Devlin Cantor was wondering what he had gotten himself into. He had left home after getting into a fight with his stepfather over something his stepbrother had done. He had only stayed at home because of his mother, but she was dead, now. He no longer had a reason to stay with his stepfather, whom he despised.
Dev, at seventeen was tall and strong. He was told by his mother he got his height from his father, and his strength from his grandfather, both on his father's side of the family. He had never met his grandfathers or any of his fathers or mothers relatives for that matter. His father had moved them to Saychon, on the western edge of the kingdom when he was too little to remember.
He shook his head at the memory. He had left home five days ago, and now he was a recruit in the army of King Kaslen. He had joined the army for four years, and had gotten a silver as a signing bonus. That was more money than he had seen since his mother had married his stepfather, four years earlier.
Dev sighed sadly at the memory of his mother's death, just nine days before. He had loved her with all his heart, and had only stayed at the farm because of her. Once she was dead, things had gone down hill for him, quickly.
Now with his mother and father dead, and the farm in the hands of his stepfather, Dev had finally lashed out at the people who had made his and his mother's life miserable for the last few years.
He had beaten his stepbrother to unconsciousness, and then when his stepfather had tried to intervene, he had punched him straight in his mouth, breaking several teeth most satisfactorily. His mother's restraining hand had been the only thing that had saved those two from his wrath before now.
When he was done fighting, he realized he could not stay there anymore, nor did he want too. He went into the house that his father had built so long ago, and grabbed what little was his and placed it all in a small pack.
His mother's hairbrush. A cup she said was his father's favorite was wrapped in his extra tunic, and placed carefully in the pack along with his only extra trousers, and two extra pairs of socks. He then grabbed some bread and a water skin, and left the farm.
He had walked for four days, to the town of Spriggans, and had sought out the king's recruiter there for their army. Spriggans was the largest town close enough to Saychon to have a recruiter.
Spriggans was the town where all the surrounding farms had shipped all their produce, too. Dev had always been amazed at the size of the town, and how many people lived there. It seemed something was always going on in Spriggans.
The recruiter explained to Dev that in taking the king's silver and signing the book, he was promising to join the army for four years, and to obey all orders of those above him in rank. Dev agreed, and signed the book. The recruiter was pleased to discover that Dev could read and write.
"Congratulations. You are a recruit private in the army. You make the fifth I have signed in the last few days, and when I get one more, I will take everyone to Westford. That is where the closest military camp is.
"Take this marker to the inn down the street for a meal. Just give it to innkeeper, and he will feed you. Come back later today, and I will give you another for supper, tonight. Any questions?"
"If we are here for any length of time, where do I stay?" Dev asked curiously.
"The inn of course. Now then, the rules. You are a member of the army now, and there will be no fighting with the civilians, here, understand? You show up at first light every morning we are here, and I will issue markers for your meals.
"During the day, you will be required to come here and listen as I explain some of the basics to you, and practice a few things. Nothing too hard, and it will get you used to being in the army, understand?" Recruit sergeant Forster asked.
"Yes," Dev responded.
"First lesson. Until you are finished with your training, the correct answer is, 'yes, sir' or 'no, sir'," sergeant Forster stated.
"Yes, sir," Dev replied.
Dev found himself free for the rest of the day, and went to the inn with his chit to eat. After the meal, he returned to the recruiter, but was told to go and enjoy himself. Dev wandered the town of Spriggans and took in everything.
The Westford army camp was a shock. First, the city of Westford was huge by itself. A great walled city that had stood for some one hundred and fifty years as the western most edge of the kingdom, until the recent westward expansion of the last forty years or so.
After Dev and his little group had marched through the gates of Westford, they had marched through the city to the military barracks. Sergeant Forster had turned over the recruits and the book to another man, and left without a word or backward glance.
"Welcome to the army of Darlonther. You are now assigned to the fifth army, training battalion. You will be issued three uniforms and a pair of boots, which you will use exclusively.
"After you are issued your uniforms, boots and bedding, you will turn in all personal items you have brought with you to the quartermaster for storage. This includes clothing, your own boots, and any personal effects you may have brought with you. Any questions? No? Follow me then," the elderly man stated and they moved towards a long low building.
