Journal of a Paladin
Episode XVI: the Way
By Matthew R. Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin
Entry #17 The Second of December in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven
I trained with the Professor for weeks. Every day that we both could find time after class, and every Saturday morning. I hadnt told any of my friends about it, and that bothered me some. The only other person who knew about my time with Matell was Cobalt, whom I brought along with me to each session. The professor took a liking to my blue rat friend and kept him entertained with food scraps and a comfortable sofa to relax on while we worked.
Matell introduced me to chess and taught me that the best way to fight is to predict your opponents moves and be right about it. I found that concept to be a difficult idea to try to execute, but he assured me that I would have the hang of it after awhile. I showed him what I knew of martial combat and he showed me how to better what I already knew. I practiced using swordplay diagrams that he had found on old scrolls during one of his many adventures. I became faster and more alert during combat, but I was nowhere near as impressive as Professor Flekag.
What I had seen weeks before was nothing compared to what he was capable of, and Im sure hed be even more impressive in an actual combat session. The professor used and interesting weapon of choice. He was a master marksman, proficient with a crossbow. The crossbow he used was a relic of an ancient civilization known for their engineers, the Cho. One could call the weapon an automatic bolt rifle. Matell called it Ol Belle after a loyal Springer Spaniel he had when he was much younger.
The projectile device fired uniquely crafted iron bolts, much in the way a crossbow normally fires bolts. The difference was that these iron slugs, when fired, are sent into a long rifled barrel and emerge spiraling like musket ball. These bolts were designed to resemble nails, unlike arrows with fletching, so the spiraling stabilized the bolt in flight and so the missile had a longer ballistic trajectory, almost unnecessarily longer. To make the weapon even more deadly, it was fitted with a spyglass to make the most effective use of its long range capabilities. But thats not even the most impressive part. What made this crossbow an inconceivable killing machine was that the bolts were fed into position with a semi-automatic action. All one had to do when the barrel was empty is crank a small handle on the side and a bolt would slide into place and load into the barrel from a quarrel placed into the other side of the weapon. Then one just pulls the trigger to fire. Ol Belle was so effective, it was scary. How an entire civilization could have been wiped out even with the aid of such machinery at their defense is hard to conceive.
The professor used many forms of hand-to-hand combat as well. His favorite fighting style was very visceral, up-close brawling. He would grab, haul, throw, and choke his opponents and he moved with a frightening grace for such a barbaric style. He was intimidating, to say the least. He understood there was no way I could fight like that, I wasnt built like him. He decided to instruct me in quickness instead.
I learned to lead an opponents aim away from vital striking points and how to put them in the best position for a counter attack. I learned how to disarm an opponent without a weapon of my own. He also showed me how to more effectively use everything I have in a combat situation.
For instance, I learned how to more effectively use a small shield, like my own, in both defense and offense. One trick he showed me in particular was to throw my shield, like a discus. The way he performed the maneuver was amazing. He launched the shield and it ricocheted off of several surfaces before returning to his exact spot and he caught it with the same hand he threw it with, not even making one step to either side. Afterward he said, That, there, is why a good head for trigonometry is somewhat important, to which I nodded in bewildered agreement.
Sessions like that continued until the end of the semester in the spring. Lucky for me, my friends didnt bring anything up about my seeming isolation until we had all gathered at the Black Stop to celebrate the end of the scholastic year. It seems like we dont get to do this that often anymore, said Jordan.
Whats that? I asked, Eat?
Well, yeah, he said, I mean, together. Yknow, all of us? Outside of school?
Yeah, Kagome agreed, We should really do this more often!
Sir Cary modestly accepted the blame, Sorry, guys. Im just on duty most of the time
Not, you, man, Jordan said, Im not talking about you, we know youve got stuff to do.
I see, I concluded, Youre referring to my frequent absences as of late, yes?
Yeah, said Kagome, Youre never here. We miss you, she said with the cutest pretend sad face youve ever seen, doubling her cuteness by accidentally breaking it with a smile at the thought of her own expression.
I admit, Ive been training far too much, I said, while not lying entirely.
