Academy of the Tethyrian Cavalry. (flavor post)

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Academy of the Tethyrian Cavalry. (flavor post)

Postby Jiriki » Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:06 am

The Academy of the Cavallar Tethyr.

The journey took seventeen days. Hot sweaty days of riding through the countryside in silence, riding in pairs, armored as the sun beat down on the us, that group of riders that travelled through Tethyr from the south and up to the midlands.

I was barely ten, my family and the warriors that surrounded me didn’t speak to me often and so I was left to the study of the world about me. No friends to talk to or confide in, even my own mother had shunned me by this point in my life. I didn’t bother to question it anymore, didn’t bother to try to find an excuse as I might have done previously. The walls that had begun to grow when I first learned that dreadful secret as it was exploded to me one day while I was growing up began to grow faster. At first only a small wooden fence, a childlike structure that I could hide behind and pretend that the hard words were really Ogres and I were a Knight of the Realm like so many of those that rode with me with their grim stern expressions that I tried my hardest to emulate. In the travelling days that took me to the academy, I suppose I began to withdraw more. No one noticed, no one attempted to talk to me, perhaps they were glad of my silence and felt more comfortable around me with it. But on reflection, they were men, men of a hard world and those men had no time for a child.

I first realized that things were going to be hard at the academy when I over-heard the warriors talking around their fires. They thought I was asleep and that I’d not hear them. All care was handed to me that I should not yet feel cold physically. I was fed, I was clean, I had everything physically that I needed to grow to manhood and so I kept my head down, kept my own council and kept my prayers to Helm to myself. Around that fire I heard that I would have to be careful, that I would have to watch my own back for none would watch it for me. That those I thought I might yet trust would probably turn on me like vipers in a nest of stones and swords. I took those words to my heart, I pondered on them for many many hours as we travelled. At first, after the first days riding I was so tired I fell asleep, the next I wasn’t so and began to stay awake and heard them talking. I remained awake as long as I could with my eyes closed every-night after that, as yet hoping to hear more of my fate beyond the world of my family and those soldiers that spoke in hushed tones.


The stones of the city became visible nearly five days later. A huge haze grew over the top of it like a swarm of tiny insects that none could see. I watched as it grew in form and shape, watching the features come real from the haze until finally the city was before me. We never got any closer though, turning off onto another track we travelled straight to the academy. Up a long sweeping driveway of miles and miles of open country, flat, this was so I could see that there would be no place to run or hide, that there were no features to hide behind in this featureless landscape. Upon arriving at the archway with the helmed warriors standing on duty, huge massive stone carvings with their arm over their chests in eternal salute, the other arm pointing towards the former main city of Tethyr. I felt small. I felt helpless. But then we were through and I felt something like I was stepping into my first real home, little could I know that infact it was the arms of a hell I could have never imagined..
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Re: Academy of the Tethyrian Cavalry. (flavor post)

Postby Jiriki » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:24 am

After being introduced to the officer in charge, by my uncle, things got steadily worse. I was marched double time to my new barracks and told smartly to report to the captain within who glared at me balefully, informed me that I was Cadet Hawkwinter, this was his halls and I'd better keep my nose clean at all times. He stood then, coming from around the desk to inspect me at first hand, his top lip curling disdainfully as he took in my clothes and my entire belongings that I'd struggled with all the way to the barracks that were packed and rolled at my feet.

I was warned that lights out was not a request, that we behaved like gentlemen here at all times. That horseplay was not permitted, that the two lower sections of the barracks were out of bounds at all times unless expressly requested for and that lastly, there was to be, no smoking, no gambling, no drinking, no fighting and no spitting ever in his halls. I made the mistake of making eye contact at his last order at which he promptly blew up at me. No cadet was ever to make eye contact to a superior officer unless it was in classes and you were looking at your teacher. Then he ordered me up the stairs with my kit and to be on my way. I must admit, at that time I was never so glad to be dismissed at that point in my whole life. Captain Dentryllar scared the living daylights out of me.

My bunks mates were all new to the academy, Kortrinn was also a 'newer' noble and kept himself to him. Hassar was old noble, his father had lost just about everything in the civil war, but he came from a long and distinguished line of lords, earls, barons. Spink as we called him was actually named Spinnek, he came from one of the smaller baronies and his clothing was cheap, but practical, just like mine. He smiled as I stood there wondering what to do next and came to offer a hand. Between us we managed to move the bags that I'd threatened to fall down the stairs to my bunk, the closet door open and bare, the bed small but looking reasonable he informed me was to be made each morning to the tautness of being able to bounce a coin from the sheets. I nodded mutely, looked down at my things and began to stow all my contents away. This place was to be my home until I graduated in five years. I never gave my name.

We took to early to our beds, the other new cadets arrived one by one until we were six, our unit was probably the shabbiest I'd ever seen but soon we were sat on our beds, or on chairs near the small wood burner in the corner of the room talking. Captain Dentryllar hammered on the door just after dark ordering lights out and informing that when the muster drums were heard in the morning, we had to be fully dressed and on the parade ground by the time the breakfast horn was blown or we'd have a demerit for the whole group of us. We were very soon asleep. By then, the only name I'd given was Hawkwinter.

That first morning I woke to the sound of drums, rose quickly to dress as promptly as I could and pulled on my long boots just as the others were ready, then there was the usual scuffle at the one wash basin in the room as faces and hands were scrubbed pink, hair was hastily dealt with and we ran down the stairs as quickly as our legs could carry us. Out on the parade ground, the air was chilly, the night sky still just over head but the light was already beginning to glow on the horizon. A large corporal screamed and harangued us into position inspecting us from top to two, commenting on our general lack of self respect from the way we looked to the way our hair was cut. Then he turned smartly on his heel, saluting the academy commander who with his other officers began to inspect the row upon row of new cadets while the other years stood to attention behind us. He came to me, I was bolt upright as instructed and staring straight ahead. Most of the new recruits had been given at least one comment or another but to me he actually stopped and turned then came back narrowing his eyes. He then informed my that my card was already marked, that I'd have work twice as hard as everyone else and that just because my aunt was the Horse Lord I'd be offered no special treatment. I could feel eyes on me all the way to the breakfast halls where we filed in, one by one picked up our breakfast of eggs, porridge toast and as much of the mushroom that grew in the grounds as I could fill myself up with, thrown down with coffee of such a standard that it could melt iron. Then we were marched to our first lessons, all the way instructed on the merits of being on time, the punishments of being late. It was to be a day of Maths first where we kept silent as our master, a retired soldier proceeded to make us work at test paper after test paper to 'assess our level of basic intelligence'. Then we were marched to Realms History, where our lecturer made it abundantly clear that he wanted us to not speak, open our books and copy everything he read out to us. Important date and places with names were written on the board, Engineering next where the captain sat at the desk actually spoke to us like we were people worthy of having our own thoughts in our heads. He wanted to know of the terrain about our family homes, then after making notes proceeded to show us the correct way to build a basic camp set up. Surprisingly, there were one or two that hadn't ever done that before. I'm proud to say I was not one of them. Lunch was a similar affair to breakfast, bread chunks with a bacon and potatoes soup so thick it was like mud a huge bowl of the stuff that we each found difficult to fill and were unable to understand the size. After lunch, feeling dopey and replete, I must confess I felt desperate go to sleep for a while but we couldn't. We were marched to our lesson on Historical Warfare followed by an hour dedicated to Helm's study.

It was basic fitness training where we marched and marched and marched again. Each time one of the unit screwed up an about turn, the whole unit got a demerit. That carried on for a while until the repeat offenders began to accrue individual demerits. Soon we understood what those demerits would mean. Marching up and down, round and round the parade ground until we were drilled correctly and formally in how to stand, how to walk, how to run how to rest easy. Everyone coped well enough with this except for our rather larger friend who was sick quickly and exhausted long before the first half hour was up. But he kept going, he kept on trying to keep up with us the rest of him, abused and harassed each step of the way. Soon, his hair was slick with sweat, his clothes soaked and darkened with the same and when he was picked on over and over, it was hard to ignore the corporals wit nor was it easy to keep our mouths straight as his ever inventive string of 'compliment's as he called them and to my shame, I admit I smiled as well.

We found out why the lunch meal was so large a short while later. That was the largest meal of the day, our food for the evening was cold meats and bread, stuffed with more of the mushroom again, followed by two hours of supervised study in our halls, where a fifth year cadet would sit in with us while we studied. He also proceeded to comment rudely about the way we were, from our handwriting to our spellings, from our diction to our numerical prowess.

