Journal of Erich Varga
5th of Harvest’s End in the year TK 1035
I am called Erich after the knight that saved my mother’s life when she was but a young child. I am the son of Ann and Robert the master blacksmith to the Duke of Kallon. I was born on the coldest day in known history on the seventh day of Slumber in the year TK 1020.
I was taught to read and write by my rescuers after an undead army destroyed Kallon in the summer of TK 1027. I was the only survivor or so I have been told. I barely remember my parents or even the grand city of Kallon. I was given a place to stay and work on the Varga plantation. Mistress Varga is a living saint. She took me in as one of her own children. Even though I am of low birth, she taught me to read and write. She always made sure I had enough to eat and hardy cloths to wear. I still remember the day that I was first brought before her and her husband Lord Varga. I was so small and terrified.
Her first kind and gentle words will always remain with me. “You are safe now. No one will hurt you.” Thus, I knew I was safe as long as I stayed with the Vargas.
News reached the plantation a few weeks ago that the Horde Chieftain has ordered his troops to treat any non-Horde being as a combatant. This includes children and women – even a woman with child. Even though there is peace right now, I know war is coming. Anyone with half a mind knows it. I knew I had to do something. I spent hours thinking about it. I made my decision only this morning. I am joining the army of Azin. I left a note for the Vargas. I hope they understand.
I will write more tomorrow. I have a long journey ahead of me.
6th of Harvest’s End in the year TK 1035
I managed to get a ride with a caravan of goods heading towards the holy fortress. The stories being told by the wagon master only deepen my resolve to join the army. I do not go for glory for there is no glory in war. I go for my mother and my father, my brothers and my sister who can no longer stand up against the Horde. I go for my children and my children’s children. I understand that I must find a wife first. “Everything in good time Erich.” That was one of Mistress’s Varga’s teachings to me.
I am paying my way on the caravan by tending to the horses when we make camp at night. These horses are not too unlike the ones on the Varga plantation. We had some draft horses to work the fields and haul wagons, but the Varga plantation is known for the superb warhorses it breeds. I actually miss tending to them. Not the work so much, but the sight of those grand steeds. One of my duties was to walk them each day and make sure they were cooled down after their training.
It is getting towards dusk and we are stopping for the night.
11th of Harvest’s End in the year TK 1035
It has been raining for the last four days. I am glad we are traveling on the King’s road. The caravan would have been stuck in the mud on the open fields in this weather.
A lot has happened in the last few days. The caravan stopped at an inn on the road. The Caravan master made sure that everyone had a dry place to sleep, including me. The inn had so many different people staying there. There were dwarves and a creature that I found out is called a Saurian. It is the largest two-legged creature that is like a lizard. The Saurian looks like it is built for the sole purpose of battle.
When I thought I had the Saurian figured out, he did something I never would have expected. He began to sing. His voice was like that of fine silk. Everyone paid attention to the song. I wish the hymns at mass were as beautiful. Forgive me, Lord, I did not mean any offense, but you have to admit that that Saurian sings much better than anyone on the Varga plantation. Especially Lord Varga’s Mother.
This has truly been an experience. The Caravan master gave me my first taste of Dwarven Ale. They say it is made from mushrooms and other wild plants. Whatever it is made from, it could probably peel rust from steel. After a few sips, I believe my throat will take at least a week to heal.
20th of Harvest’s End in the year TK 1035
The rain still continues even today. We are through the mountain pass of the Forked Mountains. The Holy Fortress of Saint Christopher is only five days travel from here. We are at the Golden Roost Inn. Today I saw my first Elven and Haeflin people.
The Elf was like the light of dawn. She took one look at me, turned on her heels and marched over to her companions. She was in strange company. There were three human knights, their squires, two Dwarves and a Haeflin. I could not help my staring at them.
The Elf walked over to me and began to speak in a soft musical voice. “Is there something I can help you with little man?” I was awestruck by her voice and I did not realize how upset she was at me.
I fumbled for the words. “My lady, please forgive me, I have never seen anyone so beautiful or graceful as you. I am new around here.” Her features softened and then I realized that her hand was on her Elven long knife.
“You might be new around here, however you have good taste. I am Gladen of Silver Oak!” she said with a proud attitude. “And who might you be?” she inquired.
“I am known as Erich.” I replied. She smiled and motioned for her friends to come over.
I found out that Gladen was leader of a party working for the Crown of Azin. They were intrigued to learn that I wished to join the army of Azin. The largest of the human Knights, Sir Gaven, questioned me on why I wanted to join up. When I told him my reasons, he placed his arm on my shoulder and said “Son, that is probably the best reason I have ever heard of to join the army.”
The rest of the evening I spent listening to their tales of their great and small adventures.
21st of Harvest’s End in the year TK 1035
The Caravan master told me that Gladen and her party are heading towards the Capital city of Azin and just south of the city is the recruiting camp for the new army. He also told me “Gladen and her party had offered you a job as horse caretaker on their journey to the Capital.”
I eagerly rushed over to them and told them that I accepted their offer. They were surprised that I knew how to ride a horse. I must send a note to the Vargas to thank them. Learning how to ride a horse has now come in handy. Even though it is a packhorse, it is still a horse.
