Chrysalis: Chapter 1
Kevin Sopko - July 25, 2006
The ranks of new draftees had lined up nice and neat as Sergeant Jeremy Tharstrip surveyed them. It had been only a week since it was decided that the country of Toryll would invade neighboring Verdelea. It was to be expected, after all. Constant raids by Verdelea on farmlands to the south of Toryll were endangering the welfare of the state. The south was the breadbasket of Toryll; if that were to go up in flames caused by enemy forces, the country would not last very long.
And yet, it was all so surprising. Verdelea had rarely, if ever, been an aggressor on the continent. To have them suddenly strike out in this fashion worried Tharstrip. There had been no formal declaration of war, nor any large scale troop movements, but it appeared to the wizened commander of men that Theoric, the King of Toryll, was not willing to just sit back and take these repeated and costly raids. What frightened him, though, was the recent institution of a draft. Did the King really intend to mount a full scale invasion of Toryll's neighbor over these raids? The army might have been caught off guard by their southern cousins, but Toryll's military might had already outclassed Verdelea's before the draft. It would be nothing to retake the great wall town of Illiathurn that separated the two countries from which Verdelea was launching these raids. Many troops were familiar with the area, as the town used to be operated jointly between the neighbors as a cooperation of peace.
Just what could King Theoric be thinking?
This was what was on the mind of Sergeant Tharstrip, along with one other nagging question.
And just what the hell could that bastard Cheoman be thinking?
Lord Cheoman was the Chief of State of Verdelea, having been elected to the post by Verdelea's ruling body, the Council of Sixteen. The position of Chief of State had many independent powers, including being in charge of foreign affairs and control over the army. Lord Cheoman was no fool when it came to either front. He was an elf who had personally lead one of Verdelea's finest regiments against the last Toryll offensive two hundred years ago, thwarting the invasion before it really took off. His long life saw much experience in all the areas necessary for his office and many people knew this about him, most of all his enemies.
So why then was he provoking us in this fashion when he knows he can't win?
Tharstrip shook all his doubts off as one of the other Sergeants came over to him, handing him a list of recruits who would form his new squad. The other Sergeant looked at him expectedly. With a resigned sigh, Tharstrip moved to the front of the columns.
Diverse group of... beings. Definitely a pool of draftees.
"Recruits! As you may or may not know, the Verdelean nation is trying to cut off our country's food supplies. General Burkfost has told us to send out squads to figure out what is going on in Illiathurn, the Border City, and to send reinforcements to our key towns. We'll be assigning each of you to a squadron. We've taken a headcount, and there's sixty of you here at the present time, so we'll be breaking up into teams of seven. Squad A will be my squadron. Please step forward when you hear your name called... Ryan Keller."
A tall blonde man with features uncommon for Toryll began to step forward. He walked with an oddly confident air about him. Keller, the Sergeant recalled, a nobleman's son. This should be interesting.
A large pillar of strength standing front and center stepped forward. An older man, but it was obvious to all that he was in more than enough shape to hack any of their limbs off, much less hack it in the military. That's two possible good ones, at least.
A groan erupted from the assembled crowd as a slovenly dwarf stumbled out. He walked straight to the two men that had already been called, so at least it appeared he wasn't drunk. Just a dirty, moody dwarf. Ho boy. Now there's a winner.
A short man in a robe walked, no glided forward towards the group. Fairy? Tharstrip asked himself as he looked closer at the pretty-boy. No, just an elf. Looks like we'll have some magic on our side, at least.
A rather scrawny, tall man in scrappy robes answered the call this time. Another elf, but his face looked like he was just about to pass out from exhaustion or starvation. Despite that he made his way to the group without mishap. Another winner!
Does that man have four legs? was the first thing to hit Sergeant Tharstrip's mind. Indeed, the man trotting over to the group was a centaur. Tharstrip smiled as he handed the clipboard off to the next commander, heading over to the group.
"Privates, my name is Sergeant Jeremy Tharstrip, but you can call me Sarge or whatever."
The sloppy dwarf piped up. "Is Jeremy good enough?"
Tharstrip scratched his cheek a bit and looked at the man, but nodded. "Jeremy is fine, too. I don't care for titles so much. Anyway, come with me to the Quartermaster's Office, and we'll get you guys equipped to fight, as well as figure out how we can work as a team. Ten hut!"
