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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter One (Traveling is Training)

Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)
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Thunder woke with a start when the door to the room he was in opened. His eyes felt heavy from the strange dreams which he had had the previous night. Most of his dreams involved him regaining his magical powers and blasting it all into the darkness which surrounded him. The strange thing was he always felt something or someone watching him. It was a dark presence of some sort. A man stood in the doorway, his hands on his hips.

"On yer feet, 'cruits!" the man said in a commanding voice.

Thunder was the first to his feet, rigidly standing at attention. The farmer boy was next up, attempting to mimic how Thunder stood. Jimmy grumbled as he slowly got to his feet. Wilf had apparently not heard the man's command, for he was still fast asleep, snoring loudly.

The man's eyes narrowed dangerously as he approached the snoozing Wilf's body. He then put the toe of one of his leather boots under one of Wilf's shoulders and pulled up, rolling Wilf to his side. Wilf's snore was cut off into a snort. He then looked over his shoulder to the man who had awoken him.

"You must be the windbag of the group," the man sneered down at Wilf.

"Thinks 'e kin snore louder'n I kin yell, eh? Well then. We'll just see 'bout that. On yer feet!"

Wilf leapt to his feet and glared down at the man.

"Much better," the man said, even though he didn't seem very impressed. "I am Master Jolan. When speaking to me, you will address me as 'Master Jolan' or 'sir'! Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir!"

Thunder realized he was the only one to reply. All the others were not sure what they were supposed to say. And unfortunately, Master Jolan's eyes fell upon Thunder. He seemed to grin slightly in anticipation as he approached Thunder. Master Jolan stopped several feet in front of Thunder.

"What's yer name, son?" Master Jolan asked in a suddenly friendly tone.

"Thunder Kayowen, sir."

Master Jolan scanned him from head to foot. "I take it from the way yer built, you know a lil' bit 'bout fightin', eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"If'n I couldn't tell from the way you stand at attention, I'd say you were once a soldier, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well then," Master Jolan smiled mockingly at him. "We'll have to see about that."

Master Jolan turned from Thunder to address the rest of the group. Thunder had actually been trained through more than what this man had probably been assigned to teach. Back in the Western Alliances, he had been trained in mounted combat, as well as on foot. He had been trained with an extensive array of ranged and close quarters weapons. He had not been sitting about idly for seven years of training.

"Now then, 'cruits," Master Jolan said. "In a few moments, I'll be taking you out to where you'll be given your travelin' 'quipment. From there, I'll give you yer instructions. Now! Form a line right here!" He pointed to a spot next to him. "No, you idiot! I said a line, not a brawl! That's better."

When they finally settled on an order in line, Jimmy was first, then Wilf followed by Jaq, and then Thunder. Master Jolan then set them off down the hallway, tipping them on how to march.

"I said walk in rhythm with his feet, not on them! Speed up in the back there. We're marching, not sprinting!"

Needless to say, this kept up until they finally reached their destination.

A man was sitting at a desk, a pile of equipment behind him. How he or the equipment had gotten there, Thunder had no idea. As each person stepped up, the man gave them a chainmail shirt, a shortsword attached to a belt, and red sashes.

When Master Jolan was questioned as to why they go so little of equipment, he yelled at them. "Yer 'cruits! Ya expect me to suit you up entirely for a long journey the first day of training? You'd be complainin' before the prison was even out of sight of us."

"Excuse me, Jolan," Jimmy spoke up. "but-"


"Er, Master Jolan," Jimmy said. "What's with the swords? Don't we get anything else?"

"Can you use anything else?"


"Tough!" Master Jolan turned to the rest of the group. "Suit up! We're already running late."

Everyone fit into their armor, each person complaining about how uncomfortable the shirt was. Thunder, being used to wearing armor, was the only one who didn't speak up.

"Attention!" Master Jolan shouted.

Thunder stood at attention. The other three hurried into a line next to Thunder and attempted to do the same as him.

Master Jolan shook his head slightly. "Still needs work. What my part of training covers is marching as well as setting up camp, but not to any great details. You'll learn it all once you're part of the Company. We shall be making out way out to training camp which is nearly a week away.


"Yes, sir!" the group said in unison.

"Then let's move out!"

Their travels took them eastward, farther into Valaria from however far in the prison had been. Even Thunder, as seasoned a soldier as he was, admitted that he too along with the others was learning a few new things which his training hadn't covered. It was apparent Valaria taught its soldiers differently than soldiers in the Western Alliances were taught.

