The Skadivers' Tale

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Fortifying the Hold

Fortifying the Hold

Sam had other things on his mind as well. “Dextmann, Derrick tells me that we will be needing to train Men-at-arms.”

The room got quiet. It was not a happy subject, although everyone knew it would come up eventually. “That is probably true, my Lord,” the thief said slowly.

“I would like you to recruit and train, let’s say twenty-four men,” Sam said, and Genie elbowed him in the ribs. “And women, as are willing.”

“Why would you ask this of me, a lowly thief?”

“I do not hold to your description of ‘lowly’,” Sam said, “as for the rest of it, who better to train men to defend a Hold than an expert in breaking in to Holds? I have seen you fight too. There is value to your style of fighting that I would see in our guards. And if someone could teach them Terean swordplay and Raustorn archery, that would be welcomed.”

“I shall begin in the morning, my Lord,” Dextmann said.

“I can help you with that,” Derrick said, “As I know all the Holdfolk, I can assist you with recruitment.”

“I am at your service,” Dextmann said.

“And I at yours,” the Steward answered.

With that there was more wine and a handful of songs echoed in the Great Hall until the torches were dim.

The whole next day, Dextmann and Derrick went through the Hold and recruited for the New Sky Hold Guard, and Genie had called together the women who had made her new clothes to discuss a design for the uniforms. The ladies suggested several designs that were brightly colored and slightly ornate, but Genie thought they should be a little less conspicuous so that they could blend in to backgrounds and be, well, stealthier—less target-like. They decided to keep with the Skadiver colors in general.

Derrick and Dextmann had good luck, winding up with forty-two recruits to begin working with. They couldn’t believe that there were any women who were interested at all, let alone having an even dozen of them come forward for duty. The men had not taken into account the influence the Lady Genevieve had on the women folk. They had never seen a woman warrior, and now to have one as Lady of the Hold was very inspiring.

Meanwhile, Sam had gone out to the dragons. He convinced them to go on a recon flight to see if they could find any caves suitable for dragon habitation. They flew effortlessly up and around the mountain, a familiar path that they had been taking daily to the lovely shark-infested waters of the Bay of Jawa to the south.

But this day, they were not going so far as that. No, only around the mountain, which looking at it from above, Sam could tell that it had been a volcano at some point. He considered the hot springs he and Genie had enjoyed on their recent return, and thought that this might not be a dormant volcano. Sobering thought, to be living in an active volcano. Hazgorn picked up on his thoughts and explained that there had been no eruptions in their histories, and that had gone back for tens of thousands of years. Still, there were hot springs, and that has to come from somewhere.

But, being a volcano meant that there would likely be lava tubes, and maybe caves. There wasn’t much to see circling low on the south side, but when they came around on the east, Sam saw some shadowed areas in the cliffs. When they went in for a closer look, they saw some small holes. There was a large ledge near one of them, and Sam had Hazgorn let him off on it so he could go investigate. It was a cave, but not a large one. He fired up his flashlight (having thought to bring it) and did a little spelunking. The narrow cave opened into a larger cavern that was maybe big enough for a couple of dragons. As he walked its perimeter, he saw connections to others off to its side. Those were bigger by a good bit. Sam didn’t know much about mining, so it would have been hard to say if it would be safe to carve out the opening in the side of the mountain and in between these caverns to create a lair for a Flight. He spoke to Hazgorn through Ringspeak to report, and Hazgorn said he had seen a glimpse of it while he spoke. This was new. Sam concentrated on looking at the rock illuminated by his flashlight. He stared at it and relaxed his mind. Hazgorn could ‘see’ through Sam’s eyes.

When Sam came out of the cave, he and Hazgorn talked about it, and said they would have to practice that. Aside from that, the dragon said that their Flight would discuss the location and determine if it warranted excavation. After that, Sam asked to go to the top of the mountain to look at it. That was no problem, and the whole group went up. They landed up there and Sam could see that it was not really pointed, like a mountain top, and it was not really flat either. It seemed to be sunken in from the edges, not round, but oval and higher on the north side than the south, which Sam thought good, as the Hold was on the north side. If it were to erupt, hopefully, most of the flow would go south?

Satisfied that he had seen it and understood the island a little better, the group returned to the Hold in time for midday meal. Sam met up with Genie and was told that there was an assembly called for all the recruits in the square before the Great Hall in the afternoon.

Derrick had the men set up targets near the wall, and weapons were brought out to the square. He told the Lord and Lady about the large number of women that had come forth. He almost said he was concerned about it, but thought better of it with Lady Genevieve sensing it and giving him a glare. Genie decided that she would don her armor and show up to this assembly in full battle gear. There was nothing for Sam to say about it, but to do the same.

