Everyone cheered. Corporal Grathier grumbled. Private Exeter held the muzzle of the revolver to his mouth and blew, not so much to clear the smoke away but as a gesture of triumph. All six targets had a neat hole in their torsos.
Barnaby supposed it was to be expected. You don't just bring a weapon into a Marine battalion without finding some savant that could have been born wielding it. The 18 year old Exeter was twirling the thing now in stylish gunplay, to the amusement of the other soldiers. When he was done, he gave the weapon and the gunbelt back to Barnaby.
Grathier buckled the gunbelt on, emptied the six empty shells out of the cylinder one at a time and chambered a fresh six bullets in their place. The weapon didn't break apart unless you properly dismantled it, so you fed them one at a time through a feeding port. The footmen, marines, riflemen, cavalrymen and other bored, off-duty soldiers were exchanging fresh wagers in light of Exeter's performance.
Barnaby holstered the gun again and adjusted the belt. The six targets stood motionlessly with their neat holes in each. The closest was five yards, the furthest fifteen. He cracked his knuckles.
In a flash the revolver was in his hand. Barnaby fired the first round at the furthest target, held the trigger down and fanned the hammer five more times. All in all, it took perhaps a second and a half. Everyone cheered, moreso at the noise than him.
The far target had keyholed - both Grathier and Exeter had fired that one first, using their first and most accurate shot on the most challenging target. Three more had fallen within an inch of the first shot. One was high - between the collarbones and another was dead-on while Exeter had fallen low.
When the smoke cleared, an army sergeant inspected the shots.
"Private Exeter! Step forward!" he bellowed. The private did so, and the sergeant held his arm up like a boxing champion. Cheers, booing, exchanging money and heckles aimed at the referee sergeant. Like most uproars, someone somewhere said something funny and it simmered into a laugh. Barnaby shook hands with Exeter and promised to buy him a beer as soon as something that resembled alcohol officially arrived.
With that, the crowd dispersed. Two marines took out hatchets and practiced on a target as they walked away.
"Good show." Barnaby said. "Though the gunplay was a bit much."
"Says you, old man." Exeter replied. "If you could do it, you would have."
"If you had one of these," he countered. "Would you engrave something on it?"
"Hell yeah." the kid replied, bursting into an description of patterns of what would go where. Eventually Barnaby cut him off.
"Yeah, yeah." he said. "Showing off. Shit that doesn't help you when you need to shoot a person coming at you."
"I know." Exeter replied. He was a veteran of the Siege of Orgrimmar, Barnaby remembered. "But still. It pays to look good. You can shoot someone, or you can shoot someone and make the guy next to him think you did it effortlessly."
"That's what snappy drills are for."
They argued the importance of style back to their company bonfires. Since everything was still being constructed, it was tents and fires until the barracks was up. The other off-duty marines in their company were napping, eating, chatting, sparring, writing letters (or in the case of Private Marth, dictating as Andrews wrote), etcetera, etcetera. Some things never change. The two of them sat down for less than five seconds when something else was happening.
"Grathier!" someone shouted.
"Sir!" he shouted automatically, before he even checked who called him. He found Bartholomew waving him over and Sergeant Kashka at his side. Some kind of administration task probably needed doing.
"Sarge." he said when he arrived. Bartholomew handed him a wad of letters.
"I also need to know who was on picquet night before last." he said. "Before I write up tonight's list."
"Got you, sarge." Barnaby said as he skimmed the first letters. Private Kelly had one with a lipstick kiss on the front - he'd be reading that one out in front of everyone. "Anything else?"
"Yeah." Kashka said. "Stop costing me my money."
"Spoken like a true gambler." he retorted.
"Or I'll make Andrews expose your genitals to a hundred below zero."
Barnaby cringed. "Gee, I... thought you were going to go with fire there."
Kashka leaned in over him. "Fire doesn't let you to watch it suffer gangrene and fall off on its own accord."
He paused and looked to Bartholomew. "Can I go, sarge?"
"Go. Fuck off."
"Hundredbelowzero." she hissed with a chuckle, making Barnaby shudder again. Only Kashka could have made that as cringeworthy as it was - a womans voice completed it. Barnaby fled the two company sergeants, eager to take his mind off the word 'gangrene'. The letters were all to his half-company, so he only went to those four bonfires.
"Collier, Bram and Dunce!" he called. Collier and Abraham got their letters. The 16-year old Dunster whined about his nickname again first.
"And who was on picquet night before last?"
He got four hands and wrote their names down with his mechanoquill. It made him think of Dinpik, who was a more comforting thought than genital frostbite. Before he left, he took two letters to be mailed back off and went to the next fire. And so on.
"...and I will never forget when we made love by the stream." Kelly half-mumbled, monotone and red-faced. "When I felt you inside me, I was like a great fire..." Everyone was doubled over with laughter - men and women alike - including Barnaby. The love letter went for some time and as Barnaby left with his names and letters, Kelly was describing that time by the stream in greater detail for the others.
The last fire wasn't nearly as interesting and Barnaby returned with twenty names, including his own. Half the half-company. He also dropped off three letters to Bartholomew who promised to pass them on to the quartermaster.
This wasn't so bad, he thought. The bonfire setup reminded him of Wintergrasp and the early days of Krasarang, before Lion's Landing was up and running properly. The walls of Taylor's Garrison progressed rapidly, though it would be a week and a half at least before the barracks was ready. Before long, they'd be on lumpy matresses instead of sleeping bags.
On the way back to his own bonfire, he passed a new debate at Kelly's fire about men, women and who had the better orgasm. He took a lot of grief when he offered his input that was in fact women who had it better. How many men squeal, moan or outright scream as loud or as often as the average woman in bed?
He left to a flurry of boos and heckles from the majority-male crowd and returned to his fire. He had a letter to write.