Chapter 6: Stand Up and Be Counted

Drystan stops whistling, and a few tears form in his eyes as he sees the watchtower. The march had been the most draining experience of his life, and the first sight of the tower drove away much of the despair that the long march had created in the young bard. This must be the sort of feeling that Axaron felt upon finally seeing the shore...

Wiping away the tears in his eyes, Drystan looks over to Leo and moves quickly to support his more severely wounded comrade. "Easy now, we're almost there," he says as he tries to take some of Leo's weight on his shoulder, wincing in pain as the effort tears at his own injury. "Time enough to get some rest soon enough..."

The gates swing open with an audible creak, revealing a half-dozen spear-wielding infantrymen within the barbican. Archers patrol the tops of the towers, and at this distance a blue pennant with the symbol of a silver hawk can be seen flying atop the tallest.

Sergeant Wyndshof moves to the fore of the train as his men pull the wagons onward, lining up to cross the wooden bridge that spans the stake-studded fosse. The defenders of the tower seem alternately shocked and impressed at the state of the Iron Hearts, but no words are exchanged, only grim, tight expressions that try their best to be encouraging smiles. More than likely, none of the 3rd Eastgard have been through a battle such as the 7th Westgard must have faced to earn such stripes.

The interior of the watchtower is no less spartan than the exterior, consisting of only a single great court surrounded by the tall, chambered stone walls where the quarters, armories, and living spaces are housed. Within the large, central bailey, a squad of soldiers is exercising under the watchful eye of their sergeant. Another squad sits up against the east wall, enjoying a meal together. A third squad, nestled in a shadowed aisle under the south wall, is working to care for their gear. The fourth squad is on duty, and by all rights the fifth should be asleep.

As the first of the Iron Hearts enters the court, a tall, armored warrior comes striding out from a door in the west wall. His long, ash blond hair is tied back in a ponytail, and his piercing blue eyes survey the court with practiced speed. The blue cloak that covers his chainmail is trimmed with gold epaulets at the shoulders, indicating his rank as captain. A younger soldier trails dutifully along behind, carrying the officer's spear. Wendshof turns and salutes the approaching captain, calling out, "Sir, the 7th Westgard has arrived to relieve your company, as ordered."

The captain raises one pale eyebrow as he returns the salute and replies, "What's this, Sergeant? While I applaud your enthusiasm, surely the vanguard must wait for the rest of the column. Where is Captain Strakker?"

Wyndshof's face grows sad, and he shakes his head. "Sir, he fell in battle with gnollish raiders to the north, not eight hours ago, along with many of our company. This is not the vanguard, but the sum of my men."

The captain's other eyebrow joins the first. "All? You would defend Baden Falls with barely a quarter century?"

Sergeant Wyndshof points out, "Your company would more likely survive an attack such as we have seen, to deliver the message that reinforcements are required. I doubt the same could be said of mine, veteran though they are, in the face of two score gnolls in the field."

The captain considers this for a moment, then nods. "Very well. Rest your men in the court--I will have my healer assist with your wounded, and we can discuss matters in my quarters."

By now, the entirety of the Iron Hearts have come within the ward, and the soldiers at the gate have closed the heavy wooden structure.


With the fortress in sight, Butch slowly comes forward from his march-induced trance and slowly takes stock of the situation. Without a word, he passes off the yoke of the wagon and catches Drystan's eye. With a nod of his head, he indicates Sergeant Wyndshof's figure as it makes its way up to the front of the formation, and quickly matches the Sergeant's pace, slipping in behind him. Careful to keep his expression blank, he carries his spear at trail arms and does his best to stay covered down on Drystan, opposite his position. Flanking Sergeant Wyndshof, Butch comes to stiff attention and as the Captain approaches.

While they were torn to shit and ragged to the bone, and these were friendlies, you still had to keep up appearances. The reputation of the 7th now rested squarely on their shoulders, and he would see no disrespect be leveled against it due to their countenance.

Though stock still while the Sergeant and the Captain talk, Butch's eyes move constantly taking in the men of the 3rd. he notes the condition of their gear, the drills they undertake in the court, the thousand minute details that only a fighting man can care about. While only hours ago he was no better then them, a wide gulf of experience now separates the two units and he can't help but feel a rising contempt for the untested men and soft faces across the way. But he suppresses that feeling, because it isn't his place to express it. Instead he stands rigidly at attention, acting as the honor guard that would be needed if the Captain were alive. He isn't, but since the Sergeant is filling his shoes, the tradition must still be honored.

As the Captain's last words are spoken, Butch remains standing still. Some soldiers might have broke and ran to the courtyard - but the men of the 7th weren't the Captain's to command. The men of the 7th were Sgt Wyndshof's until someone made it otherwise.

Once the Sergeant gives the order to fall out inside the building, Butch moves vigilantly to the end of the formation and escorts the stragglers and walking wounded into the fort. Though they might be at the doors to the camp, that didn't make them safe and now would be a great time to attack, with the fort's doors spread wide and the defenders distracted by the new arrivals.

