It was safe to say that even An-Hasst didn't fail to appreciate the obvious benefits of having a prolonged stay in an unexpected village. The people here would have to try terribly hard in order not to make their place more hospitable than the jungle it had been hacked into. Also they probably were less dangerous and hostile than thowe dark elves and having a roof over one's head and a bed beneath one's back promised to be an unexpected level of comfort on their journey as well. But... Being deprived of one's weapons still stung. So did avoiding the teeptation to just track down the place they had been stowed away in and retrieve them. Without permission. And then the work they had to do... Admittedly he probably was the last one of the entire party who was afraid of physical labor, but other things would have been just so much more relaxing.
The moment An-Hasst separated himself from the others and especially Argon, people started to stare at the walking tower of a half-elf. A bunch of children even appeared to be so scared that they stopped playing and started to run to whatever place they had deemed to be safer. In other words: Maybe it was better to go to rest early, make oneself unseen for the remainder of the evening and the subsequent night.
The Skayleigh's approach on finding a place to sleep was dead simple: first and default. He virtually strolled right into the very next wooden Hut that appeared to be vacantand started to inspect its interior.
There wasn't much to be seen though: A small table, two stools, an improvised fireplace that he certainly wouldn't dare to lit this day and a clean bed. How comfy! Well... It was obvious that his legs would stick out at the bottom end and his shoulders would have a hard time not doing the same along the sides -- and that was presuming that he wouldn't accidentally break the whole thing in the first place --, but it was worth a carefully executed attempt. First he had to take off his armor though and maybe find some spare food to eat. They hadn't taken away that from him at least.
After admitting the group into the village, Nicademus' routine followed as it had done so for the past month. He helped the guards train and with their patrols of the town, along with keeping an eye on the group still but, apart from that, he left them to their own devices. Things seemed poised to go much the same as they mostly did, calm and peaceful, until one of the villages approached him, clearly in distress.
"Sir, sir, please help me!" The man said, grabbing Nicademus by the shoulders and shaking him slightly "I was making my way back towards my home when I saw a man inside of it!" The villager continued, still shaking the knight.
Nicademus, for his part, remained calm and, once the villager seemed to relax slightly, gently pried the man's fingers from his shoulders. "Calm down, I'm here, show me where your house is and I'll resolve this." The knight said calmly, letting the man guide him towards his house. Once there, Nicademus opened the door with no hesitation only to find out that the intruder was none other than one of the members of the group he had allowed into the village. "I thought you guys were supposed to sleep at the inn?" The Knight asked to the towering half-elf, letting out a tired sigh. "Come, let us go to the inn where we might discuss where you'll sleep." He added, crossing his arms as he waited for a response from the half-elf.
For a few moments it looked as if An-Hasst had frozen either in time or rock solid -- probably both. His brain was trying very hard to hastily compile some kind of answer with regard to his authority to enter this place, but the best thing he could come up with was to try and apologize and claim that lack of knowledge could protect him. He knew the voice that was asking. It was uncomfortably familiar and could only mean trouble, at least in his mind.
"Erm..." Slowly, the giant turn around on the spot. "Word has reached me that the tavern has reached the limits of its capacity before I arrived there in the first place. So I was looking for something else and have found this vacant place. I'd like to apologize if it's yours!" Yes, this might be good. If it should turn out that there indeed were still empty rooms in the tavern he could simply claim that the word had been wrong, not he himself.
"I'd be glad to find something else, but if you insist I'll look elsewhere." Hopefully the knight would buy it. The Skayleigh felt tired and was in anything but the mood to engage in any kind of prolonged discussion or even struggle.
Nicademus listened in silence as An-Hasst explained the reason for why he was found inside the house of a random villager. The knight rubbed his forehead in exasperation, feeling a headache blossoming within. He knew that there wasn't a room left for the half-elf within the inn, "The place isn't mine, it's his." He spoke, motioning to the villager behind him with his thumb, "And you are correct, the tavern is at full capacity." He added with a sigh. He knew that there was a solution to this whole mess, but it wasn't one that the knight was eager about in the least, "Come, let's get out of here and we can talk outside." He said, motioning with his head towards the exit, before leaving the house, confident that An-Hasst would follow him.
"There is a solution, you can stay in the same room as me in the tavern." The knight admitted once they were outside, letting out a sigh, "I know it's not ideal but it's the only solution that'd work by the way I see things." He continued on, shaking his head slightly, "Pack up your things and then put them in my room on the tavern, ask the innkeeper and they'll show you which room is mine. Afterwards, come and meet me by the place where the guards gather to train." Nicademus said, "You are going to help me with their training in case you are curious. I think a practice spar would be a good idea to help them learn." The knight continued on, "Hopefully this is agreeable. If it seems too much of a chore, think of it as a way to hopefully work through some of your stress. At the very least sparring helps me relax." He finished with a shrug before he made his way to the sparring ring near the tavern to wait for An-Hasst.
