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Preparations For Battle


Post by Sir Karsimir on

So I have escaped? I never knew I was captive.

Still, the havoc answered one issue at least.

"Best to use my earned name, that should avoid any confusion between me and the frog."

Of course there was a Fhokian word for slimy, but there was no way in hell it was going to be shared at that moment. Recognising his own failings in the fine art of frog-catching, Aorle stepped back and allowed the matter to be dealt with safely. The destructive, warrior grip that had been developed in long years of combat training would be deadly to a small frog.

For more obvious reasons, Krarug was left after the chase as well.

"Small kept animal loose in food store." Aorle explained in orcish, knowing of no orcish terms for frog or bakery, and not wishing to use the term escape.

Krarug simply furrowed his enormous sloped brow.

"Part of me wishes to know too. Then the other, more sensible part of me, will be happier not knowing."

Great tusks emerged from behind the heavy lip of an underslung jaw, indicating a grin. No comment was made however, as banter was something that never came to mind with living weapons.

Idly, Aorle mused if Railtus the Frog was scheduled to turn into a prince any time soon, and spare him the complication of a young girl's infatuations. As sweet as she was, it was something that he did not know how to answer, or the proper manner in which to behave. It was complicated ground which did not suit one so forthright.

Walking a short distance away with the orc, so as not to deter any potential customers, he crouched down and worked on his sword with a whetstone. Of course, any who approached the store would probably be more alarmed by the pandemonium within than the presence of a warrior and a great orc.

Sooner or later, mostly later, the chaos began to die down. That was his cue, "Krarug, would you wait around the back please. Julen and Rosemary should be with you soon and you will be more use there than here." It was quite true, since Krarug would cause unintended trouble were he to enter the bakery. On one hand, it was unfair to have to try so hard to avoid frightening people, but it was something that they had to deal with.

Returning inside, "I hope there was not too much trouble." stated the chevalier smoothly, unperturbed by the disarray of the bakery. "Effie, if you have time, I would like to discuss a standing regular order with you. Each week, for fifteen bishan, does seventy loaves of plain bread sound reasonable?" Although paying slightly less than the standard full price, the offer included the advantages of steady business, and was brought to Effie first with the intent of doing her a favour by sending the extra business her way.
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

As Julen entered the bakery, he saw Effie and her two apprentices hunting for the escaped frog. Andreya had climbed up onto a stool in order to check the kitchen shelves. However, unless Railtus was truly a champion jumper, Julen doubted that he would have taken refuge on such a high spot. Andreya’s friend had crawled under a table to conduct her search. And Effie held a broom in her hands, swatting anything that moved -- as well as few things that didn’t -- with it. Upon spotting Julen, she momentarily directed her attentions at a new target, and the bristle end of the broom struck the side of his face. “You! A man with any sense would have brought her back a flower or an apple. But no, not you. You had to bring some horrible beastie into my kitchen.”

“Railtus isn’t a horrible beastie!” Andreya protested. “He’s lovely. And you’re scaring him with that broom.”

Coughing on the small cloud of dust raised by Effie’s attack, Julen refrained from taking sides in the debate over Railtus’s merits. Instead, he held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, and began his own quest for the escaped pet. While he looked, Rosemary joined him.

“How did training go?”

“Well. I worked with a bow. Railtus -- uh, Aorle -- may put me in charge of the archers.” Although Julen felt proud of this advancement, his main purpose in mentioning it wasn’t to brag. He hoped Rosemary would be comforted by the thought of him being farther from the actual fighting.

“Aorle?”

“Railtus’s earned name. I think he wants me to call him that now.” Julen wasn’t entirely sure if Railtus had been kidding or not when he mentioned the necessity of distinguishing himself from the frog. The man had such a dry delivery; Julen couldn’t always tell when he was kidding. But he figured that Railtus/Aorle would correct him if he’d taken seriously something intended as jest.

Rosemary nodded. “Then I shall try to do so as well. How’s Krarug?”

Before Julen could tell Rosemary about his comrade’s impressive progress learning the local tongue, a slight movement caught his attention. Turning toward it, he spotted a bowl on the counter beside them, filled with a thick brownish substance, rather like cake batter. And within...yes, now that he was looking directly at it, Julen could see the surface ripple, as if stirred by something moving beneath. Then, two golden eyes rose up above the batter and blinked at Julen.

“Oh dear,” Rosemary murmured.

“My cake batter!” Effie shrieked. “It’s ruined.” Shaking her head, she crossed over to the counter and lifted the bowl, prepared to dispose of its tainted contents. But before she could dump it, Julen caught her arm.

“Go ahead and bake the cake,” he murmured, for her ears alone. “You can add it to what remains of my order.” Julen hated to see food go to waste. And he doubted that the shanty town’s residents would be bothered by something as minor as the slight aftertaste of frog in their cake.

Pulling off his gloves, Julen reached into the bowl and scooped out the wayward pet. Railtus didn’t seem to mind being rescued. Perhaps the batter hadn’t proved to be as much like mud as he’d been hoping, or perhaps he was simply tired after the effort of escaping. Still, Julen kept his hands cupped snuggly around the frog, even while rinsing him off. “Andreya, please bring his jar over.”

“Oh! You found him! Thank you, Mister Julen!” Andreya hurried over, clutching the jar in her hands. However, when Julen returned Railtus to his former home, a frown of concern crossed her face. “Why do you think he tried to get away?”

Julen shrugged. “Frogs just hop. That’s what they do.”

“Do you think he’s unhappy?” Andreya’s frown deepened. “This jar isn’t very big. And he must miss all his froggy friends. Maybe he was trying to get home.”

In his heart, Julen doubted that frogs had friends, not the way that people did. But maybe Railtus did miss being amongst his own kind. And the jar certainly was much smaller than the pond where Julen had caught him. “I don’t know,” Julen confessed. “I never thought of animals like that being able to feel much at all. But I don’t know.”

