It had been several days since I had received my heat dispersion collar from Misha I had spent a good amount of time on the practice ground testing my endurance and my power.
I had found that my endurance was dependent on how much of strength I was using. The more strength I used to achieve something the less endurance I had. So I would try and do something with as little strength as possible in order preserve my endurance.
This morning I woke up at my normal time but instead getting into my normal clothing I put on my battle gear and armour. Once I put armour and helmet on I hung my heavy belt and double baldric over my armour. Attached to my belts was the same load out as I had used in my first unauthorized mission. The exception to that was the light scouting pack that I carried. It contained a small tent, bedroll, pot, and a few utensils.
When I was finished putting my gear on I grabbed my grey cloak and headed out the door to the mess hall. I grabbed a quick breakfast there before I headed over to the arsenal tower where I was supposed to be joining a patrol under the order of George, the Patrol Master. When I got there I found five other people standing around in full equipment. The leader of the group was easy to recognize as a TG because she had a strong body that was armoured in a brigantine. The rest of the group was made up of a young boy who I guessed was an AR, a huge man who resembled a wildebeast, a small woman who was a meercat morph, and a young man who was a greyhound morph. The TG turned and looked at me before she asked me if I was Adòn Naharél.
"Yes I am." I responded
"Very well you're coming with me; we have a patrol to go on." She looked me over for a second before she asked me "Are you sure that you have got enough for the next few days?"
"Ma'am I've learned over many years that it is better to travel light when going out scouting and to live off the land."
"Where did you learn that?"
"I think it was in the Principality of Relando about twenty-seven years ago south west of here about five hundred leagues from here."
She shook her head before she finally replied, "Well you will learn otherwise out here."
"Give me a chance to prove my own techniques."
"It's your body, Mr. Naharél though I would prefer if you brought some food, because I would rather you not looking at Hernando when you get hungry."
"Trust me I won't go hungry, I know how to live off the land."
She shook here head and then gave the order to move out.
Half an hour later we left the town of Euper and headed out into forests in the valley south of the Keep.
As we marched out into the forest I took the point while the TG who's name was Barbara hung just behind me.
"Don't go to fast Mr. Naharél because some of us aren't quite as large as you are."
"I'll keep that in mind ma'am." I replied as I kept my eyes on the trail and my ears open. However, the only thing that I could hear was the sound of my comrades walking along behind me in their armour. The rattle of their equipment, and the sound of their talking drowned out any other sounds that I would have been able to hear. After a good half an hour I stopped and half-turned before I gave them a look that conveyed volumes
"What was that about Mr. Naharél?"
"I need the chorus the shut their traps and try and walk a little more quietly, I can't hear anything but them. If I can't hear anything then who knows what will sneak up on us but whatever it will be I can promise you that it won't be good."
She shook her head and went to the others to pass on my suggestion.
The rest of the day went pretty much the same way with Barbara complaining about just about every suggestion that I made that would help us make the patrol more effective and efficient.
When we stopped for the night I took off most of equipment and left it with the camp before I headed out into the forest to go find some dinner.
A little more than an hour later I came to a small creek where there were three small deer taking a drink from the creek.
I made sure that I was upwind of them, then ensured that they were real deer before I loaded the single spear-dart that I was carrying into my atlatl and concealed myself from my prey carefully before I stood up and launched the spear-dart at the smallest deer. When the dart hit she jumped once and then collapsed on the bank of the stream dead as a stone.
In my mind that was the mark of a good hunter, if you could make a kill without having your prey suffer too much. As soon as she stopped moving I stepped out from my concealment behind and tree and went over to my prey.
I quickly and efficiently took out the inedible parts and then indulged in the parts that I could enjoy but the others couldn't. Those parts included the heart, lungs, and liver which I savoured raw straight from the still warm corpse.
Before I picked the deer up I washed my muzzle in the water of the stream to clean off any traces of blood on my face. Once I was sure that my whiskers were clean I picked up the deer and began to jog back to the camp with it on my shoulder.
When I got back to the camp the look on Barbara's face was priceless, it was worth all of the scorn with which she had treated my suggestions all day long.