By the time we were ready for our beds we could barely move nor keep our eyes open and thus, it was with great pleasure and satisfaction that I closed my eyes on my first day at the academy. I soon realised that each day would be exactly the same. For some reason this gave me great comfort. The only exception was that on every other day, except for marching we would use our weapon of choice, working hard at it in repeated drill. Groups of swords men standing in row after row doing the same things over and again, groups of mace men doing the same, groups of short sword men and two handed fighters. Each of us were instructed by an expert of his craft who would comment a lot, praise little. With my grouping, we spent the first ten minutes with our arms stretched out before us with wooden swords on our outstretched hands. Anyone that lets their sword drop? You guessed it, a demerit to march off before dinner.
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Re: Academy of the Tethyrian Cavalry. (flavor post)

Postby Jiriki » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:45 pm

When I got back, Spink was awake. He crouched at the hearth tossing a few sticks onto the coals to keep them alive. He seemed to share my insomnia as he whispered in the quiet. “What happens to us if we get sent home from the academy?”


I was surprised that he didn’t know, “you’re a soldiers boy, you enlist as a common soldier and do the best you can. “


“Or if you’re lucky, some rich relative buys you a commission and you go off as an officer anyway. There is no other option. Such is Helm’s will.” Nate added quietly into the silence.


“What if I don’t have a rich relative? Or at least, I don’t have any that like me.” Spink sighed.


“Me neither.” I observed. “So perhaps we best sleep tonight and study hard tomorrow. I don’t like the idea of marching for the rest of my life.”


We all fell asleep to that thought, but I think I lay awake longer than most. My family had money, but I didn’t have their love. What if I were culled from the Academy? I would only have my horse and my armour; I would be unable to take a position in the cavalry and would probably be denied any caring from my family. But what if I were culled? Would my family judge me after that failure, would they even allow me entry into the house within the city? I doubted it. Ever since I’d been old enough to realize where my life would most certainly be pushed, ever since I’d realized I was to be a Paladin of Helm for the rest of my life. I had grasped it with both hands, determined to make as good as I could of it. Prior to the Academy, I had given little thought to the prejudice I might encounter if I failed, but now as I hovered on the edge of sleep it wouldn’t leave me. I think I might have dozed. Then I felt a sudden sting of outrage, I sat up in the dark and heard myself speak. “A true warrior would not put up with continued humiliation. A true warrior would find a way to strike back.”


Spink shifted in his sleep and spoke out sleepily. “Jax is talking in his sleep again.”


Rory called back with Nate weakly. “Shut up Jax.”


I lay back on my bunk and let sleep take me.


The few weeks of initiation that remained seemed an eternity to me. The pranks grew rougher. One night, we were all rousted out of bed in our nightshirts and forced outside in a cold, driving rain and told to stand there. Cold and shivering, an hour later, the Sergeant found us and sent us shivering back to our beds. I could no longer take this in the same fashion as Rory, who saw it as merely a challenge to toughen me up. I now saw them as a small place where those who didn’t fit in, were picked on by those that felt they did. When the taunted me or forced me to behave foolishly or wasted my time with unnecessary tasks, it now burned in my soul. It created a little well of anger in me that drop by drop they fed. I had been a good natured person when I first arrived, able to take a joke and able to forgive even the roughest of jokes. Those six weeks taught me why some men carry grudges.


I began, foolishly perhaps to take small vengeances. When I blacked the second years’ boots, I took care to get blacking on the laces also so they’d dirty their hands. They caught me at that, of course, and angrily demanded that I be more careful next time. I blacked the boots meticulously then, but pushed a thumb of tar up into the treads of several boots. They tracked the mess all over their floors the next morning as they left their dorm and reaped the punishment of a sticky floor at inspection. That, they blamed on each other, and had demerits of their own to march off, that pleased me. It was far better to make their misfortunes seem an accident. Something I learned well.


A few nights later I rose from my bed after I judged the others were sleeping. I walked silently through the study room, but just was I was reaching the door Rory spoke up. “Where are you going?” He and Nate had been sitting in the dark, talking quietly.

“Out. Just for a moment.”


“What have you got there? More tree resin?”


When I made no reply, Rory gave a snort of amused laughter. “I saw you gathering it the other day. Pretty smooth Jax. Actually. Pretty sticky! And I wouldn’t have put it to you either! What are you up to now?”


I didn’t want to tell them, I was caught between a certain amount of reluctance and a sense of clever pride. I came back to the hearth, blew briefly on the coals to wake a feeble flame and then showed what I had in my hand.


“Wood chips? What are you going to do with those?”


“Wedge them into the door.” I replied.


Nate was shocked; I could see it on his face. “That’s not like you! Or is it?”


I shook my head, a bit surprised at his questions, was taken aback a little. It wasn’t like me to play such dirty tricks. It was a commoners tactic, a stable boys version of a subtle revenge and probably unworthy of a noble. I tried to care more for that, and found I couldn’t. It was almost as if I had discovered a second me inside myself. Or perhaps I was resorting to such underhand means through a need for survival.


Rory leaned closer to peer at the chip and shook his head. “Those are too little, you need bigger.”


“Want to bet?” Came my answer.


“I’m coming too; I’ve got to see this.” Rory and Nate followed me as I crept down the stairs to the next floor. The second years had a door that opened out from their study room onto the stair well. They closed it at night to hold the heat in their rooms. I crouched low, the dim lantern in the stairwell barely illuminating my work as I carefully stacked the wood chips into a series of wedges under their door.


“Do some in the sides too.” Rory suggested.


I grinned and nodded, then worked them in just above the hinges, pressing them firmly into the crack and pushing them to the frame.


The next morning we hastened our fellows out of the room and down to the parade ground, ignoring the pounding and shouting from the second years’ door as we passed it. There, we were innocently waiting our Corporal when the third years and cadet officers arrived. All the second years were late to muster and awarded demerits as a result. I don’t know how the rest of the first years had found out, but one by one I was congratulated. Our corporal suspected us and did his best to make us miserable the rest of that day. Yet his best efforts did little to dampen our spirits.


Perhaps I shouldn’t have fallen to such low levels, I should have known Rory would take it a step further and escalate the war. I think it was he that pissed in their water ewer and left it by their water basin, but I have no proof. Day after day they bullied us, and night after night we fought back. We were far more adept than they, we found small ways to strike back and we were more creative. Flour and sugar rubbed into their bed sheets meant they woke sticky as dumplings. A hollowed stick of firewood packed with horse hair from the stables drove them from their common room one night. They cursed at us; they accused, but in the end could prove nothing. We marched off demerits, kept our eyes down and seemed to submit, but at night after lights out we gathered in the darkness to whisper and rejoice. All good natured tolerance for our ‘initiation’ was gone. We waged a war of endurance, now, to prove we would not be run off.


The initiation culminated in a grand melee. Traditionally, it was some sort of mock battle, a wrestling competition or tug of war or footraces or other sporting challenge. It was meant to sort out all ill feelings that had built up. All were to emerge from it peers and equals, academy cadets one and all. But in my first year, it all went rather badly. To this day I cannot fathom what it was. I don’t think it was entirely an accident either. How naïve we all were! We had been brought to the edge of reason and the edge of boil and left there hanging by bullies and pressure. We should have known better to put any trust in anything a second year told us. Yet when our Corporal came pounding up the stairs, shouting for us to rally, for another House had stolen our flag, we all slammed our books shut and left our afternoon study to pelt down the stairs and flooded out onto the parade ground.


Across the ground, to our fury we beheld our colours flying upside down below their own by a substantial margin. The base of their flag was guarded by their entire first year. On seeing us emerge like enraged bees from a kicked hive, they roared at us in challenge to come and get it. Their second years stood watching cheering them on.


I think the upper class-men had misjudged the temperament of our house, or perhaps they’d not. For we charge forth into the fray, Rory in the front with me bellowing like a bull. I think I heard someone shout – Champions you’re supposed to choose champions! But if that had been the plan, no one had told us and now it was too late. The first years of my house hurtled bare-handed, into the ranks of their house. We thought as we battled, that we fought for the honour of our houses. In reality, the second years of both houses were thoroughly entertained by the open brawl they found themselves watching. They roared and cheered from both sides. We were scarcely aware of their presence. At first it was only pushing and shoving as we tried to get to our flag, but then fists began to fly. I don’t know who started it, they accused us and we accused them. I think all the pent up aggression all the first years felt at the bullying though and our intense studying had suddenly burst like a swollen boil.