Andreya raised the jar, gazing into Railtus’s eyes as if she could find some answer there. The staring match lasted for several minutes, before Andreya seemed to reach a conclusion, and offered her pet to Julen. “Thank you for bringing him. I’m glad I got to meet a frog. But you should take him back to his family.”

“I won’t be returning to Shim for at least a few more days. You could keep him until--” Julen stopped short as he became aware of Effie glaring at him. “Actually, it would probably be better if I kept him in my room. You can visit him there.”

Then, judging that now might be a good time to beat a hasty retreat, Julen took Rosemary’s arm and led her out of the bakery. “We need to gather up your sewing supplies. Aorle says that you can work on my gambeson in the warehouse where we’re training. That way, we can spend more time together.”

Meanwhile, Effie considered Aorle’s offer. “Seventy loaves? You’re determined to work an old lady into her grave, aren’t you? Still, as long as you’re not expecting anything fancy, I suppose I could handle it. Give me a day or two to increase my supply orders.” The shop’s owner nodded at her two apprentices. “Those girls obviously need more work to keep their idle hands out of trouble. Chasing frogs will kill me faster than any amount of baking.”

“Sir?” Having crept closer while Effie was talking, Andreya curtsied to Aorle. “Did you enjoy your cookie?”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Hearing Effie's obligatory grumbling, Aorle nodded and reached a hand onto the inside leg of his boot. From there he pulled a small pouch and counted out a number of bishani. Specifically, fifteen. "Thank you, dear Effie. And nothing fancy at all. This should cover the increased supply order, or any equipment that would help you with production." Not knowing the specifics of bakery, Aorle could only assume that there were ways to bake more than one loaf at once. Most of what he intended was sheer quantity.

As always, Andreya's curtsy was sweet, adorable in the manner of a kitten. "Thank you Andreya. It was lovely, and very kind of you." It had came as a surprise that she still remembered after a week. "You are a wonderful child." he stated honestly.

Handing over the money to Effie, he continued with business. "I will register this place with the accounts holding, and you should receive a badge. With that it will be the same as collecting a regular stipend."

With everything seeming to be in order, he bid them farewell and departed.

In the space of near half an hour, he had caught up with his fledgling warband at the old mill, and was in armour as he rode through the door. How in the blue hell, or hells of any other colour, Arjen had managed to find him, remained a mystery.

On arrival, he was in full armour, having presumably changed before catching up. That would explain the delay, at least.

Swift greetings were given, before the training took a new direction. "Make sure your helmet is on. You will need it for this."

And so they covered 'alternative techniques.' Most of these were very sneaky, such as kicking the shield of a foe aside for a strike. Others involved closing the distance for a grapple to limit the options of an enemy. Much of this grapple training involved wooden daggers and throws. The basis of these techniques seemed to be about timing, using the arc and line of an opposing sword to find an opening to dash forward.

One fact made very clear by this training was that the blade is not the only part of a sword. The crossguard and hilt could be used to strike blows with, often from closer than with the blade. Of course, neither hilt nor crossguard were as deadly as the sword-edge, but stunning a foe with a pommel made the business of hacking them to death far easier.

Similar techniques were used with a spear. In particular, how and where to strike with a spear butt or haft when in close combat. A particularly nasty technique involved was to ram the butt into the inside knee when the spear was held across the body, this would cause the knee to buckle and throw a foe off balance.

Most of the time, being off-balance was worse than falling over.

Then there were ways to bash with the spear-haft from up close, often levering over the opposing weapon and down to open a staff-like strike to the head. Again, this would daze rather than kill, but being dazed in front of an enemy spearman was an reliable way to die.

These tactics presented non-fatal options in combat, while also being perfectly serviceable for murderous intent. The variety also opened weaknesses in enemy combatants, since tactics could be adapted to the opponent.

Simple attacks from close-quarters included a punch or an elbow from grappling. Yet another reason why the helmet was needed.

Overall, it was perhaps excessive to watch. By sight, the training was clearly for intense combat. More intense than one would wish to see.

Basic unarmed combat was also covered, such as how to punch someone effectively, which was nothing like the standard expected punch. These were simple details, such as keeping the punches straight, keeping arms up to block and defend, keeping the left shoulder up while throwing a right punch. Things like that.

And again, the helmets were worn so that they were not punching each other in the face.

For this training, the blows were strong enough to feel through the armour. Less than full strength, not enough to really hurt, but noticeable. Further mental conditioning, preparation for the shock and violence of the battlefield, so that one would not be utterly disrupted by taking an unexpected blow.

Any healing needed was provided.

With most of that covered, Arjen returned, having been sent to forage for the time being, and having spookily accurate timing.

"Each day from now on, we spend two hours each on sword, and bow, and spear." Which was, incidently, less training than had been the case so far. There were a number of reasons for that decision, but none of them detailed right then. "Farewell for now." Then to Krarug, "Be safe. I will see you soon." Finally to Rosemary with the habitual bow, "Until next time, lady."

With that, he mounted his horse, and cantered towards the Central Inn. And from there, to House Anstrun.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Perched atop a wooden crate that Krarug had kindly dragged over for her, Rosemary continued to work on her husband’s gambeson. Sewing the long tubes of fabric was a repetitive task, and soon her skilled fingers only needed the occasional glance to guide them, leaving most of her mind free to dwell on other matters.

When Krarug wasn’t doing something else, she spoke to him. Already, she’d grown quite fond of the orc, despite his fearsome appearance. Off the battlefield, he showed no traces of brutality or bloodlust. Instead, Krarug reminded her of a big, loyal dog -- so much so that Rosemary found herself repressing the occasional urge to give him an affectionate pat on the head. But mental images of what he’d done to the mercenaries reminded her that he was no tame pet. Krarug was a terrifying fighter, and Rosemary felt desperately glad that he would be on the side of her husband, rather than against him.

