helpful. ;) The point is to find out what worked and what did not. That said, I appreciate the attempts made by those few that did venture some criticism. Thanks and congrats Valdemar! :)

Also, big thanks to The Yogi for continuing to run the good 'ole GtA! :D
 
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The Yogi

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Yogi - what other cliches would you suggest were included? Frankly, I might disagree with you on "instinct" as it was something she'd come to do often - it was not thought so much as adrenaline carrying her to tell the others. And I just liked the tiny alliteration. ;)
Well, how embarrasing. There was actually only two places where there was something that I percieved as clichés, and two does not "a few" make. But anyhow, the other place was where Martha dives "without thought" to examine the soldier's wound. Now I can certainly respect what you're saying about instinct. I just rubbed me the wrong way, but of course that doesn't mean it was wrong. Those were just not actions I associated with unconscious behaviour. Rather the opposite. But this comes down, I notice, how we percive people to tick, and I can certainly not say that you are wrong in your view of that.

coz1 said:
I might also suggest to those doing the criticism...constructive does not automatically imply negative or what the author did wrong. What worked is also helpful. The point is to find out what worked and what did not. That said, I appreciate the attempts made by those few that did venture some criticism. Thanks and congrats Valdemar!

Also, big thanks to The Yogi for continuing to run the good 'ole GtA!
Hmmm... I would like to think I did offer a good share of kudos to all works I critiqued. But you raise a good point. It's just as useful to point out what worked as what did not.

Anyway, Congrats also to Valdemar and thank you coz1!​
 
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The Yogi

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Ladies and Gentlemen, as I wrote before, I won't be able to run this during July and August. However, a brave soul has stepped forward to TEMPORARILY pick up the mantle (he put great emphasis on that).

So for July and August your Coordinator will be none other than

2COATS!


Welcome on board Sir! The floor is yours!​
 

coz1

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That's great news. Watch out, 2Coats...it'll suck you in. ;)

Yogi - I think I see what you are saying in terms of the phrases you mention...a tad over-used and perhaps you are right in that. Even had I meant to convey instinct, there are various other phrases to use or to convey the act. I'd tend to agree with you more on "without a thought" as I likely use it far too much to convey a selfless act. Good eye. :)
 
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Greetings oh esteemed writAARs. Welcome to another round of Guess-the-Author.

A gracious thank you for the introduction The Yogi. Tis an honour that you asked. I hope all goes smoothly and if I can do the job 1/2 as good as you, it should be enough. Enjoy your hiatus. And a big hearty thank you for the welcome-come-warning, coz1. :D

Ive followed this thread throughout its history, though not as much as I would have liked given RL time constraints. :sigh:

Okay.... so I understand that time is already ticking. Ive decided that July's subject is going to be : COUNTDOWN

As before, all stories need to be submitted to me by 15th July 2009.

The email to use for submission is : gtaaac [@] aol [dot] co [dot] uk.

There will be a restriction of three entries only, to be posted for critiquing, which will be carried out on the 15th of the month.

Until then its time to get writing....
 

Alfred Packer

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I'm pretty bummed at the responses this go round, especially since I actually liked my own offering, which is rare. I suppose the HOI3 contest sucked away the reading eyes, but oh well.

In response to those who didn't like it: that's okay, it was designed to be a story that had no real action - I was conciously trying to imitate Anton Chekov's style of short-story writing - and I knew it wouldn't appeal to everyone.

I will say this: GtA is a real unappreciated treasure. In three attempts, and following some harsh, but dead on, criticism from Stuckenschmidt, I have worked hard, applied the comments I've read and actually have him asking for more of my writing! A sure sign of progress!

I might do more of Grigory, but I fear that in so doing I will spoil what I have done. I'd have to figure out a way to sustain a narrative for him that lasts beyond a 10/30 minute timeframe or remains within that timeframe without becoming tedious, but I will see what I can do.
 

Stuckenschmidt

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In three attempts, and following some harsh, but dead on, criticism from Stuckenschmidt, I have worked hard, applied the comments I've read and actually have him asking for more of my writing! A sure sign of progress!

Alfred, I always thought, that a genius slumbers inside you (as we say in Germany). And now you managed to wake this lazy beast.

Endurance ftw. :D