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Thread: The Free Company - Book VI: For Whom the Bells Toll

  1. #1
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    The Free Company - Book VI: For Whom the Bells Toll

    June 28, 1926 - Florence, Italy - Morning


    Sir Jonathan Thomas York sat in an iron wrought chair on a café patio located along the bank of the Arno River. A cup of steaming tea and a hot buttered roll lay beside a leather satchel that looked as old as he. The professor idly stared at the river, letting the morning breeze cool his wrinkled face.

    Beyond the sporadic call of a pair of gulls, the waterfront-street was exceptionally quiet. It was a surreal solitude that the aging scholar had come to relish. It was the time of morning before the bustle of the ancient city would grow into crowded and noisy proportions. Reaching for the cup, he noted a figure appear from a side street. A moment's pause and the man strode purposely toward him.

    Sir Jonathan set down the cup, his hand drifting protectively toward the satchel. The man stopped before him and paused. He was in his late forties, a gentle face with a balding head flanked by an unruly mass of premature white hair. Under a thick mustache expressive lips curled into a friendly smile. A hand extended.

    "Good morning, Sir Jonathan. You look well." The German accent was unmistakable.

    The Englishman stood and took the hand in a firm grip. "Albert. I am so glad you took the time from your busy schedule to come sit with me." He waved to an empty chair. "Have a seat. You'll find the tea is excellent here."

    The German eased his body into the chair, sighed in relaxation. "Beautiful morning, Sir Jonathan." He paused as a waiter stopped by, then continued. "I must admit that your letter was - most curious."

    Sir Jonathan glanced at the satchel. "Yes, yes. But first, I must congratulate you in person for winning the Nobel, Albert. Incredible work, incredible. Beyond me, I must confess."

    Albert smiled warmly. "It is beyond most, I fear, and still largely disputed. Even Planck is not totally convinced." He shrugged. "But, they will come around. The evidence is irrefutable."

    "Evidence?"

    "Yes. Quantum theory is about to enter a new era. In fact, I've reviewed a most impressive paper from Satyendra Bose. I made sure it was published. And right now I'm working on a paper that I've titled 'Theory of Brownian Movement'." He stopped at Sir Jonathan's look of consternation. "I apologize. I can get a little - carried away, at times."

    The scholar smiled. "No need to apologize, my friend. At times I've been accused of being rather fervent, too."

    "So, what is it you wish to show me?"

    Sir Jonathan nodded, and reached into the satchel, producing a leather-bound book of some indeterminate age. "This is one of a series, Albert. They were discovered in the basement at the University of Florence. They are hundreds of years old."

    The German sat back. "And you wave it around like it's a newspaper?"

    Sir Jonathan looked sheepish. "I'm in the process of having them copied. But, you're quite right. I should be more careful."

    "May I?"

    The aging professor handed over the book. "It's in old English. I doubt you can read it."

    "It sure smells old." Albert looked it over and gave it back. "So, what is so special about it?"

    "Well, it's a chronicle of historical events. In fact, they're a series of annals about a mercenary group who sprung into existence in the 1400's and survived in one form or another for several hundred years."

    "I see. A remarkable find?"

    "Extremely. It gives us insights into history that I would have never expected."

    "How so?"

    "Well, for one thing, Constantinople fell in 1439..."

    "Ah. Sir Jonathan, my history may not be my strong suit, but didn't that city fall to the Turks in 1453?"

    Sir Jonathan sat back and sighed. "Indeed, it did. And that's the quandary, my dear man. You see, history is subtly, and in some cases, not so subtly, different than how we know it today."

    Albert pointed. "Based on those books of yours?"

    "Based on these books of mine."

    "Well then, they have to be fabrications - a hoax."

    "That would be my assessment, too. However, I've had the paper and ink analysed. They are consistent with the age of the recorded events. Furthermore, the English is too consistent with that time period for anyone other than a small handful of people in the world to duplicate consistently. And I count myself as one of those few."

    "I see. So, Sir Jonathan, what do you expect from me? I am no authority on history."

    Sir Jonathan Thomas York paused while he lit his pipe. He spread his arms. "I need an explanation, Albert. No matter how bizarre."

    The conversation lapsed into long moments of reflective silence. Albert stroked his mustache. Finally, he looked up. "My friend, have you ever considered the concept of alternate universes?"

    The scholar leaned forward, his eyes inquisitive. "Not at all, Mr. Einstein, but please, go on..."

    * * *

    June 28, 1926 - Florence, Italy - Evening

    Evening found Sir Jonathan in his plush chair, single-malt on the side-table and book in his lap. The day had passed quickly, and much had been discussed. The elderly professor found his mind in a whirl with the possibilities, even though most of the conjecture had been beyond his mind to absorb.

    Still, the basic concept could explain much.

    But, the question remained - how did the Annals come to be in the basement of the University?

    With no answer at hand, Sir Jonathan opened the latest book. His eyes quickly adjusted to the old English script, and he began to read...

    The Book of Constance - For Whom the Bells Toll - being the further adventures of the Free Company, in the year of our Lord 1442...
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  2. #2
    StoreytellAAR Storey's Avatar
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    April 11, 1442

    At first it started as a little whisper of a rumor of such nonsense that it was laughed at and dismissed. But it persisted and grew only to be further derided as something only fools or women would believe. Even the opulent rumor fields in the Sultan’s court found it hard to nurture something so ridiculous. Still a few veterans of the many rumor wars of the palace pointed out that the office of the Grand Vizier, Amasyali Bayezid Pasha, who usually kept a secret about as well as a colander kept water was surprisingly quiet. Something was in the wind and no one was sure what, which of course stirred the rumor pot till it roiled and boiled and vented a steam of stories that leapt from mouth to mouth teasing the buds of many a tongue.

    Still even now the little rumor was so far fetched that it would have died the methodical death of most rumors except that one night the entire Divan Chavoushou suddenly streamed out of the city gate and disappeared to the far corners of the empire. What message did they carry everyone wanted to know? Suddenly no one was laughing at that silly rumor that had withstood the gauntlet of truth, half-truths and downright lies to emerge at the far end as possible fact.

    Finally the Grand Vizier issued an announcement. The great Sultan Murad II was abdicating the throne in favor of his son, Mehmed. Not for a hundred years had such a thing happened! The citizens full of uncertainty asked what people always asked in times of trouble when their country is in need.

    How is this going to effect me? ME!

    This was something Murad was no longer thinking about.





