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CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

It was similar to working for Jody and different at the same time. There were no oxen to haul the logs away so they were cut and split until a five-man maniple could get the resulting chunk up on their shoulders to be carried away. "In a soldierly fashion," which meant at a trot to a cadence of "ooga-chucka-ooga-chucka." Once the area was cleared, which took most of the first day, they started on stumping and digging a trench around the area. Tents were assembled in lines, latrines were dug and the camp was in every way made to be a permanent structure.

In their munificent free time there were regular inspections and intensive classes on field hygiene when, inevitably, somebody decided that a few minutes of free time was worth skipping their skimpy "baths."

But, finally, the camp was complete. The tents didn't leak, the gates could be gotten open and closed, the stump-holes were filled, the parapets and parade ground were to the sergeant's satisfaction and everything was shipshape. Small but functional. At which point more leather appeared.

Over the next few days the sergeants and a few artisans from the camp showed them how to cut and form the leather into rucksacks, jerkins and kilts. The boiled leather, when oiled, was nearly immune to the rain. At the same time they got their new issue of boots. The boots were heavy leather with hobnails on the soles and fit, in Herzer's opinion, poorly. The calluses that the triari had developed were in the wrong spots and there was a new round of blisters. These eventually passed and more equipment showed up for the maniples. Small mortars and pestles, kettles, axes and shovels.

When the full kit was issued to the triari the sergeants held classes on setting up field camps. How to cook for the maniple using nothing but field rations, parched corn, cornmeal, beans and a pressed and smoked meat compound that someone dredged up the name "monkey" for. Boiled until it was soft in the beans it wasn't bad. Added to a bannock in the "dutch ovens" that were part of the kit, it was survivable. Eaten straight, with the lightly salted parched corn, it was bloody awful. But they learned to choke it down, sometimes on the move. And once they did, the packs came out and drill began in earnest.

They marched and countermarched, learning complex opening drills and marching by squads and triari, all of it with the packs, filled with all their gear, three days' rations and, most of the time, filled sandbags for "good training." Every night they fell asleep with the sounds of orders in their ears, woke up before first call, got their shit straight and did it all over again. And when they didn't perform to the sergeant's satisfaction, they kept at it by the light of torches until it practically was first call.

Once they were marginally capable of maneuvering on the reasonably "flat" area of the parade ground, they headed out to the field and did it all over again. They marched up hills and down, up the Via Apallia as far as the edge of the Iron Hills and back. Generally they slept out two days and came back the third night but once they were gone for nearly a week, the last two days on half rations. They learned to cook their rations as a decuri and dig a new camp every night, with a full palisade and trench around it. They learned to choke down their monkey and parched corn while still moving. They learned the trick of using pegs and lines to lay out the camp and were instructed on how to expand it, how many latrines per however many men, where the different parts of the camp should be, how to set watches and how many to be on under what conditions, where the officers' tents would be set up.

They marched in rain and sun, through the tail end of the spring when a cold front came through with just above freezing temperatures and through the blazing heat that followed it. They learned to ford rivers and build temporary bridges. They slept out in the wet with nothing but their cloaks and woke before dawn to another day of marching.

The life was brutal and there was plenty of attrition. For the time being the positions were all voluntary and almost every morning there would be one or two who held up their hands and said: "Sorry, no more for me." The sergeants didn't berate them, just nodded and sent them over to be outprocessed. And there were plenty of days that Herzer considered it.

To his amazement he had managed to hold on to his position. He suspected that there were a few times that it should have been pulled, but he kept the triari's nose to the grindstone and it was pretty clear that at least half of the reason the group was doing as well as it was was his example. He was always the first one up and the last to bed. He dug into any unpleasant job and refused to quit until it was done right. There was some muttering about "brownnose" but it was pretty evident that he just was doing what needed to be done. And he never rubbed anyone's nose in it. When somebody was having trouble, and some of the jobs were more cerebral than it seemed from the outside, he was always there with a suggestion to make it easier. When a decuri was flagging at whatever physical feat was required of them, he was always there with a shoulder.