I looked over at their pitiful attempts at lighting a fire and then grabbed my folding shovel from my gear and dug out a pit before I began to create a proper fire. When I had everything properly arranged I pulled out my tinderbox and stuck a few sparks into the smallest sticks to be rewarded with a whoosh of flame. I was thankful for the collar that I was wearing because if I hadn't the flames would've singed the fur all the way up my arms.
I turned to Hernando, the wildebeast and growled out "Why in Ka`antal's name did you soak these sticks with oil and not tell me?"
He looked frightened before he replied "I can't get a fire going without oil."
I could do nothing more than to shake my head in wonder at the thought that the Patrol Master would stick me with a group of such amateur woodsmen.
I quickly went back into the bush, found two forked sticks and a straight stick that could serve me as a spit for the meat that I had brought back to the camp.
Less than an hour later I had a full leg cooking over the fire, sizzling in its own juices with the skin holding in the flavours. The fur of the leg had singed away and revealed the glistening blackened skin which was bubbling up and protecting the meat underneath from the fire.
When it was finally ready I pulled it off of the spit and went back to the shadows where I had set up my tent just under a large tree. I sat back and watched and smelled the others botch their cooking up but good. As she was cooking her part I heard Barbara say
"I really can't wait to get back to the Keep and back to the Tipsy Lady." The wildebeast rumbled in agreement before I smelled one of the others getting closer to me.
"What is it kid?" It was the greyhound morph and I could tell that he was nervous from his scent in the air
"Barb told us not to go near you but I think that you're pretty good."
"How old are you Kid?"
"Oh my name's Daniel Hart and I just turned sixteen in March."
"Is that why they stuck you with this group of less then competent soldiers?"
"The Sarge seems to be pretty good."
"That isn't saying a lot Daniel. To you she may appear to be very knowledgeable but from my point of view she doesn't really know all that much about scouting."
"What do you mean?"
"I have served as a mercenary in various city-states, principalities, duchies, and counties for longer than she's been alive. I know more about warfare than this whole squad put together."
"Wow." Was the kid's only response. I sat down with my back to a tree and thought back to some of the missions that I had completed in the past.
"Kid the first rule of scouting is to walk quietly, and keep your eyes, ears, and nose on a constant lookout because you will never know where or when a threat will appear." He nodded slowly before I spoke again "The second rule is always, always be prepared for anything, be it enemy, refugee, or both... Because you never know when you will encounter something. The last rule is to always have a backup contingency in case things don't go your way, in your case I would suggest that you do what your body is built for and run."
"Wouldn't that be considered cowardice?"
"At your age there is such a thing as discretion and right now you need as much discretion as possible. If we get into a fight I want you to stick as close to me as possible, I will make sure that you survive." He nodded his head and then asked me if I minded him setting up his tent by mine. I didn't really respond to his question so he took a little initiative and set his tent up just beside my own. After more than an hour I crawled into my small tent and went to sleep.
It was still dark when someone shook my shoulder and whispered that it was my turn to take the watch. I nodded slowly and then looked up to see the face of the AR in the darkness, though it wasn't all that dark to me.
I pulled on my armour and equipment before I went over to the watch-point and sat down. As I sat there with my senses keyed up I thought back to my past serving in hundreds of engagements throughout the midlands.
When I had first arrived in the midlands I signed on with a small company that was taking part in besieging a castle. Since I was the new guy in the unit I was given the honour of being the first man up the ladder in the final assault on the keep.
What the commander of the mercenary unit that I was part of was probably thinking was that I would probably get killed in the initial assault on the wall, considering the fact that the first person up the assault ladder is usually thought of as being fed to the wall. However, I was different than the average soldier in that I was trained as a Heavy Combat Specialist and that included assaulting walls.
In the end it was our unit that allowed us to take the wall and take the gates of the castle in order to let the majority of the army of the nation that we were serving into the castle. Of that unit of some fifty mercenaries only twenty-one managed to survive that assault including some people that I had made friends with.
Over the next thirty years I grew hardened to the realities of war, and the biggest of those realities is that people die.
After a few years of having new friends die every time I went into combat as a mercenary I had started distancing myself from other new recruits into the merc unit that I was involved in.
