The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Simple Kind of Life - No Doubt, 2000

Chapter 3 (v.1) - Simple Kind of Life

Submitted: May 11, 2018

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Submitted: May 11, 2018

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Aurix 03, 1101

Shon reached up to his neck to adjust the leather armor for what felt like the hundredth time that day. It chafed both literally and figuratively as he walked beside the supply wagon, trying to avoid the larger puddles in the road while still keeping his eyes on the forest around them. He was finally on his way to the northern paladin training fortress of Hamerfoss. It was his first time out of Smilnda city, and the temple paladins had told Shon and the other two new squires to keep their eyes on the forest. It was their first job as squires to guard the supply wagon to Hamerfoss and none of the boys wanted to disappoint.

It had rained the night before, and the hard-packed road was muddy and dotted with puddles of dubious depth. After Thom, smallest of the three, had his boot fully submerged in one such puddle, they had all started avoiding them as best they could.

The going was slow, with the laden wagon and the walking squires, but they were almost there. Almost being a relative term. They were still many hours away, but as they had been walking for the last two days, it was still 'almost' to the road-weary boys.

Rerves, the third squire, and the largest, fiddled with the short sword on his belt again. He had reached over to move the sheath about as many times has Shon had tried to adjust his armor. The three boys had trained only minimally with the swords and armor they now wore. Most of the year they had spent in the Temple of Heironeous was spent learning the proper way to clean and care for not only their equipment but the equipment of all the Paladins stationed in the city. They had learned the vocabulary associated with all the weapons and armor that they would be training with after they reached Hamerfoss, and were drilled daily on the tenets and precepts of the Temple. If it hadn't been for the exercises and forms Master Veon-Zih had given him Shon felt he would have been driven mad by boredom.

Shon had just started to try and pass the time walking by acting out another form in his mind's eye when the cart was pulled to a halt with a soft "Woh…" by the driver. The three boys looked to the driver in unison and seeing him squinting into the distance, turned their gaze in that direction.

From behind the trees and a bend in the road came a large man in what looked like a set of well worn half-plate armor. His hair was dark with streaks of grey throughout and strapped across his back was a massive ax.

"Hail traveler!" his voice was deep and booming as he waved to the little caravan, "what brings you along my road on this fine, if a bit wet, day?" he stood akimbo and taped his toe in the edge of one of the puddles with a small chuckle.

The squires looked to the driver again, not sure what to say or do in this situation. The driver furrowed his brow at the large man and shouted back, "we are on our way to Hamerfoss good sir." his confusion was clear, as the road only had one destination this close to the fortress.

The large man brought one hand up to stroke his scruffy beard, "Hamerfoss is it? Well, then I suppose the toll ye pay will be coming out of the paladin's coffers…" Shon and the other squires turned their heads again to look at the driver. It was as if their necks were on a swivel as they looked back and forth between the two men.

"There is no toll on this road good sir." the driver reached for his sword. Thom and Rerves hesitated, looking back and forth for another moment, before reaching for their own weapons. Shon sunk into a fighting stance, sliding his feet farther apart and bringing up his hands. The other squires looked at each other before Throm whispered "Shon, your sword." Shon looked over, confused for a moment, before grabbing the short sword with a small "oh," of embarrassment.

The driver and the large man ignored the boys, and the bandit chuckled again, but instead of reaching for his ax he brought his fingers to his lips and let out a shrill whistle. The squires jumped as four men came out of the woods surrounding them and the wagon, naked swords bared and faces obscured with hoods.

"Stay with the wagon!" the driver shouted to the boys, drawing his sword and jumping down as the large bandit moved closer. With the two leaders otherwise distracted the young squires looked wide-eyed at each other before the four highwaymen attacked. Two went for the larger Rerves, while the others split up going for Shon and Thom individually.

Shon tried to relax, to stay alert and ready to move, but his hand was sweating as it clinched hard to his sword. He focused on the bandit heading his way, holding his ground and lifting his sword to the guard position the Temple had taught him. His attacker was quite a bit taller then he was, and Shon had to raise his sword above his head as the first swing came down hard from the left.

