This post is out of chronological order; it takes place right after the huge battle at Stonebarrow.
Elwyn awoke in a tent, feeling sore all over. Trying to roll over and get up, he groaned. Never before on his life, even when plowing a field all day, had he felt more tired then now. He didn’t know how he got here; yesterday, he was going to plow the bottom forty with his dad; then he remembered. The soldiers, the house burning, the battle, that last, desperate stand on the hill. “How did I get here?” he wondered. Suddenly, he noticed what had woken him. Someone was pounding a sword on shield outside his tent, trying to wake him up.
“I’m awake!” Elwyn shouted. “What do you want?”
“Sir, Commander Hawkins whishes to see you in his pavilion,” said the voice.
“Tell him I’ll be right there,” said Elwyn. He was irritated that he had been waked, but interested in the reason why.
“I’ve been instructed to wait for you, and escort you to the commander’s tent. As soon as you’re ready, sir.”
Elwyn groaned. “Formalities,” he mumbled under his breath, getting his pants on. “As pap always said, they’re nothing but a bunch of pointless words.”
Fully dressed, Elwyn left the tent; the guard was dutifully waiting for him.
“Right this way sir,” the guard said. “It was one of Hawkins’s first requests upon waking this morning—he must see something special in you.”
Elwyn was barely even listening to the guard. Instead, he was examining the wonders of camp life. All around him, people were stirring, horses groomed, fires started, and food cooked. A kaleidoscope of scents and aromas greeted his nose; the smell of roasted meat, stew, straw, and, yes, of waste. Who ever knew that so many aromas could be in one place! Elwyn was fascinated by it all—but clearly, his guard wasn’t. He continued to babble on and on; Elwyn wasn’t even listening to him now.
Elwyn was soon relieved, however; for in moments, the sight of Commander Hawkins’s pavilion greeted his eyes.
“Well, here you go sir,” said the guard. “By the way, my name’s Durd.”
“Pleased to meet you, and thank you for escorting me here,” said Elwyn.
“Hey, no problem,” said the guard. “I was glad to help.”
With one last wave to his chattering escort, Elwyn lifted the flap of the tent, and went inside.
The tent was dark, but full of activity. Servants rushed back and forth, and there were charts, books, and maps spread everywhere.
“Ah, Elwyn—Just the man I wanted to see!” said Hawkins, shaking Elwyn’s hand. “Sit down, sit down.” Hawkins motioned to a table in the corner, away from the hustle-and-bustle of the tent. Taking a seat, Hawkins said, “I don’t thing I’ve thanked you for your help yesterday. You were invaluable, and of a great service to your country. Tell me, where do you come from?”
Elwyn was uncomfortable; after all, Commander Hawkins was a great and mighty general, and he was just a poor farm boy. However, the commander seemed generally interested in him, so Elwyn replied. “I am actually from Ruratania,” he said. “My father was killed by a Ruratanian soldier, and our house burned down. His last words told me to find the Forestmen.”
“Well, you’ve succeeded,” said Hawkins. “You are now in the heart of Forestmen country. Last night we had to leave the scene of the battle, and fast; so we set off to where King Alfred was camped. You probably don’t remember, but we put into a wagon, and slept like a rock; man of the men did. Our tents were already set up here, and it was no problem to find one for you; there were many tents left empty, after the battle.” Hawkins began tear up a little, but he merely wiped them away. “Anyways,” he said, power returning to his voice, “I wanted to ask something of you. How would you like to be my orderly? You would learn all of the tricks and trades of war, deliver messages for me, and fight if need be. What say you?”
“Commander Hawkins, I am touched by your offer,” said Elwyn. “However, every since my father was killed by Ruratanians, and my home burned by Jarithian soldiers, and I myself was nearly killed by Jarithian soldiers, I want to be at the front lines, doing everything I can to defeat the Duke of Jarith’s forces. Perhaps, under different circumstances, I would readily accept your offer, but I want to inflict revenge against the Duke of Jarith, and that’s simply not something I can do from behind the lines.”
“I understand,” said Hawkins. “But before you leave, let me give you a letter of recommendation into Robin IX’s personal forces. I think you possess great talent, and would fit well with that group. Besides, Robin is always at the tip of the spear, and it sounds to me that that is exactly what you want. It will take me a few minutes; feel free to have a look around the tent, but try to stay out of the way.”
Elwyn walked about the tent, gazing at all of the paraphernalia that littered any table, floor, or wall. “War is more complicated then I thought,” Elwyn said to himself. He continued to investigate, but in a few minutes, Hawkins called him back.
“Here you are,” Hawkins said, lifting the flap of the tent for Elwyn. “Now, King Alfred’s pavilion is where you will find Robin. It is up that trail over there, and through the trees; that is where Alfred’s army is camped. The king’s pavilion will be the center of the camp; it is bigger than mine; you can’t miss it.”
“How can I ever repay you, sir?” Elwyn asked. He was deeply touched by all the Commander was doing for him; clearly, this man cared for his soldiers.
“How can you repay me? Why, be a good soldier for Robin, and kill every Jarithian soldier you can!”
Hawkins let the tent flap fall; Elwyn was on his own now. Clutching his letter of recommendation, he set off for the king’s pavilion.