Askold stood gasping on a bare patch of dirt, sweating under the summer Shienaran sun. Longsword held loosely in front of him, point in the dirt as he caught his breath, he waited for the bark to continue. He did not have long to wait, his instructor sounding the call to ready his blade. He sometimes loathed the man, having long since outpaced him with forms that seemingly came naturally to himself, reducing his tutor to nothing more than a motivational teacher who could put names to the movements of his blade. He knew them all by heart now and practiced them even when alone, but the old warrior always felt the need to supervise when he found Askold practicing and dragged him to the patch of dirt they used as a training yard when he wasn’t. The time would soon come when he no longer had to suffer under than man’s relentless gaze, however, so he raised his sword and continued; Stones Falling from the Cliff flowed into The Courtier Taps His Fan followed by Heron Wading in the Rushes.
Almost four years ago now this routine had started at the behest of his grandfather as he lay in his sickbed. That was when the once formidable warrior Askold remembered as a child, placed the sword of his father in his hands and tied the thin strip of braided leather around his head. He knew what it meant, and despite their family having adopted the Shienaran customs and his father marrying a Shienaran woman, they continued to honor the ways of their Malkieri ancestors. And so, he practiced his forms with the sword of his father as the last day’s light faded over the horizon and his instruction came to an end. He would never admit it out loud, but he would miss the old warrior’s tutelage.
Hours later, Askold stood at the back of their humble house on the outskirts of Fal Sion, looking out at the piles of stone in the moonlight. His parents, and grandparents, had been laid to rest here. He would often come here, even before his grandfather had succumbed to old age, and remember the little that he could recall of his parents. His father, a mountain of a man, formidable even with the wooden practice sword he used to teach when Askold was a child, was considered by many a great warrior. His mother, a fierce woman in her own right, was always delicate in her teachings and the cause of his jet-black hair. He could not remember their deaths, and only knew from his grandfather that there was a night raid on Fal Sion and that his parents were found together, swords in hand and dozens of dead trollocs and a myrddraal, still thrashing in its death throws, spread in a circle about them. After standing there for a time in silent vigil, he took a deep breath and bid them all farewell, “The Light shine on you and the Creator shelter you. The last embrace of the mother welcome you home.”
A year later, Askold found himself in the center of a small village far to the south of the borderlands, taking some water from the well after having dispatched a troupe of bandits along the road earlier in the day. He had heard the village was named Cryden Field by one of the local townsfolk, but truthfully it mattered little to him. What did matter was the man he encountered there; a man taller than he and just as muscular, astride one of the most formidable war mounts Askold had ever laid eyes on. Captain Devan, of the Shienaran Lancers.
“If it is the protection of these lands and the defeat of the shadow you pursue, boy, there is a place for you in the Lancers. You will be outfitted and trained, provided with the equipment you need and a place to call home. Just know that to join the Lancers is to join for life and leaving will mean desertion. If you accept this, then follow me to the Outpost.”
So, there he stood, now a man of seventeen, front and sides of his head shaved, the remaining hair tied up in a topknot in the Shienaran warrior fashion and hadori wrapped around his brow, watching the sun set from the battlements of the Lancer outpost and remembering the last words of this grandfather, “You are descended from Kings, Askold Jamelle, and you must be ready… to fight…”
For in character logs and discussion.
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