Occasionally he caught a glimpse of The Gunny. Generally it was a surprise. They'd be ten miles from camp, marching down another track and come around a corner to see him leaning against a tree. Or they'd be setting up a palisade and suddenly realize they'd just thrown dirt on somebody's shoes, only to have it be The Gunny.

He never said anything to the recruits; he just watched then wandered over to speak to the sergeants. Which generally meant some hellfire dropped on someone. Herzer began to wonder, after a while, what his function was.

Then they found out.

They came into camp from another long route march, lustily singing some song about "The Grand Trunk" road and saw The Gunny and Mayor Talbot in waiting on the far side of the parade ground. The sergeants dismissed them to barracks and told them to prepare for a retreat inspection. They piled into the barracks and began pulling out uniforms, looking for a clean one or at least one that wasn't awful; they hadn't had a wash day in nearly a week.

Nobody knew what was up so Herzer was pelted with questions.

"No idea," he said, grabbing one of the recruits and pulling at his uniform. "What the fisk did you do, put it away in a wad?"

The sergeants had shown them a method of ironing out the uniforms by heating up a steel rod, but there wasn't time and the best he could do with the recruit was pull the uniform tight and hope that the creases wouldn't be terribly evident.

"FALL OUT!"

He pounded out the door with the rest and fell in at the head of the formation, checking to see that everyone was in place. When they were he did a precise about face and saluted the drill sergeant, clenched right hand to left breast, the only time that sergeants were saluted.

"Triari Sergeant, all present or accounted for."

"Post."

Herzer did a precise right face and marched around the back of the triari. When he reached his position the sergeant called "OPEN RANKS, MARCH!"

Compared to some of the maneuvers they had practiced this one was simple. The front rank moved forward one pace, the second rank stayed in place and the rear ranks backed up so that there was sufficient gap for people to easily walk down the ranks.

It was, actually, toughest for the recruit triari; he had to back up six paces. But they had practiced backing over a hundred paces in training, so Herzer did it without thinking.

Gunny and Mayor Talbot walked the ranks and Herzer sighed. It was a "breeze" inspection; they were just glancing at the recruits rather than submitting them to a full inspection. He waited through it patiently, wondering like everyone what the inspection meant, then came to attention as they came to him.

"How are you, Herzer?" Mayor Edmund asked.

"Very well, sir!" Herzer barked.

Talbot smiled faintly and nodded his head. "I think you've gotten bigger, although that is hard to believe."

Not knowing what to reply Herzer stood mute as Edmund walked off, followed by the Gunnery Sergeant who gave him an unreadable look as he passed.

The Gunny took over the post from Triari Jeffcoat and then turned to face the triari.

"STAND-AT EASE!" he bellowed then waited until they had assumed the position of parade rest, looking at him.

"Class One of the Raven's Mill Legionnaire Training Center having successfully completed basic recruit training shall now move on to Advanced Legionnaire Training. What that means is that you've successfully shown that you can build, march and dig. Now, we'll teach you how to fight." He stared around at them and shook his head. "You may now cheer."

Herzer started the cheer and it was a lusty one; all of them had wondered when in the hell they were going to do more than march and dig.

"It doesn't get easier from here, but it does get different," the Gunny said. "Among other things, you'll be permitted some liberty to go into town. That does not mean that you can swagger down to Tarmac's tavern and get into a fight; anyone doing so will meet with my displeasure. And if you thought those packs were heavy, wait until I take you on a march in full kit. But you're on your way to being soldiers. You have a pass for the rest of the day and until lights out. First call as usual. Oh, and the females, the ones that are left, will be joining. They will be integrated into the squads. Now, don't get the impression that you're being issued your very own whores. They have been going through the identical training that you have and they are soldiers just like you. Furthermore, anyone found fisking on duty will face the full force of a court-martial, up to and including flogging and disrating. And you don't even want to think about forcing your attention on one of them. First of all, they'll probably hand you your balls on a spit. And if they don't, the penalty is hanging. We haven't had mixed groups up until now because you had to learn what discipline means.

