Authors: Andrew Wood
Holding the Line.
Book Two : The Chronicles of Elemental Magic
Copyright© Andrew G. Wood
All Rights Reserved.
Other titles in The Chronicles of Elemental Magic.
Rise of the Darekian's : Book one
A whole week had now passed since the battle at Easton. The scorched, blackened earth outside the city walls, now the only indication anything of significance had taken place. Life had started returning back to normal, or as far as living on a building site could be classed as such. The repairs to the outer walls continued, as did the huge amount of work inside them.
Scouting parties had been sent north of the river, and as yet, no reports of anything untoward had come back. Hence, General Skalton was once more happy for workers to resume the felling of trees from the wooded lands there, and for the pastures to be used for grazing. However he did post guards and lookouts, he did not want to be caught out a second time.
It was a bright summer's morning, and the General was atop his horse, riding slowly in the warm weather beside the river. Levin rode alongside him, the youngster enjoying his role as his assistant. The guards on the bridge stood to attention as they trotted their horses through the gateway, over the stone bridge and onwards to the fields beyond. Looking down Levin could still make out some dark stains on the ground, evidence of some fallen Darekian or Besemian soldier. The bodies may have been cleared and burned but the smaller signs would remain for some time yet.
Rather than keep to the road, they turned to their left and headed for a group of workers felling trees. The cattle grazing in the field they crossed edged away as they approached, before returning to their feeding once satisfied they were no threat. They pulled up just shy of the tree line, and waited for one of the men to come to them. General Skalton leaned down to speak, and Levin listened. It was just a discussion on how far the tree line, was to be cut back from a military perspective, and the men working this side of the river knew the drill, should any trouble arise.
In an area marked out, a short distance further south from the scorched ground, stood several lines of tents. These had been given, courtesy of the South Besemian soldiers, who had travelled west with Caldar. They were only small, were meant for sleeping two men, made from white canvas and held up by two short poles. A simple wooden building, similar to the ones used for housing Luken on their arrival to Easton stood off to one side. This was to be used for the office of the person commanding. Several other areas were also marked out, one for archery which had a number of straw targets at one end. Another had wooden posts, held vertically in the ground, for the use of sword practice. Outside the wooden building were a number of racks containing weapons, some real, some not. Some hundred paces behind the office stood another simple timber construction, more a shelter than a proper building, used as a stabling block for the recruit's horses.
Captain Jak Corley paced down the line of new recruits, all recent admissions to the army of Corlan. The number was only thirty-six; all admitted from amongst the local populace and those that had travelled south from the now occupied areas. The army was still in a position to be a little fussy on whom it admitted to its payroll, and as such, these had been selected accordingly.
As he stepped slowly along the line, taking slow deliberate paces, he looked at each of the young faces staring ahead. All between sixteen and twenty years of age, these were to be the first additional soldiers of the New Easton platoon. Each of the selected recruits was now under the tuition of the Captain and his men. Each would undergo training in the use of all types of weaponry, to see which was suited. Once sorted into groups, infantry, archer or cavalry they would then undergo more intense tutorage in their selected faction.
As it currently stood, production of uniforms for raw recruits was not particularly high on the vast list of things to do. Hence, each of the young men before him stood dressed in plain black trousers and boots, and wore a grey sleeveless shirt. It had taken all his influence to get even these simple items. Being close to the royal princes of course did have its benefits, and after a little persuasion from them, the required items were made available.
As Jak reached the end of the line, he paused, before turning to make his way back. The old soldier, wearing the uniform of the guard, short black hair with a tinge of grey, gave an air of authority as he started to speak."The clothes you have been given, you will look after. If you damage them, you will need to repair them, or find somebody that can," he spoke loudly and clearly in a voice that carried to all the recruits. "You are now in the pay of the army of Corlan. You will listen and obey the orders of your superiors." He paced a little further before stopping in the centre of the line, and turned to face the recruits once more.
He reminded them, each had taken the oath of loyalty to serve their country and ruler. It may even be required for them to sacrifice their lives whilst carrying out their given duties. The road ahead for every one of them was fraught with danger, especially taking in the current predicament of the nation. That each man, for that is what they now were, should stand proud in the knowledge they would fight for their King. In return, each would be paid one silver crown per week, their equipment would be supplied where possible and each fed three basic meals per day.
Jak cast his eyes left, then right, making sure he still had everyone's attention, before continuing. "Over the next three months, it may be necessary to remove people who are not up to scratch. On the upturn, it would also be likely some will be fast tracked and possibly be given a chance to show any leadership qualities. If anyone steps out of line, then they will be dealt with severely." He looked around again, and noticed one young man staring down at the ground, kicking his toe at a tuft of grass.
He quickly walked over to the young recruit in question, before stopping in front of him. "Having fun are we?" he asked quietly. The young man before him looked up, a little shocked, "sorry" he said rather gingerly. "That's okay," he said patting the recruit on the shoulder. "What's your name?" Suddenly showing signs of realising he may be in trouble, "Dane" he replied tentatively.
