Duke Pendragon - Chapter 111
Five griffons quickly changed their flight direction and pierced through the waves of dust, skimming across the ground.
Something was fired from the back of the griffons. They were quarrels, fired from a crossbow.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
Five bolts of quarrels sequentially landed on a wooden doll located about 100 yards away with precision. A burst of admiration could be heard.
The soldiers were dressed in simple, tough leather armor and crossbows hung around their shoulders. Their gazes were fixated on the exquisite movements of the griffon that once again rushed up high into the air.
After performing a roll in the air, the griffons settled down on the ground in front of the observing soldiers. Their large wings created a strong gust which caused the soldiers to sway, but they managed to hold their ground.
The excited griffons reared up like horses which caused the soldiers to take on anxious expressions. The griffons were even bigger upfront. It seemed as if they could easily bore a hole through a human body with their sharp, yellow beaks. But the griffon rider casually extended his hand towards the griffon’s neck. As he scratched the creature’s neck, the griffons purred before lowering its head with slanted eyes.
Griffons were known for their ferocity and ill-temperament, but the man in front of them handled griffons as if he were dealing with pets or livestock.
The rider scratched the griffon’s neck a few more times, then walked towards the group with an expressionless face after taking off his helmet. The identity of the rider was none other than Elkin Isla, the captain of the Pendragon family’s griffon unit. He gave off a lonely vibe with his cold eyes and tightly closed lips.
The four other riders, who had accompanied Isla, also came forward and stood by his sides. The riders were all quite good-looking with their tanned skin and glistening eyes, not to mention their great physique.
The soldiers looked at them with nervous eyes.
“Unlike horses, there are no vertical vibrations when riding a griffon. You can be more accurate when shooting a crossbow. Moreover, their necks are sturdy enough for one to attach loaders on them, which allows one to reload their crossbows very quickly.”
The soldiers answered with one voice at hearing Isla’s words which were laced with a unique southern accent.
“One of the basic tactics of the griffon unit is to fire crossbows from a high altitude. However, there are situations in which riders have to fly low while shooting at their targets. Does anyone know the reason why?”
The soldiers were unable to answer, and they kept glancing at each other.
“In a siege, after the first round of volleys, griffon riders will go into a triangular formation and rapidly circle around the enemy castle while continuously firing. This will continue until our army’s siege tower safely approaches the walls of the enemy castle. We would need to keep the enemies occupied to minimize the casualties of the ground units. Is that understood?”
“E, excuse me! I have a question!”
One of the soldiers raised their hands. Isla’s indifferent eyes turned towards the soldier.
“What is it?”
“Well, then, does that mean griffon riders only need to be good at shooting the crossbow?”
With a slight nod, Isla continued.
“Griffon riders from the south use longbows instead of crossbows. Compared to crossbows, one can reload faster with longbows. Moreover, the southern riders tend to be skilled marksmen. But very few people are able to tame and ride griffons and also handle the longbow skillfully. That’s why in the south, one rider usually commands up to nine griffons.”
“But these guys are different. Due to the authority of the Pendragon family’s guardian, Soldrake, they do not need additional taming.”
The soldiers shared looks of relief with each other. No matter how scary griffons were, it was worth a shot if they were already under control.
“And that is why we can attempt flight charges. Just like heavily-armed knights, we can decimate the enemy’s formation by charging at them. Thus…”
At Isla’s signal, a rider threw a javelin towards Isla.
“You should be able to handle the spear as well as the crossbow. We will be the vanguard for the Pendragon family’s army.”
The spearhead emitted a sharp aura under the glistening sun.
The soldiers became astonished. They could already picture themselves riding on the back of the griffons while heroically charging into the enemy camp and smashing the enemies apart. They would alternate between all sorts of weapons, returning home as cherished heroes.
The soldiers looked around with excited expressions. It was as if they had already become old veterans who were reminiscing about their glorious past as griffon riders.
But Isla was not finished with his words yet.
“During a flight charge, a griffon is twice as fast as a horse. In addition, one must bear in mind that flying adds two additional directions of movement. The high-speed turns that need to be made while flying on a griffon causes the brain to shake. Sometimes, blood vessels will burst due to the pressure. You have to bear the impact while shooting your crossbows and swinging spears.”
At Isla’s calm words, the excitement subdued at once.
“All of you are special members of the duchy’s army. Everyone has good eyesight and a good sense of balance. But that is all you have. To become a griffon rider that can satisfy my conditions as well as our lord’s standards, you must go through rough, harsh training.”
Isla’s voice wasn’t loud. He spoke in a low, grave voice. Furthermore, his words were not exaggerated. He had only stated blunt facts.
Even still, the faces of the soldiers hardened, and Isla’s last words caused them to pale.
“The training will now begin. You will find out that you can also experience hell in the skies.”
Then, he turned and walked towards the griffons.
“What are you doing!? Move it. Quickly!”
“You bastards, you had it easy until now!”
The senior riders shouted at the soldiers and kicked their buttocks, and the soldiers began to move about in a hurry.
“You all are dead now.”
“If you fall off a griffon’s back, it will be instant death. Even if you are lucky, you will live in a bed for the rest of your life.”
