Pavis back

Back in daylight

Godsday, Movement week, Fire season - late afternoon

The daylight at the top of the stairs comes as a welcome relief after so long in darkness, and it's late enough in the afternoon that the heat is no longer oppressive. The little sounds of normality - the crackle of a small cooking fire, the chirp of crickets in the scrub, the stomp of a zebra's hoof, even the low hiss of wind-blown sand - all seem to welcome you back.

There are also slightly less welcome sounds. Offir and Insterid are still with Seledd and some guards, and an rather one-sided argument seems to be going on. "No, I do not care what that rabble outside may imagine, no, you are not going to use any form of magic much less wind magic, and yes, any infraction whatsoever will be a reason to kill the hostage. Is that quite clear?"

"And no," looking at Irnar, "you are not running errands for them."

The various other people around - this does, on a quick glance, indeed seem to be the entire Legion - are carefully not noticing this discussion, and not getting involved.

Kallyr, now clearly visible to those outside, forstalls the argument by waving cheerfully to them, and receives a salute in response.

Illig nods to Offir. "You can use the wind to reassure them if you want, now. She will be returning in a few minutes in any case."

"A few minutes?" Kallyr looks somewhat surprised at that. "I thought you said I had a job to do before leaving."

"Tomorrow. You will report back here first thing tomorrow morning for further orders on that subject."

"I will? But I've..."

A raised eyebrow stops her.

"Yes, Illig. Tomorrow. Might I ask what the job will entail?"

"You can ask, yes. You will get the answer tomorrow."


He doesn't even need to raise an eyebrow this time.

"Yes, Illig. Should I come armed?"

"As you will - it hardly matters." He turns away. "Dismissed."

She stares after him. "But...."

A glance back over his shoulder. "Are you still here?"

"Ah... yes, Illig. That is, no, Illig. Come on, you two, we're leaving."

"Leaving so soon?" Irnar asks with excellently feigned sadness in his face. He offers his hand to Offir, which is ignored. "Please give my regards to Rana, when you get back." Irnar says nothing to Insterid but blows her a kiss and wipes a tear from his eye.

Abul shivers with pleasure as the Praxian heat caresses his skin and his eyes accustom to daylight. He then discreetly smiles as he observes Kallyr's vain attempt to resist Illig's authority, but before someone reminds him of his position, he puts himself right back behind Dori, ready to promptly obey any order she might give to her group.

Graylor watches Kallyr leave the camp and gives a small sigh. He looks at Yenda and says. "An interesting day and tomorrow looks to offer no less. However, back to normality. Working with the raven is going to get even more exciting. Have fun!"

Yenda smiles back. "It certainly will. Though I think there was much I missed in the temple. Perhaps Dori will be able to enlighten me."

"And you will both love that. Don't try and pretend it will be a chore." Graylor gives Yenda a gentle push towards Dori. He himself turns to Irnar.

"You're losing your touch old man! You had several hours with one woman for company and she hasn't fallen at your feet!" He grins at Irnar and slaps him on the back. "I know what will stop you from bemoaning a wasted chance. Collect the men and head on to the practice ground. We could do with breaking in the new men into shieldwall techniques."

The look of misery on Irnar's face so comical that Graylor can't help but laugh. "If you're good then I'll let you go early and play with that new bow of yours."

Irnar trots off to find the rest of the ten with a much happier face.

Graylor, knowing his own limitations seeks out Siggyr. "Ho Siggyr. Have you time to help with some drills? I have some new guys who don't know about shieldwall fighting. I'm supposed to be instructing them and I know little more than they do!"

"Sure, I'll be along in a few minutes, once I have my lads sorted out." Siggyr responds. "Want me to run through the standard 'You'll be dead without the guy next to you drill' ?"

"That would be great."

"Good, then be prepared to be a dead guy walking!" Siggyr grins malevolently at Graylor.

"I guess that I expected that!" Graylor responds cheerfully.

Yenda overhears Gralor and Siggyr talking. She is about to ask Dori what she wants doing next when she sees Dori and and Illig reentering the temple together. Seizing her chance she grabs Abul, dragging him towards the practice grounds. "Come on Abul, Dori is busy, now's our change to size up the new recruits. We may even get a chance at a free hit at Graylor. Last time Siggyr did this I was the one who failed to do it right. I want a chance of revenge."

Abul smiles at Yenda, moved by her enthusiasm and without thinking more than that, finds himself in line with all the others.

Egil hefts his shield and trots alongside Graylor, "Need someone to stand in the line and help these guys get to grips with this stuff? I've stood in the line against a phalanx more than once."

"Sure, the more the merrier." Graylor looks at the young man intently. "Have you really faced the phalanx in a shieldwall? I must admit that I have never stood in a real shieldwall, only the practice ones here."

"Yes,it's exciting stuff but hard work. If you can get toe to toe with them then our swords will win the day, but if you let them sit off a bit they'll jab at you all day long with their bloody big spears. The key is crisp commands given on the horn at the right time and making sure everyone knows what to do and can do it quickly with no fuss. You've seen Siggyr's boys at it I guess? Follow their lead and you won't go far wrong."