    Murad smiled as he sat in his garden on the slopes of Mount Kadifekale just outside of the city of Izmir. His garden was lined with fig and olive trees with a sprinkling of palms that provided a welcomed shade in the heat of the afternoon sun. It was said that the garden never stopped blooming and that the marvelous scent of the flowers had the power to carry a man up to heaven. Various decorative mosaics covered the inner walls and provided a harmony with the garden that was said to even inspire the blind. The garden was supplied with water carried by the Sirinyer and Yesildere aqueducts built by the Romans centuries before. It flowed from one end to the other in a series of fountains linked by pools that reflected the many colors of the flowers that lined water’s course. The splashing of the water as it danced from pool to pool created a musical harmony with the splendor of the flowers and the swaying of the garden trees stirred by the refreshing sea breezes. It was said to be the only sound of music that Murad would allow in the garden.

    Murad sat at ease looking down on the city, which lay at the head of a long and narrow gulf furrowed by ships of many countries. He smiled and his beautiful face with its falcon nose showed a well-earned contentment. Below him the palm-lined promenades and avenues of Izmir, which follow the shoreline in horizontal terraces, gently ascended the slopes of the surrounding mountains toward his palace.

    The only mild irritant to his peace was the ruin of a castle built by Lysimachus in the reign of Alexander the Great. It stood on the peak of Kadifekale and brooded down him and the city below. He wanted only peace and beauty to surround his palace but was reluctant to exert his energy for an act of destruction. No, he decided he was through with destroying things. Now he would do what he had always wanted to do. Create beauty! He ordered the word spread that all men of learning and art were welcome. He was determined to make his palace a cultural center filled with poetry and knowledge.

    He sighed and smiled as he pondered if he should spend the day traveling to Camalti to watch the flocks of flamingoes? They might provide inspiration for a poem or two. Or he could go to Balcova and rest in the hot springs that cured almost anything that ailed a man.

    He smiled. He decided he didn’t have anything that needed curing.
    Last edited by Storey; 11-10-2003 at 00:40.
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  3. #3
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    April 11, 1442 -- Zlatica Pass, Bulgaria

    A cold wind marched grimly down the Balkan Mountains, a chill warrior committing itself against the armies facing each other across the Zlatica Pass. While elsewhere the seasons had already turned, here the air still had a wintry bite, and those who had the option shivered against the breeze. The rest were warmed by their exertion, as the armies of Hungary desperately tried to force their foe out of their superior position.

    To Janos Hunyadi, the muddy ground below -- still coated with the occasional patch of winter's snow, and now often stained with a gout of blood, too often Magyar -- was just another battlefield. And he had seen his share, since the fall of Varna two years before, as the enemy had forced them back to the Danube. And then Hunyadi had counterattacked. Semendria. Hermannstadt. Gyulafehervar. The brutal campaign had reclaimed much lost territory, and made hard men of Hunyadi and his veterans.

    Veterans that were now dying in droves below, in the pass.

    For while Hunyadi had seen only another battlefield in the Zlatica Pass, Ladislaus, King of Poland and Hungary, had seen the chance to drive the Turkish menace from his lands once and for all. For nearly a year they had chased the army of the villanous Ishak Pasha -- a name murmured, fearfully, in connection with the fall of Constantinople -- from Serbia to Wallachia and back again, to the banks of the Danube, to the edge of the Carpathians, and finally to the Balkans. The enemy, they prayed, was finally fleeing for home, needing rest after their two-year campaign. With a short reprieve -- perhaps just a single winter -- Hungary could be reinforced. The Emperor would surely come to their aid, and the Pope, and all Christendom. The Turk would not be victorious.

    And so the King whipped his men to a froth, and sent them slavering after the retreating Turks. Day after day the men marched ten, twelve, fourteen hours, until they collapsed from exhaustion, gathering what little sleep they could before hard-eyed sergeants kicked them from their slumber and forced them to do it all again. And when they finally caught up to the Turk?

    He was ready for them.

    Perhaps Ishak Pasha had only been looking for defensible ground, or perhaps he too had been exhorting his men to move more and more swiftly until they could go no further. It hardly mattered, for the spot he had picked near the mouth of the pass could not have been more suited to his purpose. A sharp slope lead up to a plateau, forcing any attacker to charge uphill into a forest of arrows and spears. If they dared to camp at the base, the tables could easily be turned on them, the defender becoming attacker and falling on the Hungarians with the full weight of a downhill charge. With little option by the time he reached the pass, the king ordered the attack.

    Now he paid for his recklessness in blood. The King's force gave up ground captured only minutes before as the Turk pushed them from the lip of the plateau down the hill. Then the Magyar line rippled, and cracked, and the Turks fell upon them. Ladislaus had hurled his reserves in to plug the gap, but the battle was now being fought on the floor of the pass rather than on the hillside. Off on the periphery of the battle, Hunyadi's force stood -- as it had for an hour, now -- awaiting the order to charge and shatter the Turkish force at a critical moment. That moment had yet to come, and it was beginning to appear as though it never might.

    Hunyadi slid his visor up in puzzlement as he watched the King's banner and the knights surrounding it detach from the main body of the army and start toward his position. He twisted his long mustache in distress until the King was before him.

    He gave a perfunctory half-bow from the saddle. "My lord."

    Ladislaus lifted his visor, and returned the gesture with a nod. "Voivode. The situation is dire."

    Hunyadi had to resist the urge to smirk at the statement, grimly patent as it was. "Indeed. My lord, perhaps it best to consider a retreat. We have done damage, and the Turk is unlikely to pursue..."

    "No." The idea was dismissed with a single sonorous word. "The day is not yet lost, and a strong strike may yet break the enemy."

    Hunyadi nodded and hefted his lance. "I am prepared, my lord." He waved to his men.

    Ladislaus raised a hand. "No, Janos, I shall lead our forces forward. Give me half of your contingent, and I will secure victory for our people."

    "My lord, I..."

    "I have a more important task for you, Janos." He leaned toward his general. "Should my attack fail, I shall sound the retreat. You must delay our foe while we withdraw." The two locked eyes. "There is no other who I would entrust with such a duty."

    Hunyadi returned the stare evenly for a long moment, finally punctuating it with a nod and another half-bow. "Of course, my lord. I live to serve."

    Janos Hunyadi sat stoutly on his horse as King Ladislaus led their cavalry into the valley below, wondering all the while how this had become something more than just another battle...

    * * *

    Hours later, the sun set on Zlatica Pass. The same cold wind blew, ruffling the hair of the Turkish soldiers as they picked through the piles of corpses -- friendly and enemy both -- for whatever they might find. Under one such pile, undiscovered, lay the body of Ladislaus, King of Poland and Hungary. He would remain unfound, for the looters would not have long to work -- Ishak Pasha expected to march after the remnants of the Hungarian army at dawn.

