Chronicles of a Soulborn: Chapter 2

Chronicles of a Soulborn: Chapter 2

in which our protagonist learns some new skills and makes some new friends.

“Welcome, students, to the Delnoch School of Cartography!” The professor moved swiftly to the front of the room and pulled on a string which in turn opened a large map of The Rhynelands. He let out a little giggle and spun around to face the class, his rosy cheeks aglow with excitement. “Cartography!” he repeated. “Who do you think keeps us safe from enemy armies who threaten our borders? The military? They only fight the battles, but they would be lost without good maps to lead them there!”

I felt like this was a bit of a stretch, but I kept my mouth shut.

“And who do you think is responsible for those flashy weapons and shiny armor that they wear? Blacksmiths? Sure, they may be the ones who forge them, but we cartographers are the ones who locate new potential locations to mine for the metals on which the Blacksmiths rely! And who doesn’t love a bit of gold in his pockets?” he asked as he pulled out two coins and flicked them onto his desk. “Don’t you know that our economy would dry up if traders and merchants didn’t have the safe, reliable trade routes that cartographers discover?

“You see, soldiers may protect our borders, crafters may supply us with the goods that we use every day, merchants may bolster the economy, but all of them would be lost without us, the map makers!” He stood there with his arms in the air and a huge smile on his face as though he was awaiting the applause of an awestruck audience. After a few moments of silence he dropped his arms and clasped his hands behind his back as he began to pace the front of the room.

After the events that transpired on my Naming Day a few months ago I quickly realized what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to get out and explore the world. There was so much to see and do and I’d only ever traveled so far as the next city over. Of course, just wandering aimlessly around the countryside is a difficult life to sustain (and not really what I had in mind anyway), so after studying the maps that my father bought me I decided to enroll in the school of cartography in Delnoch. Map making doesn’t sound like a terribly lucrative profession, but if I want to do any exploring at all it seems like a good first step.

“I am Mr. Keeby, your instructor. Over the next several months I will be teaching you all there is to know about map making, whether it’s sketching the interior of your house or marking out the boundaries of the entire kingdom. For the first few weeks we will cover material in the classroom, such as different map scales and the tools required to make different types of maps. There are several more experienced students who use the school to copy maps and improve their skills. As long as you do not get in their way, they will usually let you observe. This can be a great way to learn new things.

“Once you have all learned the basics we will begin taking field trips so that you can practice your skills in different locations. For all assignments you will be scored based on accuracy, quality, and relevance.” He finally stopped pacing and turned to face the class. “Before we continue, I’d like to ask everyone to please move to the front of the room.”

There were 9 of us spread out around the classroom. Those in the back slowly got up and started moving to the front. “No no, ALL the way up please!” Each table could seat three people and apparently he didn’t want any empty seats at a table at which someone was sitting. I chose the last seat at a table that had a Kypiq and another young mann who looked about my age but was a good head taller and appeared much stronger than I.

“Very good! I like to have everyone work in groups throughout the year,” he said with a smile. “Go ahead and take minute to introduce yourself to your new team.”

The three of us exchanged awkward glances as the others around us began their introductions. I went first.

“Hey, I’m Kamin. I grew up just down the road in Bris. I still live there with my parents, but I travel here twice a week for class.”

The Kypiq went next. “I’m Abae. My family is from Hitch up north, but I moved to Delnoch a few years ago to look for work. I heard about the school and thought cartography sounded like fun.”

Abae and I both looked at the third mann at our table. He just sat there, arms folded, not saying anything.

“And you are?” I asked.

“Varhukan,” was his only reply. But when he spoke both Abae and I noticed...the teeth! His canines were noticeably longer and sharper than a normal Neran’s should be.

“You’re Brudvir?” Abae asked.

Varhukan just sat there for a moment staring at the small Kypiq. “Not that it’s any of your business, but yes, partly; my grandfather was Brudvir. I’ve lived in Delnoch my entire life. That’s not going to be a problem for you, is it pipsqueak?” he asked with a slight grin at the corner of his mouth.

“Not at all. I’m fond of keeping pets as long as they can be tamed.”

I could tell this was going to be fun.

“Alright, you’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other more,” Mr. Keeby interrupted after a few minutes. “Now then, everyone get out some paper and let’s begin!”

After a few weeks of study and observation our classroom material was finally ended. We would still meet once a week for instruction and practice, but from this point on it is mostly going to be “field work.” That is, we are finally getting out and starting to map places!

