1627, Fire Season, Season, Movement Week, Godday
Relatively quickly after the meager breakfast company starts assembling on area in front of the tent. They number a bit shy of two hundred in all. Equipment varies from gilded bronze to loincloth, leather cap and a sling. Most carry square Esrolian shields,with the spear being most common weapon, but axes being very popular too. Women are a clear minority with maybe a dozen Vingans and somewhat less Babeester Gor Axe maidens present. Maybe a third look like rural levies with most rudimentary equipment.
Leader of the day gets them to quiet down eventually and lets Xenofos and the rest come forward. Xenofos introduces himself and the others and then proceeds to repeat to the gathered host Varanis’ words. His voice is clear enough and carries over the meadow but it is also clear he is not the speaker Varanis is. Words themselves seem to be enough for in the end they are greeted with clashing of arms against shields by the men and some Vingans.
Irillo, who holds the mace of command, thanks for the words and orders troops to take their positions. It is obvious they have practised this it is also obvious they could do with more practise. A shieldwall is formed however, with slingers ready to dash forward. They even manage to move with it without breaking it too badly. There is some disorder in wheeling around and the axemen of Sarli want to dash forward too early. But overall infantry is not any worse then rural Irillo hundred. Almost half of them even have somewhat decent armour, bronze pectorals and proper helmets.
Cavalry including the Vingans divides into two groups chasing each other in turn and showing their agility in turns. Show is decent. Some of the Vingans do look like they would be more comfortable running or flying around. But they all do hit their targets with javelins often enough.
Most weapons in evidence have been polished for the day and seem to be of decent quality. Some make do with clubs.
It looks like Axe-maidens only choose to observe but a quiet comment from the commander gets them to take a place on left flank of the shieldwall.
The whole maneuvers combined take about an hour.
Berra, after some consideration, and a little talk, settles in to train people. Mostly, this is in the shield wall, although there are other points as well. Getting them to advance and wheel seems to be today’s work.
Thought is pondered first by today’s commander and then a wider circle. It is generally accepted and adopted. The Babeester Gori find it good that the discipline of the men is improved and march off. Cavalry, including after some pondering the Vingans, treat their horses and decide some more javelin training might be a good idea.
Advancing in order proves to be a difficult exercise. The guys with no armour are rather hesitant to get moving while some of the guys, who prove out to come from the big city take any command to advance as a full on charge order.
After a sweaty day some semblance of co-ordination is reached.
In midafternoon some guys break off the exercise. Another two cows end up as meat.
Xenofos spends the day observing. He has some longer chats with people.
After the afternoons training is over Irillo Norinel discusses how things seemed to go with an Orlanthi nobleman who spent the day in the shieldwall. When Berra approaches she turns with eager and curious look on his face.1The other nob is the man Xenofos duelled with.
Berra nods, says, “Lord Hofrhai?” to remind herself, and bows to Irillo Norinel. “Lord,” she gets straight to the point, “I think I know the things that I need to send back for.” One day she might fall over tact in the dark.
Hofrhai nods in return.
Irillo looks puzzled “The things that you you need to send for? Did you forget to bring something you need? I would hope someone here has what you need so you as guest don’t need to go through that hassle.”
“Not exactly,” Berra says after no apparent internal struggle at all. “But not everyone here is equipped for marching in the places we’re going to go, or for cooking. For example.”
He looks politely curious. “Oh?”
“By now, I’m sure most people have worked out that the war’s got to be in Lunar Tarsh, or up that way. North of Dangerford. Maybe you didn’t know when you set off.” Berra keeps it bland now. Maybe she was just softening him up earlier. Maybe she changed tack utterly. It is hard to tell with her, and she might not know herself.
Hofhrai looks at road leading towards Swenstown and Prax and winks.
Irillo misses the wink and looks at Berra. “We heard Varanis tells us Sartar needs us. We will go where she leads us. Does it really matter if it is Tarsh or someplace else?”
“It matters because of the weather. If you’ve only ever campaigned in Esrolia, you won’t have known that. Some of your people don’t have what it takes to make hot meals in the rain, or to sleep waterproofed. They’ll start to be a drag on the company.”
Irillo looks back with total miscomprehension. “Men have cloaks? And we ate those cows roasted, did we not?”
“Yes, but dry is different from not getting rained on, and some people don’t have cooking equipment. Doing it on sticks’ll get you laughed at.” Berra shrugs. “I’m not having that happen to Varanis, so if you’re not worried about you, I can take care of the rest.”
“So what are you suggesting?” Irillo asks. People are starting to gather around.
“Every fire that doesn’t have one needs a caul – a leather cauldron-skin that they can pack cooking things into, and then they can boil their meat together, along with any other things they get. Cooking fork and stuff. I can show you what I’ve got if you want – it’s light because it’s been a lot of places. Most of your people are going to be chilly if the weather turns, and Orlanthi magic might make everything wet. Then signal equipment, and some training weapons. It’d be good to get the shield wall understanding what a proper battle press is before they hit one.”
“We know how to use weapons, no use carrying firewood around!” comes a shout from back row from one of the Babeester Gori. Irillo looks a bit disoriented.
“If the people wanted to lug that stuff around they would have brought it with them,” notes a trooper in halfgilded armour who has recently. “They do have to carry everything around. Or are you suggesting they would pool up and get pack animals too?” “Shut up when the woman is speaking, men.”
Commotion around Berra is getting higher and more people are gathering around.