There were a dozen of us, and only eight of theirs. But when their second years saw we were getting the better of them, enough of them waded on in as well to even things up a bit. Even so, the triumph came to us. Most of us were wilder than the softer boys of the other house. We were hardened, leathery and they were town boys. Gordy was in the thick of it for all his tubbiness, red-faced and thrashing away. I saw three of them try to bring him down, but they failed. He hunched his head and ploughed on through towards the flagpole. Tris was the best of us, he fought as if in a ring, throwing punches and ducking and weaving. In the end there were perhaps twenty-five of us around the flagpole, but at the time it seemed like hundreds. I fought with none of Tris’ class and finesse, I full on brawled, shoving men aside, kicking the feet out from under others, and rolling another off my shoulders as he jumped on me. He landed badly and I didn’t care. I stepped over him shoving my way forwards to the flagpole.


I don’t know who made it there first or who pulled down the flag, but it came down and theirs with it. We seized both of them with glee and were falling back across the parade ground in possession of both and heading to our own house when third years on horseback led by the house sergeants from all four houses on foot clattered into our midst. The sergeants waded into us, tossing cadets aside as if we were children. Once they had split us up enough, the thirds rode their horses between us. We were standing apart, breathing hard and full of pride. Caught between shock and triumph at what we’d done. My nose was bleeding, my knuckles raw and one sleeve had been ripped from my shirt but that was the least of it. Tris was holding his arm close to his chest, there were masks of blood on several of us, and it was with real pride we noted that the other side had not fared any better. Five cadets were carried to the infirmary and none of ours had fallen. The rest of us were judged fit to stand and we were summarily ripped a new one.


I had wondered what the bollocking from our Colonel; a retired man who - with this his first posting since his retirement - had no real love for noble boys that wished to “play at being soldier” would achieve, if that would be it? We were marched off to our dorms, guarded over night to ensure that none would escape to try to further things and then lessons continued the next day. Again, a hearty breakfast was given and the whispered rumours were that the ringleaders were facing instant dismissal from our Academy. We spoke little, but exchanged many sidelong glances. Which ones would it be?

Our answers were brought to our attention when we returned to our dorms to collect our things for the first lessons. Three trunks were already packed and waiting in our common room. Mine were not among them and the sickening feeling I’d had growing in my stomach all morning was to my shame quelled at once. I felt relief, but more importantly, I felt shame. Jared stared at his trunk in dull silence; I think they had perhaps overdosed him with the sedative he’d been given for his wounds and he could not quite fully understand what was going on. Trent went and sat on his then buried his face in his good hand. While another, Lofter wrung his hands and kept proclaiming “it’s not fair, it’s not fair!” as if it would change things. Then he would come to us and ask us angrily as if we had the answers to the world’s woes “what did I do that was any worse than you?” He came to me and prodded me in the chest. Got nose to nose as he demanded from me. “You were in the front Jax! You led the charge! Why me and not you?!” But I had no answers to give him. Only a vague idea that for ill or good, unless I did something unforgiveable I was stuck here; again my sense of relief warred with my sense of fear and dread.

On the whole, we had no answers for them, no words to comfort them and provide them with any ease. Rory looked stricken and I think we all wondered why he’d not been sent packing as well. When our Corporal came up the stairs angrily to roust us he callously told Jared, Trent and Lofty to get out. They’d be found a place in the city in a boarding house and messages had already been sent home to their fathers detailing out their disgrace. It felt horrible for the nine of us left. We formed up disheartened and he marched us out double timed to our first class, then stared us up and down in disgust leaving us with no doubt of his intent. After he’d gone, Tris spoke first quietly as we waited. “Well, that was our first culling.”

Rory sighed and nodded along with the rest of us then spoke stoically. “All I can say is; I’m damned glad it wasn’t me.”

I felt the same; and it shamed me.

But life soon got back into the swing of things as they had before. Our routine closed up around the gaps like a healing around a missing tooth and after a time, the empty bunks did not seem so foreign. Outwardly, very little changed, but inwardly all my feelings about the Academy and even the heralded lofty status in my mind that the future for me as a soldiers son had subtly altered. Nothing seemed certain any longer, no future could be taken for granted, no honour or fellowship assumed. In the space of a day, I had seen three of the boys have all their dreams dashed and ruined; I now had to believe that it could just as easily have been me.

If that culling had been intended to build a fire in my belly, it succeeded. I strove twice as hard with a single minded determination to survive, to complete my training and poured myself into my academics. I pushed aside all thoughts of homesickness, this was my home now and I had no other. I buried my outrage at the treatment that we’d been shown repeatedly since our arrival here. I came to realise we were just the same, there was no point of the privilege of noble this or noble that, and the older boys found new ways to prove that to us. We soon learned that none of the latter had been sent home in disgrace. My aunt’s name and her title in Tethyr of “Horse Lord” had perhaps saved me, however I wondered how long it would last. The first years of the other house had received demerits to march off, but no culling. Our own Corporal had dark circles under his eyes for a month, for he had to rise early each morning to discharge his punishment. But that was the worst that befell any of them. In time I came to agree with Rory when he said that night. “We were set up for fools my friends; we were set up for fools. They wanted us to wade in.”

The strange part was that once the culling was over and it faded in our minds I began to enjoy my days in the Academy. Life was busy and demanding, I had no free time to ponder on things such as my life prior to this place or my father. But blessed of all, it was uncomplicated. All elements of my day were predetermined; I rose when told, marched to my classes, did my work, ate my food and slept when lights were put out. My friendships deepened. I still felt a divide between Tris and Spink, I liked them both; Spink for his ethics and Tris for his elegance and sophistication. If I could have, I would be friends with both, yet neither seemed willing to let that happen.

I think the real difference showed between the ways they treated the Colonels son. For he became very much a part of our lives. I recall the first time he turned up in our common rooms uninvited and unannounced. It was at the end of our second month in the Academy and on that rest day eve; the proctor had left off our study room to take himself early to town. It was the first time we’d been left alone for a full evening and we were glad for it. Ostensibly, we were applying ourselves to our lessons to be ready when classes resumed on the next day, certainly Spink could do with it, with faithful Gordy at his elbow guiding his mind through the page upon page of maths they battled for that continued to be his most difficult classes. I had finished my work but had my grammar book before me and was going over irregular verbs forms as had been outlined to me prior to my arrival, I was ahead in the most of the classes I attended and I fully intended to keep that lead.

The other residents of our floor sat at the tables or sprawled in the big easy chairs before the empty hearth, books and papers scattered the tables or on the rug. The quiet buzz of desultory conversation and discussion filled the room. All our previous horseplay inclination had worn away by the long day of classes and drill we endured. Rory, who seemed to have an endless supply of jokes and bawdy tales, was lounging on the table and in the midst of recounting another tale about a whore with a glass eye. Cale was in his corner with his latest letter from home reading aloud to Nate; when a younger than any of ours loudly proclaimed. “I thought you were all supposed to be studying in here tonight. Where is your proctor?”

Rory stopped mid tale, his mouth wide open in stunned surprise and we all turned to stare at the doorway. If it had not been for the tenor of his voice, I might’ve mistaken his utter disapproval for a senior officer, so confidently did he sound of his right to rebuke us. There was a moment when no one spoke and all of us exchanged glances. If anyone else had been thereto witness, they might’ve found it comical somewhat to see our faces, a room of prime young men fall to a hush at the voice of a mere nine year old boy. But I am sure the thought flash burned through every mind: Is he here to spy?

Nate carefully found his tongue first, “Our proctor isn’t here at the moment, have you a message for him?”

It was a guarded, careful response, and I knew at once that Nate was putting himself on the line for our study Proctor. Was it possible he was not supposed to have left us that evening? I admired Nate’s courage and loyalty even as I doubted his wisdom.

The boy advanced into the room like a rat that has discovered the cat is absent. “Oh, aye, I’ve a message for him. Someone should tell him that he’ll get dick scald if he doesn’t stay away from Garter Annie’s girls!”