An-Hasst's mind was running hot. Stay ? In the same room as... this guy ? He had no weapons. What if Nicademus would take the opportunity and just dispose of him while he was asleep ? On the other hand... the man just could not be oblivious of the fact that his throat was nowhere near capable of resisting the Skayleigh's choking grasp if things went down the serious road. The Kaelic Isles were a remote place in the north, human ideas of 'knighthood' and 'honor' hardly any more than excessively abstract terms for many of the half-elf half-giant kind. His own view on these had probably somewhat improved since his journey had begun, but still the moment he said "I agree." with regard to the tavern matter it was primarly backed up by his firm belief that neither of them would be crazy enough to pull off such kind of a nightmare.
"Since my weapons have already been taken from me there's not much for me to pack up. Basically just what I wear." The latter stuff was comprised of his enormously large scale armor that hda been fabricated by himself from the best kind of iron wood available, his other clothes and of course the backpack that contained food, water and last but not least the few special things they had beeen provided with by their employer. An-Hasst made a mental not to take particular care of those. "So this won't take long. And yes, I'd be willing to help you with training your men." The Skayleigh didn't mention that his fighting style could be considered somewhat different from the average. Hopefully that wouldn't be too much of an issue...
Nicademus used the time that it took for An-Hasst to get to the tavern to correct a few of the mistakes shown by those rookies that were sparring amongst each other, however once the giant half-elf showed up the knight turned his attention towards him immediately. "Ah, welcome, glad you managed to find this place without much trouble." He said to An-Hasst, making his way to the rack where they stored the dulled weapons that the town guard used to practice between each other and picking up the bastard sword he used to practice with. "Feel free to take any weapon of your preference, I'm hopeful that we will have something that will accommodate whatever fighting style you prefer to use." The knight said before briefly turning to look at the gathered guards "Move away, give us some space and pay attention."
Once he was done speaking, and the guards had moved away, Nicademus moved to the centre of the sparring arena. "I hope you don't mind me being your opponent." He said with a light smirk, waiting for An-Hasst to get in place in front of him after he had armed himself "As the visitor, you have the courtesy of the first blow." The knight said as he readied himself for the Skayleigh's attack.
As An-Hasst had silently expected, he was towering over his opponent. He was very well aware of the advantages in terms of range and power, but he also at least tried to make himself aware of the fact that he could very well be outmaneuvered by Nicademus. After all one could suspect that he was a fully trained knight -- whatever that truly meant. This could end in either him succeeding or in him making a mock out of himself, but of course he hoped for the former to come true.
The weapon of his choice was a morning star. Massive, large, not very fast and much less delicate than a sword for the active center exhibited spherical symmetry. The orientation of this weapon was pretty much irrelevant the moment one scored a hit -- it always resulted in an hopefully very significant impact. That was not his current plan though. Instead the Skayleigh took the long shaft of the weapon in both hands and charged forward, hoping to be fast enough to ram his opponent. He still had his scaled coat and while the correct technique could push a blade through beneath the individual scales his opponent probably wouldn't be fast enough to evade and do the trick at the same time in his clanky armor. That was... if his estimates were correct...
To say that Nicademus was surprised by what the towering half-elf had decided to do as his first action in their sparring match would be an understatement. Of all the things that the knight had expected An-Hasst to do once he had picked up a morning star from the weapon's rack, the last of them had been a direct charge towards him at full speed. Yet the more the knight thought about it in the brief time he had before collision, the more it made sense; despite the fact that his armor was lighter than that worn by most knights it was still heavy enough to impede his movements and make it impossible for him to evade the charge of the half-elf in time.
And so, the knight did the only option that he could feasibly do, he dug his feet in and braced himself for impact. As the half-elf finally rammed against him Nicademus involuntarily coughed as the air left his lungs by the sudden force of the impact, but he still stood even if the charge had knocked him quite a few centimetres from his original position. Knowing that he still had few options to do, the knight did the only thing that seemed available to him and hit An-Hasst in the gut with his armored knee. Taking a few steps backwards the knight soon returned the favor as he charged towards An-Hasst, his sword raised high in what seemed like a clear overhead strike. However, before the blade could hit the half-elf, Nicademus suddenly changed the direction that the blade was going to into a strike toward's An-Hasst's left side. Of course, the success or failure of his depend on if the giant half-elf bought his faint or not...