Looks it, said Jordan, Youve bulked up a little bit over the winter. He laughed.
Hes right, Cary agreed, You look like you could almost take me on!
Not a chance, my burly friend, I playfully disagreed, I dont even think Sir Friel could take you on and win! The party laughed at the humorous, yet entirely possible idea.
Either way, Jordan said, getting back on topic, Im just saying we havent done this in a while and its good that we could all get together for this.
We all clinked our glasses together in a toast to ourselves and the oncoming summer. A thought occurred to me, Say, Emzie. Wasnt your brother, Dewium, supposed to join us this evening?
To which she replied, Hes busy tonight. Said he was sorry he couldnt make it, but hes got to work on some project for the Medguard militia. Probably another clockwork knight or something like that.
Cary spat his ale in surprise bordering on horror at the term, Knights made of metal gears! METAL GEARS! They could be the most powerful weapons known to man! His face went pale.
Whoa! Its not like that, said Emzie. Dew says that the military uses them to scout potential dangers, like an unexplored cave, or a potential ambush, yknow? Its not like theyre indestructible soldiers or something that will hurt innocent people.
They arent NOW, warned the ever skeptic young knight.
Hes got a valid point, I agreed, Look at airships for example. At first used only for expedient travel and cargo shipping, but once they started attaching cannons to them, the only force that can combat one of them is another one at an equal or greater altitude. Perhaps someday these men made of metal will be created en masse and be fitted with weaponry and some sort of mechanism allowing them to kill their creators instead of protect them. The machines may rise one day to judge us as obsolete.
The party was silent for awhile, stunned from my morbid speech. Then Cary shouted, THATS EXACTLY WHAT IM TALKIN ABOUT! See? Im not crazy! We all laughed, and it was a really good feeling. Friends are very important to me, and if I can give the reader some advice, its that you dont do anything to lose a good friend, let alone a whole group of friends.
We enjoyed our little celebration for awhile when a messenger stepped into the building. He approached Seamus, asked him a question, and Seamus pointed over to our table. The messenger came over to us and presented two scrolls. He spoke, It is fortunate that I found both of you in the same place. He gave one scroll to Jordan and the other to me. I bid you all a good day, he said, bowed, and then left promptly, his ornamental feathers bending against the top of the doorway as he made his exit.
Those guys dress so cool! Kagome said admiring the eccentric uniform of the Royal Messengers.
I wonder what this could be about, I said, opening my parcel.
Jordan had already finished reading by then, Thats unfortunate.
Oh no, said Kago, What is it?
If were being notified of the same thing, I said, answering for him, It appears that Jordan and I are finally being called into service.
Well thats not so bad, said Cary, a veteran fighter in said service, What do you guys got to do? Guard duty?
No, said Jordan, It looks like were to join with the Medguard Militia in an investigation of supposed murders in that area. I dont think itll be too dangerous if were just there to help gather evidence.
Emzie, you wouldnt happen to know any rumors about this would you? I asked.
There have been some reports about people going missing in the forest near the mountains, she said, I guess some alchemists and miners were researching the rock and they never checked back into the inn. I think the alchemists came from the academy here so thats probably why they want you guys to check it out.
I think you may be right about that, I said, If theres something shady going on, the government is most likely sending us so they have someone they can trust looking at all the information.
When are you two supposed to be there? asked Kago.
We gotta be there by the day after tomorrow, answered Jordan.
You can come stay with Dew and me while youre there, Emzie said, Youre gonna love our place, its so cool! And there are plenty of extra rooms so you dont have to worry about intruding.
Thats very nice of you to offer, Emzie, I said, Id love to see your place. Youve told me so much about it.
Yeah, said Jordan, And itll be nice not having to share a room with other military grunts at an inn. Sounds good to me.
Okay, well, you can board the train with me tonight, check out the house and Medguard tomorrow, and be wherever you need to be the next day, said Emzie.
We finished our party, said goodbye to Sir Cary, and Jordan had some private words with Kagome. Then the three of us, Jordan, Emzie, and myself, boarded the train on the way to Medguard.