Order of the Spear

Sometimes work is strange

Linfors reflected on the last few weeks of his service in the Watch and decided that things are not as one thinks they are before having experienced them; and, sometimes work is strange. In about a month of service, he and the other new recruits had been introduced to and eventually trained by members of the elite Company of the Spear. Wow. They’d even been given their choice of weapons – real weapons! – and given some training on them. Swords were far heavier than Linfors had thought. Jacen really liked knives, and was convinced that someday he’d be able to throw them. Osweald experimented with a few weapons, and grumbled a great deal. And the new boy – Cohen – refused to part with the massive hammer he’d chosen.

Weapons training…drinking and supping with the Spear…more interactions with the lovely and playful Holly…and then a hanging! Couple a massive, bug-eyed, crap-drawered half-orc, twitching in the wind with the reticent drunkenness of their knight, along with the death of the surprisingly popular tax collector, and the boys had more experiences to share than they’d expected.

That was, of course, before their first encounter with a manifestation of the fae, which almost killed them and the rest of the squad while on patrol. Nights in the woods were things to be feared, it seemed. And Cohen had really come through with that hammer – although the shower of green goo was almost enough to turn stomachs.

The trip into Hanlowell Keep was uneventful, and the reception warm – Cohen’s family was friendly, and his mother could really cook. Not like Granny Wyglen, of course, but still – the stew was very nice.

Linfors’ side ached ferociously as he shifted in bed. He’d had a lot of time to ponder the last few weeks as he healed. He’d garnered a personal visit from Command SGT Tollynger of the Hanlowell Watch as well as new acquaintances in here in the capital of the Western Reaches; sometimes his squad mates, and even made the unlikely friendship of a keep boy named Symon- who especially liked to hear the story of the green goo over and over again. He knew he needed the rest, after being knocked out and apparently had a rib or two cracked in the fight with the bandits, but he was bored and wanted to get back out on patrol with the others. Another day or two, the local healer told him, and he’d be ready to get up. His friends, in dark humor, made sure he awoke with the hand axe that had nearly killed him clutched in his clammy palms.

One month of service over and a week spent recovering in Hanlowell. Eleven more to go for the required service. If this beginning was any indicator, the rest of the year would be one for the history books. Linfors liked his companions. Osweald was taciturn, on good days, and yet reliable. Jacen was so…excitable…and courageous, hard-working, and shared Linfors’ interest in history, learning, and discussion. The new boy, Cohen, had fit right in, and really seemed to be not only knowledgeable about his faith – so rare – but also completely earnest. An honest man, informed, could do much good, Linfors’ father always said. And Cohen had really amazing hair, too – everyone agreed, from word one, that nobody’s hair stood up like Cohen’s did. Even after wearing a helmet, it stood! Maybe it was a mark of his faith. Hmm. Linfors would ponder some more as he healed.

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Our First Weeks
a swift induction into the Watch

The few months of training had been challenging, but more because of being away from home for the first time than the training itself. The drillmasters were tough, mostly fair, and took their jobs seriously for the most part, teaching the inductees the basics of fieldcraft, tracking, the use of a few weapons, and how to act like a member of the Watch. The training was only meant to be an introduction, bringing the boys to the point where they’d be ready to complete their training at their actual duty station.

Linfors, Jacen, and Osweald enjoyed themselves at the Investiture, and were most impressed with Sgt. Balthazar’s words, presence, and promises. They were also honored with coins from three true members of the Order of the Spear – clearly, these young men had huge shoes to fill, and would be challenged throughout their entire Firstyear to prove that they were up to the honor bestowed on them.

The first few weeks were interesting at first, but quickly became mundane as routines set in, and since the first week of the Watch rotation was always in town, acting as the constabulary, there really wasn’t much to see or do – not even a drunk to lock up for a night!

That changed a few days into their perimeter rotation, ranging a day or two out of town to check the lands immediately adjacent to it. The dying horse was odd…the empty grog bottle…and the family, murdered in their home, with grog consumed after the fact…a connection? Certainly.

Tracking the culprit was exciting…nerve-wracking at times…and real. The boys all felt for the first time the rush of an impending fight when they found the cave, and Osweald crept forward and saw the massive half-orc, drunk, armored, and armed. SGT Balthazar was creeping around back when Linfors’ misstep alerted the man-beast.

Before any of them realized it, or could think, the fight was on. Balthazar drew the monster’s attention from behind…Osweald and Jacen positioned themselves as if to spar, and Linfors rushed in and engaged the foe head-on. Although it was over in moments, to each of the boys it seemed like hours – as they cut and thrust and parried, as if to their fencing master’s call. But this was not training; this was not practice: a man tried to kill them; they tried to kill him but fortunately subdued him. Balthazar was seriously wounded, affording the boys their first sight of blood draw in anger.

Jacen spent the hours after the fight chattering nervously about every minute detail of the melee, recounting over and again each move everyone made, as if to assess or analyze or describe – it wasn’t clear, and he wasn’t sure why he couldn’t stop talking.

