On the Road Again

Other locations on the island of Escova, including the plains, the road from Maristheum to Kyha, the Silverstrait Mountains, and a collection of villages. The land here is rocky and untamed, with most shorelines ending in cliffs. Roads are patchy at best and increasing criminal activity is of some concern to travelers.

On the Road Again

Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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Joined: 29 Apr 2011, 23:19

05 May 2011, 20:55 #1

The peak of the tallest tower in the city had faded out of sight several hours ago, giving way to the grey-green valley around them. Running through this dip in the mountain range was the main road from capital to port cities. Years of traffic along the path had prevented any life from growing back into the earth underfoot, but the spring rains from the day prior had softened the dirt into a thick mud. While the stormclouds had moved on, a veil of mist still lingered, filtering out the sunlight and keeping the air heavy and damp.

She'd made this trip a hundred times before, but usually alone, or with her equals. Never before had administration seen fit to assign her a gaggle of fresh recruits to escort on the way to Kyha. Even if she'd been told that it was simply a matter of convenience to travel together, she had to wonder if she was actually being tested -- or punished. It was her job to turn green boys into worthy scouts, but they usually came to her, not with her.

Sergeant Baryk was no mother hen to lead a trail of chicklets. Yet there she was, taking point before a band of five, baby-faced bobbling heads, most of them no older than nineteen at the maximum. She couldn't even be certain that all of them were actually even sixteen. A parchment of their names was tucked into her bag, but she hadn't memorized which was which yet. They all looked about the same, save for one wiry looking kid with hair the color of flame, though that trait was the only thing to distinguish him.

For the most part, the journey had been thankfully quiet thus far. A little idle chatter between boys as they marched, but hardly a word or a question asked of her, even though she could feel their eyes pressing on her back the whole way, wanting to know, but rightfully too intimidated to ask. Maybe someone had tipped them off about her reputation before they left the barracks. Either way, Galia was glad to keep their interaction to a minimum, at least until she actually had anything to say to them.

That time had finally come. While she would have normally pushed on ahead another few hours, the voices behind her were growing louder and rowdier. Though no complaint was directed to her, she could feel the tension netting around them, threatening to go from irritation to conflict in a snap. Letting boys fight it out might have proven more entertaining, but explaining why they'd arrived in worse condition than they'd left was just too much work.

A small, sickly looking tree bent over a circle of fallen rocks by the side of the road, a good enough resting place as anything. Turning, she lifted a hand to call for a halt, "Alright. We're taking a break. Empty your bladders. Eat something. Wander. Sit. I don't care. Twenty minutes. Then we keep moving."
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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Joined: 23 Apr 2011, 05:11

07 May 2011, 22:32 #2

Ocean ocean ocean!

That was really all Welkin cared about. When he'd learned he was going to Kyha with a batch of other new recruits he was ecstatic. Finally he would see the great expanse of shimmering blue waves, fraught with mystery and danger and beauty.

It also meant the military didn't believe he was a run away risk anymore. He was pretty sure they'd kept him in the capital to make sure he wouldn't scamper off and do illegal things again, but that had never been his inclination to begin with. It was circumstance and survival that forced him to do those things. But in those years he had developed a love of sailing and being on the water.

For however excited he was, he didn't chat with the other boys. They were all near his age, fresh recruits, and he couldn't even remember most of their names. They didn't talk to him, and he didn't talk to them. He wasn't sure if it was because he was a foreigner, or because he beat them all in archery, even the older ones who'd been shooting far longer. Regardless, he had no friends in this troop.

The woman was a surprise. Welkin never expected to have a female soldier tell him what to do. It felt strange, and he knew he wasn't the only one to think so. Some other boys voiced their discontent in breathless whines. Welkin didn't necessarily share those prejudices, but he just wondered how she got where she was, and how difficult it had to have been.

He remembered his mother occasionally, usually because of a dream that brought back memories of his village in Paras. He heard her voice and listened to her sing, and vaguely remembered red hair and green eyes and a silver necklace. After losing her, his only exposure to women were those the pirates captured. Trying to block the sound of their sobs and screams and whimpers was the hardest part of being on that ship.

Part of him wondered if Baryk was actually a woman at all.

Welkin stopped walking with everyone else and relieved himself. Despite the long trek and horrible weather, he was still excited. He wondered if they'd be able to see the ocean at all, if it weren't for the mist covering everything.

He approached the lady with a smile. "Sergeant? How much longer till we get to Kyha?"
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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08 May 2011, 04:41 #3

While the boys were milling about, Galia took the opportunity to reexamine her roster. The list meant little to her, though. One of them was marked down as a Refugee, someone to keep an eye out for, but she didn't know which. She still couldn't put names to faces, nor was it easy to speculate based on appearances alone. Furthermore, it didn't even matter what his status was -- if any recruit acted out of line or made any attempt to desert, he wouldn't get very far on her watch.

