Well, what is there to say? The second chapter is ready. I think.
Chronicles of Koeleth Extra Chapter
The Ender of Worlds: The Saving of a Man
Chapter 2: Student and Mentor
“So, I’m here. What are we doing?” Thomas asked, sounding far more insolent than he intended.
The training grounds were a vast patch of dry, dusty earth—something fairly uncommon in Sorowa’s Cradle. Behind the young warrior, not five feet away, was a large wooden door leading to the main chamber of the guildhall. There were few things about Cradle-of-the-Moon that were impressive, especially when compared to Ramsthrone, the glimmering capital of its western neighbor, Ramsrest, but it took good care of what few organizations called the city home. The Adventurers’ Guild was no exception; though not the lavish training grounds of the Royal City’s chapter, these training grounds were not lacking. There was an archery range, several training dummies for melee combat, a small field for horsemen, and a handful of fighting rings. At the far end of the site, opposite Thomas’ current position, was a small arena. He was new to the guild, but he was aware that the arena was the real proving grounds. That was where captains were made, where grudges were settled, and where glory was earned. None of this meant much to Thomas. He had other motives for being here.
Marcus, leaning up against a fence post, observed the rookie as he took in the scenery. This must have been the first time he had actually set foot on the training grounds. Thomas was standing between the archery range and a fighting ring, analyzing the resources available to him. Marcus had heard Thomas’ question but allowed him the time to take in his surroundings.
“We’re training,” the veteran adventurer finally declared, disturbing his apprentice’s thoughts. “Why do you think we’re at the training grounds?”
“Haha, very funny,” Thomas replied sullenly, trying to read Marcus’ stoic face.
Marcus had to stifle a chuckle and reminded himself he was dealing with someone who was still quite young.
“You tell me,” the captain said, as Thomas approached him. “What are you trained in already?”
“I know all the basic techniques of any foot soldier in the army. My father taught me; he served briefly in the service of Lord Cradleborn, but he left in order to take over the family business. He taught me to respect the weapons I made. I took an interest in swordsmanship, so he had my uncle come up from Ekoalreich—he’s the captain of the guard in a city down there—and teach me a few unique techniques. For a while, we had a wandering mercenary staying in our town—Heather Stormbrand, I believe it was—and she taught me some things. Let’s see…I know sword and shield combat, both standard Koeleth dueling and the Ekoalreich techniques, and a little bit of halberd work.”
“Family business?” Marcus asked, slightly perplexed.
“Oh, yeah. I’m a trained blacksmith.”
A blacksmith! A blacksmith! It all made sense now. This young man’s muscular body, strong grasp of weaponry, and impressive endurance were to be expected if he were accustomed to working in a forge. What possessed this smith’s son to leave home to join the Adventurers’ Guild was still beyond Marcus.
“You are skilled in melee combat?”
“What about ranged?”
“I couldn’t hit the broad side of a castle.”
“And unarmed combat?”
“Not exactly professional, but I can make do,” Thomas groaned, rubbing a bruise on his chest.
“Well, for a novice, you really did a number on Bruce and his boys,” Marcus said matter-of-factly. “But you are correct—that wasn’t exactly professional. Punched a distracted man, broke a chair over a man’s chest, kicked a man in the groin, body slammed a man, all while taking several blows. Impressive, but unprofessional. We’ll work on it.”
“So, what’s happening?”
“We’re starting with unarmed combat.”
“Are you serious? I just told you I’m not good at it.”
“Exactly. Before I train you with weapons, I’m going to train you without them.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“You came here of your own volition. If you don’t want to train with me, you are welcome to leave.”
“…Fine. I’ll do it your way.”
“Good. We’ll start with some basic maneuvers.”
Thomas followed Marcus into the nearest ring and prepared for a fight. Thomas lifted his fists and dug both feet into the ground. Marcus balanced himself , staying light on his feet; he was ready to dance around Thomas’ unconscious body. Marcus made the first move, and Thomas found himself on the ground before he could even move.
“Too slow,” Marcus observed.
“Teach me your ways, Master,” Tom joked, getting back to his feet.
“That is the most excited expression I’ve ever seen from someone who just got their ass kicked.”
