Terin continued to smile as he leaned in closer to the young captain.
With a voice pitched to carry no further than the small room around them, Terin said, “Stop wasting my time and do something, Morgen.”
Something in Terin’s eyes shocked the captain, and he backed away quickly, stopped only when the back of his shoulders hit the wall. He looked more frightened than surprised. Clearly, this wasn’t going according to plan.
Terin gave him a few moments to take some kind of action, but it was clear the young man didn’t have a backup plan if his first one fell through, and was frozen in indecision.
“Morgen, I can’t help it if you’re stupid enough to act on what your friends tell you without checking the facts first, or foolish enough to follow the example of the hot heads out in the eastern kingdoms when it comes to your sense of honor.”
“You’re not capable of angering me enough to challenge you to an official duel, and I don’t have the time to waste killing you in a properly sanctioned fight anyway. I have a journey I have to begin first thing in the morning.”
“So this is how it’s going to be.”
“You either prove you’re not all talk by taking a swing at me or pulling steel, or you get your sorry ass out of my way. Make a decision, right now. You are capable of making a decision, aren’t you, captain?”
A sudden rush of anger brought a crimson flush to the captains’ fair features, the red climbing high enough to show through the thin blond hair of his scalp.
With a scowl of rage transforming his face into an ugly mask, Morgen fumbled for the dagger at his belt.
Terin watched calmly as Morgens’ shaking fingers finally wrenched the blade from its tight leather sheath, a slight smile playing at the edges of his mouth.
Morgen shifted into what he must have thought was a knife fighter’s stance, then he launched himself at Terin, pushing himself off the back wall to get extra force for the lunge.
Without changing his stance, Terin reached out with his left hand, firmly grabbed Morgen’s outstretched knife hand just as it came within reach, twisted his upper body slightly to the left to twist Morgen off balance, and then used his shoulders to pull hard, keeping his left arm out to push the knife hand out of line and away.
Morgen, already moving forward as fast as he thought he could, found his wrist snatched out of the air with a movement too fast for his eyes to follow, and felt himself yanked forward, his body all twisted up, back arching painfully, flailing out of control, his knife hand pinned in a grip like steel.
As he tried to understand what was happening, flailing away at the air with his left arm, trying to regain his balance, he felt fingers grab a handful of his hair at the back of his head, and the last thought he had was a sudden awareness that what was about to happen was going to really hurt a whole hell of a lot.
There was a sullen wet sound followed by a crunch as Morgen’s face was driven hard into the rough wooden planking of the wall beside Terin.
Terin released his grip of Morgen’s head and hand, and watched with concern as the young man dropped bonelessly to the floor. Using his foot, he nudged the captain’s body around so he sat mostly upright, his unconcious body propped back up against the wall.
Terin leaned down and checked the mans face carefully, and listened for the wet blubbering of his breathing.
“Good, he won’t choke on his own blood. A few teeth lost, a crushed nose, mashed lips. Nothing too serious.”
Terin stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him. He glanced up and down the hall, but of course nobody happened to be there at the moment, as Terin knew from listening for the sounds the boards made when walked upon.
Terin strode briskly down the hall to the doorway leading to the main mission room, still bustling with activity. Corporal Garthan, the same energetic young man that had led him to the briefing room, was back at the desk along with his two comrades, busily working through the returned scouts.
Terin took a moment to watch the activity in the mission room.
From what Terin could see of the situation, someone here in a position of authority was either a graduate of Terin’s training, or had taken the advice of someone who was.
Captain Morgen was unfamiliar to Terin, so he hadn’t been directly trained in Terin’s methods. It was normal for each base or station to have people on duty at all hours to assign or receive missions, but they would all be of enlisted rank except for the one officer placed in overall command.
Any changes as drastic as what Terin had set in place would never have taken root this deep here without the willing and eager encouragement of the man in charge. Even if the Duke himself had lain down the order to adopt Terin’s policies, there were half a hundred ways a man set on blocking them could delay things if he really felt stubborn about it.
So, what we had here was a man poisoned by ideas of honor from the coastal kingdoms, a man who believed he should hate me for what he’d been told by his peers concerning my personal actions during the withdrawal from Madrigal, but also someone who’s smart enough and open-minded enough to listen to new ideas and training, and use those ideas even if they come from someone he hates as long as the reason for them was something he believed in.
Regardless of what other problems the young fool had, that speaks of someone whose priorities were in line with Terin’s: to accomplish the scout mission of gathering information from remote and dangerous locations, and see those scouts return from their missions alive.
Terin thought over his own actions of a moment before, and nodded in satisfaction.
“A man who puts the welfare of his scouts over his own prejudice is too good to waste by killing out of hand. Much better to give him a lesson and let him decide what he’ll take from it. Next time, maybe he’ll think before he acts.”
“Then again, maybe next time he’ll leave off wasting time on words, and try me with a dagger in the back. Whatever he does, I administered the lesson, what he learns from it is on his head now.”
“And damn it all anyway, I don’t have time for this kind of foolishness right now.”
Terin moved smoothly forward and leaned down to speak closer to Corporal Garthan’s ear.
“Corporal, I’m done with the journals.”
Corporal Garthan jumped a bit as if startled, and whipped his head around to see who was speaking. “Oh! Sorry, your lordship, I’d forgotten that you were still at it. It’s gotten quite late getting this mob sorted out. If you’re all finished, I’ll get things straightened up then?”
The corporal’s voice ended in a question, and Terin nodded affirmative. “Oh yes, I’m quite finished. I think I’ve learned all I could hope to about the area I’m headed for. While you’re clearing the room, I’d also appreciate it if you’d look in on your captain for me. I left him with some serious issues to consider, and I warrant he’ll need some help working them out.”
Terin straightened up, and gave the young man a tired smile. “Please be sure and tell him that if he ever wants to discuss any issues with me again, I’d be more than happy to make time for him just as soon as I’ve returned from my current task. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”
Corporal Garthan snapped off a sharp salute, and said, “Of course, sir, you can count on me!”
Terin smiled again, and headed for the door.
“I’m sure I can, son. I’m sure I can. Carry on.”