    Hunyadi had sounded the retreat himself when the King's banner had fallen, and then threw himself to his duty to buy time for the rank and file. It was costly, and saved few. Hunyadi himself had barely managed to extricate himself from the killing fields, leading a handful of knights who had fought their way through.

    For all his efforts, the once mighty army of Magyars, Poles, Serbs and Vlachs had largely ceased to exist. The fertile fields of Hungary, still shaking off the long winter, lay open to the Turk.
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    April 11, 1442 -- Zlatica Pass, Bulgaria

    The colourful group on their splendid mounts sat on the edge of the plateau overlooking the battlefield. From a distance the group seemed to be centred around a man on a marvellous white charger and what appeared to be a small boy.

    The man on the white horse deferred slightly to the young boy and allowed his horse to continue forward, creating a short moment of solitude amidst the commotion of the group.

    He surveyed the battlefield before him with solemn eyes while the group behind him already was bubbling with joyous exclamations and boastful self-admiration of a deed well done.

    Ishak Pasha stirred his horse forward another few steps and allowed his mind to filter out the noise while he took in the scenery before him and the bubbling feeling inside.

    Victory

    Below him lay the broken army of the west, of the burgeoning legend of the Voivode of Hungary, Hunyadi and the young king of Poland Ladislaus the Third.

    Glorious Victory

    In the distance he could see the shattered columns of Hungarians and Polacks moving north and west, back unto the fertile plains that now lay open.

    Allah is great for granting me this.

    He had seen the King’s banner fall and allowed the survivors to flee once he was completely certain of victory.

    So certain of victory, so much more honour in this than that accursed city.

    He knew Murad would understand and agree to this, this was the way the Sultan would have done, to show magnanimity in the hour of victory.

    Not all agreed, already he could hear the discussion behind him, that he should have crushed the infidels while he had the chance.

    Fools, who will till the lands then? Who will pay the taxes, should we ever settle this land once and for all?

    Ishak was interrupted in his thoughts when the young boy approached wrapped in bundles of furs and almost not visible above the trimmings. The Vizier bowed in his saddle and the boy nodded in response,

    “Pasha, why are we not chasing the infidels?”

    Ishak noted how he was clever enough to ask, rather than forming his own opinion based on the courtiers’ talk.

    “The army is exhausted milord.”

    The boy nodded thoughtfully and Ishak could see he weighed the response against whatever else he had heard,

    “But still, we have a few hours of daylight left, we could give chase?”

    “I have given the Sipahis order to follow and harass, to ensure they are chased of before we make camp.”

    The boy nodded, “but still? They may return?”

    “Indeed they may, but they are gravely hurt Milord and remember that we may have to return to these lands many times during your reign.”

    The boy looked puzzled, then his face lit up, “ah, magnanimity, you have told me about this.”

    Ishak smiled, Indeed he has been brought up well, my Sultan has chosen wisely, “Yes my liege, that is part of it, but also look,” Ishak swept his arms wide encompassing the field, “our men are as weary as the infidel’s and it is still early in the season, months will pass before the land can sustain an army, not to mention two.”

    “And they will go before us in a terrain of their choice.”

    “Exactly my lord, we will chase them for a few days, then settle a garrison here at the pass and retire to the city before commencing campaigning again.”

    The boy was silent for a while, the two an odd contrast to the boisterous courtiers behind them.

    “I wish to go down there.”

    Ishak looked closely at the boy, “Sire?”

    “You know what I mean, Ishak, I have to see for my self, I will be Sultan one day.”

    Ishak bowed perhaps sooner than you think young master, perhaps sooner than you think, the messengers will have left already, another reason for the army to be near the city. “As you wish milord.”

    The two returned to the group and Ishak issued the orders, two regiments of Sipahis scouting in front and two regiments of Janissaries accompanied the group down to the valley floor.

    The pillaging soldiers reluctantly gave way and many of the courtiers seemed to pale at the sights, but to Ishak’s great satisfaction the boy did not stir at the carnage, but seemed genuinely interested in the differences between his own forces and the west.

    As they came upon a particularly rich armour of a fallen knight, Ishak dismounted and personally picked up and cleaned a beautiful sword, he reached up and presented it to the boy,

    “Your first trophy of war, milord.”

    The boy nodded solemnly and accepted the heavy burden, then after a moment of reflection he handed the sword back,

    “This is your victory Ishak, mine will come in due time, take this sword as a proof of the gratitude of the Empire.”

    Ishak bowed low and accepted the gift, then he remounted and fastened the sword to his saddle, for a short moment he his hand slipped across his scimitar, considering replacing it with the gift, the one that had felled Krushovic Bey, but he declined, that victory was still his greatest.

    The troops moved back and that night the army camped on the plateau, before heading towards the city at first light.

    The young boy had questioned him all evening on the battle, and, as they left and passed a string of conquered soldiers on their way to the markets in Istanbul, he gestured to the beaten men,

    “Magnanimity, Ishak?”

    “Mi lord, they will be slaves, not hung or impaled, its customary, after all, they survived but surrendered.”

    The boy had nodded and ridden on, but Ishak had hung back wondering if that was indeed true.

    Ishak was looking forward to getting back, back to the civilisation, back to proper houses and back to his own fief in the countryside and what the mansion there contained.

    He was certain that peace could be reached soon, a peace that would allow the Ottoman to keep their conquest, after all, no army stood against them after Zlatica Pass.
    Last edited by Valdemar; 08-10-2003 at 16:43.

  5. #5
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    April 11, 1442 - Ancona - Morning

    Sir Robert of Brandon, Captain of the mercenary band known as the Free Company, stood on the ancient stone dock of Ancona and let a warming breeze from the Adriatic wash across his face. All about him roared endless chaos. Sweating men loaded supplies on massive transports while burly dockworkers shouted at one another in playful jest. Company men sternly watched over stacks of crates containing extra arms, armour, medicines, cooking pots, feed for animals and most importantly, personal belongings. Ship's captains bellowed orders at their crew and the luckless porters assigned to store the lifeblood of a mercenary army, an army preparing for travel.

    It had been only days ago that Captain had agreed to a lucrative contract offer from King Ladislau III of Poland. It was an offer to join their cause in repelling the Turks from Christian lands. As it was, the Free Company had a long-standing score to settle with the Ottomans, and the officers to a man had heartily endorsed the offer. And now, under a warm spring sun, the Company once again prepared for war.

    The Company had been idle for the past year, since the end of the Italian War. The time had been put to good use, and the sudden flood of jobless mercenaries had allowed Captain and Lochlan to pick and choose from among the best. The ranks had swollen until they stood near 3,000 men - the largest the Company had ever been. They knew they would need every experienced one of them.