The hilt shook in Shon's hand, but his attacker didn't hesitate to swing again, this time aiming for Shon's leg. Clenching his teeth, Shon pivoted his sword down to block the hit again, but miss judged the length of his blade. The flat edge of the long sword struck Shon's thigh, and if it hadn't been for his solid stance, Shon was sure the limb would have buckled. As the shock of the hit ran threw him the attacker flicked his sword up from inside Shon's guard, knocking the weapon from his hand. The small sword flew free but Shon was already moving, striking out with his free right hand at his attackers extended arm. With his now free left hand Shon struck the same arm from the outside, the combined strike caused the attackers elbow to bend awkwardly in, and he twisted his body in an instinctual effort to try and save the joint, bringing his head lower and lining it up for Shon to strike out with his right hand.

Stunned, his attacker reeled back, gripping his nose under his hood and cursing loudly. One of Rerves' attackers looked over and moved to disengage from his two on one fight to aid his friend who was now backing away from Shon as fast as he could. Shon only hesitated a moment before dashing back to retrieve his fallen short sword.

He felt unbalanced with the weapon in hand and tried to shift his weight to offset the difference. He barely had enough time to bring the sword to bear as the second attacker swung at his right side. Shon managed to absorb some of the force of the blow, but his arm buckled against the strike and his opponent's longsword hit his upper arm with a painful smack. The hit hadn't fully registered in his mind when the new attacker shoved his shoulder into Shon's chest trying to throw him off balance.

It worked. Shon fell to the ground with a soft splash and a smack as he habitually swung his hands down to slap the ground and break some of the energy of the fall, just as Master Veon-Zih had taught him. The attacker didn't follow through with a thrust at the prone boy instead looking over at the companion Shon had punched. Shon wasted no time. No sooner had his shoulders hit the ground then he was kicking up, his legs scissoring to either side of his attackers, kicking him behind the knee and into his thigh at the same time. The bigger man went down, and Shon swung his legs up again, rolling back onto his shoulder blades before jumping up to a standing position. Or at least trying to. The leather armor was heavy and awkward, and he wobbled when he landed on his feet. As he moved to regain his balance another whistle rang out from the front of the caravan.

As one, the attackers disengaged from their respective defending squires. The one Shon had knocked down rolled twice away and was helped up by his companion sporting a bloody nose. The squires didn't pursue; their hands shook with adrenaline as their eyes tried to dart every way at once to keep everything in view.

"Stand down squires." it was the driver. The man sheathed his sword and moved back towards the wagon, but the young boys just glanced quickly at each other before looking back at their attackers, still very much on edge. It wasn't until the attackers in question also sheathed their weapons that the squires began to slowly straighten, looking between their diver, the lead bandit, their attackers, and each other in quick succession.

"You all did very well," the driver said, reaching out to make sure the horses were still calm. They had hardly moved, and Shon started to suspect they may be war horses.

"Not bad, not bad." the lead bandit began to move forward, slinging his ax back over his shoulder as he moved. Rather than being reassured by the gesture, the squires all dropped back down into their fighting stance and the driver had to snap at them.

"It was a test boys. Relax and sheath your swords before you hurt yourselves." the lead 'bandit' laughed out loud at that. It was a booming sound that shook his belly as he threw his head back and planted his fists firmly on his hips again.

"First time seeing battle, even a mock one, and you can't help but be on edge," he said. He gestured, and his four underlings removed their hoods. The one with the bloody nose still had it pinched, and his head tilted back.

Mock battle… Shon's leg and arm throbbed painfully with every heartbeat, and his knuckles stung as he clenched and unclenched his fists to try and relax. The ringleader continued, "These, young squires, are going to be the newest paladins of the order. After the ceremony next month." the four attackers saluted. The younger squires exchanged glances again and finally put their swords away. "And I," the man slapped his chest, "am your new weapon master. Master Daunas Mung. it will be my job to train you in combat at Hamerfoss."

Rerves was the first to recover, he smiled, but his voice held a hint of sarcasm, "I wish I could say it's nice to meet you Master Daunas." he tried to laugh a little, "perhaps once my heart has stopped trying to beat its way out of my chest." that caused the weapon master to laugh again, and Thom smiled nervously at Shon, who was taking slow, measured breaths to calm his own heart.

It seemed things would not be so boring in Hamerfoss as they had been in Smilnda.

***

The fortress of Hamerfoss was one of the oldest structures still being utilized by the Order of the Sword, as such it wasn't nearly as visually impressive as some of the larger temple fortresses maintained in peak condition further south. Even so, the three new squires gaped at its great stone walls in awe as they approached the south gate. The outer walls where twenty stones high, at least four of the boys stacked one on top of the other, with two layers of iron gates with bars as thick as Shon's forearm.