Much of the time, however, Krarug was busy with various chores. So Rosemary watched Aorle train Julen. When Julen had first told her about his new profession, she’d felt only shock and fear for his safety. But now, observing the two warriors practice, she couldn’t help but be a little...excited. And that puzzled her. Surely she wasn’t turning into one of those foolish girls who dreamed of men proving their passion by fighting each other. Rosemary had experienced that particular “honor” and she knew how little gratification lay in being treated like a prize, something with no mind of its own, existing only to be claimed. That was why she’d chosen Julen. He never tried to take, or win, or buy her. He just gave her his heart. He was gentle and kind and she loved him because of it.

So why did it excite her to see him dressed in armor, sweating, and -- ouch –- striking another man with the crossguard of his sword? Why did she derive a guilty thrill from knowing that now her husband could probably beat any other husband in Shim?

Maybe it was just the return of his self-confidence. While they were courting, Julen had never doubted himself, had never thought that the life he could offer her was anything less than a good one. However, after they were married... After they were married, everything kept going wrong, and nothing he did seemed to matter. Of course, Julen didn’t give up. He wasn’t the sort of man to give up. But Rosemary watched hope fade from his eyes, replaced by a grim determination to carry on. Silence filled the spaces where he used to whisper his dreams.

During that time, she’d been struggling with her own doubts. Then, when he’d returned to save her from the mercenaries, there had been so much else going on, so many other emotions to deal with. It was only now that she began to truly see how much his friendship with Aorle had given back to him, the belief it had restored to his soul. Once again, he was a man who looked forward to the future, and trusted in his own ability positively shape it.

And oh, how she’d missed that man...

After training had finished to for the day, and Aorle came over to bid her farewell, Rosemary felt the urge to throw her arms around him and pour out her thanks one more time. But she held herself back -- mostly because she suspected that doing so would puzzle and embarrass him more than anything else. Instead, she returned his bow with a curtsey and a pretty smile, and wished him a good evening. Then she joined her husband.

Post by Julen on

“Look.” With unmistakable pride, Rosemary held up the partially finished gambeson. “I’m making good progress. Another day or two, and you’ll be that much safer.”

Julen smiled as he examined his wife’s work. The stitches were small and tight, placed so close together that they formed a nearly continuous seam along the sides of each cloth tube. The tubes themselves felt remarkably firm. Once, when he’d glanced over during his training, Julen had noticed Rosemary eliciting Krarug’s help to pack in even more straw. “I doubt that there’s a finer gambeson in all of Marn. Would you like me to carry it back for you?”

Rosemary shook her head. “I don’t think I have the energy to sew anymore tonight. I’ll start up tomorrow, after we come back here. Krarug won’t let anyone steal it.”

“Will guard,” Krarug confirmed. The orc appeared deeply serious, as if Rosemary was leaving her own child in his care. And it occurred to Julen that one day, when he and Rosemary did have a son or daughter, there were few people he would trust more to protect it.

So, after bidding Krarug goodnight, Julen took his wife’s hand and began strolling back through the Industrial District. Lights had begun to blink on in the factory windows, shining like squat, square stars. Above them, black smoke reached feathery tendrils across the evening sky. Julen remembered when he’d first arrived in Marn. He’d loathed the city, especially this section, with its filth, and strange smells, and unending cacophony of noise. But now, with Rosemary walking beside him, the Industrial District seemed almost...romantic. It was funny how little depended on where you were, and how much depended on who you were with.

When they arrived back at the bakery, Julen unlocked the door to his room. “Would you like to go out again tonight?” Two evenings on the town would be an extravagance, but if she desired it, he wouldn’t deny her.

However, Rosemary shook her head. “Not tonight. I think I just want to lie down.” Then, pressing closer to Julen, she whispered in his ear, caressing his skin with her nimble breath. “Hurry back. I’ll keep the bed warm for you.”

Involuntarily, Julen’s eyes slipped shut, as if the world needed to be shielded from the desire that had flared up in them. For a moment, he considered skipping his errand. But only for a moment. “I’ll return as soon as humanly possible,” he vowed. Then, kissing Rosemary on her cheek, he took his leave.

Inside the bakery, Effie had already gathered up the day’s leftovers. “There it all is,” she informed, gesturing at a burlap sack. “Including your frog cake.”

Her tone made Julen chuckle. “Chose your words carefully, Effie. The nobility is always searching for some fresh new delicacy. If they hear about frog cake, they might take a fancy to it, and then you’ll need a kitchen full of hopping beasties to satisfy their appetite.”

Effie shuddered. “Don’t even joke about that.”

Julen’s journey to the shanty town went much as it had the night before. This time, however, the slum’s residents were quicker to accept the bread he offered them. After handing out the first few loaves, Julen addressed the gathering crowd.

“Friends. I know that lack of skills, bad luck, or poor choices have brought you to this desperate place. But skills can be taught. Bad luck can be changed. Choices made in the past don’t have to limit your future. I can offer some of you a way out.”

Murmurs rippled through the throng. I knew it was too good to be true. Nothing is ever free. I wonder what he wants from us. But only one person had the courage to step forward and directly address Julen -- a grizzled man with graying hair and eyebrows that wiggled on his forehead like a pair of restless caterpillars. His face was as shriveled as a piece of dried fruit. However, despite his desiccated appearance, his voice didn’t scratch or falter, but instead rang out with mocking clarity. “You can offer us a way out, can you? And I suppose all we need to do is believe in whatever god you’re selling?”

Julen shook his head. “As long as they aren’t evil ones, you may believe in whatever gods you chose. Aorle Anstrun, the man I serve, is assembling a band of warriors to fight those who prey on the weak and helpless. He needs your help.”

