Chapter 10: The First Day
2 Ninth Moon 250
Tadst Quorin Cronewr and I were just starting training gear issue for the militia members drilling this morning when a cry went up from the sentry on the wall.
"Tort Harwick is approaching with a good-sized crowd!" The sentry cried down into the yard.
"Well let's go greet the good Tort, Tadst Cronewr. The rest of you continue getting ready. Take charge." I said pointing to one of the men who already had everything
"Let them in!" Quorin called out to the sentry as we hurried to the gatehouse. The gates opened slowly for the party as it reached the castle.
"Welcome and good morning, what brings y'all here so early?" I called out as they came up the trail.
"These two insisted," Harwick grumbled as Harlan and Cerlina shot forward. "Since I don't need to be there to unload the cargo, I figured I could come see what you are teaching them in this school of yours."
"Alex! Has class started already? We aren't late, are we?" Cerlina asked. I saw Mat and Quinten standing a bit further back with their fathers as well. 'At least that explains where the missing orphans are; they're no longer orphans.' I thought, recalling the empty places at breakfast.
I squatted down to address her directly. "They just started in on the math lesson. I'm sure you aren't too late to join them. Hurry along, if your father is fine with it?" I said, directing my last bit more at Harwick.
"It's fine by me, for now. I said I wanted to see this for myself and so do some of my crew. Let this be the start of your week, Stranger." He said. Not quite glaring, but not far off either.
I stood. "So be it. I'm sure they know the way. We can follow and discuss something else."
The children raced forward and Harwick walked beside me. Quorin on my other side. "Tort Harwick, this is Tadst Quorin Cronewr. He oversees the Grenbaejhon component of the militia."
"Tort," Quorin said with a respectful nod of his head. Harwick gave him a hard searching stare.
"Since when has there been a house Cronewr on Achentheckon, much less at all." He said. "You were one of the shepherds that watched Towern Achentheckon's flock, weren't you? Toothless Tom's son, I should think."
Quorin paled under Harwick's inspection. "What he was before matters not," I cut in.
"Matters not! He may be Ironborn, but his father was a vryhonjaewr and he was following the same soft life!"
"And then the plague came and everyone else died. What was is gone. Now it is the time for something new. He may have been born the son of a shepherd, but now he is the first new officer I have. One I would very much appreciate if you would help him learn how to lead and train men." I replied as evenly as I could.
"This is the future you want? Soft boys doing the work of men?"
I shook my head. "No. I want to forge those boys into worthy men. Just as a blacksmith works raw metal into a useful blade so too would I turn even the least worthy boy into a soldier to be feared on the battlefield." I said passionately.
Harwick gave Quorin another look as we passed into the keep and started up the stairs to the space which had been turned into a classroom. "What help do you want?"
"Right now we have about two-hundred men who are a part of the militia. They are the ones with enough time out of their week that at least twenty can be on duty every day, with another twenty coming up here to train in the use of polearm, mace, ax, shield, and/or ranged weapon as appropriate. What I need is someone from your crew that can act as the Drill Sergeant, a person that can teach them how best to use those weapons and fight as a unit." I said.
"I know I am not much of a warrior Tort Harwick. How could I be? As you said, I am the son of a vryhonjaewr. A shepherd. Barely Ironborn. But I survived the curse, the plague that took my father, my mother, my sibling, and drove many others mad. I survived and have found a new purpose." Quorin said.
We reached the classroom. The children rushed in and took their places, interrupting Maester Albar for a moment.
"Sorry for the interruption Maester. Some of these folks want to sit in on a lesson and try to understand what is happening here. Don't let them distract you too much?" I called out before turning my attention back to Quorin and Harwick.
Their eyes were locked and Quorin was slowly starting to straighten up from the slouch Harwick's initial lambasting had put him in.
"There are no other Cronewr. It is a name I chose for myself. Just as everyone is choosing a name for themselves. Something which is theirs and that no one can strip from them. Something to pass on to one's children, with all the legacy it carries." Quorin said. Then he seemed to catch himself and turned to me.
"I need to go make sure things are ready for training." He said and hurried off. Together we watched him retreat for a moment.
"You inspire loyalty it seems. We will talk of this granting of names after I see what has my children so eager to learn from the fool Greenlander." Harwick said, brushing past me to watch the lesson.
A few moments later, as I was exiting the keep, one of the crewmen came jogging up to me.
"Harwick said I was to help whip the greybeards and milksops into shape. Let's see what I have to work with," he said.
"Alright, let's see what you can do with us," I said guiding him over to where the militia members had gathered.
"IRON BORN!" Quorin called out at the end of drill a couple of absolutely exhausting hours later.
"STEEL FORGED!" The militia answered tiredly, but eagerly. Glad for the end of the hellish session they'd just endured.
"Dismissed," Quorin ordered. With more precision than weeks ago, yet far from what I'd one day like to see, the militia fell out.
