Subject: The Foxes Covert, Skibbereen
So Prague was a total bust. We barely escaped the Church, and made our way to a rendez-vous Seán and his comrades assured us was safe and had transport. We had barely gone half a mile, stalking carefully through the back streets, when Mick collapsed in mid stride, with a stifled scream, holding his stomach. One of the Chance lads stormed towards him without a word and picked him up, the tall blondie fellow called J.P. Mick brushed it off, saying it was just a cramp but his eyes told a different story. That guy JP, I remember him from somewhere, it’ll come back to me soon. Our group arrived at a deserted farmhouse a few miles outside Prague.
We were all exhausted after our weary march. There was transport, a big munitions truck hidden in an old half burnt out barn. Raven moved off to talk on her Comm-Link about getting us some air transport out of here. The sun was beginning to set but it was still scorching hot. The flies and midges plagued us as we all made a defensive perimeter out of old farm fencing, trying to act as cool as possible. We didn’t know these guys so looking weak wasn’t an option. About two itchy hours later Claire and the big one they call Ratel appeared. He was carrying her over his shoulder. There was no sign of Liam. Claire was pale in shock, barely conscious as he laid her down on some straw in the barn. Before any of us could ask what had happened, he snapped shortly, “He got hit by a sniper, we had to leave him.” with a far off look in his eyes. We all stared at him in shock. Murph in his injured state made a go for Ratel but was soon pulled off by Ratel’s comrades. Raven reappeared saying she had found us a an old bomber that we could use that she’d pay for and “put it on our tab”. She was still trying to get hold of a pilot. “Not necessary, my Unit can fly anything” Ratel grunted, barely taking his eyes off Claire who hadn’t moved, although she was now awake. Mick was close at her side, his face as pale as his sisters. The look in their eyes is something I hope to never see again, like their very reason for being had been torn from them.
We were soon off to the private Civ airfield packed into the truck with the twins and Murph propped up near the cab, none of them saying anything, just staring vacantly ahead at nothing... The only reaction was when we discussed where to go now, and Claire said in a dead voice “Home.” Murph clarified her command in an angry fit and soon we were off. No one said anything for the rest of the trip to the airfield and the flight charted to a safe airfield in Cork.
Skibbereen, Cork, Ireland
Day 4,281, eRT 11.25
We broke into groups for the walk from the Finnish held airfield where we left our new plane we'd arrived in. I ended up with Seán and his Veritas comrades. Gad *Patish” Gaster, a short pale skinned bloke with neatly cut dark auburn hair, and another lanky guy with graying black hair and a french accent called Flinch, who seemed constantly on edge. The walk through the woods on the old back road was beautiful, with the sun shimmering through the dry leaves and the sounds of a gushing wee stream leading to a waterfall and on to a quick brook ahead. I’d been here before with the O’Malleys on leave from our old base in Muldoanich. Feels like years ago. But even the peaceful sounds couldn’t lift the sadness I was feeling. Liam had a rare talent. He'd lift your spirits even in the darkest times, with a joke, a wink or just the way he acted. Now he was gone forever. We were all feeling it, at least those lucky few who knew him well.
I could see by the way Seán was holding himself as he walked he was feeling the loss deeply himself, although it had been a long time since they had been together. I didn’t realise I had stopped until I felt a hand on my shoulder. “You okay?” the young soldier called Gad asked. He had walked back to where I had stopped. With a start I realised I had stopped near to one of Liam’s favorite places, a small pool formed by the river encircled by silver birches. The Fairy’s Nest he’d called it. I’d slagged him about it, but he responded in a cold and, to be honest, quite terrifying way. “The folk of Dannan are beyond real Jackdaw. So speak with respect, this place is holy.” I could see the other two walking slowly ahead not even aware we had stopped. “Nah, I'm grand. It's nothing.” I murmured as I stretched then continued walking on. I could have sworn I saw something moving down the trail. The shadow of a fox. “So... How did Seán come to be known as the Black Hound?” I asked him, to shake the vision of the fox from my mind. “It's nothing you need to concern yourself about.” he lashed at me, and walked on ahead to catch up with the other two. Cheeky so and so. In fairness he was probably just nervous. I took a last look down the trail and saw nothing but the same quiet forest before getting a move on to catch up with the rest of them.