Many of the men and women shrank back, and one mother snatched up her child, clutching the infant in her arms as if she expected Julen to try and steal it. Instantly, Julen realized his mistake. “Not as combatants,” he clarified. “That task will be left to people like me. But there is other work to be done. Honest work, for which you will be offered food, shelter, and protection.”

Julen’s heckler cackled with laughter. “Will we, now? This sounds mighty familiar. Another man came here, not too long ago, asking for volunteers to help him. Those that went with him never returned. I’d wager a pretty bishani that a similar fate awaits any foolish enough to accept your offer.”

Again, Julen could hear the crowd muttering. He must think we’re stupid. Let’s show him that he can’t trick us. We’ll shove that bread down his throat until he chokes on it. Reluctantly, Julen placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. He didn’t want to hurt good people who were, perhaps justifiably, riled up at how they’d been treated by others. But he wasn’t going to let them beat him black and blue, either. Several men stepped forward, anger twisting their faces into grotesque masks. However, just before Julen was forced to draw his weapon, another voice joined the debate.

“Stop! I know this man, and I know that he means you no harm.”

Glancing around, Julen spotted the girl he’d encountered on his first trip through the shanty town, the one whose lip Aorle had healed. She still wore the same tattered white dress, which clung to her emaciated body like a partially shed snakeskin. But the crowd parted to let her pass.

“He came here a week ago, in the company of another. His companion healed my lip, gave me one of his rings, and asked for nothing in return. These are good men. And we should be ashamed that we have lost our ability to recognize such goodness.”

The crowd mumbled guiltily as she joined Julen in its center. Up close, he noticed that although the blister remained healed, her face was covered with a number of bruises. Julen wanted to ask her what had happened, who had done this to her. But before he could speak, she smiled at him, and even coming from such a battered visage, it was a truly beautiful smile. “I trust you, Sir. Tell me where I need to go to get one of these jobs you spoke about.”

“Lightsword Hall,” Julen murmured. Then, remembering that he was not talking to her alone, he raised his voice. “Lightsword Hall. It’s an abandoned mill in the Industrial District. A little searching will reveal the location. So, if any of you truly wish to leave this misery behind you, I recommend that you join me there.”

The speech didn’t exactly stir his audience to cheers and applause. But at least, Julen noted with relief, they were no longer wanted to lynch him. Having done his duty, Julen returned to the task that had brought him here, and the girl stayed beside him while he continued distributing the rest of the baked goods. Until only one cake remained. This, Julen reserved in his sack, waiting for the crowd to disperse. When he was nearly alone with his rescuer, Julen pulled it out, and presented her with the frog cake. “Thank you. That could have gotten really ugly if you hadn’t spoken up.”

Glancing at the ground, she blushed -- the change was hard to see behind her bruises, but Julen still detected a slight reddening of her cheeks. “I just wanted to repay you for the kindness your friend showed me.”

“What happened?” Julen wanted to touch her face, to make the bruises vanish, but that was not his gift. He could only try to protect her from further harm. “How did you get hurt?”

“I sold the ring your friend gave me. But when the money ran out, I had to come back, and there were those who didn’t like the fact that I’d left.”

“Who?” Julen demanded. “Tell me who, and I’ll--”

Sadly, she shook her head. “Perhaps you could punish the man who actually did it. But another like him would immediately rise to take his place. Those who gave him his orders, who profit from the misery of women like me, I fear they are beyond your reach.”

“At least come with me. I have a room, you’d be safe.”

But again, she declined. “I’ll see you at Lightsword Hall.” Then, before Julen could stop her, she slipped away into the shadows.

Julen walked home slowly, lost in thought. More than once, he reached up and touched his locket, twisting its cord around his fingers. He hoped the girl was safe. He hoped she would find her way to Lightsword Hall. And he hoped that whoever had hit her was burning in hell. But at the moment, all three of those things were beyond his control. So he tried to put them out of his head.

When he arrived back at the bakery, Julen found his room in darkness. Not wanting to wake his wife, he didn’t light the lamp, and tried to take off his armor as quietly as possible. But there’s a limit to how quietly one can shed such things. Following several accidental clanks, Julen heard the bedcovers rustle. Then, after he lay down, he felt her body draw up against his. “I kept it warm,” Rosemary murmured, wrapping her arms around him. And indeed, she had
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Approaching the mill, first thing which Aorle did was help Metellus from his horse. Already Krarug had heard the scrape and clank of shifted equipment, and was coming out to meet the intruders. A fearsome mace was in his hands, which lowered at the sight of Aorle.

"Krarug, these are Triarius, Metellus, and Darir." gesturing to each in turn. "These men are joining my cause."

From beneath a furrowed green brow, dreadful eyes stared down upon each of them, longest on Darir. Eventually, as if processing the concept in more detail, the combatant posture slackened and the huscarl of Lightsword Hall stepped back on one leg, the sideways angle of his body obscuring his obvious mass.

"Krarug is the most loyal warrior I could ask for. I am fortunate to have him in my service. For you," addressing each of the new recruits, "there is no better ally or comrade."

"Me guard." Krarug stated, before making his way upstairs. It seemed that he needed time to adapt to the sudden change.

"What does he guard?" Darir wondered aloud.

"The armory." replied Aorle with a shrug. "Gear captured from our last battles. That, and an unfinished gambeson being made for my yeoman. You will meet him tomorrow by the way, his name is Julen. Triarius, Darir, bring in Metellus's things."

"I can do-" protested Metellus weakly.

"No." Aorle commanded, "Lightswords aid each other, that includes caring for our injured. Let me help you down."

That confused Metellus, "But you are our lord, you should not be looking after me."

An exasperated sigh escaped the chevalier. "Any lord who does otherwise is unworthy of the title." With that, he braced his hands behind Metellus and supported him as he climbed down from the saddle. From there, he half-carried Metellus from under his arm, saving him the struggle of walking.