So, later that day, they showed up at the assembly of recruits looking like the famed Skadivers of Sky Hold. They did not know what to expect from the Holdfolk as far as their skill with weapons, but that was what this meeting was all about. Dextmann called them forward in groups of four to show their skills in archery first. Many of the recruits were fair shots with the bow, since they were trained to hunt. Some were not so good, and a few arrows ‘tinked’ on the wall before clattering to the ground. But five were very good, including three of the women. This made Genie very happy.

Next, they broke into pairs for some sparring with the swords. This was less hopeful. Dextmann repeatedly looked at Sam during the mediocrity of the demonstrations and rolled his eyes.

“So, they need training,” Sam told him, “That’s what I hired you for.”

“Aye,” was all he said.

“Some of these would be better off sharpening the swords than swinging them,” Derrick observed.

“We can work with them tomorrow, Captain,” Sam said to Dextmann.

“Captain?”

“Didn’t I tell you? You’ve been promoted, Captain,” Sam said with a smile.

“I never agreed to that,” he argued, “Don’t want to be some damned Captain…” Sam looked at him, and he backed down and sighed. “At your service.”

“And I at yours,” Sam answered, and he drew his sword. “Should we give them a demonstration, Captain?”

“Aye,” replied Dextmann, “but no jumping about like a Flieghenn for you.”

“Deal.”

The two had never sparred together, and Sam was having fun. His new Captain seemed to be enjoying himself too, having been idle of sword for some time. The recruits looked on and marveled at the movement, the grace, the speed and the obvious friendship their two leaders shared.

The ladies of the bow approached Genie and begged her to demonstrate. She assured them that she was no better than they, but still they had not seen her in action. They had heard the accounts of what the Skadivers had done. They had all seen them fly in on dragons, and on Dragonwing, but most of the fighting had been indoors and not witnessed by the Holdfolk. Naturally, they were curious. So, Genie pulled her bow from its home across her back and had one of the ladies place a flower on the target.

She drew one of her fiberglass arrows out and drew a bead on it. She hit the lowest leaf on the stem, and there was a reaction of underwhelming meh from the onlookers. She pulled another arrow and shot the next leaf up, and one more landed in the third leaf up. The fourth arrow took the head off at the stem, and it toppled to the ground and fell apart. This was what the Holdfolk had wanted to see, and a great cheer went up.

“Show off,” Sam said, smiling.

“At your service,” Genie said.

“Mmm. And I at yours,” Sam answered.

“My arrows?” she said, and Sam obediently retrieved them for her as he had always done.

The recruits were told to reconvene in the morning for the start of their training. Meanwhile, there was a hot spring calling, and the Lord and Lady needed some down time before the evening meal. What happened there, only the little dragon would witness.

The next day was filled with training. Genie worked with the archers all morning, including shooting at targets way out in the field from the top of the wall. They were familiar with this technique, but had never had use it. Hopefully, they never would, but still good to know. In the afternoon, she took them on a tour, which included her chamber and the Rent chamber. Sam figured it would be good to know where all the entrances to the Hold were in the event they had to be defended. She took them full circle down through the passage through which Styric had fled, only to meet Lord Gildenhanna and Dorsea. At that point she indicated that there were a couple of hundred arrows stuck in the ground in the distance. The archers had shot them there in the morning, and had neglected their retrieval. That was the end of their day of training, and Genie did not see a reason to join them in the task. Instead, she went to talk to Vyrna.

Vyrna said that she didn’t want to live in the caves on the east side, and Genie suggested the little building that they had just come out of. Would it be possible to excavate a home there, at the base of the passage that led to her chamber? They went to take a closer look. Hazgorn had mentioned the phenomenon of seeing through Samuel’s eyes by using the ring. The girls decided to try it.

“I’ll go up the passage a little, and you stay here at the door,” Genie said, “then we will try it.”

“I am ready,” Vyrna said. Genie jogged through the door and up about fifty feet. She sat and stared back down the way. Through the Ringspeak, she told Vyrna what she was looking at. She let her mind get quiet and her eyes glazed over. Vyrna could see. The sudden success of the attempt broke their concentration, and they lost it. They tried again. Once the connection was made, Genie got up and walked up the passageway away from Vyrna. She had thought to test if there was a range to this connection, but also wanted to show her where Rent was kept, if she could ‘see’ that far. She could, and Vyrna could see the chamber and the mist through the Ringsight, as it was soon to be named.

***

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