Rory gave a great sudden “hah!” of laughter at this pronouncement and the rest of us joined in. Annie’s girls were housed in a cheap brothel at the edge of town I had been informed and it was closest to the Academy. We had all be sternly warned away from it and had heard tales of Annie’s girls from all manner of upper class-men on every day since. The boy stood grinning even as he blushed up, well pleased in his effects. Later I would come to realise this was a pattern with him. He would first fling about authority to see who would flinch first, and if that did not bring him welcome, he’d offer up crude jests to see who’s interest that would win. Had I been older, might’ve recognised it as an attempt to be accepted. At the time, caught off guard I laughed along with the rest even though I found myself appalled that the boy had said such. In my home at his age, I’d have been whipped at the post by my tutor for talking like that! Here, he had earned entry into a common room of first years.

“Well I can see you’re all at work here.” He said, his tone conveying the exact opposite. Eyes bright, he wandered through the room as if he had been born there. Most of the cadets watched him carefully; some covered their work, while others turned over the letters to home they were writing or closed books with their fingers in them. Across from me, Spink’s pencil continued to scrape the page through another set of exercises. As if drawn by the sound, and the lack of attention, the boy approached Spink, and then rudely examined his work before jabbing his finger and loudly announcing. “Eight times six is forty-eight, not forty-six! Even I know that!” Spink lifted his arm casually to block him and without looking up asked. “And do you know that this is the study room for the first years, not a playroom for small boys?”

The mocking smile on the boy’s face melted to one of outrage. “I am not a little boy!” he declared angrily. “I am nine! And the first son of the Colonel of this institution. You don’t seem to realise who I am!” Spink lifted his gaze calmly from the page before him and sighed softly. “My father was a lord, before that he was a captain; I am his soldier’s son. As your father were a soldier son and not a lord. That would make us peers and equals, if you were old enough to be a cadet here. And if, as the son of a soldier and not the son of a noble, you were allowed entry.”

“I am the first son. Even if I will be a soldier! And I will go to the Academy: when my father too this post he asked the council of Lords would I be given a place and they granted it! My father promised me a good commission! And you! You are just a jumped up second son of a second son, an upstart battle lord’s boy, jumped up to the status of a noble’s son, that’s all you are!” The boy had not only lost all decorum but his voice had risen to a falsetto and his veneer of maturity had failed. His name calling unmasked him for the brat he was even as his rash reply revealed what he felt for us all. The words were out of his mouth less than a moment before his eyes widened at his horror of what he’d said. Then he lifted his chin and seemed for a moment desperate to mend fences, before defiantly wanting to put us all in our places. He drew breath to speak.

Tris saved him. He had been reading a book his chair tipped back to lean against a wall by the hearth when the boy came in. Now he tipped it back down so the front legs landed with a thud. “I’m going out for a chew.” He announced to no one in particular. The boy in our midst looked on puzzled. At first I thought Tris had said it to annoy the boy more. For whatever reason, Tris interpreted that chewing while it was not expressly forbidden, was allowed and openly indulged in it. It annoyed Spink who regarded it as churlish and had observed it as a “filthy habit.”

The response came as always from Tris. “Indeed, as are most manly habits.” At that I saw his true target as the boy and watched with interest what the reaction would be as Tris added. “As a true battle lord upstart should. Don’t you think young man? Or have you never been exposed to tobacco chewing?” Before the boy could reply, Tris answered himself. “No, doubtless you are too well-born to have ever even heard of this simple pleasure of a cavalry man. A bit too rough for a gently born lad like yourself.” Casually Tris took a plug of tobacco from his pocket, he peeled back the bright waxed paper and revealed the dark nugget of dried leaf. The smell of it flooded the room, it was harsh and strong, like a sheep herder’s tobacco.

The boy looked from Tris’ face to the plug and back again, I could feel that charismatic pull myself. He didn’t want to seem ignorant, nor did he want to appear as “too genteel” to enjoy such manly pleasures. Too genteel was only one step from being a sissy. I didn’t envy him his dilemma. If I had been a boy burning to distinguish myself in front of a group of many cadets, I’d have taken the bait also.

“Seen it before.” He said disdainfully.

“Have you?” Tris’ reply was lazy and he let it hang before he asked. “Ever tasted it?”

The boy said nothing, only stared at him.

“A demonstration,” Tris offered amiably, “like so.” He made a show of breaking a corner of the plug. “Now, it doesn’t go into your mouth onto your tongue. Rather it tucks into your lower lip, like this.” Snugged into place, the plug barely showed as a lump in Tris’ mouth. He nodded his head sagely, then offered to Rory. “A man’s pleasure?”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Rory replied and stepped forward to break of a piece also and likewise slipped it in. “Awl that’s the stuff right there.” He exclaimed when it was in place.

Tris then offered the brick to the boy, all eyes were on him now all except Spink who had gone back to his math. Tris though, the golden boy and all others were transfixed by the seduction. He was so relaxed, leaning so in place against the fire lintel, one of those rare men that seemed to have been designed for the uniform of the Cavalry officer, one that makes it look unique. We all wore the same, but Tris looked as if he had chosen it, rather than had it thrust upon him. His shoulders were wide, his waist trim, and his boots shone. My hair stood out as it was lighter, like straw as it was referred to more than once. But his hair was dark, sleek and full of dense curls that snugged his skull enchantingly. If ever a young man would be a poster boy for the Academy, Tris was it. Who could resist such charm? The boy certainly couldn’t and a hushed silence lingered in the air as we waited to see what he’d do. He broke it when he announced. “Don’t mind if I do!” in a mimic of Rory’s voice with a small tremble of excitement.

“There’s a lad!” Tris exclaimed with approval. He broke off an overly generous chunk of the brick and handed it to the boy who tucked it bravely into place and tried to smile around the bullfrog bulge.

“Well, let’s off for a stroll before curfew. Shall we?” Tris invited him, Rory nodded and the boy tagged along. He was already turning a pinkish colour as they walked out of the room. The two elder lads chatted as they went down the stairs. For a time there was silence, then suddenly first one, then another was inspired to rise and tiptoe to the stairs after the trio to watch. All of them barely able to hide their mirth.

We listened to the regular cadence of boots, then suddenly we heard a desperate rush of feet down the stairs, a truly impressive bellow or retching and a roar of express outrage from our sergeant down below. Kort appeared in the doorway laughing helplessly and then announced solemnly. “He vomited down two flights of stairs. I’ve never seen one plug of tobacco go quite so far.” We all burst out laughing.

Spink lifted his eyes and slowly shook his head at us. “Picking on a lad.” He shamed us as a small smile appeared on his mouth.

Another day, another memory , months later and we’d been in the city. Our different families had come to visit for a holy day and some were lodging in their town houses. Mine of course had not come, nor would they I had supposed, so it fell to Spink and myself to wander around his uncle’s home in polite contemplation. Happy and behaving, but his cousin had come to my attention. I was not wordly wise with women at that time, nor would I be until my return to Waterdeep and so I was not wise to her wit, nor her barbs. All of it left me confused and Spink had to more than once leap to my rescue.

It was almost a relief to return to the Academy and the company of my fellows. That week, to my delight, mounted drills replaced marching in our schedules, but the beasts they gave us were so sedate, brown and so uniform in temperament and appearance that there was scarcely anything notworthy between one and another. They were numbered, not named. Mine was number 17C and the care of them fell to us as well. Warhorses they were not. Nor cavalla chargers but we looked very pretty I suspected as we performed our manoeuvres on them. They were dull and undemanding creatures, obedient, and completely without challenge. We sat their backs and they went through their paces with precision but no spark. When there were errors, it was the rider not the horse. Gordy proved an apt horsemen to my surprise, while Oron slouched and Rory was over enthused in ‘controlling’ his mount. He would reign him in sharply and kick him harder than needed which made the animal baulk and fidget. I longed for my own horse that I knew was in the stable and would stick it to them all, but as yet, apart from my being able to go look after Monarch and exercise him when I had time. I was not allowed to ride him in troop for fear of injuring someone else.

Even so, our small troop looked better on the horses than the other first years. We were all sons born to horse, we had all ridden since we could walk. That was not true of the other houses. We would watch them drill. Rory put it into words for us. “Them’re why we’re all mounted on these flea bit mealy spirited nags rather than our own. Put a real horse between their legs and half these lad’s would wet themselves.”

