It was a cold, windy day at the Reach when our party returned from a patrol of the peaks in the North. There were a dozen of us, all riding mounts, carrying shields, and covered head to toe with fur and steel. We were cavalrymen, warriors, and other soldiers, riding our massive mounts while our spears glinted in the fading sun. We were a sight that would make a horde of ork cavalrymen check. I was riding Smoke, my Crest Wolf. My brother Elgorn was beside me, also riding on his wolf, an extraordinarily large beast with a bluish tint to his fur, named Bolt. We were plodding back into the village, with pride. If the Sky Raiders were the kings of the sky, we were the kings of the mountain. As we were coming into town, we were approaching Farnis Longknife, with his newots, the dwarf Urgral and the boy, Wheeler. I knew the boy well, for he had been a part of the group of assassins my uncle had sent to kill me. I killed their leader and many of his men. The rest were killed by the clan. Yet the boy lived, as well as Tekil, an older warrior who, in spite of his attempt on my life, I had grown to like.
The three were carrying carcasses of trapped animals back from the peaks. The stout Urgral, and the troll Farnis were carrying a pole between them, that was heavy with a dead mule deer in addition to a handful of smaller animal hides. The boy, Wheeler, was at the end of the line, carrying a spear. The animals would be taken back to the village. Their hides would make clothes, or leather. Their meat would feed us, and their bones would be made into arrow heads, or put to some other purpose. The harshness of living in the peaks had taught us not to waste any resources at our disposal.
To this day, I am unsure as to why this happened, but I will tell it as I saw it. The wind was strong that day, howling as it was blowing in our face. I’m certain that it was this wind that was the cause, as neither our three clansmen, nor their stalker, would have heard or smelled us as we approached. They were well ahead of us, and I’m sure all were looking forward to the warmth of home, and the end of a long day. None saw the threat of the beast laying quiet and invisible in the snow to their left.
Suddenly, snow burst into the air as the creature made its attack. It leapt forward and threw all of its weight into the troll, Farnis, who, fell forward with a startled shout. The dwarf, Urgral, was in front of him. The weight of Farnis and the deer they were carrying falling into him, combined with the impact of the great beast’s attack, knocked Urgral to the ground. Urgral and Farnis, fell forward in a tangle of carcasses and equipment. The beast was a Saskull, a ferocious and cunning mountain beast with a hunger for fresh meat. The beast then whipped around to take its prize, the boy, Wheeler.
All of this happened in an instant, and in that instant none of us riders had an opportunity to do anything other than watch. We were too far away to do anything anyway, but only a handful of us had even begun to spur our mounts forward, in the futile hope of chasing off the creature before it made off with its kill. But as the beast started forward, it checked. The boy, a mere 14 years old, had leveled one of the spears he carried toward the beast, and instead of cowering or fleeing as one might expect, he was standing his ground. The beast, knowing it only had a moment left before Farnis and Urgral recovered, made an attempt to swat the blade aside and grab the boy. But the boy drew the spear back and thrust it toward the hand of the creature. It was then that the creature saw us, a deadly force of hard charging troll cavalry, and realized its doom.
It tried to flee, but Urgral, having recovered from his fall, flung an ax at the beast which sunk into its flank. The beast howled, ripped the ax away, and fled. But the wound was enough to slow it down and our riders chased it down, and killed it as it howled.
Later on, all of us, the riders and the group of trappers, arrived at The Watering Hole, the one and only tavern at the Reach. I had thought hard about the boy’s reaction. It had been brave, but not foolish. So I decided to ask Farnis if the boy could become my squire.
Farnis considered my question for a moment, and then nodded. “He is a good boy, a hard worker, but he is not content with his lot in life.” He looked at me with a quizzical look. “What need do you have for a squire here at the Reach?”
It was a fair question, and I responded with the truth. “My time here at the Reach is short, my friend. Wheeler is a boy from my native lands, and I think he would make a good warrior someday, don’t you?”
Farnis looked at Wheeler, who was sitting in a chair talking excitedly with Urgral about the encounter with the Seskull. “You’re probably right at that.” He said. “Very well, you may ask him if he’d like to be your squire, and if he does, than so it shall be.”
I thanked him for that. Afterall, he did not have to agree to anything, and he was doing me a favor. But I suspect that he knew I was right, and that Wheeler had a heart that would never be content as a trapper and leather worker, such as Farnis.
That evening, I talked it over with my moot-fathers, Tago and Rorik, to make sure that they were in agreement with my plan. Both agreed, and the next morning, I went to the home of Farnis Longknife to recruit my first squire.
As I approached the home, I was greeted by Farnis himself who was already outside that morning, working on the hides they had brought back from yesterday’s adventure. I noticed with some amusement, that the massive hide of the Saskull was hanging alongside those of the deer and rodents. Farnis greeted me warmly and called for Wheeler, who came running outside. Seeing me, he stopped and looked at me accusingly, as though my presence meant that he were in trouble.
Farnis motioned to me. “Wheeler, Stilicho here has something to ask you.”
Wheeler looked at me questioningly. “Yes, lord?” He said. He called me lord, not because that title meant much here in The Reach, but because he knew I was a lord, and he was being polite.
I nodded to Farnis, and then began. “Wheeler, you have impressed me, both with your acceptance into the clan and with your actions of bravery and intelligence yesterday with the Saskull.” I nodded toward the hide, now hanging from the frame from which it would be tanned. “I have need of a squire to serve me, and to learn the path of the warrior. I offer you this opportunity, and Farnis, as well as the clan elders, have agreed to allow you to take it if you so choose. If you do, you will no longer be a newot, but will be my man until I release you from your oath. Will you be my squire?”
I remember his eyes getting wide. He was being offered a chance to be a warrior, and learn the way of the adept. There was just a moment of hesitiation, and then he looked me in the eye and responded. “I would be honored, lord.”
I had him swear an oath to serve me and the rightful family of the house of Konigsberg. Moments later, I had gained my first new retainer since arriving at the Reach.