Soon, Dev and his companions found themselves turned over to yet another man who took them to a long table with equipment on it.
"I am quartermaster Keeve. Line up behind a pile on the table, one person to one pile. Now then," and so it went.
Each man was issued bedding, a pack, boots, and uniforms, a cloak. Each man was told to strip and the uniforms and boots were fitted as closely as possible, leaving each person a little 'growing room' for development.
They then turned over all their personal possessions, including any money they had left on them. Dev had his silver still, and the quartermaster marked it in the book along with his personal possessions. The quartermaster was pleased to discover that Dev could read, write, add, and subtract.
Dev groaned as he got out of bed, several mornings later. His leg and arm muscles hurt more than he could ever remember them hurting. The training had started with just marching in files. Each file had ten soldiers, including the file leader.
Dev found himself in the second file and file leader. There were five files per platoon, and a sergeant was in charge of the platoon. Besides marching, Dev discovered that running was on order for soldiers in the training battalion.
If you went anywhere by yourself, you ran. If you weren't marching somewhere, you ran
at the double. To top it off, they had started sword training, and muscles not used to holding weighted wooden practice swords and heavy wooden shields screamed out in protest.
One day blended into another. Up before dawn, breakfast, cleaning the quarters and rolling the bedding, then a morning march of two hours which was part march and part run. Then came instruction on military law, and the responsibilities of being a soldier.
Then lunch, which was usually a light meal, as sword and shield training followed for three hours. Also, formation fighting was being introduced as well. Maneuvering under arms. Even bow training was included, as well as throwing the javelin, the spear, and using pikes.
Then a heavy supper meal was served with a pint of ale, followed by equipment maintenance, and free time. Free time proceeded going to bed by about an hour, and by then everyone was exhausted and ready for sleep.
No one received any pay during training. 'You are given three meals a day, a place to sleep and clothing.' This was deemed enough for 'training soldiers', as the sergeants were wont to say.
During training, Dev made a couple friends. One was a young man about the same age as Dev named Jarn, the other was a slightly thinner older man of about twenty named Vors.
"I heard we are going to be doing a long road march tomorrow," Vors said in the barracks.
"Where do you hear all this stuff at anyway, Vors? Every time you hear something, it usually turns out to be true," Jarn said, grumbling.
"Hey, at least we can plan to take a bit of bread or something with us then. You know the last time we went on a road march, we didn't get fed until evening meal," Dev commented thoughtfully.
"That's our Dev, always thinking of his stomach," Vors said with a chuckle.
"You still didn't say where you heard this bit of information," Jarn said to Vors.
"Ok, I happened to be passing by the sergeants quarters on my way back from the latrine, and overheard the information," Vors responded.
"Hmm, strange, since the latrine is nowhere near the sergeants quarters," Dev said with a grin.
Just before they were to go to bed, their sergeant entered.
"Listen up. We are going on extended field maneuvers starting tomorrow. I want you to pack one spare uniform, one extra pair of socks, and your extra boots. Since we will be gone for tomorrow, you will also pick up one days rations in the morning. Leave your bedding, but take your cloaks and don't forget your water skins," the sergeant stated then turned and left.
The next day, after breakfast, the training battalion issued out bread and cheese to the training soldiers, and then after putting the cloth wrapped cheese and bread in their packs, the soldiers were marched over to draw practice weapons and heavy wooden shields.
Two hours later found the entire training battalion far from Westford and high into the hills to the north. The pace was fast, and sergeants went up and down the line of marching soldiers exhorting them to 'stay in file, and keep an eye on your buddy.'
"Easy for them, they are on horses," muttered someone close to Dev.
Around midday, they were halted and told they could take a break and eat a bit of their cheese and bread. Dev, Vors, and Jarn gathered and sat together. Jarn started wolfing down his cheese and bread.
"You might want to go easy on that. We might not be back in time for supper you know," Dev told his friend.
"Never happen. We are always fed every night, you know that. Best meal of the day," Jarn replied.
Dev shrugged and ate about half his wedge of cheese and half his bread, washing it all down with water. At least he had eaten enough to take the edge off his hunger. Jarn was not the only one to eat all their cheese and bread. A majority of soldiers ate everything they had brought with them quickly.