"Yeah, I have been through the basic drills and been working in Doris Ten. But, now I'm supposed to be the leader, and that is quite a different matter! I lead more men in the Whispering Swords, but we were only answerable to ourselves. Here there are so many people you don't want to let down and if possible impress. Somehow it feels like before, I was playing, and now it is for real."

The training progresses much as one might expect, with emphasis on the concept that each warrior's shield is for the defence of the person to their left, not for themselves, and demonstrations of what happens when this principle is ignored. Dori usually emphasises the importance of trust at this point: Siggyr concentrates more on the important of discpline and obedience to orders, and how impulsive independent action inevitably leads to disaster, with many glares at Egil.

After a while, Dori emerges, and after a quick word with Yodi (who then heads down towards the temple in turn), comes over to the practice ground. "After all that time trying to think in circles in six directions at once, something more practical would be good. May I join you?"

Siggyr's grunt in response might show approval or disapproval, but he montions her towards the centre of the group, and spends most of the next half hour or so using her as the victim of every possible failed defence, and as the central target for his demonstration of a shield charge, a very useful technique for breaking an enemy line that leaves the opposition flat on the ground and being trampled.

Abul looks at Siggyr's demonstration very attentively. "There must be other ways, less direct, to break the lines," he thinks. "Missiles have a poor chance to hit a soldier well hidden behind his shield, but magical attacks may be effective..." He makes a note to himself to look for such a possibility in the very near future...

Meanwhile the Second are also practicing shieldwalls, and while they're at the far side of the camp, the shouted commands are still audible to the Seventh. It sounds complicated - lots of calling of numbers and coded references to specific drills. The results look as slick as anything the Templars might do - the Seventh, while now working in much tighter formation than any Orlanthi band, are still ragged in comparison.

Egil, ignoring the earlier insult from Siggyr, leans over to Graylor, "To get as good as them, you need to do this for an hour a day, at least. You don't necessarily need to have shields all the time but practicing the movements and the commands constantly until it is all second nature."

"I'll keep that in mind. Much of the Jalmari training works in the same way. Repeat until it no longer becomes a conscious action." Graylor replies. "By the way, do you know what Siggyr has against Dori? He seems to have it in for her since the meeting. Ah.. No matter I have worked it out. I think he has the same thoughts as you about letting Kallyr walk free."

Meanwhile, Dori is extracting herself from underneath the latest broken shield-wall, apparently unperturbed by the repeated targetting. "Noisy lot, aren't they?" she remarks, nodding towards the Second. "Want to show them how it's done properly, while we're here?"

Siggyr also looks towards the Second, and turns back with a gleam in his eye. "I suppose they might be up to it, now. Shame the Second won't be able to see or hear us, from here, they might learn something."

"The Rigsdali will." Dori's smiling. "Not that there will be anything to hear of course, that's rather the point. Small numbers, and two of us, so I can relay for you on the details they might get wrong. It's got to be worth a try."

Graylor looks between Dori and Siggyr. They were proposing a sneak attack on the Second, that much was obvious. The relaying the details had him flummoxed for a while, until he remembered that both Dori and Siggyr were devotees of Hereward and could communicate with the truewind. This could be an excellent lesson on superior battlefield communications.

"I'm up for it. I can see that you and Siggyr can use the Truewind to communicate between you. I guess that you can pass on orders to all the Legionaries, but what about the auxilla? Is there a way for them or do they form the rear ranks and therefor have time to react?" Graylor asks.

"Yes, that's what we're going to demonstrate - sorry, not a lesson for you in how to lead a group, since this is something you can't do yourself. But then, nor can either of our current Hundred-thanes, not without a relay. Don't worry about the auxilia. In theory any Herewardi can use the Truewind to listen at a distance for orders, but in practise, trying to do that while in the front line and in combat splits your attention and gets you falling over your own feet. What we're going to do is pass you orders by the Truewind, directly to the ears of anyone who needs them - no shouting, no pipes, no horns, no drums, and much more detailed control."

"They'll need that detailed control," Siggyr grumbles. "Still don't know who goes back on a simple "form double ranks", half of them."

"So they get it. It'll be slow, true, but we can do it. And if we can..." she grins. "Think you can manoeuvre a unit this size all the way across the camp to where the Second are, in close formation? They'd do it faster, true, but they couldn't do it at all in silence."

They both study the route, littered with tents, campfires, groups sitting around...

"Start as full width wall, part as double ranks, at least the route round the fires as single column...." Dori's thinking aloud.

"Double column. Expand to four abreast beyond and wheel on the right marker then the left."

"Yes, that's better - not something I'd try myself, but you could."

Egil raises his arm, "I can help with this, let me stand right marker. I've done it for real, I know the drills and movements, they can all take time from me." A look of fierce determination is on his face.

"If you bother to obey orders, not have them taking time from whatever you decide to do instead." Siggyr, clearly, has not forgiven that yet.

"He will." Dori at least seems to believe it. "He trained with the Third, remember, that makes him the best we've got at this. And if he doesn't... well, he's only getting himself killed, not other people as well."

