Despite the humiliation I received when I tried to qualify in Eastrealm, the desire to be a fighter did not completely die in me. This was partially due to the fact that Isolde and I had become amours; I had romantic dreams of becoming a knight and laying credit for my elevation at my lady's feet. I even fantasized about making Isolde a queen, something I felt she richly deserved.
We had been in Meridies about a year when I finally got the nerve to pick up the sword again. What finally pushed me over the top was Sir Beorn Collenfehrth. The first Baron of Axemoor is a natural leader who can inspire those around him to fight at his side. At the advanced age (for a fighter) of thirty years, I became a warrior in training.
The Axemoor attitude toward new fighters has always been one of instruction. The idea is that some day, the new fighter may have to guard your back, so you had better make sure he knows what he's doing. Even so, some of the best lessons I was given were inadvertent ones.
I was, at first, a rather hesitant fighter. This was probably due both to my rather non-aggressive nature and memories of Eastrealm. One day at fighter practice, Lord Oliver de l'Aube tagged me on the upper arm in an area not protected by my pads.
Oliver apologized afterwards saying that he had not meant to hit me in an unprotected area. Instead of merely accepting his apology, I thanked him. He had done to me the worst thing that should normally happen to a fighter and it wasn't that bad. After that, my fighting style became more aggressive.
A couple of months later, Baron Beorn taught a class at a fighter’s collegium, where he talked of suiting your fighting style to your physical characteristics. He pointed me out to the class and said "Take Finn for example. He's a tall fellow and he charges in to try to intimidate his opponent with his size."
I smiled, because I knew that the main reason I charged into the fray was that I figured I wasn't good enough to give away the first shot to my opponent; I'd better take the fight to him. I did not contradict Sir Beorn, however, as they say discretion is the better part of valor.
One of the problems with trying to become a fighter was that once a year the Navy would send me out to sea for ten weeks. During that time, I had no chance to practice fighting and it took me several weeks to get back in the swing of things once I got back. On one cruise, however, I did manage to get in some pell work.
The ship I was on had a gym, which had as part of its equipment a punching bag. When I found this out, I scavenged a discarded tube from a roll of recorder paper and started to practice my shots. I got rather good after a while and I could not help but reflect
"I could be King of Meridies, if my opponents would just stand there and let me hit them. Unfortunately, they have this annoying habit of moving around and hitting back."
After one sea trip, I came back just in time for Axemoor's traditional moratorium on fighter practice during December. By the time the first practice of the New Year rolled around, I had been over three months without a workout and was very out of shape.
The weather that day was very cold; one of those Edmonton clippers was coming through the area. We were all anxious to get going, if only to keep warm, and despite the long layoff, I had a reasonably good workout. After it was over, I packed my armor and drove back to Seleone.
As I pulled into the driveway on that bright, cold Sunday afternoon, I suddenly realized that every joint in my body had frozen in place on the trip home! I sat there for several minutes before Isolde came out of the house to find out why I hadn't gotten out of the car. With her help, I was able to get into the house and a hot shower; if she hadn't been there I might be sitting in the driveway still.