Chapter 14: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

 
"I'm really not much good when it comes to fighting," the stable boy says, depreciatingly. "And the last time I tried to actually fight with a spear... It didn't go so well. I'm really much better with the horses," he adds. After a few moments of silence the lad speaks up again, "though I suppose I could see if I could make a spear, then at least the people who know how to use them would have a few on hand."

"Don't listen to him, Alvin. Rives is pretty good, although he lacks training. The same is with me, I have no formal military training" replied Marin snorting at Rives comment's. "I've actually never truly used a spear, but I agree with Rives that knowing how to make them is a useful skill now. It would be very nice if you can teach us" she said somewhat nervously

Marin didn't know what to make of Alvin. He still scared her a bit, with his strange attitude but he seemed a good man, altough a bit of a hermit.

Alvin's eyes darted nervously from Rives to Marin as each of them spoke. He thought he liked Marin, at least based on his early impressions. She had given him the fish he desired without judging him for his eating habits; and she'd generally been nice to him despite his quirks. That was rare. Rives seemed pretty harmless at least, and trustworthy more than likely. The problem was, he wasn't sure how the boy would hold up in battle. He wasn't sure how Marin would hold up either, for that matter. Well, he supposed, if they needed it, training them would be preferable to helping with the main group, which would be sure to be teeming with people. "I could show you how to make a spear, sure," Alvin said. "And...if you want...how to use one. And a few tips about what to do in battle." Finally, the sort of thing he was good at. It didn't matter if you were socially awkward in battle. You just had to be competent. More competent than your opponent.

"I nearly lost my arm to gnoll trying to use one of those things," Rives says looking at Marin, but clearly embarrassed. "The blade throws off the balance of the whole thing."

Alelip listens to the question from Edward about Marin, swallows the piece of fish in his mouth, and washes it down with a swig of ale. After finishing this, he says, "Marin has acquitted herself well in combat. She has stood her ground in battle with the gnolls before, Alelip pauses for a second, remembering the chaos at the campsite on their way to Vigilence, "and has held her own in combat with the beasts. While her more natural strength may be with the bow, she can handle the sword as well with a little training." Alelip pauses here for a second, not wanting to go further, but adds quietly, his voice barely discernable over the din of the inn, "If I didn't think she could handle herself in combat, I would have sent her with the other camp "chaperone" through the caverns under Vigilence, and not with us."

After responding to Edward, he listens to Cademon's suggestion, mulling it over for a moment before saying, "I think having some of the archers up on the roofs may be a good idea. It certainly would allow them to get several shots off, but we would have to think about how to get them down quickly if we need to evacuate. Certainly something to bring up to the commander, but I want to see what we have to work with first before we cross that bridge."

The soldiers and volunteers eat their hot meal quickly but with relish, and it's too soon for most everyone's liking when Commander Zane calls a muster in the town square. Here, the men (and woman) of the 7th get their first real look at how the defenders of Old Badenshore might fare in battle.

A number of them are quite good with the quarterstaff, perhaps not surprising given its ubiquity in rural communities--a stout stick fends off most wild animals and has its uses in many occupations. Their spear-work is laudable but requires a substantial amount of re-training; most either flail too much with the tip, to the point of inaccuracy, while the others fail to thrust with enough force to pierce tree bark, let alone gnoll hide. Edward's efforts have yielded a trio of respectable apprentice swordsmen, but most of the boys don't have the musculature to swing a heavy blade in any meaningful way.

All in all, the militia appears much like the 7th Westgard encamped at Oakhollow: green around the edges, needing a lot of help and a bit of seasoning to be a useful fighting force. The one area of glaring weakness is equipment, for only Zane and Edward have armor at all and most of the weapons are of inferior quality.

Caedmon watches the men practice, stepping in to give a word of advice here or there; but mostly watching. He was not looking for the most skilled of the militia; but those with an inherent agility that could lend itself to archery.

By the time the demonstration was over, Caedmon had selected four men that he thought could make good archers. With these men in mind, he approached the officers and knight.

"If I may, I have noted four that show promise in archery. I can work on their shooting skills with crossbow and longbow as well as set them to work making arrows while I craft them bows. Arrowheads should be the hardest part of the ordeal; but even those should not be a trouble.", he informs the three men, pausing to allow feedback and confirmation to proceed.

Rives hung back from the demonstrations and drills, not wanting to embarrass himself by plainly demonstrating his lack of fighting skills, and certainly in no position to offer any instruction. He eyed the collection of mostly young men wielding quarterstaffs somewhat longingly. He'd always enjoyed those games, but he was merely one of the best of the stablehands. Nothing really special, and besides, a broken off handle from a pitchfork would look simply ridiculous.

Marin stood in the second row of the group, her back straight and all her focus on Sir Vellios and later Alelip. She knew little more than these men, so she thougth that her best shot was to poke them hard in their pride by doing better than them.

Showing a small smirk that she didn't truly felt, she threw herself in the excersice, easily surprassing some of the group and holding her ground to others. It pained her a bit doing this, egging them on to fight when it was more than apparent that they enjoyed their quite lifestyle, but if this saved their lives she was all for it.

"C'mon! You can do better than that!" she said to her training companion, poking him lightly in the arm with the tip of her sword.

Really, she couldn't dance around them, already she was pretty tired and more than one of the troops made her struggle, mostly the more bulkiers who could put more raw strenght in each swing, but she could run a bit and gain a bit of ground every now and then, even aganist the stronger ones.

Once they're all outside, Edward sets the group to training. He begins with the usual routines: a horseshoe formation while he demonstrates a particular maneuver, exercise, or drill, and then setting the men loose to practice on their own while he goes around to make corrections and instruct as necessary. He's glad to see the 7th are fitting right in: showing the rookies what works and what doesn't and offering their advice and experience. He hopes it will make a difference.

When Caedmon approaches him, he nods. "Some more effective marksmen would be a great boon. If you can train them, you have my full blessing," he says, then glancing to Alelip, silently asking his permission. The archer was, after all, the corporal's soldier, and he has no desire to jump the chain of command.

As he glances over the group, he notes Marin's apparent proficiency. The corporal's assessment appears spot-on, and if she can truly keep her calm in the heat of battle well enough to fight, then she's got a leg up on most of the troops here. He briefly entertains the idea of asking her to spar with him, but dismisses the thought. The only thing worse than losing to her would be beating her.

The only other soldier who stands out is Rives, the quiet stableboy he spoke to last night. He doesn't appear to be actively participating in the training. In fact, if the knight had to guess he'd say the boy joined the army under the impression that he would be working exclusively in the stables and that there was no chance of a real war breaking out while he was in the service. He probably shouldn't be here. He doesn't look suited for war. But if he made it this far... He shrugs, making a mental note to ask Alelip about him later. Perhaps there's a way to get him more involved.





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