Egil, showing a new found maturity, shrugs off Siggyr's barbs, "I'll do my best to follow the commands, as and when given, sir." Then he moves to the right marker position and awaits the first command. Silently Graylor, using simple military signs, forms up his men beside Egil, where they too wait for commands. Abul, pretty new to these practice drills, waits patiently for the orders, trying his best to be at the required position.

In all, a total of twelve line up: Dori's group had joined her, perhaps qualifying Siggyr as the sort of "something dangerous" that she is not allowed to do alone, and stay in the line now. Dori is no longer in the line, but behind it with Siggyr: ten yards back, when they last looked, not that you look behind you when lined up in a shield wall. The whisper in each ear, though, feels for a moment as if Siggyr is about two inches away. "Dress the ranks". In a more formal unit, that would mean "look tidy" - for the Legion, it means equal spacing and shield position, so as to keep shields locked and maximise protection. When the troops range from the small, slight Abul to Santhis with his huge Yelmalian shield, this is not easy, and requires a certain amount of shuffling and compromise. This time, though, a second whisper follows the first, as Dori gives more details. Each warriors hears their own orders, and can just make out those on either side.

"Yenda, two inches right, raise your shield slightly."

"Olend, an inch right, follow her."

"Santhis - yes, perfect."

The slight adjustments work their way up the line.

Siggyr must be satisfied with the results, because the next order follows: still so quiet that anyone more than a foot away won't hear it.

"Prepare to form double ranks."

"Prepare" - you won't get that luxury in battle, but at the moment, the time to try to remember who goes where helps, a lot. This where you nudge each other, mutter "me behind, or you?" sidestep and correct... or, in this case, you don't. Again, Dori supplies the details.

"Santhis, you're number one, on the command, forward."
"Oddus, on the command, back one step."
"Kristen, on the command, forward."

Again, the orders ripple down the line, with a few extras in the middle where there may be some uncertainty.

"Yenda, on the command, forward. When we close ranks, you'll be moving right."
"Graylor, on the command, back. When we close ranks, you'll be moving left."

Siggyr's voice in their ears again. "Form double ranks - now."

It's smooth. Very, very smooth, with everyone knowing exactly what they have to do. The next command might have been "dress the ranks" if they'd got it wrong, but it isn't. "Left foot lead, advance five paces. Go." Again, this is difficult when different people have different leg lengths, and that isn't something that can be overcome by the most detailed orders, it has to come from experience.

At this moment, Abul realizes that even though he supports his comrades without question with all his abilities and tries to keep his position as hard as he can, he is also feeling definitively different from the rest of the troop. His difficulties in merging within the shieldwall come first obviously from his smaller size and lighter framed body, but he also feels that being from another place, another culture and another religion cut him from the empathic feeling to march united to the enemy, all together as one single entity. "My place is elsewhere," he keeps thinking. "I should be ahead, throwing caltrops at the feet of our adversaries to break their formation or duelling with their general to break their chain of command," he fantazises.
Anyway because of his loyalty to the Legion, his only family, Abul tries his best to march in rhythm and keep his shield in the right position wondering how far this drill wil go...

Ahead of them, the gap between obstacles narrows. "Form double colum." This is more complex, but again, the detailed instructions mean that while it's slower than a more experiened unit, it works, with no mistakes. Egil as right marker is still at the front, and can lead them off through the camp to the point where Siggyr halts them ready to open out to four abreast.

While there are no shouted orders, there is a little quiet conversation going on between the officers.

"She isn't looking, but some of her ten-thanes are."

"Sloppy discipline." Siggyr doesn't comment on the fact that Dori is clearly also dividing her attention.

"So's Yodi. Looks impressed."

"Back at last." Their Hundred-thane's conversation with the Warlord had lasted a long time.

"You'll be next down, I expect."

"You expect - so I get told this plan you already know about."

"I know what was suggested before Yodi spent an hour talking to the Warlord. Might be nothing left of it by now. But if Yodi's waiting for you, not for her... "

"Hmmph." Siggyr may be a little mollified, but not much. "Get your mind back on the job, Ten-thane. Do you by any chance remember the orders for widening to four abreast?"

"I think so, sir." It appears that she does. The wheel in each direction works, and they emerge still as a close-order unit and still with shields locked next to where the Second are beng shouted at.

Graylor blow heavily with relief. He is drenched with sweat, only some of which comes from the late sun. He hasn't had to concentrate that hard for quite some time. But, at least it has taken his mind off the events of the day for a while. Though the chatter of Siggyr and Dori does bring him back to the age old question of "what happens next?" closely followed by "Will I be going or left behind?" He hopes that he has done enough to merit going to Whitewall, a place he has never seen. But back to the present, what will the second do about this shieldwall in front of them?

Perhaps fortunately, any unfavourable reaction that might have resulted is forestalled by Yodi strolling between the two groups to greet Siggyr.

"So, the Truewind better at Silence even than Hu is? That well done was, all of you. But now, you," and he reaches up to poke Siggyr in the chest with the butt of his cigar, "to the Warlord called are. You take message for me will. Tell him the time to think I wanted, I have, and agree do I."

Siggyr hurries off, and Yodi turns on Dori, the cigar butt poking her a little lower. "This your idea was?"

"Yes, sir."