31st of Harvest’s End in the year TK 1035
It has been a long hard ride this past 10 days. Our party met up with a Horde Claw of riders. I think a Claw means five. The members of Horde are even uglier than I have been previously told. I watched the pack horses as Gladen’s party fought with the horde troops. I am nervous to say the Horde warriors fought bravely and with great skill. Gladen’s party defeated the horde warriors with some effort. I did not know the horde fought that well.
Sir Gaven told me that the ones they just defeated were part of a larger force that had attacked several outposts south of the Capital city. If they were successful the Horde would use the gate south of the Capital to bring in more warriors and supplies.
After that incident, the squires of the party began to teach me how to use a knife and sword. The knife is easy. The sword on the other hand is another story. As we are camped on the side of the road, one can see the pillars of the Capital in the moons’ light. Tomorrow we will be at the gates of Azin.
1st of Storms in the year TK 1035
Things have moved quickly in the last few days. The Capital city of Azin is the largest city I have ever seen. The buildings reach towards the Heavens and the Keep of Azin almost looks like it could touch both moons at night. There are so many people in the city.
Gladen told me that the city has over 350,000 inhabitants in it and that the Capital region has over 2 million inhabitants in it. Human, Dwarves, Haeflins, Elves in the woods, Centaurs, which are horse people I have been told, and the Saurians. Gladen informed me that this city was a gift. She continued to tell me that several years before I was born, the Horde was stopped 25 miles south of this city at the original Capital of Azin called Corbin.
The Nari' family, which has ruled for generations, sacrificed the city to stop the Horde and to protect the other races. In gratitude the Dwarves, Elves, Haeflins and Saurians labored to build the new city. The smell of the city is much less than what I expected. The only thing I really remember about Kallon is how the stench of the city penetrated everything. The City of Azin with many more people has a less of a dirty smell. When I asked Gladen told me that was part of the Elvish gift to the city. She began to explain about the use of magick on the waste flow and many other things that are beyond my mind.
We stayed in the outer keep of the Capital. I was placed with the squires and pages near the stables. While I was there, I continued to care for the party’s horses. In the stable I discovered a great many of the horses were from the Varga plantation. I almost felt if I was at home. The second morning Gladen woke me early to go into the city. She took me to a tailor to have good clothes made for me. When I asked why she and the rest of her friends was being so kind to me, she became serious and stated that I gave the only right answer and that one day I would understand and hopefully pay back this kindness by doing the same to another.
The party kept their promise to me. Gladen and Sir Gaven introduced me to Sir Robin of Azin. Sir Robin is in charge of creating the new army of Azin. I should mention that it is an additional army of Azin not a new one.
Gladen gave me a pouch full of coins and told me to use it wisely. There were almost 300 pennies worth of coins in the pouch! I added my three pennies to it. With this, I could be considered rich. Sir Gaven gave me a letter of introduction. I consider myself very lucky to have met Gladen, Sir Gaven and the rest of their party.
10th of Storms in the year TK 1035
I reported at first light to the recruiting camp. There were men and woman from all over the country. Some of them were younger than I am and some were older than the Vargas. The line went on for what seemed to be ½ of a mile or so.
As we slowly approached the gates of the camp, there was a sign in Kingdom and common that stated “Magick users to the left and non-magick users to the right.” It looks like I am going to the right.
The camp has a wooden fence around it. There is a stone tower in the center of the camp. It measures about 35 feet wide by 50 feet high. I am told it is called Tower One. It is to be the first tower in the communications line for the country of Azin. Every 25 to 30 miles there is to be one of these towers and recruiting camps are springing up around all of the towers.
I finally reached the recruiting table by mid-morning. There were three soldiers behind it. One was missing a leg, the other an eye and the third did not or could not speak. I presented them with my letter of introduction and they were surprised that I could write my own name. They gave me my letter back and an additional piece of paper that stated this recruit can read, write and count.
Over the next several hours, I was given more new clothes and fitted for a pair of infantry boots. At least they let me keep my clothes from Gladen. We were grouped up into groups of 24 or so and led to large pavilion tents. Our training sergeant, Sergeant Derrick Smith, told us that this tent was our home for the next few months. That every day we would receive two meals and that every ten days we would get a day of rest.
He then ended with, “For those of you who attend church, the Bishop of Azin has provided a dispensation that during training you only need to attend mass every ten days. In addition, you are now part of the army of Azin. You are no longer freemen. You have given up your freedom so others may live. You will do what I tell you, when I tell you. If you decide to leave without permission, you will be imprisoned or hung or both.”
15th of Storms in the year TK 1035
It turned out that I was the only one who could read or write in my group. This made me a popular person with the training sergeant. He enjoyed giving me additional tasks that included keeping track in a company ledger of what we did, how many beds, the number of bowls and spoons - the list goes on. I am also responsible for teaching two other men in my group to read and write.
It turns out that every training group is given a name to be referred by. We are called Sable and our training sergeant loves to remind us that Sables love to run. We have been fitted with our boots and leather armor. It is much harder to do anything in the armor. At least the weather has improved. It has not rained for four days. The sun has been gentle upon us. There is so much to learn. I am still having a problem with the sword. The knife, quarterstaff, poleax are no problem. The sword is going to take me a while.
Yesterday one of my fellow Sables was transferred to an archery-training group. His physical appearance and prowess makes him ideal to become an archer.
