On the day she received her assignment to The Pack, dread filled Scout Archer Els’ heart. Back at home, it was easy to daydream about wartime heroics and the exploits of her heroes, but the hand-delivered, rolled parchment brought everything into shocking clarity. She was joining the fight. Gods, she was joining the fight.
But, The Pack. The Pack.
Formally known as the 3rd Frontier Scouts, The Pack had been labeled such by her sibling companies. The commander of the 3rd, often called The Fang, was also affectionately, and quite fearfully, called Mother Wolf. Tales of Mother Wolf’s exploits were legend and fear tightly bound.
Pursuant to her orders, Scout Archer Els arrived promptly at the appointed rally-point: a dock in the southern neighborhood of her village. Her field pack was in order, short blade sheathed, arrows quivered, and her longbow unstrung and glistening from polish. It was here that she would be paired with a Scout Chirurgeon. Camaraderie was a focus of the homeland’s military force and it was expected for an archer to be paired with a complimentary chirurgeon.
Soon, she was introduced to Scout Chirurgeon Tomas and they set sail.
Mindlessly fletching arrows, Els thought of the weeks that followed the Springwine campaign. She considered the cold efficiency in which the battle had been led. Her side had a very low casualty count, compared to the thousand enemy dead. More impressively, the 3rd only numbered five hundred scouts. They weren’t intended to be a direct conflict company.
Els looked up from her work and scrutinized the view from her tree-branch vantage. Almost any archer has superb vision and she could clearly make out the encampment below. The largest tent housed the commander and her staff. When security and weather permitted, the planning tables would be brought outside and the process made open to any that wished to watch and learn. Today was one such day and Els’ leadership cadre was gathered around.
From this distance, she could not hear their words, but she could see captains and the commander building a strategy. The commander encouraged dissent and dialogue. She demanded to know contrary opinions. Ultimately, the bonds of trust she built were permanent and steadfast.
Els was intrigued by the manner in which her commander communicated: the coded hand-signs. That was certainly not uncommon for a scout, but typically it was reserved for the stealthy endeavors. Aside from the elders at home, or those unable to hear, she had never known another to communicate solely by sign. To make it more mysterious, Els was aware that the commander used at least three very distinct hand-sign languages, only one of which was understood at Els’ level. The commander’s hearing was fine and she appeared physically able to speak, yet she did not.
Focusing more on her commander, Els studied her features. The Fang’s hair was tightly battle-braided, like most of the company. Culturally, most of her people preferred to grow their hair long, in keeping with tradition, but the commander required it not interfere with duty. They had two options: shear it close or battle-braid it. Els had opted for the braid, as well.
Her eyes, though. The commanders eyes would pierce you with predatory, yellowish-green intensity. Els wondered if that was the origin of Mother Wolf.
Her commander’s face was crisscrossed with jagged black scars. Els had absolutely no idea of how a scar can be black, but there they were. It wasn’t something that was addressed in the company and no one asked out of respect.
The Fang’s brow was horned like the rest of her people, just at the hairline. Her’s had a bit of a spiral twist and curve. One of the two, the right side, had been cleaved in combat and had a metal cap, riveted in place. Els knew there was an inscription on it, but had never been close enough to read it.
Her commander, of average height, was forged from the hardest iron. She was bold, powerful, and moved like one of the enormous cats Els had seen nearby. Depending on mission requirements, The Fang would wear a variety of gear, but that day she was wearing her leather scout armor. It was designed to maximize the balance between stealth and limited protection. They all knew the value the commander placed on such things, not to mention her desire for freedom of movement.
Taking it all in, Els felt the deepest admiration for her. As far as she knew, everyone in the The Pack felt that way. But, in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help wonder about…
“Els, are you finished?”
The archer was nearly jolted from her perch. She had been caught wool-gathering by her chirurgeon. He was offering a smirk and looking up from the ground, where he had been making bandages for his kit.
“What were you thinking about, archer?”
Els gave him a narrow-eyed look, slid off the branch, and began bundling her arrows.
“I, Tomas, was thinking about how lucky we are to be here. If we must fight, we could be in no safer company.”
Tomas nodded his agreement and helped Els lash her bundles together. In turn, she helped fold bandages. The two made way to the encampment and discussed whose turn it was to tell the evening’s fireside story.
© CGT, 2017.