"He," the cigar indicating Siggyr, "knows why?"

"No, sir."

The beady eyes stare down the beak at her: quite a feat, when he's two feet shorter than she is. "For a mere ten-thane to attempt to manipulate even one superior, bad taste is."

"Yes, sir." She doesn't in fact seem all that apologetic.

"To manipulate three at once, and succeed, the mark of a good Raven is."

"If I succeed."

"Two for certain is. The third? We later know. But you on the Warlord not this try."

"No, sir! No way!"

Yenda is trying very hard to stop her eyes popping out at that little conversation. It takes all her Jalmari training to try and project only the flush of excitement that she had been feeling only moments before. The thrill of the silent marching was exhilarating, sure beats shuffling scrolls. But manipulating superiors, that was interesting. Here, Siggyr and would have been Seledd, if Yodi hadn't appeared. I wonder who else? There aren't many others in the Legion superior to Dori. But the job she did on Siggyr was masterful. Putting herself in the line so he could target her and taking it without complaint. Then "suggesting" that they could do silent maneuvering, whilst complimenting his experience and skill, offering to be his junior partner. Here was a master to learn from.

Suddenly the image of Kallyr's tear-streaked face comes to Yenda's mind. Yodi wasn't talking about only Legion superiors. Dori had carried much of the meeting, and all of it following her suggestion to interrogate Kallyr. She had already manipulated the whole Legion including, even especially, Illig. Nothing had been left to chance, even down to Seledd insisting that the hostages being present. Dori had either anticipated or caused every event in the transition of Kallyr from Queen to accepting, apologetic victim.

Unaware of Yenda's exaggerated ideas of her omniscence, Dori is still addressing Yodi. "Would you like to take over the drill at this point, sir?"

"No, you continue may, if you think more needed is?"

"I think so, yes, sir. Some people take longer to catch on to things than others."

The Second has stopped manoeuvering, and Seledd is striding over in their direction. "If you have quite finished playing silly games, Ten-thane, would you please clear this rabble out of the - oh, sorry Yodi, didn't see you down there. Were you going to dismiss the Seventh, or did you have some further task for them?"

He doesn't answer directly. "Dorinda?"

"I don't know what purpose Siggyr had in mind, ma'am, but I'd like our new people to see the Second in action, since they have the opportunity. Seeing how it should be done would probably help them."

"It certainly would, but they don't need to stay in formation for that."

"No ma'am, but...." Dori's back to to that cautious hesitancy when addressing a vastly senior officer.

"Out with it. But what?"

"Well, ma'am, so far they've only had opposition that's no better than they are. I think they're getting inflated ideas of their own competence as a result. If they could try their skills against a real shield-wall, they'd learn from their mistakes."

"So they would use the Second as opposition? If you want them to learn how to lose, that seems a reasonable way of doing it, yes."

"Yes, ma'am. To lose, and to retreat in good order, or at least some order. Given their lack of experience, and all other things being equal, that's the best they can hope for."

Retreating from combat is something they've done, but it has to be said that doing so in good order has so far depended on the "opposition" not pursuing in any organised way.

The Second, currently in double ranks, reform to single rank, a process which again involves much shouting of numbers, but never for one moment leaves anyone unshielded. Dori watches in admiration. "See how the footwork works to get into position? Never off-balance, they could have defended themselves even if we'd hit them half-way through that. Lead with the foot going the way you're moving - I know, boring, but we have to get it right. Now, let's do the same." At the moment the Seventh are in four ranks, so this will be a little more complicated. "First two ranks, reform to single. Everyone remember which way they're going?" Most nod - those that don't get a whisper in the ear. "Go."
It isn't as smooth as the Second, but it's a lot better than it was. "Next two ranks, do the same, and after two demonstrations to watch, you're not getting any reminders. Go." It's even easier to get into the right place when there's already someone in front of you to line up with, and two ranks of six face the thirty-odd of the Second.
"And again. Down to single rank, let's all have a go on the first attack. No reminders this time, either. Go."
Dori studies the resulting line, which is now "dressing" without being prompted. "Good. Right, let's see how you do. Advance."

The result is probably best glossed over. Most of the line are in a position to obey the command to retreat when it comes, but some have already been flattened.

Dori, picking up the remains and checking them for injuries, does not inflict the scathing rebukes that Siggyr would probably have delivered at this point. "All right, that's fine. You did well. If that had happened for real, the fault would be mine for not pulling you back sooner, or for throwing you in there at all. But officers do make mistakes, or have no better choices, so we practice. Now, let's do it again, but two deep. Other way round from last time, let's have a change."

This time the near-silent detailed orders have Abul and Yenda in the back row, the older and stronger warriors at the front. The Second remain in a single rank, an unspoken comment on their comparative ability.

"Advance." They last longer this time, but the retreat suffers from the problem of trying to walk backwards in a controlled manner without bumping into the person behind you.

Dori sighs. "I can see we'll be spending time marching around the camp backwards for a while. Right, let's try another formation."

The silent orders start - but not with any known formation. The quiet whisper in each ear is definitely not something the Second should hear.