A few could ride like true horsemen, but for the most part their inexperience was clear. Their ignorant fellows botched all efforts with skill, the horses knew the commands but the riders did not. I saw one fellow sawing on his reins with his elbows held wide from his body like wings, causing his mount to veer wildly and occasionally shoulder into another horse beside him. Another rode with one hand gripping for all his worth to the horn on the front of his saddle, at the trot, he looked as if he might die any moment. It gave us some amusement but it was short-lived. Our drill instructor, a Lieutenant from an old house would not suffer us to mock them for long, instead we were set to work off our demerits not through marching, but for all things, mucking out the entire block. He would lecture us while we worked that we were mocking and defiling the age old custom that the cavalla took care of it’s own. The diatribe would not set with any of us well.. and we already knew the difference. So he took instead to make me his shining boy… often asking my opinion and then mocking it, going from good natured teasing to out ride blatantly mocking my aunt the Horse Lord.


Two month into our first year, all thoughts of enjoying my riding Monarch were taken from me, he was sent to the city with Spinks horse to reside in their stable there as all our tack and kit needed to be uniform. A move that would prove to undermine morale within me. But perhaps this was the intended result again I reasoned as it was only I and a few others that had their own mounts within the Academy. I missed Monarch badly and took as much time as I could then on my days off to go ride him, talking to him and felt even more alone by the end of it.

I started to get letters from Spink’s cousin, the writing was tiny on the paper, but it was a comfort to me one every ten days. But on the other hand my bad dreams began to return to me. One such that I do still remember and will for a long time to come I feel, I drew a longed for letter from her from the envelope, my sisters neat precise large print was written on a large gold leaf. As I looked at it it turned brown and withered away, the inked lines fading unread with the colour changing. The leaf curled in, until it resembled a cocoon from a butterfly. When I tried to unfurl it, it crumbled away to nothing and blew away on the wind. Spink’s cousin was next. It was written on paper. I tried to read it, but her handwriting, once so large and looping now crawled into tiny spiders and scurried away, then up my hands making me cry out a they began to bite at me. Then the letters turned to ornate they defied my eyes, but within each page a flower appeared pressed, they were carefully folded into each sheet and when I opened them I could smell their fragrance strongly. I put my nose to them, inhaling their scents knowing somehow that Spinks cousin had worn them. I smiled for her flowers were a sign of the love she felt for me. I was so blessed suddenly, my future felt golden and assured. As I felt this confidence, I knew my lady would come to be, be my wife and fill my halls with the laughter of children. Then when my days were done, we would retire to live out our years in comfort and honour.

At these thoughts, the violets in my hand began to grow. They budded and more blossoms joined the three, and the three eldest blossoms formed tiny seeds which dropped on the palm of my hand. There they germinated and began to take root in my flesh, sinking tiny roots into my palm and opening small leaves to the sun. Flowers with the faces of children began to open, I watched them, cherished them as I leaned against the trunk of an oak that had sprung from nowhere.

Something made me look up and a stern warrior stood there, staring at me as he shook his head in silence. “No.” The word didn’t need to be heard to be understood. “that is not for you, not with her. It may do for others but not for you.” His unspoken words horrified me and I sought to cup the future that I thought was mine in my hands, only to have it blown away. The children crying and turning to ashes as they blew. It was then that I realised that where I’d leaned against the oak, I had become fused to the wood. I lifted my head to scream and instead vomited forth a cascade of leather ropes that began to bind me, I woke to Spink gripping me by the shoulders and shaking me awake. “Wake up Jax! You’re dreaming!” He was shouting at me as I became aware of the dorm, and fell back in relief.

“A dream, it was a dream.” He repeated then released me and went to sit on his own bunk and turn in again.

I tried to sleep the rest of that night, but it eluded me. I couldn’t help but feel that my time in the Academy would be eventful and educational, but ultimately, I would end up with it coming to an untimely end.

The next few years flew past, the dreams would come and go, but there were no more cullings of our year, that would fall to harsher terms and conditions offered to those below us and I found my expectations of myself would become comfortable. Accepted and allowed, my friends were still my friends, but newer cousins, true Hawkwinters arrived in lower years and my legend of being the bastard renewed. Conversations ended when I appeared, eyes shifted away. I had known it wouldn’t be long, but then I hadn’t counted on it being so short a respite either.

The bullying returned with those that wanted to curry favour with a true Hawkwinter, even those in my year began to attempt to take liberties. My kit would go missing, my boots would have thumb tacks inserted into them to make my feet bleed, I would have powders poured into my bedding that left me with sores and blisters. At one point so bad were they I needed to be put into a bath of cold water to cure the burn. Finally culminating in a bucket of water being poured down the stairs outside my shared dorm in the dead of winter to freeze in my next to final year. I woke from that fall in the infirmary and with no idea of how I’d gotten there. Still the dreams continued, and still Spink was my closest friend.

“Let’s see what we have.” I suggested and regretted it instantly.

Tris added at once. “Let’s see if that long plank will reach across.” Spink then chimed in, “we only have one. We may have to trade to get more.” I suddenly saw how it could go wrong. I would be in charge in name only, while the two natural commanders actually made the decisions. I felt the familiar lurch of dismay and uncertainty that plagued me. Perhaps those at home were all correct after all? That I was nothing, I was a useless bastard.

The rest of the patrol took to moving to Spink’s lead, I realized my error in not being more forceful. I would not err again. “No. That’s not how you start a bridge. I’m not worried about spanning it right now. The span will be no good if we have no support for it. Foundation first.”

They all turned to look at me. Other patrols were talking and moving bits of wood down, in the circle around me a silence reigned. I felt the cold of the day and the chill of my small command’s doubt. I knew suddenly they wouldn’t follow me, and worse, that neither Spink nor Tris had the real knowledge of how to build a bridge. We were all going to fail, because I had failed my one chance to lead them. “Let’s get sorting.” Spink said to Kort. As they moved to obey my command Spink winked at me. It was reassuring and it was annoying. It seemed to say that he was with me and that with his backing I could command. I was grateful for his support, but I wanted to be able to lead regardless.

One other team set the long plank across the creek and one of the cadets was already trying to cross it. But the board bowed and the cadet fell into the muck the cadet who had fallen in clambered out coated in filth, wet and colder now than before. His fellows hooted at him as he re-joined them, while the Captain who had found a place to sit and read, looked up, and then shook his head at them. I thought he fought a smile as he filled his pipe with tobacco.

Half an hour later, others were filthy from their spills and there cross words being said from all fronts in all teams. I was surprised with my team. Gordy was happy as anchor, Tris and Spink had come together to aid in my leadership, but with all that and us working as a team. But we were running out of time. We worked feverishly, cutting stakes after I explained another idea to them. Pounding them into the earth and securing lines. Our limited supplies meant I had to wade across several times to ferry tools to the other side, but by the time I’d finished, we had a ‘bridge’ of sorts. Then the captain shouted suddenly. “Five minutes!”

“Go for it Jax.” My team mates encouraged me, “if no one else crosses at least we’ll have gotten someone across.” I looked as if I hadn’t heard him and said to the captain. “Sir, we are ready to cross.”

The captain approached and looked at me oddly. Then spoke up. “Are you?” I had the impression again he wanted to laugh at me. “Well, go on then.”

Spink, Oren and I waded across the creek one final time, we didn’t want to stress our bridge. Then sorted our order and one by one we began to make our way across the bridge. I felt fear, I felt anxious and as they one by one got across apart from Gordy, I felt all our hope sit on his shoulders. As he crossed, the plank gave and he was left hanging from the rope that we’d set for hand guidance. One of the others called out. “Nothing improves pork like hanging!” and Gordy went scarlet. I glanced up at the captain who was examining his watch and then it hit me. All we had to do was cross. Which we had, and now… we had to climb up that slope! “Get up the bank!” I shouted as it dawned on me. The objective wasn’t to build a bridge. It was to cross the creek.

I never did fail that academy. Some of the things I learned there will last me for ever. I was kicked out from it though. But not from failing my education. It was kissing Spink’s cousin, a girl above my station that did it.

I never looked back.
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Jiriki
 
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Re: Academy of the Tethyrian Cavalry. (flavor post)

Postby Jiriki » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:50 pm

My time on the road was not an ordeal. In all actuality I rather enjoyed the time I spent on my own with only my horse for company. There were times when I rode with a caravan, offering my sword for hire in return for their company and conversation. We enjoyed being with people, but we also enjoyed being by ourselves. Monarch, the sturdy and capable confidante – while I provided to him security, conversation and I suppose someone to help rub off annoying itches.