Nicademus was a very resilient one, that was for sure. An-Hasst had not expected him to stay where he was and try to absorb the momentum, but he had done very surprisingly well so. Maybe this wasn't the most efficient tactic in this case. The Skayleigh wasn't given the time to think about this any further however as his guts were turned upside down by a sudden impact. For moments he had to suppress the urge to vomit, probably even on his opponents head. Luckily it didn't happen, but he'd have to take care about his belly region now...
An-Hasst saw that a blade was coming. For the lack of a shield he raised his armored elbow in an attempt to block its path no matter what trajectory its wielder would opt for exactly in the last moments. It hit the wooden scales and tore of a bunch of small wooden scraps as it scraped along it. The Skayleigh tried to grasp the opportunity and aimed his other fist at Nicademus's head. This would either be armor against armor or armor against bare skin, but in any case there would be a very massive and sudden exchange of momentum if he'd be able to score a hit. What the Skayleigh seemed to be a bit oblivious about was that even his elbow was of an only finite length. Given his tremendous height the knight's sword would still have a considerable amount of space left to re-accelerate before it would reach the ground.
Nicademus had to admit it, he had underestimated the Skayleigh. First the half-elf had rushed towards him with a speed that the knight thought he wouldn't posses, and now his reflexes were good enough that he had managed to parry his strike despite his feint. Despite this, the knight was smiling...it had been too long since he had a good sparring match that challenged him and so Nicademus found himself grinning with excitement. However, his little thought process distracted him long enough to not notice the punch that An-Hasst had thrown until it was too late to avoid. Knowing this, Nicademus did the only thing that he could: he let himself get hit.
The fist of the Skayleigh connected against his face, but Nicademus was no stranger to pain and, as such, the moment that the fist hit him, he grasped his blade once more and struck at the abdomen of the Skayleigh while the giant's concentration was still focused on him. Still, the hit clearly had an effect for after the sword hit the Skayleigh the knight backed away staggered. "Must admit, it's been quite a while since someone has given me such a fight." The knight spoke, smirking slightly, before he spit blood into the ground. He recollected himself and charged towards the half-elf once more, however, instead of striking him with his sword, Nicademus instead aimed a punch towards the Skayleigh's gut again, hoping to put him off balance to have a clear strike with his sword.
If there was one thing An-Hasst was particularly good at, then it was at getting angry. This would also start to affect his fighting style. However the very first thing of him that started to become much more ferocious was his stomach. It barely allowed the Skayleigh to take a step back in order to make room for the inevitable before going into reverse. That last punch with the sword, after the one coming from Nicademus' foot, had just been too much and it did not come without announcement after all. At this point An-Hasst had no eye for the knight's actions, but stumbled backwards further instead.
Slowly raising himself to his full height again, An-Hasst bared his teeth and nailed Nicademus with his staring. It was virtually saying This was your fault! even without the Skayleigh consciously thinking that way. What would he do now ? He made a jump sideways away from the mess, his feet slightgly trembling the earth upon impact. There was enough clean sand and dirt in front of them to try and kick it into the knight's eyes, a cheap trick that at least had a chance of working. If so, it would net Nicademus' sparring partner enough time for another charge, this time involving a lot more momentum due to the increased distance between the two.
In truth, Nicademus had not expected his hits to the abdomen of the half-elf to have such an effect. At best he thought that he had merely staggered the man, not that he had hit him with such force that he had eventually forced him to throw up. After the Skayleigh was done emptying the contents of his stomach and moved away from the mess, it was clearly that he was angry and, for that, Nicademus couldn't blame him, after all this was supposed to be a training match. The knight stopped in his tracks and raised his hands in a placating gesture towards the towering half-elf "Hold, hold." He said, slowly moving towards the giant man. "I didn't meant for this to happen, I didn't think that my hits to your gut would have affected you so." The knight said, tone apologetic. "What do you say if we take a few moments to relax, we have both been quite battered and I assume that we are both exhausted, I know that I at least am." He continued, hoping that the Skayleigh man would be amenable to a short break.
Nicademus moved himself into a quite precarious position with his sudden talking. At first An-Hasst didn't realize that the movements of the knight's mouth were for formulating words at all, then he needed time to decelerate his own enormity. The Skayleigh only managed to stop very close in front of his sparring partner. He exhaled deeply. "Well... I can see that you're exhausted. And you can see that my stomach isn't in its best shape either." He started smirking mischievously. "One could say that my belly region is more likely to be in my enemy's reach than anything further up. I'm not that confident about that being an advantage though..."
