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.