The first caravan that we joined was heading towards Silverymoon. That fabled city to the northern edge of the land where the ice meets the dirt and farmable plains. I never got that far, I didn’t want to. Part of me wanted to just needed to wander for a while and get to grips with who I was back then. Perhaps that’s why I just wanted to be alone in my own solace? I don’t know.

I knew it was likely that there were others with the same father as I out there. I wasn’t really expecting anything less, considering who my father was and his reputation as a man that enjoyed the female form rather freely if he could after all! My father was Azoun of Cormyr, a man with a fierce reputation within the fields of battle and in the courtships he enjoyed of many many women. And so I wandered for a little, hither and thither as an escort to rich men, poor caravaners, fighting off orcs, goblins and bandits when they chose to strike as I went first north, then east, then a little more east and finally south east until I ended up at Waterdeep.

I can remember one morning when I was on escort duty with a caravan heading North through Amn from Athkatla to Baldur’s Gate. It wasn’t a long run, the road was supposed to be rather clear but it also meant crossing two rivers and the rivers had a habit of flooding in wet seasons or having bandits wanting to claim a ‘toll’ in the name of the king.

The city of Athkatla is a remarkable place, it’s full of vibrant colours and life, ships that pull in from all up the Sword Coast, bringing work for the poor and word for those with family up the coast. The rich merchants of Amn selling their spices and exotic foods, their cloths of the finest quality and selling their goods to crews moving onwards spoke in many different tongues with all manner of food to eat. But I had signed on for this caravan as a means of getting north and north I was going to go.

Green and blessed farmland I was assured was what we’d be travelling through and the warriors hired were merely a “show of strength” to deter any marauding bands of goblins or bandits, the Trolls were hardly likely to be a real problem as they were considered more or less likely to stay in the Troll claws and we were not likely to go to the Fields of the Dead in a hurry either! I was content to sign my name in a neat hand and set out with them for the six day journey up the coast in close file to the merchants moving their wares and live stocks across land. It’s stranger than you know of to find a memory brought back to vivid recollection from a scent that hangs rich in the air, or so to find yourself out on patrols, coming from a morning rise to the brow of a hill and find a mist hanging low across a river. But it happens, and on occasion, I find myself taken back to that caravan. What started as a simple enough job ended with more than its fair share of potential disaster before Baldur’s Gate was in sight.

First there was the health of the beasts burdened with the duty of pulling the wagons, some of them clearly were not up to the task and it made me sigh heavily to see them straining. Perhaps it’d been better for them to just have gone to slaughter, but they were cheap and therefore bought and put to harness. We got to a point where we could make camp over night after a slow but uneventful day, guards were set their duty, and again it was uneventful. But upon waking, two of the animals had died in the night. There they were, down, on their sides dead with their heads at crooked angles from where they’d been tethered. So, spares had to be found and with much grumbling two more abled beasts were purchased for a fair price – or so I’d thought at the time – from a local farm. The caravan master was not keen to pay the coin, but we had no choice, or rather, he had no choice. It was that or be without oxen to pull a cart. The second day went through as well without too much trouble, but the clouds were rolling in from the coast and we could see for a fact that things were going to get worse before they got better. The wagon master chose to push on regardless and I was beginning to wonder at his intelligence. Still, I had sworn to do my duty and my duty I would do.

Second night all hell broke loose with the storm that had been brewing all day, thunder rumbled fast and low with all the might it could muster while lightning shot across the sky, illuminating the faces of all and sending the horses panicking and pulling at their ties to break free and run. What could’ve been a comfortable night was soon turned into a night that no one rested in, the horses needed constant checking, the other animals needed constantly checking while children squalled and wept in ill-timed punctuation of the gaps filled between the crashes.

After that the next few days went peacefully we began to make good time again, until an axle broke on of one of the food wagons and a wheel came off another. I gnashed my teeth on that, I wanted to grind my teeth and grab the wagon master to shake him and make him see the truth for what it was – that he had no place running this outfit. We found it hard, but we did what we could, I put my shoulder to the side of the wagon and with the help of a few others lifted the wagon to make things easier while others put large rocks and stones under the edge to keep it there. It was a blessed relief to see that outline of Baldur’s Gate on the final day. Dusty, hungry, tired, aching and with a wish to never see this wagon master again for as long as I lived. We rolled in like a short snake of weary travellers and I went to find my pay, only to find that my share had been cut due to my not being needed to draw sword in anger the contract which I’d signed also seemed to have gone missing as well. Still, at least I was closer to home.

~

"The patrol went well. Bandits discovered and vanquished."

The paladin stared at the words written down. He could smell the earthy tone of the ink that he used and the scratch of the quill in his hand as he wrote at the dispatch box that had been carried in his saddle bag. It was a small foot long flat-ish book of wood, hollowed. It contained a small wrapped up tip of the goose feather quill, the tip wrapped to protect the small sheets of thinly pressed vellum wrapped in another waxed parchment, and in the other side though no less expensive a small sheath of carefully prepared paper parchment that was suitable for writing orders, along with that there was a small bottle of ink, stoppered with a wooden bung. It was used for dispatching messages back to the city. Just like now; he could see the words drying on the paper. The small spidery trails as the ink soaked in. He didn’t have any trouble with the words as such, but surely it could be put to better use than that. His fingers curled reflexively to the quill, feeling the smooth shaft of it beneath his fingertips, then the small feathers that hadn’t quite been trimmed properly. With a sigh he picked up the small leather blotter and pressed it to the small line. Eight words that covered the sum and mass of the attack on the camp, what had happened he’d still have to come to terms with though. The people with him had behaved well, of that there was no doubt, but he still felt uneasy with all the uncertainty of it. His brow increased in a frown and he could feel the hairs pulling on his top knot, looking up as he surveyed the faces of his men, the fire light flickering as they jostled each other and laughed. Unbidden, a smile pulled onto his mouth, his eyes softening. He admired them. Their courage, their strength, their trust, the smile faded as it felt like a dagger at his throat. Their trust; the words in his head felt hollow as a pang of self-confidence flew out of the window of his soul; would all his words be trusted and would all his orders be the right ones? Then the shadow passed and the smile returned. He looked up again to study the faces of the men he had with him and on a whim began to form; dipping his quill into the small ink he began to slowly scratch out the vision before him.

From a half smile to a full smile on the faces of two, their laughter in his ears as he studies then scratches, then studies again. A hand rose to ruffle the head of one of the younger lads who blushes and looks uncomfortable at the bawdy comments brought about around him. Jax himself was sat at a distance from them before his small tent, the white canvass held up two foot above his head and bedroll with a stick of wood and pegs. Two more faces stood out before him, Spink and the scout he’d sent off ahead. Neither of them looking like there was a problem between them sharing a quiet word, then Spink looked up and caught his eye. Just a nod, a small one and Jax felt the bolt in his heart slip free. The stomach clenching sensation cooled to a molten liquid mass in his bowels finally. They accepted him, and they didn’t hold it against him. He looked down again and saw the sketch, then smiled and continued to complete it. He was happy, he was content. And he was on patrol with his men.

~

Following a conversation in a tavern, I needed to wrestle with my thoughts and get my opinions in order. I was born early in 1364, in the spring – exiled from Tethyr while the war rampaged and couldn't return until just after the new royal family were crowned. Living outside of the city of Waterdeep, at a manor for many years. However, I have read up, I have formed views and I have considered a few things. One thing that I consider to be of the utmost importance, Nobility is not a birth right, it's a position of authority to aspire to and many of today's younger rich elite would do well to remember that fact. Two, rich merchants sons and daughters have no real thoughts for their own safety and I'm best off avoiding the entire sorry lot of them.

In ten days at the beginning of the whole time of the fraudulent council of Tethyr with the imposter on the throne, just tendays, out of 100 nobles that had power in Tethyr only a handful remained, ten a day nearly were routed and dead, or thought dead but merely exiled, but it gave a chance when things returned to normality for the king and queen to start again.

~

The matters at hand had kept him awake all night, discussion in his head, thoughts he couldn’t keep control of, the matter at hand being the rest of his life and whether breeding horses would actually fill the gap that was left from his former life. It hurt, it was like a knife twisting whenever he caught glimpse of the holy symbol he’d worn once hanging around the necks of his cousins and he found that difficult to deal with. Turning he laid on his side and frowned heavily into the darkness, all that time at the river and he’d thought he’d figured out a few things. Was he really that selfish as to want to just cast aside his order? All that training, did it mean nothing to him? With a grump he got up from the bed of cushions and went to poke at the fire in irritation, it grated on him. All because he’d wanted to do the right thing and the right thing didn’t mean standing aside and watching while someone else had suffered and dangled. Damn that woman! Would he never be free of her? His family had been right she was trouble and would always remain to be so. With an exasperated sigh he got to his feet again and pulled on his trousers and a shirt, no it wasn’t her fault. He’d had a choice in the end, help her and pay the piper to free her from slavery or ignore her plight and burn in his own heart and mind for it.