After their first day of marching, many of the recruits were tired. They set up camp under the watchful eye of Master Jolan. Then, as punishment for sleeping when Master Jolan gave a command, Wilf was assigned to night watch with Master Jolan.

The next morning the recruits were awakened by the never-tiring Master Jolan. They cleared up camp and resumed their travels. The day seemed to be going as boring as the last day when Jimmy began to whisper to Wilf.

"Oie! Quiet in the ranks there!" Master Jolan silenced them.

Or so he thought. "You know, I'm really starting to get tired of you," Jimmy said, his hand resting on the handle of his short sword.

"You are now, are you?" Master Jolan's eyes narrowed.

"Yea, I are," Jimmy's voice took on a mocking tone.

"If'n yer not quiet in the ranks, I'll have to teach you to follow orders."

"Bring it on!" Jimmy's sword flew from its scabbard, as did Wilf's.

With his blade still in its scabbard, Master Jolan glanced at Wilf. "You too, eh?"

Thunder reached for his sword, but Master Jolan signaled for him to stay out of it. Jimmy suddenly leapt towards Master Jolan. The instructor easily stepped aside, smiling slightly. Jimmy swung around at Master Jolan. The sword was suddenly obstructed by Master Jolan's blade which had leapt from its scabbard into his hands. Jimmy swung repeatedly, each attack blocked easily by Master Jolan's sword. Wilf stood where he was, his forgotten sword dangling from his hands.

"You lack skill," Master Jolan was saying. "You swing that thing as if it were a dagger. Don't swing so hard or you'll tire yourself quickly. You also need to watch your side. What good's yer swinging if'n in between swings I just swept down there and took you across the side? What would stop me then? You keep going for the head. Only do that if there's enough space around you. But when you fight in a company of mercenaries, you aren't given that much space.

"You move around too much and your attacks have no direction. You're just flailing wildly at me," Master Jolan finally stopped when Jimmy crashed to the ground in an exhausted heap. "Hopefully training camp will straighten you up."

Master Jolan turned to Thunder. "Now that we've seen the skills of one of the less impressive swordsmans in this group, let's see what you've got, 'cruit. Best three out of five taps.


"You heard me, 'cruit."

Thunder sighed. If there was no other way of avoiding this pointless exercise, then he would do as he was ordered. Thunder pulled out his short sword, pointing it at the ground. Master Jolan suddenly charged, swinging his sword horizontally at Thunder. Thunder blocked the attack, then shoved Master Jolan's sword back. Master Jolan suddenly gasped. One tap on Master Jolan. Thunder grinned slightly at the startled trainer.

Both fought back at fourth. Thunder suddenly lost his balance when he stepped on a loose rock. Master Jolan tapped him on his right side before he crashed to the ground. Thunder parried several attacks, then rolled out of the way before Master Jolan's sword crashed into the ground where he'd been moments before. Thunder, now on his hands and knees, spun his leg around, tripping Master Jolan's feet out from under him. Master Jolan landed on the ground with a loud grunt. Thunder was suddenly standing, swinging his sword at Master Jolan's prone form. Master Jolan then brought his foot up to Thunder's chest, shoving him back several feet. Thunder regained his footing, then spun towards Master Jolan, adding momentum to his attack. Master Jolan was on his feet now, swinging to block.

Swords banged together. Both resumed their extreme pace. Another tap to Thunder on his shoulder. One more tap to Master Jolan's knee. Master Jolan then tripped Thunder. Thunder suddenly lost grip on his weapon, which flew several feet away from his grasp. Master Jolan swung to give the third and final tap. Thunder suddenly brought his foot up, cracking it against Master Jolan's hand. Master Jolan gasped in pain, letting go of the sword. Thunder caught the flying sword and rolled behind Master Jolan, giving the final tap on his back.

Thunder got to his feet and stepped up to Master Jolan who was rubbing his sword hand. "Is your hand all right, sir?"

"Yes," Master Jolan looked down at his hand. "You only cracked a few fingers, but it'll heal if time permits." He looked at Thunder. "You seem well trained. Where did you learn some of those moves? I've never seen some of those in Valaria before. At least not the way you perform them."

"Seven years of training as a knight for the Western Alliances taught me a little," Thunder shrugged, no expression on his face, although he was laughing inwardly at the startled trainer.

"You have more experience at fighting than I had thought. Indeed you will make a valuable addition to the Stallions. I shall put in a good word for you when we reach training camp."

Their conversation was cut short when battlecries accompanied by the flare of horns in the distance sounded out.