Walking through the first gate, the boys looked up and saw the faces of older squires and paladins looking down at them through holes in the ceiling, built for dumping hot tar or oil on invaders trapped between the two gates. Unconsciously they moved a little faster through the second gate. Beyond the wall was a large open courtyard with training dummies, archery targets and sparing rings separated by neat stone walkways. From the stable against the south wall to their right, the smell of hay and horses wafted over the whole place and the ringing "tink, tink" of a hammer on metal filled the cool air from the smithy built into the side of the keep.

"Welcome to Hamerfoss!" Master Daunas Mung gestured widely to all before them, and Shon fixed his ice blue eyes on the fortress itself, rising up like an indomitable mountain before him. It was about ten feet taller than the curtain wall, with one great tower in the center jutting up another ten feet above that. The roofs and walls were lined with battlements where archers could rain death on an invading army. Turning his head, Shon could see three of the four bastions at the corners of the curtain wall and the small moving figures that must be more squires and paladins standing guard.

His left hand twitched as he longed to unpack his journal and draw every detail. The bare, dead looking vines covering the face of one wall, he was sure they would bloom in a few short weeks and cover the stone in green; the short, squat, smithy coming out of his workshop to wipe the sweat from his brow in the cool air of early spring; and the slack-jawed expressions of awe on his companions' faces as they tilted their heads waaay back to look at the top of the fortresses tower. But there would be plenty of time for that, after all, this would be his home for the next four years.

"Well. Don't just stand there gawkin'! Unload the wagon." Shon jumped and looking around quickly saw Thom and Rerves doing the same. Master Daunas must have startled them out of their awe as well.

Rerves cleared his throat and took charge of the three. He was prone to such things, but as Shon didn't want to be the one giving orders, he never minded. "Thom, you get the horses settled, Shon you start handing me things out of the wagon." The smallest, Thom, nodded and went straight to the horses, murmuring gently as he began removing their harness. Shon climbed into the bed of the wagon to lift one crate at a time down to the larger Rerves.

Master Daunas snorted turning away from the new boys to give orders Shon couldn't hear to the older squires who had attacked them on the road. The young men saluted in unison, and each went off in different directions. Shon tried to track them as he turned to hand another crate to Rerves but quickly lost sight of them. One had gone to the blacksmith because the squat man returned with the squire in tow. He was carrying a heavy box and waited just behind the smith as he spoke to Daunas.

"Shon, come on!" Rerves gestured with both hands impatiently, and Shon shook his head slightly handing Rerves the crate he was holding. Apparently, Shon was paying a little too much attention to Daunas and the Smith and had slowed his pace without realizing.

"Sorry." he murmured, but Rerves just took the box and set it with the others. It didn't take long for the two to finish with the wagon and Shon was hoping down just as Thom came out of the stable to meet them.

"Horses taken care of?" Shon rolled his eyes away from Rerves so he couldn't see. Of course they were, Thom wouldn't have come out otherwise…

"Yep, all settled and ready to go," Thom said with a smile and a nod. Shon was never one to waste words on things that didn't need to be said.

It seemed someone had been waiting for those words though because Master Daunas and the Smith chose that time to move forward and address the boys, "Alright lads, this here is Nurangran Flintchest. He's our resident smith here at Hamerfoss, and he will be making all of your equipment." The man was only as tall as Thom, but his shoulders and chest were broader even then Master Daunas, with hands the size of shovels and a beard that hung to the middle of his chest.

"Line up boys, smallest to largest…" he turned as he spoke, opening the box the older squire had brought and taking out a long measuring tape and a ratty looking notebook. He tossed the young man the notebook and headed toward Thom who quickly positioned himself beside Shon. "hold up your arms…" Thom did as he was told and Shon watched closely as the Smith took his measurements. Around his chest, his bicep, lower arm, from shoulder to elbow, elbow to wrist, neck to waist and much more besides. Thom stood stiff and nervous, following the old man's instructions with jerky movements.

"What sword?" Nurangran asked. Thom made a confused sound, but the Smith waved a massive hand in his face, "not you boy. Mung, what sword?" Master Mung had his arms crossed over his chest and was tilting his head back and forth from one side to the other before he finally said.

"Two hands." he then pointed at Shon saying, "Bastard." Shon wrinkled his nose. Was the weapon master upset over the bloody nose Shon had given his attacking squire? But the offense was short lived when he pointed at Rerves saying, "One hand."

