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Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Mustering.

Postby Grathier » September 1st, 2014, 5:52 am

Two days came and two days went. In what was generally accepted as not nearly enough time, the 106-strong training Company stood at parade, ready for their short test at an hour before dawn. A half-hour of drill followed, followed by a half-hour of marching around Valience Keep. Sergeant Kilroy took the group, barking turns, wheels, inclines and other basic maneuvers. Amidst a simple march, they were suddenly pelted with rocks. It was barely first light and the shadows of the walls around them kept everything dark still.

"SHIELDS UP!" Kilroy bellowed, prompting the Company to hastily form a shield wall. Barnaby was in the front rank and guessed the throwers were forty paces in front of them.

"ADVANCE!" They advanced at the rocks and through the ill-coordinated timing of the march there were retreating footsteps. In their wake were a score of target dummies, designed to be knocked over.

There was no order to charge and the ranks did their best to swing at and knock the dummies down without breaking pace. His own side began to break up, but a shout from the second rank checked the more eager and the line gradually straightened. The rocks were coming from forty-five degrees to the left now.

"LEFT INCLINE! ADVANCE!"

Barnaby angled himself forty-five degrees, toward the new threat. They were now in a bastardised wedge formation and continued.

"LINE OFF BY THE CENTER!"

The two edges pushed up as quickly as possible. Barnaby tried to count how far from the tip he was and decided to fall into the second rank instead. Someone tripped.

"HURRY UP!"

They still weren't in formation by the time the rocks stopped, but they continued on anyway. someone else tripped, causing another to fall. Until dawn it was just chasing rocks, doing full turns and about turns, adjusting pace and spacing at random and the occasional swing at a dummy. It was quite boring really.

They halted in front of a hundred straw dummies when that was done.

"Now for the final order." Kilroy said amiably. "COMPANY! CHARGE!"

Honestly, Barnaby saw that one coming. With a thunderous roar, the ranks became a horde as each raced one another to strike down targets. Barnaby had once again been in the front rank, but by the time he had felled two, another had leapfrogged past him and he couldn't work his way back into the front ranks. He pushed at the men in front of him until the order to stop was given.

For a test to see whether you could function in war, it was pretty underwhelming.

Then it was more sparring in a tournament-styled arrangement, designed to last until midday. To structure it better, the first twenty-two losses competed again at the end of the round to produce sixty-four winners. Barnaby was pitted against a Lordaeron kid his age and won in two bouts. Jon, Riley, Katherine and most of the militiamen won their rounds. Decklyn had been pitted against Daniels and lost in four seconds flat. He also saw Elizabeth lose twice somewhere along the line.

The second round was still a matter of sifting the skilled from the rest. Barnaby won out against Marcus, managing to apply a headbutt to the amusement of everyone else. Riley was beaten by Acara, and after a nasty match of twenty-two bouts, Katherine had beaten Harris.

Round 3 began the murmurings of wagers and cheering. Barnaby stepped in against Redfield - Jon.

"I'll tear your arm off and beat your skull to shattered pieces with it! Then I'll set your carcass on fire and cast it off the highest tower in the Keep!"

"Not before I rend your stomach open and make you feast on your own entrails! And then I'll flay your face off with my fingernails and wear you like a mask!"

A lot of 'Ohhh's' and laughs resounced and the two were both inwardly grinning. They would have to decide later whom thought up the most unsettling, vicious threat before the five copper was exchanged as agreed.

Jon came in quickly, opening with a vertical blow. Before it connected, Barnaby rushed forward and pummeled him with his shield. Another step forward to pursue the staggering foe, he swung low beneath the shield, striking Jon's sabaton. Cheap shot, but still a 'wound'.

"Oh come on!"

"Weren't expecting that, were ya?" Barnaby snickered from behind his helmet, who now launched his own offensive. The next four bouts were tough, with Barnaby throwing in the occasional pommel or kick to the groin. Eventually Jon lowered his shield an inch too far and Barnaby's sword struck his helmet.