Mick’s wife Sarah had been forewarned and the barn was set up with chairs and a small altar at the back. Erin, Thomas and Ciarán, Mick’s kids were unusually quiet, they had clearly been informed about what was happening here, and moved around helping with some of the local village Civs with the preparations. I looked around at the people gathered here, Claire and Mick were seated right in front, their shoulders hunched over and heads down. She was leaning heavily against Ratel who had seated himself next to her, while holding tightly onto her brother Mick’s hand. I could see both their shoulders shaking as they silently sobbed. Murph walked in and seated himself on the other side of Mick. His usual gruffness subdued as he sat there, his hands cradling his forehead.
Ratel’s comrades from Chance Unit appeared and sat down behind him. They didn’t look very comfortable. Seán nodded at me before silently moving to sit behind them next to JP, Ladybird and Muis from Chance, along with Gad and Flinch. Raven and her crew arrived, taking a seat near the back with two guys from E.L.F, Artjom and Artur. Murph silently moved up as Sarah seated herself beside Mick, putting an arm around his shoulders and talking quietly into his ear. His slumped posture didn’t change although he placed his head on her shoulder still sobbing quietly. Father de Quane arrived with some of his Partisans, his battered leather bible gripped firmly in his hands, and everyone not already seated settled themselves down.
He walked quietly up to the makeshift altar and stood there head bowed in prayer, before lifting himself out of his trance and looking at the people assembled.
“It’s devastating to lose a great man like the Blind Fox, Liam Ian O’Malley. Taken so early from us in a way that feels unfair and unjust. But such is God’s will. I did not know the man that well but from what I saw of him in our few interactions, he was a good, kind man, who could lift the spirits of anyone around him. He has gone onto a better place than this, but his memory will linger on with all of us and his fame as a soldier will outlive us all. Time will heal some of the pain you feel right now, but his memory will linger forever. To honour his memory you should take time to reflect on the good times you had with him, and honour his memory by living your life as he would have wished you to, not in continual grief but patient exaltation of the Lords mercy. He'd want us to go on, keep fighting, laughing and loving. The Lord is all sanctity and Liam is with him now. Let no man blaspheme his memory, we ask of you oh Lord. Let Liam’s life be an example, living it to the fullness that he always did. Let us pray”.
We all bowed our heads. The mumbling of the Lord's Prayer and the cooing of a nearby wood pigeon was all that could be heard. Father de Quanes voice traveled as he prayed in Latin, presumably for both Liam and those of us left behind grieving his loss. It went on for a long while before he finally lifted his head and spoke quietly again. The fiddler started playing a somber air with deft skill.
"At a time like this when we remember a great man like the Blind Fox Liam O'Malley it is difficult for me to ask this. But it is something myself and the Partisans of the Dublin Brigade at Liberty Hall really need and I know Liam a man who always went out of his way to help others especially Civs in trouble would understand. We are under siege from Goshawk Units and we have no help from Irish M.U’s. I ask your assistance in the name of the Blind Fox Liam O'Malley's glorious memory."
Silence met his request as he stared out at us, before he hung his head for a few minutes and then lifted it again to say “Is there anyone out there who’d wish to speak of him and his memory?” Everyone shifted in their seats uncomfortably, before there was a movement in front and Mick, the Silent Fox, stood up, patting down his scruffy army fatigues as though coming out of a daze. He walked slowly but with purpose to where Father de Quane stood. The chipboard altar. As he turned around we could see his eyes were fixed with white hot violence. His grief was radioactive. He pulled himself up straight and let his pale blue eyes roam over the people gathered. Before beginning to speak he coughed harshly. One of Father de Quanes Partisans offered him water but he denied it with a shake of his head. He nodded for a drink of whiskey and the blondie Chance lad J.P obliged him.
“Without the mortal remains of my dear brother, a comrade and friend to most of you here and even an adversary to some, it seems almost pointless and empty to have you gathered here today, but I thank you for gathering here all the same. My voice is nearly gone so I’ll make this brief. His absence is felt by all of us in our own hearts and the spectre of defeat and despair looms heavy over our thoughts. Liam loved the Summer. He was always the one to find a new stretch of woodland with meadows to play our games and boggy pools to cool off in. We'd go off adventuring…"
Mick closed his eyes for a moment, as if to remember all those youthful hijinks. He coughed even more harshly but regained his composure despite the help offered by everyone near him.
