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CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

After a hearty dinner the recruits spent the night in bunkhouses that had been cleared out for them and were woken before dawn by one of the sergeants walking through, banging on a metal shield.

"Up and at 'em, rise and shine, it's another beautiful day in the legions," the sergeant said. "Ten minutes for the jakes then fall out in front of the barracks."

Herzer lined up for the latrines—there were only two seats available for the whole group—then washed sketchily in a rain barrel. Finally he joined the mob in front of the bunkhouse.

"We're not going to try to move you around in formations, yet," the sergeant said after doing a headcount, "because you'd just be falling over your own feet. So if you'd just follow me in your customary cluster fisk and try not to fall too far behind, we'll go get you in-processed.

The gaggle followed him to a series of buildings near the base of the western hills. These were more substantial than most of the "temporary" buildings that had been thrown up to handle the refugee influx and Herzer suspected they had supported the annual Faire. They gathered outside the first and then went in one by one.

The room inside had been separated into two by a series of rough tables. On one side were a few civilians and on the other were piles of rough cloth and more than twenty women hastily sewing uniforms from it.

"My, you're a big one," the man who seemed to be in charge said. "Katie, I'm going to need an XXL for this one," the man called, pulling a string from around his neck. "What's your inseam, big-boy?"

"I have no idea," Herzer replied. "What's an inseam?"

"The length of the inside of your thigh," the man replied, squatting down and measuring it. He chuckled at Herzer's discomfort. "That's exactly why I told the silly gunnery sergeant you weren't to strip until after this bit! I need a forty-four inseam, Katie!"

"He'll have to do with a forty-six or so," the woman behind the counter said, handing over some gray clothing, a cloth bag and some sundry cloth strips.

"Take this and change behind that curtain," the man said, turning to the next recruit in line. "Put your civilian clothes in the bag. Keep your shoes on."

"What about the rest?" Herzer asked.

"Just hold onto it and go to the next room."

Herzer changed into the baggy clothes, noting as he did that there were two more sets just as badly made, and hitched the pants up as far as he could with his belt. After that, carrying his "civilian" clothes, money pouch and the other uniforms, he went into the next room.

"Put your old clothes and anything else you were carrying except money or valuables into the bag," a man said abruptly. "Didn't you listen?"

Herzer quickly complied and held the bag up. "What now?" The room had a large number of similar bags piled on one side, the table the officious man was at, a burning candle and a stack of badly constructed wooden chests. And that was it.

The man took out leather ties and a candle. "Tie this around it, seal the ties with the wax, put your fingerprint in the wax. When you're done with training it will be returned. Put your uniforms in the footlocker and carry it with you."

Herzer did as he was told. Then the man took the bag and handed him one of the chests. "Next room."

"Ah, very nice boots," the man in the next room said, kneeling to examine Herzer's footwear. "You probably would be better off keeping them but orders are orders. Take them off and let me measure your feet."

Herzer sat in a chair and looked around as he took them off. There were several recruits in the room being fitted for boots but he didn't see any boots in sight.

"Uhm, where are the boots?" he asked as the man pulled out string and started taking measurements.

"They'll have to be made, won't they?" the man chuckled. "It's not as if we have warehouses full. Big feet; you're going to use up most of a cow, boy."

"Sorry."

"Not a problem."

Herzer continued through room after room, occasionally moving to different buildings and being outfitted or, more often, measured. Helmet, cloak, blankets, underclothes and cloths to wrap to replace socks. They did have a helmet his size, although it wasn't fitted on the inside and rolled around on his head until he removed it and stowed it in the footlocker. The locker was getting heavy by the time he completed the circuit and emerged back into the sunlight. Some of the rest of the recruits he had spent the night with were waiting, most of them sitting on their footlockers, as well as the sergeant who had moved the "gaggle" over.

"What now, sir?" Herzer asked.

"We wait for the rest, of course."

Herzer took a seat and looked at the group that was there. He hadn't had much time to get to know them the night before and he wondered if they were all going to be in his training unit.

"Hi," he said to the person nearest him. "Herzer Herrick. Are you all line infantry?"

"Nope," the man said with a grin. "Lucky me, I passed the bow course."

"Oh," Herzer said, looking him over. The man wasn't nearly as heavily muscled as Herzer. "You did the fifty course? Congratulations."

"Oh, hell no," the man said with another grin. "Nobody passed that one, so they dropped it to thirty. I made that, no sweat."