We are being talked to today. At least we are not running with the armor today. I still cannot sit with any comfort with the armor on. We are being talked to by scribes and other scholars. One person at a time we have been taken from the sword practice field to a tent about 1/4 hour later the Sable returns. There are five of these tents. When it was my turn, I became nervous. The scribe was a female who called herself “Landra of Azin, royal scribe to House Nari’”. She asked about my family and why I joined the army. She continued to ask if I knew anything about magick.
I could only respond. “Only what the church tells us, My Lady.” She chuckled. She thought it was interesting that I knew about horses and had been taught how to use a horse spear while at the Vargas. I found out she was only 16 years old and that her family was from the capital city. That is all I could find out as she began to ask me more questions.
20th of Storms in the year TK 1035
It has been a while since I could write. I ran out of ink and only today on the tenth day, the day of rest, I could go into the training village and purchase some. While I was there, I was able to purchase some fine paper as well at a good price. The storekeeper told me that usually only the nobles buy that type of paper and I was the first trainee to every buy it. I think I have a bad feeling about that. At least Hans and Devin have started to understand how to read and a little writing, very little writing. I purchased two slates and some chalk for them from the storekeeper.
The weather has come full circle. The rains are turning bitterly cold, however the training will not stop. Sergeant Derrick Smith tells us that cold does not stop the Horde, so we will not stop.
I am almost getting used to my leather armor. It is still uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time, however I am moving with little problems.
We practiced with shields for the first time. Now not only do I have to swing a sword and hit something with it, I must now do it with a shield in the other hand. Why can’t I just use a knife in combat?
We lost another two Sables, they were sent to the armorer's guild. They were sons of a blacksmith. I continue to keep the ledger of the Sables.
28th of Storms in the year TK 1035
The weather has turned to snow. I am told that this is not unusual for this area.
The training continues. I hate the sword. I like the shield, knife, spear, staff and even the mace. I hate the sword!
A few days ago, we were taken on a march into the woods south of here and were taught how to forage for food for this time of year. We were also taught how to sew. We are told that wounds are sometimes stitched like clothing. At least in two more days, I will be able to get some rest.
30th of Storms in the year TK 1035
Last night a Horde patrol was spotted near the camp. We have been on watch since then. Half of the Sables are to be up at all times. The Otters, another training group, actually came to blows with a few of the Orcs. I was told 10 of the Otters were killed and only one Orc wounded.
It is almost time for my watch. At least the snow will hinder their approach. Hans and Devin can now write their names and have started to be able to read part of the Sable ledger.
3rd of Frost in the year TK 1035
The Horde patrol, a claw of 5 riders, has been hunted down. While I was on watch, they attacked the southern tent. We followed our training and surrounded them. As they tried to escape, our spears dealt with them.
The Horde mounts are a cross between a great wolf and a demon, or that is what I have been told since I have never seen a demon before and do not desire to ever see one.
The one thing that sticks with me about their mounts is their glowing red eyes, like that of a hot red coal on a fire. This encounter was a good lesson for us. If we act as an individual we will certainly lose. If we all act as one, we have a good chance of winning.
I am letting Hans and Devin take turns writing in the Sable Ledger. They are picking this up very quickly. Devin, being a herder’s son, has a mind for numbers and Hans’s father is a maker of bows. At least losing a friend to another group is better than losing them in combat. I realize that these boys and men are becoming my friends. We are learning to work together.
I still hate the sword! A little less now, my knuckles are not as bruised as they were a few weeks ago. I still care for the spear more than the sword.
This weather is certainly bringing home the lesson on taking care of your armor. One of the Sables woke up with ice on the inside of his leg. He slept in the armor, which is against the rules.
Speaking of rules there are rules for everything from when to sleep to how to walk in a group to how to wear your clothing. I understand about the armor, however do we really need rules on how to wear a tunic?
Training Sergeant Derrick Smith told us this morning that we will be moving to another camp just after the first of the year. This was good news to most of the men in my group. Since most of them came from the Capital region, they will be able to spend Christmas or midwinter’s day or the festival of lights that Zavdiel told me about home with their families. Christmas is the 32nd day of Frost.
10th of Frost in the year TK 1035
I ended up in the healer’s tent yesterday. Sergeant Derrick Smith used me for an example. It is my own fault. I should have known he was going to bait me to charge him. He was using a sword and I was using a spear. I HATE swords! He hit me with the flat of the blade behind my head.
The next thing I remember is waking up in the healer’s tent with Sergeant Smith looking over me. He smiled that I was still alive. My only guess is that he is not done with me yet. Devin brought me the journal papers, ink and my writing iron. We have been working hard on wearing our armor.
In addition, marching and fighting as a group has been intensified. I am writing this while I am in the Sable tent. I just came back from the Healer’s tent.
Most of my group is taking rest when they can. The training has been tough on everyone; however the Horde is even tougher as we have seen with our own eyes.
I received a letter of Landra who has invited me to spend the holidays with her family in the Capital of Azin. Things are beginning to look better.
15th of Frost in the year TK 1035
I am in Hell! We marched 15 miles to day through the woods. We were fully armored from head to toe. The Elves of the woods were firing at us with hunting arrows without any arrowheads. The arrows would stun its target. They hurt, they hurt like hell. I am just grateful the Elves are excellent archers. Our helmets do not have any face protection.