"Those were not failed attacks, they were successful feints, designed to gain information. Each of you in the front rank, if you feel the opponent you faced last time was weaker than the average, nod slightly." There is a brief pause, as this is done. "All right. This time, we're going through. We're going to form a flying wedge - what Siggyr calls a boar's snout. Graylor will lead it. We aim at Landros - that's the very good-looking one in the centre, with a weaker follower either side. He uses his shield Templar-style, supported by a strap rather than his arm. I'm going to cut the strap, and as his shield drops, you form the wedge fast and charge. I'll tell you the detailed moves now, Graylor will give the order to go."

It's not easy for Abul to think while trying to manoeuver in formation without any useful reflexes to rely upon, but with all his young imagination focused on finding a personal initiative which could become a possible asset in the coming confrontation, suddenly a fact strikes him as obvious. "An army relying on shouted orders to manoeuver is despairingly weak in front of Hu," he thinks.

Detailed orders of exactly who steps where and when follow, and then the final whisper in Graylor's ear. "Ready?"

Graylor mentally braces himself and checks his flanking men, Santhis and Egil, two better men he could not hope for. A brief nod to each and he calls out in a voice designed to carry only to the dozen Legionaries round him. "Attack"

The whispered voice goes silent, and instead, an icy wind whistles past them - a wind with the touch of death about it. Ahead of them, the huge shield drops, and there's some startled swearing. Already Graylor has started the advance, He feels Egil and Santhis tuck in behind him, others fall into place, guided by Dori's windborn commands. In a handful of strides everything is set. Dori's voice echoes in every ear.

"Ready, now keep tight and run. Hit them hard."

The boar's snout rapidly generates an unstoppable momentum. Graylor hits where Landros' shield would have been. He crashes through Landros and Sythar, the force generated by 12 men being applied through his shield. Both men are sent flying and the shock through Graylor's arm would have driven him back, except that he was held in place by Egil and Santhis. These two also smash into the next men in the wall and force them out of position. They're through, they're behind the Second's lines, they can see their unprotected backs, all they have to do to take them is to break formation - and then the order comes in from Dori, in the middle of the group. "Keep going! Straight through, fast! Fifteen yards, then we halt."

The front of the wedge is through - but, tiny as it is with only twelve (now thirteen) warriors in it, the Second are already reforming to attack their flanks even as the last few come through the gap. Another few seconds, a bigger and slower wedge, and they'd have been surrounded themselves, attacked on both sides, and with the attack falling on the weaker members of the group.

"Halt - reverse - reform!"

The first two orders are easy enough - stop dead, each man spin on the spot - but the last, done at speed and without the time for detailed orders - can only be described as a mess. What forms up approximates to two ranks, but now has the weaker warriors in the front line, and finds itself facing a re-formed Second with no remaining gap in their lines who have done the same thing rather more smoothly.

"All right, that's enough. At ease." As they relax and get their breath back, she adds: "If we'd done that to Orlanthi, that's when you attack from behind and complete the job, while they're confused. You don't try that on the Second."

Abul is retrieving his calm after all the emotions raised by the drill and several conclusions comes up to his mind. 'First I'm too weak to have any determining role in such battle and without some extra skills, because I appear small and young, I even got more chances than the average soldier to become a clear target and to die on the first charge.' To Abul, this conclusion isn't very appealing and rather disturbing but Jamal taught him well to always look straight to truth. 'Conclusion, I need to be better skilled and to look for some unexpected assets on my side.' Immediately his thoughts go to Daine, the Hum'Akti who certainly knows some uncommon war tricks. 'Carmanian soldiers subdued the Woriani tribes, they should know about barbarian tactics... This is something I have to ask very soon...'

'Second, a good troop needs a good leader, a good training and good discipline, Seledd demonstrates this every day. I wonder what's make a good leader, is it something that can be learned?'

'Third, a general in a battle has probably different troops under his hand, knowing their various strengths and weaknesses is a must for him... and it is obviously better if he also knows his enemy.' This last though reassured him. 'That's Raven's duty and it is what I can do best...'

"Well ma'am there are other things we can do to break even the second. Of course our drills need to be crisper and more second nature, but if all the Humakti here were to assault the shields with Shield Destroying feats then half the job is done. If a second ten followed the flying wedge then they could wreck havoc on the broken lines as the wedge passes through, not allowing them any time to reform.", Egil sounds almost like he knows what he's talking about.

Dori nods. "Yes, given twice as many troops, there's a lot more we could do. Shield destroyer.... do you know how many of us know it, and are good enough for it to be useful? You, me, Siggyr, and I don't yet know about Graylor's new three. Both good ideas, if we had the resources to carry them out."

Meanwhile, with the mock combat at an end, Seledd has come over to inspect - but "at ease" is not something it's easy to find fault with. She actually looks rather less angry than might have been expected, and her first words aren't what most of the Seventh had expected at all. "Now, that was well done. Taking advantage of an opportunity that fast, and having the discipline not to push it too far - that was good. But as for you,.." She swings round to her own troops. "Landros, I do not expect my ten-thanes to allow poor maintenance of equioment in their underlings, never mind being guilty of it themselves. You will.."