"Oh."

"Well, I heard a couple of people passed it, but I'd have to see it to believe it. I mean, thirty nearly killed me. They told us they don't have many bows anyway, so the ones who did really well will be the archers at the beginning and the rest will be support."

"Ah."

"Didn't you pass? I mean, you're pretty big."

"He passed," Deann said, setting down her footlocker. "He passed the fifty course. Then he asked if he could go to line infantry."

"You're joking!" the man said, looking at Herzer askance. "What in the hell did you do that for?"

"I don't want to be stuck as an archer," Herzer replied with a shrug.

"He's a fisking lunatic," Deann added.

"And for our sins we followed him over," Cruz said from behind Herzer.

"Cruz!" Herzer said, getting to his feet to pump the young man's hand. "Where'd you come from?"

"The same place Deann did. After looking over what we were being offered I figured being a soldier had to be better! I mean, if I never see another hide or crosscut saw I'll be too happy. Even if it means being stuck with you guys!"

"You're all nuts! You guys are nothing but sword fodder; the archers are the elite."

"Yeah?" Herzer challenged. "Infantry is about movement. When you can do the Hill, I'll be impressed."

"Archers are going to have to keep up with us," Deann said smugly. "I think they'll face the Hill soon enough."

"On your feet you . . ." The sergeant looked around at the group as the last recruit joined them. He started to say more then shook his head. "Never mind. It's not even worth cussing." He started to call off a list of names, breaking them out into four groups. As he did, other sergeants drifted into the area.

Herzer's group was the smallest, with the archers being the most numerous, and two groups of women, presumably archer females and "line" females.

"I'm Drill Corporal Wilson," one of the NCO's said, coming over to Herzer's group. "I'll take you to meet your makers."

"Our what?" one of Herzer's group asked.

"You'll see," the corporal said with a chuckle.

He led the group, still carrying their footlockers, out of the area and along the base of the hills to a clearing where three figures in armor waited.

"WHAT THE FISK ARE YOU DOING JUST AMBLING ALONG LIKE A BUNCH OF GRANNIES?!" one of the figures shouted. "MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT! YOU, THE BIG ONE, OVER HERE!"

Herzer looked to where he was pointing and trotted over to the spot as fast as he could carrying the box of materials.

"Footlocker on the ground behind you," the man said. He was nearly as tall as Herzer and just about as wide, with the articulated armor and helmet making him appear even larger. He pointed to the spot then chivvied the group with Herzer into a semicircle.

"I am Triari Sergeant Jeffcoat," the man said, walking along the line and looking at each of the recruits. "Triari is my rank, not my name. It is my sad duty to inform you that for the next couple of months I'm going to be your drill sergeant. The reason that it is my sad duty is that you are not going to like it! There are many things that I could be doing with my time other than training a group of such useless fisks as you yardbirds. But this is what I've been ordered to do and I will damned well do it, even if it kills you. Note, not if it kills me but if it kills you! This is Decurion Jones and Sergeant Paddy," he continued, pointing to the two persons in armor. "Along with Drill Corporal Wilson, they will be helping me in this unenviable task." He paused as one of the group raised his hand.

"Did I ask you to speak?" the sergeant said quietly.

"No, but I was wondering . . ."

"WHEN I TELL YOU TO WONDER YOU WILL WONDER, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD? DOWN, DOWN ON YOUR FACE. HANDS EXTENDED, LEGS EXTENDED AND LOCKED. FACE TO THE GROUND." He tapped the recruit into a push-up position and then nodded. "Now, on my count, you will do push-ups, is that clear?"

"Uh . . ."

"IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE ORDER YOU WILL SOUND OFF WITH A LOUD AND CLEAR 'CLEAR, SERGEANT!' YOU WILL ADDRESS ME AND THE OTHER SERGEANTS AS SERGEANT OR BY OUR RANK. IF YOU WISH TO ASK A QUESTION YOU WILL SAY 'PERMISSION TO SPEAK, SERGEANT.' IS THAT CLEAR?"

"Clear, sergeant!" the recruit said.

"ALL OF YOU, IS THAT CLEAR?"

"Clear, Sergeant." "Yes, Sergeant." "Uh, huh."

"THAT'S IT. ALL OF YOU, FRONT-LEANING-REST-POSITION, MOVE!"

Herzer, despite the fact that he had, in fact, sounded off nice and clear, joined the rest of the recruits and learned the proper way to count push-ups. After fifty, when most of the group was sweating and their arms buckling, the sergeant stopped and shook his head.