Instead of turning around and heading back to the city, the soldiers kept heading north. Dev settled into the march easily, and held the sword in his right hand easily, and the shield in his left.
Everyone marched with sword and shield at the ready. They marched well into the afternoon, with sergeant yelling out drill orders. Time after time, Dev's file responded to, 'enemy left', or 'enemy right', and everyone responded, but never fast enough or well enough to suit the sergeants.
Finally around suppertime they marched off the road into a clearing. They were formed up into their platoons and their sergeants spoke to them.
"Ok, this is where we bivouac for the evening. We have guard duty from third hour to dawn. Other than that, I want you all to bed down in this area. Questions?" their sergeant,
sergeant Gasty asked.
"When are we going to eat?" someone in one of the other files asked.
"You were given rations for the march weren't you? I know you each got a wedge of cheese and bread. If you ate them already, then it's your own fault. Any other questions? No? Then I suggest you turn in as third hour comes early," the sergeant said and strode away.
Dev checked his file, and found most, but not all had saved some cheese and bread. He talked to everyone and said that if they each gave a bit of cheese and bread, everyone would have something for the evening.
"What if we keep going tomorrow?" Dalpor asked worriedly.
"Think. The wedge of cheese they gave us and bread would not last long at all. I am betting we head back tomorrow, and enter Westford Barracks in time for lunch," Dev told his file.
Dev led the way by cutting a portion of his remaining cheese and bread and giving it to Jarn, who had eaten everything at the lunch break. The rest of his file followed his example, and soon everyone had something to put into their stomach.
Dev and a couple of his file had spent a lot of time outdoors or in the country, but seven people were from towns or cities, and had never slept out before. Dev advised his file to gather as many pine needles as possible, and to lie on them for bedding.
Soon everyone in the file had a nice bed of pine needles. As dusk gave way to night, sergeant Gasty came and pulled Dev to the side.
"That was some nice work with your file this evening, Dev. I watched you split up your remaining food and then teach them about making a bed of pine needles. But how come you didn't hold any food back for tomorrow?" The sergeant asked curiously.
"Well, Sir, I listened to your instructions. We only took one set of extra of clothing, not enough for an extended period, we were told that the rations were for one day. So I figured we will either be fed here in the morning, or we will form up and fast march back to Westford," Dev responded.
The sergeant looked at Dev for a moment.
"You have a good head on your shoulders," the sergeant said, and left.
Guard duty that morning, while chilly, was not too bad. Dev's file caught guard from fourth hour in the morning to first call. The Battalion formed up, and this time Dev's platoon was in the lead.
They arrived back in Westford after setting a very fast and a very hard pace on little or no breakfast for everyone. As they marched through the gates of the city, they straightened their line and squared their shoulders.
It was a cold autumn day and the training battalion was in formation. This time they were not dressed in training gray, but in their new regular army uniforms of brown. Brown tunics and brown trousers and black boots.
The battalion had been trimmed down and those who could not handle military life were gone. Those remaining were the ones who completed the six months of training to become full soldiers in the king's army.
After they paraded by the training commandant, they were lined up to receive their first official pay as soldiers, and given a three-day pass to the city. They were then expected to join their units, where they would either be replacements for units of the fifth army, or be filling out new positions in the fifth army.
Dev received one months pay as a private in the kings army. They called it pay for completing training. Six months work to receive one silver, four bronze ten-penny pieces, and ten copper pennies.
Dev spent an interesting two days in town. He looked around the merchant shops and sampled a couple brews in alehouses. Still, he had most of his pay when he decided to head back to the barracks.
He checked in one day early, and got a, 'so you ran out of money already, ' laugh from a guard on duty. He just grunted and let the guard think what he would. He made his way to his new barracks. He knew he was assigned to second company third battalion, but did not yet know which platoon or file.
He knew who would know, though. He made his way to the supply room, and found the supply sergeant quickly enough.
"Well, what do you want, private?" the old sergeant asked.
"Sergeant, I am Devlin Cantor. I need bedding, and I also need to know my bunk assignment, platoon, and file," Dev explained.
