"I spy something beginning with O."
Lugor had never been so bored. It'd been a couple of weeks since they had left the port and as it turned out, there wasn't a lot to do when on a voyage. He'd spent some time training with the others every day, and once a day he'd help train the other members of the expedition. The men hired on as town guards were good enough with a spear and a shield but lacked the flexibility and creativity that most adventurers had. A few of them took offense at being given lessons by a half-orc. He thought back to the trouble he'd had earlier on.
"You need to keep your shield up," Lugor said to the young man he'd flipped into the decking. He offered a hand to help him up, "Don't give your enemy an opening, unless you're baiting them for a counter."
The young man, Jax, knocked his hand away, "Don't touch me, Greyblood," he glowered.
Lugor withdrew his hand and took a step backwards, ignoring the hostile tone, "Do you want to try again?"
Jax got to his feet and looked at Lugor with narrowed eyes, "I could beat you if I didn't have such crappy equipment."
The half-orc doubted that, but Jax's equipment definitely wasn't great. It appeared that the no expense spared approach Lord Peters had toward the expedition didn't extend to the equipment of the guard for some reason.
"Your equipment isn't the issue; the issue is you're letting your guard drop."
"If I had your gear I'd win easily."
Lugor thought for a moment before shrugging off his shield and handing it to Jax, along with his sword, "Prove it."
Jax looked at Lugor like it was a trick, hesitantly taking the offered items. The young human weighed them in his arms, marvelling at how light they felt.
Lugor picked up the dropped spear and span it so the tip was behind him, pointing the blunt end forward, "Ready?"
Jax swung the sword clumsily, which was easily parried by Lugor. Noticing the wide sway Jax made with the shield, Lugor thrust forward with the butt of the spear and pushed the shield to the right, opening Jax's chest for three quick jabs into the chest. As he recoiled, winded, Lugor swung the spear sideways, striking the human across the jaw, sending him back to the floor.
"You didn't keep your shield up," Lugor said dryly, leaning against the spear.
Jax got to his feet and threw the sword and shield down in a temper before walking off to the other end of the ship, peals of laughter from the other men training followed him as he stormed off.
"Don't pay him any mind."
Lugor turned to see one of the men walking over to him.
"Jax has been asking for a putting down ever since he joined up."
"Darren," the man said, holding out a hand.
"Lugor," he said, shaking it.
"I know," Darren said with a laugh. "I heard all about you when we were in the city, waiting for the expedition to begin. After the academy's tournament, word spread pretty fast about the half-orc champion that won it."
Lugor looked over to Sandal and Shiva who were training with their own groups of guards. Sandal was awkwardly swinging his mace, getting used to using a weapon for the first time. Shiva had decided to subject her block of men to the same dancing lessons they'd received from Matthias' friend Xani at the academy. The men had been highly opposed to it until they watched her dodge the attacks of four men at once. They were a bit more open to the idea after that.
"I had help," Lugor said. "It's not like I did it alone."
"True," Darren responded, following his gaze. "But think about it, a half-orc champion defeating a whole class of academy students single-handedly makes for a much better story."
"I'm sure a lot of people don't like that story."
Darren shrugged, "Who cares?" He nodded towards the men sparring across the deck, "I think the others need a source of hope that they can draw from. They don't show it, but they're pretty nervous at what we might face on the island. Having a champion with us has really set their minds at peace."
Lugor raised an eyebrow, "And what do you think?"
"I don't think you're as incredible as the stories going around would have me believe, but I came up for a smoke on my pipe this morning and caught your fight with the big fella. From what I saw there, you're pretty damn impressive."
"You should see us fight together," Lugor nodded his head toward his teammates. "A lot of my abilities work best when I have people by my side."
"Then it's a good thing you've got the rest of us backing you up as well." With a nod, Darren re-joined the group and resumed training.
"Lugor, time for dinner."
The half-orc was interrupted from his thoughts as Stangar nudged him in the side with his boot. Sitting up, he looked behind him to see the crew and expedition members lining up for their share as food was being dished out from barrels.
