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Authors: David Fredric

Recruited Mage (5 page)

BOOK: Recruited Mage
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The next morning I felt terrible, I had a huge headache and I felt very sick. We were ordered to get changed and I pulled on my uniform. Then we were called to
come down to the courtyard and I climbed down the ladder and joined everyone else going to the courtyard. We lined up and I nodded, mouthing good morning to Rador, Oldross, and Donal as we were in silence. It had stopped raining but there was a cold frost that made my ears cold. There was a roll call and everyone was there. Then a Commander stepped forward.

“Now you all should know that unless you are unwell o
r injured, without fail you will all do the early morning run. That is five laps of the compound and you will be pleased to know that totals up to about five miles.” I groaned;
this is going to be bad.
“Go!” We all set off running. I could run well because of the messenger errands at the Guild but so could most of the men and I had to try hard to keep in the main group. After a minute my lungs started to burn and my legs started to ache. My heart thudded in my chest and I forced myself on. After what seemed like ages we got back around the compound to where we started. By this time I was really breathing heavily. As I remembered we had to go around another four times I noticed a Commander laughing at me so I tried to prove him wrong and ran with a burst of speed. As I neared the front I overtook some bigger men who, when they saw me, looked angry and one of them came beside me and stuck out his leg. I was going as fast as I could so when I tripped I hit the ground hard and rolled over several times until I came to a stop. I tried to move but I hurt all over. I winced as I tried to sit up, as my legs really hurt when I stretched them out. I saw Tain walk towards me with Donal, Oldross, and Rador trailing behind him.
Why aren’t they running?

“What happened?” Tain asked
when he reached me.

“I tripped, that is what happened.” I replied angrily and struggled to my feet. “And it hurts badly.” My knees were bloody and I had hit my elbows hard on the icy ground.

“I just told the others and I am about to tell you now that we don’t have to go on the morning run,” explained Tain and I felt my heart lift. “So we can get right to work and training. “ My heart plummeted. He was talking to all of us now as we followed him to the range. “You will be using my own inventions, the spring bows”. We arrived quickly and Tain revealed four of these spring bows with an extravagant flourish. “Now, these four are the only ones in existence and they take ages to make, so please look after them”, he said gravely. Then his tone lightened. “Now how many of you know how hard it is to load a crossbow.” I raised my hand cautiously and Tain nodded to me.

“Well, for starters you have to pull back a taut twine that requires a lot of strength.” I said.

“Correct, now Sam you can be the first to load. Here you go.” I stepped forward and took it. I was about to try and heave the twine back when I saw the lever on the side and decided to try to pull that back instead. It was very stiff and I began to struggle, when I noticed a foot brace at the end of the stock. I put that on the ground and placed my foot in it. Now that I could use two hands I could draw the spring back in to place easily. “Good,” commented Tain and passed me a crossbow bolt. Then he pointed toward a target roughly thirty metres away that was the size of a cartwheel. “Try and hit that.” I put the bolt in to place, raised the spring bow to my shoulder, and took aim. I flicked a lever on the bottom and the spring shot forward. The stock thudded into my shoulder; the bolt flew forward and with a low thud struck near the edge burying itself up to the fletching in the wood. There was a wolf-whistle from Donal.

is powerful,” he said laughing, “and very easy. It took me years to learn to shoot with bows, but with this it is just point and fire,” he said as he picked up one of the crossbow and stared at it appreciatively.

“You can shoot a bow?” asked

“Yes of course I can!” Donal g
loated. Before he could continue however, Tain handed a spring bow and a quiver of ten bolts to each of us. We lined up, picked our targets, and began to fire. I missed my first shot in that group. My next five shots were progressively better and I hit the edge of the target with each shot. However the last four bolts almost hit the centre. I had fired all ten in less than five and a half minutes. I waited until everyone else had finished then retrieved my bolts with the others. They were all buried very deep in the wood and it took us a long time to pull them out. This time before I fired I remembered what I had read in Master Morrin’s book about hunting; fire as you breathe out. I inhaled, stilled my body, and focused on the target. I watched as the sight moved up and down the target. As I fired, I exhaled out sharply. The bolt hit the target right in the centre.
I heard Donal wolf-whistle again.

“Shut up!” s
aid Rador and I saw that all but one of his shots had missed and the last one only glanced the edge. Donal turned to Rador.

“Hey! What would you know? One
of your shots hit the target! he jeered.

Shut up!”
Rador shouted.

“Stop it!”
Tain shouted. “You only met last night and still you manage to argue today before the sun is hardly over the horizon.” Donal shut up and stared down the looks of hate coming from Rador and now Oldross. I laughed and turned back to my shooting. The next nine hit around the first one. Tain congratulated me; “Well done Sam, the best shot I have seen, have a break.” I sat down, enjoying the luxury of doing nothing. Eventually everyone, still brimming on an argument, finished and collected their bolts. One by one for about half an hour everyone managed to hit the centre and got a rest.

Tain stood
up and turned to us. “It is time for a bit of breakfast. Then you have to go to the others for basic combat training.” We walked back to the shed where there was some bread and jam. We were ravenous after the training so we wolfed it down, barely pausing to chew.

“Ok then” said
Tain and we followed him out and across the compound. We reached a large marked area about one hundred metres across. There were about twenty training dummies arranged in the centre. As we stood around waiting, the men and the commanders appeared from the main building, most likely from a breakfast. They were at a brisk jog and quickly reached us and lined up in a long line of four ranks. Mr Tain gestured for us to join and we quickly fell into line at the back. A huge
and scary
Commander covered in silver plated armour stepped to the front and addressed us all.