Our first assignment wasn’t that exciting; we had to create a map of the school with our teams. Abae took the measurements of the rooms and Varhukan drew the map. I felt a little useless as there wasn’t anything for me to do, so I double-checked Abae’s measurements and helped review the map that Varhukan was drawing. But honestly, mapping a structure is easily a one-mann job. You can do it with two, but there just isn’t anything for a third person to do. Still, I got the feeling that Abae and Varhukan were getting annoyed with me.

Today we got to map Delnoch. I showed up to the school early in order to pick up the drawing tools before the other two arrived in order to ensure that I’d be able to contribute this time.

“And what do you plan to do with those?” Varhukar asked when they finally showed up. “You gonna take notes on the work that Abae and I actually do?”

“No, I’m going to draw the map this time,” I replied. “I felt bad that I wasn’t able to contribute more last time.”

“That’s fine by me,” Abae agreed. “Anything’s got to be better than that child’s drawing we turned in last time.” With this he glared at Varhukan.

Varhukan growled. “Maybe if you had given me accurate measurements I wouldn’t have had to make so many corrections, Pip.” After our initial introductions when Varhukan had called Abae pipsqueak he had taken to calling him Pip whenever he wanted to annoy him. It usually worked.

“There was nothing wrong with my measurements! You simply didn’t write them down correctly, Pup!” Abae’s nickname for Varhukan was slightly less effective, especially considering the relative size difference between the two.

“That’s enough,” I intervened. “Abae, why don’t you measure the streets and Varhukan, you identify the names and locations of interest. I’ll stay here and begin sketching the general layout.” The other two gave each other one last “humph” before collecting their supplies and heading out into the streets.

I laid out a sheet of paper and began drawing a rough sketch of the city, starting at the school and working my way out. It soon became obvious that I had underestimated the scale and ran out of room before I reached the edges. I continued, knowing that this was just a draft and would be thrown away.

Abae returned with his first set of measurements. After looking at my first draft he screwed up his face.

“No no no, you didn’t leave enough room for the outer edges. This is way too big!”

“I know,” I said. “This is just the first draft. I’m just trying to get the general layout down and then I’ll make whatever corrections I need in the next copy using your measurements. Now which streets are these for?”

Abae finished exchanging his results and then left to collect more measurements. Shortly after Varhukan returned with a list of locations of interest. He also offered some unsolicited feedback on my first draft.

“The symbols are all wrong. If you don’t label things correctly, nobody is going to know what they’re looking at.”

I sighed. “I know. I was waiting to start labeling things until I had your list of points of interest to make sure I didn’t put things in the wrong place. Besides, this is just the first draft.”

This went on for several iterations; Abae and Varhukan returning with more data that they had collected and then criticizing the work I had done. And if the two happened to return to the school at the same time they made sure to take jabs at each other as well. Other teams appeared to be getting on just fine, but for whatever reason the three of us couldn’t see eye to eye on things. I felt like all three of us were doing a good job on our own, but each one seemed to want to be in charge and do things his way. There was no connection between us, no camaraderie.

We finally managed to complete our map about two hours after the other teams. Mr. Keeby seemed pleased with it, but the three of us walked away frustrated and tired. This was going to be a long course.

“Remember to breathe. Set your sights on your target, then release.” A dozen arrows flew across the training grounds with only about half hitting their targets. “You are trying too hard!” Daemon yelled. “Once you have your target in your sights, just let the arrow slide out of your fingers. If you try to force it or snap it, you’ll end up jerking your bow and missing.”

It is the law that all citizens of the kingdom learn at least some basic combat skills in case bandits or wild animals start tormenting a settlement. The king does not want to constantly be sending the military out to deal with minor scuffles. Most people turn to a neighboring Baron for instruction, and in our case that was Baron Daemon Karcion.

I say “our case” because Abae, Varhukan, and I all started training together. Not only did the king require all citizens to learn combat skills, but Mr. Keeby would not take any students outside the city to practice cartography until they had a signed training certificate from one of the Barons (the wilderness can be dangerous), so the three of us had decided to train together so that we could go on the next outing. We had already finished basic melee training and were currently in Daemon’s archery class. Varhukan and I were doing alright, but Abae appeared to be struggling a little.

“Your shots keep going over your target,” I whispered to Abae. “I think you might be yanking back on the bowstring like Daemon said and it pulls your shot up.”

“This is so frustrating!” he responded. “We Kypiq prefer to fight with our wits, not weapons.”