Everyone in the group was hit by at least 10 to 15 arrows. The welts and bruises cover my body. Even the training Sergeant was hit by several arrows. I think maybe the Elves enjoyed today. I overheard the training sergeant talking to another sergeant and this whole day was to see if we would continue while under fire. I hope they got their answer and we do not have to do this again.
I am trying much harder with the sword as well as the rest of the weapons, tactics, marching and so on.
Right now though, I just hurt.
20th of Frost in the year TK 1035
Today we are told that we will be granted an 11-day departure from training starting on the 31st of the month. We must all be back here the 2nd day of Slumber in the New Year. The training continues.
I look forward to meeting Landra and her family.
Devin and Hans have really started to grasp the ability to read and are getting better at writing. I made them a few word pages. The pages provide them with words and what they mean.
I remember the teaching scrolls the Vargas had. I wish I had a copy of them here. That would be a king’s ransom to purchase.
I was given another duty yesterday. I was assigned to help count the supplies of the recruiting camp. It took all day. At the end, we were told that there is a surplus of blankets that have been purchased. I and the two other trainees were responsible for handing out the 300 extra blankets.
I made sure that 22 blankets went to the Sable tent and distributed the rest to those I thought could use them.
22nd of Frost in the year TK 1035
Sergeant Derrick Smith found out I knew how to ride a horse. He used me as an example again. He started to train us on how to fight mounted warriors. I think I surprised him with my riding ability. So much so I got extra duty again. I got to clean out the middens of the tower of the recruiting camp.
24th of Frost in the year TK 1035
Sergeant Derrick Smith and I had a private discussion today. He believes that I could become a leader of men. This is one of the reasons he has used me as an example on many occasions. He told me to keep up the good work.
I cannot believe that because he likes me, I am getting more duties and many more bruises! I Still Hate the Sword.
27th of Frost in the year TK 1035
I was told to report to the Tower today. I was to meet with the Tower Captain. As I entered his duty chambers, there were the Vargas sitting across from him. There was a deafening silence as I entered. Thoughts of a painful and long death began to run through my mind. Each time they played through my mind, they became even more painful and longer than the time beforehand.
“Son, do you know who I am?” the Tower Captain commanded.
I snapped to attention as we have been taught to do when addressed by a superior. “My lord, you are Edward Carter of Talon, the Captain of this Tower and recruiting Camp.” Despite being at attention, I started to sweat.
“By your answer, I will take it that you are of your right mind. I received a message from Lord Varga telling me one of his wards has gone off to join the army and he believes that this ward is in my camp.” At this, I am now no longer sweating, I am dripping with fear.
Sergeant Smith has taught me to use everything I have in battle. This was definitely a battle. “My Lord Carter, it would be a lie to deny the hospitality and upbringing that Lord and Lady Varga have shown to me after my parents were killed by servants of the Horde. They taught me how to read to write, but most of all they taught me that it is the duty, the responsibility of every free person to defend this country so our children can be free. I knew they would want me to become an administrator for the army or worse.”
The Captain smiled. “You mean like a Tower Captain, only needed when we are on the defensive not the offensive?” I tried to explain I meant no disrespect to him, however he put his hand up to stop me.
The Captain looked at the Vargas and then looked at me. “Lord and Lady Varga, Erich we all want the same thing. We all want our children to be safe.”
The Captain began to gauge Lord Varga’s face. “It has come to my attention that Erich has potential and his training Sergeant has recommended him for Lord Michael’s special mounted force. I have decided to transfer Erich to the special mounted force. He will be better trained and will gain the skills and abilities he will need to lead.”
That seemed to satisfy Lord Varga. Lady Varga on the other hand will never be satisfied. “Erich, here are your orders. You are on leave departure from training until the 4th day of Slumber TK 1036. Get your belongings and report to the gate. I believe the Vargas have a favor cottage in the Capital?” The Vargas nodded.
“One last thing, I expect to see you after Christmas Mass for dinner.” I was surprised at the invitation. I began to find the words to inform him I had other plans when he spoke again. “My daughter Landra does not like to be kept waiting. Lord and Lady Varga, the invitation is of course extended to the both of you as well.”
Lord Varga smiled. “We have plans with the royal family; would the New Year’s Day feast be an acceptable alternative?” The Tower Captain nodded.
Note to self. I am in a lot of trouble and I am sinking fast.
28th of Frost in the year TK 1035
Now that it has been explained to me that Lord and Lady Varga, sorry Thomas and Victoria Varga, see me more of an additional son than a stranger they took simply care of. It was made official when Lord Thomas Varga handed me a letter of introduction that introduces me as Erich Varga 4th son of the House Varga. After gasping for a moment, I fumbled for words to thank them.
Victoria hugged me. That night was a night for celebration. I have a family again. I guess it took me this long to realize it. I will write more later, I have to go - I am keeping my family waiting. That is the best present I could ever have received.
31st of Frost in the year TK 1035
The city crier announced that Queen Katrina has accepted a deep felt apology from the Katonnan nation’s new human King and has signed a peace agreement with the Katonnan nation. The Horde is now forced to fight on an additional front. I managed to get some shopping done. I found a silvered writing stick for Landra and I found some fresh spices from Terla to give the Carter household.
