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Preparations For Battle

Preparations For Battle

Post by Julen on

“Serjeant? Really?” Julen experienced a burst of pride as he trotted along beside Arjen. When he’d asked about rank, he’d assumed that Railtus would tell him he was at the bottom of the pecking order, destined to fetch water and mend armor for the more experienced warriors. Now, Julen felt a little sorry that he hadn’t raised the subject in front of Rosemary. “You’d really consider me for such a position?”

Of course, apprehension quickly followed pride. Julen had never envisioned himself giving orders to others. Then again, he’d never envisioned himself killing a man in armed combat, and he’d turned out to be disturbingly good at that. “Well, not right away,” he amended, more to reassure himself than to agree with Railtus. “In time. When I’m ready.”

After that glimpse of his possible future, Julen fell silent while he listened to Railtus outline plans for salvaging metal to make improved armor.

“If you’d like, I could talk to the people in the shantytown,” Julen volunteered, glad that last night’s mission had given him a way to help Railtus. “I could go there tonight, after we finishing training, and ask for volunteers to search the scrap yard for us. I think they might trust me.” Julen didn’t say exactly why he thought they might trust him, and he hoped Railtus wouldn’t be curious enough to ask.

Upon arriving at the warehouse, Julen returned Krarug’s grunt with a smile and cheerful wave. Already, the orc seemed far less monstrous to him, although still quite imposing in appearance.

While Railtus gestured to the three barrel lids, Julen removed his leather gloves, dropping them on the floor by his feet, and drew an arrow from the quiver. Pointing the bow downward, he nocked the arrow, ensuring that its cock feather was perpendicular to the bow. Then he placed three fingers on the bowstring. The feel of it resting in the grooves of their first joints stirred a flutter of nearly forgotten images, and Julen shut his eyes to keep the memories from escaping. For a moment, he was back in the forest near Shim, listening to his father patiently explain how to do this. So long ago. Back before there’d been any expectation that he would one day use what he’d learned to shoot something more than a bit of wild game for the dinner table.

Resolutely, Julen opened his eyes and raised the bow, drawing back on its string at the same time. Then he took aim at the center lid. This was where bow hunting and combat archery parted ways. Since the object of the former was to kill an animal so quickly it had no chance to flee, bow hunting emphasized stealth, creeping close to the target before risking a shot. Julen had never attempted to hit something as far away as the barrel lid. Also, he usually fired from a crouching position, so his upright stance was a bit awkward. Struggling against these difficulties, Julen released the bowstring. With a twang, it snapped forward, hurling the arrow toward its target, which it missed by several inches.

“Sorry,” Julen apologized, lowering the bow. “It’s been awhile.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Meeting the apology was a shrug. "Try again." he instructed, "Begin from ten paces," cutting down the distance to something more suitable. "When you are confident with the range, step back once."

Repositioning gave the chance to answer something from before. "And of course I plan on making you a serjeant. You can be trusted, and you are sure to be careful with the lives of men. And you fight to the standard of a full armsman, a little more experience and you would be sought after as a professional fighter. You have four trophy rings, and have slain three in one battle, a feat like that earns a name among warriors." Said by the man who fought off eight.

"Now draw your bow and try again. I need you ready for any post. Archers will be kept too far away from the main battle for me to command directly, so I need someone I can leave with them to take command." It was perhaps pressure, but also a compliment. A simple display of faith in someone, to grant them faith in themselves.

Archery started calmly, allowing Julen chance to adjust at his own pace and make what progress he may. This progress was carefully monitored, and what pointers that may be were offered. Following that relaxed procedings, the next hour featured a contribution from Krarug. Bellowing.

Firing at a stationary target was a simple matter of technique and aim, drawing on the bowstring and releasing arrows at the target. In battle, such a method was rarely possible. The distance required to be fully removed from the battle required indirect fire, in which the arrow was launched up into the air in order to plummet towards the enemy. Firing into combat was different, as the enemy was much closer, close enough for the ferocity of the attack to travel in waves buffeting the nerves of the archers. It was something to be feared.

So what better to simulate the noise and panic of battle than the nearby presence of a roaring orc?

After a few hours of training, including one very noisy hour, it was time to discern the results.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

“But they won’t listen to me,” Julen protested, after Railtus mentioned putting him in command of the archers. “I’m just a...”

Julen trailed off as he remembered his visit to the shantytown, when some of its residents tried stealing bread from their fellows. Those people wouldn’t have listened to a simple farmer. But they listened to a warrior with his hand on his sword and an irritated glint in his eyes. Everything Railtus had said was true -- he’d trained, fought, triumphed. So why did some part of him still resist the idea of what he was becoming? Was he afraid that every step toward the warrior was an irrevocable step away from the farmer, and that hands once stained in blood could never again coax life from the earth?