"Ha! Win."

"You fight dirty, you bastard?"

Round 4 came quickly enough. With 16 members left, this was when it got interesting. The fights were longer and more vicious now for the boast of being top dog was at stake. Katherine, the seemingly-invincible Daniels, Acara and a few others were his opponents. Suprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly at all), old man Anthony was still in the running.

Katherine won again, as did Daniels. Barnaby was pitted against Recruit Gerard, a particularly vicious man about ten years his senior. He swung the sword like a meat cleaver, leaving Barnaby to block and wheel and backpedal constantly. All his other opponents had been overwhelmed by sheer attrition, but they had taken his punishment. Barnaby decided to never let Gerard find purchase. Blows that didn't miss outright were simply deflected. Technically it was one long bout, but after a few minutes the older footman began to tire.

Barnaby suddenly dug his heels in as the next blow came downward, stepping left and letting the sword glide down the length of his blade. Predictably, the next blow would come across at his undefended side as Barnaby lined up an identical move. But Gerard was slow from fatigue and the swing found only the tip of Barnaby's plume, who had crouched and swung his blunted sword into the side of his enemie's knee. He followed through with an upward thrust under the right pauldron, completing the 'kill'.

"Cheater!" Gerard shouted. "He cheated!"

"Get the fuck out of my ring, mate." Barnaby said almost amiably with an invisible grin. With a roar, Gerard launched at him, restarting the fight. He swung three times before Briston had tackled him. A short scrap ensued, ending when a half dozen others came to the rescue. Barnaby melted back into the crowd next to Jon.

"Sore loser" Jon remarked.

"You can say that again."

Eight fighters were left at round's end. Barnaby found himself against another militiaman, who fought defensively. Barnaby was reduced to cheap tricks again, from stomping on the man's foot to trip him up as he withdrew to reefing his shield to pull him forward from time to time. A half-dozen bouts ensued with little gain. He couldn't break this man's defence - he needed to outmaneuver him.

Barnaby lowered his shield a fraction as he brought a blow down overhead. Easily blocked, but the blow was light - a feint. His opponent thrusted in counterattack. As he did so, Barnaby stepped right to bring the shield back between the blade and himself as he struck downward again. The blade tracked along the edge of the shield and clipped the man's gauntlet. Wound.

Everyone was cheering now. Barnaby knew he couldn't get away with that twice - his opponent was much more careful now - and tried a few more tricks. Swinging low never worked and neither did enticing an attack. He would need to do something utterly unexpected to get in.

He waited for his moment, circling and swinging. Despite the surprising increase in fitness in two mere weeks, Barnaby was tiring. When he saw a chance, he swung a wide arc down and left at hsi foe's helmet. The shield went up and another strike guaranteed a retaliation. This thrust struck Barnaby's shield. He angled it away, letting the blow glide along the shield's length, then suddenly stepped in and rammed the edge of his shield into the man's breastplate. He reeled, but Barnaby was inside. A pommel struck his foe's helmet once, twice, thrice. The other footman kept trying to back out and gain space, but Barnaby stepped on his foot again.

The man toppled and Barnaby stomped on his sword arm before he could attempt anything. From there it was a quick thrust to the armpit and a resounding cheer went up.

Top 4.

Katherine won. Acara lost to Daniels and out of nowhere, Anthony secured his place with them. The next fight was drawn.

"Grathier and Katherine!"

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Mustering.

Postby Grathier » September 2nd, 2014, 9:28 am

The 17 year old Recruit Grathier stepped up against the 26 year old Recruit Katherine. Both were lean and mean, held a hard gaze gained from a hard life and though he was raised in Lordaeron and she Dalaran, they were both natural fighters.

Katherine had six years of war under her belt, struggling against Scourge, Forsaken, trolls, ogres, bandits and everyone else who had tried and failed to stomp Stromgarde into submission. Grathier only had six years of hard adolescence, where a lesser man than he would have finished on the hangman's noose or bleeding out in an alleyway.