As she was reading along, one of the youths approached. Galia didn't look up at first, catching a glimpse of his bright hair in the corner of her eye, but not giving her full attention yet. Not until she realized he wasn't complaining. The scout turned her head, looked him up and down.

He barely looked of age to be in service, and he was smiling at her. Whereas the majority of his compatriots looked absolutely miserable in the muck, he had come to her with earnest curiosity.

"How much longer?" she echoed, tilting her head. She didn't smile back, though one corner of her mouth had lifted. "Kid, we're barely halfway there yet."

That would have been a sufficient answer by her standards. But he seemed so eager to know, and it still surprised her a little that he hadn't realized they were still in the vale and not anywhere close to the coast. "By the time we get to Kyha, it'll be well after sundown," she elaborated. "You won't be able to see the water. Not much of it, anyway. Especially not if this fog is cast over the marina, too."
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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08 May 2011, 05:31 #4

Welkin deflated a little and sighed. "Ah, makes sense. Thank you siruhma'am."

Yeesh, this was going to be difficult. He was so used to saying "sir" all the time. Actually, he wondered if she even minded being called "sir". Maybe she was a woman that liked to act like a man and wanted to be thought of as a man. Hard to do when she had an admirable set of knockers. Yes, Welkin noticed those things.

"I haven't been to Kyha in a few months," he prattled, more to hide his flub than because he felt the need to divulge his life history. "I kinda grew up around ships and boats so being stuck in Mari...Maristheum has been a bit like homesickness. There's the river but it's nothing like the ocean, y'know?" He heard snickering behind him from the other boys and knew he sounded like a complete idiot.

"Er...Say how long have you been in the military, ma'am?" He smiled sheepishly. Then, very quietly, "...sir?"
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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08 May 2011, 06:05 #5

Frankly, Galia didn't care what people called her, so long as they understood what her role was in the chain of command. Correcting him would have been far less amusing than watching him squirm over it, though. One had to take small pleasures where they were given.

So she said nothing, let his tongue trip over his words as he tried to recover from his error, but was bored quickly. Somehow, answering a very simple question had become an invitation to exchange life stories. Decidedly, this assignment was a punishment by one of the captains.

Pryyo, take me now.

Certainly she could relate to his background; she hated being stuck inland, and it had taken her the better part of a year to adjust to quarters in the capital. But she didn't know this boy, and didn't care to divulge details until she had a better idea of him. She shrugged mildly, "More than half your life, I'd suspect."

Having said that aloud, Galia felt suddenly old. Did she look as half-witted and wet behind the ears as this lot did at their age? She hadn't thought herself a child then, even though she was plenty immature. Half of the boys she'd been recruited with didn't make it out of training, and another half of those that did hadn't survived what followed it. She wondered who among this bunch would be in her place in ten years.

That odd thought compelled to her ask, "What was your name again?"
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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08 May 2011, 18:03 #6

Oh great. Now she was going to call him out whenever she could.

He sighed. "Welkin Njordson, ma'am."
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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08 May 2011, 19:21 #7

Ah. The Refugee.

That was one out of four she could remember by more than physical characteristic, then. Things like beak nose, big ears, and ginger kid worked, but now she had one more method to individualize the trainees.

Strange that he was a foreigner, though. Almost as strange as having a female recruit.

"Where did you say you were from, Njordson?"
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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08 May 2011, 19:48 #8

"Oh, uh, I'm from Paras. Well, originally. I haven't been back there in a long time." He shrugged and scratched his head. "Been in Escova for a few months now."
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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08 May 2011, 21:38 #9

"That's an island, isn't it?" Geography wasn't her strong suit -- most of the Mainland was just one big, irrelevant lump. Foreigners were foreigners. Since being inducted into the scouts, she hadn't ever really found a need to interact with Refugees, unless the city guard was really short handed.

But she knew islands. She knew what was on the opposite coast. That was about as much as she needed to know. The ginger kid -- Njordson -- said he was used to ships. She could see it now. His freckled arms clinging to lines, scrawny body clambering up masts. She squinted. "Why aren't you in the Navy?"
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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08 May 2011, 22:58 #10

"Yes, it's an island, a very big one," Welkin said. "And uh...as for the navy." He shrugged. "I'm good with a bow, so I guess they figured I'd do best as a sco--"

"He's a damn pirate!" one of the other boys shouted.

Welkin winced. "And, uh, that."
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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09 May 2011, 04:05 #11

Now things were getting interesting. Njordson didn't appear like the filthy, disease ridden men she'd met on the seas before, though there was no knowing what he looked like before he'd arrived in Escova.

Encounters with black flagged ships while traveling between islands hadn't given her a high opinion of pirates. But she liked gawkers and interlopers almost as little. The sergeant turned her head, face impassive, "And what were you? A shepherd? A stable boy? Chamber pot emptier?" She smirked. "A wet nurse, maybe."