Absently, Julen brushed his fingers against the pouch of dirt that hung from his belt, searching for some reassurance there. But comfort didn’t come from that reminder of his old life. Instead, it came from glancing at Railtus, standing patiently beside him. With his ability to heal, Railtus could give life more effectively than Julen had ever been able to. And yet, he was also a warrior. The two things were not mutually exclusive. They simply required a duality that Julen was still struggling with.

“No,” Julen conceded. “I guess I’m not just a farmer anymore. And maybe they will listen to me, once I know what to tell them.”

As Railtus had instructed, Julen counted off ten paces from the central barrel lid. Then, he nocked another arrow, and drew the bowstring back until his hand rested lightly against the side of his chin. At this distance, Julen found it much easier to sight his target. When he again released the bowstring, the arrow sped smoothly through the air, striking the lid’s edge.

After some pointers from Railtus, Julen even managed to assume the proper stance, with his body perpendicular to the target and his feet spaced a shoulder-width apart. The position still didn’t feel entirely natural, and sometimes Julen caught himself beginning to drop into a crouch. But progress was made. By the end of the first hour, Julen had increased his distance from the barrel lid to fifteen paces.

When Railtus spoke a few words to Krarug, Julen didn’t pay much attention, assuming that his friend was simply giving the orc further instructions about arranging the crates. Focusing on his practice, he started to sight another shot. However, when Krarug let out a blood-curdling bellow, the sound startled Julen so much that he jerked the bow upward and lost his grip on its string, firing an arrow into the warehouse ceiling. Even after realizing what had happened, it took Julen a moment to regain his composure.

“Incase we get attacked from above,” Julen explained, gesturing upward at the stray arrow. He couldn’t help feeling a little foolish at having been caught off guard by the equivalent of someone sneaking up behind him and yelling ‘Boo!’

Continued roaring from Krarug never again threw Julen’s aim off that badly, but it certainly proved unsettling. During the next hour of simulated battle noise, Julen only managed to take one further step back from the target, and when the sound finally ended, his frayed nerves demanded a short break.

With just the two of them in the warehouse -- not counting Krarug, who didn’t speak the language -- it seemed like a good moment to ask something Julen had been wondering about. “Back in Shim, following the battle with the mercenaries, I talked to Rosemary’s father. And after I did, you warned me to be careful of him because his soul carried a heavy taint. How did you know that? You’d never met him before, so you can’t have recognized him. And you were too far away to hear what we were saying.”

Raising his bow, Julen prepared to continue practicing while he awaited Railtus’s reply.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Simply answered, although it seemed as if they had spoken of this before. "Spiritual corruption is as plain to my sight as colour and light is to you. Remember when I told you how I experienced the presence of evil? The cries of their victims. Sometimes I recognise the voices." A dreadfully vivid reminder of how real the suffering was, how meaningful the presence of evil could be. How could one do less than hate evil when always confronted with the sorrow it caused?

Victims. That brought up a further point. "Before you wonder, those slain on the field of battle are not victims, not if the cause is just. Have no doubts about your current course, my friend." It made sense that a man who had left four corpses behind him to hold doubts on the subject.

As the bow was raised, Krarug stepped forth and asked, "Again?" The word came out hesitantly, as if in doubt. Still, he was speaking the local tongue, if brokenly.

"No, thank you, Krarug. Not right now."

The green mass of muscle and flesh nodded, then stepped back to sit on one of the far sturdier crates. Yet that was reminder to the Sword of Heaven. "We have been at this three hours. Stop and eat. There are arrangements for me to make and Arjen is getting restless. Use now to speak while I am gone." With that, he turned to Krarug, "You need the practice."

"Farewell for now, I should be but scant hours." Arjen was coming before even called, knowing on instinct what was next to come. The destrier welcomed his master onto the saddle, feeling almost pointless when the man was on foot. It reared back enthusiastically, pawing the air with his fur-locked hooves, and took off in a swift burst.

Perhaps today was the first time that he had been seen without steel armour. From horseback, the difference in garb was highlighted, as if a rare contrast with his usual image of the iconic knight.

"Take food." invited Krarug, setting aside rations of dark peasant bread and biscuits, crackers, parched corn, nuts and a venison jerkey. A tarp or sheet on the ground made the event resemble a bizarre picnic. The Weapon of Flesh took some food for himself, having enough packed rations to go around.

"Talk, slow, for me." The request was made in an animal-like voice more suited to roaring than speaking. The words were broken, as if taking concentration and struggle to form each crude sentance.