32nd of Frost in the year TK 1035
Good Christmas to everyone. I am off to house Carter in a little while. Things are happening so fast. I went to mass this morning in the great Cathedral of Azin. I have never seen so much glass in my life. The pictured glass was amazing. I still wish Saurians sang the hymns. However, there was something special about today’s mass. Bishop Duncan who is known for being a great warrior priest had a gentle, peaceful message for everyone. It is a good feeling.
I am off to House Carter.
33rd of Frost in the year TK 1035
Last night was one of the best nights of my life. I was well received by the Carters and Landra simply loved the writing stick I gave her. In return, she gave me a silver cross on a heavy chain. She said that it would protect me and make sure I come back to visit. Before the night was over, I asked Lord Carter if I might have his permission to write his daughter. After making me wait for what seemed like several hours, he nodded his approval. I could finally feel my heart begin to beat once more.
There is some disappointing news as I woke this morning. Training for the special mounted force has been pushed up. I leave tomorrow for my new training camp. My family is not too happy, however they understand. I need to take a walk, maybe by House Carter.
34th of Frost in the year TK 1035
I thought I hated Swords, Gate travel is worse. But before I get to that, let me get to what happened last night.
As I was taking my walk, minding my own business, I had a snowball hit me in the face. When I turned to see my attacker, there before me was a vision of heaven, Landra in a deep green cloak. As I tried to object to her treatment of me, she threw another one at me. Not to be out done, I began to create a snowball. As I readied the snowball, another one hit my face. I yelled, “That’s it” and proceeded to chuck snowballs as fast as I could towards her direction. Not a single one came anywhere near her.
Then I could hear her angelic laughter and I gazed upon her smiling face. I am too young to feel like this, or am I? I walked over to her and bowed. “I surrender.” She looked at me with an evil grin. “What, no kneeling before me?” she kidded. I looked at her straight in the eyes. “I only kneel before my Lord, my King and the woman I love.”
I began to smile. “What are you doing out here on a cold day like this.” I questioned. She looked and then giggled. “The same as you, I needed to get a breath of fresh air.” I decided that it was best to leave it at that. We walked for a few hours. I told her my bad news and she was actually upset that I was leaving earlier.
Have I affected her as well as she had me? This is confusing.
We spent the remainder of the night going through the market and going through the stores, our conversation were light and pleasant. I walked her to her family’s house, bowed to her and kissed her hand. We agreed to write each other and to continue our friendship.
I got back to my family’s favor cottage where Thomas and Victoria Varga met me. They already knew about my orders and wanted to spend some time with me before I left. On the morning of the 34th, Thomas Varga gave me a present with the following words. “I hope Shadowbane serves you as well as it has served me.” Shadowbane is a sword. Why, why did it have to be a sword? I thanked him, placed the sword in a belt and put the belt on.
The Varga carriage took me to the Gate. I had never seen a gate before. It is a large black round… thing.
I handed my orders over to the guards who told me to wait with the others that he pointed to. The others were 30 or so young humans like me and a Haeflin. No one talked. I think I’m not the only person taking their first trip though one of these gate portals.
It was amazing to watch. The Gate Master placed gems - a lot of gems - onto a board in a specific arrangement. Once the arrangement was complete, a hum came from the gate. Colors began to swirl within the center of the gate. Then there was an explosion of light in the center of the gate. Once my eyes adjusted, I could see another land on the other side of the gate. This must be great magick. Another party waiting walked through the gate. This happened several times.
A little over an hour later, the Gate Master came over and informed us that the Gate to Duke Tully’s domain would be the next on the list. Once the gate is open, we were to just walk into it.
Again, the magick occurred and then the Gate was open and I could see a warrior in black and silver waiting for us on the other side. That is when things went wrong. The gate guards began to move us to the gate. Several of the people including me were pushed through the gates. I do not know if it was by one of my fellow travelers or by the guards. Either way I was not ready.
Come to think about it, I will never be ready to do that again. My entire world was filled with bright lights, the color of the rainbow and I felt myself being both pulled apart and being pushed on by all sides. Then it was over almost as quick as it had started. I was not able to find my footing and tripped flat on my face.
Once on the ground, I had but one urge, the urge to expel my breakfast. I crawled as far as I could off to the side of the gate as possible and let it all out. Several moments later, a warrior wearing black and silver gave me a water skin and told me “You will get used to it.” I remember thinking “Like Hell I WILL!”
I was not the only one who became… embarrassed after exiting the gate. Almost everyone that came through with me did. The leader of the warriors gave us a few moments to collect our selves before she began to speak.
“Warriors of Azin,” she began, “I am Bridget Tigris Tully you can called me Lady Tully or Ma’am. You are on my father’s land and he and it will be treated with respect. The disrespect you showed coming through the gate is almost understandable. However, it is the last time it will be tolerated! Now pick up your belongings and follow me.” With that she turned and began to walk. Everyone that came through the gate with me must have been in recruit training because everyone picked up their belongings and began to follow her immediately.
The weather is much warmer here than near the Capital. I am not even sure we are still in the country of Azin
The keep was 1 ½ miles away from the gate. It was a gentle walk on the road. However, we did not take the road. We took the overland route, passed the Keep of Tully to several wooden structures including a corral filled with horses, surrounded by a wooden stockade wall.
The journey took us over two hours and when we got to the gates of the stockade wall; she stopped us, turned us around and asked a question.
“How far did we travel?” Everyone was afraid to answer. She looked and looked and then pointed to the Haeflin and commanded. “Well, Tr’ Needle, Son of the city of Dawn, what is your answer?”