“Have you experienced your skin being torn by the wind? Don’t worry, you will experience it every day in the future.”
The soldiers’ face turned even more haggard at their seniors’ alarming words.
The senior griffon riders stared at the back of the soldiers and saw themselves, who had experienced their own hellish training several months ago. One of the riders looked around and spoke in a cautious voice.
“Anyway, don’t you think the captain’s mood is a little off these days?”
“Yes, he looks to be quite angry. He is saying things he would not normally be saying.”
“I agree. When he mentioned hell, I felt my liver shriveling up. Did something bad happen with Sir Killian?”
One of the other riders, who heard the conversation between the two, smirked and responded.
“It’s only natural that the captain is in a bad mood these days. “He” is not here.”
“My stupid friend. It has already been four days since His Grace left without saying anything.”
“Well, who else in our duchy could put Captain Isla in such a foul mood for so many days?
“Hmm! Is he that disappointed? I would not act that way even if my wife left the house.”
Then, the riders simultaneously turned their heads to stare at Isla’s back, who was leading the soldiers to their doom. As if feeling their gaze, Isla turned his head. The riders flinched at the glare in Isla’s eyes, and a thunder-like voice followed suit.
“The formation was disrupted when you were shooting at the low altitude. You will also continue to train until you can maintain a 10 feet distance from each other on low-altitude flights.”
“Y, yes, sir! Captain!”
They were certain. They would not act so gloomy even if their wives left the house.
The soldiers swung their swords at the sound of the commands, which sounded oddly weak for some reason.
The knight who was calling out with a weak voice and droopy shoulders was none other than Mark Killian, the captain of the Pendragon Duchy’s knights. His usual flamboyant and gracious appearance was nowhere to be found, and he was shuffling like a sick rooster with a gaunt face while leading the swordsmanship training for the cavalry.
“Sir Killian, time is up.”
The man who spoke was Sir Campbell, the knight in charge of Conrad Castle’s defense and Killian’s fellow knight. Killian raised his blank face.
“Oh, yeah. Is it time already? Everybody rest…”
Campbell shouted to the soldiers after letting out a deep sigh inside.
“Rest! It’s finally time to rest!”
The soldiers were covered with sweat despite the chilly weather, and they headed to the wells for a drink of water or plopped down on the ground. Killian also trudged to a corner of the training hall and sat down on a set of stone steps.
With a sympathetic look, Sir Campbell spoke cautiously while looking at the lifeless figure of Killian, who seemed to have no motivation and spirit.
“Excuse me, Sir Killian, you are having a hard time these days, are you not?”
“Phew, I can only imagine how you feel. If I was told to fight that ignorant orc…”
Campbell’s words were dead on point. Killian’s shoulders trembled. Killian had been in this depressive mood due to his obligation to duel with Karuta.
“And His Grace left for the imperial city without any notice. Phew, what can you do? Cheer up, my friend.”
Killian’s shoulders drooped further at Campbell’s attempted consolation. For Killian, having to face Karuta was hell, but he had held onto a ray of hope. He had been desperately waiting for Alan to bring him along on his journey to the imperial castle. But alas, the lord left covertly without a single word. Now, he was stuck with no choice but to fight with Karuta for the next several months. Of course, it wasn’t all bad.
Orc warriors were stronger and had better reflexes than their human counterparts, and Karuta was called the strongest of the Ancona Orcs. Through their bouts, Killian made progress as a knight. Fiercer the battle, the more his muscles ached and joints clamored, screaming for help. He could feel his skills improving every minute of the battles.
But as the saying went, good medicine was bitter. Karuta never went easy on him, and the battles were bitter medicine, so bitter that Killian thought he would die soon if he continued taking it.
“But it is a relief that he has not been here for a few days, is it not?”
“….You do not know what you are talking about.”
“That devil…. The longer he goes on without a battle… His rampage increases in intensity…”
“Today is the fourth day. When he comes, his frenzy will be two, no, three times worse than usual. Ha….”
Campbell could not find the words to comfort Killian. The poor knight let out a long sigh with a face resembling a death-row inmate. Even in Campbell’s eyes, the fights between Karuta and Killian were so fierce that they sent shivers down his back.
Campbell was about to offer encouraging words, then suddenly frowned.
“What? Bastard? Do you have a death wish?”
A clamor could be heard from a corner of the hall, where the soldiers were resting.
“Hey! What do you think you are doing!?”
Campbell stood up from his seat with narrowed eyes.
“We are all in the same situation, what makes you think you are better than us?”
“Ha! I have been roaming the world as a free knight for several years. How am I the same as a mere soldier?”
The uproar did not subside easily.
“How dare they…”
Eventually, Campbell could not stand it anymore, and he was about to head over to stop the conflict when Killian raised his head helplessly.
“What are they doing…?”
“It seems like they have gotten into a fight. Sir Killian, you can continue to rest. I can take care…”
“I am Laurent of House Bellamoon! I live and die by my sword! How dare a nobody from the Pendragon countryside try to stand on equal footing with me? Even though I came here when I heard about the knight order, I…”
Campbell’s expression changed as the words continued. Although he was angry at the words that belittled the Pendragon Duchy, it was mainly because he felt the atmosphere around Killian changing.