"How you come to serve Aorle?" By the glance cast towards the exit in the fence, it was clear who he was speaking of, although by an unfamiliar name.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

Julen didn’t remember any previous mention of Railtus’s ability to see spiritual corruption. But then, ever since meeting the Angelsworn, a great deal of information had been pushed into Julen’s head, and he was perfectly willing to concede some of it might have leaked out, like stray bits of cotton forced through the seams of an overstuffed toy. Railtus’s words made Julen freshly aware of the burden his friend carried. The world was a hard enough place to walk through when you could hear the cries of those it was still possible to help. But to hear the cries of those who had already been wronged, whose pain you could do nothing to prevent, who were perhaps long lost or dead...that seemed more than any human should have to endure.

Of course, Julen reminded himself, Railtus was not strictly human. And it certainly explained the Angelsworn’s bursts of righteous fury. If Julen heard Rosemary’s cries of pain every time he encountered her father, he would undoubtedly punch the man in the face.

Railtus’s assurance that the men Julen had killed in battle were not adding their voices to the din came as welcome news. “Thank you. I try not to have doubts. I know you would not lead me down an unworthy path.”

When Krarug spoke a word in the local language, Julen couldn’t repress his look of surprise. He wondered if the orc had always been able to speak a little, but been too unsure to attempt it until now, or if he’d just started to pick up a bit. Either way, it was a good thing. Julen hated to think of Krarug on his own in Marn, unable to explain himself, unable to keep a bad situation from escalating. Too many men would see him and make the same assumption Julen had first made. For that reason, Julen thought Railtus’s suggestion of helping Krarug practice made excellent sense. Besides, Julen was curious by nature, and he wanted to learn more about his new ally.

“Safe travels!” Julen called after Railtus, waving to his friend as he departed.

Then, Julen turned his attention to Krarug. The orc’s offer to share food struck him as oddly touching. “Thank you. Please take some of mine.” Sitting down across from Krarug, Julen placed his own lunch -- half a loaf of potato bread and a jar of Rosemary’s cherry jelly -- on the tarp.

Krarug’s inquiry about Julen’s history with Railtus seemed like an excellent place to begin helping the orc improve his conversation. Speaking slowly and clearly, Julen tried express himself as simply as possible. “Tell me if you want me to repeat anything. And if I use a word you don’t understand, please ask. I’ll try to explain.”

“I have a farm in Shim. Shim is the village where we first met. And Rosemary, the woman you helped protect, is my wife.” Julen wasn’t sure that the orc would understand the concept of a wife. However, changing the term to ‘mate’ seemed like an insult, as if Krarug could only be expected to comprehend things on their most primal, bestial level. “But things went badly. My farm couldn’t earn enough money to support us. So, I came to Marn, looking for work. Marn is the city we’re in now.”

At this point in the story, Julen hesitated. He hated to lie. But Railtus had cautioned him against telling Rosemary the full truth, so he’d surely frown on sharing all the details with Krarug. “I worked hard. But things kept going wrong, and I was getting desperate. That’s when I met Railtus. He could see that I was in trouble. There were others who could have served him better, but because I needed help, he offered to hire and train me. Now, thanks to him, I and Rosemary have more than enough money.”

Having finished the tale, Julen felt free to ask a question of his own. “Krarug? Earlier, when you asked me how I came to serve him, you said ‘Aorle’. He’s always told me that his name is Railtus Anstrun. Is ‘Aorle’ an orcish term for something?”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

In the isolation of an abandoned warehouse in a deserted block of the district, Krarug produced a set of tusks in a deformed parody of a smile, and accepted a piece of the potato bread. Taking the bread with such huge hands claimed a far larger piece than was probably intended to be offered, but the huscarl did not seem conscious of his error.

So it was a good thing that Krarug was sharing.


Of course, the irony was completely unnoticed. After that, Krarug followed the conversation by sight as much as hearing, staring intently at Julen's speaking lips. It was probably unnerving to have those fierce and beady eyes locked onto one's face, by something so large, and so close.

Heavy green lips mouthed the words at just above silence, attempting to confirm them in mind. Proceding slowly, there were several more words in need of explaining. Farm, support, please, desperate, trouble & better. The focus of his language was in basic commands, crude identifiers, and brute tasks. Killing and obedience were the purpose of the living weapons.

Krarug was never intended to be a person, a comrade, a friend. He was not brought into the world for the sake of love or future, he was spawned so he could bring his maker glory through his death.

Still, some ideals remained, clear through the disappointment shown on the tusked features. "So you serve for wealth?" As of yet, he had no means to read the signs of the bonds of loyalty that had been formed.