"I just don't know. This is the group that they want to defend our great town with. What a bunch of useless ragbags. Look at this one," he continued, toeing one of the group. "What's your name, Fatty?"

"Cosgrove," the recruit replied.

"WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET YOU TO SOUND OFF?" the sergeant shouted. "THAT'S 'COSGROVE, SERGEANT'! IS THAT CLEAR!"

"Clear, Sergeant."

"LOUDER!"

"Clear, Sergeant!"

"LOU-DER!"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT!"

"Better. Almost there. Now, what is your name, Fatty?"

"COSGROVE, SERGEANT!"

"Well, we'll sweat that fat right off of you." He looked around again and shook his head. "On your feet. Now, the purpose of this little meeting is to get a few things straight. There will be no knives, other weapons, drugs, pornography or anything else that I feel unmilitary cluttering up my barracks. Is that clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT!"

"So if you are carrying anything like that, Sergeant Paddy will now come around with a bag. Right now, you are on amnesty. Anything that goes in the bag is forgotten. If I catch anything unmilitary in my barracks, I will have your ass. Is that clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT."

"If you have any money, you can keep it or turn it into the company safe. Decurion Jones will be following Sergeant Paddy with envelopes for money. He will give you a receipt. Now, this is an acceptable time for questions."

Herzer really didn't want to lose his money pouch so he raised his hand with a swallow of apprehension. "PERMISSION TO SPEAK, SERGEANT!"

"Speak, recruit asshole."

"TRIARI SERGEANT, I HAVE A PERSONAL POUCH. PERMISSION TO KEEP IT, SERGEANT!"

"Granted. Small personal items are acceptable as long as I do not look upon them with disfavor." He looked at Herzer and shook his head. "Recruit, that uniform looks like a fisking sack."

Herzer, not knowing how to reply, stayed mute.

Jeffcoat nodded after a moment and frowned. "There's a dusk retreat formation. Get it squared away before then."

Herzer had no idea how he could do that, but he fully intended to try. He turned in his money, accepting the receipt, and held onto the pouch.

"When I say fall out you will fall into the temporary barracks. You will do so in a military fashion which means at a run. You will be assigned spots on the floor and gear for tonight. After you are squared away, there will be an inspection of your gear. FALL OUT!"

They barely had enough time to put their gear down on the ground before they were back outside being shouted at and began drilling. The group did not take well to drill. Some of them didn't seem to know their left feet from their right and before long the sergeants were hoarse with shouting. Despite his physique Herzer got to the point where he felt that he was going to die if he had to do one more push-up. After much instruction they could stand at attention and parade rest, march in step, stop and turn on command. That seemed to be the minimum necessary and the sergeants brought them back to the barracks and had them fall out.

"Now, we're going to assign some of you to temporary leadership positions. You're probably not going to keep them. Each of the leaders will be responsible for a certain group. One of you will be in charge of the rest. Herzer, fall in over here," he continued, pointing to a spot at the front. "You're the Recruit Triari. That means you're in charge of the whole group. When I take the triari you fall to the rear. Clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT!" Herzer said, sweating. He realized he was just put in charge of the whole group and he wasn't even sure he wanted to be in charge of himself.

"Listen up you yardbirds! I'm going to be giving some of my orders through Herzer here. If he says jump, it's just like if I gave you the order. Clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT."

"Cruz, stand here! Abrahamson, stand here!"

Jeffcoat continued laying out the decuris and maniples, chivvying each of them into place.

"There's sixty-two of you right now. By the time we're done, I'll be satisfied if there's forty. When I call for you to fall in you will fall in in this order. You will fall in and fall out at a run! Is that clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT!"

"You have been formed in one triari or what we will call a triari. I am your triari sergeant. A triari normally consists of three decuri and the triari sergeant. A decuri is made up of two maniples and the decurion. A maniple consists of five legionaires including the maniple leader. For the time being, your recruit triari is Herzer Herrick. Your recruit decurions are Cruz, Abrahamson, Stahl and Pedersen. Now, I know that's not all clear, but you're going to be clear with in very shortly. By the tenth time you've fallen in on them, even you will have it figured out. Fall out and get into the barracks!"

Before the last person had gotten through the door he bellowed "FALL IN!"

Naturally, half the triari couldn't find their place. After much swearing and push-ups they were all in place at which point he had them fall out and fall in again and again until they were all finding their place without thought.

