Chapter 9: Thump, THUNK, Thump

 
Chapter 9: Thump, THUNK, Thump

(Soundtrack)

Days pass without further advances from the gnolls, and life at the Watchtower settles into a dull routine. The lieutenant watches everyone carefully, saying little but noting much from the subtle differences between how his "green veterans" behave. After a while, he calls a company meeting and sets forth a new watch schedule.

"The company will be divided into four squads. Each squad will participate in a weekly rotation of watch; rest time for training/equipment maintenance/personal reflection; and sleep. With each shift at 8 hours, that means one squad will be 'off rotation' at any given time, providing a surge capacity should the on-watch team need assistance and the rest team not be enough. I may choose to give the off-watch squad additional duties.

"Here are the squad assignments and watch schedule for the first four weeks," Wyndshof announces. There are a couple of gasps when promotions are included, unheralded, in the litany of information.

Squad A: Butch (corporal), Aryn, Drew, Luke, Matthew, Pete, Drystan
Squad B: Kyle (corporal), Giles, David, Ian, Hans, Alan, Jake
Squad C: Alelip (corporal), Caedmon, Leo, Marin, Rives, Rufus, Ken
Squad D: Will (corporal), Nate, Hank, Joshua, Mick, Bill, Julian, Vic

Week
Watch
Rest
Sleep
Off Rotation
1
A - Morning
B - Afternoon
C - Night
A - Afternoon
B - Night
C - Morning
A - Night
B - Morning
C - Afternoon
D
2
D - Morning
A - Afternoon
B - Night
D - Afternoon
A - Night
B - Morning
D - Night
A - Morning
B - Afternoon
C
3
C - Morning
D - Afternoon
A - Night
C - Afternoon
D - Night
A - Morning
C - Night
D - Morning
A - Afternoon
B
4
B - Morning
C - Afternoon
D - Night
B - Afternoon
C - Night
D - Morning
B - Night
C - Morning
D - Afternoon
A


"Any questions?" the lieutenant concludes at the end of his speech, as was his custom. His cool eyes sweep the crowd of young faces, silently assessing their resolve with a simple glance.

Once dismissed from the assembly, Caedmon quickly went over to find Rives and inquire as to the well-being of the horses, Midnight in particular. When he found him, "Quite a ride there, Rives. Sure gets the blood flowing doesn't it?" After exchanging a bit of small talk he made his way over to Leo, Marin and the rest of the newly founded squad. After making some formal introductions to those in the squad new to him a coy grin came over his face, "Night watch for the first week, hoo boy!", it was hard to tell if he was excited or nervous about this prospect, " I think it may be a good idea if we find ourselves an extra cloak or two as it gets pretty cold at night. Don't think it'd be a bad idea if we could find some rations to take with us to the watch as well. By the way, would any of you be willing to assist me with a good shave?...and perhaps where I could find a place to bathe?" He looked curiously at the others and somewhat awkwardly upon the last question particularly being in a woman's presence, despite her gritty attitude and aptitude in the heat of battle.

Smiling at Caedmon's exrovert reaction, Marin suddlenly blushes at his final question.

"For the shaving, any of the guys could help you, I think... as for you other question... Betsy is the chaperone now, so probably she would know, maybe Mease Alelip" she answers looking away as if examining the couryard, even when her flaming cheeks are more than noticeable, but her eyes were smiling seeing as she was being treated as an equal

"How much time do we have before our shift? We should be sleeping right now, if we want to be on top shape for tonight. So... how about an early snack as squad, we get things ready and then we get some shut eye?" She asks the group feeling a bit at home giving idead to the group as when they were at Eisenberg, now seemingly so much time ago.

Alelip looks at Cademon, and says, "The barracks are around the walls, if you need some time to freshen up. But, Marin is right, we all need to be getting some shut-eye so that we're on our toes tonight. But since everyone sleeps better on a full stomach, let's visit the chaperone and see what she has on the campfire."

"The horses are settling in," the stable boy smiles. It's the most at ease anyone has probably seen the boy in the last couple of weeks - even before the gnoll raid. "Don't think any of them had ever run that hard in their lives, but it was probably good for them to stretch their legs. Of course they probably need to be ridden like that more often if they are going to be able to run like that in the future."

At the mention eating and bathing and sleeping, Rives's more sullen demeanor returns. He'd resigned himself to being more of a soldier than a stable boy or page, but he still preferred to keep to himself and the horses when he could. Around the others he always seemed a bit uncomfortable and on edge.

Caedmon was glad to be put into a smaller squad, he knew it would help him to get to know the others better. It had been quite stressful being on extra alert on the wall, the extra demands from being one of two archers on watch had been a tad stessful. "Thank you, Sir." Caedmon said, now turning to both Rives and Corporal Alelip, "You think that Rives and I can take a couple of the horses out for a good run after watch tonight?"

Finally, he turned his attention to Rufus who he had yet to really get to know. Nothing exudes trust like allowing a man to put a blade upon one's neck.
"So, Rufus... How 'bout that shave? We can catch the rest of them at lunch."

"I'll go to talk to Betsey to see what can she give us and if she can make us something for mid watch, something that we can eat while on guard" Says Marin looking at her superior to give the thumbs up

Rufus had been happy when he heard that he and Rives would be stationed together. The thought of them both being on the same schedule to help with the horses was promising, even if it meant their downtime was all but earmarked for such a duty. The young soldier kicked the dirt around a bit as the others began to consolidate down into their groups. He'd known the names of a few of them, but only Rives was what he would consider recognizable, and now those few were split among the other groups. Rufus shrugged, it was a minor blessing that some of the others were no longer in his squad.

He remained quiet as the others began to show their silent hierarchy. It saddened Rufus a bit when Caedmon offered to ride with Rives before he could, but he knew there was chances to do those things again. Especially when the two youths were all but put in charge of the horses from here on out. Perhaps, a new combination would help them both -Rives and Rufus- branch out a bit. So it was with a look of surprise when Caedmon then switched gears and confronted Rufus about his solemn and silent appearance.

The soldier stopped his fidgeting for a moment, long enough to catch himself doing it, and replied with a smile. His baby face void of any stubble even after so many days at the outpost. "I suppose I could help. I use to help the Capt when he needed it."

Rives kicks at the dirt in front of him. "I suppose, though we don't really have proper tackle," he says softly in response to Caedmon's question, obviously uncomfortable at the prospect of leaving the watchtower, especially with someone he didn't really know. Worse, Caedmon seemed to be singling everyone out for some thing or another, and that worried Rives to no end. He'd rather just keep to himself... alone. "Though we'd want to wait for sun-up," he added hesitantly, "Need to be able to see the ground so the horses don't break their legs."

There isn't too much more time for lollygagging as Alelip ushers the squad in for lunch. It's nothing special as far as food goes--thin porridge and some chunks of dry-cured sausage--but it's enough to stave off hunger for now. Betsey shrugs off any criticism and mutters something about making Squad D go out foraging in their "spare time."

After the meal, there's just enough time for a few chores before the members of Squad C, having only been up for the morning, find themselves back in bed. As such, everyone is just a bit groggy and out of sorts when their counterparts from Squad A come to announce it's time for the evening shift change. Ken Rivers is perhaps a strange exception, as he arrives not only early, but looking fresh and chipper in his armor and fatigues as he waits for directions from Alelip.

Out in the courtyard, long shadows from the walls have already blotted out any remnant of direct sunlight on the ground. At the opposite end, close to the gate, Squad B is gathered close and exchanging a few words in private before the men fall out to begin their own maintenance tasks.




 

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