The introductions continued as one would've expected from such a rag-tag bunch. Luca’s comrades-to-be gave their names, and their instructions should their group fail to return. Not exactly the most pleasant follow-on sentence after you learned someone’s name, but it couldn’t be helped, he mused. It was better than the fallen’s share staying in the Baron’s pocket, though this was already turning out to be one hell of an ice-breaker. ‘Name and next of kin’ was not really along the usual lines of ‘name, region and hobbies’. He grinned at the prospect of posing these questions to recruits. Burial or cremation? would probably be next on the list.
For the rest of the meeting, Luca stayed near the walls of the room, with his axe propped against the floor, and a calm expression on his face. If one had observed him closely, they would have seen his brows knit slightly closer at the tiefling’s quip, and a shadow of a smile form at the bandit’s statement about the stable. When the orc, Yondrin, left the room with the baron’s representative in tow, the former general glanced back at the others still in the room. It would be interesting to see how the group fared in the forest, but he didn’t have high hopes. At least, not for some of our number, he thought, eyeing the narcoleptic Raithe.
Still, everyone—and everything—deserved a chance; that sounded like something his father had said many times in the past.
He gave a small grin, and strode out of the room with his greataxe in hand.
Sparks flew and flame flickered, casting shadows dancing through the heart of the armory. The sounds of hammers striking steel resounded around Luca, as he strode through the smoggy air. Rows of workbenches and equipment racks went by, with custodians and smiths going about their work, pausing only to give him some polite acknowledgement. It was only when he’d reached the back of the room did the general find the man he was looking for, sitting at an old and pitted workbench, surrounded by piles of papers.
The man didn’t look up from his work when Luca called, merely squinting harder at the miniscule writing on the form. It was only when the Lightblessed commander stopped in front of his desk, did the Head of the military’s Armory look up, scowling at the general from behind half-moon spectacles. “General Forsythe. What do you want?” he demanded irritably, uncapping his pen.
“The Marshal sends his regards,” Luca responded simply, hands respectfully behind his back.
Gallios snorted and scribbled a signature on the bottom of the paper before pushing it to the side and standing. He rubbed his eyes and looked out the window behind him, scowling again when he saw the cloudless night sky. Gallios gestured for Luca to follow, and started towards the exit on the eastern wall. The general complied, following the quartermaster.
“Just how long exactly have you been sitting there?” Luca asked, curiously. There was something different in the venerable armorer’s gait. It was stiff, and there was a slight slump. Not unusual, for a man of Gallios’ years, but it was exceptionally noticeable today.
“Since dawn,” Gallios grumbled, rubbing his lower back. “And it’s all thanks to you, General. I hope you realise how much of a mess you’ve left for me to clean up. Just what were you thinking, exactly? Charging into the enemy, while vastly outnumbered.”
“There was hardly a better choice. It was that, or give them the township.”
“‘Hardly a better choice’? I’ll tell you what would have been a better choice, boy. If you had prepared your forces sooner and taken up a more favourable position, then all of those losses could have been avoided. Instead, you opt to run in at the last moment, straight through Golith’s Vale.”
“I did what I could, quartermaster. If I had followed my standing orders at the time, then certainly, more of our troops would have been alive.”
Alafael’s Chief Supply Officer shot him a look as they walked across the courtyard. “Then why aren’t they alive? Why didn’t you follow your orders?”
“Because that would have meant giving them the town. Thousands would have died.”
“Thousands did die. Your troops weren’t ready to engage enemy forces of that magnitude. Orcish forces, at that. You sent your soldiers to their deaths, nothing more.”
Luca remained unfazed. “Yet we won. The enemy force was routed and the township was spared. Would you have had otherwise, quartermaster? Would you willingly sit by and let the citizens in our charge be slaughtered?”
Gallios paused momentarily, turning to glare at him. “That’s not what I meant, and you know that.”
“Then I fail to see what you have an issue with,” Luca nodded to a saluting soldier before continuing. “The orcish forces were moving through the vale, with their intent to encroach on the town. If I had followed His Majesty’s orders and kept my soldiers on standby, then we’d have soldiers sorting through the corpses of every man, woman and child in Golith. It would have been a massacre.”
The quartermaster grunted, but didn’t say anything. The two walked in silence for several minutes, the stars twinkling down on them as they made their way to the heart of the fortress. It was only after they had passed through the keep’s entrance that Gallio spoke again, in a much calmer voice. “So what does your old man want?” he asked. “Have you come to apologise on his and the King’s behalf?”
“I have not, no,” the general admitted, ”What I bring is more of a warning, unfortunately. Our scouts have spotted a, ah, sizeable number of enemies from the south.”
“And why are you telling me this? Don’t you usually just have some poor lad write up a report at the last minute and throw it my way ten minutes before the battle actually occurs? To what do I owe this quick and timely honor?”
