Heimarian Odyssey - Chapter 4

Yoshk removed his casual wear, put it on the clothing rack, and plonked himself on a nearby couch. Locke did the same and sat on the other side. The two, now in military garb, weren't in a rush to speak. Locke opened a bottle of ale and poured Yoshk a full cup before filling one for himself. A toast rang out and the two started the discussion in earnest.

"Not bad, you're getting better at this. Looks like you've grown quite a lot," Yoshk said.

It was hard to believe that someone seeming so ambitionless actually cared about formalities and protocols. He wasn't as simple a man as his first impressions might suggest.

"Stop joking around. This isn't much, and you taught me all of it," Locke said.

"Come on, do I look like the kind of person to teach you such things?"

The two broke into a chuckle.

Locke refilled their cups. His patience failed him before he was finished.

"Do I stand a chance of being promoted?"

"I've been looking after you since you joined the army. It's been four years now. I treat you like my flesh-and-blood son. I'll do whatever I can in support of your promotion" Yoshk promised, his affection radiating like the morning sunshine.

"Then I'll put my trust in you," Locke said, "But that wouldn't be enough. What else do I need to do? Tell me."

"Having my support indeed isn't enough, but I'll have old Karl put it a good word for you too. The rest will be up to you."

Karl was the vice platoon leader. Word was that he owed Yoshk his life. He seemed like a deadman-serious soldier who didn't take any nonsense well, but he was kind to his troops and made quite a good impression on Locke.

"Alright. I'm listening."

"The six platoon jarls and vice-jarls, cavalry platoon jarl, our company's baron, and his eldest son, the current vice jarl of the cavalry platoon, Young Master Solon, all have a say in who fills those two positions."

Their unit was a company of four platoons of infantry and one platoon of cavalry. Locke had seen the cavalry in battle before and had the impression that each mounted soldier could take on three infantry on the open field. Their tough armour, long lances and the momentum afforded by their charging mounts made them far superior to most infantry troops.

"In the upcoming appointments, Baron Cardoj and the cavalry platoon's jarl won't be taking part. Those with a say should be the six platoon jarl and Solon. I've already gotten you two votes, so you need at least two more," Yoshk said.

"I have some ties with the vice jarl of 1st Platoon, but none whatsoever with the vice jarl of 3rd Platoon and the jarl of 4th Platoon. And aren't they still recovering from injuries?"

"That's right. The harshest battles are already over and now's the time to wrap things up. Those two could no longer take it after resting for only two weeks. They are already going out 'sweeping' with their new recruits right after they were resupplied," Yoshk said disdainfully.

'Sweeping' was a military slang for pillaging settlements still under Shalorian control. They were not so much attacks than complete suppression of settlements with no soldiers defending them. In those settlements were some minor militias and brutish village folk. The larger villages usually had a hundred or two hundred people whereas the smaller ones could number less than a hundred. One platoon would be enough to deal with those. Even Yoshk brought his platoon out for sweeping whenever they had time in the past two months.

Their unit's main purpose was to occupy the remaining towns that resisted. Merchants and richer farm owners were only present in cities, and Baron Cardoj wasn't really interested in the backwater villages. Only those among the four infantry platoons would care to go sweep the villages. However, the baron's trading convoy would always be open to buying the goods from the pillages, such as the silver bangles passed down in their families, the furs the hunters had, and even beasts of burden. As for more decent clothing articles, the soldiers would usually keep those for themselves.

However, that wasn't to say that the soldiers plundered without a conscience. At the very least, they didn't touch the food the villages depended on. That was also forbidden by the code of their unit, though that didn't stop them from taking the occasional poultry or two. Locke himself came from a farmer's family in a village as well, so he didn't feel particularly inclined on oppressing the same folk as him, but after going through so much in the war, he no longer knew how he should feel about the Shalorians. It was a confusing mix of hate and guilt whenever he looked at those downtrodden folk. Nevertheless, that didn't stop him from making money off them. He needed to survive and take care of his comrades and family back home. The money he sent home and used to treat his comrades to drinks with came from the sweeps he took part in.

"Uncle, we haven't gone sweeping for a week now. Isn't it about time?" Locke asked.

"Yeah. The baron wants to join up with 7th Company's Baron Cashel to attack the city of Farlans. That's the reason he wants the two platoon-jarl positions filled quickly. There are also no villages nearby to sweep anymore." Cities usually had walls and moats. A company of five hundred would have a hard time taking over a city, so the commanders would usually choose to join up with other allies. It had been two months since they entered Shalore's heartland and there had been three city sieges in that time, all of them coordinated efforts with other units. Locke himself had experience joining a few of them. While the casualty rates of those sieges were rather high, the rewards were plentiful. It was almost a surefire way for soldiers to make good money, and that was enough to help the soldiers overcome their fear of death. Baron Cashel had cooperated with their unit a few times before in the past in the same fashion.

The two continued their talk as they drank, and soon after emptied one bottle of ale. Locke opened a second one and filled their cups once more. Yoshk took a deep gulp and said, "The jarls of 1st Platoon are from Quarryton like us and I have some ties with them too. Bring them a gift and I'll try to lobby them to give you their votes. As for the other three, I'm not too familiar with them, so that'll have to count on your efforts." There was often much dirty laundry among the top brass, even more so among the lower-ranked platoons. Even Locke, who was socially competent enough, couldn't claim to be on good terms with all the other squad jarl in his unit. One could never know what thoughts others harboured in their minds, after all.

"I suggest you work on the Solon angle," Yoshk added. "You two are about the same age and will have something in common. Find something you can give him to prove your loyalty and it might just work out. If that goes well, you'll be part of his faction." Baron Cardoj had more than one son. While the custom in Faustian was to have the eldest son be the family heir, the other sons of the baron still stood a chance. It was said that the one currently administering the baron's lands was his second son.

"I wonder what gifts would earn the favour of a noble..." Locke mumbled. "Oh well, I'll try to think of one."

"I know you'll definitely come up with something good. That's the extent of how I can help. You have to do the rest," he said, giving Locke's shoulder a pat.

"Alright, Uncle. I'll do my best. Come, let's have a toast," he said, raising his cup again.

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