Chapter 18

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Captain Marko was quick to respond with a short, rapid sweep of his right arm in front of him as he shook his head.  “No.  They have reserves.  If they didn’t, our envoy and their staff in New Tokyo would have seen signs of it, and told Stateman Urda.”

Even though Captain Marko was confident, I was still worried.  If I had a desperate need for food, I would at least try to pretend that my need wasn’t immediate and extreme.  Especially if charity was known not to be an option.  Bargaining from a known position of need is never good.

At the same time, we hadn’t even seen the first refugee or New Tokyo militia member yet.  That seemed to indicate that nobody was starving, yet.  I could easily imagine the New Tokyo Stateman choosing to hide the shortness of their reserves, even from the population of New Tokyo, but there had to be at least some food left, or at least some people would already be on the move.

Another thought struck me.  I considered that New Tokyo might be gathering refugees together and organizing them far enough away from the border, and from New Tokyo, so that neither we nor the envoy staff had seen them.  That seemed unlikely though, so I said nothing.

Lieutenant Davis coughed.  “Captain, I know it’s important to build infrastructure and plan, but, we really need to start training.  You know how hard it is for a lot of law enforcement recruits to learn to use tonfas and staves against people.”  He paused.  “We have already had complaints from some people when they were only sharpening and fire-hardening the spears we collected.  I’m not looking forward to trying to teach people to use them.  It’s going to be a nightmare, and the longer we wait, the less effective our training will be.  Especially considering that we have no manuals to teach by.”  He gestured at the other lieutenant.  “Lieutenant Baker and I are going to have to try to make things up as we go along.  We’ve only got about two dozen people who have any experience using a spear for hunting, and I’m not confident that hunting techniques will be much use for us in a fight.”

I nodded.  Bears and feral pigs were about the only animals that were hunted with spears in this part of the world, and it was a lot safer to hunt them from horseback with dogs and bows if you chose to hunt them at all, instead of just poisoning them.

I would definitely not want to be standing on the ground with only a spear between me and an angry Hoss or Bigboy, and they were nowhere near the size that a feral farm pig might grow to.  A farm pig could easily mass five hundred to seven hundred kilos.  Stopping that much mass with a sharp stick was close to the bottom of the list of things I would ever want to try, somewhere barely above cliff-diving in a dry gorge.  Academically, I knew how to do it.  Plant the spear butt in the soil and let the animal charge you.  Trying it with bears would be bad enough, since they might simply swipe the spear with a paw instead of impaling themselves on it.  I couldn’t imagine a spear-planting technique working with people, especially people with their own spears.  Or, even worse, people with bows and slings.

Captain Marko looked thoughtful for a moment.  “You have a point.  But we need health and food preparation infrastructure, followed by better shelter for all of us, or exposure, illness, and desertion will start to work against us.”  He thumped his fingers on the table.  “We’ve already lost six people to desertion and we haven’t even had the first training session yet.”  He paused and took a deep breath.  “Being physically ill or psychologically miserable because they are being trained to fight other people, and then having to sleep in a tent, on the ground, will almost certainly drive up the desertion rate.”

Fobi spoke after raising her finger and getting a nod from the captain.  “Sir, why not get the lieutenants together with the people who are experienced with a spear, and the three of us as well.”  She pointed to herself, and then Rikard and me with small hand motions.  “We can work together to try to test some techniques using the same method of opposition that we had planned to do over maps.  We need to know what to teach before we can teach it effectively, and these two might give us ideas.”

At that moment, Riko re-entered the tent, stating “Quartermaster Brown will be with us shortly, captain.”

After a glance towards Riko, Fobi nodded.  “And Sergeant Gonzalez as well, maybe?”

After about a second, Riko responded.  “I came into the conversation late.  What do you want my help with teaching?”  I couldn’t see his face, since I was facing away from him, but I could hear the curiosity and caution in his voice and could imagine his slightly curious expression.

“Using spears.” Lieutenant Baker said, before Fobi could respond.

Riko blew out a deep breath.  “I haven’t used a spear in more than thirty years, but…”  He paused.  “I’ll help if I can, but what I know won’t be very good against people unless they are remarkably stupid.  I only used a spear in earnest twice, both times against wolves that weren’t hungry enough to press an attack.  Mostly, I used spears as walking sticks.”

Lieutenant Baker frowned and leaned back in her chair.  “You know how to hold one, which is more than most of us can say.  I know we have experienced spear hunters in the scouts.  I asked.  The problem is that half of the scouts are out at any given time, with the rest sleeping or recovering from hard riding.”  She paused.  “More than half, after we start patrolling behind us to watch for fire starters, unless I get more people, which I’ll address at tonight’s planning meeting.  Still, sir, what you and Fobi said makes sense.”

Captain Marko pushed back his chair and stood.  “I need to speak with Quartermaster Brown about the feasibility of wall-building around the city and towns, and then make a report to the Stateman.  Lieutenant Baker stays with me.”  He turned to her with a nod.  “We need to work out how many more people you need to patrol behind us as well.  Preferably before the meeting tonight.  I also want you here for my discussion with Brown.  I seem to recall that your brother was a mason, right?”

