Chapter 14: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

 
Alvin was extremely disappointed when Marin started grilling the fish. He was always used to eating them raw. Edward always liked to cook them, but he had never seen the appeal in doing so. The taste of fresh meat with a tinge of blood was ever so satisfying to him, why would he want to ruin that? He thought about asking Marin to set a fish aside for him, but decided against it. He wasn't going to single himself out as the weird misanthropic savage. He would bear the fish grilled.

After Marin put the third fish over the cooking fire, he changed his mind. There were only a few fish left, and the more she cooked, the more depressed he got. As she moved to throw a fourth fish on the grill, he blurted out almost unconsciously, "Do you guys like raw fish?"

Alelip, out of the corner of his eye, sees Cademon approach; however, he is engrossed in his work and in directing the three or four "helpers" that are helping to construct the chevs. After completing it, Alelip puts down the tools that he has acquired over the course of the morning, and listens to Cademon, wiping the sweat off his brow periodically as he does so. While in good shape, and certainly no stranger to hard work, the morning's exertions were more than he had done recently.

After Cademon completes his report, Alelip wipes his brow again to control the sweating and pauses for a second to consider the report. After a few seconds of quiet, he walks slightly away from Cademon, leading him away from the group for a moment. After they have traveled about 20 feet, he says quietly, "I agree. If the gnolls chased us all the way to where the river turns to the east to enter the lake, it is only a matter of time before they find the town, assuming they haven't already. Defense of the town will be very difficult if they come before we are ready."

He pauses for a second, then offers, "Perhaps the defenses that we are constructing, until we have the town completely ready, might be better served to drive the gnolls to a spot where we want to face them?"

He lets the idea sink in for a few moments, then adds, "But, that is perhaps a matter best discussed over lunch. Weapons training thereafter -- let's see just how raw these people really are."

Caedmon nods approvingly at the suggestion, clearly liking the idea of making the best use of what they had. He had a few ideas for how to get the militia up to speed so that they could be of some use against the Gnolls. These would be best discussed over lunch as he was sure everyone was hungry by then.

"Agreed. If we leave one avenue open, we can channel them into a smaller space and deal with them with pitch and missiles. They will not like the fire either; but as you said, we can discuss this over lunch.

If I am not mistaken, someone has been fishing and it will only serve to distract everyone from work so we had best just eat and then evaluate what we have as far as fighting skills.

I will have the locals take watches in shifts so that we have a few of them looking and listening in case trouble finds us.
", he remarks, gesturing to either side of the town where roads led in and out.

After gathering together a detail of every man they can muster, Edward rolls up his sleeves and gets right to work alongside the men. He's never really believed in excusing himself from dirty jobs that need to be done, and besides that, he knows he'll have less time to brood if he's working.

By the time he comes in for lunch, he hardly looks like a noble at all: dirt and sweat stains serve to help him blend in with the militia nicely. Wiping the sweat off his brow, he smiles at the sight of the food. I know whose handiwork this must be... he thinks as he takes up place at the back of the line. A leader always eats last.

Sure enough, it's Marin at the front of the line serving the food out to the grateful workers. "Thank you again, Miss Marin. I know the men appreciate this," he says as he takes his food. It's been a while since he had decent, hot chow. Since he left home, really. "Oh, and make sure you leave one off the fire for Alvin, he prefers them that way," he adds, remembering the man's strange dietary quirks. The man had accompanied him fishing more than once, and he had been shocked the first time when the savage began eating the fish raw.

He moves to sit down with Alelip. While he would be happy to sit with he men, officers, both commissioned and non-, must maintain some professional distance from their troops as a matter of decorum. Besides, he has matters to discuss. "Good day, Corporal. Once again, I must thank you and your men for your help. It's good to finally be getting these defenses on track."

The question from Alvin seemed strange, and Marin grimaced a bit at the thougth of eating raw fish. However, she knew that there was nothing written about tastes, so she just smiled and handed Alvin a plate with two big raw cleaned fishes.

As things finally were more or les ready, she sent her helpers to fetch the rest of the force and started serving everyone as quick as a lone girl could. It was really warming the smiled and hungry looked her simple meal got and she bowed to do this more often. it wasa spur of the moment thing, something in wich use her time but she really liked the results.