The Haeflin softly spoke, “1 ¾ miles My Lady.”
She smiled. “Very good, now tell us how you did that.” She commanded.
“There are several ways I could have figured it out.” He answered. “The way that I used was that I counted the number of steps I took to get from there to here.”
Lady Tully paced up and down the line. “Distance and knowing your direction and your location is important to a rider on the battlefield. Knowing where your enemy is, your support and your lines of retreat are very important. In addition knowing where your allies are is also important. To make sure they do not stab you in the back.” That is it for now. It is less than three hours after sunrise. Take your belongings and store them in the common rooms, Men…Boys in the right building and Women…Girls in the left. The center building is the Hall for meals. Join the rest of your companions.”
As ordered we stored our gear in the common barracks and went to the meal hall. Including the people I traveled with, there are around 500 of us in the meal hall. Most of the people here are my age or a little older and some a little younger. It was awkward not knowing if there was a salt line to sit above or below it. I found a place to sit and a plate of food was put in front of me by a servant girl, a little younger than I am. She also placed a goblet of a sweet juice down for me. As the table filled up she placed plates and goblets down and a pitcher of the juice in the center of the table.
No one knew if we should eat or not. There were gazes and stares of bewilderment from everyone. Moments later the doors to the meal hall opened and what appeared to be a knight walked in with 8 warriors flanked on either side of him. My table stood with the rest of the people in the meal hall. The knight had salt and pepper hair with a strong jaw and eyes that are ancient. He walked to the front of the meal hall and turned. “Warriors of Azin, I welcome you here. You have been assigned to be part of something special. Each of you has the basic skills to become a mounted warrior of Azin already. It is my goal to turn you into mounted soldiers of Azin. Eat well this day for tomorrow training begins.”
Indeed, we ate well. We ate very well. The food was much better than we had at Tower One. The rest of the day we made ourselves at home in the barracks. There is a bathhouse attached to each barracks, another difference from Tower One. I have 300 other males bunked in with me. Most of them are humans, but there are some Haeflins & even an elf!
This land is different than what I am used to. The air is a little dryer and somewhat thicker than what I am used to. The position of the sun leads me to believe that we are still on the same continent, most likely southwest of the capital and most likely west of the Wasteland.
What have I gotten myself into, I wonder?
20th Day of Slumber TK 1036
This is the first time I have had the chance to write. I have so many bruises that my body looks like one giant bruise from head to toe, except on my left shoulder. There is the 4-inch gash from a spear point.
I am getting really tired of being an example. I have tried everything to avoid it - I even keep my mouth shut! Well, ok most times.
I received a letter from Landra today. I have been trying to write her once a week.
The day after we arrived, we were woken up two hours before dawn. We spent hours being taught on how to put on and wear the leather armor we were given. The master armorer was pleased that he did not have to make many alterations to my set. However, he did need to make enough adjustments so that I did not have the armor for the first seven days of training. I was fortunate, though. Most of my companions did not have their armor for as many as 20 days.
The rest of the day we ran, ran some more and ran again. The hot weather would not have been so bad to bare if weren’t for the arming doublets we were given. They were a one-size fit all. The size must have been made for a giant. I spent most of the day trying to keep the doublet from falling into my eyes or off of me.
That night my barrack mates and I spent the time fitting the arming doublets to each other. It is a good thing that 10 of my barrack mates had been squires and knew how to alter armor. This is a useful skill. They even showed us how to sew a little. At least it is easier than a sword.
The next few days blurred into one giant mess. We would get up before dawn to meet our horses. These are not the Great War horses the legends tell us that a heavy armored knight would use. These horses are strong, fast and agile.
The horse weighs around 1600 pounds and is as fast as a Terlan Riding Horse. The horse looked familiar. When I went to saddle it, I noticed the brand on its haunch. It is one of the horses from the Varga plantation. The horse is black with white spots. At least the Varga horse likes me, not like the Varga sword. The horse is called Shadow Dancer.
Over the next couple of days we spent most of our waking moments being taught how to care for our horse. This is one thing I can excel at. Master of the horse James Carvet has singled me out on several occasions as being a fine example on how to take care of a horse.
We even started riding the horses. It surprises me on how many of my fellow companions here do not have a clue on how to ride. While I have advanced to the terrain and obstruction coarse most of my fellow companions are still trying to learn how to hang on.
33rd Day of Slumber TK 1036
Just as I thought I had the handle on the leather armor, we have been issued heavy armor called mail. It is not as uncomfortable as the hardened leather. However with the arming doublet underneath, it is a lot warmer.
I am glad I have the training in the leather armor. I am almost as agile with the mail as if I was just wearing a tunic and breeches. We are going on an encampment for the next few days. I am looking forward to getting out into the open again.
I have received another letter from Landra. She is being transferred to the Keep of Azin. She will be in the service of the Queen. I am very proud of her.
5th Day of Preparing TK 1036
I think I like city life better. It has done nothing but rain for the last eight days. Add to that, we camped near a lake attached to a fast river and it has not been pleasant. Forget unpleasant - it has been hell. I am convinced that I have chosen a life of damnation.
