Chapter 51: The training fields
26 November 1263, 5 AM
It's been a long time since I last looked at you. Too long, with too less going on. But that's a lie. There is always something going on, it being a decent trade, a skirmish or just the warm breeze on your face during a nice summer day. Even peace can be as exciting as war sometimes. But that's a lie too, that I kept on telling myself the past few years. It's all going to change now. I wish I had more time, but that's a luxury I can't afford. War is bound to happen in a place like this. I can only thank the sultan for the time he gave me to build up my forces. I hope it is enough.
The last war against the Nord had been devastating. I dare say that now. Even tough I conquered a fine piece of land, both our forces had been diminished. Had sultan Hakim known the extend of my losses, he wouldn't have hesitated to enact his little war against the Rhodok earlier, or even tried to have a go at me. He had fought the last war Calradia would see for a long time. If his troops hadn't bogged down in the mountains, forcing him to sign that peace treaty, the Rhodoks wouldn't have been anymore. Still, it had just been a delay of execution, for boots will march the fields once again by the end of this day. They are dead without knowing it yet.
I knew this day would come, even back then when all the storms calmed down. The morning is young and my wife is still asleep, but already I hear the hens shout out all the agony this wretched country wishes to bring upon us all. Within a few moments the sergeants will wake, only to shout at the fresh recruits that their already shiny armour isn't polished enough. They will hurry, obeying their superiors commands, only to find out that today the are really
nothing. Today even the sergeants are unimportant, for this afternoon the knights will ride out.Later this afternoon the knights will ride out.
No-one still suspects what they were training for. They think
they know, but the truth is too delicate to be trusted to even fierce knights or my loyal companions. I know since the attempt at my life, almost three years ago, that there are powers beyond anyone's wildest dreams at work. Except mine. In my early days in this strange land, I invested most of my time learning the people, sweeping them up to join me in my quest for power and glory. But the dreams made me realise that there is no-one more important around here than I. Maybe that's why they all speak my language. It is me, Floris, who will determine the fate of Calradia.
That's why I started to train again. Some of my companions, or even soldiers, thought I was testing them, since it was them who stood against me on the fields of the ancient masters. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was testing myself, trying to remember moves and parries that I had never learned before. And I did. It was in these months at the different training fields I finally realised the truth behind the land I had stranded upon. It still needed to be confirmed tough, something I intend to do today. During all this time I only needed to hide my suspicions from myself, hence my reluctance to write anything down for almost three years. But after today it will mater no more. Today the truth will kill the lie.
I have trained with all the masters of Calradia. I travelled through all the lands, all the countries, and took recruits with me that will parade later this day as full grown knights. Given enough training, anyone can become a master, something the masters themselves pressed upon me. And I tend to agree. Last night I walked past the barracks, one last hidden inspection, and saw the faces of the young recruits. Even after just a few weeks they were showing signs of experience. After the coming war they will be as battle-hardened as the ones who will ride out with me.I stood again on the training fields of the old Calradian masters.
But even the best training can't prepare you for real life as reality itself. After half a year of riding from one training field to the other, I remembered enough of seven lifetimes of martial studies. Battles that had never occurred played in front of my eyes, tactics I hadn't thought of - but could have invented - nestled in my brain. When I looked in the eyes of these old masters that had trained me so many times, the recognition tried to hide deep inside them, but couldn't escape my comprehension. Somewhere deep down they knew the truth behind Calradia, something even they didn't dare to think about. I could see in their gaze that the genie was out of the bottle, and had kicked it so far away that they couldn't put it back.
People say that I scared the old Calradian masters away by only looking at them. That's not true. They did ran, but not because of my stare. Not even a rabbit would run if it looked long enough in my eyes. It's what they saw deep down there that scared the hell out of them: they saw me slowly but surely comprehend the whole situation, and feared the outcome. They knew what was bound to happen when I found out, and didn't dare to face the world when it would realise its mistake. Today the training fields are abandoned, grasses growing over the places brave warriors-to-be once stood upon. The land is tucked to peace, and torn apart by this. I've seen the signs the past two years between my last training and the opening of my eyes this morning.The ancient masters looked me in the eyes and all fled.
Enough about the former training fields. My wife just stirred: she is waking up. Soon I'll need to give her some attention. Somewhere deep down I regret that I haven't been able to give her enough attention the past few years of our marriage, and maybe this morning will be the last time I will lay my eyes upon her at all. Ever. There are unspeakable things I must do, all for the greater good. Or better said, the greater comprehension. I dare not to write them down before they have happened, for else the lands will surely find out before they are supposed to. My wife is just a pawn in the greater game, just like those masters were. The question is, will she realise it before it is too late?
Here is a picture Floris' stats on 21 September 1261:
You might have noticed the giant leap in time between chapter 50 and 51. Don't worry, in the coming chapters I'll write more about what happened in that period, and what the current situation is. No borders changed for the first half year, so instead of a map I'll show you some bonus pictures of Floris on the training fields.