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Re: Rewards

Post by Julen on

Julen smiled, more amused than offended by Hatton’s comment about the rarity of finding exceptional qualities in the common man. After all, when he’d first met Aorle, Julen himself was quite class conscious. Aorle tried to discourage that outlook, but it took direct exposure to Phelan’s malicious and petty behavior before Julen truly accepted that noble blood didn’t necessarily guarantee a noble soul. And it took fighting beside his new comrades to realize just how ‘exceptional’ the common man could be.

“Thank you for the compliment.” Julen kept his tone friendly as he shook Hatton’s hand. He liked the new arrival, and didn’t want to lecture or scold him. Clearly, Hatton had his heart in the right place, and that mattered more than issues of rank. But it would be an insult to Julen’s fellow Lightswords if he let the comment pass completely unchallenged. “However, I think you’ll find that courage and integrity are not as rare as you might think. Other than Aorle and Triarius, none of us here are noble born, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better band of men to stand beside you. Er, band of men and a woman, that is.” Hastily correcting himself, Julen cast a nervous glance over his shoulder. But Thetta was well out of earshot.

Hatton’s question about what foes they might fight was an easy one to answer. “Well, a couple of nights ago, Aorle battled two demons. The first, he slew outright. The second, he was only able to drive away, but he did save the girl it intended to prey on. Then, last night, our hall was invaded by a group of deserters and their allies, who wished to repay Aorle for calling them cowards. Their corpses now feed the crows. Tomorrow, as you know, we will strike a blow against Snyde. After his evil business has been sufficiently crippled, we plan on journeying to my home village. A number of unscrupulous mercenaries seem to be biding their time there, bullying the local citizens, and demanding things they have no right to take. That can’t be allowed to continue.” Finally, Julen was forced to pause for breath. When he did so, he noticed the look on Hatton’s face, and it made his smile blossom into a wide grin. “I told you, didn’t I? Never a dull moment around here.”

“As for how I became a warrior, I’m afraid that’s a less interesting tale. After hardship struck my farm, I came to Marn in search of work, where I met Aorle. Talking with him...I don’t know how to explain it, really. He gave something back to me. He made me want to do something good. He made me believe that I could. Despite having no background in such things, I pledged my service to him. And, when Aorle saw that my sincerity and my need were both great, he accepted me. Since then, he’s taught me to fight. And taught me a great deal besides that.” Julen chuckled. “Actually, on that first night, I volunteered to be his squire. But don’t worry. It was just something I remembered from my mother’s stories, not a position that I truly understood. You’ll do a much better job of filling the role than I would.”

“And you, Hatton? What led you down your current path?”

Out of respect for the dead, Julen lowered his eyes when Hatton mentioned his previous master falling in battle. Julen couldn’t imagine how he would feel if Aorle were to be slain. To lose his teacher, his leader, his closest friend -- it couldn’t be anything except devastating. Perhaps that was why a part of Julen tried so hard to think of his friend as invincible. “I’m sorry to hear about your master. What happened?”

After giving Hatton time to reply, Julen moved on to the rest of the squire’s inquiry. “I don’t doubt that Aorle is aware of your skill. He will not let you stand idle for long. As for what you can do to impress him, I may not be the best man to answer that. He’s told you that he holds me in high esteem, and yet I’ve stumbled as often as I’ve succeeded.” Julen thought of his fit of temper during the training, his rashness when rushing to help Kaydee, and his recent thirst for vengeance. “Telling someone to ‘always strive to do good’ sounds like very obvious advice. But it’s all that I can offer you.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Rewards

Post by Lightswords on

So three among them were of the Highborn, rather than the lord alone, this boded well for such a gathering of warriors. As for the others, they were men-at-arms, professional soldiers with a lineage of service which earned their station. Far from ordinary peasants and tradesmen. "As you say, Julen, there are few better comrades to be found, so I would call them anything but common."

Vanquishing demons was indeed a worthy deed, a feat of prowess in battle to be celebrated, yet these other foes were unlike anything he ever expected a knight to face. Normally knights were expected to fight foul beasts of many forms, ravening trolls and barbarian hordes, the rivals of their lords and kings to uphold the supremacy of the Crown. With these foes, each battle was an act of kindness and charity, as if injustice was to be fought wherever it was found. Unsure what to make of this surprise, Hatton responded only with a simple "I see."