“Well, I want to learn how to do it,” the rookie said, an eager grin spreading across his face.
“Let’s get started, then.”
Marcus followed Thomas through the door to the guild bar. Several of the bar patrons looked towards them; it wasn’t often that Marcus trained one on one with a rookie, and even rarer that he reserved a fighting ring all day for it. Bella and Evangeline were sitting at the same place they were two days prior. Upon hearing Thomas laughing Evangeline smiled, but Bella ran over to him to check on the myriad bruises adorning his face and arms.
“By the guardians, are you okay, Tom!? What happened to you!?” Bella frantically interrogated.
“I’m fine!” Tom replied jovially. “I picked up a few lessons today is all. And I think I’m ready for the next bar fight that comes along.”
“No!” Bella argued. “The idea is not to get into fights! Last time you did that you got a beating!”
“What’s all this?” Tom inquired, somewhat dumbfounded. “Why are you so worked up over that? I won that fight.”
“Only just barely! I’m worried about you! That’s why I’m so ‘worked up!’ You idiot!”
Bella marched off to the dorms in a huff.
“What was that all about?” Tom pondered aloud.
Evangeline, who had caught up to Thomas just as Bella started to leave, smacked her palm against her forehead.
“You dunce,” she said. “You better apologize to her later, Tom.”
With that she turned and followed her frustrated friend.
“For what? What did I do?” Tom muttered.
Marcus concealed a smile, marveling at how such a skilled warrior was utterly hopeless on the battlefield of social interaction. He silently removed himself to his usual corner of the bar, and Tom followed.
“So, what next?” his young student asked enthusiastically.
“Next? You take a break for the night is what’s next,” Marcus answered.
“Well, I mean, yeah, but I mean what comes after this? What do I learn then?”
“Hold up there, Tom. You’ve barely dipped your toes in the lake that is unarmed combat. Look, you’re learning quick, but let’s take on one thing at a time. Tomorrow we’ll work some more on that, but I want to work on your halberd usage as well. Why do you carry that thing around, anyways? You clearly aren’t used to using it.”
“Oh, well, that’s an interesting story! Not long after I split with my travelling companion, I—ah!” Tom began, but was interrupted by a sharp pain in his chest. “I…I guess I can save that that story for later. Right now, the adrenaline is wearing off, and my wounds aren’t fully healed. I think I need to get some rest. And apologize, I guess. Still don’t know what I did wrong…”
“You don’t have much experience with the opposite sex, do you?”
“My best friend is a girl, what’s there to know?”
“Your best friend is a girl, and you don’t know anything about women? There is little hope for you. But yes, go rest. Go apologize. Buy her a flower. Or several. Talk to Evangeline first. She’ll make sure it’s safe.”
“Safe? What do you mean by that?”
“Just trust me on this, okay?”
Marcus shooed Tom away, carefully watching the young man as he stroked his chin, deep in thought.
“That kid has no hope,” a middle-aged man said, slipping into the recently vacated booth seat.
“What do you want, Shark?” Marcus hissed.
“Ah, that’s no way to treat an old friend, is it?” the man called Shark smirked.
After a few seconds of angry glaring, Marcus’ lips started to curl at the ends, then the two men broke out into laughter. Marcus was so unaccustomed to such jubilant glee that he found his face aching from the effort.
“How are you, Shark?” Marcus inquired when he had finally caught his breath. “Finally back from that three year mission of yours, I see.”
“Oh, I’m doing fantastic. Old Theophrastus Shark is still in top shape,” the sandy blonde exclaimed, pounding a fist on his chest. “That mission was a real doozy, let me tell you. Actually, nevermind. If I told you I’d have to kill you. Haha!”
“You’re welcome to try,” Marcus answered. “Save it for later, then, when there are no prying ears?”
“Naturally. I have a lot to get off my chest. Anyhoozit, who’s the kid?”
“Wow, the stoic raven of the guild is taking on a young fledgling, eh?” Shark guffawed, his hazel eyes open wide.
“You make it sound like I’m some sinister, uncaring monster.”
“How many people have you opened up to? I mean really warmed to?” Shark asked rhetorically.