Once the heavy wooden doors slam shut, Butch can begin to feel something that he later realizes was his heart thawing out, and the return of hope to his breast.

Hots and cots, woop woop!

Entering the court, Marin takes a moment to survey the structure, and keeps moving with the rest of the men. Tired and aching she still stands as firm as she can when the Captain appears, her shoulders sagging once more when he leaves and her knees buckling. Looking around once again she goes to the other followers, because as much as she desires a good rest, she has a duty to fulfill. Stopping in her way, she looks for her townspeople making a beeline to them

"Leo? Drystan?" Seeing the state of the young monk she takes what's left of her waterskin to him "Here Leo, there's still a few sips. At least it will refresh your dry throat" Giving him a soft hug and one to Drystan too she smiles sadly "Thanks for helping him, Drystan" she says before going to her original destiny.

"Are you alright?" she asks concerned to the other followers, taking their tired expressions and tense bodies from the march. Sighing she leans against the cart for a minute before straightening again with a good measure of effort "Alice, Rives? please go to healer Alelip and start helping him with the wounded after he coordinates with the healer of the 3rd company. Betsey? Karina? Could you start unloading light things and organizing them? I'll go to the current chaperone to see how are things organized here and how we'll be taking over"

Dusting herself as well as she can and once again placing her sword on her back and under her cloak to keep it out of direct sight, she goes to the squad that is taking their meal and asks one of the followers for the chaperone

Drystan doesn't bother spiffing himself up as the group enters the base, occupied as he is with helping Leo (and keeping himself upright and moving). He looks over the fort with a surprisingly wet gaze, and sighs in relief as the company is dismissed.

Drystan nods tiredly to Marin as she thanks him, wincing slightly at the hug. As she heads off, he looks toward Leo. "Off to the healers, then? I think you could use their tender mercies more than I." He chuckles slightly at his
Which really wasn't that funny, but hey, he's exhausted.
joke, and looks over to Butch, somewhat envious of the fact that the other man has adapted to military life so quickly. Perhaps a new sergeant in that one, if they decide to promote Wyndshof. He tugs at one of his moustaches as he considers this, and tiredly looks about for the healers. Hopefully they can fix up this back wound a bit more...

Leo takes the takes the waterskin respectfully before placing it to his lips and tilting his head back. A quick couple of swallows went down his throat before he capped it and gave it to her, leaving a meager amount of water in for her. He'd smile to her. I still believe you may make a wife and mother yet someday. He said before smirking to her.

He'd glance to Drystan with a smirk. I'm sure tonight I'd mimic the legendary Terrisque after a year of mass destruction.

After the Sergeant is done speaking, Alelip hobbles up to the Captain. He says, "Healer Alelip, detailed to the 7th Westgard. Can you direct me to the healer's area, so that my men can receive the attention that they need?"

The captain's lackey points over to the south wall, where in the middle of the columned aisle a large door can be seen. "We have turned the old great hall into the refectory, and there is a smaller side hall within which is the healer's chamber."

Wyndshof looks over his shoulder, noting Butch's presence. He gives a smile of satisfaction and orders, "Corporal, fall the men out and make sure everyone gets the healing attention they need. Work with the 3rd to find them quarters and get everyone bedded down. We can worry about introductions later." With that, he turns and walks off to the west behind the captain.

Rising her eyes for a moment, to see her sergeant going with the captain she sighs. She knows she broke protocol and that maybe she should have waited for the dismissal of the men, but if they wanted to rest even a bit they need to set up everything for the next few days.

"Well... maybe I'm not so cut for the military, but the Sergeant will have to excuse me" she mutters "I hope I don't cause much problems to him. An indisciplined chaperone probably is not so good"


Caught offguard by being addressed as Corporal, Butch grins for a split second and then with skill that comes only from long practice, about faces and says:

"Seventh, if you are injured, report to Alelip so he can get you seen by their healer. Everyone else stand by while we get some rack space locked on -- now would be a good time to clean your weapon and armor, before we all pass out. Ms. Marin, if I could see you briefly. Fall out!"

Stepping backward like he has seen the Sergeant do before, he turns and quickly goes to find Marin. She looks frazzled and exhausted, but much better then he would have though possible only a week ago. He'd also heard she had acquitted herself well with the blade that was now tucked out of sight. "The Sergeant wants us to get the troops billeted here, and I don't know a thing about that. I'll try and locate the chaperone of the 3rd so you can secure the men some bunks and stick with you in case there is any trouble.. which there shouldn't be." His voice drops low at the last few words - he's in no mood for trouble after what they've been through.

The one thing he's learned about the military is that everyone has their job, and if you wanted to keep from pissing people off, you let them do it. Besides, what did he know about billeting? And the last person he wanted to piss off was the chaperone - he'd had enough of getting cold chow because they 'ran out' when he made one too many mean jokes at the ladies' expense.

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