"You could get the orc to do this." joked Metellus, moderately embarrased by such gentle treatment from his lord.

Aorle laughed. "Few things survive being grasped by Krarug."

They made their way inside, and up to the second story. "Find a room, sleep in twos." Aorle suggested. "Darir, take a room to yourself for now. Set them up yourselves. Triarius, set your room up for both of you, then all of you come back to this floor's open chamber. Darir, fetch me Krarug when you are done."

Several minutes later, they were gathered in the main room, waiting to be addressed. "Triarius," announced Aorle. "Are you ready to take your oath?"

"I am."

"Then hand me your sword and repeat after me."

He did, the spatha was taken by Aorle and held upright.

"Seek ever the the Path of Right." began Aorle.

"I shall seek ever the Path of Right." Triarius swore.

"Care more than you think is wise."

"I shall care more than I think is wise." promised Triarius, privately struck by how little the Oath revolved around his lord.

"Bring swift end to the wicked, to the unrighteous, to those who prey on the weak."

"I shall bring swift end to the wicked, to the unrighteous, to those who prey on the weak." Now he knew that he was not being sworn to the man, but to his cause, to his code and his path.

"Speak ever truth, that your word alone be cause for hope."

"I shall speak ever truth, that my word alone be cause for hope." A further promise. By Triarius, a promise of his honour. To Triarius, a promise of greatness and hope for himself. Now he knew that honourable battles were ahead, and that he would be priviledged to fight them.

"By your strength, dark lands be made safe."

"By my strength, dark lands shall be made safe." Again, a new insight into his lord, as this was what he saw as the purpose of a warrior.

"Be ever brave in word and in deed."

"I shall be ever brave in word and in deed." echoed the Imperial nobleman.

"Take pride in your honour, and not your honour in pride."

He hesitated, those moments that he waited were the longest that he ever knew, but he was not rushed or forced. "I shall take pride in my honour, and not my honour in pride." With that, he knew that he would not engage in duelling to avenge an insult, and that he would not fight for his ego. It was a stunning realisation, one that promised him that he would draw his blade for the right reasons.

"Better to do right and die than to do wrong and prosper."

"Better to do right and die than to do wrong and prosper." The words forced themselves out, and he could not help but gasp. The priorities of his lord were made clear, he now knew the man he was sworn to.

"Do you swear?!" demanded Aorle, his voice ringing.

"This I swear."

"Then I shall hear your Oath in full."

"I shall seek ever the Path of Right. I shall care more than I think is wise. I shall bring swift end to the wicked, the unrighteous, and those who prey on the weak. I shall speak ever truth, that my word alone bring hope. By my strength, I shall make dark lands safe. I shall be ever brave in word and in deed. I shall take pride in my honour, and not my honour in pride. Better to do right and die than to do wrong and prosper. This is my Oath! And so do I swear!" That was the vow of Triarius Alataine, Officer of the Imperial Legions, nobleman of House Alataine, and now sworn man to Aorle.

"On this Oath do you pledge your might, your prowess, your strength of arm behind a blade?"

"I do."

"Then say it!" commanded the chevalier.

"On this Oath I pledge my might, my prowess, my strength to wield a blade." Triarius knew that this was more than words, that he had to believe what he was saying.

"And my Oath to you. I shall be the first to go hungry. I shall join you in blade on the field. I shall direct your swords and spears as is right and just. I shall build you hearth, hall and home. On these I shall strive, in pledge, I return your service, that I be forsaken if my vow is failed. Do you accept?"

"I accept."

"Now you stand amongst the righteous. Now you stand as a Lightsword."

And so the day would end.

Darir stepped forward. "Now that is an oath I will swear to!" declared the dwarrowfolk, "Call yourself my lord."

And so his Oath began.
Last edited by Sir Karsimir on Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Julen on

Julen felt increasingly nervous as he walked toward Lightsword Hall. That morning, rather belatedly, he’d realized that this was the third day since Aorle had issued his invitation to the mercenaries in Shim. Soon, some of them would begin showing up. And Julen couldn’t stop worrying about what they might think about him. These were people who had trained as soldiers, who had spent most of their adult lives fighting. Would they mock him for being a farmer whose experience with a sword only went back two weeks?

The mercenaries trying to harm Rosemary had mocked him. Then again, those mercenaries were now dead.

Absently, Julen tugged at his trophy rings, making them strain against the leather cord on which they were strung. Aorle had said that three was a respectable number, that other warriors who saw them would be hesitant to start trouble. Julen hoped he was right. Part of him wished that Aorle could accompany him now -- it felt odd to make this morning journey without his friend. But he understood that leading the Lightswords forced Aorle to divide his attention amongst a number of concerns. It was no longer just the two of them fighting against evil. And, while a part of Julen regretted an end that chapter, increasing their numbers ultimately increased the scope of what they could accomplish. That was good. Also, Julen looked forward to the comradeship of sharing his experiences with others.

If they didn’t shun him...

“Cheer up.” Seeming to read Julen’s thoughts, Rosemary gave his hand a gentle squeeze. When he’d remembered that new warriors might show up today, Julen had wanted her to stay at the bakery, at least until he got a chance to assess his latest allies. But the gambeson was at Lightsword Hall, and nothing Julen could say or do was going to keep Rosemary from that gambeson. So Julen eventually gave in. To tell the truth, although he still worried a little about her, he was glad to have her with him.

Julen answered his wife’s comment with a sheepish smile. “Do I really look so glum?”

“You look exactly like the first time you attended a Harvest Festival. I remember you standing off to one side of the bonfire, refusing to look anyone in the eye, thoroughly convinced that no woman in her right mind would ask one of Shim’s most eligible bachelors to dance with them.”

A chuckle escaped Julen as he thought of that evening. He could still recall staring at his feet, watching shadows dance across the toes of his boots, until a hand brushed against his and a bold voice whispered an invitation in his ear. “That turned out well enough, I suppose.”

