Pavis back

Morning practice

Clay day, Movement week, Fire season

Yelm's first tentative javelins are scattering across the legion's practice ground as Khan completes his two hundreth repetetion of a simple overhand cut three degrees different from the one he practiced yesterday. Seledd Brightspear, fresh from her morning oblations, approaches him.



Their pleasantries accounted for the pair set to, engaging in some basic sword drills. The rising sun bears witness to the couple's clockwork display, witnessed also by Yarran, up early due to a touch of the gout, and Urush, Blackbeak and Irnar, up late due to a touch of many things, most of which left stains.

Cut, step, turn, thrust, parry riposte and turn and cut...Khan and Seledd dance in the morning sun.

As if hearkening an unseen fiddler both acknowledge the dance is done. Khan drops into an easy middle guard that seems his equivalent of a slouch. Seledd turns to her kit, sheathing her sword to gird herself with spear and shield. They face off once again.

Seledd's Brightspear is living up to its name, blazing with dazzling light. She watches Khan carefully, her eyes boring through him, then her eyebrows lift. "No magic beyond that in the weapon? Neither will I, then."

Gap for Khan's view of the fight. Seledd has a mastery in hand, and wins fairly easily, ending with the tip of that glowing spear resting on his throat.

The dawning sun of fire season hurls his relentless spears slantwise across the serried ranks of tents that make up the Herewardi encampment. On the earthen square between the tents, tanned men square up to cut and thrust and feint as the legion's morning practice gets underway.

Egil joins everyone else on the practice ground, doing his training with Gerras and Mauvin. He watches Khan for a while before adopting his stance and begins to go through the forms he has learnt from various weapon masters plus a few he has adapted from Gerras' spear fighting techniques.

After watching Seledd fight Khan Egil turns to his own practice. He spends some time going though the forms before he is joined by Gerras. It helps, he finds, to fight opponents who use techniques somewhat different to those he is used to. It makes him concentrate harder on where attacks are coming from. Once he is good and tired, and wearing much blood due to the nicks Gerras has inflicted Egil calls a halt. "Thanks friend. See you same time tomorrow eh?" The tall Praxian smiles as he strokes his top knot, he barely seems out of breath "Sure why not, it's always fun stabbing you Humakti."

Egil wipes himself down with a damp cloth before donning his clothing. He hasn't picked up any duties for the remainder of the day so makes his way across to where Yodi is sitting. As he approaches he bows low, when he straightens up he speaks, "Master, might I be permitted to ask some questions of you? I seek some knowledge of Hu but also some knowledge of my blade."

The duck gazes at Egil for a while before he motions for the young warrior to sit. "So the impetuous boy has come for guidance to me, he has. Your blade is sharp, use it to kill enemies of your lord, you will. What else need you know of a blade?" He gives Egil such a withering look that any questions regarding the blade die on his lips for now. "Now what would you know of Hu? Devoted to him are you not? Know him well do you."

Egil nods "I am indeed devoted but I would know more of Hu of the nine silences. I know a little of him but would know more and maybe would follow his teachings."

Yodi makes strange grumbling noise in his throat and then speaks again "A big deal this is. This I can teach you, but rules there are. These you must follow. Do this can you?"

Egil nods and the duck smiles "Tonight to me you will come, we will cross and meet Silence." Yodi then waves his hand dismissively and Egil takes his leave.
Continued here

Dissolution Khan, once of Lankst, surveys the enclosure. Clad only in a pair of loose fitting trousers his pale flesh flaunts the Praxian sun. Spotting Abul as he approaches the practice grounds, Khan offers him a salute. "Abul al Jamal, you would know me at the temple courtyard. Come. Cross blades with a man and you will know him."

Abul stops and remains immobile and silent for a short time as a rabbit spotting a fox. The small young man's face betrays no emotions but has a quick glance backward toward Yenda and Sarger like a clear request for support.

