The storm had passed, and a few days of good weather prevailed. But deep inside Alejandros knew that another was brewing out there in the gray sea, beyond Nondras. He was given surprising leeway as an Officer, though he still did not really believe himself to be one. He figured the light training he was now undergoing was good for his humors, and one could always do with a healthy body, as well as a sharp mind.
The Fall months were upon them, that much was clear. But the days spent with the Master-at-arms assigned to him had been pleasant, though the training was anything but. On every sword practice he was brutalized, the Master believing this to be the only method to harden the Scholar for the combat ahead. Alejandros complained bitterly but this only served to agitate the Master and that did not bode well for the Scholar.
It was a busy yard, row upon row of green men training in preparation to be sent to Stagenpunkt. The yard stretched greatly, ancient cobbled stone was laid unevenly across the entire yard, wild grass poking its green fingers in many places. And though the yard was often crowded, the Master-at-arms had been given plenty of room to mold the Warlock into a fighting man.
"What is it with you? Get your hands off your knobby knees and at me." Said the Master, practice blade twirling in his hands.
"A minute please!" wheezed Alejandros, just as he began to stand upright with terrible unease. Mustering all the energy he could, he lunged deftly at the oafish Veteran, but the blow was a terrible miss, the Veteran dodging quickly despite his size. A glancing hit took Alejandros at the shoulder as he sped by, sending him sprawling to the floor.
"Enough for today methinks, lest you spend all that energy missing me all day and not the enemy." It was in fact a begrudging compliment, for the attack had taken him by surprise, and a lesser man may have been struck mortally had it been a real sword. Alejandros did not take it in such a manner however. Slowly he rose to his feet, using the wooden practice blade to help him up.
Sullenly he said, "Not much of a swordsman am I? Perhaps I should get back to my books instead, though I do not know how I can even open one now." His fingers ached terribly from a few raps he had received to his hands.
"Cheers lad, your getting quicker. Soon you may even strike me HA!" The laughter annoyed Alejandros but he felt somewhat better. "Besides, you have that new guard that is to be formed just for you." The Scholar had not heard much about the guard detail that was being assigned to him, but from what he had managed to be pick up he discovered that it was to consist of only the most proven warriors, but that much he could figure himself.
At last the two Elves exchanged friendly if not stilted goodbyes as the sun reached its apex. He crossed the field in a half-limp, stumbling at times where the ground became uneven, close to the main building of Letzter Standplatz. Up the few steps he hobbled, and toward his newly assigned quarters within, where a hot meal would be awaiting him.
The next few days were a just as harsh as the previous had been. Reports had begun to flood in, many of them making their way directly to Alejandros. Each one was more troubling than the last, detailing enemy sightings, and attempts at determining where they might land and attack. The report from Creedburg had been especially troubling.
Even though the force posted at Stagenpunkt was large, they continued to decree that there were not enough men to deal with the landing force at the fishing village, and that even if they had the men it was such a small force that it posed no threat. Perhaps no threat to Stagenpunkt, he thought to himself. As the days came and went so did the messengers. It was becoming clear that the main Gernen force was to land at Nondras, and would establish a foothold there.
The atmosphere of the headquarters grew tense as well, the gossip that made its way through the men alerted them to the fact that they may soon join their brothers in arms at Stagenpunkt and beyond. Some men were anxiously awaiting combat, but all were afraid. The anxiety had also begun to eat away at the Warlock. He was not improving in his swordsmanship nor his control over the flames.
Soon the storm was upon them again. That morning Alejandros was mulling over a cold meal in his chambers when a knock came from the door. Before he could rise, the door swung open, and in its place stood the Master-at-arms.
"Ottomar, what brings you here?" questioned Alejandros.
"Come at once, seems theres something important the General has gotta tell you." His tone was grim, but his stern face was no more bothered than usual.
Stiffly he stood, well aware of stares from the small group of armored Elves standing at his door. They walked in silence through the arched stone hallways, striding quickly pass other men busy with their own tasks, but many stopped and turned to look, for they sensed the urgency and importance about them.
At last they arrived at an exquisitely built redwood doors, ornately carved and sturdily built. The elves that had led Alejandros pushed the doors open, shoving the Warlock inside along with them. The Warlock quickly composed himself and stood at attention, looking right into old Malte's narrow eyes, which was more than he could stand to do before turning his gaze downward.