While farmer was an unsuitable candidate for a potential squire, there was no presumption in the yeoman, who simply offered to serve as he thought was best. Now he had learned during his time of service. Indeed it had brought the betterment of the man.

"I was a fourth son." Hatton explained. "Among families of high birth, later sons are schooled to be either Crown knights or priests. I began as a page at seven, then became a squire at fourteen, in preparation for a life of knighthood. Imagine the life of Sir Aorle must have been much the same."

Now for the sensitive part... "My lord fell in circumstances far too like what will happen tomorrow. My lord wished that I guard prisoners for him while he went off to fight. He never returned." For a moment Hatton's gaze faltered, he was never overly attatched to his lord, who would have thought such a close bond unseemly, but he held his duty to the man sacred. "I always felt I let my lord down by not being there. A mistake I wish not to make again."

Well, knowing what he did, the Crown Squire resolved to better serve his lord as he could from here, and that meant assisting in the training as effectively as possible. "Good advice, thank you. I believe service to Sir Aorle will take some getting used to. He is unlike other lords I suspect." Experiencing a fresh flow of resolve, Hatton chose to make the most of it. "Shall we get ready for training? If I cannot be alongside Aorle tomorrow, I can help everyone be as ready as possible."

Re: Rewards

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Rollick had done very well.

Each fighter worked well with the others, forming ranks on command without delay, and breaking off into pairs able to support each other when dealing with tight quarters. There was no confusion regarding who would take what positions when needing to act, simply a natural readiness to defend each other, a trust of where the comrades would be.

Working with the layout of the area, there was no room for formations, what they could do instead was control the avenues of attack. Having men here further ahead, would serve as an earlier choke point than the point immediately behind where the enemy could split up and attack from two different angles, and that position could be more easily supported to rotate warriors to better hold that position against weariness and wounds.

Although there was not the same open space which enabled formations or granted freedom of position on the battlefield, the confined area did strengthen one advantage - these were armsmen, professional fighters with superior training and equipment, expecting to fight against larger groups of thugs.

On that note, they practiced fighting against clubs and knives, with minimal use of spears, working with the tight quarters they expected. Some, like Thetta, would bring their spears, but the rest were focusing on their swords and daggers.

Taking on the roles of their opponents for this exercise were those who would be staying at the base. This made simulated battle more realistic, although their fellow Lightswords were clearly better fighters than mere brutes whose trade was to prey on the helpless. Beating defenceless girls was hardly combat. On the morrow the thugs would face warriors.

Intended strategies were simple enough, taking a total of less than two hours. By the end, they were ready to fight both indoors and in the alleyways, using the same basic system as before. Ambush tactics were also decided. Snyde liked to use those dividers to hide enforcers, he may regret that strategy soon enough. First move on the way in would be to fan out and close off the avenues of ambush from that cover, afterwards, they would use that cover for themselves.

One interesting development of the day is that is tested Hatton's skill with weapons, who over the course of the evening demonstrated control over a blade equal to Aorle's own, although the squire was defeated in these contests of arms by Aorle moving the battle away from a direct contest of swordplay and supplementing his weapon use with trips or holds. Initially, Hatton was not pleased to see such behaviour from a knight, although he grudgingly accepted that the terms of this battle did not forbid such tactics, and the presence of superior arms and armour was no different.

Satisfied that the combat on the morrow would favour them, Aorle ordered another meal be prepared for the warriors, and then determined watches. Those joining the raid would take half watches if at all, as they were to be fully rested when marching out at dawn.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Rewards

Post by Julen on

Julen listened with interest while Hatton described the circumstances which led him to become a knight. However, when Hatton compared his path to Aorle’s, Julen couldn’t resist adding a comment. “Much the same as yours, yes. Although I believe that Aorle’s has had a few more...detours.” He was thinking of the wicked guard captain that Aorle had stood up to, as well as other times that Aorle’s principles had caused him to clash with his family and the ruling class of his homeland.