    The Company knew the Turk.

    A hand tugged at Captain's sleeve. He turned in irritation, only to look down on the ruined features of Henry Jameson. His heart softened. Jameson had been a lifer with the Company - had fought and scratched through every campaign - only to suffer grievous wounds at the Battle of Cremona. Rather than cast the man aside, as most mercenary companies were won't to do, Captain had assigned Jameson to Milo the quartermaster. He knew Jameson was not especially up to the job, especially since the man could neither read nor write, but he tried, and that was all Captain ever asked of anyone.

    "Yes, Henry?"

    "Beggin' your pardon, Cap'n, but I think we're being one crate short over there, sir." A gnarled hand on a crooked arm pointed at a collection of boxes. The other arm clutched a board and stylus.

    Captain gently took the board and scanned the contents. There were a series of marks across it as Jameson had ticked off each container. Captain sighed. "I think you should count them again, Henry. You may have missed one. Here, why don't you go see Allessandra. Have her double check the count for you."

    Jameson took the board. "Aye, Cap'n." He turned to leave, then paused. "Cap'n, sir?"

    "Yes, Henry?"

    "You think Milo will let me fight? You know, when the time comes?"

    Captain studied the eager eyes, ignored the ruined body. "We'll see, Henry. We'll see."

    Jameson nodded and walked over to a busy Allessandra Di Argento - Lochlan's woman. Allessandra had quickly worked herself into Company affairs, helping Constance with the annals and replacing the estranged Annette LeClerc as Milo's assistant. She had proved invaluable.

    Sir Robert turned back to the ships. At this rate they would be ready to sail in two days. From the corner of his eye he saw Maria de Medici supervising elements of her crew. On the outside she appeared fine, but Captain often wondered at the internal scarring from her ordeal in Florence nearly two years past. Still, Frederik Hviid took good care of her, when he was in town. Often he was roaming the countryside in his attempts to re-establish Guillaume's scattered pantheon of vital contacts and intelligence network.

    "Father?"

    Sir Robert was startled. He turned to see his son John standing beside him. "How long you been there? You trying to scare me to death?"

    "Naw. Mom loves you too much."

    Captain nodded. "Smart answer." In the past two years John Brandon had filled out into a sturdy and muscular young man. He had his mother's inquisitive, intelligent nature and Captain's stolid determination.

    "Watch this." A knife, a finely crafted throwing blade, suddenly appeared in John's hand. He began a series of deft maneuvers with it, letting it roll from his palm to the back of his hand, then balancing it on his fingertip before snatching it back. "What do you think? Lochlan showed me."

    "Not bad. Is that how you plan to impress the enemy? I'm sure they'll stop to applaud."

    "Well, if you put an orange on your head I'll show you how accurate I can be."

    "No thanks. Demonstrate on Lochlan."

    "That's funny. He suggested I demonstrate on you."

    "Right. Look son, you here for a reason? Or do you just want to dazzle me your parlor tricks?"

    "I could say that mom wants you, then you'd be running." John's face broke into a large smile.

    Sir Robert laughed and leaned close. "Don't let the men hear that."

    "Only if you put the orange on your head." The knife disappeared as swiftly as it had appeared. John jerked his thumb back toward Ancona. "Actually, Lochlan requests your presence at One-Thumbs, pop. Apparently we have a new slew of recruits on the doorstep."

    Captain nodded. "Very well. Let's go, then." Together they departed the busy dock, leaving behind the smell of fish and sweat. Minutes later they stood outside One-Thumbs, the official Company watering-hole. Before they entered Captain said, "Tell Lochlan you'll use a really big orange."

    John laughed. When they entered the tavern they were met with many faces, both familiar and strange...
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  6. #6
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    11 April 1442, Morning: One Thumbs, Ancona

    "So many people in this place! Looks like we're going to have plenty of company."

    Jean rolled his eyes. "That is the worst pun I've heard in all my years, Carlo."

    "Sorry. Wait, look! There's Captain!"

    Jean looked over to the door, where Captain had just entered.

    "Time to get to work, Carlo. There's got to be some cavalrymen in here."

    Carlo finished his drink. They stood up, but Jean ran into someone moving past his table.

    "Sorry, good sir. Wasn't expecting you to jump up like that."

    "No apology necessary." Jean then noticed his clothing. Cavalry, he thought. "You look like a cavalryman, but I haven't seen you before. Are you planning on joining the Company, by any chance? If so, I can help you."
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    The crowd was hushed with silence as Lim Hui lifted the bowl. "Big" shouted Lim. Cheers and jeers filled the tavern as Lim and the winners collected their winnings.

    "Another round?" asked Zhang Xiang. Chen shook his head. He replied," At the rate I am going, I am going all my money to Lim in under an hour. I am taking a break."

    Settling down,acting commander of the Light Cavalry Chen took a sip of his drink. Since the Battle of Cremona, Chen had continued to assume command while the other seargents and officers recovered from their injuries. Some time back, Captain had asked him to be commander for the Light Cavalry but he had yet to agree. Chen felt that by the chains of command, Wu'tu, Gao or even Jean should be first in line for the commander's role. Not to mention, how would the mongols enjoy serving under a Chin? They may not accept it. So for the moment, he continue to be acting commander until a more suitable choice could be found.

    Chen looked aroun at One-Thumb. Ah yes, this was where it all began for the Chin. Here, they joined the Free Company, but not before nearly getting into a fight with the mongols. Since joining, it had been one hell of an adventure for the Chin as they tried to adapt to life in Europe.

    He looked at the gambling table where so many familiar faces are gambling. Sebutai, Lim, Zhang, all the Chin, Geoffrey, Oscar, Gerd, Whigmore and his gang. So many friends around, and yet he miss those that were not here now, like Huang, Shur'tu, O'Barr and so many others who had fell at the Battle of Cremona.

    A familiar figure walked over to Chen. "Cyril! Come join me for a drink." Said Chen. Cyril, the english teacher of the Chin settled down. Over a drink, they talked, all the time observing the gambling table and at the new comers as they arrive at One Thumb...
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  8. #8
    Unusually Foolish Rath Jones's Avatar

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    April 11th, Morning - One's Thumbs

    One Thumb's tavern was surprisingly full for this time of the day, the barman looked a bit rumpled, but that was probably because he hadn't been expecting to be woken up before noon. Luckily for him most mercenaries didn't care what time it was when they started drinking, and when this mass had descended upon the tavern, they had naturally started drinking quickly.

    "Your what?" He asked in level voice.

    "I"m our lord Jesus come again." The man said, seeming very certain.

    "I think your in the wrong tavern."

    "Oh no, this is the correct place." The man's eyes were full of his sincerity.

