Marching was an… interesting experience. Another private—Garkhen was very surprised to see he was an orc—had helped him pack his tent and gear. The half-dragon had gotten the impression that the other private did not enjoy the duty, but he remained civil despite the irritation Garkhen could see in his body language.
The march itself was not altogether unpleasant. Garkhen had more than enough strength and endurance from his training to handle walking for miles with a heavy pack. What did get wearing was having to do so in a formation, in response to the shouted commands of the company’s officers. Garkhen was large for a dwarf, but found it difficult to keep in step with the rest of his assigned squad of longer-legged humans and elves and still keep up with them.
He was rather grateful that Lieutenant Ailill was not one of the officers assigned to his squad. Instead, the elf marched with the headquarters unit in the middle of their formation—a sign, he supposed, of the elven healer’s value to the company. Instead, Garkhen had only to endure the voice of a human sergeant, who seemed to spread about criticisms of the troops under his watchful eye equally.
As they marched, Garkhen had an opportunity to see more of Telarnen’s Company. They seemed an unusually mixed group—mostly humans, it was true, but with a number of elves, and even a few dwarves (who did not seem to have so much trouble as Garkhen with marching). The orcish private who had assisted Garkhen was one of perhaps half a dozen individuals of orcish decent in the company, and once he even glimpsed an Aphani reporting to the Captain. If he counted himself as a representative of dragonkind, only trolls out of all the sentient races of Draezoln were absent from the Company.
The ground they covered was mostly open, with occasional wooded depressions or small rises. Much of it was farmland, though they avoided this, instead keeping to grassy areas that Garkhen supposed were normally used as pastures. For now, they saw flocks and herds only in the distance, their owners keeping them safely away from the marching soldiers.
After a few days, they reached a deeply rutted road, and turned north-west to follow it. Soon the terrain around them grew rougher, the fields and pastures fading into forested hills. The Company assumed a tighter formation, one which would fit in the cleared area around the road when the trees crowded thickly on either side.
Shortly they reached a small town and made camp. The officers went into the town, while the rest of the Company camped outside the stockade wall around the settlement. From what Garkhen could gather, this town was being used as something of a headquarters for the forces loyal to the King of Ferdunan, and the Captain with his officers was consulting with the general in residence here.
While they camped, Lt. Ailill set Garkhen to work again. Injured soldiers from the front trickled into the town every day, and every healer in the area was required to attend to them. Here, the elf did use a little bit of healing magic, but only on the most severe cases. Never did he instruct Garkhen to use his skills with spell-prayers.
Garkhen was not entirely alone in serving under Lt. Ailill. Three humans served with him, two under-priests and one priest of Mashano. Their relationship with their elven superior seemed little better than Garkhen’s, and Ailill generally left them to their own devices, giving them only occasional commands. Sometimes one of the less severely injured soldiers would be drafted into service as an assistant, but these temporary assignments never lasted more than a day.
While Garkhen did feel he was of use, he neither felt that he was being used well, nor that he was learning much under the elven healer. His tasks were too basic to learn much of thhe healer’s art, and in truth could have been accomplished by anyone capable of following orders. His spell-prayers were never called upon, and he had little time for training in other things.
The only exception was a daily hour of weapons training with one of the Company’s sergeants, another dwarf, Sergeant Hammerfall. Garkhen rather doubted this was truly his name, but he considered himself sadly ignorant of the culture of dwarves despite his blood, and so could not say for certain if his impression was valid. Whatever the case, Sgt. Hammerfall saw to it that Garkhen was sufficiently bruised and fatigued every evening to fall into a deep sleep when he finally retired to his tent. Sometimes the skills he was supposedly teaching seemed a secondary goal to this first one, but Garkhen did feel he was slowly becoming somewhat proficient with his mace.
It was less than a week before they moved on again, this time marching almost due north through dense forests. A few more days brought them to their destination. Marching into the sunlight from his place on the Company’s tree-shaded flank, Garkhen looked down into a broad river valley, and straight ahead of them a fair-sized city. Even from this distance, the smoke and movement within the city told the story—the field of battle lay before them.
This chapter has not turned out as I expected. We’ll see what the next chapter will bring.