Eventually the unit was destroyed eighteen years ago and I went on to serve various nations as an individual specialist in all forms of warfare. Sometimes I had been successful and other times I wasn't quite so successful and I had to resort to guarding caravans and rich merchants as they crossed the Midlands.
The trip into Metamor Keep had been one of those times when I hadn't been able to find a job where I could use my skills to the greatest extent.
When the sun came up I went back to the camp and began to get things set up for some breakfast. Personally I had what leftovers of the deer were available while the rest of the squad made do with whatever they had carried with them in their bags.
The next four days went by in pretty much the same fashion with the six of us each do out jobs to the best, or worst of our abilities.
I spent most of the time evaluating my comrades and finding out their strengths and weaknesses. This squad, from my professional opinion was probably one of the worst; if not the worst reconnaissance squads in the entire Keep. They definitely weren't nowhere near the same calibre as the Long Scouts, which I had by now learned, were the best scouts in the entire keep.
Their main strength was their ignorance and smell, while their weakness was virtually everything else when it came to scouting and woodcraft. The only person who actually had some modicum of potential was the kid and his only problem was ignorance and lack of proper training when it came to scouting. When we came into sight of the keep on the main road Barbara said
"This is the end of another completely pointless patrol." I didn't speak up but in my mind I was saying 'No patrol is ever pointless.' Hernando, the wildebeast morph, nodded his massive head before he replied
"Back to the Keep for a few days while we get to enjoy everything that home provides including all the beer that I can drink at the Tipsy Lady. We can even go out and enjoy the festivities of the Easter/Equinox Festival."
This wasn't news to me, I had learned about the festival from Misha the day before I had left to go on patrol. If this festival was all that it was cracked up to it would be a good time to see all that the keep had to offer.
I might even be able to find something that would appeal to my interests as a warrior. After we logged in at the gate to the inner keep I headed to my room were I divested myself of my armour and heavy equipment before I headed to the baths to get cleaned up.
It felt sublime to immerse myself in the warm water of the baths. I preferred the cool water bath because it didn't make my body overheat, not that that was a problem anymore considering the collar that Misha had given me not too long ago.
A little over an hour later I went back to my room to take care of my equipment, which was a vital part of being a warrior. First I cleaned all of the dirt and dust from the patrol from my armour before I began tending to my swords and their scabbards. In total the time that it took me to care for my equipment was somewhere in the area of two hours.
Once that was finished I put on my obligatory black leather vest, red and black pleated kilt, black cloak, and sword-belt. With all of my normal things taken care of I headed down to the mess where I had my supper before heading to the Deaf Mule where I could have an ale and hopefully a good game of darts and knives with Copernicus.
As soon as I walked in the door I could see that there was a new caravan from the Midlands in town because the teamsters from that caravan were in the Mule. I could have sworn that Donnie was wearing a grin as he served my ale to me in a foaming tankard. He must've been happy about the amount of business that he was having this evening. Cope was playing darts with one of the teamsters and the man was having a rough time of it.
I smiled at Cope as he threw the last dart to win the match. The teamster's friends laughed and then one bragged
“If I was allowed to throw my knives I could probably beat anyone in this place.”
“Why don't you put your money where your mouth is sir.” said one of the locals who was stuck in the form of a child.
The man laughed slowly stood up and slapped a gold sun on the table before he said, “OK I put my money down now who here thinks they can beat me at throwing knives.”
I slowly stood up from where I had been sitting at the bar and replied to his challenge. “I believe I can beat you.” before I pulled three knives from their concealed sheaths behind my back. I placed them on the table by the line that marked the throwing position and took my stance. I allowed the teamster to have the first shot.
It was a respectable toss but I knew that I could easily do better. I got into my zone and tossed my dart without even realizing it.
The man who was facing me shook his head slowly and then asked “How in the name of Eli did you make that shot?”
“If you know how you can mentally remove all distractions until you reach a point where you can almost unconsciously throw the knife.”
The man shook his head again and then threw his second knife.
Within the next three minutes I won five more suns from various teamsters as they tried to beat me at my own game. I went home that evening with more money than I had possessed when I went to the bar.
As I went to sleep with a slight buzz in my head I wondered if the next day would be as much fun as some of the visitors had implied.