"Sir, we just come back from Pavis-Outside-The-Walls, hiding and running in the dawn light with our sentinels..." He first begins to object, still with this weird non-juvenile bass voice.

Effectively, everyone can notice the dust still sticking on the sweat of his brow, but very soon, something in his Carmanian pride commands him to change his speech... Does he recall some recent words reminding him that 'all heroquesters are doomed to meet the changes they introduced to the world'? Just now, it's quite hard for him to consider himself as even a simple initiate... but weren't yesterday advices about losing quickly this sort of delusions, as a matter of survival?

Abul faces then the stranger, the pale Deathbearer from the West and he announces with a now accentuated thick weird accent but also a kind of instinctive and noble dutiful bearing. "Indeed, my Father Jamal, taught me to never escape a lesson on the Sword Path to Solace... Hesitation is already a mistake for the student, he told me long ago..."

Khan nods.

"Wise words, long ago or not."

On these words, Abul entrusts his package to Yenda and carefully begins to remove a dirty shirt while a very impressed Sarger looks around for a blunt training sword... A few moments later, large and long bruises appear, clearly visible on the now bare-chested Carmanian. Shoulders, neck, breast and fore-arms are marked as if the young man had been beaten by a cruel master...

These light but hurtful injuries seems to be new to the knowledge of his companions as Yenda cannot refrain from letting escape one small amazed yell of fright. Perhaps a novice swordsman would confound Abul with a punished careless servant, but Khan's expert eyes are quick to notice here the marks of an expert but pitiless weapon master.

The Lankstaner's pale eyes flicker across the injuries, his face betrays nothing.

Half convinced that he will soon die, Abul looks defiantly to the Sword of Cold Death and just declares: "Not my father's..." as if he wants to answer an unspoken question within the assistance.

"But Daine's..." mutters an upset Yenda, "bloody cursed black Carmanians!"

With a small nervous move of his hand, Abul commands Sarger to give him the training sword and takes an old western guard, unusual among the Praxian barbarians.

In a correct but beatable position, smaller than average, but thin and probably agile and fast (when in good shape), Abul waits watchfully. Khan can assess that the most dangerous aspect of his young opponent should be his uncompromising will. "I do not fear coldness, Sir, Herw'Ard protects me against it." Abul challenges.

Khan glides into guard. Abul is granted a view of pale eyes above a training sword, pale flesh highlighting vivid tattoos, the view that Hengist had as he drew his final breath.

But the young Abul isn't Hengist the Swaggerer and his pride is much more like a thick layer of rude education above an honorable sense of filial duty and an honest core of Pelandan childhood.

In front of the undecipherable foreigner, Abul resists the temptation to rashly take the initiative. Observing his opponent, he masters his breath to control his fear as his father Jamal taught him. The two observe each other with acute glances.

After a long moment, Khan slowly answers Abul's challenge with the words of a traditional Humakti prayer: "Go away or I will cut you into ten thousand pieces."But Abul doesn't seem afraid nor does he leave the training ground. Having given this traditional warning, Khan attacks, fast as lightning and before he could even raise his arm, Abul discovers himself without his sword in hand, as defenseless as the lamb on the sacrificial altar. That is how quick and how skilled the western warrior is.

Abul looks at Khan waiting for a final blow, but the Humakti just give a glance to the right, at a livid Sarger with a still vibrating sword planted in the ground between his feet.

An interrogative Abul makes a step back and seeing an immobile opponent, he turns to get his sword back. Sarger doesn't say a word when his friend pulls the weapon to him, but Sarger's eyes are filled with silent fear.

Armed again, Abul goes back to Khan, who pronounces in a blank tone: "Go away or I will bash you into mush," but again Abul keeps his guard and Khan does what he has said he would do, disarming Abul and pushing him back, not into mud, for mud is seldom seen in Pavis, but down on the dusty training ground.

This time, the sword falls near Yenda's feet and Abul got the suspicion that chance has nothing to do with the destination of his weapon. When Abul gets his sword back, Yenda gives him an encouraging glance. Surely if Khan had wished to kill him, he would already have done it.