"Hmm, spent your pay already? Well, I was young once and can remember my first three day pass," the sergeant stated musingly.
"Actually, I have almost all my pay, including my bonus left. No, I just want to get settled in, is all," Dev replied.
The sergeant blinked owlishly at Dev. Here was someone unusual. A young soldier who came back with money? The sergeant moved to a shelf and took out a bulky roll.
"You're lucky. Since you decided to come in early, I can give you better equipment. Check your equipment against the list, as I place it on the counter before you," the sergeant stated, and Dev found himself checking and signing for not only bedding, but also for a sword sheath, sword belt, sword, plus a shield.
"You're in second company, second platoon, fourth file fourth position. Did you want to deposit any of your remaining pay with me for security? We have a good battalion, but sometimes we get a thief. We catch them, but until we do, they sometimes get away with quite a lot," the supply sergeant said.
Dev pulled out his two silvers, and three brass ten-penny pieces, and deposited them with the supply sergeant. They both signed for the deposit. He kept nine copper pennies for himself.
"Nice to see a young man willing to save some money. Unusual, but nice. You're in barracks five, all the way in the back. Don't go to barracks six or seven, those are reserved for the female fighters. Get caught over there, and what the woman leave won't be pretty," the supply sergeant said with a chuckle.
The next day Dev rose and went to breakfast, after dressing. He was supposed to report today before evening meal. He was going to notify the barracks corporal, but apparently he already knew that Dev had shown up, despite sleeping in the transient barracks the night before.
Each barracks had a corporal assigned to it, to take care of any problems that arose from the hundred soldiers who lived in such close quarters. The corporal met Dev at the door and led him back to his rack.
As they approached, they could see someone had moved their bedding to the space that was supposed to belong to Dev.
"Ok, who moved their equipment to the wrong rack?" the corporal asked those close by.
No one answered.
"Ok, no problem. I'll move this, and the owner can come and explain his actions to me and find out why you don't move without asking," the corporal stated grimly.
"Corporal Statterly. I moved there. I didn't think it would hurt anything," a huge man who was standing by the fireplace stated.
"Well, Henky, move your duffel back to your space then come see me. You have extra drill for the next five days," with that the corporal turned on his heel and left.
"See the trouble you caused, little man?" Henky stated as he crossed over to the bunk.
"Actually, you caused your own problem. This bunk counts down to fourth file fourth position. Can't you count?" Dev asked the bigger man.
Dev watched as the big man moved his gear off and out from under the rack, and moved back up the room a ways, casting looks Dev's way that promised trouble. Dev placed his shield on the rack, removed all the gear he had signed for, and then put his shield in the slot under the rack. It took him only five minutes to get the rest of his gear put away and his bunk made.
After Dev had gotten his gear squared away, he grabbed up his cloak, and walked down the aisle towards the front exit. As he was getting ready to exit, the corporal stopped him.
"Cantor. Watch out for Henky. He will blame you for his screw up," Statterly said softly.
"I'm not to worried about him sir. Cowards come in all walks of life, and I have seen worse," Dev answered.
"First, I'm a corporal, not a sir. You have graduated and don't have to call anyone sir, unless they are officers. Second, Henky is not really a coward. A bully, but never a coward," Statterly responded.
"I'll be careful corporal," Dev stated.
"Good. You have until evening meal on your own. Be back for evening muster. Enjoy yourself," the corporal said and went back into his tiny room.
Dev did enjoy himself. He got to know the training area that the regular companies used, as well as the throwing weapons target range. He liked throwing the spear and javelin the most.
Of course, he liked sword work. He was determined to become the best swordsman in whatever company he served in. He had done well with the sword in training, but he knew he would have to catch up to become as good as a regular soldier in the army.
He made sure to stay out of the way of those who were doing training, as most of the areas seemed to be in full use. He was enthralled with the sword work he was watching. His eye followed a lot of what he saw until a man about thirty years old who stepped forward and started disarming his opponents one after the other.
The man had sandy colored hair, a scar running from the corner of his left eye to the bottom of his jaw, and he was more wiry than anything. He was about five foot seven and was fast with his sword. He wore all black.
