An Orc for All Seasons; Chapter 7

Literacy is not the strong suit of Slothjemia, but in fairness, it does have a slightly higher literacy rate than most of its neighbors. This is partially due to all military officers being required to read and write, even if only at a basic level, in order to hold their rank. However, signs for businesses frequently employ pictures or symbols to convey what they deal in, because so many Slothjemians do not understand the language of the land as their first and primary dialect. The result is that even in spoken form, the language of Slothjemia is constantly modifying itself to incorporate foreign words and phrases.

 Chapter 7 

Riders were sent out to Borostat, the nearest city to Vorkelburg, to arrange for drayage. There wasn’t time to waste with bringing carts and teams of horses back to the citadel so for the first leg of the journey the 6th Army would have to lug their supplies to Borostat and then take advantage of the carts and wagons from there on. Three riders went out with plenty of Grundoon’s personal stash of gold coins to pay for the transportation. He could have just had his soldiers commandeer whatever he needed but Grundoon didn’t like powerful people that abused their position and he refused to become that kind of person. Not when it came to other folks’ livelihoods, anyway. He was keenly aware that he had abused his authority when he had killed Hossler, when he had dreamt up a way to justify his taking the garrison off to the other side of the country, and when he had taken advantage of his officer’s desire to jump into a war that they had been ordered to stay out of in such a direct manner. When Grundoon had given the coins to the riders he had told himself “I have to draw the line someplace.”

In addition to the livery stables in the city the riders were charged with scouring the nearby farms and manors to see what transportation they could arrange. Not an easy task but nobody in the garrison had an easy day. The infantry had to prepare armor and weapons and find a way to pack their uniforms. This proved to be trickier than previously thought. Most rolled them up in their bed rolls. Not everyone, though, had bed rolls. They had to be more creative. It was like the entire force was trying to smuggle illicit goods all at once. The cavalry unit had it easier, they just tucked them in between their saddle and saddle blanket. But then they had to inspect and prepare their barding, so they didn’t really gain any time. The artillery force didn’t have to pack their own stuff, but they were put to work gathering and distributing food rations, sewing the faux unit banners for the fictional volunteer army, and getting their bombards prepared for action should any skycruisers show up on the horizon.

All of the units had their very own allotment of chaplains and mages. These were all officers of varying rank and had a number of special privileges. But they had to make some choices. There were no female mages in the 6th Army, but there had to be at least one mage in the citadel when the rest went out on their extremely long-range patrol. Only a mage could operate the communication crystal which was the direct link to the high command in the capital. While everyone was out and about, whomever was left behind in the fortress would have to make it seem as though nothing was amiss. The consensus among all of the officers was that while more than one mage would be best, it was of the greatest importance to have all of the spellcasters on hand for any combat that the patrol might encounter. Hemlock was the most powerful of the sorcerers, and the highest ranking, so he opted to go on the adventure. The rest of the mages decided that it would be one of the most junior of them to stay. In the most arduous of votes and debates, they finally settled on the lieutenant that had been on duty on the crystal when the very first announcement of war had come through. His name was Karl Fegler. He was honored to be so chosen, but also let down. Hemlock gave the lad a comforting pat on the shoulder.

“Don’t fret, Fegler.” The lizardman did his best to smile. “You are playing the most important role in this charade. All of us are counting on you to help pull this off.” Fegler nodded. He would not let them down.

The chaplains had a much easier job. There was a female chaplain, Lieutenant Progellia, and she was already going to be bound to Vorkelburg to look after the general’s wife. Aggrylia had made her choice, and Progellia was making sure that she was safely and comfortably moved to the citadel before the patrol left. It was a lot of work to be the only clerical spellcaster for the number of soldiers left behind to staff the castle, but Progellia was up for the job. She seemed to think that Romillia wasn’t going to strike this far west, and there were plenty in the 6th Army that shared that opinion. If the liches made a move, then the game would take a dangerous turn, but nobody thought that was much of a risk. The senior chaplain for the garrison, Colonel Shr Ondler Vrasker, the elderly half-shadow elf who kept a shepherd’s watch over his “violent flock” had a saying: “An impatient warlord will seize a bridge and cross the river to attack. A patient warlord will cut down trees to build a ship to cross the river. But a lich plants trees and waits for a forest to grow before deciding whether to build a boat or a bridge.” There was no sign of the Sikilians having done any work up or down their side of the river. Progellia was ready to go to work. Aggrylia was her first concern and the garrison would be fine. At least for a couple of weeks or so.

After wasting a good deal of the day debating which mage was going to stay behind there was then a rush among the sorcerers to pack their spellbooks, reagents, and whatever useful potions they could gather. There were eight mages that were going on the patrol and every single one of them had to be reminded not to take everything they owned by their superior officers. The most obnoxious of these was the urd who called himself “Kozzurd the Magnificent” and dabbled in a bizarre, almost random mix of magicks but ultimately did more talking than casting. The clerics had no reagents to cram into rucksacks, but they did have bandages, healing salves, and assorted ointments for everything from sore muscles to severe burns. They too had to choose wisely in what they took, but at least they didn’t have to worry about their saddlebags exploding.

There were other magic users in the 6th Army. There was a ranger in the skirmish unit, as well as a jorish huntsman. There was a second huntsman in the cavalry, and a third in the axe unit. Although there weren’t any paladins there were two bards. The common joke was that while they made for lousy holy warriors they could at least sing on key. And while these so-called “mixed class” spell users were not terribly powerful the patrol had a lot of very determined warriors. Slothjemian soldiers were gifted with high morale far and above any other soldiers in the region. Nobody had ever taken and held Slothjemian territory. The “filthy rabble” (as Slothjemians were called by the nobles of neighboring Geldenreich) always put up one hell of a fight.

By nightfall the patrol had packed and readied for the march. They were not sure where they were going but they trusted their general. The coreland was two days away at a good solid pace. The war was somewhere past that. They had been told to take seven days’ worth of food. For the first day they would have to carry almost all of it themselves. Spirits were high.

The citadel at large was battened down and unaware when Aggrylia was carried into Vorkelburg, bed and all. Progellia had found four ogres willing to do the hefting and they bore the baroness into her new abode without glitch. Aggrylia had even joked that had she known being carried everywhere was so delightful she would have gotten herself bedridden years ago. The ogres had enjoyed that and had laughed all the way up the mountain. The entire retinue of step-daughters had of course come along carrying everything that she might need before they could return to the manor in the valley. Grundoon was thrilled. He made sure she was comfortable, and then dragged a cot mattress into her room and fell sound asleep at the foot of her bed. Jandle made sure he was sleeping well and then went to his own room to get one last night of rest in a real bed. They had to get a very early start in the morning.

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