Four more times, Abul takes his place, receives impassibly a Khan's warning and watches his sword flying to the feet of a different spectator. Soon it becomes obvious to all that not only Khan is the master of the fight but also the master of Abul's sword choosing where it should fall. Four more time Abul has to go a different person, receiving there each time a different feedback as the people get used to the move: advice to leave the fight, disapproval, disabused pity and amused mockery at last.

Once again Abul takes his guard and this time, Khan assaults him immediately, but as Khan attacks, Abul makes a step aside, avoiding the disarming strike and keeping his sword in hand. "On the seventh strike..! You learn fast, young Abul," Khan says softly, but words are a trick for the warrior's quickness, and as Abul ponders the compliment, Khan uses his hesitation, turns, sweeps Abul's defense and places his own sword on the neck of the beaten Herw'Ardi.

"Here stops the analogy," Graylor states mysteriously, intervening on the training ground. "No one will take the head of the other today. I have seen a great lesson given by a great teacher to a great student: I think that everyone here should feel blessed for this vision and think on its potential meaning. Khan, you're truly a sword master. Abul, you have great potential, Jamal taught you well."

As the practice session starts Irnar has a sudden thought. "Excuse me gents," he murmurs to his drinking buddies. He stands gracefully showing none of the expected effects of a night's drinking, his clothes as pristine as if he had just put them on freshly laundered and his face as fresh as if he had a full nights sleep. Calling on Egil Nine-wounds he requests and is given the chance to look through the stock of war bows the legion has. In the temple he grabs a reluctant Vindana to read the inventory for him: not surprisingly she finds only six entries, though each bow is from a different culture.

The elven bow, created from living wood is beautiful but they carefully re-wrap it knowing that the slightest touch of a non aldryami would cause the bow to decay to nothing. Next from the rack comes the troll bow, hugely massive and covered with lead decorations. Irnar thought it the ugliest thing he had seen even finding tooth marks on the limbs. As Vindana is reading about the next bow Irnar has already got it from the rack and unwrapping it. He reaches out to pick it up just as Vindana starts to call out a warning. The room is instantly
filled with a keening noise that is only quietened when Vindana touches the bow and mutters a short incantation.

"That was a Yelornan bow." She smirks at Irnar, one eye brow raised. "It appears that they have heard of your type, and protect their best weapons from use by hedonists such as yourself! A good thing if you ask me."

"And so they should. I'm a menace to polite society." Irnar responds impudently, without any contrition or apparent discomfort at the reprimands of bow or sage.

"What's next my prissy bookworm?"

"A dwarven bow, of some strange symbol that I've never seen before! No, hang on, it's an ancient form meaning mixed ore complex. Not sure how that can relate to a bow though."

The object in question is short and bulky and when unwrapped reveals a metallic thing with wheels and strings placed apparently at random. It only bears a passing resemblance to a bow and it takes Irnar some time to figure out what is what. Experimentally he draws it, and like Urush's bow it is very heavy but just manageable. As he nears the full draw of the bow something happens and the pressure on his fingers drops allowing him to easily hold the weight.

"Complex it certainly is. I've never seen anything like it before. I must try this outside." he mutters. "This could be interesting, but I think it may need special arrows. My standard arrows won't pass through the centre of this very well."

He lays the bow to one side to look at the remaining two.

"These are more standard Yelmalian and Praxian kit." Vindana says. "Now, fascinating though the world of bows is, I have important work to finish."

"Thank you, as always you gracious presence makes any task a more pleasant one." Irnar throws an elaborate bow to her retreating form as she exits the room.

The final bows prove to be of more standard manufacture. The Yelamalian bow is a beautifully made yew longbow with curved ends and horn tips whilst the praxian bow is laminated horn and wood. Not as massive as Urush's bow but sturdy enough. He takes both of these bows to test them out alongside the strange dwarven one.