"Aorle name, like Railtus." uttered Krarug in a voice like scraping stone, "Said Railtus name known here. We not speak good enough to know why." A sign that Railtus, Aorle, whatever, was less than fluent in orcish.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

When Krarug tore off a huge hunk of potato bread, Julen raised his eyebrow and made a mental note to tell Effie that her baked goods had proved to be very popular with the orcish segment of Marn’s population. But he didn’t begrudge his comrade the food. Krarug had risked his life for Rosemary’s sake. To repay that debt, Julen would have gladly surrendered his lunches until the end of time. Fortunately, with the food Krarug had brought, there was still plenty to go around.

“Understand...” Julen struggled to formulate a definition, despite the distraction of having Krarug’s eyes fixed on him with unblinking intensity. In addition to the unnerving stare, Krarug’s breath was proving to be something really special, reminding Julen of compost steaming in the hot summer sun. “To understand something is to know it. Like you know my name is Julen, or you know how to use your mace.”

“Farm... A farm is where I grow food.” Getting into the spirit of things, Julen mimed the act of digging in the dirt, planting a seed, and being rewarded with a stalk sprouting from the ground. Julen didn’t want to overwhelm the poor orc by reciting a full list of his crops and animals. But a few specifics, relating to the items on hand, might help comprehension. “I grow corn. Corn is this.” Julen gestured to the parched grain Krarug had set out. “I also grow wheat. Wheat is used to make bread.”

While pondering the next word, Julen paused long enough to sample a piece of the venison jerky. Chewing its tough, salty meat gave him plenty of time for considering his explanation. “Support... To provide for. When I serve the farm, it grows the food that Rosemary and I need to survive. Just as, while you serve Railtus, he’ll make sure you always have food and shelter. He supports you.”

“Please...” That was a more abstract idea, and therefore harder to explain. Perhaps it would be better to simply focus on the role the word played in social interactions. “Sometimes, if I want something of you, I’ll say ‘please’. When I said it while asking you to share my food, I meant that it would make me happy if you did. Unlike an order, which must be followed, ‘please’ means that you have a choice.”

Julen wondered if Krarug would ask him what ‘choice’ meant. From what Railtus had told him, Julen gathered that the orc’s creators never intended for him to have any understanding of that word. But if Krarug had been brought into the world for no greater purpose than to kill and die, it only made Julen all the more determined to show him that life could offer better pleasures. After all, if Julen’s experience with Railtus had taught him anything, it was that people could take hold of their destiny and become so much more than they ever imagined.

“Desperate... To be in danger. To be scared. To be one step away from losing everything. When I was surrounded by those mercenaries, fighting for my life, I was desperate.”

“Trouble... Trouble is when something bad happens. When something goes wrong. Trouble is what makes people desperate.” Julen smiled, pleased that he’d managed to work a previous concept into his latest definition. He was beginning to enjoy this game. A bit too much, perhaps. Just in time, Julen realized that his enthusiasm had caused him to momentarily forget about speaking gradually for Krarug’s benefit. Apologetically, he once more slowed down his words. “If I got badly hurt during a battle, I’d be in trouble.”

And finally... “Better. That can mean a lot of things. When I said that Railtus could have found someone better, I meant someone more skilled in fighting.” Julen gestured at his weapon belt, which he’d unbuckled before sitting down with Krarug. “Before I met Railtus, I’d never used a sword, or a shield, or armor. He had to teach me everything.”

Julen couldn’t blame Krarug for being disappointed by the news that it was money which first drove Julen to serve Railtus. Not the noblest motive. Especially when language barriers kept Julen from adequately explaining the difference between wanting to get rich from plunder and simply wanting to earn enough bishani to provide for his wife. And as for the other reasons -- the way it had felt so instantly right, the loyalty that had blossomed in such a short time, the cause which was beginning to become his own -- those were things he could barely have explained to his own wife, had she asked him. So he could only answer Krarug with an embarrassed shrug. “I need money. Without money, both Rosemary and I starve.”

“Railtus is the name his father gave him.” Julen suspected that, somewhere within this duality of names, was a significant insight into something important. But he wasn’t sure if he and Krarug would be able to communicate clearly enough to reach it. “Why do you call him Aorle?”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

"Hurrumm." grunted Krarug, "Tell good. Thank you." Giving thanks was a concept that he was familiar with, after freeing the freed slaves long ago. Strangely, he never knew slavery to be an evil, since his only idea of freedom was confusion and loneliness, having no direction. He could never resent the thought of being prisoner until he could act of his own will.

There was a reason his kin were spawned to be not so bright.

An evil he did recognise was cruelty, and that sight had motivated him to rebel. That he was growing beyond masters was lost on him when he made that choice, all he saw was the cruelty, and all he knew was that it was wrong. There was no reason, no sophistocation, only that simple truth. This was wrong.