An-Hasst raised his head and looked around. Now what were those recruits thinking ? He tried to read their faces, but some were obscured by helmets, others had beards hiding parts of their facial features and he wasn't the best interpreting human body language after all. "I hope I was an adequate sparring partner. Maybe we could do this again tomorrow or so ? I don't think we'll leave that soon." And he truly hoped so. The longer their stay, the longer their opportunity to rest and go faster afterwards. That seemed to be a far better way to spend potential traveling time than other alternatives.
"We could do a little contest of strength though. Or speed. Or something else that doesn't involve you kicking into my stomach and me crushing your nose. What do you think ?"
Nicademus stood unperturbed as the Skayleigh man charged at him, smiling as the gigantic half-elf came to a stop only a few mere centimetres away from him. "Hmmm, yes, I must admit I'm not at my best at present." He said, laughing at An-Hasst's next comment. "Probably not, it is a rather obvious target after all." The knight said, smirking slightly. Nicademus smiled when the Skayleigh man asked if they could have another sparring match the next day, "Of course! It'd be my pleasure." The knight said, clearly happy with the idea, "Well, maybe not my pleasure per se...after all I'm pretty sure I'll have more than a few bruises come morning." He said, laughing slightly. "And don't worry, you were an exceptional sparring partner. I haven't had a challenge quite like this since the days I was but a mere squire still in training." Nicademus said, chuckling slightly, a nostalgic smile drawing on his face.
"Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea to me." He answered in response to An-Hasst's suggestions, "Did you have a few more specific ideas in mind?" He asked, curious to hear if the Skayleigh had something specific in mind considering what he had suggested.
"Well.. What about some arm wrestling ? Or checking who's the fastest up one of those tall trees outside ? As long as you don't suggest a trench digging contest... I'll have enough of that within the next few days I guess..." Again there was that mischievous grin appearing on his face. "However we probably should see who's best at cleaning up the mess here first." and he pointed at the two small heaps of exiled stomach content and blood, though he was only responsible for the former. "I can't imagine your recruits being eager to continue training with their feet going through this."
Letting go of a sigh, An-Hasst let himself fall onto the next best piece of rock large large enough for seating he could find nearby. "I noticed I haven't even truly used this." His view darted towards the large morning star in his hands. However maybe not truly using this had not even been the worst idea, given the damage both of them had sustained already without it. "We could also do a shooting contest. You know I have a crossbow."
"Hmmmm, an arm wrestling match sounds good. I think we'd be more evenly matched in that category since I'm afraid I'm not too good of a climber, after all it's not exactly someone who wears this kind of armour can do." Nicademus said with a laugh, lightly tapping his breastplate with his knuckles when he explained to the Skayleigh man why he wasn't so good at climbing. "Aye, we should clean this up first, I believe there's some shovels nearby and we should probably fetch a bucket as well." The knight said, nodding in agreement with the half-elf, before chuckling at what he said next, nodding once more before speaking again. "Aye, that's true."
"It's probably for the best, otherwise chances are that we would need to be cleaning two pools of vomit rather than one." He said, looking towards the morning star. "Not to mention that we'd probably have wound up in an even worse shape if we had went all out using our weapons." The knight added, turning to look back at the Skayleigh man when he suggested a shooting competition. "Hmmm, it's been a while since I practised with a crossbow so that'd do me some good. Make sure my skills haven't rusted away completely. But first we need to clean up this mess, then we can do this shooting competition or the arm wrestling match, whatever you prefer."
"Alright..." One could easily hear by the tone of An-Hasst's words that the half-giant was far from happy about cleaning up a mess with a bucket and a shovel in front of a bunch of recruits. The only good thing about it was that it had been Nicademus who had started to spill his own blood first. Internally the Skayleigh was looking forward to both some crossbow training and some rest, being rather indecisive about which should come first. Hopefully he'd be given his own weapon and not some half-assed, worn-out crossbow they probably had at hand here.
As he was thudding over sluggishly towards the cleaning utilities, he gave the answer: "I'd suggest starting with the shooting competition. That is if there's enough daylight left and there's a place with some distance involved that would allow us to carry out this plan inside of the village's fortifications. Speaking of which... Do you know what kind of work schedule I'm going to encounter the next days ?"
"Don't be so gloomy, I'll help you clean. It is my fault that you ended throwing up during our match, so it's only natural that I help. Not to mention that I also spat blood into the arena as well." The knight said to An-Hasst, hoping that his words would at the very least help lift the mood of the Skayleigh man. Nicademus guided An-Hasst towards where the cleaning utensils were stored in case the sparring arena needed to be cleaned and was surprised to hear the half-giant speak to him again considering his gloomy mood. "Hmmm, that seems like a good idea." The knight said,pausing for a second to look at the sky in response to the Skayleigh's comment about daylight. "I'd say we still got enough daylight to hold a shooting competition. We also have a few targets that some of the guards use to practice with their bows, so we could use those as well." Nicademus said before resuming his march towards where the cleaning utilities lay.