A glance at the bed and he knew he wasn’t going to sleep again tonight no matter how he wanted to just lay down and be comforted. His hand curled into the fist that he’d made before and his breath caught at the pain from the jarring punch he’d thrown earlier at the wall. No, best to go out again and stalk the vast stables in case one of the mares needed him, in case one of the horses needed him. A restless night for a restless spirit.

~

"Jay..." The man speaking broke through Jax's thoughts and he turned blinking in surprise at the sight of his friend, Spink. "Jax, you need to get out on patrol again. If you stare at that pile of straw any harder it'll catch fire or you'll end with steam coming from your ears. You need to be out killing something instead of just shoveling shit. " As usual they spoke to each other in Tethyrian and kept their talk low so others couldn't over hear them.

"Oh aye, allowed that now am I?" Jax rested his head on the both hands that were on the handle of the fork he was leaning on. His tone somewhat reluctantly amused at the comment, and then nodded as Spink did, then smiled briefly as his friend rested his hand on his shoulder, taking some comfort from the weight of it there.

"Not afraid to touch me in case it's catching then?" He'd heard the comments no matter how quietly they were muttered. How it was a shame he'd lost his way, that he must've been bewitched, that his mind was damaged, that he'd been noted even before this final fall from grace began when he'd ridden off into the wilds for twenty days, that he'd been noted in the company of a half orc shamen, that he was different. Spink just gave him that flat level look on his face that broached no arguement. "Really? The day I listen to gossip and flutterings from the mouths of them in their gilded cages." Jax could feel the corner of his mouth lift once more in a twitch of a smile and he nodded finally.

"Aye, well, get the men together. We'll get out on patrol as soon as muster's called and we'll figure it out. Resume daily patrols for the most apart from a two day run every five. Local first, just to keep to mind for anyone lurking that there's a presence while the summer's here." Spink hid his smile carefully and nodded before he replied. "Yes M'lord."

That got a curt look from his friend who all but snarled back, then had to laugh at the end of it when Jax found his friend speaking at the common words he always said of "Don't call me that. I work for a living."

Spink turned on his heel and left to go send runners for the patrol Jax rode with a sigh of relief. Perhaps this might turn out well in the end.


After his friend left, Jax had another gut jolting sudden flash back to his last few hours back at the Academy before being thrown out of it.


“Bastard!” he said out loud, and shouted “Bastard, bastard, bastard!!” at the top of his lungs, hammering at the brick wall next to him with a clenched fist. It was over, before it'd begun his military career was over.

“Who’s a bastard?” said a curious voice behind him. He swung round to see a young woman looking at him with some interest. Her eyes moved slowly down his frame, taking note of the heaving chest, the bloodstains on the facings of his uniform coat and green smears of goose-shit on his breeches, it reached to his silver buckled boots, and returned to his face with more interest.

“I am,” he said, hoarse and bitter.

“Oh, really?” She left the shelter of the doorway in which she’d been standing, and came across the alley to stand right in front of him. She was tall and slim, and had a very fine pair of high young breasts which were clearly visible under the thin muslin of her shift, because while she had a silk petticoat, she wore no stays. No cap, either her hair fell loose over her shoulders. A whore then.

“I’m partial to bastards, myself,” she said, and touched him lightly on the arm. “What kind of bastard are you? A wicked one? An evil one?”

“A sorry one,” he said, and scowled when she laughed. She saw the scowl, but didn’t pull back.

“Come in,” she said, and took his hand. “You look as though you could do with a drink.” He saw her glance at his knuckles, burst and bleeding, and she caught her lower lip behind small white teeth. She didn’t seem afraid, though, and he found himself drawn unprotesting into the shadowed doorway after her.

What did it matter? he thought, with a sudden savage weariness. What did anything matter?


~

"Bad think. Power is power over life, not gold. If can take life, they have power. Nobles not understand power." That is what I was told earlier today by perhaps the simplest of creatures to all outward appearances. But I am beginning to understand that she’s far more complicated than she appears. Of course I replied that “Oh they understand it. And the know what they cannot get away with here. Back in Tethyr, there was a civil war about power and nobles. In ten days, a hundred nobles and their families were killed or sent into exile. Some of them deserved it for their behaviour to their tenants.” It made me wonder. Do the nobles really understand the power they have and the responsibility included in that over the masses of the city? Do they really understand that it’s not just that cheaper seamstresses will aim to copy the more expensive designs for merchants wives to coo over like doves and that appearances are not everything, that nobility is how you hold yourself in your heart and soul. It’s how if you care enough for your fellow being to merely stand by and watch as others are trodden down upon or if you’re willing to stand up and say no, I do not agree with this. This is wrong.

The person I was speaking to wanted to know how nobility is different from other people, all I could tell her was that nobles have more money and power. That they have seats they’ve been invested in for years and generations for ill or good will hold that seat. In the end, nobility is a tool that people use to ensure they are on top of the rest of the people in the city. And that to me means they have a responsibility as I have stated time and again.

Prior to that we’d talked about good people and why do children need hero’s to aspire to? She didn’t understand what’d happened and why it was important to have that. I’m not sure I do either some times. But well, to my mind it’s to aspire to be the inspiration for the next generation of people. To give them something to care about. To make them want to be hero's. Even if it's just for one day. Because they don't want to crawl around, they want to stand upright and be proud of themselves. That is why they need to have inspiration. Because it’s the right thing to do.

In the end I had to tell her, I don’t have all the answers. I wonder sometimes, who does?

~

The weather wasn’t too bad, it was a happy time though being out on patrol again after so long not being in the saddle and with the boys. We made good time as well, joking about with each other with the familiarity that good friendship brings about. Spink as always riding to my right, regaling me about what’s been going on in his life within the city, telling me about his adventures in the local taverns and conquest; I have to admit it, I enjoyed it rather a lot. We rode along the walls, then turned about and went further out into the country side to ride out there and make our presences felt. As usual, the cleric in the troop giving blessings where they were needed and the usual apothecary medicines that we had on us were shared out where we could to those that needed it the most.

The ride out for the two day patrol though, that didn’t exactly go according to plan. It appears that brigands have come out of the local forest of Ardeep, the one that begged his self on our mercy to take him safely to the city with us. We couldn’t though, it would’ve been rather difficult to escort him back from the out lands without a horse, so I gave him some coins and wished him luck on his journey. But later that night, there were howls and screams that cut through the silence of our sleep and we reached for our weapons and were on the ready within moments. Each of us taking our position as we prepared to fight in close circle, each giving enough room to swing our weapon but close enough to be shield mate if needed.

I shall have to tell my CO that the bandits are confirmed on the go about leaving Ardeep when I present their arms and my account in full of the attempted raid during the night.

~

Of all the stupid annoying infantile ridiculous things that they could’ve done! That could’ve gone so so differently! I am still in shock at how my fellow guardsmen behaved last night. The stupidity, the sheer audacity of their behaviour! To attempt to ambush me like that and suggest that I return after their behaviour! I think I know who the speaker was, but I cannot be sure, certainly not sure enough to throw any accusations around. Not without true proof. Mind, the one that I hit a few times will bear my marks on him. Perhaps I’ll see him in the city again and be able to remind him of his duty. Attempting to beat on me for my choice! As if this wasn’t hard enough, having them appearing and attempting to change my mind, then throw accusations and throw punches!

One thing this has taught me however, I need to learn how to throw a punch properly. It’s all well and good being able to defend myself with the sword hilt, but if that case occurs again and I need to break free of their clutches again, they might disarm me first. In which case I will need to be able to defend myself properly, I should perhaps get a semi concealed weapon to hide on me. A spring loaded dagger might do.