Both underdogs and vicious ones at that.

Barnaby came first with an opening offensive. Katherine took everything on the shield, stepping, wheeling, waiting for her moment. He saw she was biding her time but didn't ease his attack. Bouts passed. Suddenly one wrong swing found him on the defensive, blows raining down from seemingly every direction. Barnaby dug his heel in at a thrust and they came in close. He tried a pommel strike, but before he knew it, her shield had connected with his helmet. He remained dug in, but the second slam was hard enough to stagger him. He deflected another thrust with his sword and struck out at her knee with his boot.

She raised her own boot to check the strike before kicking him in the hip, just below the shield. On one foot, Barnaby toppled and rolled to one side to dodge a blow. Katherine played it smart and slashed his sabaton. Wound. Before she could strike again he was up in a crouch. The blow caught his shield and he drove up, slashing her thigh with his own sword. Wound apiece, much to the roaring crowd's delight.

They separated to end the bout, circled and charged back in. Her swordsmanship was far superior to his own so he fought to check her momentum. He moved erratically, cutting off her movements and breaking combat at random to keep her off-balance. Katherine was settling into a pattern, and he could see it.

He waited for his moment as he continued to attack, defend and evade at unpredictable times. He would back off when she would lure him once, twice, then strike savagely the third. Eventually he was seeing her movements before they happened. She would move left, thrust, wheel as if by a doctrine.

Then he spotted her weakness. When she slashed right to left, her shield dropped a fraction. Barnaby found his way in. She launched the slash again and he rushed forward, trapping her sword between her shield and his. He brought his pommel down on her helmet and stepped in to--

"Kill! You're dead, Recruit Grathier!"

Barnaby stopped and looked, then his heart sunk.

He had aimed to trap her sword arm, but she dropped it at the last second. While he was striking her with his pommel, the woman had swung at his greaves again, scoring the second hit needed to win. He looked at her and she smirked from behind her helmet. They shook hands and withdrew to the side.

"You kept your shield down on purpose." he said at last.

"Your habit is exploiting your opponent's habit." she replied. "But that was a good fight."

They watched as Daniels and Anthony stepped up.

"Not good enough, it seems." he said, grinning.

"Do you know why you lasted so long, Barnaby?" she asked. Barnaby paid attention, because she rarely used his first name.

"Enlighten me."

"You're a weed."

"A weed?"

"You can grow and flourish anywhere." she explained. "You don't need to be the strongest or the most skilled to make it as far as you did. No, it's your ability to adapt and think outside the box that kept you alive."

"And a whole lot of luck."

"Fighters like you and me, we make our own luck." she chuckled as the next semi-final began. Daniels was faster but Anthony had experience. Tried and tested (if outdated) maneuvers matched the natural skill of the younger fighter. A more seasoned soldier would have cut Anthony down in a few bouts, but old tricks still work against new blood. By six bouts they had wounded one another. By ten they were tiring. Katherine watched closer than any of the others, studying both combatants.

Daniels began to build momentum against the older Anthony. Everyone cheered except Katherine. When Barnaby tapped her shoulder, she didn't even turn.

"Wait for it." she simply said.

Barnaby looked, and almost facepalmed that he had missed it. Daniels was getting carried away. He was closing gaps when he should withdraw and reset and it looked like Anthony was letting himself be overpowered. Eventually the old dog backed out and Daniels came screaming after him.

"Kill! You're dead, Recruit Daniels!"

It had been so simple. The kid had gotten so carried away that when he charged, Anthony simply held his sword out like a spear and Daniels had run straight into it. No doubt he was red-faced at the slip up but his helmet concealed it.

"Not bad." Barnaby mused.

"Fight smarter, not harder." Katherine said as she shrugged in her armor, ensuring it was all in its right place. When she stepped forward, Barnaby decided this last fight would prove to be truly entertaining.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Mustering.

Postby Grathier » September 3rd, 2014, 8:08 am

It was perhaps a little amusing.