"Impressive, isn't he?" a voice sounded next to Dev.
He turned and saw a young woman of about twenty and she was only a few inches shorter than his own five feet eleven inches. She had dark hair, brown eyes, and a little nose. She wore a brown leather armor chest protector, along with wrist and shin protectors over her clothing.
"Ahh... yes, he is," Dev replied, stammering a little.
"I watched you looking around. Why aren't you training? Where is your sword?" the girl asked
"I am not due to report in until this evening, but I wanted to get a feel of where everything was before I went on duty. I left my sword at the barracks," Dev responded a bit self-consciously.
She grinned at him.
"My name is Loera. I like you, will you spar with me?" She asked.
"Uh, I don't have any weapons with me, sorry. My name is Dev, uh Devlin Cantor," Dev said stuttering.
"Come, wrestle with me," she said walking off to a quiet area that was not being used.
"I have never wrestled a woman before. I will try not to hurt you," Dev said as he caught up to her.
She laughed a delighted laugh and thanked him. He removed his cloak and laid it aside and waited. She blurred into motion and Dev found himself laying on his back. He blinked up at her from the ground.
She held out her hand and helped him to his feet.
"Shall we go again?" she asked.
"Ok. I see I have seriously underestimated you," Dev replied ruefully.
She nodded seriously.
"Never let appearances lead you to make a fool of yourself. And learn. Being defeated by a superior opponent, is not a disgrace," she said then launched herself at him again.
This time he was ready. He sidestepped and tried for a take down, but she countered it with catlike reflexes. For the next few minutes or so, he was able to counter her moves, mostly with his superior strength and some knowledge of wrestling, but he finally felt himself going over her shoulder in a most unusual move.
He grasped her upper arm as he went over, and pulled her along with him. She wound up on top of him, and his face turned red. She grinned at him and got up. That was when he noticed that they had attracted a crowd, including the sandy haired swordsman.
"Loera, are you all right?" the sandy haired swordsman asked, while keeping an eye on Dev.
"Of course. I asked this young soldier to wrestle. He did well to hold his own as long as he did. I deem him worthy of further training," Loera said with a smile to Dev, and then she was gone.
Dev felt the full brunt of the sandy haired mans gaze, and turned to look at him.
"It is not often one such as yourself gets that lady's attention," he said, then he too turned and left.
"Now what was that all about?" Dev muttered, confused.
Dev was doing one of the duties that was his least favorite. Digging a new latrine. This was the third one in as many days, and he was really tired of digging, plus his hands were developing blisters that were beginning to bother him.
Still, with this many people using the jakes, new latrines were needed on a frequent basis. Still, for some reason it seemed unfair that he got this duty so often. He wondered if it had something to do with his little disagreement with Henky. Perhaps he shouldn't have broken the man's wrist the other day.
With the cold weather eminent, Dev and the team digging the latrines were told to go a bit deeper than normal, as digging new latrines in the winter was hard work. So they were told to dig deeper to prevent the need for more new latrines until spring.
Dev finally climbed out of the newly dug latrine and stretched. He arched his back and heard a 'pop' as his back realigned itself.
"Ahhh," he sighed with pleasure.
"Feels good to be out of there, doesn't it?" Corporal Statterly asked him.
"Yes. Digging latrines is not something the sergeant who recruited me told me about," Dev said ruefully.
"Yes. It seems that some of the more negative aspects of army life are never told to the young recruits. Still, it's not all bad. Now then, clean up, and you should have time to relax before supper meal," Statterly said then walked off.
Dev anticipated being able to use the bathhouse. It would be hot and a good long soak in hot water was just what would set his sore muscles right. He went back to his barracks after putting up the tools, and got a change of clothing.
As he walked to the bathhouse with his clothing and towel and soap, he considered the state of his boots. They would need a good cleaning and waxing to restore them back to their best condition. Well, he would do that after his bath.
The meal that evening was a thick stew with lots of pieces of venison in it. Fresh bread, and a mug of weak ale topped it off. Dev chased the final bit of stew with his bread, then drained the rest of his ale in a single gulp.