The heat from the fire, fish and boiled veggies made her sweat a lot, and she was wiping her forehead constantly. Sir vellios words were met with a smile and a nod "Someone needed to do it, you needed it and I was able to help" she replied shrugging as she gave him his ration "Alvin already has his, but thanks for the reminder. Just don't go easy on me on training" a meek grin accompanied the soft request and she sent him away to eat. As the last man was served, she looked around and grimaced at the mess

She needed to clean, and start the soup or the fish heads will start to smell. Sighing, she quickly filled some pots with fresh water and used the same fire to start boiling the heads, spines, some herbs and a few carrots and left onions

"That'll have to do, at least the night shift will have something warm to keep them awake" she thought. The sould will need time, so she cleaned her hands and taking her ration she looked for a place to eat, Sir Vellios and the Corporal seems to be hanving an interesting conversation, but it was probably about decisions and she would be intruding.

Finding Rives mostly alone, she went to his side and looked around to see if everything was alright before siting and giving a smile to the other boy "How's lunch? Are the fish alright?" she asked, wantin to know the results of her experiment

As Alelip and Cademon walk back towards the inn, Alelip nods, then adds, "I think that should be fine, but make sure you coordinate with Commander Zane. I don't want to step on people's toes, and they are likely to respond better to him anyway."

As they enter the inn, Alelip sees the long line and catches the smell of cooking fish. While fish was something that he was not particularly fond of, Alelip rationalized that beggers can't be choosers, and going without lunch after the morning's exertions was not a particularly good idea, given that he still felt hungry from his two days without food during the merry chase that the gnolls had led his company.

After a while, he makes it up to the head of the line, where Marin is serving. As he gets his fish, he leans over and says quietly to her, "Make sure you get some yourself," then goes to sit with Commander Zare.

After taking a couple of bites, Sir Edward joins the table, and naturally as he is complemented Alelip has a big bite of fish in his mouth. After taking a few moments to chew and swallow, Alelip responds, "We are certainly happy to pitch in and help. While the defenses aren't where they should be, after a few days we should be in a decent position to mount a defense of the town. Now, perhaps you can tell me what you have in mind for our weapons exercise this afternoon."

Rives responds to Marin, "Certainly better than what we'd been eating while in the road or at the Watchtower. It is nice to have fresh food for a change." Fish was certainly not something he commonly had back home, and the prospect of boiled fish remains was just shy of revolting, but food was food, and he doubted it could be much worse than weevil filled bricks and leathery dried meat.

"Well, what we've been working on so far is basic spear fighting, and crossbow marksmanship, but it's been going badly," the young knight concedes as he takes a knife and fork to his plate. Pausing in appreciation of the first good cooking he's had in some time, he continues. "Training's been going slow overall, to tell you the truth. I'm trained in swordfighting and jousting, so I can only show them the basics. It'll be good to have some instructors who've actually seen real combat. I was hoping you could show them both what you learned in your own training and share your experience with them.

"Speaking of which,"
he adds, glancing over at Marin. "Miss Lightwind is under your command. How has she acquitted herself in battle so far? I need to know that she won't be a liability in training, much less in battle."

Caedmon makes his way inside with the others, smiling at the smell of properly cooked fish. He does raise an eyebrow when Alvin requests his fish raw; but dismisses it fairly quickly, as he had done the same on occasion; but never willingly.

Taking a seat with the Alelip and the others at the table, he listens quietly, interested in what was being planned for the training session. He had skills he thought would be helpful and a plan of sorts for those who did not seem to catch on quickly to sword play.

"Excuse me; but I was thinking that if we loaded barrels of water near the buildings in case of fire, to keep the roofs wet. We could place a few people there with crossbows. The skill level for the crossbow is more common and they can use the roof as cover, lending support to those on the ground.", he interjects around a mouthful of fish. He was used to being off on lone wanderings and was not quite up to snuff with social etiquette.

Alvin smiles and blushes a little, embarrassed at getting special treatment, but glad to have some nice juicy, flavorful raw meat like he's used to. "Th-thank you, Marin," he says nervously, uncomfortable with the number of people coming into the inn. Looking around, he eventually finds a seat near Edward and Zane, looks around for a few moments, and then bites into the fish, getting a little blood on his face but not sure what to do about it. However, quickly finding himself overwhelmed by the company, he looks around again and gets up from his seat, deciding to join Marin and Rives in the corner where it's markedly less crowded. He does one of his toothy attempts at a smile, and says, "Do either of you know how to fashion your own weapons? Could be useful, in a bind. I could show you how to fashion a spear out of fallen branches, if you like."





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