I have to assume that the staff here think the Baroness’ cousin quite mad. Getting up at dawn to practice with the soldiers? Working in the kennels? Keeping odd hours? And my needle work? Sloppy at best. The good news is that about a quarter of rich people are mad as hatters – probably all the inbreeding. It’s a bit of a conundrum – you don’t want too many people getting into the upper echelon so you need to keep a tight net, but on the other hand if you don’t branch out a little you end up with flipper kids. I suppose that’s why all the stories are about humble common folk finding out they’re secret princes and princesses and so forth – in order to inject some new blood once and a while you need to lose entire royal families for a couple generations.
A few days of training aren’t going to turn me into a war machine but it’s good to get some practical experience that isn’t the kind where I die if I don’t do it right. On the other hand sparring with a twelve year old may not be the best simulation of the kind of predicaments I seem to find myself in. Then again pre-teen boys are basically violent sociopaths so maybe it makes some sense. I’ve learned a few tricks for sure, but honestly the number thing I’ve learned is that if you want to win a fight what you should do is be big and strong. Other than that the entire endeavor is best avoided. I’d say the other main lesson I’ve learned is that shooting a bow is nothing like shooting a crossbow and I suck at it.
Since what I was most interested in was grappling I asked Hlebinksy if he could give me some special instruction after the normal lessons were over. He asked me to pick a partner to stay back and work with. Most of the lads have been very respectful and solicitous, annoyingly so at times, but one little jerk was smarmy as hell – kept giving me little looks and making the occasional lewd gesture. Some kids are monsters but you know they’re going to grow out of it, some of them you know are going to remain jackasses their whole life. This kid had dyed in the wool jackass written all over him. So I chose him of course – my grandma always said that love is a good teacher but pain is a great one.
Case in point the first time we locked up he slipped behind me, quick as a sewer rat, and got a hold around my waist and one arm and threw me face-first into the dirt. Then he stood over me grinning like a prize asshole. Throughout the course of the afternoon I must have kicked that kid in the junk thirteen times. I kicked him in the groin so many times I got tired of doing it, but he kept coming back for more. Whatever other flaws he may have his ballbag can take a pounding I can vouch for that. Things got so nasty eventually Hlebinksy put an end to it.
“Gods almighty you two, what was that? This is supposed to be training, you two were about killing each other out there.”
“What can I say boss, I don’t know my own strength. So how would you say I’m doing?”
“Awful. Any warrior worth his salt could best you with one arm.”
“What about one eye? And also a bum knee?”
“Maybe you’d have a chance then. I mean this with all due respect m’lady but you fight like a drunken tavern brawler – if you were a man you’d be quite the terror in battle, up until the moment you got yourself killed.”
“What is the key to not getting yourself killed in battle?”
“That’s a disappointing answer.”
“The truth usually is. Training helps. Quality gear helps. Lots of things help, but in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re the toughest strongest warrior of all time, what happens in a battle is mostly out of your control. Half the time you can’t even tell who’s on your side – you’re just pushing and stabbing and trying to catch your breath.”
“So like everything else in life.”
“Who is that kid anyway?”
“Bastard son of some Marcher Lord or other. Unless he decides to join the priesthood, which don’t seem too likely, he’ll be given a commission in the King’s Army – die on the front somewhere in a few years probably. If he’s lucky he’ll do his twenty years and retire somewhere with a small keep, raise up some kids if he can still have them after the stomping you gave his man parts today.”
“I wonder at what point in human history it became so that your entire life was charted out for you when you were born.”
“I couldn’t say m’lady, but those few out there who make their own way do you think they’re the lucky ones or did they get the worst hand out of all of us?”
“Jury’s still out.”
After my extended training I squeezed in some time to help Quinna do some tracking training with a couple of scent-hounds before turning over to the Baroness and domestic matters. She said that she had talked to her husband last night using some of the techniques I told her about and that the results were very encouraging.
My days have become so full here it would be easy to lose track of time. I’ll need to be vigilant and keep in mind my goal is to get out of here as soon as possible.
Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green)
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni
Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander,
Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother
Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan
van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot
Behind the curtain – Day two of retraining Expert level to Rogue.