"Ah - ma'am," Dori interrupts hastily. "He didn't. There was nothing wrong with that strap until I cut it."

"Until you... I see." It's hard to tell whether that's anger or respect. "So that opportunity you found to take advantage of was a little less impromptu than it appeared."

"Yes, ma'am. Not impromptu at all."

Seledd regards her thoughtfully. "Siggyr would not have done that."

"No, ma'am, probably not. He could have, of course, his magic is as strong as mine, but he doesn't rely on it as much, because he doesn't need to." Dori smiles a little wryly. "He'd have led the wedge himself, too."

"You don't see it as unfair tactics?"

"No, ma'am. We'd said that all other things being equal, the Seventh had no chance - so as their commander, it's my job to make sure that all other things aren't equal, and as long as I wield the Truewind, that's not hard. Tactics, and application of minimum effort in the right place, rather than brute force. That's what you were trying to teach us, I believe?"

"It was, yes." Seledd nods. "Not bad at all. All right, dismissed."

Technically, she's in a different chain of command, and has no right to dismiss them, but no-one's going to argue, and Yodi, who has the most right to do so, appears to be having some sort of coughing fit.

"Master Yodi, swallowing your cigar you shouldn't." Graylor says with a grin. "You should use your meditative powers to calm your breathing. Remember the exercise? Centre on your fortress to remove distractions, then you can concentrate on controlling your breathing. In through the nostrils and out through the beak." In a few moments Yodi has restored normal breathing patterns. As he does so Graylor speaks quietly to Yodi, his voice pitched so that only Yodi should hear. "Your student does you much credit. I think she will make a great hundred-thane, once she accepts that she is worthy of such a position."

"Indeed for one so young, much control has she. But, respect for her betters shows she. Not like you. Manners to learn have you still."
Then, still quietly but more seriously: "But, teach her this I did not. Observe and learn, did I tell her, since a hatchling she was, and observe and learn has she done, from more than her teachers."

Turning back to his ten Graylor instructs them. "Right lads, now we have seen the way it is supposed to be done, I'm going to add daily shieldwall practice to your activities. We want to become as slick as the Second with the basic drills. Then we can work on inventive tactics. But for now you have the evening off. We are on watch from dawn, I'll not tolerate any thick heads in the morning."

The men groan good-naturedly as they leave in search of food and drink.

As they return to their own place in the camp, Abul has a word with Yenda. "So what do you think Yenda?" he asks, while treating a lightly bruised shoulder. "My own conclusion is that, inexperienced and light-framed as we are, we are facing certain death at the next real shieldwall battle... Even Dori has difficulty to match such pure strength and weight clash."

"You are right, but then again that is why Dori was given the Tenth Cohort and we are being trained by her." Yenda replies. "We will eventually be the scouts and will only be used as skirmishers and not the main muscle. Not that shieldwall training wouldn't be good. One of the quickest ways to build up muscle and stamina that I know."

"Oh, I'm not trying to avoid practice drills, even if I sometime got the impression that I get double rations with these extra... (here he takes a funny nose speech imitating Lady Jakkanna)... 'well deserved traditional and orthodox lessons with Sir Daine...'"

There, the well-educated Abul has unusual careless move in front of Yenda, making a silly grimace and pretending with small pain complaining cries to support a hurting body...

The result is hilarious, not very noble Carmanian styled and rather Pelandan jesting-like. Probably tiredness and confidence have let Abul go beyond his usual reserve, except that Yenda knows exactly what kind of treatment is meant by an orthodox Carmanian training and she can't suppress a shudder of revulsion for such crude and denigrating tactics...

"In fact I shouldn't laugh about it," adds Abul smiling and recovering "I'm just planning to ask him some questions about surviving to savage battles as soon as it will be possible. Would you accept then to accompany me in New Pavis?"

"Of course, we still have our darktongue lesson too. Until we hear from the warleader to the contrary we are here and not going anywhere." She breaks off, only to continue in a few moments in a rather wistful voice. "It would be good to go. I have heard that Whitewall is an amazing place and I would like to see it." Silently she adds: "It would do you good to be away from those cruel teachers and give you a chance for your body to heal." The thoughts that follow are hastily supressed. Yenda hopes that Abul thinks the colour rising to her cheeks is as a result of the sun and exercise.

Whether Abul does not remark Yenda's blushing cheeks, keeps it to himself or his mind not accept the meaning of this observation, but he doesn't make any sign showing that he has noticed anything in Yenda's behaviour. However he gladly and hastily jumps on the Whitewall topic. "Ah yes, Whitewall is a place to be seen. No wonder that it is a sacred place for the wind worshipers." He recites two verses learn there some time ago."High impregnable citadel lost in the clouds, where thunder kingly reigns,violent, intense and loud..."

There is a silence where the young man seems to ponder if this poetic release is ridiculous or not and after an hesitation, he smiles at Yenda. "You see the place is infectious, it changes people who travel there for ever... even dumb boys like me."

"You're not dumb, Abul." She lays a comforting hand on his arm. "and beating you regularly is hardly what I would call training."

After another hesitation, he adds: "I think you shouldn't judge carmanian masters too harshly. I was born a pelandan, you know, which means soft and moldable like clay. They try their best to change me in a real carmanian, which means strong and hard like iron. It isn't an easy task for them... I'm not an easy student."