"When I give the order, fall in to the barracks. Lay your blanket down. Lay each of your items of equipment out in a neat and soldierly fashion. You will do this quickly. The sergeants and myself will then inspect your shit. I doubt that even you yardbirds could have screwed it up already, but we'll see. FALL OUT."

Naturally, nothing was to their satisfaction. Cloaks were improperly folded, helmets were tarnished, lockers were not neat. And they had a very direct method of expressing their displeasure at the quality of layout. Each of the recruit's bundles, with the exception of Herzer's, was tossed out the door of the barracks in a heap by the time they were done.

"Get you gear sorted out and laid out in a military fashion! Lay it out in the manner that Herzer has. We'll be back at dusk and all those ragbag uniforms had better be straight by then, too!"

Herzer found himself running from one recruit to the next, fielding their griping and cajoling or threatening them until most of the gear more or less ship-shape fashion. Along the way he rummaged up a set of needles and thread, and a couple of recruits who had some idea what they were doing with them, and got most of the uniforms more or less straight. They didn't have so much as a knife among them, so the extra fabric had to be tucked into the uniforms, but it was as good as it was going to get. Before he was done with the last person the three sergeants had charged into the barracks.

"Fall in at attention on your gear!" Decurion Jones shouted.

Herzer pounded to the far end of the barracks and waited in unhappy silence as the sergeants went through the gear. Fewer of the bundles went out the door but still more than half, and most of the triari, including Herzer, had been gigged on their uniforms. And it was starting to get dark; the barracks were darned near black.

"All of you get that gear back in here and laid out!" Jones said when they were done. "We're not stopping for chow until your shit is straight!"

The whole group fell out again, sorting out the piles and getting them laid out with more griping at the ones whose gear had not passed muster. The third time the sergeants came through it was to the light of torches that they passed to the recruits. Finally they were done and Jeffcoat nodded.

"That'll do for now," he said hoarsely. "All but those shitty-ass uniforms. But you can work on them in your free time. Fall out!"

The recruits were marched to dinner at a trot and lined up.

"The triari guide is the last one in," Jones said. "When he's done eating, you're all done. And he is going to eat quickly," the sergeant added, looking at Herzer significantly.

They passed through the line, getting wooden trays that the recruits heaped with slabs of meat, beans and cornbread.

Herzer, aware that he was going to be under scrutiny, got far less than he had intended and when he sat down he checked the rest of the group. Some of them, frankly, didn't seem to know what "eat quickly" meant. He dawdled over his own food as long as he could until he caught another significant look from Jones at which point he shoveled what was left into his mouth and stuffed in the last piece of cornbread on top of it.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING STILL EATING, YARDBIRD?" he heard behind him as he headed out of the mess building.

It didn't stop with dinner. The state of the barracks was not to their satisfaction and the recruits found themselves marching up and down, back and forth and finally halfway up the Hill before they were led back to the barracks. Herzer didn't know what time it was, but he realized that he'd gotten fully clocked into a dawn-to-dusk cycle and he was practically dropping on his feet by the time they got back to the barracks.

"Assign two-hour fire-guards among yourselves," Jones said, sticking a torch up outside the barracks. "The fire-guard will ensure that there is always a fresh torch and that said torch does not catch the barracks on fire." He held up an hourglass that was passed to him by Corporal Wilson. "This is a thirty-minute hourglass. The fire-guard will turn it each time the sand runs out. Four turns and you're done. Twelve turns to first call. One turn after first call to inspection. Good night, yardbirds." With that he was gone.

"Holy LU!" Cruz said. "What the fisk have I gotten myself into?"

"A world of hurt," Herzer said. "Now whose got that damn needle and thread? We've still got work to do."

"What the fisk do you mean?" one of the faces in the dimness said. "Fisk that. I'm getting some sleep."

There was an unhappy mutter at that and Herzer glared around angrily.

"You want to be running around singing about your shitty-ass uniform?" he asked. "There's more than that. We're getting up one turn before first call and getting the barracks straight. When they come through the door everything is going to be shipshape, understand."

"Fisk you," one of the recruits said, turning around. "Who made you God?"

Herzer grabbed him by the back of the collar and tossed him more-or-less effortlessly against the nearest wall. "Sergeant Jeffcoat did. And I'm not going to get my ass reamed because your shit isn't squared away."