He considered going back for seconds, but decided he would spend a bit of his few remaining coppers down at an inn he had discovered a few weeks ago. He wanted to keep a clear head though, as they had sword training all day tomorrow and he wanted to be at his best.
What was even better, was that they had the service of two traveling Leldalen sword masters. They had agreed to spare with and teach the soldiers a few techniques in sword handling. Dev was excited by the prospect of it. The Leldalen sect were considered to be some of the best swordsman in the land.
He made his way back to the barracks and found the corporal with his door open.
"Just wanted to let you know, unless anything is going on, I am headed down to the Drakes Inn for a bit," Dev told Statterly.
"Sorry, you can't. You are restricted to the post tonight. Orders from on high," the corporal responded worriedly.
"Can you tell me why?" Dev asked, surprised.
"I was only told that I was to make sure you were handy at a moment's notice. You didn't do anything I should know about, did you?" the corporal asked Dev with a penetrating look.
"Of course not!" Dev answered in a shocked voice.
"Well, the captain told me personally to make sure you didn't go anywhere tonight, and you know how I hate talking to officers. Damn, wish I knew what this was all about," the corporal finished sourly.
"Me, too. When I find out, you will be the second to know," Dev assured the corporal.
Dev found himself riding out of Westford early the next morning in the company of the sandy haired man who Dev had watched the day he had wrestled with the girl. The man's name was Arel Grojlith, and he was a silent companion.
Dev was still stunned at what had happened in the company commander's office the night before. Dev had been placed on 'detached duty' and was to accompany Arel until Dev was notified that his duty with this man was finished.
Dev shivered as they rode, the cold wind seeming to blow right through him, despite his having pulled his cloak tightly around himself. Late fall was not a good time to travel, as far as Dev was concerned. Even the army stopped training in the field during the winter. In fact, armies everywhere stopped making war during the bitterly cold winter months.
Dev was surprised when he was told he would wear civilian clothing while he was on 'detached' duty. So for the first time in almost nine months, he was now wearing a set of civilian clothing that fit well, and while not new, was more than serviceable.
While Dev had ridden horses in the past, he had never become really comfortable on one. He had walked mostly everywhere he went when he was growing up. They took the Eastern road out of Westford, and Dev was informed that they would turn north in a couple days.
For several hours they rode at a ground-devouring trot, and it took Dev some time to get used to that particular gait. Dev noted that they had no packhorse, and since he had not been told to pack a lot of food or extra bedding, he figured they would be staying at inns along the way.
For that matter, he still did not know exactly where they were going. When he asked, all he was told was, "You'll see when we get there," and he could get nothing more out of his companion.
The first day they stopped and ate a lunch of bread cheese and venison. They then got back on the road, and traveled for the rest of the day until they came to an inn. Arel and Dev got off their horses and turned them over to a boy who took them to the barn.
Dev followed Arel into the inn and Arel was greeted with a wave from the innkeeper, who apparently knew him. They went to a table and a server came and took their order. After ordering, Arel was silent again.
Dev had had enough of being treated like this and decided to take action.
"Arel, have I done something to offend you? You have not spoken more than five words to me all day," Dev asked solemnly.
Arel looked at Dev for a long moment, then sighed.
"No. You're right, and I'm sorry for treating you like that. It's not your fault that I have been tasked to train you," Arel finally said.
"Train me? In what? I don't understand," Dev said, a bit confused.
"No, I suppose you don't, at that. This may take a bit of explanation," Arel warned.
"Well, it seems I have nothing to do for some while," Dev responded, tongue in cheek.
"No, I suppose you don't. What do you know of the Lady Loera, or myself?" Arel asked of Dev.
"Well, the lady is good at wrestling, and you're a very fine swordsman. That's about it," Dev responded.
Arel laughed out loud, long and hard.
"Sorry," Arel gasped, finally, "But that is a most unique and wrong description, to say the least. The Lady Loera is much better at wrestling than she let on, when she wrestled with you.
"As for me... well, I am the chief armsman to her and her family. You might call me a bodyguard. And, while I am here with you, my charge is without my services. That is why I have been silent most of the day. It is not your fault, and I apologize for my treatment of you," Arel said.
Edited by TeNderLoin