Nurangran sniffed, "One of each?" he had stepped over to Shon and motioned for him to raise his arms as Thom had done. Shon stiffed but obliged, keeping his eyes fixed forward as the old man ran his measuring tape all across his body.

"Yep," Daunas answered. They were talking as if the boys weren't even there, "and that one." He nodded at Shon, "is a lefty." Nurangran snorted without comment and continued measuring.

Shon flinched as the Smith's large hand moved down to his wrist, brushing his skin before he also pulled back in surprise, his brow furrowed, "you're cold as ice boy. Nervous?"

Shon swallowed, "no sir. I'm just always cold."

"Hmmm…" the smith shrugged and went back to measuring around his wrist and up his arm, "they say cold hands make a warm heart," Nurangran muttered. Beside Shon, Rerves and Thom snickered.

"Whoever says that has never met Shon," said Thom, who had relaxed noticeably once the Smith had finished with him. Shon glared sideways at him but there was no real anger in it, and Thom snickered again.

Master Daunas did not snicker; he laughed out loud. "I see you get along well! That's good; you'll want friends in training." Shon rolled his eyes again but his lips tilted up in an almost imperceptible smile. He did get along with his fellow squires he would even go so far as to call them friends, even if they did poke fun at each other. Or maybe it was because they did.

Rerves and Thom had grown up together, their families had long ties to the Temple of Heironeous, and so they were closer to each other than either to him. But they were both kind and tried to include him whenever possible. Shon didn't always oblige, he preferred to watch at the sidelines most of the time, but he did make a point of trying to socialize sometimes.

Smith Nurangran moved on to Rerves and Shon looked from the larger boy to the smaller and back again before focusing his gaze on Master Daunas. It seemed neither of them was going to ask the adults to clarify what they meant by the sword assignments, so he would have to, "I thought we were going to be trained in all weapons…"

Daunas must have seen where Shon was going because he spoke at the pause provided, "oh you will boy. But I was watching you fight back on the road. You didn't think we had staged that little attack just for fun did you?" Shon didn't say anything. He HAD thought it was just for fun. Some kind of hazing ritual or something. When Shon didn't answer Daunas continued, "you boys have only been lightly trained, so your movements were mostly on instinct, giving me an idea for what fighting style you may lean more towards." he pointed at Shon, who crossed his eyes focusing on the finger, "you, boy, are going to be a problem." Shon refocused on the weapon masters face, confused, "you're the one old man V has been training."

Who? Shon scrunched his face and blinked, "Master Veon-Zih?"

"That's the one!" Daunas Mung continued as though Shon hadn't said anything, "he's got you jabbing out and jumping around with no mind to the armor you'll be wearing or the weapon in your hand," that was because he was taught not to wear armor or use a weapon, but Shon didn't say anything, "you'll have to work twice as hard to adjust some of those habits."

Shon was taken aback, shocked and a little afraid… he didn't want to lose what he had already learned… but Master Daunas continued, "but with a hand-and-a-half sword you'll be able to switch between one and two-handed maneuvers." he smiled softly, and Shon realized his emotions must have been showing on his face because the weapon master seemed to be comforting him. "You mark my words; you'll favor the bastard sword for sure…"

***

He was right.

Over a year and a half had gone by. Thom, Shon, and Rerves, weren't the youngest squires anymore, and though they had been training regularly in a wide range of weapons they all showed the most promise, and preference, for the swords Weaponmaster Daunas had said they would on their first day.

Shon didn't have as much trouble adjusting to some of the weapons as they had thought, but he despised shield drills and never felt truly comfortable in any of the armors they had worked in so far. They had started off training every day in their hardened leather armor and had moved up to hide once they had outgrown the leather, and a chain shirt after they had grown out of that, and had just recently moved into scale mail.

The boys had all grown at least six inches, Thom had shot up almost eight, and had gotten considerably stronger all around with the intense exercise and drills the paladins and fighters put them through. In truth, they weren't 'boys' anymore.

They learned more of the history of the Order of the Sword and had begun to study the intricate layers and levels of the laws of the kingdom and individual provinces they would be responsible for enforcing as members of the Order.

Shon was fast approaching his sixteenth birthday and felt he was on the road to the rest of his life, that he had found a family in his fellow squires he had only ever felt before with Master Veon-Zih. Shon wasn't as much of a pessimist as his companions teased him for, but he thought he should have known something would happen to put it all at risk...


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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