Looking up at the captain with a nod, Lieutenant Baker answered, “Yes, sir, but I never learned much from him about the trade.  He apprenticed off the ranch to a childless mason after he fell out of a tree and the leg break didn’t heal quite right.  I rarely saw him after that, and when I did, we didn’t talk about masonry.  Our ranch was too far from town for regular visits.”

“Hmm.”  The captain was still for a moment.  “Still, you have some exposure to the trade, and I want someone here to take notes, so I can concentrate on thinking.”  He looked in Riko’s direction, over my head.  “Sergeant, send one of the tent guards with instructions to speak to the quartermaster before he arrives, and see if he knows of any masons with us.  If he does, have the guard get the name of the most experienced mason, find them, and send them to this tent immediately.  I’ll be surprised if we don’t at least have an apprentice or journeyman mason with us.  Brown would have complained to me by now, otherwise.”

“Yes, sir.” Riko spoke before I heard the tent flap open and Riko spoke a couple sentences to someone, presumably one of the tent guards.  Then there was the sound of someone running.

As I heard Riko step back into the tent behind me, Lieutenant Davis finished writing on the paper on the table in front of him before pushing all the writing materials over to Lieutenant Baker, who collected them and arranged them in front of herself.  He pushed back his chair and stood.  “With your permission captain, Fobi, Rikard, and Allen will come with me.  Riko will gather a couple scouts with experience using spears and meet the rest of us on the road, about a hundred meters behind the camp.  We’ll start trying to figure out fighting techniques that might be effective.”

“Permission granted.”  The captain nodded.  “Before you go, however, I want input from you on a simple matter.  We are going to start needing a camp security presence larger than we can comfortably micromanage, or we might start losing horses and elefants to the exact same tactics that we’re prepared to use against the New Tokyo militia.”  A grimace later, he continued.  “As well as protecting the important parts of our camp infrastructure that Brad has pointed out.  A few infiltrators starting fires could be disastrous.”

Fully standing now, Lieutenant Davis nodded.  “Yes, we probably want a sergeant for handling that, and Riko’s going to be busier, with the scouts growing in size as well.”

Fobi looked from Captain Marko to the two lieutenants, squinting slightly.  “No.  I’m not taking a position of authority.  I can’t.”  She pointed a finger at Don.  “He’s in this tent for a reason.  I suspect he’s either shown some good common sense, or he’s impressed you with something he’s done.  Choose him.  I’ll advise him if you want, since I doubt he has law enforcement experience.”

Captain Marko steepled his fingers under his chin and looked at Fobi.  “After our conversation last night, I’ll accept that arrangement.”  He paused and turned to Don.  “Sorry to make you uncomfortable, Don, but unless one of the two lieutenants has seen or heard something I haven’t, you’re going to be our camp sergeant for guards.”

Lieutenants Davis and Baker looked at one another, and both shook their heads.

“No problems I know of, sir.” Lieutenant Baker said.

“Likewise, sir.”  Lieutenant Davis echoed.  “Don seems like a good match for a sergeant’s position, after what we saw through the window of the inn.”  After saying that, he looked from me to Rikard, and then to Don.

I felt my face heating up as I realized that at least two of the officers had apparently watched the altercation between Don, Emerald, Rikard, and me.  Or rather, me attacking Rikard and being restrained by Don.

Did Doctor Sven also see it, but not let me know?  Was I being somehow tested?  Was Rikard?

Rikard looked at least as startled as I felt, from what I saw of his reaction in my peripheral vision as I carefully avoided looking at him directly.

Captain Marko clapped his hands together once in satisfaction, with only enough strength to make a gentle smacking noise.  “Good.  Do you have any objection to taking the position of sergeant over the camp guards, Don?”

I turned my head a little to see Don.

There was a brief pause before Don spoke.  “No, sir.  I’ll settle Emerald into the prior duty you had me performing though, as I won’t be able to devote myself to it.”  He looked at Rikard, expressionlessly.

Rikard looked irritated as he stared at Don, but he said nothing.

The captain nodded.  “Very well, Sergeant Covil.  Fobi will be your consultant if you feel you need her assistance.  I strongly suggest you take her council for at least a few days as you get settled in, as Fobi is an experienced law enforcement sergeant.  The decisions will be yours, within the bounds of orders you are given by myself or the two lieutenants.”  He raised a finger.  “If the quartermaster or doctor ask you or the men and women under you to perform tasks that do not interfere with orders we have given, you should perform them.  Otherwise, request that they come to us and request we send you modified orders.”  He paused.  “You and Riko will be working fairly closely together on a regular basis, and may share some responsibilities and trade some personnel between you as things move forward.”

“Understood, sir.” Don said, with a nod.

With another nod, this time at Lieutenant Davis, the captain continued.  “Very good then.”  He turned to Lieutenant Davis.  “Lieutenant, I want you back here after lunch with an update.  For now, go see what you can put together to start developing a training program.  Don will be under your direct command, but for now Lieutenant Baker and I will teach him a few things about how we make the sausage, and introduce him, as a sergeant, to Quartermaster Brown and Doctor Sven.”