The final match had lasted eight bouts over about a minute and a half before Anthony was overpowered and killed. Katherine had always been the superior swordswoman, but Anthony's strength had been manipulating the flow of a fight. She simply fought on her own terms, and he was defeated quickly enough.

Still, a good spectacle. And it was time for a lunch of mystery stew. It could have been mutton, vension or human flesh - one of those things you could never tell. Most of the talk was about the previous fights with more than one congratulation towards Katherine for conquering the ladder. The day wasn't over though. They were broken up into groups of four - half a squad - and given various assignments. Barnaby was grouped up with Whitebolt, Riley and another recruit named Bothling.

Their first assignment was to acquire three days worth of rations for eight soldiers from the quartermaster. They went along on their chore, meeting a training Corporal.

"Here for some grub." Barnaby said. "Three days for eight men."

The bags were pre-packed, and the Corporal handed two of them to Riley. The other three began searching the contents while Barnaby was given a form he couldn't read.

"Just fill this out," the corporal said. "List the stores and sign your life away on the line."

"Shit..." Barnaby muttered and turned to the other three. "Can anyone here read?"

There was silence for a moment.

"Can I try?"

It was Elizabeth. Barnaby remembered the news that she had been learning furiously over the past week and that was better than nothing. She scratched her head as she read, which wasn't very reassuring. Barnaby simply passed on the directions he was given.

"Can you write numbers?"

"I can."

"Good, we'll start with that." Barnaby thought for a moment.

"Hey!" Bothing said. "I don't think there's enough here."

"What?"

They double-checked the bags. Barnaby scratched his head. "What's a day's rations for a soldier?"

"A pound of dried meat." Riley said, obviously being the one who would know his food. "Two pounds of grain, some salt, some oil and whatever else they think we need."

Barnaby tried to do some math. Two pounds for eight soldiers was sixteen. Sixteen times three? Forty-something?

"Forty-eight pounds of grain." Elizabeth reported. "And half that of meat."

Riley hefted the grain bag with one arm. "That ain't a pound over forty, I say."

Barnaby turned on the 'quartermaster'. "Have you shortchanged us?"

"It's good." the corporal insisted. "Don't worry about that."

"Bullshit." he grabbed the corporal's collar. "We're short on grain and you know it."

The training officer grinned knowingly. "You got me. Rations come in forty-pound bags. Good work."

Another bag was offered, which seemed sufficient. Everything else looked okay. Elizabeth filled out the form with sluggish handwriting, not that Barnaby could understand it. He knew a number from a letter, but that was the extent of it. Once she thought she was good, she offered it to him to check.

"I told you I can't read, love." he said. "If you think it's good, then we're done here."

Elizabeth double-checked and tentatively gave the form up. Riley took the heavy bag while Barnaby took the meat and Bothing took the rest. When they returned, the stores were counted and the sergeant made a few scratches on his own parchment.

Task two: Deliver a missive to the nearby tent to a Captain Message. They discussed who felt most confident addressing officers, settling on Riley - his years as a sailor gave him a small edge. As a quick precaution, they all did a quick spit-polish job on the worst parts of his armor. Upon knocking and leading them into the tent, the massive Riley stood at attention and saluted. The other three followed suit.

"Afternoon sir," Riley said. "Message for Captain Message, sir."

"King's Honor, Recruit." the officer replied. "I'm Captain Message."

"Here you go, sir."

The Captain read the missive as Riley waited to be dismissed. Eventually he gave his thanks and the four saluted, about turned and left.

Easy enough.

Their next task was constructing a tent for eight. They were given the stores and Grathier and Riley had it up in probably record time. If Barnaby was good at anything, it was building things. The rest of the day followed like that, assessing various soldier skills varying wildly from a grueling fitness assessment to handling prisoners of war to reciting the range of 12, 18, 24 and 32 pound cannons.