    "Your sure."

    "Yes, I'd like to join the Free Company."

    Lochlan managed not to sigh painfully, and though his hand twitched, he also managed to stop himself from scrubbing irratedly at his temples. "So, let me get this straight. Your the second coming of our lord Jesus, and." He paused, letting it draw out. "You want to join the Company."

    "Yes." The man said. "You understand me perfectly."

    Normally Lochlan would make some sort of comment, dismiss the man with a look, or a gesture. But, he was completely stunned, he was still rallying his wits from their sudden tactical running away when he heard what he was sure was the voice of salvation from behind him.

    "Can I help you sir?" Master sergeant Baer rumbled.

    A truly, deeply, evil grin appeared on Lochlan's face. "Indeed you can Seargent, this recruit needs a little demonstration of just what its like in the Free Company."

    "Yes sir." Baer reached out and grabbed a startled self professed Messiah and dragged him out of the tavern even as the man began to exclaim how he was reconsidering his position on a great many things.

    "Cyril! Come join me for a drink." Said Chen. Cyril, the english teacher of the Chin settled down. Oh naturally, our men are of course leading the drinking competition. It's not even noon. Now Lochlan did sigh, it was clearly going to be one of those days.

    "This is rediculous." Lochlan muttered. "Captain better stop playing around and get over here soon." He gesutred to a pair of nasty looking Polish men. "You two, you here to join?" They nodded. "Alright, see the irritated looking German over there?" He pointed in the direction of Erik Jaeger, who was looking like he wasnted to strangle someone. "Talk to him." They exhanged looks, then headed in the other lieutenants direction.

    No apology necessary. You look like a cavalryman, but I haven't seen you before. Are you planning on joining the Company, by any chance? If so, I can help you." At least someone else is working, I ought to raise his pay.

    Lochlan raised his voice over the general hum and noise of the tavern. "Anyone who here about joining the Company form a line, try not to kill each other, and talk to me one at a time over there." Having said that Lochlan sat down and began to quickly eat his breakfast, the way things were going he figured he had a few minutes while everyone else had their issues sorting out the concept of a single file line.
    RJ

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  9. #9
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    [B]11 April 1442, Morning: One Thumbs, Ancona

    "You look like a cavalryman, but I haven't seen you before. Are you planning on joining the Company, by any chance? If so, I can help you."

    JayJay had just entered the tavern and his eyes were still getting used to the dark room, carefully he moved past a table.
    Suddenly he ran into one of the people that only a moment ago sat on one of the chairs.

    "Sorry, good sir. Wasn't expecting you to jump up like that."

    "No apology necessary." the man looked at him and nodded his head slightly "You look like a cavalryman, but I haven't seen you before. Are you planning on joining the Company, by any chance? If so, I can help you."

    "Slauerhoff, JanJacob. I'm cavalry. I recieved knightly training and posses weapons skills, mostly lance and sword. I'm looking for a job and heard about this company."

    "Good, follow me." Jean led JayJay to a table and ordered two beers.
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  10. #10
    Alien Space Bat Judas Maccabeus's Avatar
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    11 April, Morning: One Thumbs

    Jean led JayJay to a table and ordered two beers. He handed one to the new arrival and the other to Carlo who sat down beside him.

    "My name is Jean d'Auxonne, Sergeant in the light cavalry."

    "Light cavalry?"

    "Yes. Is that a problem?"

    "Well, I'm not exactly light..."

    "Oh. Not sure who leads the heavy cavalry. Go ask Lochlan, over there. He's the Company's second-in-command. Looks like you'll have to wait a bit, though, there's a line." The three got up, JayJay walking over to Lochlan while Jean and Carlo noticed Chen and Cyril talking. The two made their way over. Jean leaned over the lieutenant, smiling.

    "Oh, good morning, Chen. Nice to see you sitting around while I'm doing all the work."
    SHEEP ARE THE FUTURE

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  11. #11
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    April 11th, Morning - outside of One Thumbs

    A dozen of men carrying heavy packs walked up the road leading to the tavern. Even at this distance they would have looked travel-weary and rather ragged. More then once were they scoffed at, presumed to be runaway peasants that roamed the land. They came this way with a clear purpose in mind, however. The famous Free Company was hiring, hiring to fight the Turks.

    "It appears that we are there!", one of the men in the front of the diminutive column yelled, "One Thumb's, wasn't it?"

    "Indeed.", another, apparently the leader of the group, answered, "I will go in and plead our case."

    After straightening his worn cloak, the middle aged man - clearly the oldest of the lot - prepared to enter the tavern. Just as reached the doorstep, the door was opened from within.

    "Blessed are the merciful!" a man, dragged along by a significantly larger man yelled. The bigger man, clearly unimpressed hardened his grip. "For they will be shown meeeercy!!"

    "Matthew, chapter five, verse seven.", the middle aged man muttered, almost by instinct. The tavern was quite full. In fact, one could believe that it was late in the evening already. After all, the beer was already flowing freely. Quite unassumingly he got into the line that was already forming.

  12. #12
    Lt. General redwolf's Avatar
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    11 April, Morning: One Thumbs

    "Oh, good morning, Chen. Nice to see you sitting around while I'm doing all the work."

    Chen looked up and grinned at Jean," And a good job you are doing too. Carry on seargent."

    As Jean's face turned a shade of red, Chen laughed and got to his feet. He laid a hand on Jean's shoulder," Just joking, my friend. Cyril, while I would like to carry on, seems that duty do not permit me. I will speak to you another time." Jean nodded to Chen as they went off to help the others," This way, Lieutenant."

    Chen groaned as he replied," Jean, you know very well i hate to be callled Lieutenant. I have said many times that I am only holding the position until you or one of the others take over."

    Jean grinned then replied," Yes Lieutanent, anything you say Lieutenant." Chen rolled his eyes and gave up. Approaching the line of new recruits, Chen asked one of them," You, yes the one with the big nose, are you here to join the Free Company?"

    A torrent of words in an unknown language came at Chen. Chen stared hard at the person, then asked," Can you speak english ot italian?" More unknown words. "I guess you don't. Alright, you see that man over there. Go over there and he will talk to you." Chen waved vigourously at Lochlan. The man apparently understood and ambled off to find Lochlan.

    To the next person, Chen asked," Alright, what's your name?"" Jorge." Right, Chop, and you interested in the infantry?"

    Jorge replied," Sir, it's Jorge." to which Chen replied,"Yes i heard first time, Chop. Don't think my english is that bad." Jorge rolled his eyes heavenwards. Behind Chen, Cyril smacked his palm against his forehead.

    Jorge finally said," Yes Sir, I wish to join the infantry."