Osweald maintained his bearing, and helped Balthazar with his wounds, then the others in moving the half-orc, tied. He said little, but then that wasn’t unusual for the former dark dweller.

Linfors tied the orc, helped the other boys, and reflected on his mad charge at the giant. In the hours it took to return to Ralspur he thought about what he’d done, how all their lives had been in certain peril, and how they’d prevailed. The fight did not concern him so much, nor the mortal threat. What vexed him – at least from a intellectual standpoint – was the fact that he felt nothing about what had happened. No fear, no regret, not even much in the way of excitement. Sure, he felt those things in small part – but not in any amplified way…it was more like when he’d slipped out off his roof years ago and landed, somehow safely, on his ass three stories below. No one knew why he hadn’t been injured, and all Linfors could think of afterward, as so many people stared open-mouthed at him, was that he was hungry. This was much like that. His father had told him once that a man had found his calling when his work felt right – and something felt right when it didn’t raise one’s eyebrow, because it was already part of the man.

Linfors had found his place, it seemed, he thought as they rode slowly back to town.

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Motivational Bard
One of these things just doesn't belong...

Demotivational posters bard

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An interruption, on the way to the Sea Nymph

Cohen Snow was having a bad day. His horse had run off while he was on the side of the road taking a leak. A small hole in his haversack grew, slowly, throughout the day and left much of his food, and some other supplies, littered along the road from home. A storm was on the horizon and he was still hours from the inn. He’d hoped to arrive before nightfall, and have some time to relax, clean up, and prepare himself for the ceremony, but now he wondered if he’d make it at all.

The annual event was known to all, and everyone knew what was required, per the motto of the Watch: “Always Ready.” That implied timeliness, and Cohen knew that tardiness in its place would serve as the first impression he’d make on everyone. He needed to relax, focus, and get there. No excuses. If only he could get his mind off things and focus on the task…move faster…stop worrying!…get focused…stop worrying.

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He knew what he would do…it would be okay. People would understand…or, no one needed to know. Didn’t everyone do it sometimes? He caught his brothers doing it more times than he could count…father, once, too! He didn’t think mother did it, but she was a woman – she didn’t understand a man’s needs…his responsibilities…his burdens.

Even though he was alone, Cohen glanced around before reaching deep into his pocket to retrieve his prize…

Focus…relax…like always, it was just what he needed…his most reliable friend…he’d just stop by the side of the road for a little while to get things together, then get moving. Surely a little break to help him focus would not be too much to ask…he would not be late.

‘So good…so good…’ was his last thought as he slipped into the hazy-headed oblivion that always waited for him with each crunchy, juicy bite.

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Rite of Passage
The world awaits...

The wind howls menacingly outside the Sea Nymph. An unseasonably early winter threatens to be one for the historians. Inside the Inn, the twin hearths hold the chill at bay, but only just. The citizens of Ralspur have turned out for the annual Watch Ceremonies. A traditional celebration held by the people on the same night all across the Kingdom of Aynemer.

A layer of light smoke drifts lazily from the tavern to make ominous shapes and swirls upon the ceiling of the lower level. Just below the clouds rest an variety of monstrous trophy heads taken by past kings of Aynemer, their inanimate visages gaze down with viscious, fanged snarls forever frozen in the last moment of the evil lives.

The smells of the spitted venison, hare, and fowl tease the gathered crowds. The tapped kegs in the main room await the evening’s festivities.

The warm greetings, happy welcomes, and reunions coupled with the heat from the fires help to divert the attention of the celebrants from the looming brutality of more than just the weather waiting just outside the solace of the Sea Nymph…

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Setting out to make one's mark

Linfors Wyglen needed to follow the tradition set out by his family. More important, he wanted to do so. The Wyglens had settled a small village at the edge of the Wyldwood, many days south of Ralspur, and isolated by both Mormont Gorge and the Erendeer Valley. Rough terrain, rivers, and the border with the Wyldwood all keep Wyglen a smallish village, serving the needs of farmers, trappers, and merchants who ply the area. And the needs of the village have been met, for over a century, by scions of the Wyglen family who, almost entirely, have served as guards, healers, scouts, and magistrates, all on behalf of the residents of the region.

Linfors, youngest of the four children of Tomlyn, third youngest of five of the elder generation of Wyglens, had decided that striking for the Watch would be the best way to use his abilities, develop a reputation and skills, and make his mark. Other Wyglens had, over the years, chosen to leave their home and serve elsewhere – a few even chose to become merchants and travel and one even took orders and joined a distant monastary. Most who left, however, struck for the Watch or some other form of service to the Realm, in hopes of spreading the Wyglen name, and earning some glory for themselves.

Linfors would enter the Watch, and would serve beyond what was required. He would make his name there, master his trade, and then one day return to Wyglen and take his place in some position of prominence, welcomed by his extended family. That is what he would do.

And so it was that he packed his things and headed out into the world, toward the Sea Nymph, for the annual ceremonies, and a future that, while uncertain in details, would certainly hold opportunities for great deeds.

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