“Have a little faith in yourself. People aren’t nearly so eager to look down on you as you think they are.” For a moment, a mischievous light glinted in Rosemary’s hazel eyes. “Although, in this case, I don’t recommend asking any of your new friends to dance with you.”

Arriving at Lightsword Hall, Julen noticed that Krarug had indeed found a sparring partner. “Varanghar!” Julen greeted, glad to see a familiar face despite the uneasy circumstances that had surrounded their last meeting.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lightswords on

"Good hail!" boomed the giant in reply to the newcomer. In a way, the bright greeting had slightly startled him, partly because he was concentrating on the lessons for Krarug, and partly because he had not expected such an enthusiastic welcome from Julen.

A hand was held up in signal for Krarug to stop, taken from the haft of the reinforced training halberd. Actually, both of the training weapons were reinforced, sturdy enough to make effective killing instruments in their own right, although heavily rounded to avoid needless casualties. Full armour also helped.

Breaking off, the giant approached Julen, making no presumptions about the lady at his side. He was visibly surprised, for when they last met, Julen had been at the doors of House Anstrun, in slightly rustic dress and with a somewhat deferential manner. Now, the man he saw was clad in maille and brigandine and an azure-crested helm, armed with sword and spear and bow and shield.

A professional warrior.

"A warrior at last!" he cheered, "I said it would suit you. Aorle's spearman now! He told me that you had fought together. Well done!" Once closer, which was not exactly close due to the giant himself, Julen was welcomed with outstretched hand. Now, they spoke as warriors.

From closer, Varanghar could see the string of trophy rings worn around Julen's neck, as well as the bronze armlet "Are they all of them?" asked the giant, unaware of the fourth iron hoop worn on Julen's hand, but knowing that trophy rings were more often worn on the hands than necklaces. Continuing on, he shared a trade secret of the veteran soldier, "Once you have five trophy rings on your hands, other warriors know you are to be feared. More than that is just meaningless. Better warriors don't grow more fingers." Of course, the oversized fingers of Varanghar had room for more than one ring each, although they were wide rings for such thick digits. Were one to bother counting, he wore a total of eleven trophy rings, leaving room for a collection of other rings he chose to wear for whatever reason.

And the many larger rings on his arms. Each arm-ring would make a belt on a slender woman.

"So tell me your adventures, warrior!" cheered the giant.

Post by Julen on

Smiling, Julen responded to Varanghar’s outstretched hand by clasping his arm so that that their wrists were even while they shook -- a warrior’s grip, just as he’d seen Aorle do the first time they met House Anstrun’s champion. The force with which Varanghar returned Julen’s grip was enough to bruise bone, but Julen managed to keep from wincing. “It seems that I have indeed joined your honorable brotherhood. Although I must admit, when you first spoke of it, I think you saw something in me that I had not yet glimpsed.”

Julen remembered how much Varanghar had intimidated him during their first encounter. At any moment, it had seemed as if a single wrong word might cause the giant to crush him like a bothersome bug. Now, the ease with which he spoke to the massive warrior surprised Julen, even as the words fell from his lips. He still respected Varanghar’s size, strength, and obvious skill with weapons. But respect was a very different thing from fear. If feelings soured, if Varanghar suddenly decided that Julen needed to be punished for dishonoring House Anstrun, Julen knew he now had a chance to survive the encounter. Not much of a chance, to be sure. But even a small chance was a very different thing from no chance at all.

"Aorle told me that he’d found a sparring partner for Krarug, but I didn’t think of you, although I should have. You’re the only man I know who’s up to the task.”

When Varanghar asked about the trophy rings, Julen pulled off his glove, displaying the fourth band. “There is this one, as well. It was my first and I wear it to honor the man who trained me.” Julen couldn’t help noticing that Varanghar’s own hands were impressively decorated with enough rings to make a dwarven jeweler jealous. “Of course, I’ve only been at it for two weeks. You have to give me some time to catch up.” Putting his glove back on, Julen laughed, to show that the comment was meant in jest, rather than as a challenge or attempt to brag.

“As for my adventures, I’m afraid that they make for very poor telling.” Julen appreciated the fact that Varanghar had asked. But he didn’t want to disregard his wife’s feelings by attempting to make a heroic epic out of a battle which had caused her nothing but shame, horror and fear. “What about you? Have you come to join our cause?”

Then, before he could forget, Julen gestured to the woman standing beside him. “Varanghar, this is my wife, Rosemary. Rosemary, this is Varanghar. He’s the one who gave me the bracelet I brought you.”

“I remember. It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” Bowing her head, Rosemary curtsied -- partially out of respect, and partially to hide the emotions involuntarily racing across her face. Once again, she found herself unexpectedly confronted with someone bound to House Anstrun, wherein dwelled a person she loathed and feared. Although Varanghar seemed like an honorable man, she simply couldn’t keep that loathing and fear from momentarily betraying themselves in her expression.

“My husband told me that you were very gracious to him after the...unfortunate misunderstanding.” She wanted to say after one of those you protect tried to kill him, for in her mind, Phelan’s attempt to provoke a fight with Julen had been just that, and would have succeeded if Aorle hadn’t intervened. But Varanghar might be sensitive about the house he served, and there was no point in making an enemy out of someone who seemed well-disposed toward Julen. “I thank you for that. And for the bracelet, which is quite lovely.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lightswords on

An open grin was the giant's first response, pleased to see a brave man thrive, and warrior united with his calling. While listening, he nodded, grunting in places to acknowledge without interrupting. A grunt which sounded like the beginnings of a cave-in.

Meeting Rosemary, he simply nodded again. Courteous, but a very different greeting than that shared with his fellow warrior. It was no slur to her, merely that she was hardly a brother on the battlefield, and thus could never truly be his equal. Her merits were outside of his world, and thus he could not judge them, not even in her favour.

