It’s Bad Luck…[Redux]

3 Aug

[ My apologies for running this again – I’m trying to pick this thread up after discarding it as hopeless some months back. ]

Tol’ors of Lakeshire dabbed a bit of oil onto a cloth and very carefully began to polish his breastplate.

“Don’t do that lad, it’s bad luck,” said Havvers.  Tol’ors looked up at the older veteran and frowned.

“Bad luck?” He asked – but didn’t stop polishing.

“Aye – bad – like  you’re putting out an advertisement for the green skins,” Havvers said and rapped a knuckle on the young soldier’s cuirass.  “Says hit me here and do it hard, please and thank  you.”

Tol’ors frowned and pointed off toward where the command group stood in a tight circle discussing the day’s patrol route.

“The Leftenant’s is polished,” he said matter of factly.  Havvers raised an eyebrow.

“It is indeed.  Looks right smart too doesn’t it?” the older man said and knelt down next to the newest member of the Lakeshire Militia.  Tol’ors wiped a swath of honey colored hair from his eyes and stopped polishing a moment.  Being the youngest and the newest had made him the butt of countless jokes and he surveyed the veterans sudden interest with suspicion.

“The Leftenant is a fine soldier and he graduated the Stormwind Military Academy with honors,” Havvers said matter of factly.  “But  you might look to Tarl Blankenship there, the Master Sergeant for an example of how you might treat  your kit.”  Tol’ors looked from his patrol leader to Master Sergeant Blankenship,  a massive man with a preternaturally harsh, clean shaven face and bald head.  The Master Sergeant’s gear was well worn, but obviously well cared for.  Yet his breastplate was a flat gray expanse that the young recruit found to be wanting in comparison to the Leftenants shimmering silver armor.

How does he get it to shine like that?

“Aye, twenty five years a soldier that Tarl Blankenship,” Havvers said absently.  “Spent more years in mail and buckler than you’ve spent in a tunic, lad.”

Tol’ors nodded to the older soldier.  He still hadn’t decided if the battered corporal was having a piss, or if he was truly trying to impart some soldierly wisdom.  The youth frowned again, Havver’s still had some breakfast caught up in his beard.

Best look to yourself old man.

Tol’ors knew better than to give voice to his misgivings, for the older veteran outranked him and he knew that the rest of the patrol respected Havvers as well.  But for all the quiet bluster of the older men of the militia, most of them seemed more like worn work boots than soldiers to Tol’ors.  They, like Havver’s, were mostly twice Tol’or’s age, and were to a man, gnarled and weather-beaten, faces tanned and scarred until they seemed to share the same consistency as old leather.  If not for their weapons and armor, they could have been farmers or miners.  They were hard men, Tol’ors admitted, but they didn’t look like warriors.

“Mount up people, time to earn your coin.”

Tol’ors’ head snapped up and both he and Havver’s scrambled to their feet as Master Sergeant Blankenship broke free of the command group huddle and strode to his horse.

“We’ve got six leagues to cover today and a camp to setup at the end,” the big sergeant said, “so lets be about it.”  Havvers helped Tol’ors strap on his mostly polished breastplate, cinching the straps tight and making a quick study of going over the rest of the recruits kit.  Around them the patrol was hastily breaking camp, dousing fires with tin pans full of coffee, kicking dirt over still smoking coals, repacking their saddlebags.

Tol’ors stowed his gear quickly and was one of the first men mounted and formed in patrol line.  The Leftenant noticed and said something to Master Sergeant Blankenship.  The senior sergeant’s face was impassive as he cast a pair of hard, flint gray eyes on the new recruit.  After a long moment he nodded very slightly.

“Tol’ors,” he said.  “Get up front lad – you’re on point today.”

Up The High Pass

On point.  The tip of the spear.  Out front.

Tol’ors guided his blue roan up the steep mountain trail, the rest of the patrol snaking out behind him along the switchbacks as they worked their way up to the high pass. Holding the blue’s reins in one hand the young soldier ran the back of one gauntleted hand across his brow mopping up sweat before it got into his eyes.

It’s getting bloody hot.

Part of him wished for a moment that he’d taken a bit of Havver’s earlier advice and lined the inside of his helm with long twist of linen to soak up the sweat and cover the back of his neck.  It was good advice and Tol’ors  had rifled through is pack looking for an old tunic or the like to sacrifice.  When his search came up empty, several of his squad members had volunteered spares.

That had been interesting.

Mc’terich had offered up a nice square of very fine linen, a faint rose in color, covered with delicate, hand sewn, infinitely cute ducklings.

Zeb Tucker, a short, swarthy man from outside of Darkshire had offered what appeared to be a rather clean and completely serviceable pair of underpants.

“Fit just right under the helmet,” he proclaimed proudly, and doffed his round helm to show Tol’ors.  “Best part is, you can swap ’em out and wear ’em after a few days up on  your noggin.”

In the end, Tol’ors had politely declined all the offers.  He’d tried wadding a spare tunic up under the helm, but there was simply too much cloth and his helm rode so high on head he couldn’t buckle the chin strap.

And hadn’t the rest of the riders gotten a fine chuckle out of that.

So, point rider Tol’ors had simply endured, leading his patrol out of the low country and up towards the High Pass.  His world slowly dissolving into the clop of hooves, the faint rustle of tack and the steady drip of sweat and the slow tired swipe of a gauntleted hand across his brow.

After four hours in the saddle, eyes stinging and the back of his neck already an attractive strawberry color, the young militiaman was starting question the measure of his many small vanities.  Though he was loathe to do it, he was even thinking about taking a knife to his spare tunic.  Before the thought could turn to action, the sound of hooves approaching at a canter broke Tol’ors from his sweaty and increasingly uncomfortable reverie.  Glancing back, the youth’s stomach clenched at the sight of Master Sergeant Blankenship’s hard eyes and perpetual scowl.

Tol’ors cast about quickly to ensure he hadn’t missed something obvious.  As the point man it was his responsibility to lead the patrol along its route.  He was responsible for halts and to warn his fellow militiamen of danger (often by being the first to be feathered with arrows).  The trail was clear though and he’d seen no sign of the Black Rock Orcs all morning.

Tol’ors nodded to the big sergeant and disgraced himself by having to take another swipe at his sweaty brow.  That Blankenship looked cool and dry in spite of the mid-day heat was not lost on the young soldier.

“The trail’s going to widen up here around the next cutback,” Blankenship said without preamble.  “There’ll be enough room for us to have a rest before we split up for the climb.  Give us a halt when you get to it and circle us up there.”

Before Tol’ors could respond, Blankenship had already turned his sturdy bay around and was headed back down the line of troopers.

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One Response to “It’s Bad Luck…[Redux]”

  1. Chawa August 4, 2009 at 21:48 #

    Good to have you back! 🙂

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