Since I have done so well in training with the horses, I have the extra responsibility of helping those who lack the skills in both staying on their horse and those who have trouble getting off of their horses. One of my companions, Timothy, is in trouble. His horse is upset at him. Every time he mounts the horse, it kneels down and begins to roll. When I or another soldier comes near the two of them, the horse will come towards us, away from his assigned rider.
6th Day of Preparing TK 1036
Lord Tully came to see how we were getting alone in the wilderness today. He has reassigned Timothy to a logistical command, whatever that is.
I was called along with four other soldiers to Lord Tully’s tent after the evening meal. He told us that the group would be divided up into five columns. Each one of us (the four others and myself) will be responsible for keeping the accounting for each column and since we are the best riders, we will keep track of the progress of each rider except for ourselves. Our new sergeants will do that.
I received another letter from Landra today. She is enjoying her service to the Queen.
20th Day of Preparing TK 1036
I thought my last training Sergeant was tough? This one is tougher.
In fact, Sergeant Hans Mayor from Lords is as tough as they come, but he is fair and honest towards us.
We started combat training a few days ago on horseback. Shadow Dancer and I work well together. So much so that the Sergeant has given us – you guessed it - special duties! Along with two other soldiers and their horses, we get to patrol the border of the camp during the second watch each night. At least I have a spear with a shield and not a sword.
I must be getting used to the mail armor. I almost went to sleep with it on. I forgot I was wearing it. Either that or I was just too tired. I’ll be honest - I was just too tired. The next day my armor got tangled in the horse’s reins and I could not move without injuring my horse. So I did not move. My sergeant gave me credit for thinking about the horse as well as myself. Then he yelled at me for the mistake.
I received another letter of Landra’s today. She is the only reason I have not gone insane. Lord Tully’s page gave me a book of heraldry. The Page told me that I am to learn the different emblems and which house and clans they belong to. I did not have a problem with this order until I opened the book. The book is on the Horde heraldry.
15th Day of Dawn TK 1036
We have been training non-stop since the 21st of Preparing. This is my first day of rest since then. We traveled back to the barracks yesterday. There are three additional barrack buildings now for a total of five barracks buildings. Each column has their own barrack building. Even our sergeant lives in the same barracks with us. Granted, he has his own room.
The barrack is divided between the men’s half and the woman’s half. In the field, the tents are separated between men and women. The column has 104 riders, a sergeant, a knight, and his four squires, who we have not met yet. The knight will lead the column. His squires will handle the accounting and column ledger. Actually they really aren’t squires; they are more like the column’s servants.
I think the only reason I can continue is the letters I get from Landra. She is my lifesaver. I was tested last night by Lord Tully’s page on the Horde emblems. I was told I did very well on the test.
I received a letter from my adoptive parents today. They finally found the right place to send the letter. It turns out that King Rene’ is granting them greater amounts of land to increase the breeding of their horses and to begin the breeding of Saurian mounts from Lord Johan. Having seen a Saurian, I can barely imagine what their mounts must be like!
25th Day of Dawn TK 1036
Today I am very proud to be in this Column. As a single force, we charged stirrup to stirrup for over one mile. When we charged at full speed, we were able to stay stirrup to stirrup for over 500 yards. The sergeant did not want to show how pleased he was, however he smiled. I think it was the first time I ever saw a sergeant smile.
20th Day of Awakening TK 1036
Spring has finally arrived to Azin (two weeks ago). The flowers have started to bud and the nobles are happy. They can start having their parties.
Lord Tully requested volunteers for extra duty when he hosts some nobles from the Capital. My sergeant volunteered the entire column. We will have to thank him appropriately later.
The party is a full week feast and fanfare of events. I was assigned as liaison to Lord and Lady Desummer from the eastern rim of Azin.
22nd Day of Awakening TK 1036
The guests for Lord Tully’s fanfare have begun to arrive. The entire column including the Sergeant is dressed in the black and silver livery of House Tully. We are wearing our badges of Michael of Lords.
Lord and Lady Desummer and their son Aldor arrived with five wagons of luggage and six poodles. I had the honor of escorting them to the Tully Keep. They seemed to be the standard run of the mill noble. Snobbish, only concerned with themselves and could not care less about anyone else. I am glad that the Vargas, The Carters and Lord Tully and his family aren’t like that. I have come to admire Lord Tully and his family. Even though we are just soldiers, they treat us with respect.
After I escorted the Desummers to their chambers, I checked on their horses. The Desummers' servants are all bonded servants for 25 years of their life. In exchange, the servant’s children will only need to be bonded for seven years after they reach the age of 14 years.
The servants were surprised that I brought them food and clean water. The servants are forced to sleep near the horses and wagons.
The Desummers’ would not have it any different. After the Desummers’ retired for the evening, I went to check on their servants, I was not surprised to see Lady Bridget Tully moving them to better quarters.
I asked, “My lady, would you like some help with that?”
She smiled and stated ” If you help me, Erich, the Desummers could charge you with interfering with their property. If I, daughter of Duke Tully, do this ‘interfering’ what will they do?”
I clicked to attention and bowed deeply and began to walk backwards. “My lady not only has great beauty, she has great wisdom.” As I brought my head up I could see she was blushing. I cannot see why the truth would make her blush.
23rd Day of Awakening TK 1036
I am now very pleased that my column sergeant volunteered us for this. Lord and Lady Carter are here and more important Landra is here. I was able to see her for a little while this morning.