So maybe I introduced basic US military drill and ceremony here. Well, the drill part anyway. As much as I hated marching around, it was a useful tool to build discipline, comradery, and to get a group of people used to moving and working together.
Either way, they took a step back and devolved into a mob. With dragging limbs and tired steps, they headed for the armory to return their practice gear.
Jayson, the name of the man from Harwick's crew, watched it impassionately. He was an excellent trainer. Seeing what he could do turned into the most brutal training session since I took control of the town.
Once the yard was empty of everyone except Jayson and I, he turned to me and asked, "What was that all about at the end there?"
"How much did you hear about my conversation with Tort Harwick last night or from the townsfolk?" I asked.
"If'n townsfolk means the people living in Achentheckon, not much. From Tort Harwick… Well, the Tort said you were probably crazier than a Targaryen drinking wildfire, claiming you were not from anywhere in Westeros, Essos, or beyond, but someplace no one could ever sail to, and that you had some plan to change the Ironborn."
I nodded. "And that was a part of it. Iron is fine and all, but steel is stronger, better. I want the people of this island to think like that. That they may be born solid, reliable, and capable like iron, but they can become something more through the forging of themselves into people of steel."
Jayson snorted. "You really are crazy. If that lot is what you think to do it with. They are weak, slow, and incompetent. I would rather fight beside an angry salt wife from Lys than put them into battle." He said.
'Well, that is a wonderful image.' I thought, but he wasn't done.
"But for all that, they didn't give up. So maybe there is something to what you are saying."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "Don't mistake them for what I think the future army should look like. I know they aren't the best, but they are what I have. Someone needed to be able to defend this place. Who better than the people that live here?"
Jayson was silent for a long time before he spoke again. "And what does that future army look like?"
A number of thoughts ran through my mind at the question. Gunpowder was a long way off. Flight, prop-driven, let alone jet power, was just a dream. Rockets were a maybe. The Chinese and Koreans had them for a long time after all. Steam power wasn't an impossibility. But he was talking about now. Today. At this moment in time.
The now which was Vikings with longship, quick raids, and rapid actions. What kind of army would that be? Well the first answer that popped into my head was one of pike and bolt. Squares and spikes designed to litter the battlefield with the corpses of cavalry while supported by organic artillery in the form of some manner of ballistae.
But then I realized that wasn't the kind of army I needed right now either.
Vikings with longships who raided and were not out to take land didn't need a large army. I needed special forces. Something designed to get in and out quickly with maximum violence.
"The army I want right now isn't one." I realized. Jayson started to speak, but I held up a finger to forestall his rebuttal. "When I say army, I mean tens of thousands of men, long supply lines, artillery, infantry, cavalry all working with coordination to bring death to the enemy, to take and hold territory, and enforce a nation's will. There isn't a need for it. What I need is an elite force. The best of the best warriors who can chew through their opposite number. I need a force that can strike without warning, win its goals and leave before there can be a response."
Jayson laughed. "Well we do that already; don't see why you think we can be better?"
"You can always be better. Better weapons, better equipment, better tactics, better training, better ships."
"And which can you provide?" He asked.
"Better training. Maybe not the actual training, but the methods. Same for ships. I think I can provide you with new designs to try. Equipment too. For weapons, well that is a thing that is a problem right now. With Balon the blacksmith dead, there aren't any others in town."
Jayson just stared at me for a long minute. "You are serious. You think you can provide better ships? Ha. That I want to see. The training, again I am a better trainer than you. As for the rest, I don't even know where to begin." Jayson walked away laughing.
I watched him go. He wasn't exactly wrong. He'd also given me something to think about. All this time I had been thinking about defending the castle and town and building the militia around that. The army to support that would be lots of pikes, polearms, and crossbows to kill an army on open ground.
'Dothraki on an Open field, Ned!' The Bobby-B meme played in my head before I shook it away.
But that wasn't the military force I needed. While a navy was in the making- okay it was a couple of rough sketches and an order of battle plan- it needed to be manned and crewed. For that I think I can stick with building Annapolis 2.0, and training according to specialties on the ships. At the end of the day, I also needed a way to enforce my will on the shore. Hell for all the good a blockade might do, even the British had to put boots on the ground to achieve anything and no one was more navy than them.
'So Marines. But what kind of crayon eating devil dogs do I want to turn these folks into.' It was a serious question, and it wasn't going to have a quick answer. That would be a problem to worry over tonight. With drill over, it was about time for SCIENCE! class, capitals and exclamation point are mandatory.
Today's lesson: Further study into abiogenesis. Because why yes, that was still a thing here. Fortunately, so too were glass jars. At least enough glass jars for this class.
I stored my own gear in the armory, gave myself a quick wipe down for the sweat, and made my way to the classroom. This was going to be fun. 'I just hope Harwick will see it that way.'