Jak turned to the group as a whole, "Everybody this is Dane, he does not feel it necessary to call his superior officers 'sir'. He also regards anything I say as unimportant, as he clearly was not listening." Turning his attention back to the soldier, he had the look of a reasonable upbringing. Short neatly cut fair hair, slim build and of average height, high cheekbones, brown eyes and the look he was always smiling. Jak thought, that was a look that could well get the lad into trouble, should it be misinterpreted the wrong way. He was of course already in trouble, and Dane was just about to get his first important lesson.
Turning back to the group, he spoke again, "Perhaps later, you would all like to thank Dane. He is going to stay here and talk with me, whilst every one of you lot will run to those trees over there," he pointed to an area a mile or so to their south. There were a number of audible groans, and Jak noted one or two scowling looks, not cast in his direction but at the young man responsible. "Go on then, and if I see anyone slacking, you will all run it again."
To Dane it did not make sense, if he was the one that had done wrong, why was it, that everyone else was being punished. Jak looked at him, staring him in the eye. He had been a soldier for many years, and had seen pretty much all there was to see when it came to raw recruits. "Every one of those lads is going to hate you now, you know that don't you?" Dane nodded, "yes Sir," he replied. "This is your first day Dane, and now you're already going to have work harder to show your colleagues you are not a waste of space." Jak left it at that, and turned to see how the others were getting on.
As usual, there were those who thought it a race, and a group of five had distanced themselves from the others. These were young men who always aimed to impress, which was not necessarily a bad thing, though not always good either. It may mean they sought personal glory above teamwork. What Jak was looking for, were those who could run faster, but perhaps stayed with the group to urge them along. Then finally there was always one in every group who was just plain lazy. This lot was to be no different, a stocky looking lad with brown curly hair, was far behind the main cluster of runners. Despite one or two shouts of encouragement from the others, he quite happily trundled along without any apparent care in the world. This would be the one, to whom Jak would be having sterner words.
Jak waited patiently, making mental notes of faces as they slumped down on the ground around, catching their breath. Dane of course was one of the few still standing, grinning rather bashfully at those who glanced in his direction. The last back nonchalantly joined the others still recovering, sitting down on the floor besides them. Jak walked over, "and what might your name be?" he asked casually.
The young face, with strong features and wide jaw looked up at him, "Rowan Sir." Jak nodded; at least he knew how to speak to his superiors. "Well Rowan, you sit there and have a rest," he said in a sarcastic tone. He turned to the others, and shouted for them to form two lines. Quickly, still grumbling they stood, and eventually managed what resembled two rows. Dane felt himself buffeted around and ended up on the end of the second line.
Jak instructed them all to pair off, making sure one of those he had seen encouraging others during the run went with Rowan. He also picked Dane to pair with one of the bigger, older members of the group. A red haired, much taller man, who did not seem at all pleased at the prospect. He summoned over several members of the guard who had been tasked with helping the training. These walked around the paired groups handing out wooden swords to each.
The tall red head started grumbling, "wooden swords, what are we, children?" Jak made a beeline for the man, "and what might your name be?" he asked. "Camden, Sir". Sliding his own sword out from its scabbard, he proffered to him. "Go on, take it" he ordered. Not entirely sure what was going to happen, he tentatively did as he was asked, and Jak took the wooden one in return. "Go on then, attack me." The group all gathered round in a large circle, as the tall young man armed with a real sword faced off with the much shorter older man, bearing a simple wooden one.
Camden smirked, "is this for real?" he asked. Jak nodded again, "go on, and make your move." Shrugging slightly the young recruit lifted the blade up, and motioned toward the Captain. Quick as a flash, Jak knocked the blade sideward, before the younger man could make another move; he was rapped across the hand. Yelping and dropping the sword, he was then slammed back down onto his backside. Jak stood over him, pointing the wooden stick into his midriff. He turned the group, "now does anyone else have a problem practicing with wooden swords?" There was a unanimous shake of the heads.
Picking up his own blade, he then offered a hand to Camden, and pulled the youngster back up to his feet. The recruit appeared to look at the older man with a new measure of respect. As each of the pairs started, it was soon obvious some needed more practice and work than others did. Walking between the groups, Jak watched on, as his guards mingled amongst them, showing the recruits what they were doing wrong, or just offering advice and encouragement.
He had gladly taken on this role, after the prince's had thought him appropriate. Although not his ideal vocation, the training of raw recruits did have a certain satisfaction to it. Of course, it was just good to get back to some form of normality, following everything that had gone on of late. Although he was still living in an area of the city that consisted mainly of tents and temporary accommodation, he did now at least have his own office again, albeit little more than a shed.
He had been given the chance to move into the new barracks in the keep courtyard when they were finished, but had refused. That would have seen him given a bed to sleep on, but had gratefully declined the offer. It would have meant leaving the young lad Levin to fend for himself, and he did not want that. Jak had started to take a fatherly role with the lad, and though he had never had children of his own, felt quite protective of him.
Luken and Caldar were joined around the table by Lord Galliss. It was mid morning and time for another update meeting. Making use of the keep for the first time, they were using one of the newly refurbished studies on the top floor. Everything was so clean and had that new smell about it all. Even the table and the chairs on which they sat had all been made in the last few weeks, though Luken thought the one on which he sat had a wobbly leg. On one wall was a small fireplace that was prepared but not lit. In an endeavour at giving the room something other than plain stone, the other walls had been painted white.