"Hmmm, well, I did said that you would be free to choose what to do to help the village. As you can see this is no metropolis and the Southlands are dangerous, as I'm sure you've noticed during your travels, especially to villages such as this one, so any bit you could do to help would be appreciated." The knight spoke, tapping his chin with his armored gauntlet as he thought some more about the topic An-Hasst had brought up. "Based on your strength however, I'd say you'd be most useful in helping to complete the ditch around the village. There is still a bit left to be done for it to be truly complete, namely filling it entirely with spikes, but I'm sure that you would be more than up to the task for that kind of work. Alternatively there are plans to build a palisade around the village, but unfortunately we didn't had enough manpower to build it." Nicademus said, shaking his head slightly. "Well, it was not a question of manpower truth be told, there are plenty men in the village after all, but more of a question that none of the men had the requisite strength, not to mention combat skills, to be able to safely venture into the nearby forest to chop down trees without being injured." He continued with his explanation to An-Hasst before turning to look at him. "A third option would be to help train the militia of the village. I've been doing that ever since I arrived here, but there's only so much that I can teach them and so another individual skilled in the art of combat adding their expertise would definitively be a boon." The knight said before he began to walk again. "Anyway, those would be the three options I'd say would fit you the best but, as I said before, you are free to do whatever you pelase, as long as it is to the benefit of the village."
Having said all that, the knight continued walking on in silence towards where the cleaning utilities where. It didn't take them too long to reach there and, afterwards, Nicademus helped An-Hast to clean up the vomit from the training arena before cleaning up the blood that he had spit mid-fight. Once that was done, the knight led the Skayleigh man to where his crossbow was stored and, afterwards, to where the shooting range that had been set for the guards to practice their archery skills.
The shooting competition itself lasted a few hours, with An-Hasst being the clear winner of the contest. As much as Nicademus tried, it had been more than a decade since he had used a crossbow and the Skayleigh man was clearly more skilled than he was at present and the knight doubted that he'd have had won even if he was more practised. Afterwards they both returned to the inn, exhausted and hungry after the combination of the sparring match, cleaning up the mess they had made, and the shooting competition, for a meal and a few drinks before they would go to rest.
From An-Hasst's perspective, Nicademus had turned out to be a far more sociable man than he had initially expected after their first encounter at the village's doorstep. Even without him being the clear winner the shooting contest probably would have been a joyful matter still, but of course a little ego boost more often than not didn't hurt.
The tavern was cramped, even more so since it had to provide rooms for their not so small party, but one could see that it was a rather primitive design carried out in a bit of haste -- quite understandable given what was waiting for prey outside of the incomplete ditch. An-Hasst wasn't that much into beer, but the native Skayleigh stuff wasn't available here as one could expect. The meat was good though and as the half-elf was digging through his huge plate, sitting on a chair that was quite a bit too small for him, he came back to the matter of work. He didn't hold back with his opinion that the village's defensive arrangements should have been completed well before putting effort into building a tavern or other accommodations, but maybe it had not been Nicademus' choice. There were still at least a few Dorcha around, on an advanced level and with the tactical advantage of an underground network of a still largely unknown layout. Maybe the one primarily responsible for all matters of defence should know this ? An-Hasst saw no point in hiding what he and his party had gone through just before entering the village.
For his part, Nicademus remained silent as An-Hasst spoke about his criticisms about the town defences not being completed before the tavern or other such accommodations were built. In truth the knight shared the criticisms that the Skayleigh had said but, by the time he had arrived, the tavern was already complete and the defences even more incomplete than when the party had arrived. It had been difficult but, in the opinion of the knight, he had managed to salvage the situation as best he could, and now that he had the help from the Skayleigh and the other members of his group he was sure that the town's defences could be finished well and properly. The news that An-Hasst relayed about what his group had went through troubled Nicademus, he had't expected the Dorcha tunnels to be so close to the village itself and the fact that a few of the ambushers had managed to escape troubled him greatly. But he was too tired at the moment to discuss such matters, a fact that also seemed to hold true for the half-giant, and so Nicademus decided to retire to his room to rest when An-Hasst decided to do the same. He could bring up his concerns with Beren the next day and from there they could find a solution that'd satisfy both parties, at least that's what the knight hoped.