“Anyhow, I’m happy to buy it,” Berra says with a smile. “I just need to send a messenger with whatever’s needed.” She bows, and backs off. Irillo gets a cheery smile, and a supportive wink.
Later as people are preparing there meals Berra is informed by Irillo that he is going to go about asking who are lacking cooking equipment and if anyone is without a sleeping blanket and would like to get one bought. He is concerned if Swenstown will let them make the purchases though, since Boldhome did not.
Berra nods. “I was thinking Lord Xenofos could go back,” she says, “I want to stay here and drill people. But anyone who can…” She thinks. “If it’s just one person, it should be simple enough. Swenstown’s not far away, but … well, you want someone who speaks Heortling well, is all.” There is a shrug from her. “I can’t tell you what’ll happen.”
“Oh no, it would be imprudent to send just one person.” He thinks for a bit. “Maybe one of the Sarli boys speak enough Heortling. Even though they are a bit rough around the edges and most have never seen Sartar before. I wonder if anyone of them can ride.”
Without so many people around, Berra is more relaxed. “Everyone speaks trade-talk and most people can understand Esrolian, but it’s Heortling because you want people to like them. So choose for being liked.”
“I guess I have both skills at riding, skill and skill in Heortling when asking who comes with me. As well as asking who needs stuff and gathering the money. Or letting that companion gather the money Oh, Hofhrai pointed out it would look bad if you bought the stuff, so we’ll have people who need it pay for it.”
“Think of it as Varanis buying it, maybe?” Berra suggests. “And if they don’t have the money, then they still get it, that way.” She does not seem to object to the idea of people buying their own equipment. “And if you’re gonna be…” she considers…. “Off duty? S’probably good.”
“Yea, I leave the baton at Yelmset. So after that. But I am not quite sure what is required though? Can you come around so we have proper list?”
Berra nods. “Yeah. So, a lot of people here have never left Nochet, right?” She pours herself to her feet, liquid then suddenly solid and on good footing and ready to move off any second. She pronounces the name of the city exactly like a Heortling peasant would.
“Some of the city boys no. Some of the country boys had never even been to Nochet.” He looks at the baton “I need to find Nersteva, then we can make the rounds and I’ll ride out tomorrow morning.”
“Kay. Wan’ me to listen to anything Nersteva says, or’ve you got that?” Berra looks like this is a genuine offer, although ‘listen to’ might be strange grammar.
He looks a bit baffled. “I think I “got that”. Errr. by the way thank you for bringing this mundane matter to our notice.” He even manages to say that without sounding condescending despite his horribly posh accent.
“Yeah.” Berra looks sympathetic. “You’ve probably never had to notice, and it’s about to be seriously time to learn very fast. I know a lot of people who can help.” She settles into an easy stance, waiting. “Go get rid’v the baton. Come back when you feel lighter.”
Irillo returns maybe half an hour later accompanied by a young man in unbleached tunic, pectoral and simple helmet. As he smiles nervously a unfortunate resemblance to a large rodent becomes apparent. “I found a Heortling speaker. But not anyone who said they would want to aqcuire extra kit?”
“Riiiight.” Berra looks at them both. “And you heard I wanted to come around and check that with you, yes? In fact, you asked me?” She nods to the Heortling speaker, but turns her attention to Irillo.
“I was looking for the Heortling speaker, because I thought he should be around too and while asking about that I asked people about kit too.” He shrugs so that the gilded tassels ornamenting his shoulder guards shake a bit. “I thought it might save some time. This is Harfin. They call him the Miller.”
“Mhm.” Berra bows her head to Harfin. “Heya.” But her gaze goes back to Irillo. “And when you did, did you ask them to volunteer to pay for it as well?”
“No?” says the nobleman.
“Good, good. Then we’re going to just go tell them we’re buying stuff, and it’ll be taken out of any future pay or payout, if they want to be proud about it. They don’t know what they need.” Berra grins. “Less’ walk about. If you want, I can tell you what I’m spotting.”
“That sounds prudent, lady.” notes Harfin. “Those peasants can’t be trusted to take care of the stuff they do not need right now, but if they owe for that they are less likely to just drop it when nobody is looking.”
“Yeah,” Berra says with a smile. “Please know that I was born in a one-room house, and I hardly ever just dropped the things that were valuable. It’s up to the officers to make sure they don’t.” But she shrugs. “Yeah, you don’t have a baggage wagon, so that is a big thing. I’ve got ideas on it, though. Each fire should have a cook-man. If they’re Sarli, then they’ll probably know what fire-man means, like that.” She gets into motion. “Giving one person the responsibility means that you only need to talk to one person about it.”
Some time later, having walked around the camp and asked at each fire what they have, and given the list to the woman in charge, Berra backs off.
After yelmset a messenger is coming from town to talk to Berra, who swears quite a lot, with some escalating, “YES, I HEARD,”, and hands over most of her food and drink to Rajar; she has been called back to Boldhome. This seems to annoy her, but the messenger stays safe.
In the morning there is a discussion over whether it is appropriate to release money for supplies, with Irillo saying he thinks it is prudent. By the time she sets off, Berra has volunteered to get the things from Boldhome, and indeed said she will send them if she cannot return, although she may not have been listened to. She rides away with the messenger from Boldhome.
The axe maidens speculate if she was just trying to prepare ground for failure to return after being dismissed and put to her place by Oralartha.
Xenofos will exchange a few words with Berra before she rides out.
At that point Berra relaxes a bit, explains where she is going by pointing, and then drags the poor messenger away.
Berra tries to organize training and logistics.
- 1The other nob is the man Xenofos duelled with.