He glared around at the group as Cruz closed up on his left side. "Are there any more questions?"

"Yeah, who's got first guard?" one of the group said.

"What's your name?" he asked the recruit who was slowly getting up off the floor.

"Bryan," the guy said, shaking his head muzzily.

"You've got first watch, but none of us are going to sleep any time soon. Watch the hourglass and turn it when the sand runs out."

In the next hour he detailed the fire-guards, got the uniforms resewn, hopefully to the sergeant's satisfaction, and got the triari laid out in lines on the floor instead of scattered everywhere. He wasn't sure about going to sleep himself; some of the troops were looking at him pretty blackly. But he figured he had to sleep some time.

"Remember, thirty minutes before first call," he said to the troop that was supposed to be the last fire-guard.

"Got it," the recruit said sleepily.

He shook his head and looked around. Most of the triari was already asleep but Stahl was nodding as well, seated on the floor by the door where he could keep an eye on the torch.

"Stand up," he said.

"Why?" the recruit said, but struggled to his feet anyway.

"You'll fall asleep. Pass it on to the fire-guard; I want to be awakened by each change of watch. If any of you fall asleep or sit down on watch I'll give you a pasting that makes getting thrown against the wall look like a love-tap."

"Think you're a big guy," Bryan muttered, but he leaned up against the wall as if he intended to stay that way.

"Damn straight, and a light sleeper," Herzer muttered and headed to his bundle on the floor. All there was was a blanket but he'd slept with worse and he was asleep practically before he lay down.

He vaguely remembered the rest of the night, as the fire-guards woke him in turn. And it was way too early when the last shook his shoulder.

"One turn to first call," the guard said. "A little before, really. The guard before me told me he missed by a few minutes."

"Another great day in the legions," Herzer muttered, standing up. "On your feet!"

The triari got moving around, straightening out their gear and putting away their blankets. Some of them started to put on their uniforms but he waved that away and had them straighten out their footlockers instead. By the time the fire-guard waved that the sergeants were coming the room was as straightened up as he could make it.

"Attention!" the fire-guard called and the triari stood at attention by their footlockers.

The first sergeant through the door was Jeffcoat, carrying a lantern. He looked around the room and grunted in dissatisfaction, walking down the lines of recruits, opening a footlocker here and there until he got to Herzer. He frowned at the recruit and then yelled, "Get your uniforms on and fall out you yardbirds." As Herzer bent to his footlocker he grabbed his arm. "Not you."

He led the recruit outside and pushed him up against the wall. "How long have you been up?"

"Sergeant, I had them get up thirty minutes before first call, Sergeant," Herzer admitted.

The sergeant stared at him in the light of the lantern, then shook his head. "Where'd you run across that trick?"

"I've read some books," Herzer said.

"You planning on doing this every morning?"

"As long as I'm the recruit triari," Herzer said then shrugged. "Or until somebody shoves a knife in my ribs."

The sergeant stared at him for a moment longer, then nodded. "Go get your shitty uniform on, Herzer."

The morning inspection was anything but a success, but Herzer could tell that it would have gone far worse if they'd waited until the "official" time to get ready. As soon as they had reassembled their gear the sergeants took them on a morning run that had half the unit falling out and the rest gasping for air by the time they got back. They were given thirty minutes to take a "bath" in rain barrels then had a fast breakfast. As they were coming out and getting in formation Herzer tapped Cruz on the arm.

"So, would you rather be here, or back in the apprentice program?"

"Oh, I don't know," Cruz said then chuckled. "At least we're not cutting trees."

When they were in formation, Jeffcoat looked them over and shook his head.

"You are, without a doubt, the sorriest group of individuals I've ever seen. But we will make men of you, oh, yes, we will. And the first thing you have to learn is what it means to be a soldier. Everyone thinks that it's all swinging a sword, but that is the last thing you learn. The first thing you learn is all the stuff that comes before swinging the sword. Now, who knows how to use a crosscut saw?"

Herzer stifled a chuckle as he raised a hand then saw Cruz do so after a moment's hesitation.

"Well, we're not going to be staying in these fine barracks forever. The first thing that a soldier learns is how to set up camp. And that is what we are going to do today."

The group was marched down the line of hills to a flat spot not far from the pathway up the Hill where they started building a "camp," really a small fort. There were piles of leather, and one decuri was put to work, under Decurion Jones' supervision, cutting them and forming them into tents. In the meantime the rest of the triari started clearing the ground.

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