A minute or so later, all five of us who were leaving were on the road.  Four of us walking away from the camp, and Riko walking into camp to go find a couple other scouts with experience using a spear.  As I crutched along the road, following Lieutenant Davis, I carefully watched Rikard from the corner of my right eye.  I was vulnerable, unable to move properly on an injured leg, and didn’t trust Rikard to not take advantage of it.  Fobi was walking between the two of us, thankfully.

As we left the tent, Lieutenant Davis had collected six cut saplings that were leaning up against the side of the wagon closest to the officer’s tent.  Each sapling was heavily padded with leather at one end.  He walked a couple meters in front of us with the padded spears over his shoulder so he wouldn’t hit us as we followed him.

We walked in silence for a hundred meters before, without turning around to face us, the lieutenant spoke.  “Before either of you two get any ideas, I’m not going to let you spar against each other.”  He turned his head a little and slowed as he looked back at the two of us.  “By the way, I’m surprised that neither of the two of you blurted out something indignant in there when you realized we intentionally arranged for the two of you to encounter one another in town.”

There really wasn’t anything I wanted to say in response to that.  I was still trying to figure out what exactly had been intended, because it was very clear that a lot of things had been orchestrated with intent that I didn’t understand.  The officers were at least one step ahead of me.  I didn’t need to ask the first question, fortunately.

“Did the Countyman know you were planning to risk Allen attacking and possibly severely injuring me, lieutenant?” Rikard asked, angrily, his voice tense but not extremely loud.

The lieutenant turned away from us to watch where he was walking.  “Yes, he did.  He was specifically asked to provide at least two young violence offenders, and if at all possible, they were to be antagonistic towards one another.  You two are close to ideal.  We only hope that you’re going to be as much help as we imagined you might be when we first came up with the idea.  Fobi’s idea has taken it to a different level though.  We hadn’t considered using you for actual fighting ideas, just tactics.”

I was quite angry myself at this point, and couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  “I’m not entirely certain how the two of us are going to be of any assistance to you, especially if you’re expecting us to work together, somehow.  If you know our history from the Countyman, you should know better.”  I paused, realizing I’d forgotten something.  “Sir.”

Fobi and Lieutenant Davis both chuckled, but Fobi spoke first.  “We don’t want you working together.  We want you working against each other.  The fact that you don’t like each other at all makes it likely that you are going to consider things that we wouldn’t.  You’re also both young male violence offenders, so it’s fairly likely you’re going to escalate against each other in ways that would be hard for most people to follow.”

“What?”  Rikard commented before I could, though his question wasn’t what I would have asked.  “Why not use Brad for that.  The man is clearly insane and dangerous.  He’s clearly even worse than Allen.”

Fobi laughed, almost sounding like a dog’s bark, and then answered patiently.  “If we got his cooperation, he probably would be as good as the two of you.  He’s brilliant and has no empathy for the pain of others.  However, he’s not trustable in any way.  He’s smart enough that any seemingly good ideas he might give us might be somehow flawed and fall apart on us when we try to use them.  We’ll take his input but we have to be very careful with it, like poison around children.”

Looking around, the lieutenant stopped and set the bundle of spears on the ground.  “We were just going to have you two pretend to be opposing army leaders and let you role play against each other, each of you with one of us lieutenants to assist you with forming plans, and with Captain Marko officiating the contests, while he tried to pick out useful ideas for his own use.”  He paused.  “But you might have already figured that out.  Fobi’s idea takes it a little farther.  I’ll let her explain while I check to make sure these spears aren’t sharpened underneath the padding.”

Fobi, still between us as we three stopped close to the lieutenant, pushed against my right arm and Rikard’s left, gently pushing us a bit farther away from one another.  Then she stepped forward and turned around to face us.  “When Riko gets here with some experienced spear-users, we’re going to spar as a group.  The lieutenant and I are the only ones here with training about how to handle ourselves in a fight with another person, so we’re going to each lead a team.  You two will consult with the two of us and give us ideas.  Riko will officiate.  Just like we were planning to do in the tent, over a map, but with live people.

“I… What?  You want us to help teach you how to fight?”  I couldn’t quite grasp the idea.  I could imagine, in some way, that someone had to teach law enforcement officers how to subdue people, and obviously Ma had been taught to fight long ago, but I certainly didn’t know enough about fighting to teach anyone.

Lieutenant Davis’s voice cut through my confusion.  “No.  Fobi and I already know how to fight people.  The experienced spear hunters know how to fight animals.  Your job is to give us ideas about how to fight many people all at once.  There are law enforcement tactics for dealing with large groups of disorderly people, but that’s all about containment and arrest, not about defending and attacking.  In fifteen years on the force, I’ve only had to use that training twice, and the tactics we used worked, so there hasn’t been much need for me or anyone else to think about it much.”