"Tomorrow you'll be fitted for armor and issued training weapons. And then your real training starts. Fall out!"

* * *

When they fell into the barracks Herzer called at ease.

"We've got a pass for the evening," he said, looking around. "That doesn't mean you can just fisk off. Somebody's got to stay for fire-guard; that's by roster."

"Shit," the unlucky recruit said.

"Yeah. And if you're planning on going into town, you go in groups. At least one decurion is to be with each group and if anyone in the group fisks up he and the decurion will answer to me."

"What about you?" one of them asked.

"Well, I turned in all my money," he grinned. "So walking around town with nothing to spend doesn't appeal very much. And I'm not going to go ask Sergeant Jones if I can draw some cash. Are you?" He looked around and nodded. "Me? I'm going to get some sleep."

A few of the troops decided to go into town anyway and he assigned Pedersen from third decuri to accompany them, then headed for his spot on the floor.

"So you're just gonna flake out?" Cruz asked from his own spot.

"Damn straight," Herzer replied, plumping up the bundle of underwear he used as a pillow. "Tomorrow we start training with the Gunny. What do you wanna bet he's gonna bust our ass in the morning just to show us who's who?"

"What's he gonna do to us that they haven't done already?" Cruz asked. "Any problem if I go into town?"

"Not as long as you take somebody with you," Herzer replied, rolling over and trying to get comfortable. Normally he fell right to sleep but this was just too early. Nonetheless, he could hear Morpheus calling. He swore he was never going to pass up a chance to sleep again in his life. "But you'd better be back by lights out and ready to rock in the morning."

"Yes, sir!" Cruz snorted. "See you later, Herzer."

"Only if I'm still here and you can see."

Herzer, who was trailing the triari to round up stragglers, passed Cruz on the way up the Hill and patted him on the back.

"Thrown up all that rotgut, Cruz?" he asked cheerfully.

"You bastard, how did you know?" Cruz moaned.

"Just a lucky guess."

The Gunny had, indeed, decided to show who was boss. The triari was on its second ascent and the first hadn't been to the Gunny's satisfaction, which he had passed on in scathing tones.

"Cruz, if you wanna keep them recruit stripes, you'd better move on out," Decurion Jones said as he reached the two recruit leaders. "Move it out, Herzer."

"Yes, Sergeant," he said, grabbing Cruz's arm. "Let's go, party boy."

"Lu, I wanna die," Cruz moaned, struggling up the hill. Behind them the drill sergeants were chivvying the other recruits who had failed to keep up.

"How much did you drink?"

"I dunno, after the second mug of mead it was all sort of a blur," Cruz said and paused, briefly, to dry heave.

"Next time, listen to Papa Herzer, okay?" Herzer said with a laugh. "Even the gurrrls are doing better than you."

"You got it."

When they reached the top of the Hill, Gunny, who looked to have not even broken a sweat, the bastard, had assembled the triari. Herzer took his place at the back. There were seven women who had survived the Basic course and they had been integrated into the squads despite the fact that at least one of them had to be a Recruit Decurion. Herzer wasn't sure if Cruz was going to keep his place after this morning's showing, but Gunny didn't tell him to move down the decuri so apparently he was being lenient this morning.

"Well, I'd guess you're wondering why I called you here," Gunny said when the last sweating and panting recruit reached the formation. "There's a very fine book that says 'For everything there is a season' and you have just entered the season to put away childish games. And I'm the man to bag up the toys. Is that clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT!"

"We're not going to have much time for fun and games over the next few weeks but I thought it was a good idea to remind you all that soldiers have to move when they are told to move. This valley has been battled over before and the general that owned it, in that day, depended upon his infantry. They moved so fast they were referred to as foot-cavalry. And that is the mark we will obtain. By the time you are done, you will be able to walk any cavalry into the ground and you will be able to move on tracks that a goat would find difficult. Or my name isn't Miles Arthur Rutherford. Is that clear?"