“You want to know why?” Marcus sighed.
“He impressed me.”
“Oh? I demand more.”
Marcus explained the events of two days prior, remarked on Tom’s courage, praised his fighting ability and resourcefulness, and commented on his relative normality compared to other adventurers.
“So this kid—Thomas was his name?—he impressed you with his fighting ability and wisdom beyond his years? You know, there have been others.”
“But not like this kid. I see something of myself in him, I suppose.”
“He’s out to save the world.”
“He’s out to save the world. Just like you.”
“You can’t save the world. Or at least I can’t.”
“And yet, when a promising hero to be shows up, you always take them under your wing. Face it, Marcus, you want to save the world. And he’s your chance.”
“…Maybe. But he’s got potential, Shark. He’s going to do things.”
“Of course he does. Don’t ruin it. Remember Abel?”
“Abel was different; he was broken. I was young, reckless. I overlooked the obvious.”
“Never mind that. Let’s drink to your health and retire to the dorms to discuss your mission.”
Marcus greeted the morning with some trepidation; he knew this would be another grueling day of training with his impetuous new apprentice. He had time to think about Shark’s words. He would not make the same mistakes he had in the past. He would not have another Abel North. Thomas was not Abel; that Marcus was sure of.
“What’s on your mind?” a young voice called, cutting through the fog of regret that was clouding Marcus’ thoughts.
“Oh, Thomas, you’re here.”
“Um, yeah. I have been for a while. You okay?”
“Yes, perfectly fine. Let’s begin your training,” Marcus answered, straightening himself up. “Did you manage to smooth things over with Bella?”
“Yes, question mark?” Tom replied. “I’m not sure. I still have no idea what I did wrong.”
“Hopeless. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. You need to work on your kicks.”
After several days of training with Thomas, Marcus noted that his young apprentice was a quick learner. He was not quite a master of the various unarmed combat techniques that Marcus had been working on with him, but he certainly showed promise. Aside from sparring with him personally, Marcus also had him fighting against combatants who were skilled in unarmed combat; he was keeping up with accomplished adventurers and was easily overcoming some of the other rookies who specialized in unarmed styles of fighting. If this sort of principle applied to other areas of combat as well, Thomas could be a truly formidable warrior.
“Excellently done, Thomas. Mike, go ahead and take a break. You’ve earned it,” Marcus recommended.
It was not a lie. Thomas had just delivered a solid kick to his fellow apprentice’s head, knocking him clean off his feet. Mike woozily stood up, rubbing his head the whole time; Thomas helped him to the guildhall door despite his own extensive bruises.
“Hold up, Thomas. We have something to discuss.”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Still as insolent as day one.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll start showing some respect when I see a reason to,” the novice adventurer joked.
“You’ll get yours someday. Listen, it’s important that you’re prepared for what’s coming. As you’re already aware, you’ll be sent out with other captains over the course of the next couple months on various missions. The goal is to find where you fit best in the guild. Of course, once you are a full member of the guild, you’ll get to choose your own missions. But, should the guild master ever need your particular services, he needs to know how to best apply your skills. You’ll do well with Cpt. Farbank and Cpt. Snowtear. They are kind and valorous, true Men of the River, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Cpt. Shark is an old friend of mine from days long past, and he’ll steer you true. The other captains you may serve under will not trouble you greatly either, save for one. In a few weeks, you will work with Cpt. Bleakwood; he is a hard man. He is inflexible and intolerant of any dissension. You may find that he challenges those beliefs you hold dear—stay strong. His lieutenant, Percival Searock, is a giant of a man—surely, you’ve seen him—and he is as loyal as he is skilled. If you hope to shift the tides of the mission by turning Percival to your side, you are wasting your time. However, he is a man of honor, and if you can prove yourself to him, he will reward you accordingly. Above all, take care of yourself. If you fall, Bleakwood will not help you up. He will leave you behind, if it means finishing the mission. Come back alive. You have friends waiting for you, not the least of which being a certain young miss.”
“Heh, thanks,” Thomas meekly replied, a hint of red creeping into his face. “But with you training me, there’s nothing I can’t handle.”
“Let’s hope so, my friend.”