The Fools offered their thanks to Zeddicyme then walked out the large wood-worked, double doors. Outside was a long stone bridge leading from the ground to the palace over the moat that was at least 30 yards. All along the bridge were several horses with a single person to each two horses. Some of the people had the look of being the trainers themselves and some looked to be lackeys sent to retrieve their Fool.
Peace was approached by a boy of no more than 16 in long dark robes similar to the ones that Peace had been given, except his were the rich red burgundy of the Master Summoner. In a rather squeaky voice, the young boy said, “My Master has sent me in respect of your Master, as your Master is very busy, to retrieve you for your Master to begin your instruction.”
“Riiiiiiggggghht.” Peace said cautiously. “Well guys, let’s hug it out. (Much hugging ensued.) Then I’m off to see the Wizard, hell, next time I see you I’ll be a wizard. Have a good month guys.” He followed the apprentice to the two roans and mounted. The horses started at a run and suddenly grew large leathery wings and took flight to the south.
A lithe man in a dark cloak walked towards the Fools and looked directly at Steven. “You look like the kind of fighter I’m supposed to train. Don’t worry about it though. You and I will get you a set of leather armor once we find a town with enough supplies to suit your training. Say goodbye to your friends, they’ll be seeing you soon.”
“That’s my cue, guys. I hope things go well for all of you. Fare well.” Steven said turning.
“Hey you!” Brant called out. Steven turned back quizzically. “After you join the fighter-in-leather brigade, you and me are gonna spend some time in a tavern to talk about our month right?”
“Sure, you buy.” Steven said smiling. He followed the man in the cloak and walked with him and the horses towards the forest to the northwest, all the while the man in the cloak was showing Steven how to hold the bow right to avoid snapping his arm.
Beard was the next to be approached by a man wearing a mix between cured hides and furs. He nodded at the Fools as a group then eyed Beard up and down. “So I suppose I’m supposed to turn you into something intimidating. Maybe you can help your friends out of a tight spot with just intimidation. I personally think you don’t have it in you to start a fight right, let alone finish it.” The man said in a gravelly voice.
Without hesitation, Beard strode forward and said, “What does a solar plexus say?”
“What?” The confused wild man uttered before Beard planted a full-bodied punch to the man’s solar plexus. The man looked at where Beard had punched, and started to laugh uproariously. “You’ll have to do better than that to injure me friend, but maybe you do have what it will take. Let’s go see if we can make men into monsters and monsters into scared and running children.” Beard gave them all a gruff but heartfelt nod and walked off to mount his stallion and ride due north to the Wastes.
Renee’s trainer is the next to approach. The Fools knew this was her trainer as he was covered in scale mail, had a sword strapped to his back, and a large shield strapped to his arm with the golden emblem of Pelor the Sun God emblazoned on it.
“I am Yuren Tobal, and I have come for thee, maiden. Thou and mineself shall spend many an hour together for the next two fortnights. Bid thine companions farewell, they willt seest thou ever sooner as we progress in thine training.”
“Well then fair companions, see ya in a month.” Renee said with emphasis on her separate structures by her accent moving from Elizabethan to Bronx.
“Take care Renee. We’ll see each other soon enough and we will all have a lot to joke about.” Ryan said with a small smile (no pun intended).
“Of course T-Rex. You two take care as well, don’t get stabbed or anything.” Renee said. She and Yuren mounted the two white mares and rode off to the southwest where mountains rose high on the horizon.
A man in plate armor, holding his helmet under his arm, walked forth briskly and gave the kind of unit marching stop that made both Brant and Ryan stand at attention and snap salutes. The man gave a smile that didn’t seem to appear often on his face then said in a clear kurt voice, “Which one of you recruits are going to be my lieutenant for the next month?”
“I am, SIR!” Ryan yelled in response.
“Good response, soldier. At ease, you two. I am Sgt. Mazram Awellin. You are about to undertake a very exhaustive month if you do not have the ability to lead to satisfaction. For the first half you will be spending time as part of a unit during the day to learn your troops well, and will be spending the night learning tactics and orders with me. For the second half you will be taking command of a unit and leading them in exercises against myself to show me what you have learned. If you are lucky Lieutenant, you will be seeing some actual battlefield experience on the eastern war front. Have you any questions?”