    Chen nodded," Alright Chop, you see that big ugly looking man over there. Right, that one over there. His name is Baer. Go talk to him. He will settle you in."

    As Jorge wandered off, Chen announced,"Alright, who's next?"....
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  13. #13
    Unusually Foolish Rath Jones's Avatar

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    April 11th, Morning - One's Thumbs

    "Yes, my name is Francis of..." The well dressed man spoke softly, a little too softly actually.

    "Your going to have to speak up, I can't hear a damn thing in here." Lochlan practically yelled.

    The Frenchman winced at Lochlans curse. "I said my name..."

    "Excuse me, are you Lochlan?" Another hopeful interrupted.

    "Yes, I'm Lieutenant Lochlan." The ranger replied, putting some emphasis on his rank. "What can I do for you?" He made a settling gesture to the now irritated Francis.

    "That man over there." The hopeful pointed at Jean d'Auxonne. "Said I should talk to you about the heavy cavalry."

    Lochlan rolled his eyes skyward, sadly al he saw was the rather grimy and dirty cieling of One-Thumbs, not something that encouraged or strengthened his resolve. "Actually you'll want to to talk Lieutenant Kent, but, he's not here at the moment." Lochlan glanced around and spied a suitable victim. "Johan!" He yelled to the axe wielding heavy cavalryman. "Take this one and find Kent." Lochlan turned back to the hopeful. "Your name?"

    "Slauerhoff, JanJacob."

    "Good to meet you, just go with this man here and he'll take you to see the man you need." Lochlan nodded to Johan, and sent him on is way with a rangers salute.

    "Sir, I must protest, here I am trying to offer my services to...." This was not a good day to be long winded, and Francis of somewhere was interrupted yet again, this time William Kincaid.

    "Sir." Lochlan nodded to the young man. "Sergeant Landen says the men will be drilling in the west field awaiting your pleasure sir."

    "My pleasure?" Lochlan grumbled. " Ill give him..." He trailed off and ran an eye down the young ranger. It seemed now that Kincaid was getting to be grown up. Cremona had matured him quickly, and the respect he was getting from the bulk of his suqadmates had helped as well. "Alright, thanks Kincaid, get some breakfast and go back and tell that sorry excuse for a sergeant that Ill be out there when I can wrench free of all this." Lochlan gestured at the mass of people still milling in the tavern.

    "Sir." Francis said sharply. "I am..."

    This time it was Lochlan who interrupted him. "Look, I don't give a damn who you are or where your from. Go out to the East field and we'll see if your for the company." Lochlan made a gesture indicating the interview was over. "Next." He said loudly.

    Lochlan caught Chen waving vigorously at him. He made a 'come-over-here' gesture to the group of men that the Chin and obviously been unable to deal with. "Alright, speak English?" Blank looks. "Italian, French, German?" Finally there was a nod. Switching to German, Lochlan tried again. "So you want to join the Free Company?"

    They looked at each other, and after a few moments of terse whispered conversation the man in front nodded sharply. "Yes, we do."

    "Any experience?"

    "Well..." The German, no, they weren't German, they were something else...seemed reluctant to comment. "We were part of of the Hussite army." he said softly.

    Lochlan nodded. "And your afraid that it will be held against you?" Nods. "It won't, not in this company. head to the East field, we'll test you there." Lochlan looked around. "Next?"
    RJ

    Remember, thou art mortal.

  14. #14
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    11 April, Morning: Ancona

    "Yes Lieutanent, anything you say Lieutenant." Chen rolled his eyes and gave up. He walked over to the line of new recruits. Jean was about to follow when he ran into another man.

    "Second time today--Sorry, but--Oh, hello, Lorenzo."

    "Jean, I just came from Marie. She says it's important."

    Jean suddenly dashed out of the tavern (resulting in several people finding their way to the floor) and down the street, Carlo and Lorenzo vainly trying to catch up. He quickly found the rented rooms he and his family were staying in and ran upstairs.

    Out of breath, he burst through the door to Marie's room. His sister looked up. "Jean, if you were back in Ancona you could have told me..."

    "I just got back from Alessandria, and everyone in the Company is over at One Thumbs. I was needed to help sort things out. What is it?"

    "Your wife has given birth."

    "How long ago? A boy or girl? Is Giovanna well? Is--"

    "Slow down! It was two days ago. Boy. Giovanna and your son are fine."

    "Praise be to God! I'll go get the priests, we must have the baptism quickly!" Jean rushed out of the room to find Carlo and Lorenzo worn out and lying on the stairs. "Good news! There's a new member of our family! Quickly, back to One Thumbs, we must get Father Falkenberg or Father Holmes!"

    "You go! We'll come along when we can walk again!"

    Jean rushed downstairs, nearly tripped over the two, and made his way back to One Thumbs. Once inside, he pushed his way (to the annoyance and near injury of those around) to the leader of the Company. "Captain! Where are the priests? It's important!"
    SHEEP ARE THE FUTURE

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  15. #15
    Unusually Foolish Rath Jones's Avatar

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    April 11th, Morning - the East Field

    Morgan kept his blade level, arm bent only slightly as he and his opponent circled. "You ready?" He asked, his face a mask of concentration.

    "When you are." Henri nodded, his blade also ready.

    Without warning, Morgan lunged, his blade probing the other young mercenaries defenses. Henri parried, and sent a counter blow toward the Italians head. Ducking under it Morgan kicked Henri's legs out from under him and the two ended up with Morgan standing over the son of Stroph with his light blade at the others neck.

    Then he laughed and moved the blade even as he extended a hand for the other man. "Your getting better."

    "Doesn't feel like it." Henri muttered, trying to get the grass of his back.

    "Oh come on, you are. Beside, your still better with a pike then I am. All those years not having to actually fight have put me far behind everyone else where thats concerned."

    "Very true my friend, maybe we could practice with pikes next time?"

    "Not if I want to keep my ego." Morgan returned, then nodded toward the groups of men that were forming on the practice ground, away from the mingling Company men. "Looks like new blood."

    "Indeed." Henri agreed. "Should we introduve ourselves?"

    "Sure, lets go." Morgan sheathed his weapon, glancing around at the faces of the other Company men. Change was coming, they could all feel it.
    RJ

    Remember, thou art mortal.

  16. #16
    Prodigal Son Craig Ashley's Avatar

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    “Bloody damnation. I ain't no clerk, and I ain't no quatermasta', and I ain't' no damn shippin' expert, but I ain't no village idiot either. If ya ain't gonna trust my counts, why in the hell 'ave me waste my time wit' 'em? Every time I's come up short on a count, they just have me do it again 'til it comes up right. Or 'til they get sick o' me crippled ass and passes it along to someone else.”