"Rubbish! I bet that none of your teachers in the legion think you are difficult, none of them have felt the need to beat their lessons into you. That malleability is part of being young and adaptable. Embrace you clayness it is full of possibilities, ones that you should explore and choose not ones that are imposed on you by people who don't really know you. Only you can really know what you want and then you can start molding yourself into the image you want." Yenda suddenly realised how passionate she had become. She had been emphasising every "you" by poking Abul in the chest with her forefinger.

"Oh... Sorry Abul... I got a bit carried away. You have to learn to be you, not what I want you to be or Dori or Jamal or any of them, unless it is what you want too."

Abul lets Yenda goes and looking at her back, he sighs.

"Ah Yenda, you're far too much influenced by Orlanatus Darkness Bringer." he mutters. "I have also fairly objected about Free Will... Illusion from Ganesatarus has answered Lady Jakkanna, we shall all obey Idovanus' laws as determined by the Viziers... You don't fear the Enemy and perhaps your innocence may save you, but I know he has special plans for me... I must be strong to resist, but I don't want to be rejected by the Legion, not left alone..."

Even for himself, he doesn't finishes his sentence and doesn't formulate the critical word: "again". He just sighs again, gathering inner resources and follows the young woman at a short distance to join Egil's scouting drills.

Egil requests of Dori that, now shieldwall practice is over, he might go and do his sword exercises and stealthy scouting skills practice. "We have been so busy of late I have neglected this side of things, which can only be bad for me and the legion."

"Good idea. Don't go too far, though, I'm expecting an important announcement at dusk. If you wanted to give Abul and Yenda some training as well, that would be useful - scouting is more their style than shieldwall."

Yenda curses in response to Egil's summons. "Ah hells! We'll have to talk about this later. But, you are now a man Abul and a man makes his own choices, for good or bad. I think your first choice, to become a Herewardi is a good one. He'll make you think about those you take leadership from and you don't need to be carmanian to do well in the Legion. If you are too bust being a rod of iron then you won't be much use to Dori."

Egil runs through a few basics with Abul and Yenda first, covering camouflage and concealment and then a little bit about mapping. "Right, we're going to scout this temple area. I know we've been here a while now but it's always useful practice to do it again. We'll spend an hour or so mapping it as best we can, making note in particular of weak points and strong points. OK? Let's go."

He immediately drops low and leads the others into some cover...

A while after the end of the shield wall practice, Siggyr emerges from the underground stair with an expression on his face that is trying hard not to be a grin. He composes himself as he approaches Seledd, and after a brief exchange, she in turn goes down to see Illig. He watches her go, looking slightly surprised, then goes over to Dori.

She looks up with a smile. "So, is it congratulations or commiserations?"

"A good question." The slightly bemused smile is trying to break through again. "Tell me, Raven, what did you do to the lady to result in that remarkable change in attitude?"

"You did most of it yourself, before you left."

"At your suggestion, if I remember correctly. And what did you do after I left?"

"Me? All I did was use the Truewind and a flying wedge to to take the Seventh straight through her shieldwall - and then tell her you'd have done it better." Dori is definitely grinning. "After that, I think even she should accept and endorse that part of the plan. The other part, though..."

"Yes.... more difficult. Obedience is not the same as active cooperation."

Dori nods. "And what's needed goes beyond even that - active, enthusiastic, cooperation. That, I think, would take a minor miracle."

Graylor, who had been watching Irnar getting to grips with his new bow when he overhears the conversation between Dori and Siggyr. He knows better than to wade into the conversation with questions. He would find out soon enough, when Yelm sets. his contemplation of the possible meanings is interrupted by Irnar.

"I have to do something. Those kids are blundering around in the bushes, like stampeding rhinos! Indeed they're making so much noise I could shoot them in the dark!"

"Go on then teach them how its done properly." Graylor gives his consent, remembering fondly the time when Irnar taught him.

Irnar fades into the rubble and in a few moments Graylor hears a muffled exclamation from Yenda who was completely surprised by Irnar.

"Sounds like you have your hands full Egil. I could hear these two across the camp so I thought I would lend a helping paw."

Egil nods his head, "Of course, but lets remember this is their first time. It takes a while to be able to control a body sufficiently to move stealthily. Still you were not much better, it sounded like a minotaur on a rhino as you approached."

"Well then show us how it's done properly." Irnar grins impudently, before turning to the others.

"Watch how Egil does it. Remember you two that you are not trying to move silently, there is no such thing without magic. You are trying to make only natural noises, break up your movements so that there is no rhythm to them.."

The voice with its familiar words, the same that Irnar always uses in training, the words drifting to Graylor's ears and then fading from his attention as his thoughts return to the Legion. He moves over to Dori and Siggyr.

"Is there anything to be done before the meeting at sunset?" he asks, "or are the rest of us just marking time until Illig makes his announcement?"

"We've done all we can, I think?" Dori looks questioningly at Siggyr, who nods. "It's down to Illig, now, either he manages a miracle, or he doesn't. You did your part earlier - and that reminds me, you did well there."