Malte spoke, and as he did the Warlocks eyes snapped to his face. "A pleasure to meet you master Alejandros. I have finished selecting those elves who are to be your personal guard when out in the field. These elves are of the highest caliber, and they stand around you even now. Alejandros, I present to you Karloss the southron, a man from parts not so distant from your own if I recall correctly." Alejandros simply nodded in silence as his named guard saluted. "This man here is Orel, son of the Srisii."
The tall wild haired Elf saluted in turn. "And this one is Phillip of Steinland." The third Elf bowed low as was his custom. "And finally Ottomar, our own Master-at-arms, whom you are already acquainted with." Ottomar gave the scholar a gruff but smirking nod. "These Elves are the cadre to form the Mystiker Wache, a regiment dedicated to guarding men such as yourself. Until such Elves are ready however, these four will have to do. Dismissed." The five new members of the wache gave a final salute and filed out silently, with only the Warlock taking one final glance back and saw Malte standing in the middle of the room, rigid and war-like, clad in thick, battle worn plate and fur, black, gray streaked hair above a stony face.
In the next couple of days recruits came and went, those who had been in training left for Stagenpunkt and new men replaced them. As Alejandros moved among them, every face was suddenly different to those he had grown accustomed to. However, some faces stayed the same. General Malte had not yet left to command his army and his unmistakable presence was spotted from time to time.
The Warlock also began to learn more about the current members of the Mystiker Wache. The Southron was an immigrant much like himself, though from a region further north than that of the Warlock. Lean and short, he had an almost shaved head, alongside an unkempt beard. During a break in the sparring practice with Ottomar, he had asked what he knew of him.
"Well if the stories I hear are true, he is fanatical in battle. When he first defected to Markus, a lesser Warlord he fought for ordered him to the front of a skirmish in which he faced men he had previously served with. Outnumbered, the Warlord's general had ordered a retreat, but as you would expect from a man who leads an expendable unit and has a hunger for glory, he ignored it. Karloss did his duty but before then, he asked to personally duel the Warlord once he returned."
"I presume he survived and won then?" asked Alejandros.
"By all means he did. Most of the killing he did himself, kept the losses on his own side to a minimum and quickly routed the enemy. After the battle and still fresh with gore, he stalked right up to the warlord and shouted the challenge. He gutted him and took his place as the new Warlord."
"Interesting elf indeed. Do you know anything about the others?"
"Spend enough time around recruits and soldiers and you'll hear a tale or two aye. Orel fought in the Srisii tribal wars a hundred years back or so, and was King Rheuborix's right hand. They said that savage province could never be tamed until they came along."
"I've read much about the Srisii. Much of it not good I'm afraid. Page after page historians describe them as barbarians, with a long tradition of making war upon neighboring tribes for even the smallest slights. In fact it hasn't even been fifty years since they entered into the Onoradas alliance." Orel certainly looks savage enough to be a suitable heir to the Srisii, thought Alejandros.
"I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of a Srisii axe, I'll tell you that much." Ottomar furrowed his brow in thought. "As for Phillip, I'll tell you I don't know much about him, other than he is a prince of Steinland and rode east on a mission to quell human incursion into Onoradas territory."
"He seemed well mannered." Said Alejandros.
"Well mannered is not what we need on the field." Replied Ottomar. A moment of silence washed over them, each lost in their own thoughts, and fears. The day grew late and the Warlock hobbled back to his quarters, battered and bruised. Despite his fatigue, he stood in the middle of his chambers and concentrated. With an arm outstretched he thought upon the energies that surrounded him and put them into the only conceivable form he could imagine, a flame.
The fire held easily in the palm of his hand, never threatening to burn him, yet still dangerous to his surroundings. His theory on the mind's ability to manipulate the invisible energy around him was proven in his hand. The abstract concept needed a physical outlet, and he had come up with the idea that fire was the most easily conceivable destructive force the mind could conjure. Alejandros even suspected this energy could take other forms, but fire was the only ability he had been able to prove. The flame's close association with energy was the crucial link. Now he alone held its power.
But for how long? How long until others also had this power? His own students had made marvelous strides in this field, though none yet could grasp the link between an abstract energy the Dwarves of the far east use to imbue their crafts with greater capacity, making bronze as hard as the best steel. Even his most gifted student, Lionel, had not yet conjured his first flame, but he was incredibly young for his station, and had much time to master it.
With each practice it became easier, the flame friendlier. It was like becoming fluent in another language. His thoughts had to be in this abstract language, and as he spoke it in his mind the flames reacted accordingly, spreading across his body at his command, never daring to consume. And so the flames grew, massive, the room enveloped in orange light, so bright it hurt to open his eyes. And just as quickly it died, and the room was once again enveloped in darkness.