~

I had a dream last night, a dream that left me waking up in a sweat and breathing hard. I was in a room and there was a long ornate rug before me, for some reason I had a feeling I needed to follow it, so I did, but the whole distance of the room was wrong, it was too long, then it was getting more and more narrow, and it was dark there were presences all around but I couldn't see or really hear any of them and there were these massive statues, huge things and as I passed by each one, I had this sense that they could at any time pick their feet up and stomp on me. I got to the end of the carpet and reached out to open the door, but when I tried to turn the door knob, it was scalding hot and my whole entire hand burst into flames. Then my arm and then the rest of me, I woke up just before it reached my head.

~

Yesterday was a complete blur. I know I went out on patrol from before sun up, then came back, stood down the troop after going through a kit check and some other thing with them. Then I went down into trades as I was restless and met up with Magerris again, we discussed the latest things she’d been up to and she told me about a fire in the docks. I found it curious that someone who refers to her fellow man as a cockroach, would go willingly into a burning building to rescue people after the stairs collapsed, but the cough she has now is rather bad. I told her what works for me and we settled on alcohol, needless to say, a bottle or so of Zzar later between us and I am surprised I got home at all. I think I remember her going on about some giant egg but I can’t be sure. It’s funny that the people you find yourself willing to talk to can be those that on outer examination are the least likely.

~

The paddocks are going well. The top paddock is now fenced up and ready for the mares to come in, I’m going to make this work one way or another. How I’m managing to fit in the patrols at the same time I don’t know but I’m doing it. I’m enjoying it as well, really enjoying it. It’s a completely different change of pace from standing around in dress armor in all weathers.

I managed to get on the wrong side of Sera last night though, she told me of Howards death. One of Enialas’ apprentices and while I feel for his kin I could not help but answer her question of what will Enialas say with honesty. He’ll probably have said. "Oh, he’s dead." But then I don’t know what else he’ll have said, Runa would probably have said "Well it’s his fault for getting in the way of whatever killed him," with her usual lack of empathy, then she'll have probably said to move forwards from it. I didn’t mean to sound callous with it, but for some reason she seems to think that something else was going to be said? I mean, this is the Realms. This is a hard life, people die every day, the poor starving in the streets, travellers that have fallen foul of bandits, goblins going around attacking things and evil wizards lurking around corners raising foul armies of un-dead. It’s only those willing to stand in the way and say no, this cannot go on that will give pause to the steady flow of danger within all parts of the city. Even those of noble birth are capable of ignoring the plight barely a mile from their homes. While I feel bad for upsetting her and clearly I did, I will not lose sleep over it.

~

The men all lined out behind me as we rode out in the early hours of the morning to take our patrol. I could feel that familiar sense of pride as I surveyed the sight, buckles gleaming, leather and metal treated carefully to ensure it was in the best condition it could be. The horses well turned out, I had no cause for alarm or concerns for my men. We turned our way along the passage down by the river and fanned out towards the track and then the road to Ardeep, although we weren’t going to be heading over the full distance, we still had our jobs to do as the bandits and other hostiles in that area were for some reason being flushed out. It was a though to be a quiet one. Either the route we took had kept us away from trouble, or the hostiles we were expecting to encounter were simply not present.

Whatever is going on in Ardeep I pray it keeps from spilling out.
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Diary and thoughts of Jax Hawkwinter

Postby Jiriki » Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:31 pm

Of all the people in the realm to stumble across while I was having a small disagreement with a tree! Alimandra is back in the city with some truly shocking tales of her absence! We spoke at length for some time, her telling in brief what she’d been up to, and then, sadly it was my turn.


Cue the massive ear bashing she gave me before finally she calmed down enough to actually talk to me. Then she asked me what I wanted, so I told her. She told me that I need to Atone for my sins with Helm, then seek pastures new. Perhaps even to the point of going on a Quest for enlightenment. Only then might I find my way forwards. At first I was quite in despair over it, but I see the sense in her words. Mainly as Monarch threw a shoe on the way home and is now sadly quite lame.


It’s amazing what a long walk home will do for your mind, I shall await for the right time and go do as she’s suggested. Perhaps then, I might sleep soundly again.
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In the cold light of day

Postby Jiriki » Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:58 pm

The floor of the chapel was cold when he went into there to begin his penance. He was barefooted, wearing only a long shirt. Certainly something that would provide him no protection or comfort from the cold flagstones of the Hawkwinter chapel. Trust needed to be earned, and in his estimation, that began by trusting those of his religion to stand guard and not let anyone enter his silent vigil.

He stepped forwards before the holy symbol of Helm in the chapel. Inside, it was as one might expect-- arrow slits, with stained glass for now which may be slid aside in times of war. Torches on the wall which are lit now, scented candles with the alchemical touch of something special today. Resinous incense on a brazier, suits of armour-- of course-- lined the wall. The floor was relieved of any softness, stone, hard, unforgiving. He moved to right before the large banner pennant that stood for a means of focus in times such as these. An open, staring eye with a blue pupil and outline painted on the back of a right-hand war gauntlet or the palm of a left-hand war gauntlet, depending on the perspective of the viewer.

For a long time he stared at it, his feet warm on the cool flagstones, but it was a small respite, the heat in the chapel from the fires that were lit made the room warmer than expected, it made the sweat yet again form on his body to begin to run in rivers as he considered his sins, pride, willful disobedience in his service. But his biggest failing was pride; his mind whirled as he went through the events and words of the day with those that had spoken against him and more importantly for him. Trust, a small word, but it meant many many things. He trusted those people he called friend, those who had tried to counsel him to speak up against those who’d attacked him and he’d gone against their advice. He frowned; hanging his head in shame and sighed heavily as he got to his knee’s to begin this part of his penance, this part of renewal. A time of peace, a time of preparation was going to be needed before he could wipe the slate clean and no amount of money would repair the damage that he’d caused through his lack of trust in his own people.

"Complacency is your greatest enemy." Those words rung in his ears as he began to lay himself prostrate on the hard stones before the holy symbol of his god. He had been complacent, he’d fallen by the wayside and that needed to be cut out of him and his behaviour. That was his greatest sin, becoming prideful, willfully so. He rested his hands before his head; his arms bent to do so and closed his eyes as his bones began to settle onto the stone.

"Belief in your body is the root of survival." Another set of words set into his mind while he considered his actions in the past. He did believe in his body, he’d prepared it for war for a long time, but with belief also came that sense of need to hone his skills to perfection. But with that, came that note of caution, instead of pride, he needed to learn quiet humility.


"Flinch and perish." He had flinched after the deeds of his brethren in that night in the docks. He’d refused to behave. He’d refused to speak with his elders, with his grandfather, and he’d let him down. Now this was coming back to him in spades. But he wasn’t going to perish, he was going to use this lesson as a means to improve himself, he was never going to fail to this degree again. Nor was he going to fail his brethren.

"Patience wins more battles than courage and strength combined." Haste, that test he’d failed when he’d spoken with Brother Cadbury out at the manor. He’d been told he was hasty and that left him prone, caution. Helm’s dogma burned in his mind again - Careful planning always defeats rushed actions in the end – he needed to learn that valuable lesson in patience. The stone grew warm under his body as the heat within the chapel seemed to grow around him. His skin itching still periodically, it made this laying still even more uncomfortable. Patience, he growled into his mind. Calming his breathing and controlling it to use it.

"The general you serve cannot save you in battle, only those beside you can do that." Loyalty; he hadn’t spoken out when he should have. He hadn’t the courage to face his accusers and make them stand for their actions and as a consequence he was to take his punishment. A punishment that was growing more uncomfortable as the night grew older. It hurt now. But in a strangely cathartic way, a way that made it feel that he was doing the right thing.

"If I stand by you in battle, I will die before I let you die. That is my pledge. If we all pledge this, we cannot be defeated." The brotherhood of the church stood before him again in his mind’s eye, going over the words and deeds of Brother Cadbury, and his grandfather. The old man that had stood beside him in the hour of his greatest need, he inhaled slowly through his nose, thankful for the old man’s presence and relieved that he wasn’t going anywhere.

He had to learn to wait, to be patient for the full picture to be revealed to him before he acted in the future. He had to completely put his faith in his brothers and sisters, trusting them with their orders as they trusted him to stand his ground and follow them. The calm fell on him suddenly as he remained still, he wasn’t expecting it but it came anyway. The itches of his skin could be ignored if he put his mind to it and so he did. Refusing to back down, refusing to give in to the needs of his flesh to scratch and rake at his shoulder, at his arms, at his thighs no matter how painfully it grew. And it grew indeed! When the dawn came, he was soaked to the skin, his long night shirt that he’d come in sticking to it.
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