    A barrage of vulgarity spewed from under Henry Jameson's breath as he limped over to Alessandra. He thought of the time he was right, and the Company was few crates short of the inventory counts. The grisly veteran convinently ignored the countless other times when he had simply missed a box or two.

    Finally, the one time soldier reached his destination. He hadn't walked far, but his felt like he had marched from sunup to sundown. For a moment, Henry's mind drifted away to those days when he could march, when he could fight, when he could do something useful. A woman's voice snapped him back into the present.

    “Yes, Henry.”

    “The count came up short. I says I'm right, and Cap'n says you gets ta double check the crippled old bastard's work again.” Henry thrust the board into Alessandra's hand. He tried to smile, to pass off his angry words as brevity, but the grin was forced and weak. It fooled no one. “Any thing else for me, Ma'am?”

    Lochlan's lover shook her head. Henry gave a curt nod as a reply and turned to go on his way. With no work to do, or more likely no work he could be trusted to do properly, Henry meandered in the general direction of One-Thumb's. He didn't go to the tavern often. That place is for fightin' men, not sorry sack cripples. Henry often told himself. On this day the flask was a little too close to dry to keep Henry happy for the rest of the day, so he would have to brave the stares and the awkwardness of it all.

    Most of the men kept their distance from the gnarled veteran. Even Henry's closest friends acted more like acquaintances at best, complete strangers at worst. As Henry looked up, he saw One Thumb's off in the distance. The veteran sighed and awkwardly sat under a nearby tree. Already he was starting to wheeze.

    Henry could see a small group of young recruits head into the tavern, laughing and joking. Jameson spit without bothering to unclench his teeth. Keep on laughing. It's all fun 'til one of ya ends up bein' food for ta worms .... or worse yet, ya end up like me. With that bitter thought, Henry pulled his flask and drained it in one swig. He then slowly made his way back to his feet and pushed forward.

    Several parties passed Jameson before he reached his goal, but perseverance had paid off. As he reached for the door, Henry went crashing to the ground. As quickly as he could, the old soldier rolled over to his back to face whatever had pushed him down. It was a pair of youngsters, no doubt here in search of employment. The smirks on their faces told Henry all he needed to know.

    “Watch yourself, old timer. Some of us don't have all day.”

    Jameson struggled to his feet while the pair laughed.

    “You sonna bitches.”

    The laughing stopped, and pair's faces darkened. “You want to make something of it, old timer?”

    For a second Henry forgot. He forgot his left arm didn't work so good. He forgot that his leg was barely more than a hunk of dead flesh. He forgot that his days on the battlefield were long over. Henry's hand flashed down to his hip, but the familiar sword was not there. In it's place as an empty old flask. The spell was broken and Henry remembered again.

    “Aww hell, I've shit things tougher than ya two. Now go to hell.”

    Henry turned his back on the youths and entered One-Thumb's.
    Last edited by Craig Ashley; 09-10-2003 at 07:55.
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  17. #17
    Khan of the Crimea Hajji Giray I's Avatar
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    11 April, Morning - the One-Thumbs

    A small, thin, emaciated looking man stepped into the doorway. He looked tired to the point of exaggeration, and slowly tipped his head down towards a little paper he was holding in his hand. It read:

    FREE COMPANY

    ANCONA

    THE ONE THUMB

    He looked up and squinted around the room, then heaved a great sigh and sat down at the nearest chair at the bar so violently it looked like he had collapsed. He looked around the room and said in a raspy voice, "Is this the One Thumb tavern?"

    "Yes," answered the barman, who looked curiously at the rumpled figure. "Do you need something to eat?"

    "Get me whatever you can find, and a lot of water," the man croaked. "I haven't had anything to eat or drink in two days." He set his head on the counter and appeared to be dozing until the barman placed an enormous portion of beef in front of him, with a pitcher of water on the side.

    "Thank you!" whispered the hungry man who eagerly began snarfing his food and gulping his water. After a few moments he began looking around the room. I wonder what that line is for? Perhaps I should go join it? But he found he could not lift himself from his seat, and began looking mournfully around the room for someone to talk to. He felt like telling his story now that he was nourished.
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  18. #18
    11 April 1442, Morning – Ranger Quarters

    Since Captain had announced that the Company had another contract, Alain Bouscher (Foppy, affectionately) had taken it upon himself to get the morning routine started on the right foot. Scrounging a pot and ladle from Milo, he proceeded to do his celebrated impression of the Last Trump.

    BRING OUT YER DEAD!CLANG, CLANG, CLANG

    Two days ago, it was mildly amusing. Yesterday, the soldiers took it in aggrieved silence. Today, as he walked past Burke’s and Barker’s tent, Foppy narrowly dodged a wayward boot. One tent down, he wasn’t so lucky and received a Cyril in the small of the back.

    "You're not dead. What do you think you're doing?" Foppy rubbed a sensitive part of his anatomy.

    “Oops! I’m so sorry, sir!” Cyril hastily bowed a couple times and then helped Foppy off the ground.

    “Hmmm... I suppose you might be. Well, on your way.” Alain watched the retreating infantryman. I wonder why he camps with us. Does Kincaid really need a nanny? Not having an answer for the question, he gave up and turned his mind to more pleasant tasks. “BRING OUT YER DEAD! ...”

    ***

    Scouts’ Central Tent

    ... CLANG, CLANG, CLANG

    “Foppy, knock off that racket.” The order was spoken normally, and despite the intervening fabric and the competing din, Landen Leiturges Episcopi could make himself heard. More importantly, he could make himself obeyed. Command of his small, elite group suited him.

    Landen’s second-in-command poked his head through, almost dislodging the wide-brimmed hat that always adorned his (entirely too voluble, as some would say) head. “Yes, sir.” His eye caught sight of what Landen was working on. He knew what it was, but he asked anyway. “What have you got over there, mon general?”

    “Oh... just going over the drill schedule for the day.”

    “Sir, do you think the Vatican has ordained a new interpretation of the Bible recently?” asked Foppy, apparently abandoning the subject.

    “No, I haven’t heard anything.”

    “Then I believe lying is still a sin.” What that remark, the head disappeared. Landen sighed folded and tucked away the list of name dated “In the year of our Lord 1440, the Third day of the month of July...”

    ***

    One Thumb’s

    Cyril didn’t exactly have a good reason to get out of bed so early. With the Company making one last push of recruitment in anticipation of going off to war yet again, the officers had pushed drills until later in the day so they could take a decko at the new blood. However, Master William wasn’t in a good mood this particular morning, so Cyril decided it was a good a time as any to be discrete. He entered the familiar tavern and immediately spotted a friendly face. "Cyril! Come join me for a drink."