“This is the point where we divide the hard men from the soft men and then make the soft men
become hard men. Now there are two types of fighting we are going to focus on; group fighting as we will battle in a line with your fellow soldiers, and single fighting on your own against enemies as you might in the madness of a siege with no friends around you.” He walked over to a few crates and opened them. Inside there were enough wooden swords for all of us. Also there were proper shields. “You will be using these but you will then move on to swords still in their shafts and finally blunted swords. Now you
should know that practice makes perfect so we are going to practice. We will do group training first so we will split you into two groups.” He then walked to the centre of our lines and beckoned each line to split. Now that we were split in to two groups we handed out wooden swords and the shields to each other. I noticed Donal was on my team. I took mine as quickly as I could. Mine was quite heavy and I had to use two hands to wield it properly but as I had to hold the shield as well I had trouble holding it up for more than a few minutes. We were told to go down to one end of the area and the other team went to the other end. A few of the big men started swinging their swords.

his is going to hurt. At least they are smooth and blunt so it should only be a few bruises.

You have a shield to defend yourself.

Yeah but I can’t really use it well if this takes a while.

“We better stay at the back.” I said to Donal and he smiled.

“Well I am not staying at the front thanks. I do not want to be surrounded by huge men with no sympathy and large chunks of wood with which they can freely bash your head in with,” he said in a light-hearted way. “I want to wake up tomorrow still being able to walk.” We smiled at each other and walked quietly to the back.


Shut up you can’t get hurt.

The Commander walked in between our two teams. “For our first battle we will let you improvise; now the only two rules are anyone on the ground you can’t hit and no hitting anyone’s face. We will not tell you what to do but I will give you a hint; the most organised team will probably win. You will begin...” he said, his voice rising to a shout “…now!” Our team drew together and formed a sort of shield wall whilst the other team, led by a few very big men looked like they were preparing to charge. We tightened up the shield wall and made it wider.

Yes! We could stop them with a shield wall.

The opposite team suddenly started shouting loudly then suddenly they all rushed forward. We all stepped back and crouched down. We all tensed and shuffled back. The men leading the other team’s charge was at least six and a half feet tall and raised his wooden sword high above his head.

I am so lucky I am not on the front row. “
Step forward!” someone in my team suddenly shouted and we all stepped forward. The other team got closer and closer. “Again! Step forward!” The man shouted and we all stepped forward again. Now the other team was metres away and we had about a second. “And again!” We all stepped forward together straight into the charging men who were halted with a sickening jolt when they hit the shield wall. There was a crack as the big man at the front swung his sword at a shield and his sword fractured into splinters. There was a triumphant cry from our front row as the other team advanced and as more of the other team tried to penetrate the solid wall of shields. The big man only pushed a few men aside before the hitting swords and shields pushed him back. The rest of their team smashed into us and the line was slowly broken in to smaller skirmishes. We hung back; I was too scared to go forward. Then suddenly Donal stepped forward.

t’s go!” he said and walked towards the middle of the fight.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“It looks like good fun so I am joining in!” he said over his shoulder. He then ran up to one of the big men on the other team and jabbed him on the arm. I went forward to help him as the big man turned to fight Donal. The big man brought his sword down towards Donal with huge force but to my utter astonishment he stepped inside the sword blow and slammed his shield into the man’s soft underbelly, pushing him off balance. I took my chance and slammed into him at the same time as Donal, sending the big man sprawling on the ground. Donal and I grinned at each other, we had taken him down! We had no time to do anything else though as another man was turning to Donal and I jumped forward to parry the blow before it hit him. The blow jarred my wrist and I dropped my sword. I yelped in pain and jumped backwards into Donal, bringing my other hand up to support the shield. I raised my shield to block the next blow from the man but he changed its direction mid swing and it hit my jarred arm. My arm shook in pain and I almost dropped the shield as well. Then someone ran into my side and I fell on to the ground and the man who ran into me tripped over me. The man turned around to smash me but the voice of the commander rang out calling us to stop and we did. We were called around the commander so I tried to get up but landed on my bad arm. Then next time I tried to get up, I quickly scrambled to my feet and headed towards the group now around the commander. I retrieved my sword and joined at the back, straining to hear what was being said but I could not hear much. Tain quickly tapped me on the shoulder and beckoned me to one side.

“Stay here
, I am fetching the others.” He then went back to the group and got the others. “Ok, the first items have arrived early. A high official has come to see all goes well so look very smart and put down your swords and shields.” We put the weapons down and brushed the dirt of our uniforms. “We have already set up the area so all you have to do is the task. Now you have probably heard of Bombardiers, and what you are doing involves fireshot powder, which is what makes it fire. This means a big bang and a flash. Are you all ok with that?” We nodded and followed him through the compound. We reached the shed but he kept going right past it towards the far end of the compound where we hadn’t been to yet.

“Where do you think we are going? I asked Donal.

“I have no idea,” he said. “We could be going anywhere so don’t ask me.” We came to a palisade then passed through an open gate in it to the next area. We were all quite shocked as through the gate there was a large hole ten metres deep and fifty metres wide and long, which had obviously been dug about a year ago as there was grass at the bottom. There were about fifty chairs at the far end and sitting on them was a man in a fancy uniform surrounded by a group of men in thick leather aprons. As we walked around the hole I noticed that there was a small section of palisade in the middle. We were told to wait whilst the men in the aprons watched us and Tain talked to the man in uniform. Eventually Tain walked back towards us carrying a large bundle of what looked like string attached.

BOOK: Recruited Mage
11.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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