Long after dark, the Company was given a feast in the mess hall, complete with alcohol and a quick speech about their future as soldiers from an officer they had never met. Spirits were high now that they were done. Barnaby sat with Elizabeth, thanking her for her reading, writing and math.

"Just glad I was good for something." she said. She was still gloomy over the prospect of going to war.

"Well you worked out how much grain we needed, they would have noticed that, no doubt." he said comfortingly.

She sighed. "I hope you're right." Barnaby patted her on the shoulder, quickly chiding himself for arousing himself. He realized it had been over a month since he had laid with a woman. No matter, he thought. He'll get a chance sooner or later.

Katherine, Decklyn and Riley - not unlike how he first met the trio - were chatting on his other side. The tournament winner was her usual reserved self, while Riley was being his loud, amiable, drunk self. Jon was further down, chatting to Marcus and a few others. Briston was bellowing laughter somewhere.

Alcohol was limited to the mess hall but once the officers were gone, the sergeants just told them to dispose of the bottles before first parade. They all took four or five each (including those who didn't drink) and the gambling started seconds after the crowd relocated to the sleeping quarters. The men and women were still segregated despite a surprising feat by the Company. In the two weeks, not one recruit had been charged with fraternization.

In other words, Barnaby thought, no one had been caught. He knew for a fact that Marcus slipped out after lights out for half an hour or so. There may have been others, but he hadn't noticed them personally. And given their extremely cut-down program, no doubt someone would have been caught sooner or later.

By the time Barnaby reached his pillow hours later, drunk and cheerful, he was out in seconds.

Grathier
Grathier
Posts: 127
Joined: March 28th, 2014, 8:58 am
Grathier

Re: Mustering.

Postby Grathier » September 5th, 2014, 5:42 am

"COMPANY!" Kilroy boomed. "ATTEN-TION!"

One hundred and seven left feet hit the stonework in a disorganized trill. The execution was poor, but two weeks of training was nowhere near enough to produce an elite soldier.

"COMPANY! STAND AT - EASE!" Another machine gun of feet.

"Rest!" he shouted. "If I call your name, fall out and make your way over to Captain Lawrence on my left."

"Acara! Anthony! Atkinson! Briggs! Briston!" the men and women fell out of the ranks one at a time as their name was called. Barnaby honestly didn't know it was alphabetical order (on account of not knowing the alphabet), so he remained anxious long after his name was skipped. Jon eventually left the rank, as did Elizabeth right at the end.

"Those names I called out!" Kilroy called, directed at the fifty-two recruits standing by the officer. "Will be joining the 10th Brigade in Howling Fjord! The rest of you!" he directed at the remnants. "Will be joining the 9th in Dragonblight!"

Barnaby's felt a pang of disappointment somewhere in the overwhelming excitement. Dragonblight seemed a horrible enough place - perfect for a fresh private to test his mettle - but he didn't enjoy the idea of being split up with his friend of twelve years. Riley, Decklyn and Katherine were still with him, as was the Kul Tiras rogue Marcus. He supposed it could have been worse.

"Company! To your duties! FALL - OUT!"

More bad drill. Once they were released from the ranks the new Privates left were summoned to a Lieutenant.

"Morning lads." he began. He stood a little taller than Barnaby and barely a year older, clean-shaven and a short, respectable cut of blonde hair. A knight's tabard - despite not being a Knight-Lieutenant and embelishments endorsed his rank.

"My name is Lieutenant Karl, ladies and gentlemen." he said. "2IC Charlie Company, 77th Battlaion, 9th Brigade. To you, that means I'm just another face among the twelve footmen companies that make up the Brigade. Some of you." he began pacing, making eye contact where he could. "May fall under my command. If so, good to have you. If not, let's hope we aren't shredded enough to start amalgamating and keep it that way."

Decklyn laughed. Most had no idea what 'amalgamating' means.

"We're marching in four hours with a supply train bound for Fordragon Hold." Karl said. "Make no mistake - the Scourge could swarm en masse five minutes out of that gate. I want each and every one of you formed up at the gate in three and a half hours, ready to destroy anything that rears its ugly head at us. Questions?"