I turned away from Fobi to face the lieutenant, and saw him removing a padded end from a blunt spear before putting it back on and tying it back in place.  He then set the spear on the ground to his left side, and picked up another from his right side, quickly untying the padded end and repeating the process.

“I think I see.”  I said before turning my head to stare at Rikard with a tight smile.

I get an opportunity to try and make a fool of Rikard?  I’ll take that.

“Will I be working with you, Fobi, or Lieutenant Davis?”  Rikard asked, as his eyes narrowed in my direction.

Fobi spoke before the lieutenant could, cutting him off and getting a bit of an annoyed look from him.  “I’ll work with Allen.  I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to work with you very well, Rikard, considering your history.”

Rikard got a puzzled look on his face, but Lieutenant Davis stopped looking irritated and nodded.  “That does make some sense.”

I smiled inside at Rikard’s confusion.  He didn’t know Fobi’s history.  Neither did I, really, but I knew enough about it from the conversation the night before that I understood exactly why Fobi wanted nothing to do with him.  I could only wish that I’d thought about kicking Rikard between the legs when he was down.  The idiot was a danger to the gene pool, and I’d missed my chance to do a good deed for society.

Fobi smirked as she looked up at me.  “You might not be so happy when you realize that the lieutenant is younger, stronger, taller, heavier, has more advanced training than me, and is probably smarter too.”

“We aren’t actually expecting you to hurt each other, are we?”  I said, shocked.  “It’s just going to be poking at each other with padded staves?”

“The lieutenant is still going to have an advantage over me.  It will make any ideas you come up with potentially less of an advantage.”  She paused and winked at me.  “I’m sneakier than he is though.  I’m still required to train as part of law enforcement, and we’ve sparred quite a few times with staves and tonfas.  Don’t think that I’m too overmatched, but I am at a disadvantage.  Spears are new to both of us, and thrusts are not attacks we are trained to use often with staves – too likely to cause permanent injury.  He’s got longer arms for longer thrusts.”

Lieutenant Davis laughed.  “I’m not falling for that again, Fobi.  I’ve sparred with you too recently.”

Fobi smiled and shrugged, turning to face him.  “It’s only the truth lieutenant.  You do win two out of every three points when we spar, usually.”

“I work hard for them.”  He replied back with a little laugh as he picked up the last of the six spears and started untying its protective cover.

“This isn’t going to be the same as a staff though, though some of the staff movements might be useful.”  Fobi frowned.  “The boys here don’t have any real idea about how to use a staff though, never mind a spear.  Should we experiment a little between ourselves and let them watch before we ask them to give us ideas?”

“Sure.  These things are a full meter longer than a staff though, it’s going to be strange.”  Lieutenant Davis picked up two of the padded spears and tossed one through the air to Fobi who caught it smoothly.

Fobi looked at Rikard, and then me.  “You two keep to opposite sides of the road, and watch us.  Say nothing to each other.  I will personally put you on tail if either of you attack each other.” She looked at me instead of Rikard.

I nodded to her unasked question, thinking to myself.  I’m on crutches.  Does she really think I’d attack him when I’d probably be slower than him in moving around?

I looked over at Rikard, who I saw was looking at me with a little grin.  Pausing a second, I had another thought.  I suppose I could use one of my crutches as a staff.

Rikard looked away from me when I smiled back at him.  “Rikard’s safe from me as long as he never says Marza’s name in my presence.  That’s my rule.”

Rikard glared at me and started to say something, but looked at Fobi with a slightly puzzled look on his face, and said nothing.

Lieutenant Davis and Fobi both looked at me with frowns before looking at each other.

Fobi turned back to me.  “You better rethink that rule, Allen, you’re going to be sixteen soon.”

I stared back at Fobi, and then looked to Rikard.  “I’m no fool, but that rule doesn’t change until I’m sixteen.  Marza and I will be away from town in a new homestead shortly after that.”  I walked over to one of the roadside markers and moved to the side so that the sunlight would fall on the small, crude sundial on the surface.  I didn’t need the sundial to check the time; I knew within an hour what time it was because of the season and the position of the sun, but I needed an excuse to look away from Rikard before I worked myself up to the point I wouldn’t be able to think straight.

After I leaned my hip against the stone post and made sure it was stable, I turned back towards Fobi and the lieutenant, and made myself comfortable against the post.

Rikard walked into the grass on the other side of the road, and stood, arms crossed, feet shoulder-width apart.  He really had put on a lot of muscle and trimmed down since we graduated.

Fobi and the lieutenant stood several paces apart in the center of the road, and started slowly showing the two of us basic staff moves, that they called forms, sometimes talking to us, sometimes talking to each other.

“A lot of spear forms are probably going to be like the long extension staff forms.”  Fobi explained.  “We use them mainly for disabling or disarming, but we have to be careful not to hurt people with them, it’s a lot of force in a small surface area.”

“That’s the point here though.  Seriously injure or even kill the other person.”  Lieutenant Davis continued, sounding a bit nervous.  “Swinging a three-meter spear is a lot slower than a two meter staff too, and if people are going to be close to one another, we can’t be swinging to keep space open or knock people’s legs from under them.  Even a staff is too long for close work.  Normally when we deploy multiple people to one trouble call, we use tonfas.”

