Leadership is Hard 8

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It was quite possible for Fred to include hiking as one of the list of things he was quite capable at, but it hadn’t been a job. The brief stint as a park ranger didn’t count because there hadn’t been much to do. It was also quite different from any sort of forestry job that might exist in Igeliv. 

Walking all day wasn’t so bad- especially since it didn’t have to be all day. He could swap off with the others in the wagon. Eustathios really needed to be the one driving the wagon at all times, since none of the others with them knew how to do it. It seemed quite simple, but if they came upon something difficult and pulled the reigns the wrong way… it could be quite troublesome.

Thazeln grumbled as they walked along. “Didn’t we have a trail at the start of this escapade? Now we’re almost pushing our way through bushes and trees.”

Reln nodded stoically, “There was a trail. Now we are past the furthest outposts, so there has been no significant amount of travel.”

“I’m just saying…” Thazeln drew out the word, “If I have to push the wagon through a patch of mud one more time I’m going to lose it. There’s not even anything to drink! Except what that Theobald fellow has…”

Frederick shook his head, “Don’t even think about it. Besides, they just don’t want to open the kegs on the road. There’ll be some when we get there.”

“Just saying, a days’ work isn’t supposed to involve so much walking and moving about. Just supposed to swing a pick or an axe until it’s time to be done. Then you eat and drink and pass out until the next morning and do it again.”

A smile crept onto Fred’s face. His opinion of Thazeln had changed quite a bit since getting to know him. The way he’d functioned when they first met was just long habits of what the right way to do things was. He took a position for the day and stuck with it until it was time to go home. It wasn’t a bad work ethic, but it didn’t work as well if he had a position he wasn’t suited for or if there was a time crunch.

“Looks like there’s a commotion up ahead,” Eustathios remarked.

The weather was good, so they could see most of the wagons in front of them, except the ones blocked by terrain or other wagons. It was just possible to see people more active in front of them, though it didn’t look like any sort of emergency. “I’ll go check it out,” Fred volunteered.

It wasn’t too hard to catch up with the earlier wagons, since they only moved at normal walking speed. Nobody was quite sure what happened until about halfway toward the front where he found Lavias Tophill. “Oh, Frederick.” The small man bowed. “There is some troubling news. I spotted goblins in the area. Just a pair, but I imagine they saw the caravan as well. It will likely be trouble.”

Goblins. They certainly didn’t come in just groups of one or two. They often attacked villages and other small groups of people… like a caravan. “That does seem worrisome.”

Lavias nodded. “It’s possible they’re just moving through the area. Still, I’d make sure you have something to fight with ready at hand.”

“… right.” Of the jobs Frederick had once been a part of, none involved fighting. The only place that really came up on Earth was professional athletes and occasionally bouncers… but bouncers mostly avoided fighting. He hadn’t been big enough to be considered for that position, since they preferred people of above-average build. He supposed bodyguards and the like existed, but that was a more rare job- the same with the professional athletes. Thus, he hadn’t really interacted with those areas. It wasn’t possible for him to have done literally every job, even if he’d done many.

It wasn’t like everyone could fight or had training… but for people going out to the frontier it was somewhat expected they’d at least know how to swing a weapon. Well, Fred knew the basics at least- and he was in shape, which was important.

Fred returned to the rear of the caravan and explained the situation- such as they knew. “We’ll keep that axe handy for you, Thazeln. It’s not really a weapon but… good enough I suppose.” Brick was too small to fight… but if he could, he had teeth for that. Then again, Brick could definitely draw blood- he’d done it before. Goblins should be easier to reach vital parts on than a human, right? Fred next glanced at Eustathios. “I don’t think we have any swords or spears. Do you have a preferred weapon, Reln?” 

Reln dug around in the wagon and pulled out a mallet for pounding stakes. “This… maybe.” It certainly wasn’t made to be a weapon, but he could swing it.

There were other tools. Fred pulled out a hoe for himself, making sure he could get to it. “Eustathios?” That name was far too long. Fred wondered how he would feel about a nickname. Perhaps he’d ask later. 

“Something with a blade would be good. Perhaps a sickle?”

Fred rummaged through the boxes that he knew had tools. “Nothing in here. I’ll go ask the other wagons.” As he made his way forward he quickly found they didn’t have many things with blades, or they were already claimed. 

“Sorry, Fred.”

“We’re out.”

Fred sighed. It would be a shame to have one of their best fighters without a suitable weapon. Eustathios could probably hit someone with anything fairly well, but there was a big difference between a stick and a blade. He kept asking, eventually winding up next to Brurnaebelle- Belle, the dwarven huntress. “You need a sword?” she shrugged. “I don’t have one of those, but I have a dagger.” She pulled a sheathed blade from her belt. Fred supposed it could have been called a dagger. At least, it wasn’t what he would have considered a ‘sword’. Maybe a shortsword? There was probably some distinguishing feature, but he didn’t know what. Even sheathed he could tell the blade would be longer than his forearm. “Here. Don’t lose it, now.”

“I’ll take personal responsibility for it,” Fred promised. He wasn’t sure what he could do to repay her if it did become lost somehow, but he’d figure something out. He took a short break instead of walking back to the rear wagon, letting it come to him. He hopped up on the wagon next to Eustathios. “Here. Courtesy of Belle. She said it was a dagger… but that’s the best I could get.”

Eustathios let the reins droop over his leg, looking ahead to make sure there were no immediate reasons, then started appraising the weapon. “Good, solid dwarven make. To them, a dagger is anything below an arming sword, for the most part.” He placed the sword right behind him in the wagon. “I think it’s best to leave that there for now. You said Belle had it? She’s that huntress?” Fred nodded. “Did you say who it was for?”

“… No?” Fred’s common sense from the world was grinding against his memories of Earth. It wasn’t like dwarves and orcs would kill each other on sight, though they had a larger history of conflict than others. 

“Hopefully I won’t need to use it anyway. If I do, I’m sure she’ll appreciate the caravan being defended.”

“I hope so as well.” Fred found himself a pitchfork in the back. A long handled weapon was probably a good idea. He also didn’t have to do anything complicated but stab it at someone and hope it kept them away.

—–

There were no troubles with goblins that day, so in the evening Fred went to Belle with a request to train him. “I know it’s not a proper spear but…”

“We don’t exactly have many,” she grinned. “Why don’t you try and show me how you think you’d use a spear?”

The ‘spear’ felt more comfortable with his right hand behind, where his dominant arm would provide the thrusting power. He spread his legs and gave a few thrusts at the air.

“At least you don’t seem completely clueless, but your stance needs to be lower. And don’t commit so much to those thrusts, not every time at least.” Belle demonstrated herself, making a few short jabs. “Sometimes, you can just let an opponent run onto the spear. You set it against the ground like this and brace… not sure if it’ll work well with a pitchfork, but the width might be good with your inexperience. Just make sure to keep the prongs parallel to the ground.”

Fred tried his new stance to match hers, moving lower and doing a few jabs.

“Lower. Lower. Even lower.” Then, eventually, “Tch. I guess that’s as far as you can go. Humans with your long legs. Just make sure you don’t get knocked down. Against goblins, I imagine you’ll be fine unless there are two or three throwing themselves at you all together, which there might be.”

Fred didn’t like the thought of that at all. He would have liked to practice late into the night, but there was no point in fighting exhausted. He should keep things moderate. He saw a few others practicing, but for the most part people seemed content to assume goblins wouldn’t attack… or that someone else would take care of it. That might be true but… Fred really wasn’t ready to give up on his life just yet or bet on those who could fight being with him instead of elsewhere in the caravan.

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