Katherine raised her hand.

"Private Katherine, sir." she started, prompting Barnaby to make a mental note to do the same if needed. "What other units are we travelling with, sir? Fighting units that is, sir."

"Good question, Private." the officer replied. "The convoy itself has a battalion of footmen and a company of heavy cavalry in escort, which should do most of the fighting should anything come our way. We also have a company of dwarven riflemen for the first leg - they're escorting some engineers up to Fizzcrank Airstrip." Barnaby was amazed the lieutenant had such a grasp on his situational awareness and decided it must be an officer thing. "A detatchment of Sentinels from Star's Rest have also offered security for us once we enter Dragonblight proper.

"Anyone else?"

No one put their hand up.

"Good. Go get your things, ladies and gents."

Everyone remained nervously put. A few stirred uncertainly. Lieutenant Karl made a friendly shooing gesture.

"Go! You have your timing, I'll see you all there."

Katherine left, inciting confidence in everyone else to move. Barnaby left for the sleeping quarters where he gathered his things. He could be killing Scourge in four hours! It hardly seemed real. Two weeks ago he was on a steamboat, six weeks ago he was in Theramore telling his boss 'I quit, I'm joining the army.' with a grin on his face. Two weeks from now he could be in Dragonblight, or dead, his flesh rotting and his teeth in the neck of a former comrade.

Plunging into the unknown never felt so exciting.

It took fifteen minutes to tidy up and hand back what training equipment the staff wanted, though some hardly seemed to have started by the time he was good to go. He went back to the courtyard where scores of new privates were saying their farewells and last conversations. He took two steps before Elizabeth found him.

"Hey you." he said happily. "Howling Fjord eh? I heard that the vrykul like to wear the entrails of their enemies like a necklace."

She made a stern face and shoved him, obviously not finding it funny. Barnaby laughed anyway.

"Lighten up." he said.

"Easy for you to say Mr Semi-finalist." she replied. "I was beaten in three seconds."

"Any luck on the quartermaster thing?"

"Redf- Jon asked if any of us would be doing administration jobs, though he worded it like he didn't want to himself. The Captain said we would be assigned jobs once we get to the Fjord in a fortnight."

"A few weeks?" Barnaby asked. "When do you march?"

"We're taking a ship in four days. What about your group?"

"We're marching in four hours."

"Oh." that seemed to quieten her a little.

"I just wish the march was now. Get on with it already, y'know?"

"Oh. Okay." she said. "I- I never thanked you for looking out for me."

Barnaby chuckled. "I honestly didn't do anything."

"You did more than most." she said, reddening a little. "I wish I could have returned the favor."

He offered his hand and she shook it ladylike. "I could think of something."

"Oh?"

Before she could react, he leaned in and stole a kiss.

"Oh- I- Uh..." if she wasn't blushing before, she was now. Her face gradually went scarlet as she fidgeted with her hair, at a loss for words.

"Take care of yourself, love." Barnaby said with a childish grin and left her to find Jon. It didn't take long, as he had been watching the exchange and laughed when Barnaby approached.

"She'll be aching for you for weeks now." Jon said, slapping Barnaby on the shoulder.

"It's one way to leave an impression." Barnaby replied and the two almost giggled. Jon had a girl named Angela back on Theramore so by some twisted logic Barnaby couldn't understand, tried not to flirt with other women. Nice girl, loyal as far as he could tell. A brief silence fell between them.

"At least we'll have different stories during leave."

"There is that." Barnaby conceded. "Plus living with you was hard enough. Not sure how I could have coped living *and* working with you."

They laughed, and Barnaby got shoved for a second time.

"Kill one for me?"

"I'll send you his head."

They shook hands and Barnaby left the barracks with his things. A quick meander around the Keep yielded a lot of killed time and before he knew it, he was at the gate with fifty-four other privates and Lieuteant Karl conducting a role-call. Dragonblight was just a short march away.

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