"Urush, come and have a look at the new toys I have found." Irnar calls to his new friend on his way to the area he uses as a practice range.

The tusker comes at a lope, instruments of distant death ranking a close fourth of his pecadillos, just behind loot, liquor and lewdness. He peers for a moment at Irnar's array of arms.

"That's quite an arsenal you've got yourself, whiskers. I'se never taken to the yew bow myself, although fairhair's kin back in the North seem to love 'em. Too much to get tangled up in the woods, and you can't use 'em from the saddle."

He pauses for a moment, before continuing almost wistfully.

"I miss the saddle. How big do yer think wolves get in Prax?"

“Wolves? Big enough to be a nuisance, never considered them for riding though. The biggest one I’ve seen is here in camp. But that is Vastyr’s companion and intelligent. Not sure that either would let you ride him!”

Urush's fevered eyes scan the dwarven bow.

"That's an odd one, bet you a wheel to a whelk that's 'ad mostali fingers in it. Think you're meant to shoot it or hitch a horse to it?"

“That’s a bet that I wouldn’t take. You’re meant to shoot it, but..” He shrugs doubtfully. “Everything looks wrong with it. At least its compact so wouldn’t foul in woods, but I wouldn’t like to unstring her though!”

"Did you know, I'se was given an elf bow? I know, me, who's killed more elves than greenfly, it's a riot isn't it? The greenskins were so happy with blondie and that crazy horse lover friend of his carving up some trolls for 'em they showered us all in gifts. Grew me a bow an' all. That's where his-lord-high-sense-of-humour-failure got his armour from. I got mine the honest way, by killing the poor bastard who used to wear it.

Urush grins ear-to-ear in cheerful malevolence, before returning to his tale.

"Course they take years to grow so I couldn't hang around and actually shoot the thing. She'll probably have grown so big she'd suit that Gron fella I was telling you about before I ever pluck her."

He turns to address the target dummy.

"Now then, whos face do you want to paint on it?"

“That ogre bitch. She’d no right to look so good, I could have made a bad mistake over her!”

The longbow is better than his previous bow but lacks the punch of the horn bow which is better at penetrating the armoured dummy they use. The dwarf bow is very strange, it is obviously very powerful, almost a match for Urush's beast. But getting the arrows to fly straight is a great problem.

"They're canny bastards ain't they, there's something come out of crossing a cart with a bow. Plays hard to get, that bow."

Urush slaps his own hefty bow.

"She's a regular kind of woman aye, easy enough at first but the closer you get to where you want to be, the harder she fights you. That one."

He nods to the esoteric weapon in Irnar's hands.

"She's all "No, I couldn't" at the start, but once you're there you could hold her there for ever"

Urush spits with uncanny accuracy, enmeshing a crawling insect in rancid sputum.

"Bet she kills well, those kind always do."

"Yeah, she'll come to me soon enough. Never known a woman who didn't!" He grins lewdly. "I'll go and see if there is any more information about this bow."

He whispers conspiratorially to Urush.

"Do you know this lot have a library, with scrolls and books! Much of it about their weapons! Perhaps things are worse than we thought if they need greybeards to tell them what to do with their own weapons! Catch you later."

He chuckles as he goes off in search of Yenda and the armoury.

“Can you do some reading for me please? I want to know more about this bow that I found in the armoury, Vindana wasn’t very communicative earlier.”

“Hmm.” Yenda offers rather distractedly. “Have you seen what has been done to poor Abul?”

Irnar looks and sees the bruises. “Yeah, I’ve seen it before. Not the most effective way of teaching, but frequently practiced. The lad is bright enough to learn from gentle sparing with his betters, no need to cripple.”

Irnar puts an arm aournd Yenda’s shoulders.

“Don’t worry lass he’ll bounce back, and with the quality of the teaching available here, it’ll not be long before he is the one bruising his instructor. You know when I was training we used wine skins. You know the ones the younger kids are so fond of putting on peoples chairs to make a rude noise. It meant that everyone was really trying to hit each other but with no possibility of harm. But, there was a huge amount of embarrassment when you were hit because everyone heard it.”