Even good food was a surprise, as so often he was simply tossed hunks of rotten meat or handed the kills of battle to feast upon. It seemed strange that he would be provided for so well, as no one had a reason to give more than was needed. So long as food was plentiful, he would grow strong. Of course, his body had adapted to this, burning fat even when food was at hand. That gave him the sugar-fruit smell on his breath that for another would be a sign of a body betraying itself.

"So Aorle supp-ort you and Ro-se-mare-ey." Those words were more difficult, taking obvious effort. "That why you serve him." That he better understood. In a way, Krarug was still wrapping his head around the concept that his comrades would need a reason to fight at all. Again, he obeyed, he fought, he killed, and he would die.

Yet both his new... lord - he was not allowed to call the man 'master' - and Julen were showing him that service could be mutual, that he was owed his food and shelter. They seemed to feel that they owed him for his obedience, for his service. The Dragonsons raided for their food, hunting and living as brigands as well as oversized locusts that would gleefully chew the bark from trees. For another to hold him so valueable as to care for his well-being, that was...


Krarug had only felt special once before. There was bloodlust, and there was the gratification of violence, but none of that made him important once the carnage was over. There was this, and the slaves he had rescued. The metal-clad men who had slain his master and fought against him, knights they were called, they knew this feeling from their deeds.

And it was worth pursueing.

Actually the question confused Krarug slightly. He knew what a father was, there were Dragonsons who had come before, and young even, but the young were not named. Names were only important when one was part of the heirarchy, or when dealing with the pink-skins. Mostly they were just a nameless horde.

Although there was probably a point. A name given from the creator could not be challenged, maybe it was the same with fathers? All he knew was the manfolk had names.

"He say Aorle name twice-won." answered Krarug, "Must be important."

After all, he won it twice.

There was logic.

My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

“Yes. That’s right.” Julen grinned, happy at seeing demonstrable progress in his efforts to expand Krarug’s grasp of the local tongue. “Railtus supports Rosemary and me. That’s exactly right.”

Well, technically Railtus supported Julen, and Julen supported Rosemary. There was a small distinction there, since Rosemary didn’t directly receive wages. But ultimately, the money did originate from Railtus, so what Krarug had said was close enough to the truth. Julen decided to avoid confusing the orc with minor details. Especially since those minor details probably only mattered to him, and to his own pride.

Unfortunately, the next words that Krarug spoke were far from clear, bending Julen’s mouth into a frown when he heard them. “Twice-won? He said Aorle was a name he won twice?” Julen had no idea what that meant. And he couldn’t understand why Railtus chose to impart this information to Krarug, but not to him. Perhaps the orc had misunderstood something else Railtus said? After all, it seemed clear from Krarug’s earlier remark that Railtus didn’t speak orcish with perfect fluency. Still, how do you start out with ‘Hi, my name is Railtus Anstrun’ and end up with ‘Hi, my twice-won name is Aorle’?

In his gut, Julen suspected that this new name had something to do with Railtus’s angelic nature. And it bothered him. It bothered him the same way that he was bothered by each step Railtus took away from being fully mortal. It bothered him because he still didn’t truly understand where that journey might take them both. Would he become obsolete? What use could an angel have for something as weak and faulted as a man? Was it possible for him to remain friends with a being he might no longer be able to even comprehend? When Railtus told him about the impending transformation, Julen had assumed it would take many, many years. Now, between the amber light that had recently appeared in Railtus’s eyes and this strange new name, things seemed to be happening very fast. Faster than Julen felt entirely comfortable with.

But whatever answers those questions might eventually bring, it was clear that Krarug didn’t have them. So Julen let the subject drop. Instead, he went back to making simple small talk, while he and the orc finished eating. When both bellies were sufficiently full, Julen considered asking Krarug if he’d like to try some sparring practice. But a quick look at his comrade’s massive frame changed his mind. Even if Julen wore armor, and they both used wooden weapons, Krarug could probably kill him without meaning to. Especially without Railtus around to do any healing.

“Alright,” Julen suggested, as he rose from the tarp that had served as their picnic blanket. “That yelling you were doing before? Could you do that again? Please?” Bracing himself as best he could, Julen picked up his bow and resumed archery practice.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

As was requested...



This continued for as long as desired, and kept fairly consistant. Occasionally Krarug would pause for a drink of water, before resuming his hellish bellowing.

Even with the surrounding area being deserted, someone was sure to notice sooner or later. One day someone might investigate, but few people would willingly head towards the source of such noise.

As archery practice was, this certainly counted as under stress conditions, and the skill developed here would not desert in the midst of actual combat. Over the next few hours, there was some chance for improvement.