Thunder looked to the forest lines along either sides of the road. Orcs could be seen charging through the trees, weapons flashing. The forest line was a good few hundred yards away, so a course of action had enough time to be thought up.

Master Jolan cursed as the number of orcs in the forest seemed to multiply.

"I don't think I kin fight all to good with my off-sword hand, but I'm sure I kin hold them off long enough for you all to get away."

By the looks of the paled faced recruits, they seemed likely to do anything he said as long as it allowed them to run for their lives.

Thunder knew Master Jolan didn't stand a chance on his own in his condition.

"I'll stay, sir. You go."

"What?" Master Jolan glanced sharply at Thunder. "Don't be foolish, boy. This isn't anything like you've ever fought before. I've lived a good life. Go. And that's a direct order!"

"To the Underdark with your direct orders, sir! I've fought orcs before on my own. You take the others and go! I'll be fine! Now go!"

Master Jolan seemed reluctant, but Thunder's tone left little room for argument. As Thunder turned to the orcs flooding from the forest, he hoped he'd be fine after whatever may happen next.

Five orcs broke from the forest line, bounding ahead of the others.

Thunder's sword was out as he crouched to meet the onslaught. The first orc to reach Thunder brandished a brutal looking axe. Thunder rolled to the ground as the orc barreled past, axe swinging. Thunder swung to his feet, only to see two more orcs coming up, one with a spear and buckler, the other armed with a short sword and handaxe.

Thunder leaned back, the orc's shortsword narrowly missing his face. He blocked the same orc's axe and spun around, hacking off the spearhead to the other orc's spear. He leapt into the air, one orc's axe swinging past where his feet had been moments before. He suddenly heard the orc with the large axe coming up from behind. He sidestepped the orc, leaving it to barrel straight into the work with the two weapons. Both crashed to the ground, one with a half-moon axe head protruding from its chest, the other with a sword sticking through its stomach.

A slight pain shot through his shoulder as the orc with the severed spear began to beat Thunder repeatedly with it. He spun, hacking off another section of the orc's spear. He then ran his sword through the orc.

The next few orcs attacked, the rest of the orcish army finally reaching the forest line. Thunder dodged another attack from one orc, then blocked an attack from the other orc with an orc double axe. He blocked the other axe end as it swung up, then spun, his weapon banging into the other orc's raised blade. The attack threw the orc off balance, and Thunder's blade was quick to kill the orc.

Thunder spun back around, blocking one axe head. The axe on the other side then swung up. Thunder swung to block. Blade and axe collided. Axe won. With a loud crack, Thunder's sword broke in two. At that moment, he decided to back-peddle it out of there. He dodged another attack, then stomped straight on one of the orc's knees. There was a snap and the orc bellowed in pain, crumpling to the ground clutching its knee.

Thunder then sprinted down the road after the dot in the horizon which marked the group of recruits.


The remainder of the group's travels were thankfully uneventful. Several days passed before they reached the training camp. The instructors there were informed of Thunder's skills by Master Jolan. To see if what Master Jolan had said was true, they personally tested Thunder over the course of the next few days. He was tested in the uses of unarmed combat, armed, ranged, and mounted combat. He passed each test quickly with great success.

"Indeed your training in the West was very thorough," the lead training instructor said. "You should be thankful; few recruits make it out of training two days after they arrive. Head to the tent down there." The instructor pointed. "There you will receive your full uniform as well as supplies for tomorrow's journey. A group of trainees just finished training and were planning on heading to base camp tomorrow morning. I expect you to see you going with them, private."

"Yes, sir."


Thunder headed for the tent which he had been directed to. A small man sat behind a desk inside, furiously writing with a quill on a piece of parchment. The man looked up when Thunder stepped into the tent. Thunder quickly received his uniform which consisted of a full suit of chainmail, as well as a pure white sash, clean boots, a shortsword, and a longsword. Thunder grabbed his things and headed out.


Thunder awoke the next morning and quickly put his things on. Stepping out from the barracks, he saw a group of thirty or so new soldiers. They were all dressed the same as he and had looks of eagerness and anxiety on their faces. They all didn't seem to noticed Thunder as he joined the group. The man in charge of the group of privates then ordered them all to get into marching formation. Everyone was quick to act and were soon ready to go. The instructor then gave the order to march. They set a good pace, and soon the training camp was just a dot in the distance.

For several days they kept up the same pace. After a few days, their destination could be seen in the distance: the Company base camp.


The Tale of Thunder: Chapter 1 - Traveling is Training © Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)

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