A lot was explained by Hatton’s tale about his lord’s death, especially Hatton’s own reluctance to remain behind tomorrow. Julen felt for the man. He wanted to pat Hatton on the shoulder and tell him that he’d done the right thing, that the fall of his lord hadn’t been his fault. But who am I to offer consul? Me, who’s been a warrior for barely two weeks? Wouldn’t such reassurances reek of arrogance and condescension? Still, it seemed like something needed to be said. “Despite not being at your lord’s side during the battle, you were an important part of his plan. If those prisoners had escaped, they would have done further harm, and I’m sure that’s not what he wanted. Sometimes we cannot always be where we wish to be.” Julen remembered the long months that he’d spent away from Rosemary. “Sometimes our duty lies elsewhere.”

“There are many people in this compound who will require your protection while we fight Snyde. Among them, my wife.” Julen paused a moment to let that sink in, to let Hatton realize the great trust Julen was placing in him. Then he voiced a final point. “And do not worry too much about Aorle returning tomorrow. He will not fall while any of us still stand.”

Of course, words were not going to help prepare them for the coming battle -- a fact which Hatton seemed well aware of. With a smile and a nod, Julen accepted his suggestion that they get on with the training.

The practice itself proved quite enlightening. Julen learned much about things he should have noticed, defenses he could have utilized, and opportunities he could have seized. Mostly, though, it reinforced how much less painful his own confrontation with Snyde would have been if he’d taken the precaution of bringing reinforcements. Silently, Julen vowed not to make the same mistake again.

Afterwards, Julen ate his meal with Rosemary. She’d already given Martin back to Uluki -- who, Julen was relieved to learn, had returned safely from her errand. So it was only the two of them. There were, Julen supposed, a great many important things that he could discuss with his wife. The oath he’d sworn to Aorle. The pending attack on Snyde. But they’d spent so much time on important issues recently. For once, it was nice to talk about small things: the gambeson she’d finished mending for Rollick, the funny thing that Krarug had said to her, some shared memories about their life together in Shim. Marriage, Julen realized, was a lot like a house. The big issues were the foundation, the support that kept it from collapsing. But the little things were the decorations, the touches that personalized it, that made it a home instead of just a house. The things that made it a place you wanted to come back to, time and time again.

And, as Julen led Rosemary back upstairs to their room, he felt so glad that Aorle had doused his desire for vengeance. Hands that had ever committed a single act of deliberate cruelty did not deserve to touch her, not even if they were his own hands. And that was a pleasure that Julen did not intend to lose.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Rewards

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Come dawn, and the warriors made ready. Again, meals were taken before they set off. One priority Aorle seemed very insistant of was everyone having a square meal inside them before he asked of them anything. After that, armour was donned and blades honed to a wicked edge.

Before donning all his armour, Aorle stretched out his thick muscles. Habit, the closest he would ever come to a nervous twitch. Eagerness and anticipation were betrayed in the motions, and the stretches did wonders to wring out the tension in his body.

Casual and confident farewells were bid to the men, and directions were reconfirmed. Crude maps and directions were noted down as a reserve plan. With that finally done, he left instructions with Sean and Ian, that they attend the needs of the other refugees here in his absence. From what Aorle saw, the berms and trenches were almost done, by the morrow, they could begin upgrading them into true ramparts.

Garbed in full armour, Aorle began the march out, looking forward to a chance to clash blade with this deceitful foe. Hiding, plotting, scheming, all lacked the honest joy of facing an enemy in direct combat. The hour was early and many refugees were still taking their nights rest, so the Shining One made sure to bring them a short distance before addressing the warriors beside him.

"Remember this, Lightswords. We face a villain who has profitted from the sweat and sorrow of innocents for too long. It ends here! We find him, and his dark ways end with his life. Should he hide, the corrupt business he commands will be brought crashing down around his ears. Den by den, structure by structure. There will be more of his victims in need of our aid, we now have shelter to offer them. Take all you wish from his dens, but bring the people to safety. Such evil works will be unmade. Utterly. We shall make sure of it."

With that declaration, he resumed his march, striding more purposefully than before.

To the shantytown. There was evil to slay.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.


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