The two of them faced each other and started circling and stepping forward and back, poking towards each other.

Rikard spoke up.  “Why are you circling each other?”

Fobi and Lieutenant Davis took two steps back from one another.  Lieutenant Davis scratched his head.  “You’re probably right.  If we are going to be fighting in a line so we can offer each other support, we won’t be moving much, it will all be straight-forward fighting, maybe a little to the sides.”

Nodding, Fobi agreed.  “I agree.  Good point.  Thank you, Rikard.”

I tried to not be irritated that Rikard had spotted that before me.  I had been concentrating on watching what the two of them were doing with the spears, their bodies, their eyes.  Trying to see if they seemed to be doing what Ma told me I should be doing if I got in a fight.  They certainly weren’t putting themselves off balance, and they were both making lots of fake attacks.  They were also staying very balanced.  Even when they lunged forward, they pushed a foot forward so they didn’t unbalance.

Fobi was right that the lieutenant had an advantage over her, I could see.  He was hitting her fairly regularly in the torso, but she seemed to be mostly limited to hitting him in the arms and legs.  The few times she did manage to hit him in the torso, she stepped forward into his attacks, knocking his spear away before hitting him.  I couldn’t see why she didn’t do that more often, but I suspected she was seeing something that he was doing and responding to it.

“I’m really not so sure about this, sergeant.”  I heard a man’s voice behind me.  “A spear is really dangerous.  I wouldn’t want to hurt a person with one.  They make terrible wounds.”

There was a muttering of agreement from several voices.

As I turned to face the new voices, Riko spoke.  “Nobody likes this, Pol.  Problem is that a lot of families will be starving this winter.  If it’s an early winter, or a long one, a lot of people might die of starvation.  It’ll be worse for the New Tokyo citizens.  They will be forced to come to us to take what they need or starve unless there is an amazingly good late harvest for them to eat or for us to send some to them.  You know that.  We’ve talked.”

“Knowing it doesn’t make me any happier, sergeant.  It actually makes it worse, since I know there’s no way for me to avoid it.” He responded in a bitter voice.

The speaker, who I recognized from the group of scouts Anu and I  had told the rattlesnake story to, was apparently Pol.  He was a shorter than average man, but wide in the shoulders for his height.  He had some grey mixed in with his dark red hair in a long double braid, and some fairly severe scarring on the right side of his face near his eye.  He wore full buckskins with long drying tassels along every seam, and a wide straw hat to shade his head. Despite that, I could see that he was very fair skinned, even fairer than my mother, with blue veins clearly visible through his skin.  He would never tan, which certainly explained the hat.  I’d never seen him before, and he didn’t look like he was related to any families I’d seen at harvest festivals.

That brought me up short.  Will there even be a harvest festival this year?

“I don’t think any of us disagree with you, Pol.”  Riko commented in a matter-of-fact tone, bringing me back to reality.  “But here we are.”

“Agreed.”  Pol sighed.  “Here we are.  Helping to figure out how to put holes in people with hunting weapons.  Organized killing, followed by a trip to a prison colony if we survive.”  He turned his head and spat forcefully into the grass.  “Worth it for family, I suppose.”

Lieutenant Davis spoke.  “We all hope that we don’t have to fight, but if we do, I think we agree that our families are more important than we are.”

There was a resigned muttering from the four men with Riko.

“Were there no women, Riko?”  Fobi asked.  “We didn’t ask, but if there are any women who know how to use a spear, learning how they use it will be good.  Men and women usually have different ways to use staves and bows.  I’m already seeing I can’t fight like the lieutenant here.”

Riko turned to Pol and the other three men following him.  “I don’t know any women scouts who said they could hunt with a spear, do you?”

Pol looked at Fobi as he spoke.  “Pardon, and please don’t take insult, ma’am, but women normally don’t hunt with a spear.  When a bear or pig gets a spear into them, if you don’t have a lot of mass and strength, they will keep coming at you while at the same time moving from side to side.  If they shake you off the end of your spear, they will probably maul or kill you.”  He paused, thinking.  “You have to hold onto the end and middle of the spear, keep it braced on the ground if possible, and try not get shaken around too much.  If a woman has abnormal size or strength she can hunt bear or boar with a spear.  A small man would be foolish to hunt bear or boar with a spear.  Your mass and strength help keep you alive.”

Pol looked at me, “No insult intended, Allen, but I’d never ask you to stand with a spear against a boar.  Anu, on the other hand, might be better suited to it than most men.  She was a bit overweight, but she looked like she was carrying impressive muscle by how easily she was moving.”

I was a bit irritated, but could tell he wasn’t trying to insult me or Anu.  We were just good examples for the point he was making.  There were many things I simply couldn’t physically do that a big man could, like throw large hay bales.  I had to find different ways to do that work.