“That’s the normal process, yes. But for those last-minute reports to be useful, the recipient has to actually read them. And judging by our conversation this evening, you still haven’t started doing that,” Luca said, with a grin. “So I’ve decided to come and give you the briefing in person.” The quartermaster turned a lovely rosey red, and muttered something under his breath.
The conversation cut off once more as they neared Gallios’ office. There was a rattle of keys, a click of a lock, and then the door swung open, striking the chamber wall with a soft thud. Luca followed him in and made himself at home, settling comfortably into a chair on one side of writing desk.
Gallios’ desk was clean and organized, with only an oil lamp, a paper tray, and a potted plant sitting on top. Lined up along the room’s walls, however, were cabinets packed to the point of bursting and shelves on the verge of collapsing. It was almost funny how the room was the opposite of his superior’s, but Luca had already made that comparison many years ago.
Time had somewhat lessened the humor in that statement, though, as the only comparison that went through Luca’s thoughts were about how little the room had changed over the years. Much like it’s occupant.
The elderly man dropped into his chair with a groan of discomfort, then affixed Luca with a piercing, icy stare.
“So, what sort of harebrained scheme do you have, General?” Gallios asked, cutting straight to the point. “And again, why are you telling me this? Do you need extra arms, or supplies? Because if you do, I’m sure you know by now that unless I have orders from the Marshall himself, I will not make an exception for you or any of the other generals.”
The general returned a thin smile. “Quartermaster, I’ve known you for the better part of… what is it, thirteen years now?”
“Sixteen, by the next moon. Sixteen years since the Battle of Florane.”
“A fair amount of time, I’d say. I know well enough that there are better ways to requisition supplies than from the military’s quartermaster, as strange as that may sound,” Luca chuckled, but Gallios’ expression didn’t budge. Aewyn often joked that Gallios had been born with either a frown or a glare on his face, but he knew better; it had definitely been a glare.
“Get to the point, boy. What do you want, or what do you want to tell me?”
“As you wish,” Luca sat up straighter, before dropping the smile and bridging his gloved fingers. “Unlike the battle at Golith’s Vale, our soldiers and defences are already mobilised. Based on their heading, the horde is heading towards the villagers fortified behind the Southern Wall. This means that the battle will most likely be fought around Stolwyn’s Head.”
“Your tactics seem too sound for my liking,” Gallios remarked sarcastically. “Too simple and straightforward to be one of your plans. What’s the twist? Why not open the gates, and invite them into the keep for negotiations and tea?”
“Jokes do not become you, quartermaster. No, our strategy will be very straightforward. We’ll fight them from the fort’s walls, using defensive positioning and our weaponry. I’m sure our mages will appreciate having the high ground for once, though I’m sure that things will change when the complication arise.”
“So what are these complications?”
“There aren’t any. For now.”
“Indeed. We’ve received no orders from His Majesty at this point in time.”
Gallios shot Luca a glare, his stern expression somehow growing more serious. “What are you implying, General Forsythe?”
The Lightblessed Commander grimaced, and glanced at the clock. He had a feeling they were going to be here for a while.
About fifty minutes after the meeting in the Baron’s estate, Luca finally arrived at the rendezvous point. Preparing and packing took slightly longer than expected, even though he’d already prepared himself a few hours prior. It only dawned on him now that he didn’t know how long the journey would take them, so Luca had decided to take some extra supplies. Better over prepared than under, after all.
However, the entirety of the delay couldn’t be attributed solely to his preparation. Luca wasn’t overly familiar with Keken, so it’d taken him a few minutes of walking before he’d realised that he was in fact heading towards the east side of the town. Luckily, he’d managed to wave down an overtly curious passerby for directions.
Despite his best efforts, there was little that could be done to hide the general state of his armor. While it wasn’t falling to pieces, the scarred and battered plate had seen better days. Many a smith had tried their best to restore the plate, but the simple truth of the matter was that it needed to be replaced. Sure, the armor was usable, but appearance-wise? Definitely not up to Alafaelian military standards. Not that it mattered any more, but Luca had standards. The former soldier had thrown a rough cloak around its collar, in an attempt to make it look less bare.
By the time he arrived, a few of their number had already gathered, along with the Baron’s representative and dark robed attendant, who was busy fastening the manacles to the elder’s ankles. Luca opted to remain silent, and rested his axe on the ground, blade first.
He listened closely as Arthon addressed the group, making a note of what foes to watch out for. Beasts and sentient life, by the sounds of it. Not especially specific, but now he knew to keep an eye on everything in the forest. Not that Luca had predicted any less; he hadn’t signed up with the expectation of being paid to take a lengthy, but relaxing stroll through the forest.
Speaking of which.
At the Goodman’s bidding, Luca spoke up. “While I’ve prepared some extra supplies, I’m afraid that I’m not familiar with the forest, nor our path to the outpost. How long will our journey take? And what sorts of creatures or enemies are we to expect?”
< Message edited by Kooroo -- 9/16/2019 20:53:02 >