Only Ryan, James and Kieven snapped to immediately. The others took their time, but they at least formed a tight line as they made their way to their intended destination. Ah, swell.
• • •
The Quartermaster's Office was a large building, but that was mostly due to the warehouse attached to it. The office itself was a room that could fit roughly thirty people, with some areas cordoned off to allow people to test the weapons they had been given. Tharstrip led the men into this room and sat them down before he was to send them up to the window. "Now, the most important way to learn how to fight as a team is to know what everyone is capable of. Once again, give me your names and your talents."
The older man was the first to rise. Proud and strong, he had one of those jovially serious looks about him, the kind that you could never tell if his next move would be to burst out into song or begin to shout at you. He had a graying crop of black hair, and his ears seemed to be of an odd shape. "James Rivenstone the Second, Paladin of Heolstrom! I excel with a greatsword, sir."
Tharstrip's eyes widened a bit. He had expected the man to have experience, but was not expecting a fully fledged Paladin of Heolstrom. They were born for this sort of thing. He fished through the pouch of badges they had given him and pulled out an enameled red circle. "A fighter's badge for you, then."
Ryan was next. Very much an athletically built man, his lean frame showed promise for both strength and speed. There is something else, too, Tharstrip noted. His blue eyes shone with the same experience that many experienced soldiers' eyes do. It was an odd feeling for Tharstrip, but he let it pass. "Ryan Keller. I can fight at range and close up, but my greatest skill lies in tracking, hunting and fishing. I also know the land very well."
The Sergeant gave him a slightly different badge, this one a green circle. "This is a scout's badge. Good to have someone who knows the wilds, son." I just hope Daddy's money was well spent on your education, he added mentally.
The pretty-boy elf stood up. "I am Adhunair, a caster, good sir." The Sergeant had to pat himself on the back for his correct assessment before. A magical element would probably be necessary for this unit for it to succeed. The man himself was pretty much what you'd expect of a textbook elf. Long locks of straight blonde hair, emerald green eyes. He was no one who would be breaking any molds of elven stereotypes.
His suspicions confirmed, Tharstrip extracted a blue diamond shaped badge for Adhunair and handed it to him. "Good to hear. Welcome aboard."
Kieven, who hadn't quite sat down due to the lower half of his body being that of a horse, tapped a hoofed foot to get attention. It was a strange sight to most of the men there. Centaurs were not common in any parts of the continent of Chrysalis, so to see a half-man, half-horse who wore a rather nicely tailored vest was something odd indeed. "Kieven Deimas. I am good with a sword as well."
Tharstrip pulled another red fighter's badge out for the centaur and handed it to him. "Well, don't see your kind in the military often!" He reached up and patted Kieven on the shoulder, attempting to cover up the awkwardness. He quickly filled that spot by looking towards the other robed man. "How about you?"
The one named Phadeus stood up. He was definitely a lanky man, standing over six foot but probably not pushing 130 pounds. Combined with a face with a paunch that would make zombies jealous, he really would seem emaciated or dead if not for the obvious health in his movements. His voice was very pleasant, surprising the Sarge. "Phadeus Gaothaire. I am a priest serving Xylingin."
It suddenly hit Sergeant Tharstrip like a sack of warhammers. It figures a priest of the "Do what you want" goddess would creep me out like this. His abilities will be useful, if we can keep him from getting broken in two. He handed the man a white diamond badge, similar to Adhunair's in all but color. "Good to see a man of a cloth in the unit."
Everyone then looked expectantly at the remaining dwarf, who didn't seem too keen on jumping up. After a few moments of silence, Tharstrip had to speak up. "So, what about you?"
The dwarf whose appearance matched his personality grumbled and responded in similar tones. "Hanlik Leafbud. I can hit things with an axe for you."
With a sigh, Tharstrip extracted a final fighter's badge and handed it to him then stepped back to address the group again. "These badges give others a general indicator of what you can do. Keep your badge on your left arm, and look for it when you deal with others. We're on our way to Rudvarg, a mid-sized farming community. It's about a day's journey, if you don't know. We'll be acting as a temporary garrison to get you men some training before we head to the front. Now, report to the Quartermaster and he'll get you equipped with anything you might need. There are some weapons you may be required to be tested with to be able to leave here with them, so don't try for anything over your head. Report to the city gate in two hours with your gear. We'll be moving out immediately. Dismissed."
Tharstrip tossed them a crisp salute, to which more than half this time responded in kind immediately.
This will be a long tour.