Pol was clearly an experienced hunter, and I agreed with him that I wasn’t big or strong enough to hunt bear or boar with a spear.  My irritation disappeared completely when he got a bit closer and I could see that the scar on his face was several long parallel lines from his cheek under his eye going all the way back to his ear.  The individual wounds had apparently been ragged and were at least a centimeter thick each for their entire length.  Almost certainly a bear had raked him with its claws – a mountain lion slash would have been a cleaner wound.  Pol had paid for his knowledge.

Fobi looked at Pol and the other three men with Riko, and nodded.  “I don’t think we need to worry about dealing with animals many times our own mass, but I understand why most female hunters probably wouldn’t use a spear.  People aren’t as dangerous up close, but they won’t just run up on a spear like you say bears or boar will.  Still, if you’ve used a spear as a weapon, even against animals, you’ve had some sort of training, and you’re clearly not afraid of the spear itself.  We’re going to have some problems with that, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

“I’m not sure about that, Fobi.”  I heard myself saying.  “Maybe not wild animals, but I wouldn’t want to try to stop a horse with a spear, or cattle.”

Lieutenant Davis spoke.  “Horses won’t approach something pointed at them unless they are panicked.  You can make them shy off just by pointing a staff at their chest.”  He paused.  “Cattle not so much, a bull will charge right into a staff if it’s annoyed, but I can’t imagine them throwing away food animals or draft animals that way.”

I countered.  “Get a bunch of horses between the enemy and you, and whip them hard enough to draw blood, and they wouldn’t stop for sticks, I don’t think.  Not unless they had a long time to run first.  I’d hate to do that to a good animal, but if you want to break through a line of spears, like we were talking about, that might do it.”

Rikard spoke up.  “Even if we don’t point spears at them, a line of people will look like a fence to any domestic animal.  Just keep people far enough apart so horses or cows can run between us.  They will.  Some people might get shouldered or stepped on, but the line of people wouldn’t get broken.”

I shot back.  “If they have more people in their line in the same length, they could overwhelm us with more spears per meter.  We can’t just leave enough room for horses to go between us.”

“Yes, we can.”  Rikard replied with a smile that made me want to hit him.  “If they drive animals at us, half of the line takes a step back and to the side.  Then we have two lines of people, one in front of the other, double-spaced.  We then have every other pairs of people step to the side one space.  That would make a line where there were blocks of four people, with two-person-wide spaces between them to let the animals pass the line.  If we shake our spears in front of us, they will head for the holes in the human fence.”

I couldn’t counter that.  It made sense.  Farm animals knew gates, and even a panicked animal would try to line up to run through an open gate if they could, rather than run into a fence.  There was only one problem I could see with it.  “That will require a lot of coordination.  Every other person steps back and to the side, and then every other two-person line steps to the side again.  After the animals pass, the line has to reform in time to be ready for the attackers who are probably charging behind the horses.”

I saw the lieutenant scratching a note on a small pad of paper.  “Good ideas, both for attack and defense against the attack.  I can’t imagine New Tokyo wasting animals like that, attacking us, but in the right scenario, I could imagine both the use of animals and the creation of pathways for animals to pass through being useful.  Training to quickly and efficiently make holes for horses so our scouts can ride through if they are being chased might be handy too.”

I looked at Rikard, and he looked back at me with a satisfied smile.  I had always suspected it, and Don had even said so himself, but at that moment it became crystal clear that Rikard was, without a doubt, much smarter than he had pretended to be in school.  That made me hate him even more.  As smart as he was proving himself to be, it was clear that his attempted rape of Marza hadn’t been some lame spur-of-the-moment idiot’s idea.  It had certainly been premeditated.

I forced myself to look away from him before I did something stupid.  Riko was looking at Rikard as well; his face was expressionless but I saw his eye twitch.  I wouldn’t doubt at all that he’d just made the same connections about Rikard’s intelligence that I had, and what it meant.

Pol and the other three scouts were looking back and forth at Rikard and me.  Pol and the other man I didn’t recognize looked a little bewildered and disgusted.  The two I did recognize, even though I didn’t know their names, seemed less confused.

Fobi clapped her hands, loudly, startling everyone into looking at her.  She was standing there with the butt of her spear on the road, and the shaft leaning against her shoulder.  She addressed the scouts.  “The boys are violence offenders, and they dislike each other a great deal.  We’re hoping for more good ideas from them, maybe some that will be useful.  Just don’t let them within reach of each other, please, and they aren’t to carry weapons.”

The lieutenant, Fobi, Riko, and the four scouts spent the rest of the morning teaching each other what they knew about spear handling and quarterstaff forms, trying to hammer some sort of useful techniques together, and figuring out how to train people.  Pol had actually trained all of his sons and several of his oldest grandsons on how to use the spear, but his style was almost useless in fighting people.

Rikard and I listened to everything; whenever either of us had an idea, the other would counter or try to improve it.  Quite a few of those ideas were dismissed by others, generally Riko or the lieutenant, but a couple ideas stuck.