After slightly over two hours, Railtus returned, saving himself the effort of focusing on landmarks by simply following the bellowing. A swift canter took him to the enclosed courtyard, where he dismounted and proceded on foot. That entrance he had planned to fortify, no sense in making a habit of galloping in somewhere that would soon bear spiked defences.

With his approach in plain sight, Krarug caught the eye of his lord to confirm if he should continue bellowing. "That is enough, thank you." Then an appraising eye was cast to measure the success of the archery.

From a saddlebag, a bundle was produced, which turned out to be an overdue lunch for the chevalier, and a larger bundle to feed Arjen. Mostly chaff and bruised apples for the destrier, who began on that while the dismounted horseman perched himself on a crate before beginning on mutton and celery, although they did not go perfectly together they were certainly edible.

"Progress." announced the chevalier, "Most of the arrangements I told you of this morning had been made, although I plan on taking the bread order to Effie. We can do that on the way back." Immediately, he turned his attention to the huscarl. "Krarug, we will have a sparring partner for you soon." Of course, it was a short list of people who could trade blows with the Weapon of Flesh, but there was indeed someone in mind.

Arjen finished his meal first, ignoring any conversation. A nudge indicated a new intent. Answering the nudge was a nod, and then Arjen cantered off in search of forage.

"Anything that you wish to be doing? Archery can be tiresome after a while. How has all fared?" It was a question asked after every absence, to allow chance to raise matters that would need tending to.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

While Krarug roared, Julen drew back on his bowstring. Before, he’d tried to ignore the orc’s bellowing, without any satisfying results. It simply wasn’t possible to completely tune out such a hideous racket. But what could he do? How could he be expected to aim if he couldn’t even think?

Releasing his first shot, Julen watched it whistle past the barrel lid. And he remembered the thunderstorms that sometimes descended on Shim. The pounding of the rain against his bedroom roof, the crash of the thunder like some giant fist trying to smash the sky -- all of it had terrified him when he was a child. How had he gotten past that? How had he learned to sleep through the night?

His mother. She had come to him, sat beside his bed, and sung one of her songs. It seemed impossible that such a soft, gentle sound could have competed with the cacophony of the storm. But it did. Somehow, the melody created a peaceful center inside him. He could still hear the pounding rain, the crashing thunder, but it was far away, and held no power over him. Even though the tempest continued to rage, he could sleep.

As Julen nocked his next arrow, he thought of those songs. Again, they rose up inside him, forming an island of calm amidst the chaos. He could still hear Krarug yelling. But it was a distant noise, like waves breaking on a faraway shore. It had nothing to do with him. Carefully, Julen sighted his target. And, when he released, his arrow struck the barrel lid near its center.

By the time Railtus returned, Julen had successfully increased his distance from the target to twenty paces, while still managing to strike the barrel lid with nearly every shot. The fact that he’d also started to hum under his breath went completely unnoticed.

“Eh?” Julen asked, when Railtus first spoke to him. Krarug’s bellowing no longer rattled him, but his ears required a moment to readjust. “Oh, progress. That’s good. Effie will be happy to have the extra business.”

Privately, Julen hoped that Effie would be able to fill Railtus’s order, while still having enough leftover for his own plans. At this rate, she was going to need some extra apprentices to keep up with the demand for her bread. Extra apprentices? Now, there was an idea that deserved further exploration...

“A partner for Krarug? Have you taught Arjen to spar?” The warhorse was the only creature around that Julen thought might actually stand a chance against his massive comrade.

At Railtus’s invitation to take a break, Julen set aside his bow. “Perhaps...we could have a word about something?” Julen hesitated. The question suddenly seemed so foolish. If Railtus wanted Krarug to call him Cluckcluck, twice-crowned king of the chickens, what did it matter? Why would it be any of Julen’s business? Well, maybe the name itself wasn’t his concern. But if it meant what Julen suspected it did, then that was a matter of some importance, and one best addressed as soon as possible. “Why does Krarug call you Aorle?”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

A simple shrug implied that the issue was of no matter, "It is a name from my people." Yet another aspect of his history that he had neglected to speak of, while never hidden, he seldom thought of his history as deserving of attention. "My family lands are a colony, under Caeltethian rulership but the native people are Fhokian." Rising to mind were memories of his father claiming the Fhokians to be a brutish and savage people, a claim which fell apart after experience with them. Although uncivilised, they were a folk who bore deep wisdom and true hearts.

In fact, learning of his own true Fhokian bloodline was as much a cause for joy as for regret. Even if he was less a part of his family, he was more one of his people.