“Now about this reading, it will wait until after practice if you like?”

“Yes if you wouldn’t mind.” Yenda eyes express her gratitude. Irnar busies himself trimming the fletchings on some of his arrows to allow them to fit better with the new bow.

After the combat Yenda follows Irnar to the armoury. Quickly Yenda finds the entry and reads.

“Prototype X458Y3 mark 3. Dwarven manufactured complex bow. Made by Iron Dwarf UT5671 with Wilms Broken-Nose, also 3 Lo-metal arrows.”

“I remember reading the name Wilms Broken-Nose. Let me see if I can find the scroll.” She says excitedly.

In a flash she is gone and Irnar starts to look for the missing arrows. He is head down in the racks when Yenda returns. When he stands both have triumphant smiles. Irnar has two of the three metal arrows, and Yenda has the scroll.

“Look. It says here that Wilms was working with the dwarves on a prototype bow during the troll occupation. They were looking for something a man could use to help penetrate troll armour. The bow was completed but they had to make a device to fire the thing. Wilms was killed before the dwarf could return with the device.”

Suddenly she snorts with mirth.

“There is a side entry here too. The dwarf was nicknamed BB for Burnt Beard because the dwarf was always sticking it in his forge fire! But there is nothing to indicate the mechanism was ever completed. I guess that we would have to find BB, if he is still around. In the meantime you could try a thumb ring. The nomads use them all the time. Gerras should have a spare for you to try out.”

“Thumb ring eh? I’ve heard of them but never used one. Let’s go and get some instruction.” He rushes out to find Gerras and happily spends what free time he has learning and practicing the new techniques.

Graylor walks past the training ground, whishing he could stay and watch Khan’s first session. He was sure that sparks would fly. Now, however, he was off to collect the new recruits. His new recruits, for his own command. There was a good ring to that. Since the announcement last night he had been walking around with a smile on his face. With Santhis and Elgan at his side they make their way carefully to the rendezvous point. Soon they see the dust of the four men coming down the road. Graylor steps out into the road, he can feel the heat already starting to build. Santhis and Elgan, already primed, scan the rubble behind the men ensuring that they hadn’t been followed. They hang back for a while just to make sure before catching up with Graylor who is taking a roundabout route to the camp.

Meanwhile Graylor offers the men a warm welcome, to match the day. He chats with them about the standard queries such men have, rates of pay, opportunity for plunder or extras. He also explains the philosophy of the Herewardi and the duty of the leaders to their men. The men seem impressed though Hilord, Bofrost and Olend seem to be very content to let Yarran do all the talking, indeed it seems quite difficult to stop the man from talking.

In camp Graylor takes the men to meet Yodi. He approves their hiring as auxila to Graylor’s ten with the option of becoming full legionaries if they choose to initiate to Hereward. As the men are dismissed to eat, Yodi catches Graylor’s arm.

“Two pieces of advice I have. First don’t let Seledd or the second know these are Hengist’s men. It will stop unnecessary fights. Second teach these men well, many will be monitoring their progress as a reflection of their leader.”

"Yes Master Yodi." Graylor replies gravely. "Oh, when will it be possible to initiate Yenda and Santhis? I feel that they are ready, Yenda especially. She seems very keen on Hereward, more so than Jalmar. I fear our order did not treat her well and have thus lost a promising student. Santhis has been cautiously welcomed back to Yelmalio, but he is keen to belong to Hereward as well."

"Yes, they must be soon initiated. I will speak to the warleader about it. It is strange to have to deal with so many initiations. I will advise Illig that the other devotees will need to help with these ceremonies. Hmmm. Let me meditate a while on a good solution to the problem. I will let you know the outcome." Yodi dismisses Graylor as he waddles to his meditation mat.

And he does...
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