“Sir, no SIR!” Ryan replied. “Good bye, Brant. I wish you the best of luck.”
“And to you Ryan. Sleep well. I think your nights shall become very short in the nights to come.” Brant replied.
“I shall. By the way, Game Time. Ready to go sir.” Ryan said turning back to the Sergeant.
“What is this game you speak of Lieutenant?”
“It’s better you don’t know.” Brant said with a small smile as he recovered from having just lost the Game.
“We have a long ride ahead of us to where the army is bivouacked. Why don’t you explain this game on the way, Lieutenant?” the Sergeant said with a note of more command and less suggestion in the ending question.
“Sir, yes sir.” Ryan said with a smile as he mounted his horse aside the Sergeant and rode to the south and turned towards the east. Brant just shook his head at what kind of havoc had just been unleashed on an entire army.
He looked over at the last set of two horses and saw a woman leaning on the ornamental corner work of bridge. She appeared to be asleep. He took this time to observe her a little. She wore a hose and doublet combination not unlike his own except that instead of a vest she had more of a corset. Her cape had embroidery but was worn on the bottom edge. She had a rapier on her belt and had some lace coming out of her sleeves. On what he assumed to be her horse, there was a bow and quiver strapped to the saddle in easy reach. On the other side he could see what appeared to be a lap harp case. He saw a second one strapped to the other horse as well. This excited him a little. He had always wanted to learn such an instrument. He walked forward to see what his harp looked like, reached for the case, and if he hadn’t been expecting it he would have been hit by the dagger that clattered to the stone. He looked over at his teacher and said, “Are you CRAZY?! You could have killed me.”
“First things, first. I was NOT going to kill you. Next, I knew it was only going to graze you at worst. And lastly, yes I’m crazy and the sooner you accept that the better off this little learning experience will go. What was it that tipped you off then boyo?”
“Well, crazy lady, there were a few things. First, I saw the small head shake that you let escape when I looked so intently at your harp case. Then I noticed that there were some cuts in your lace. I assumed that instead of you just keeping some really long nails, that you kept throwing knives up your sleeves. From there I was just hoping that either you wouldn’t actually throw knives at your student or that I could dodge fast enough.”
“Well at least you have observational skills on your side. Do you know how to play an instrument?” she asked rapidly.
“Um, drums, I guess but nothing that can do any sort of melody.”
“Okay she said. How about stories? Do you know any stories that could entertain a tavern crowd?” she continued her barrage of questions.
“A few probably. None from this land. I should probably learn some from here, I bet people have favorite stories they like to hear.”
“That’s later. Can you use a weapon?”
“I have decent ability with a rapier and some skill with a long bow. I at least know the forms to use a bastard sword appropriately.”
“Well that is better than average I suppose. Do you know any magic?”
“Hmmm actual magic? No, I can not say as I do. That will take some learning.”
“Well, I suppose overall you are a more skilled apprentice than I am use to. Teaching you what you need to know in a month might not be as impossible as it seems.”
“So what am I supposed to call you besides crazy lady? That might start to get awkward in most social circumstances.”
“Well, Thellonius the Quick is how I’m known in several of the major cities. That’s taken a few years to build up and put out there in the publics eye. If you want Thella works, Master Thellonius, or, hell, Master Quick will suffice. Tell me you name in turn my young feisty apprentice. It won’t be the one you continue with after our time together is at its end. That is the name you need to earn. But I need something for now.”
“My name is Brant. I’m also known as Rubble or Rubs. I’m pretty easy as well.”
“Hmmm Rubs…..okay. Well let’s get started. We have a three day trip to Parity, and then things get really started.”
“Wait, I thought we weren’t going to Parity till the end of the month. Why do we need to go there?”
“What use is a bard in the wild, Young Rubs? Not much I’ll tell you. We shall use the time we spend in the wild learning stories, legends, music, and hopefully magic. Then when we get to town we start to teach you your true job, dealing with other people. Who knows, you might even earn some coin in the process.”
The two mounted up and started at a walk towards the west. There was a road to be followed and the horses wanted to follow it by and large as mostly underbrush was at the roads edge. This left their hands free most of the time, so Brant started learning his scale on his harp. As he plucked out some tunes he knew by pattern more than skill, he realized that this was going to be an interesting endeavor.