Vladimir and his band had everything ready within a minute of taking the stage. No need to tune, as it was already done.
This was Festival Saturday. This was their time to shine, as a new band with something his region never thought they’d ever hear.
With a nod, Bruska smashed the cymbals and broke into his steady 4 beat. Mariska joined at the same time, gliding over the Yamaha DX-7 with funky flair. Duma’s Nile Rodgers style guitar lick meshed with Vlad’s bass plucks, creating a groove pocket that was unmistakable.
The influence of American jazz and fusion had arrived.
I had a long recovery after being beaten up and subsequently healed. Morgan, our leader, had taken the time to look at my sword and the armor that was carried off of me after I arrived back at the camp. He relayed a message to Brian, a message that would inspire a lot of worry and challenge. This was all in the space of a few days before the big Gathering that we were going to be attending.
“Hey!” Brian said to me, as I slowly started jogging around the camp, “We just got done with your assessment of your equipment.”
“What did you find?” I asked back, not looking at anything but the path in front of me.
“I don’t know what happened, but your equipment hasn’t been maintained very well. Has it not been given the proper upkeep?”
I just shrugged as I continued to jog. Brian put a hand on my shoulder, giving me the indication to stop.
“You don’t have to worry if you say yes.”
I stopped, and turned to face him at underneath a large oak tree. He continued to speak, as I looked at him.
“We get people in our camps all the time with equipment that’s falling apart. They try to take in battle, and they get thoroughly knocked around because of this. You, my brother, are not the only one who has to deal with severely corroded gear.”
I looked up at Brian and just couldn’t take it much more. I sat down at the base of the tree and the tears started flowing from my eyes.
“I’ve had that equipment for 18 years,” I cried out, “I’ve not had to use it much except in the last few months, when I joined with your crew.”
“That’s okay, brother. We’re not here to condemn you. As I said, everyone’s got corrosion on their armor. The difference is, are you going to work to repair your equipment, or will you be working to get new equipment. If you’re needing new equipment, do not be surprised that you will be able to get it. We walk by faith, and not by sight.”
After I told him that I would talk to him a little bit later, I just sat at the bottom of that tree and cried my eyes out. All of that frustration from being knocked around, and all of the pain of knowing I could not battle because I was exposed without armor, it flowed out like a raging river.
As I had dinner at the camp, Morgan sat down next to me. He looked out over the camp, over his army of warriors, then looked at me.
“You know, what’s happened to you is going to make you a stronger man. To fight heartily, it takes strong leadership,” he said, with a stern yet comforting edge to his voice, “With leadership and the coverage of our camp, you’ll be able to do a lot more. But you gotta listen, and you need to get in with our Father.”
I started in on the training the following morning. I spent all day trying to swing my dirty and pitted long sword, to spend time developing the skill. It kept slipping out of my hand after a while. I was so rusty, I couldn’t even understand how I could have withstood all of those Legion those weeks back.
I felt frustrated with each day of practice, each day where I kept losing my sword and losing all of my focus. The week was just incredibly hard, with attack after attack on my own confidence. I could feel many parts of it falling like a crumbling brick wall.
After one of my day long practice sessions, I sat in my tent silently. How could I get myself ready for the upcoming Gathering when I was so lost about everything. I heard a scratch at my tent, and looked up to see Brian poke his head in.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Come on in. I’m really having a tough time today, to be honest. I just can’t seem to do my work, well or otherwise. I’m just concerned about a few things.”
He took a seat next to me, folded his legs, and put his hands under his bearded chin..
“So, tell me about it.”
“I feel like all this stuff with my equipment has just eroded me down. I mean, how am I to do the fighting against the enemies like I’m supposed to do if I still have all this corrosion on my work?”
“Well, soldier, you need to just remember that our assessment of your equipment just gives us an idea of what needs to be repaired. And we have a session of repair for you to experience coming soon.”
“Session of repair?”
“Yeah. See, we have an attachment with what we use for offense and defense. It’s a part of us, and just because it gets tarnished or corroded, it doesn’t mean it’s unfixable. In fact, if things get done right, it could be made as good as new.”
“Will this happen before the Gathering?”
“I’m not totally sure, but I have a feeling it will be done soon. In the meantime, I think you need to get some sleep. You need to rest as much as you can.”
I looked over at him, and gave a small sigh.
“Do you think the corrosion was affecting some of my other skills, as well?”
“I think lately, no. You were pretty good at the river battle. You just need to be mindful of where it starts, and how to take care of it before it gets too bad.”
I nodded, and I prepared my face for bed.
“Brian, thank you for being a great friend.”
“Don’t sweat it. I’m also your sergeant, so I have to make sure my people are well taken care of.”
The gathering of people would happen in two days. I needed to get my heart ready.