"Fhokians do not name their children at birth, we name children based on their hearts. The name which I have earned is Aorle, a name earned with two seperate communities. The name matches the life that I intend to lead." For a sudden moment, he fought down an unwelcome feeling in his gut, "Both my family and the Duke despised the name as what they called a barbaric custom, and would punish any who called me by the name. That is why I seldom use it." Of course, thinking back to the behaviour condoned by the Duke, the chevalier did not much care what he preferred, or would feel compelled to go against it.

"Few orcs have names, usually only if their master finds them worth naming. I find it only fair that both me and Krarug know each other by the names we have earned." So far the sense of equity was only confusing Krarug, although the huscarl found himself happy with this new master.

An idea sprung to mind, intended to balance the purposes of providing a change from the constant archery, involving Krarug, as well as address the potential matter of Rosemary being stuck in all day. "Shall we head to the bakery? That will give me chance to speak to Effie and we can visit Rosemary while there. Perhaps she can see this place." It was a suggestion rather than an instruction, although not quite asking permission.

Current plans were to work through the evening with Krarug on some basic fortifications, since he did not relish leaving one so loyal alone for long periods of time. Of course, having matters organised in advance would be helpful, and it would be nice to see Rosemary thriving again.
Last edited by Sir Karsimir on Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

With obvious interest, Julen listened to Railtus’s explanation for his second name. Julen could never understand why Railtus didn’t speak more freely about his history -- in Julen’s opinion, it was fascinating stuff, far more compelling than the mundane details of a farmer’s life. But part of Railtus seemed unable to believe that, just as he seemed unable to believe that he was strikingly handsome. Or, if he did believe it, he didn’t believe that it mattered.

Beyond being an intriguing glimpse into his background, Railtus’s words did much to put Julen at ease. Aorle was not the title of some angelic being his friend was becoming. It was simply a name awarded by different cultural traditions. Although, when Julen thought about it, some of Railtus’s explanation raised new questions. “You say ‘we’ when you talk about the Gorls. But you also mentioned that your family considered their traditions to be barbaric. This leads me to think that, perhaps, your family is not Gorlish. How did you come to have such close ties with a people who are not your own?”

Tradition flowed thick in Julen’s veins, mingling with every drop his blood. He lived in Shim because that was where his family had always lived. He was a farmer because they had always been farmers. He sang the songs they had always sung, celebrated the holidays they had always celebrated, and fully intended to be buried where they had always been buried. Not because he thought that their ways were better than those of anyone else, but because they belonged to him. For someone to adopt outside customs in favor of those they had been raised Julen, it seemed rather like a gnome deciding to be an elf.

Of course, the fact that he was not currently farming, but was instead standing around after numerous hours of archery practice, made a powerful argument for the possibility that sometimes tradition needed to be broken.

Railtus’s suggestion that they pay a visit to the bakery was met with enthusiasm. Julen welcomed the chance to take a break and stretch his legs. And, even more than that, he welcomed a chance to see Rosemary. After being apart for four months, one might think that a day would seem like nothing at all. But Julen already missed his wife. “That’s an excellent idea. I’m sure Rosemary would appreciate a change in scenery. And really, when you think about it, she could probably work on my gambeson here just as easily as in my room at the bakery. At least, until the others arrive.” There’d never been any question about Railtus. And Julen had quickly come to trust Krarug. Other warriors, however, would need to prove themselves before Julen felt comfortable with bringing Rosemary into their presence.

Setting aside his bow, Julen pulled his leather gloves back on, and waited to see if Railtus planned to walk or ride. While he did so, another question popped into his head.

“I can guess what Krarug did to earn his name.” Julen meant no offense to his comrade. However, he doubted that the orc had impressed his previous masters with a talent for playing chess. “But what about you? How did you earn the name Aorle?” Julen already knew about several worthy acts performed by Railtus -- the girl protected from the guard captain and the village saved from the unscrupulous priest -- and he was curious if either of those had warranted the new name, or if there were other good deeds that Railtus had failed to mention.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Everything seemed to be going well, although that was a strange question being asked, one which stemmed from an unforeseen confusion. Being so sparse with information left excessive room for assumption and misinterpretation, so it was perhaps wiser to share more of his history. Only, quite frankly, it was not something he sought out opportunities to talk about.

"Not my own? My people are not determined by who my father is. My people are a duty, a guide and a privilege. As a boy they showed me the man I wish to be, that a warrior is made of more than strength at arms." A hint of cadence crept into his speech, displaying his trademark conviction. "I saw councils where a warrior and a farmer spoke as equals, as the farmer provided for all as the warrior fought for all, and each contribution was valued. I saw a people who respected each other, where to share with strangers was commonplace."