"And well-met to you, Rosemary." announced the giant, it was probably not intended as an announcement, but he did not do a soft voice easily. "Your husband is a brave man, willing to come to blows with famed warriors for you. You must be really special to be worth that."

Special or not, that seemed to be the end of Varanghar's interest regarding Rosemary, for he addressed Julen again as if resuming their conversation. "Make sure to wear some rings on your shield hand," he advised, "they guard the fingers when the shield is struck."

Privately, the giant was disappointed that no tale of battle was forthcoming. He enjoyed the success of other warriors, in a much more honest way than did Phelan. In his conversation with Aorle, they had been celebrating very different things. Varanghar, for his part, was pleased for the success of his friend on the battlefield, of the advancement made as a warrior. As opposed to Aorle, who measured success by the fact that Rosemary escaped safely and that Orin and his family were sheltered from further harm.

"Still House Champion, I can't go on campaigns. Just training with you. Not often I face someone who can match strength with me." No boast could have said so much about the giant's strength as that statement, 'matching' strength with Krarug. "What I can do is bring some house troops to train against, get used to fighting in groups. Anyway, best for Aorle to lead you. He wont earn his knighthood if I take over." A hint of something more going on, something that Julen had not been told.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((Continued from: http://www.tharshaddin.com/rp/viewtopic ... 6&start=15))

After a few hours of rest, Uluki felt refreshed and much more alert... but also calmer. It was amazing how overwrought you could become, trying to function on too little sleep.

She lay still for a moment, considering what to do with the rest of the day, then Martin began to cry. He'd slept most of the day so far, all but oblivious to the stress the rest of the family had experienced, and he seemed bored and restless.

She felt Rollick turn over beside her, then begin to get up to tend to Martin. He'd clearly been asleep till the baby woke him, and he still seemed groggy. Uluki took pity.

"Just go back to sleep. I'm already awake."

Muttering something that could have been "Are you sure?" "Thanks," or just "Mrrrff," Rollick returned to his slumbers, and Uluki slipped out of bed and picked up Martin.

She took him out of the room quietly, changed his diaper, then carried him around, just going for a walk inside the building. It was partly to occupy him, but she was also curious about the area where they'd be living.

She made her way toward what seemed to be the main area, figuring if anyone was around, she might as well go ahead and introduce herself.

Post by Julen on

Rosemary smiled when Varanghar paid her the compliment about being special. She liked the way he phrased it, the way he assumed that her true virtues lay within. Too many men would have seen her beauty and jumped to the conclusion that it alone inspired the risk Julen had taken to defend her honor, as if she was nothing more than a pretty shell. But although Rosemary approved of the comment, she couldn’t resist correcting it. “Julen would have done the same for any woman lucky enough to be married to him. His actions speak very little about how special I am, and a great deal about how special he is.”

After that short exchange, Rosemary noticed Varanghar lose interest in her. And, really, she wasn’t too sorry about it. Varanghar seemed nice enough. But lately, an awful lot of trouble had arisen because of warriors paying her a bit too much attention. Slipping her hand from Julen’s, she lightly touched his arm. “I’m going to get started on the gambeson. I’ll see you inside, alright?”

“Alright,” Julen answered, barely registering his wife’s departure. His mind was focused on Varanghar’s advice concerning trophy rings. Tentatively, Julen flexed the fingers of his shield hand, imagining a potential impact. “I see what you mean. Thanks for the tip. Guess I’m going to need some more rings.”

When Varanghar admitted that he would not be truly joining the Lightswords, Julen made no effort to hide his disappointment. “I’m sorry to hear that. But at least we’ll get to do some training together. Maybe one day I’ll even be up to sparring with you.” Chuckling at this seeming impossibility, Julen turned toward his wife to see if she was enjoying the joke. And then remembered that she’d already gone into the abandoned mill. Where other, unknown, men might be hanging out. Concern for Rosemary overcame Julen, and only a very strong wish to avoid insulting Varanghar kept him from bolting after her.

“I better let you get back to your partner,” Julen suggested, with a nod to Krarug. “My mother always advised me against making orcs impatient.” Giving Varanghar a hearty slap on the arm, which probably registered as a very minor impact to the giant, Julen turned away and headed inside.

Where, to his vast relief, Julen saw Rosemary seated on her customary crate, apparently undisturbed as she resumed her sewing. Good. No longer worried about her being accosted, Julen set down his shield and excess weapons in preparation for a little archery practice. He’d just nocked his first arrow when footsteps pulled his attention from the target.

But this was no new warrior arriving to join their cause. Instead, Julen saw an impossibly small woman, with skin an even more impossible shade of bluish-grey. Long black hair tumbled down her back like a dark waterfall. And in her arms, she held a baby. Even after receiving magical healing from Aorle, even after meeting his first orc, nothing stirred wonder in Julen’s heart like this stranger. Because he recognized her. Not personally, of course. But he recognized her as belonging to the race of beings that populated his mother’s favorite stories. Slowly, afraid that any sudden movement might make her vanish, Julen set down his bow and took a step forward.

“You’re one of the Fair Folk, aren’t you?” Julen’s voice was reverent as he spoke to her. “My mother always set out bowls milk and honey for your kin.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki had approached the young man cautiously, afraid if she made too much noise she would startle him and he would shoot her with the arrow. She'd already had enough arrows in her for one day. Before she had a chance to greet him, however, he turned and addressed her.

Uluki was surprised by the question. People didn't usually speak to her that way upon seeing her. The phrase of the day had been "blue-skinned freak," but she'd been called far worse than that in the past. This young man's words were new to her. When Rollick was in a particularly romantic mood he was known to call her "the fairest of the Fair" rather than his more standard "dear one," but other than that she rarely heard "Fair Folk" applied to her kind.