“So if someone wanted to slit your throat, you would just try to beat him at a board game?” Varhukan jabbed. “Or maybe you would just scurry away up a tree like a little squirrel, eh Pip?”

Abae and Varhukan were still at each other like this. I could never tell if they were just teasing or if they really wanted to have a go at each other, but so far it had never resorted in actual violence.

“Less talking, more shooting!” barked Daemon. The row of students readied their arrows and fired again. This time most of the arrows hit their target, including Abae’s, albeit on the outside. “Better. I’m going to walk among you now and help each of you one on one, so keep practicing.”

I was using the shortbow that I had received on my Naming Day. I had practiced with it many times before, and even before receiving it my mother had taught me to shoot a little, so most of my arrows found their mark. When Daemon came up to me, he nodded and said “Good, but don’t hold your draw for so long before shooting. Your aim will begin to drift as your arm tires, so as soon as you have the shot, take it.”

“Yes sir,” I replied before nocking my next arrow as Daemon moved on to Abae. Abae’s next shot hit a little closer to the center of the target but was still near the top outer edge. He cursed under his breath.

“You consistently miss in the same direction. Compensate by aiming a little lower next time.”

“Yes sir,” Abae replied. He nocked another arrow, took aim, and fired, this time hitting below but closer to the center.

“Good,” Daemon said encouragingly. “Continue adjusting until you find the right amount to compensate by.”

Varhukan muttered something under his breath about compensating which made Abae throw him a nasty look. Daemon walked over to Varhukan just as he loosed another arrow which landed within the tight grouping he had already placed right in the center of the target.

“Impressive, though not surprising considering your Brudvir heritage. I know you’re just here for basic training, but you could have a bright future in our military if you were interested.”

“Thank you, sir,” Varhukan replied with no sign of emotion.

As Daemon moved on to the next student, Abae said in a mocking tone “Oh Varhukan, you’re such a natural. We could always use more brutes like you in our ranks.” Abae rolled his eyes and prepared to fire another arrow. Just as he did Varhukan bump the bottom of his bow with his own bow, causing hit shot to not only miss the target, but to fly completely over the wall of the training grounds. “Hey!” he shouted.

“Knock it off you two!” I hissed. “You’re going to get us in trouble.” But it was too late.

“Apparently you three enjoy playing games when you should be training,” Daemon said, standing directly behind us. “Fine then, let’s play a game. Archery lessons are over. I want the three of you in the sparring ring.” Everyone put down their bows and quivers and headed over to the sparring ring with us. The three of us stepped into the ring with Daemon while everyone else formed a circle around us.

“The purpose of this ‘game’ is to stay inside of the ring as long as possible. The first one to get thrown out has to go find the arrow that Abae just shot over the wall.” Varhukan sneered at Abae. Abae and I exchanged looks of understanding: the only way either of us would be safe was to approach this challenge together. Daemon shouted “GO!” and stepped out of the ring.

Varhukan immediately started for Abae, but before he had taken two steps I had grabbed him from behind in a bearhug and Abae charged at him shrieking like a dog that got its foot stuck in a trap. Intimidation wasn’t really his strong suit. Varhukan was hardly fazed and landed a kick to Abae’s stomach that made him double over. He then dropped his weight and thrust his elbows up, breaking my hold on him. His next elbow thrust caught me in the stomach, and as I fell forward he grabbed my right arm and threw me over his shoulder, sending me rolling toward the edge of the ring. Cheers erupted from all around.

As I quickly stood up I saw Varhukan advancing on Abae again, but as he tried to grab him the small Kypiq nimbly rolled under him and swept his leg out from under him, sending him crashing down on his back. I ran over to help and as Varhukan began to stand I tackled him back to the ground. More cheers.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next, I just knew that he was less of a threat on the ground than he was standing. As it turned out, I was completely wrong. Before I could rise to my knees Varhukan grabbed both of my wrists, rolled up onto his shoulders, thrust my left arm between his legs, and came back down with his legs wrapped around my neck and right shoulder. I was pinned and as he squeezed I could feel myself start to black out.

Just then Abae ran up and grabbed Varhukan’s left foot, pulling it off of me and giving me a chance to slip out. As I did so Varhukan kicked Abae away and proceeded to stand up once again, now visibly annoyed. He singlemindedly moved towards Abae again who was slowly backing up towards the edge of the ring with a panicked look on his face. I desperately needed to catch my breath, but there was no time. I lept up and ran at Varhukan from behind. Abae saw it coming and dropped to the ground just as I sprang into another tackle, this time from behind. Varhukan flew forward, tripping over Abae, with me still clinging to his back. People cheered a third time and scattered to avoid getting hit as Varhukan and I rolled to the ground.