In truth, the Desummers are not that difficult to please as long as you remember that their ego is more important to them than real life. I must admit that I prefer to deal with their poodles or their servants though.
I was able to meet again with Lord and Lady Carter and their daughter Landra this evening. The Carters updated me on the events that have been happening in the world.
They also gave me some time to talk with Landra alone. She likes the letters I have sent her. She told me of her new position with the Queen. She was very excited about it.
24th Day of Awakening TK 1036
Today illustrated the real reason why Lord Tully is having this fanfare. He is trying to gain support for King Rene’s plan of escalating the training for the army and forming a more powerful national navy.
The nobles laughed and stated the war with Horde has been over for a while and peace is prospering. Duke Tully announced that he is funding what he can to increase the defense of Azin.
The nobles did not seem to care to listen. Well, most of them didn’t. Lord and Lady Albert of Parvan (southern Azin) agreed to talk about this some more in a more private setting.
The day’s festivities continued. After the Desummers’ retired for the night, I was able to see Landra again.
Lord Carter took me aside as Landra was getting ready for our walk and told me that he understands that I have the most honorable intentions and that it is his wish that I would court his daughter.
He told me to take my time to think about it and that Landra approached him with the question. I was taken aback by the forwardness of this. I told him I would need to think about this, maybe for a heartbeat or two. I then asked his permission to formally announce that I am requesting his permission to court Landra. He smiled and approved.
Landra and I that evening talked about everything, including my intention to announce my request to court her in front of everyone at the feast in two days. She smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
I think I am falling in love? Either that or I am in a lot more trouble and I am sinking even faster. Somehow though, this does not seem like trouble.
25th Day of Awakening TK 1036
It has been a long day. I thank God for the Vargas.
Let me start from the beginning. This morning Lord Tully had prepared a hunt for the day, however the weather had other ideas.
The Tully household instead put on several spectacles for their guests. The Desummers’ enjoyed themselves immensely. At one point Lord Desummers’ asked where his son was.
I volunteered to find him, anything to get out of their stuffy atmosphere for a few moments.
I found him all right. He had Landra pushed against a wall stating. “Your family is not of noble blood. You are lucky your father was a good soldier all those years ago. Now he is an old wasted man. Either you give me what I can take or I will just take it!”
I am not sure what happened next. I know I informed him to take his swinish hooves off of the lady. He replied that this was none of a bonded servant’s business and that if I did not turn and walk away, he was going to make sure I was sold to a salt miner.
This is the point where things become a little blurry. I remember taking his hand off of Landra’s shoulder revealing a ripped gown. I even remember as he tried to hit me. What I do not completely remember is how his hand, wrist and arm were broken.
Of course, I brought him back to his parents in the great hall as they had requested. Well, actually I threw him on the floor of the great hall and accused him with the attempted assault of a noblewoman.
Between the cries of pain, he called me and my entire line liars and that I assaulted him while trying to talk to Landra nothing more.
Landra’s father and mother rushed over to her. She told them that she was fine and that if it weren’t for my timely arrival, Aldor Desummers would have most certainly violated her.
Lord Desummers rose and stated: “Are you going to believe a low blood of the likes of the Carters, whose daughter services anyone above her station, or my son who comes from an honorable house that can trace its line back centuries?”
Lord and Lady Varga then stood up. I did not know they were present. They had arrived a few minutes earlier. “I need to agree with Lord Desummer. We should take the word of a member of an honorable well-established house. Like the Vargas who have served the Nari’ family almost as long as the Tully family.” Desummer only nodded, not knowing where Lord Varga was going. Lord Varga continued. “I am Lord Thomas of the House of Varga, before you stands, Erich Varga, my son.”
The look on Lord Desummer’s face would have been worth being flogged. Lord Varga continued. “The house of Carter has served my household well and the Crown even better. I was there when Lord Carter was knighted. No one in this room or any other room will tell me, he is not of noble blood without a challenge from my entire household. He has spilled much of his own blood defending Azin and all of you.”
Lord Tully was very pleased for the show of solidarity between the Vargas and the Carters, both allies to House Tully.
Landra spoke. “As I am in my own right, a lady of the court of Azin and in service to the Queen of Azin as her advisor, I demand satisfaction.” I was ready to give it out and readied myself to do so.
Landra continued. “Lord Desummer, you have a choice. Either allow your son to defend himself against my champion or sign the agreement with Lord Tully to support King Rene’s plan on enlarging the military and to help pay for it.” Duke Tully was truly impressed by Landra’s political savvy.
Lord Desummer sneered. “Who would defend you?”
I walked forward. “I would as I have received permission to court her from her father. Even if I did not have the permission, I would defend her anyway for she is a Lady and your son is a coward.”
Lord Tully stood. “And if he was unable, I would defend the lady, for she is of noble blood.”
Lord Desummer capitulated and signed the agreement as he realized his son could not stand against me in his condition. Then Lord Tully’s healer worked on Aldor’s arm.
The rest of the day went without a hitch. I was informed that most of the other nobles had signed the agreement with Lord Tully. I have also been informed that at the feast tonight I will be sitting with my family and not serving the other nobles with my column.
I will write more later.
The feast was wonderful. The first thing Lord Tully announced was the official courting between Landra and myself. The minstrels were ordered to play and a dance was ordered. I walked over to Lady Landra and asked her to dance.