The next morning was a little bit busy. The men were up and Oluf was drilling them while I looked on. The fourteen men I had recruited so far were all dressed the same with the leather jerkin and a single hand axe. The real trick was to keep their Nordic blood down and fight as a single unit. Oluf was a good trainer and he made sure the recruits drilled against his veterans so they could show them what was expected in combat. It didn’t take too long where the recruits were fighting decently.
While this was going on the camp followers under Mya were cooking the morning meal. Whatever they were doing smelled good and it took all I could do to keep my eye on the training. For my part, I left the domestic things to Mya and I concentrated on the war part. This of course lead to the inevitable challenge that came from one of Oluf’s men.
The guy was clearly a long time warrior. He had the double axes and the scares to prove it. What he said was something disparaging about being lead by a woman to Oluf. Oluf was about to box his ears but I came forward and stopped him.
“So you feel shame being lead by a woman noble?”
The man simply snorted.
“Perhaps a test is in order. Come with me.”
The man hesitated.
With that he followed me to an open spot in the snow. I drew my sword and turned to face him. He held his axe and looked angrily at me. I smiled warmly.
“Let’s play a little game shall we. Let’s see who can touch each other first with their weapon.”
The man grinned like he felt he was now surely going to win. I smiled back.
“Whenever your ready big man.”
The man charged almost immediately and I held firm. We were only about ten yards apart and just as he brought his axe downward I stepped inside his blow slipped behind him and touched the tip of my blade to the back of his neck.
He turned and growled apparently not convinced I had beat him. He swung wide and with more strength and purpose I stepped back and his blow completely missed. I then stepped forward and slashed his right cheek. It was then my turn to growl at him but I did it like a she cat. He snarled and came at me again. This time little more cautiously. I feinted an attack and then he charged to what he thought was an open side and brought his axe down, I spun the other way and came around behind him again and brought the full flat of my blade on his backside sending him flying forward right into the snow and his shield left his arm and scuttled like a crab across the snow. The entire field erupted in laughter.
The man was not amused and got up and roared but just as he started to move Oluf boomed a voice of command.
The man halted.
“You won’t be able to touch her. Her father fought like that and I never saw him lose a one on one match. Next time her blade will draw blood and then you will die.”
The man snorted and then charged off the field to his mates.
Oluf approached me.
“My Lady, you fight like your father. Maybe even better. Nordic people do not like that style.”
“Better get used to it, I fight to win. Smooth things over with him for me. I mean him no disrespect but I will not be challenged as the leader of this warband. I couldn’t let it go.”
“I understand and I will make him understand.”
“Oluf, what is his name?”
“My Lady, that man is my little brother – Draf.”
I laughed and shook my head.
The rest of the morning was spent feeding the men. Draf came up to me and actually nodded to me placing his axe on his chest. By so doing he was showing respect. I went up to him and placed my hand on his shoulder.
“You fought well. Follow me and I will lead you to glory.”
“Yes, my lady. For the Rose.”
After that I never had a problem involving discipline in the warband as long as Oluf and Draf were with me. The expression “For the Rose” was now said every time we assembled, left on a march or went into battle. It would be the dying breaths of some of the old warriors when they went to their glory on their deathbeds.
The men ate up and formed up and we went to the next town. This time as soon as we stopped out march to start recruiting my men shouted “For the Rose” and then lined up helping me. I only need six more men and I got them. Once they were equipped with everything ready and my numbers as I wished them. We marched once again with my Men saying “For the Rose” as we headed out.