    Cyril sat down and nodded to the waitress (Rosa, I think her name was), who brought him his usual morning cup of tea. He was enjoying the cuppa and light conversation when one of Chen’s sergeants interrupted them. “Cyril, while I would like to carry on, seems that duty do not permit me. I will speak to you another time." Cyril nodded from over the lip of his cup and watched him deal with the new recruits.

    “Alright, what's your name?"

    "Jorge."

    “Right, Chop, and you interested in the infantry?"

    Jorge replied, "Sir, it's Jorge."

    To which Chen replied, "Yes, I heard the first time, Chop. Don't think my English is that bad." Jorge rolled his eyes heavenwards. Behind Chen, Cyril smacked his palm against his forehead. Cyril made a mental note to check Chen’s ears for wax build up.
    Last edited by fusag; 08-10-2003 at 21:23.
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  19. #19
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    Lochlan's lover shook her head. Henry gave a curt nod as a reply and turned to go on his way. When his back was turned, Alessandra shook her head sadly. "He's troubled, that one," she muttered to no one in particular. "So crushed by his wounds."

    "It doesn't matter what state the body's in, if the soul is dead," intoned a sultry voice at Alessandra's side. Her head whipped around quickly; at her elbow stood Maria de Medici, staring into the distance after the crippled soldier. The two had met on many occasions over the past year, but rarely had they spoken to one another.

    "You speak with the voice of experience, Maria," Alessandra offered uncertainly.

    The lady sailor shrugged. "I've seen it before." She smoothed her loose leathers unconsciously, trying not to think of the terrible scars they concealed. Hell, she thought, I've probably been it before. "So, the loading?"

    "Ah, yes. Well, Spartan is coming along nicely, but it's been slow -- the horses haven't been very cooperative. And then we've had some supply problems..."

    She was interrupted as Milo appeared in front of the two. "Maria!" he groaned. "Arrows!"

    "What is it now, Milo?" The Company quartermaster was occasionally a bit too responsible for his own good -- or at least, for the sanity of those he worked with.

    He held up a ledger. The scrawled rows of words and numbers were meaningless to Maria. "Arrows! We had twoscore crates," he said, pointing at a column to make his point. "But we've only loaded a score!" He motioned to another column.

    Maria nodded sagely at the book, totally failing to appreciate its significance. "Perhaps they're just back at the warehouse?"

    "I've already checked! TWICE! How do you think Captain's going to react when his troops have half the arrows they're supposed to? I don't think he's going to be --"

    The irate Greek was cut off by a sudden roar from the sailors on the far side of the dock. All heads snapped up as an unidentified ship pulled up alongside and lowered its gangway.

    "What the devil?! That's Athene's slip!" cried Maria. She launched into a stream of profanity so foul that it could -- and indeed, did -- make sailors blush.
    Proud participant in the Free Company: NOW: Book VII -- Closure (and OOC Thread.) Death rides again!

    Check out the Free Company Books -- I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and the mysteriously numbered X!

    Formerly hapless attorney Hawkton Tilly turned island-devastating GameMaster in Eutopia 4: The Politics of Power! This isn't your grandfather's turbulent non-existent mid-Atlantic island nation; now it's just a flaming ruin!

  20. #20
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    11 April 1442, Morning --One Thumbs

    Amric stomped into the tavern with a look of irritation on his face. His best regulars were inside, drinking. When there was daylight to do a little training instead.

    It's not even NOON yet! But they drink! Something will be done about that!

    He stalked over toward Finby, Whigmore, and van Krieg. Cyril was also nearby watching the Chin.

    "Gentlemen," he spoke softly, yet all three of them heard him clearly," I do believe that we have better things to do than sit in this tavern drinking."

    "We're going to be leaving soon, Sarge," Carl replied," What else should we be doing?"

    George and Alexander looked horrified. Never ask a sargeant what they should be doing. He is absolutely certain to find something for you to do. True to their fears...

    "Carl," Amric sighed," George, and yes you, Alexander....Get over to the East Field. There is going to be testing for recruits as you know. I...require...your...assistance."

    The three men hastily gulped down their drinks and hurried out the door. Amric did not look like he was interested in further discussion. He turned toward Cyril and motioned him over. Cyril walked over quickly.

    "Cyril," Amric began," I need to talk to you. It is very important. I have an assignment for you. If you are willing."

    "Well," Cyril considered briefly," I was kind of hoping to keep an eye on Chen. His English, you know."

    Amric chuckled," There is that. Well I guess I can ask you here."

    Cyril smiled," True enough. Go ahead and ask."

    Amric nodded," With the expansion of the company and my little section of it I was planning on having some trusted men, those who have been with the company for some time, such as yourself, as squad leaders. That way I can have a tighter degree of control with relaying orders, and so forth. I know you have your duties with Kincaid and the English lessons with the Chin but I would really appreciate your help."

    Cyril stopped for a moment and thought about it.

    That might be the longest speech he has given since Cremona, other than during drill. He obviously feels strongly about this.

    "Well, I do have Master William to look after, true," Cyril responded carefully," and the Chin of course. But why me? I am not that skilled with weapons. I have some skill, but there are those who have more. I am not really a leader."

    "Cyril," Amric grinned," Handling Kincaid with the skill and tact that you do takes talent. Teaching English is yet another way of leadership. It is not all skill at arms that requires leadership. Leading requires brains. You have plenty of those. You can LEAD, if you choose to do so. I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think you could do it."

    "Can I think about it?"Cyril queried.

    "Absolutely," Amric nodded.


    *****

    East Field

    Amric made his way into the area a little while later where he found his three quickly sobering men waiting for him. He stalked up to them and pointed at them.

    "I was," Amric said," considering....making you three squad leaders. You've been with the company for a while. You know the ropes. But.....I am rethinking my consideration."

    "Sarge," Alexander replied," How were we to know what you are thinking?"

    "True," Amric nodded," But you also knew that there was recruiting still ongoing even though we are preparing to embark on our trip, yes?"

    "Yes," the three chorused.

    "Perhaps I will give you another chance," Amric shrugged," I will tell you what. Get cracking on helping out around here with the processing and checking the potential recruits skills. Do you think you three can handle that?"

    His look bespoke the idea that they had BETTER be able to handle it. Their days of typical unthinking grunts were about to be over, if Amric had anything to do with it. There is always a need for good non coms and eventual officers in a company.

    "
    Guardian of Truth, Defender of Justice, Harbinger of Light! Formerly known as the Hurricane!

    Now retired from writing!

    "You can rest assured, sir, that I will do everything in my power to make sure it isn't my fault!" --Dr. Grant

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