Since losing Penelope, Rudi had been relegated to the wagon. Which on it’s own wouldn’t have been too bad if there was better company; there was no way to avoid Sear’s acerbic looks, no one to really talk to if he didn’t want to be mocked. There was no riding ahead to explore, to see what was over the crest of that hill, no feeling the freedom of the wind in his hair.
Well, whatever wind a little pony’s legs could make.
But still, even after Oleg offered him a replacement, Rudi found he didn’t want another pony. Not right now. He didn’t want the weight of caring for it, the responsibility for ensuring that a helpless little pony survived. What if they were attacked by a dragon and he ate Penelope Jr.? The insults would never end.
“Oh, you couldn’t protect Penelope from a dragon huh? Maybe we’ll find her body in a pile of dragon shit.”
He wasn’t sure if it was the guilt and his friendship with Hydrastis, or the potential for the never-ending roast of Rudi Tumblefar, but he said no. For now. At least while they tracked down the Staglord.
That left him with with finding a way to keep himself busy while riding in the wagon. He tried to write a letter home, but he figured he should wait until he’d had more to say, probably when his saga was well under way with… Brevoy’s Best? He glanced at Ted, and shook his head. Probably not. The Heroes of Brevoy? He looked at Faderean… nah.
Well, there would be time for a name later, once they’d decided what they were all about.
He thought about trying to talk to Sear again, but he was only amiable when they were working together to identify artifacts and treasures. In fact, it was the only time he was treated like an equal with the condescending sorcerer.
He read his spellbook, once, twice… but there was only so many times he could do that. He’d already been deciphering some of the spells Lessys had put in there for him, but hadn’t gotten around to teaching him. He spent more time reading her little notes next to the names, her descriptions, and how it helped for her, and when it might be useful.Swift Girding was one of the ones he’d worked out. It’s note read “this spell worked great for Barril when we were ambushed. Watching him fight with one pant leg on, and his helmet twisted in the night would have been funny were it not for the goblins dancing around us with their sharpened spears.”
“Look, the halfling’s crying again.” Sear said.
“No! I just got some dust in my eye…” and that was the end of that.
He looked at his weapons, the trident, and the unused sickle they’d dug from the mites warren, and remembered something Cassius had said about weapon care. Both were looking a little dull and worn. He glanced to the front of the column, where the cavalier sat rigid and proud in his gleaming metal armor. Rudi sniffed and set about trying to care for them himself, but had no idea what the hell he was doing. He mostly just succeeded in dusting off bits of dirt and some dried blood off. He realized Barril did most of the maintenance, and Rudi more or less fucked off, just planning on learning later. There were always chores that needed to be done, especially since he spent enough time blowing them off to learn to fight and cast spells. So he’d written that off too.
He struggled with it as they stopped travelling, and through setting up camp. He put up his new tent, fed Thlayli some extra bits while Hydrastis wasn’t looking, fed the raven who was still mad that the wolf got food, and then sat, glancing over at Cassius from time to time. Well, you can’t learn to do it right if you don’t have someone to show you first. He just better not pat me on the head again.
He stood, took his time dusting himself off, and carried the trident and sickle over. “Hey, Cassius? You know how you were saying something about taking care of weapons? Was wondering if you could show me some stuff.”
Cassius whistled to himself as he brushed down Mandarb. The stallion munched on his oats, head deep in his feed bag. Rudi walked towards him. He was still confused on the youngster. What was one so young doing off by himself. While he had been “blooded” in battle and helped with a well placed strike of his trident or spell he was still little more than an adolescent and well in over his head.
Cassius looked down at the young halfling.
“Yes, Rudi? Is there something i can help you with?”
The cavalier saw he was cradling the ridiculous farm implements he thought were weapons.
“I’ve been thinking, about what you said about taking care of my weapons. And, well, making sure they’re sharp. It won’t hold its edge at all. “ The halfling said.
“Like my battle sickle, you know the one we found in the Sootscale’s mine? Look at all the rust! I can’t get it off, I can’t figure out how to do it right and keep it sharp, especially with how rainy this place’s been. Can you give me a tip or too. I mean , how do you keep your blades and mail working? I promise i won’t tell anyone, not if you don’t want me to. Is it magic? Cuz that chain shirt I got at Oleg’s is starting to look a little rough too. Tickleback’s teeth went right through it, and that rust I was talking about? Well, you know…”
Cassius let out a sigh. “Rudi, your problems with your weapons is due to poor maintenance.” He raised his hand to stop the young hobbit before he could interrupt. “I’m not saying you don’t DO maintenance but you’re doing it too quickly. You rush through it. You treat it like it’s something you do because you were told to, not because you want to. Your arms should be a symbol of pride. “
He drew his longsword “Virtutis” from its sheath. The rasping ring of the blade peeled aloud as he held it out the masterwork blade catching the fading sunlight.
“Yes, exactly!” Rudi said, nodding vigorously. “How do I make my trident shine like that? Or my battle sickle?” He held the wheat cutter aloft, waving it around wildly as Cassius let out a sigh again. This was going to try his patience.
A few hours later Cassius realized he had been wrong.He was a fast learner and once he had explained to him he needed to keep the “battle sickle” well oiled, something he had no knowledge of due to the superb quality of elvish steel his trident was crafted from, and how to hone the trident, not sharpen it like a cooking knife. They then moved into martial training. Due to his size Rudi didn’t have the stature for sword play, but he excelled with his trident. His real issue was he wanted every strike to be a killing blow!
“Again! “ Cassius said, the clacking of wood on wood filling the clearing as the makeshift staff banged against his practice sword, until he slipped under one of Rudi’s thrust and slapped him on the back with the flat of the dulled blade.
“Try and strike me. Anywhere. Wounds to the arms and legs will slow a man or creature. The pain and blood loss will turn the battle in your favor.” Cassius said to his smaller friend.
“But what about that troll everyone’s always so scared of?” Rudi asked, wiping sweat from his brow. “Ted says their metabolism is so fast it heals wounds soon as they’re dealt. I dont know if it’s really their metabolism, sounds more like some sorta power, but guess he’d know more than me.”
“The troll….He is quite a formidable foe.” Cassius said. He knelt down and placed his hand on the shoulder of a young halfling who he had found respect for in such a short amount of time. “And you need to remember this. While you wield a weapon and want to fight on the front line, without the ability to wear heavy armor you are at a disadvantage. You must use your nimbleness when you face a foe. That, and your arsenal of spells.”
Rudi twirled the trident expertly . “I dunno… I’d hate to say it, but I just don’t move fast enough. My legs just aren’t long enough.”
Cassius stroked his chin. “Are things working out with you riding the wolf?” He asked.
A mischievous smile lit up Rudi’s face as he turned to look at Mandarb. “I dunno, I was thinking of something with a little more flash…”