(Note by author: I apologize for not posting for the last two weeks. I’ve been a little under the weather. I’m doing better now, so without further delay, here is the next Beetle Fire post. Enjoy!)
The following is an excerpt from the diary of Benjamin A. Wolfe, circa May 28, 1794.
Archery practice at last mercifully ended. By that point my arms and fingers were sore and a large black bruise was forming on my left arm where the string had snapped against it. My nerves had taken about as much as they could handle, and I still had running, cleaning duty, strength training, and worm gutting on my plate. Who knew what further tasks accompanied that.
After unstringing our bows and putting away our equipment, Sergeant Noytel barked for us to get into running formation. Surveying us with a look which spelled misery, his face split into a nasty grin and he said cheerily, “I’ve heard some of you complain about me running you too much. In my mind that means you just haven’t had enough practice yet. You have an hour before cleaning duty. Let us use it wisely. Forward, run!”
Quiet groans rippled through the trainees. I myself felt my heart sink. In light of my current exhaustion I really wondered how gnomish citizenship was enough compensation for all this. As had been the case the day before my thoughts soon trailed away however, as I became entirely focused on not collapsing.
At the end of that hour most of us were far too tired to grumble. A couple gnomes had received message running duty in the evening for falling behind during the sprint. They stood dejectedly in the back, unable to even lift their eyes.
“Alright troops!” Sergeant Noytel called. “Quick water break, then it’s cleaning duty. I want the mess halls scrubbed and the pots in the kitchen scoured. Do it well or you’ll get more cleaning assigned!”
Heading numbly to the kitchen with half the gnomes while the other half went to the mess halls, I was paired up with the short gnome for whom we had the thanks of these chores. I ignored him at first, but after a half hour he quietly and hesitantly asked if I’d known how to shoot archery before today. My embarrassment from earlier resurfaced at this. Even so I calmly replied that I had not.
“Oh. So you really didn’t know what you were doing. I’m so glad!” he cried.
“I beg your pardon?” I asked in confusion.
“Well you see, you were drawing the bow wrong. I feared you had developed that stance as a habit.”
“What was wrong with my stance?”
“Don’t be angry. I was only trying to help.”
Smiling politely I said, “Forgive me sir. I was not angry, but only rather tired. Pray, how do you draw a bow correctly?”
The gnome’s eyes brightened at once. Taking a long ladle and resting it like an arrow on his left hand, he drew back the handle with his right and placed his right index finger at the corner of his mouth. “See my hand sir?” he asked. “It is against and not away from my face. My left shoulder would be square with the target. And notice my right elbow? It is perfectly in line with the arrow, being neither up nor down. Hold that stance when you shoot. It should help tremendously.”
“What’s going on over there? Get back to work!” the sergeant who checked us in yesterday yelled.
Quickly we returned to our duties. Turning to the gnome a couple minutes later, I whispered my gratitude.
“Glad to help! Glad to help! Say, might I inquire your name, sir?”
“Benjamin. And you?”
“Brodel. Are you really human?”
I nodded. We didn’t continue our conversation much longer however, as Sergeant Noytel entered soon after to monitor our progress. I have resolved to speak more with Brodel later, as having a comrade in this place would help tremendously toward preserving my sanity.