The boy shut his mouth, and his little friends tried to hide their snickers. Galia locked her eyes on each of them, no longer amused. "Gossip's for midwives and court ladies. Do any of you belong in those groups?"

"No, sir."

That drew an exasperated sigh. "Spirits help us all if you were. You," she said to the first boy who'd called out. "Come here." He hesitated, until she waved at him to step forward, drawing an apple from her satchel with her other hand. As he came to a halt nearby, she tossed the piece of fruit. The recruit fumbled with it, but finally held it in his palms, confused. "Stand by that tree."

Apparently, he needed precise direction. Once again, Galia had to gesture at him until he was roughly ten paces away, in the shade of the tree. Its branches loomed overhead, as if reaching for him. "Right there. Put the apple on your head."

He was finally nervous. "W-why--"

"That was an order. Do it," she growled, and obediently, he stood absolutely still with a round, red crown. Her attention returned to Welkin, unstrapping her bow from her back and removing an arrow from her quiver. She handed both to him calmly, "Now, you said you're good with a bow. Let's see if you're right."
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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09 May 2011, 22:47 #12

Welkin watched, silently amused, as the boy placed an apple on his head and stood nervously against a tree. He even allowed himself a little smile as the woman soldier handed him her bow and arrow.

"Yes, ma'am," he said.

With one last smirk at the boy with the apple, Welkin loaded, pulled, and loosed in one fluid motion. He barely paused to aim.

The arrow split the apple in half anyway. The boy underneath it released a long breath.
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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10 May 2011, 04:53 #13

It was a big gamble to let a rookie take a shot at another recruit. Had he missed, had he not been as good as his word... She would have had a lot of explaining to do once they got to Kyha. And possibly a body to haul the rest of the way.

But the boy was better than good. He was amazing, in a way that she almost couldn't believe if she hadn't seen it with her own two eyes.

The way he so calmly accepted her weapon without so much as a question or a tremor had mitigated the surprise she might have had otherwise. If he didn't believe in himself, he wouldn't have done it, she knew. Galia took back the bow, allowing just a slip of a smile toward Welkin.

"Show's over, boys," she called to the three remaining trainees, who were collectively incapable of closing their jaws. They would have plenty to talk about after this. The sergeant strode forward, plucking the arrow out of the tree as the other boy ducked out of the way, hands covering a dark stain that ran down one leg of his trousers. She stifled a laugh, suggesting quietly, "You might want to switch into your spares."

He muttered something, then took off behind a thicket. Overhead, a squirrel was already eyeballing the two halves of fruit. Almost a waste, but she left it for the critters and went back to Welkin. "How did you learn to shoot like that?" she asked quietly, trying not to sound overly interested, though she really was curious and slightly in awe.
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Welkin Njordson
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Welkin Njordson
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10 May 2011, 20:55 #14

Welkin tried not to smile too widely at the reactions around him. He always enjoyed them, even if his ability was tantamount to cheating.

He wasn't sure how many people knew his sharpshooting was just magic. When he'd been drafted he remembered a Seer pointing him out and telling those assembled about his gift. The only people there at the time where higher ranking officials, at least higher than regular recruits. They'd been debating what to do with him, even if he had won the bet against that one guard. He had a feeling his youth helped save his life.

Some of the other recruits said it was magic, just as a rumor. From then on during practice Welkin occasionally missed dead center on the archery targets. He was still always very close.

So when the woman asked her question Welkin was honestly a bit flummoxed. "Well, most boys know how to shoot a bow," he said with a disarming shrug. He handed the bow back to the woman with a slight bend at the waist. "I guess I just...have a knack for it."

Liar. You lying liar face.
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart,
but the welcome I receive with the restart.
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Galia Baryk
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Galia Baryk
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11 May 2011, 04:13 #15

"Knowing how to shoot isn't the same as being able to do it well," Galia corrected, replacing her weaponry on her back. She didn't like his answer, but she was trying not to wear her mistrust on her face. He hadn't hesitated, barely even paused to weigh the bow in his hands before taking aim. Even at his age, when she was the best sharpshooter in her troop, she wouldn't have done what he did without blinking twice.

That wasn't knack. That wasn't luck. That wasn't even skill.

Njordson had something else to him, whether he wanted to admit it, or even knew it. One thing she absolutely didn't like was being lied to -- she took the Six Declarations to heart -- but there was no consequence for not telling her what he might have known. Not in this life, or under her control, at least. And what did it matter in the end, really?

He was a better shot than everyone else around them at present, possibly better than any of the archers in service of the Queen's Army. Herself included. Humbling as that thought was, he still had a lot of other things to learn. This was just one less skill he needed training in, and ultimately, less work for her.

"We're marching out," announced the sergeant, hardly waiting for the rest to fall into formation before starting forward. She glanced back at Welkin. That he had potential was a good thing, Refugee, pirate, latent mage, or not. But for whom? She asked coolly, "Were you a pirate?"
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