“Enough!” Daemon shouted. Varhukan and I both sat up gasping for air and looked around to see why Daemon had stopped the fight so soon. All three of us were sitting outside the edge of the ring. My tackle had sent Varhukan flying out with me still holding on, and when he tripped over Abae it caused him to roll out with us.

“I think that’s the first time I’ve seen all combatants lose at the same time, and after such a brief skirmish! You’ve proven that you three can fail together, so let’s see if you can manage to succeed together. It looks like all three of you get to go retrieve my missing arrow. Class dismissed!” He spun on his heels and stormed off into the fort. The other students quickly dispersed, leaving the three of us still lying there on the ground.

I fell onto my back in defeat, still trying to catch my breath, but Varhukan just started laughing. Both Abae and I sat up and stared at him in confusion.

“And what do you find so amusing?” Abae demanded. “It’s your fault we’re in this mess to begin with. If you hadn’t…”

“You two surprised me,” Varhukan interrupted. “You’ve got more fight in you than I gave you credit for; especially you, Pip. I half expected you to just run out of the ring as soon as we started, but you really hung in there. In fact, that was a really nice roll and sweep you did.”

“Are you…congratulating us?” I asked in surprise. “All three of us lost!”

“We may have all fallen out of the ring, but you two showed a lot more determination than I expected. I think with a little more training and focus you two could have beaten me.”

“Uh, hello? We did beat you!” Abae shot back.

“C’mon, let’s go find that arrow.” Varhukan jumped to his feet and casually started to walk off. Abae and I exchanged looks of confusion with each other.

“Thanks for having my back in there,” Abae said.

“No problem. I figured he’d go for you first. You seemed like the easier offense.”

“Yeah, but you could have helped him and protected yourself.”

“Well, like you said, it was really his fault we are in this mess to begin with. I figured he could stand to be taken down a peg or two.”

“Are you two coming, or do you want to roll around in the dirt a little more together first?” Varhukan yelled back at us.

Abae and I helped each other up, both wincing at the bruises that would surely make themselves visible in a few hours. Ironically, despite our recent defeat and humiliation, for the first I felt like we were starting to come together as a team.

“So where should we start?” I asked.

“Well, my arrow cleared the north wall by roughly 10 meters. Given the distance between us and the wall, I’d estimate that’s an elevation of 30 degrees. Arrows fired from an average shortbow travel at 45 meters per second, so that puts the arrow around…” Abae thought for a moment. “180 meters north of us, more or less. Of course it’d be a bit closer if it hit any leaves or branches on the way down.”

Varhukan and I both stared at him blankly.

“What? I told you I’d rather approach a problem with brains than brawn.”

“Well,” I replied, “your measurements thus far have been spot on. Let’s go find us an arrow.” Less than half an hour later and roughly 150 meters north of the fort, we found the arrow and returned it to Daemon who seemed impressed that we were back so soon. He promptly signed our training certificates which would allow us to go on Mr. Keeby’s next class trip outside the city. Things were finally looking up for the three of us.


Chapter 3

10/12/2017 1:55:26 PM #1

Keep up the good work! I can't wait to read the next one!

Oh hey there

10/12/2017 4:17:20 PM #2

Nice work good reads.

Just a lonely peasant on the road looking towards a distance future with the sweat on my back and a tear of cloth in my hand a family crest it must be. A adventure will i have, I dream of dreams my destiny awakens me.

Friend Code: A48E0C

10/12/2017 5:11:45 PM #3

These are great, I can't wait to read the next one. Keep up the good work.

Friend Code: 488A61

10/12/2017 6:35:30 PM #4

:3 These are coming along quite nicely, I like it!

Also known as AvA in Discord.

10/12/2017 7:21:43 PM #5

Thank you all for your encouraging feedback. I'm enjoying writing the story and would do it anyway, but it's motivating to know that others are enjoying it too. :)

10/15/2017 5:18:37 PM #6

Nice! Really enjoyed the read, and honored to make an appearance!

"Abae charged at him shrieking like a dog that got its foot stuck in a trap. Intimidation wasn’t really his strong suit."

I laughed really hard at this because i had a pretty funny mental picture of it going down.

Alt text - can be left blank

10/18/2017 9:50:00 PM #7

So good! Very impressive!

Log in to post