Normally the idea of food excited Lugor, but the food packed away for a long voyage wasn't exactly quality fare. It was mostly pickled fish and cured meats, with some pickled vegetables and hard biscuits.
"I should probably eat something," he said, stomach grumbling despite the unappetising meal ahead of him. He joined the queue, collecting a pewter bowl and a mug for the water barrel. He looked over his shoulder to see Jax still sulking at the front of the ship. He grabbed another bowl and mug for the brooding human and had them both filled up. Ignoring the curious look Shiva gave him, he walked over to Jax and sat down, placing one of the mugs and a bowl in front of him.
"Thought you might be hungry," Lugor explained as Jax gave him a confused look.
Jax grunted in response and picked up the food, wolfing it down. He took a long drink of water to wash away the salty meal. "Sorry for calling you Greyblood earlier. I shouldn't have."
Lugor looked up from his bowl in surprise before laughing.
"What's so funny?" Jax asked with a frown on his face.
"Sorry," Lugor said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. "I've been called Greyblood a lot, but I think this is maybe the first time someone has ever apologised for doing it."
"I shouldn't have done it. I was just angry that you kicked my ass so easily. Obviously, the equipment had nothing to do with it, you're just...better than me."
Lugor shook his head, "I wouldn't worry about it. People calling me Greyblood doesn't really bother me anymore"
"Really?" Jax said with surprise. "Isn't it...?"
"A race slur?" Lugor shrugged. "Sure, but I figured if I call myself Greyblood and take ownership of it, people can't really use it against me." Lugor clenched his fist, "I'm going to turn it into a term of respect."
Jax looked at him with something Lugor thought was almost bordering admiration, "That might take you a while."
"I've got time. And if I've got time to do that, then you've got time to train hard on your fighting skills. You might be able to beat me some day."
This time it was Jax's turn to laugh, "I doubt it, you should have heard Darren raving about your battle against that berserker earlier."
Lugor's ears burned with embarrassment and he changed the subject, "It's funny you apologised actually, I had come over to apologise to you."
"I shouldn't have put you on the ground again after you took my weapons, I made you look bad for no reason."
"So, it wasn't because you were pissed at me?"
"Maybe a little," Lugor admitted.
Jax laughed again, "Can't say I didn't deserve it."
They sat in a comfortable silence for a while, the evening sun slowly fading as it dipped below the horizon.
"You know, I think I'm going to go mad by the time we get to the island," Jax said. "The ocean is pretty enough, but it starts to lose its appeal after a day."
"You're telling me. I miss good food. I think I got spoiled by the food they served at the academy."
"I bet it was good."
"It was," Lugor said wistfully. "There was this strawberry pie with some incredible whipped cream."
"I miss the ale from my hometown, the brewer there did this incredible ale with juniper berries mixed in."
"Shiva's an alchemist," Lugor said. "Who knows, if there's junipers on the island, maybe we can get her to try her hand at making some ale."
"I think you need more than juniper berries to make ale."
"I wouldn't know, I've never made any."
They were interrupted by heavy footsteps approaching them. Lugor turned to see Darren standing behind him.
"Hey Lugor, some of us were about to play some games of dice. You want to join?"
Lugor glanced at Jax, "Can Jax join us?"
"I can't," Jax said with a hint of misery. "I already lost all my money playing with them when we were in the port."
"I'll pay your share," Lugor said, offering a hand to Jax as he got to his feet. "You need a chance to win your money back."
"I can't let you do that," Jax replied, shaking his head.
"Don't worry, it's not really my money. A god gave it to me."
Jax and Darren laughed slightly like Lugor was joking, only to fall silent as the half-orc stared at them deadpan.
"Seriously?" Darren asked.
Lugor brushed pass them with a grin on his face, "Beat me at dice and I might tell you the story."
Darren and Jax shook their heads as they followed him to the group playing dice, shouts of joy or groans of disbelief ringing out as money changed hands.
"I swear, adventurers have the craziest experiences,” Darren said with a chuckle.
Jax nodded, "Damn right."