"He led the wedge," she explains to Siggyr, who grunts in response.

"Hardly matters to me how good he is now, I don't get to keep him."

"He's probably going to be the one keeping Egil in line, and you've got an interest in him succeeding, remember?"

Another grunt. "That young fool...!" He turns to Dori, jabbing a finger at her for emphasis. "You make damn sure I have reason to keep that interest, you hear me?"

"Oh, I intend to," Dori says seriously. "Believe me, I intend to."

It's quite a while until Seledd emerges, and by then most people are going about their business - Dori, for instance, is mending the strap on a rather large shield, while Elendala expostulates on how officers should not do menial tasks. Seledd, for once, is smiling. In fact, not just smiling but looking positively delighted. She goes over to Yodi, and they exchange a few words, and then... what happens next has a few people looking suspiciously at their ale. Seledd Brightspear high-fiving a duck? Yodi heads down the stairs again, and while beaks don't smile, the cigar is at a more jaunty angle than usual, and there's a spring in his waddle.

Yenda can't entirely suppress a snigger, something that gets her a black look from Graylor. Though the sternness of the look is compromised by the bemused expression that he is also wearing.

Just before sunset, Illig and Yodi come out together: and perhaps not surprisingly, there is no need to tell everyone to be ready to listen. Illig looks round, and nods approvingly: fortunately for the sanity of all concerned, he is not demonstrating any unusual glee. Silence falls.

"I would prefer not to make this too widely known immediately, but it will be obvious soon enough in any case. As many of you have probably guessed, most of the Legion will be leaving for Whitewall in the near future. I say "most", because our mission there will be extremely high-risk, and therefore a small holding force will remain here, to preserve our base, and to ensure the long-term survival of the Legion. General Vur's group will also move into this camp, and together his forces and ours should be able to mount an adequate defence against the hazards of the area."

"Our cavalry will remain here, since they would be of limited use in city and siege warfare. Of our senior officers, Yodi will resume his duties here as Raven, and Hundred-thane of the Seventh, which will be reduced to Jamal's Ten and Hrolf's. Siggyr will also remain, as the senior Hereward Devotee, and therefore as acting Warlord in my absence. If our mission in Whitewall succeeds, he will be confirmed as Hundred-thane of the re-formed Third Cohort on our return. The whole of the Second Cohort, and the rest of the Seventh, will be going to Whitewall."

Dori is nodding in satisfaction - it looks as if all of this is exactly what she had expected, or at least hoped for.

"Sir" Graylor is the first to voice a question. "Who will lead the Seventh to Whitewall, with both Yodi and Siggyr remaining in Pavis?"

"That is an excellent question, and one that I am surprised certain other people had overlooked. Dorinda!"

She jerks to attention. "Sir?"

"Your previous objections have now been nullified. This time, you will accept your appointment as Hundred-Thane of the Tenth Cohort."

Dori looks completely stunned by this. "I... I... but...."

"I have heard that word rather too often today. You objected to being promoted out of what might have been considered the right order - this is no longer the case. You expressed concerns over the possible corruption of the regalia - it has been checked. It may indeed be dangerous, but if you persist in your assertation that you are incapable of controlling dangerous objects, I will be forced to assume that this includes anything with sharp edges, and take your sword away. Was there anything else?"

Her hand has flown to her hilt, protectively, at the mere mention of that idea. "No! I can cope, if I have to..... but I haven't been a ten-thane long enough for this, there's rules, we can't just ignore them."

"You commanded a small group in Nochet, as part of those independent operations, did you not? From then to now is over the required two years."

"Oh. Yes. And, and..... an officer has to have two followers, we're short a ten-thane. I can't think of anyone I'd promote, either, not yet."

"Already discussed." Seledd is actually grinning. "You get one of mine - one who can teach the basics of discipline to your new recruits."

"Bu..." She chops off the final consonant before Illig can voice his disapproval.

"It seems that not giving you any more time than this to think of objections was a wise move. Well? Do you accept your over-due promotion?"

"I....." She looks from one face to another, trying to find support, and seeing only smiles. "Yes, sir."

Forgetting all decorum, Yenda rushes to Dori and throws her arms round the new Hundredthane. "I'm so glad for you Dori..." is all the rest of the Legion hear as she hugs Dori tight. Moments later Yenda remembers where she is and detaches herself from the surprised Dori. ".. and remember retain your dignity at all costs!"

Yenda tries to apply Egil's lessons of the afternoon and tries to blend into the background, but there is something about her flaming cheeks that refuses to be camouflaged.

"Well I'm happy for her, isn't everyone else?" she challenges the whole Legion. The cheers that have been suppressed by unexpected reaction of Yenda burst forth and Dori is overwhelmed with well-wishers. Her back is being pounded by so many hands at once she is reminded of the numerous tramplings that she took in shieldwall practice.

Graylor approaches, after the worst of the storm passes, a big grin on his face. "Congratulations Dorinda, Sir.. Ma'am. You're the right woman for the job." Then he too gives Dori a quick hug, before stepping back and saluting.

"I'll organise the men to swear loyalty to the Wyter of the Tenth.. In the morning."
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