While this clarified an important matter, it did not answer what was asked. "As for your question, on a colony one learns the ways of the people. My father was one of the Caeltethians who made up the ruling class of the colony. I learned more of compassion and honour as a Fhokian than I did as an Imperial."

"We earn our names very young, so the first time I earned the name for protecting younger children from older bullies and making a habit of sharing household leftovers that my family would not use. Second time was in Kreylask, that was for dealing with the priest. The closest translation for the name is 'chivalrous', which I would like think fits."

Departing from the fenced courtyard, they walked towards the bakery, departing from the district. No mention was given to Arjen, who had been sent off to forage in the open fields outside the city proper. Forage food was important for horses.

Upon nearing the bakery, Aorle Ap Antal decided on a kind division. "Julen, take some extra time with Rosemary, I will be making arrangements with Effie. Krarug, help them carry anything that they need. If I am delayed then I will meet with you at our garrison." In part, this was because those extra moments with Rosemary were important to Julen, though mostly the choice was to avoid scaring business away from Effie by leaving something as menacing as Krarug parked outside the shop door.

With that out the way with, he approached the bakery itself.
Last edited by Sir Karsimir on Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

The way Railtus said it, it sounded to Julen as if he considered all people, not just the Gorls, to be his duty, his guide, and his privilege. But then, that wasn’t too surprising. Railtus had a well-developed sense of duty. And he wasn’t the type to withhold it from anyone, regardless of their nationality or race.

It also sounded like the ways of his father’s people were not as noble as the ways of those they ruled over. At least, not in some respects. Apparently, Railtus had taken a little here, and a little there, shaping himself not from any one culture, but from an ideal of what he thought to be good and right. And wasn’t that better than blindly repeating his ancestor’s failings along with their virtues? The idea intrigued Julen, and he resolved to cast a more critical eye on his own traditions, and to discard any he found lacking.

Certainly, the Gorls seemed to hold some interesting beliefs, one of which Julen himself was directly benefiting from. If they hadn’t introduced the notion of equality between farmer and warrior, his relationship with Railtus would be far different. Absently, Julen wondered if Railtus really did consider him an equal. In many ways, yes. And in other ways...was it possible to think of someone as being your equal when they’re ultimately under your command? Maybe. Maybe not. It was another duality Julen still found himself struggling with.

“Chivalrous. That truly is a name that reflects your heart. Would you like me to begin calling you Aorle?”

When they arrived at the bakery, and Railtus gave his instructions, Julen nodded in agreement. Then he beckoned for Krarug to follow him. Julen remembered their journey from Shim, during which Rosemary had tried to teach the orc some basic words, and he was eager to show her the progress Krarug had already made. However, when he unlocked the door to his room, he found it vacant. The partially completed gambeson lay neatly on the floor, surrounded by Rosemary’s sewing supplies. There didn’t appear to be any sign of a struggle. But Rosemary was still...gone.

Julen opened his mouth, and breath seemed to drop into his lungs like a dead weight. Don’t panic. Don’t panic in front of the orc. He’ll tear Marn apart looking for her if he thinks she’s in danger. It’s probably nothing.

Somehow, Julen managed to keep his voice steady as he stepped back out of his room and shut the door. “Rosemary must have gone to run an errand. I’m sure Effie will know where she is.” Nevertheless, despite the calm in his voice, his body refused to show any similar restraint, and he ran over to the bakery’s rear door so quickly that he caught up with Railtus just as Railtus began to knock.

Barely a second later, the door flew open, revealing Rosemary. Julen’s relief at seeing her quickly became eclipsed by concern over her disheveled state.

“Julen! Thank goodness you’re here. Railtus escaped.”

What? Momentarily stunned into silence, Julen glanced at Railtus. He almost expected to see his friend fleeing down the street with a trail of freshly loosened bindings left on the ground behind him. But Railtus still stood beside him, looking nearly as puzzled as Julen felt. So Julen returned his gaze to his wife. However, before he could ask her to explain this apparent non sequitur, clarification arrived in the form of Andreya.

“I didn’t mean to let him go, Mister Julen. Honest! I just opened the jar a little, to feed him some flies, but he jumped out and now I don’t know where he is.”

“Oh! The frog.” Julen smiled, pleased that he’d finally made sense of the situation. Eager to share his new understanding, he turned back toward Railtus, and explained “She named the frog after you. Of course, if it turns out to be a particularly exceptional frog in some way, I suppose it may earn a second name. Do the Gorls have a word for ‘slimy’?”

“Julen of Shim!” A shrill screech from somewhere in the kitchen cut short his teasing. “This is all your fault. You brought that beast to my bakery. Now come help me catch it, or I swear, I’ll shove you in a jar and feed you on a diet of flies.”

Wincing, Julen obeyed.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

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