"Yes, I am..." She looked at him for a moment. She could never tell how humans ranked in their strange hierarchy. "...My lord," she added to be on the safe side, in case he was expecting her to say it.

"It was nice of your mother to leave out milk and honey. I'm sure the people liked it." How did they prevent flies from going in the honey? Didn't the milk go sour after awhile? Why a bowl, rather than a cup or mug, which seemed a more logical container for milk? She didn't dare ask these things, however, for fear of offending him about his mother, who must be a kind, decent woman to do such a kindness for her Fae neighbours.

He must be wondering what she was doing there. He seemed too polite to ask, but he'd probably been there first and would wonder who the intruder was. "Aorle said we could stay here. We ended up in this part of the world very suddenly and by accident, and we had nowhere else to go. But we're going to try to help you. Aorle said my husband could help people learn archery, and I..." She wasn't quite sure what she'd be doing. "...I guess you're planning on having guests, and I'm going to help take care of them." That sounded silly, even to her.

She was getting ahead of herself, though. "By 'we' I mean my family. My husband is human like you. I have two daughters, and the baby, as you can see. My name is Uluki, by the way."

She stuck out her hand to shake his, and she'd become accustomed to doing in the time she'd spent around humans.

Post by Julen on

Julen smiled when the diminutive lady addressed him. “Thank you, but I’m no one’s lord, nor likely to become such. My name is Julen. I’m Aorle’s yeoman.” Folding one arm across his chest, Julen bowed to the fairy. Then he made a sweeping gesture directed at a nearby crate. “And the lady sitting over there is my wife, Rosemary.” Who, Julen noted, had set aside her sewing in order to gawk at the newcomer.

Having performed the necessary introductions, Julen returned to the subject of his mother’s beliefs. “My mother said that if we were kind to the Fair Folk, they would guard our house against misfortune and ill luck.” Julen remembered walking through the garden, helping his mother select places for their offerings -- usually beneath particularly lovely flowers. Sometimes, he would even remain behind, determined to sit perfectly still until a fairy came to drink. But he’d been a young boy back then, too restless for such prolonged periods of patience. “We stopped setting out the milk and honey after she died. My father said it was a foolish superstition, best shunned by good church-going people.” Julen shook his head. “Such simple gifts could never hope to appease my father’s god.”

The fairy’s description of how Aorle had offered shelter to her and her family made Julen’s smile grow even bigger. Apparently his friend couldn’t even step outside without stumbling over someone in need of help. “You’re certainly welcome to stay here as long as you wish, although I wasn’t aware that your kind required earthly shelter. My mother said that you dwelled in your own realm, separate from the mortal one, and hidden from human eyes.”

“It’s true that I could use further help with my archery.” Julen nodded at the barrel lid he was using as a target. “And unless I’m mistaken, the guests that Aorle is expecting are more warriors, as well as refugees from Marn’s shanty town. Seeing to all their needs will be a lot of work.”

Finally, the fairy mentioned her name. But Julen nearly didn’t hear it. Even as he accpeted her hand and shook it -- a gesture he found rather odd coming from one of the Fair Folk -- his mind had gotten snagged on a preceding piece of information. “Your husband is human? One of the Dream Kissed?” Julen didn’t know quite how to respond to that. On one hand, almost every story contained fervent descriptions of the rapture enjoyed by the few humans exceptional enough or lucky enough to win favor from a fairy. On the other hand, almost all the tales ended tragically, with the human partner pining away for their own realm, or the fairy partner eventually being left alone after inevitable death claimed their mortal lover.

Fortunately, Julen didn’t need to think of an appropriate reply. By now, Rosemary had plucked up her courage, and moved to join them. Seeing the tenderness and longing in her expression, Julen thought that she shared his awe at meeting on of the Fair Folk. But he was wrong. Those emotions came from a deeper source, one that went back long before the first human stumbled across the first fairy.

“What a beautiful baby,” Rosemary murmured. “Is it a boy or a girl?”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki smiled ruefully at his suggestion that the Fae could guard against bad luck and bad fortune. She only wished that were true. How wonderful that would be, if she had a way to shelter those she loved from trouble and danger. Unfortunately she had no more abilities in that direction than anyone else.

She nodded sympathetically as Julen spoke of his mother's death and this father's rejection of her traditions. There must be great pain there, and she had no desire to force open the wounds by questioning him further, though his description of his father's god concerned her. She'd learned to take gods seriously... not in a worshipful sense particularly, but more because of how much trouble they could cause. She would keep her eye out for further mentions of this strange god who was so difficult to placate.

Julen expressed surprise that she would need shelter, and Uluki clarified. "I did come from that place, the other world. Your mother was right that it exists. It's very different, and I think..." She wasn't quite sure about this part. "...I think it's very far away. I didn't mean to come here. That was an accident. My life is here now, and I'm not sorry it happened. I do need food and shelter just like everyone else, though."

She needed other things, too. She needed to be loved, wanted, accepted. She'd found that in this world, not her own, and that was why she was glad to stay.

"I've helped with refugees before. Things were bad for awhile where we used to live, and a lot of people were without homes. I helped take care of them. I'm happy to do so again."

This was better, actually, than just soldiers. Refugees and poor people she understood. She knew better what they needed; she'd been poor and homeless herself on more than one occasion. She'd be glad to help.

"My husband is..." She didn't entirely understand the question. "He's human, yes. Dream Kissed? I'm not sure. He's sleeping, is that what you meant?" That seemed an awfully poetic way to say someone was asleep, and Uluki assumed there was some deeper meaning behind it. "I've never heard that before."

Uluki smiled brightly when Rosemary complimented her on the baby. "Thank you. He's a boy. His name is Martin. You can hold him, if you like. You don't have to, only if you want." Rosemary seemed to like the baby, and Uluki had no doubts about how she would treat him. "Do you and Julen have any children?"

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