I mentioned that we should carry sand and use it to try to blind attackers if the opportunity presented itself.  At first, the lieutenant said no, it would take too long to reach into the pouch and one hand would be off the spear, but Fobi and Riko convinced him it would be worth it if we trained people to quickly throw sand.

Rikard pointed out that if we wanted more spears per meter, we could put the shortest people in the front line, and tallest people behind them with longer spears.  The tall people behind the front line would have to hold their arms up high to attack, but they could.

Then it was time for lunch.  We all ate together and continued discussing ideas.  Rikard suggested we try to get a few wagons of broken glass to use to seed the ground ahead of us when we were defending.  I suggested that we could dig holes in the ground and cover them with woven sticks and sod, creating shallow pit traps that might break up a charging line of attackers.  Both ideas were not warmly received, as they would either render the ground dangerous to both us and the attackers, or require a great deal of manual labor.  The lieutenant wrote them down anyway, because there were certainly situations where those methods might be useful.  If it was possible to wall in a town or city, for example, a ring of broken grass and pit traps around the walls might make it harder for attackers.

After we finished eating, Lieutenant Davis, Fobi, and Riko went to report to Captain Marko.  The scouts went back to their tents to get some sleep so they could be ready for night patrol.  Emerald arrived at the end of the meal to collect Rikard and escort him off to whatever he was supposed to be doing.  I hoped it was something he actively disliked.

Me?  I collected my swine, took them to the kitchen garbage pit, and let them clean it out before I put them back under my carriage.  It wasn’t enough to fill them up, but the lunch food prep waste hadn’t made it to the garbage pit yet.  I’d take them by the pit after dinner, and the lunch prep trash would be there.  Tomorrow morning after breakfast, the dinner prep waste would be there.

When I reported to the doctor for another hour in the boot, he was very happy with the appearance of the leg.  “Your circulatory system is very efficient, Allen, and you’re young.  Between the two, you’re healing the bruise very rapidly.  I want you to sleep tonight without elevating your leg.”  He handed me a mug of willow bark tea, heavy with sugar to reduce the bitterness.  It was still bitter.

While I was soaking my leg in the boot, the work crew and I repeated the morning’s trade.  They cut me wood to make spoons.  I gave them five spoons, and put the rest in my pouch.  I now had fifty spoons in my pouch, and would have another twenty-five after the night soak.  Seventy-five spoons for the quartermaster tomorrow morning.

When I returned to my carriage, I saw the Finch and Krupp barge wagon on the road next to the wagon park.  The driver was refusing to take the wagon onto the grass, complaining that it would sink into turf, and the oxen team wouldn’t be able to pull it out.

I immediately had another idea that I needed to take to the officers.  If I was an enemy, and wanted to really hurt us, I’d light that wagon on fire.  If it blew up with who knows how much gunpowder and nitrocellulose in it, the resulting explosion would kill or maim dozens, even hundreds of us, start fires, and likely destroy the structures we’d been building.  If the barge wagon was parked in or near the wagon park, the officers would be almost in the epicenter.  Since my carriage was also in the wagon park, I would be too.

I had no desire to become a red stain mixed with wood splinters from my carriage.  I crutched towards the officer’s tent as quickly as I could.

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19 thoughts on “Chapter 18

  1. Sorry for the very long delay between chapters 17 and 18. Several things occurred in a short timeframe and burned me out on writing for a while.

    For those who are interested, I finished another short, multi-part fanfic crossover, dropping Wile E. Coyote into Worm, by Wildbow. It didn’t delay any posting. The last post there happened the day after Set In Stone chapter 17. It’s called ‘The Hunt Is On’ and can be found here:
    Warning! The last chapter and the first of two epilogues are a bit jagged. They needed to be to fit canon. The second epilogue occurs outside of canon, so things get better. No more spoilers.

    I was also working on a patent, which I’m not going to talk about here for the time being.

    And finally, I wrote a very short story, a one-off for an anthology, which was rejected (probably because it has a bittersweet ending), so it’s fully mine now. I’ve posted it here:

    Set In Stone should start updating on a weekly basis again.


    • Just read through your Coyote story. I really enjoyed the story, especially the early parts. You did a good job making it fit canon (at least until the second epilogue), and I understand that with it being the canon for a story like Worm, it has to be a little depressing. Would loved for there to have been more before that point though.


      • I’m considering a new fanfiction, post Golden Morning Worm, with Vlad Taltos dropped in, with Loiosh, Rozca, and Lady Teldra.

        That will help me rest my mind between chapters of Set In Stone, which is quite exhausting to write sometimes 🙂


  2. I’m always surprised that this isn’t more popular.

    That said, one of the things that’s always been curious about this world is what is in the “history of violence” classes. They seem to know that organized bodies of men called armies once existed, but how much more do they know?

    Do they know about something like a chariot or a crossbow? Do they have any pictures of walled cities? (old tourist pictures maybe)

    Also, Albert seems to have destroyed and then resissued all of the printed material, did any survive? Also, if he’s all powerful how come he doesn’t have nano drones watching these preparations and putting a stop to it? It seems like he could kill 5 of the officers at the camp with a “robotic bee eats out your brain” and stop all of this organized violence preparation in a second.