“Liam was a soldier that never failed in his duty. The notion of failure was almost alien to him. But as fine a soldier as he was it was often eclipsed by his fiercely loyal and humble nature as a simple, honest man. He never even wanted to fight… Sorry. He'd often remind me I was minutes younger than him. If ever I seemed too brooding or was acting too severely, he would often ill diagnose my attitude as simply being too boring, which to Liam was one of the greatest of all the sins of man. Liam never liked to take things seriously and our sister Claire, as well meaning and loving as she was to him would often try to change that. Like a mad woman screaming at the tide to roll backwards.”
His sister Claire gave him a withering look but it was made less intimidating by the slight smile playing on her lips.
“Relax! You know it's true. Liam loved her for it though. He had a keen sense of the ironic works of the grand and the humdrum and how often they worked as one and the same. Another man would be forgiven to resent what Liam had the pure patience to deeply admire. I’ve never met anyone who could hold two polar views as one with his wild, knowing and carefree sense of humour. I always pretended to be the one taking things seriously but...
We have people assembled here that would once have considered Liam an enemy, I can see you out there, uncomfortable. Sure you needn't be. Liam would find the notion of all of this hilarious. I'll honour his memory the best I can, by gathering together those who'd see evil and injustice crushed and swatted aside as we stride to help build a world that would have everyone free from fear and destitution. He knew all too well that in this world, his vision could only be carved out through force. He even left his medical studies to go unfinished. In some world far more glad than ours he's treating the sick and living the life he'd surely wish you'd all have for yourselves.
So let us endeavour to take that life we wish to live, the very life stolen from Liam. We've all suffered under Goshawks tyranny for too long and none more than the Civs who have no means of defending themselves or their families. I call on each and everyone one of ye assembled here to protect Father de Quanes cause in the name of the Tadgh Mac Allistars, Da'mor Espositos, Benji Doyles, Jasper Frasers and countless others that fought injustice as best they could and left behind a dream. A fertile dream my brother the Blind Fox, Liam O'Malley died alongside them for.
To all you ex-Goshawk soldiers who lived beneath Zagreb in desperate hiding, to Raven’s Crew and our E.L.F comrades who have fought in secret and out in the open. I ask you all to join us. Life springs from death and the loss of my brother Liam, tragic and wearying as it is should not be the breaking of us, rather the bonding as he’d have it himself. So I welcome any true warrior that would see Goshawk's rule torn down. So hail the noble fallen, hail Rasa Blank, reborn and rebaptised in it's goal to free the Civs of not only Liberty Hall but the countless other sites of righteous defiance worldwide! Hail to you my brother, the Blind Fox, Liam O'Malley! Rasa Blank abú! *cough* Hai- *cough* Hail to you my brother! I’ll miss you forever… Forward! Onwards to Liberty Hall!”
Everyone was on their feet in a frenzy roaring “Onwards to Liberty Hall!” As he finished, he started to say something more but nothing came out, his mouth was moving but there was no sound. Mick O’Malley, the Silent Fox was now truly silent, he’d destroyed his voice in his rising speech for his brother, our comrade the Blind Fox, Liam O’Malley. Looking around the room I could see fierce determination blazing in everyone's eyes. Something had shifted. We were off to war.
The handsome fiddler of Father de Quanes Dublin Brigade, the lithe Jackie Moore who had played at Steve and Ali's wedding stood up and began to play a tune I learned later was called “Oró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile.”
I could see young Seán arguing with his Unit comrades as they queried whether they were really going to storm a Goshawk base. “Of course we are! Are you cowards?! I'll go alone if needs be!” Big Ratel stepped in with his Unit who all had the same look of purpose about them. “You heard die Silent Fox. We go now!” Gad and Flinch looked humbled at first but they soon regained their resolve and guile. Seán or the Black Hound that he’d become started the march and the rest of us filed after him, followed by the fiddler Jackie of the Liberties and his bodhrán player, drilling the beat of our march. I could see Claire who had been so dispirited and despondent in her grief a short while ago, with the same fiery purpose in her eyes as she marched along out of the barn with her brother the Silent Fox Mick O’Malley by her side. We’re on the road to Dublin. We're marching across fields, bogs, forests and townland. G*d save those who’d try and stop us.
Joe "Jackdaw" Quigley, White Stag Unit, Rasa Blank
Created by Cat Sith & Sethesin