    Is it that Albert doesn’t want to tip people off on how all powerful it actually is?

    How do you keep a secret from a panopticon that sees all and never sleeps/


    • After several thousand years of Albert slowly pruning away human knowledge on how to engage in war, specific knowledge about warfare is mostly gone. The history of violence classes are broad histories explaining mostly how horrible and wasteful war is, with lots of poor quality pictures of dead bodies, charts and tables of how people died, and how much economic output was devoted to warfare and preparations for warfare.

      Albert wants humans to mostly govern themselves, with guidance. He rarely communicates with anyone but his chosen representatives. That being said, he does actively attempt to slowly, over time, remove the knowledge of how to engage in war.

      Albert will not kill directly, though he did cause millions of deaths when he originally crashed technology on Nirvana.


  3. Typo:

    …he was fairer skinned… => …he was more fair skinned….


    I actually laughed at this chapter since you just showed us how Allen manages to be in an important position without having some extremely rare skill or through Mary-Sue-like competence. And it’s for something he’s not proud of!

    I wonder if this means that he won’t be part of the fighting sine they would want him around to avoid Albert shipping him off to the prison island colony.

    Tactical Ideas:

    This is just so I can give you some ideas for Rikard and Allen to come up with. Let me know if it helps or hinders you.

    Is there a reason that they are waiting to be the one attacked instead of preemptively attacking? Sure it would be a horrible idea to send the army against the city, but sending some scouts to set fires and ruin some military equipment would be good. Or did they mention it and I forgot?

    I noticed that people keep saying that if there was spare food from a good enough harvest, they would send it to New Tokyo. If New Tokyo is naive enough, maybe they could send in poisoned food (or something else as a Trojan horse) under that very premise? Puking enemies are easier to hurt. I’ll be surprised if they remember Greek mythology from thousands of years ago.

    I recommend looking up Mongolian tactics because Allen’s side is very much a nomad-like army with more mobility than the civilians/army from the city of New Tokyo. Some possible tactics are spreading rumors exaggerating the size of their armies, having specialized units to break up the enemy, forging letters from a higher authority (Albert in this case instead of a king/Pope) ordering their surrender, using straw dummies on top of spare horses to enhance the size of the army from far off, enforce extreme discipline and honesty among the soldiers, not allowing their leaders to engage in the fighting, keeping the same leaders on high ground to best observe the battle, and some others from the Wiki page

    A suggested improvement on the suicide-horse idea is to load the horses with hay or some flammable material and set the horses run towards the enemy while on fire. Everything’s better with fire!

    Hope this helps.


  4. I have a separate question which I would really like to know the answer to, unless it results in plot spoilers of course.

    Why are they not recruiting people from the martial arts community?

    Even if there is not enough time to make the soldiers into experienced fighters, people are shockingly bad at knowing simple stuff like not tucking thumbs into their hands when punching, to punch/kick beyond the target to put more weight and force when contacting, how to properly keep balance when attacking and other little things. I learned a lot from the first week of classes when learning Ta-Kwon-Do and the soldiers would be able to pick it up within a day or two with more motivation and time to spend practicing.


    • Law enforcement officers are martial artists themselves, practicing a soft art mostly based around intimidation, leverage, submission moves, and takedowns. They don’t have a whole lot of respect for the other martial arts. Albert has been subtly turning the entire world against martial artists outside of law enforcement for thousands of years.


  5. So why doesn’t he tell more people what Ric did? He’s letting himself be repeatedly put into the same class, young violence offender, and that’s going to come back to bite him.


    • Allen *is* a young violence offender. He’s just got better reasons for it than most – for two of his offenses. There was a third fight which the Countyman came down on him hard about, that I only briefly mentioned earlier. That’s the one that made him realize he had a problem, and needed to start getting a tighter grip on himself.

      As for why he doesn’t tell everyone – he’s not supposed to. There was an agreement that he and Rikard would not seek each other out, and would not seek to harm each others’ reputation. This benefitted Rikard more than Allen, but Allen, Marza, and their families agreed to it. Rikard’s actions were stopped by Allen before he crossed the line into an actual rape. The Countyman was doing what he could to try to save both boys from themselves.

      Allen is not very happy to be pushed into close contact with Rikard, but at the same time, Rikard does have an escort, while Allen is allowed to move around freely.


      • Was this already mentioned, or is this something that will show up later? Because the only thing I remember was that the third incident was more violent due to the almost-rape happening at the time, but I didn’t see anything about any agreement. If you did mention it, can you tell where to find it? I would love to reread that section.


  6. thanks for the new chapter

    against wolves which
    against wolves, which

    Looking up at the captain with a nod, Lieutenant Baker said
    and when I did
    and a wide straw hat
    but at that moment
    At first
    When I returned to my carriage
    missing comma after last word

    one step-> one-step


  7. Cool chapter. Really liked the back and forth between Rikard and Allen. And good job on making Rikard smart–sort of makes him that villain on the same level as Allen, makes him formidable.

    Liked by 1 person

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