"CLEAR, SERGEANT."

"You will care for your personal gear before you care for yourself. If you are responsible for specialized gear, you will care for that before you care for your own gear. Your only goal is to perform the mission. Every day you can find something to enhance the mission and every day you will find something to enhance the mission!"

"So, what is the mission, Gunny?" Cruz asked, solemnly.

"Your mission is to die from an arrow or a sword blow or a halberd so that a civilian does not! It is the job of politicians to ensure that you do so! If you have a problem with that you can go join some rabble-snabble mercenary company or you can join the sloppy-ass milichee and go back and hide behind your momma's skirts! But in the meantime that is your mission! The civilians will not know, nor will they care. In time they will come to hate your guts. Nonetheless you will keep true to your salt and drive on to the mission everyday! Do I make myself CLEAR?!"

"CLEAR, GUNNY!"

"You are born in blood, in blood you shall live and in blood you shall die. From this day forward, you are not soldiers, you are not legionnaires, you are the Blood Lords. Bound by the blood, bound by the steel. Repeat after me: Blood to our blood . . ."

"Blood to our blood," Herzer repeated, cold chills running through his veins.

" . . . Steel to our steel . . ."

"Steel to our steel."

"In blood we live . . ."

"In blood we live . . ."

"In blood we shall die . . ."

"In blood we shall die . . ."

"Blood Lords . . ."

"Blood Lords . . ."

"LOUDER!"

"BLOOD LORDS!"

"LOUDER!"

"BLOOD LORDS!"  

"Move back down the Hill and get chow. After that fall in and we'll see if any of you young idiots can figure out how to make armor."

* * *

The armor was waiting for them after lunch, a pile of boxes in the back of an ox cart.

Deann climbed into the cart and looked at the topmost box.

"Armor set, loricated, one each," she said, reading the label gummed to the top of the wooden box. "Size, small. That's me."

"Get them all off the cart," Gunny said. "Move them into the decuri bay and we'll show you how to assemble them."

The boxes, when opened, contained plates of steel, fittings, rivets, strips of leather and baffling instructions. Along with the boxes were some tools that Gunny added to their triari equipment.

Loricated armor was made by taking the plates of steel, bending them to the body and then overlapping them using the fittings and the leather strips. The plates had to be measured to the individual, however, so that they would fit snuggly, but not too snuggly, around the torso. The armor was then made in four sets. Two "torso" halves, one for the left side and one for the right, and two shoulder halves.

The triari worked for the next two days at the armor, cutting the plates to appropriate length, bending them around forms, punching holes for rivets, setting in the fittings and attaching the leather straps. In addition to the armor there was a thick "scarf" of cosilk that was wrapped in a tube then bent around the back of the neck and folded across the chest. This prevented chafing from the edges of the armor at the neck.

Herzer, as usual, had problems with "standard" sized anything and several of the pieces had to be form fitted for him. But after two days that encompassed much swearing as fumble-fingered recruits tried to get the pieces to go together, everyone in the triari was in armor.

After the armor finally passed Gunny's inspection, they were issued their new helmets, pilums, swords and large wooden shields. The helmet style was a "barbute," a solid helmet with a "T" opening at the front, instead of the Roman helmet. The barbute style had several things favoring it over the Roman. From a chance snippet of conversation Herzer overheard, he learned that the helmet was the hardest part of the armor to produce. And Roman helmets, with their several parts, rivets, fittings and hinges, were far more difficult to produce than barbute. But, despite this, the barbute was arguably a superior design. The open-faced Roman helmet, while light and permitting easy breathing, meant that a slash across the face or a point driven in was virtually guaranteed to drive home. The barbute covered much more of the surface area of the face and thus made injury less likely.

The downside to the barbute was that it permitted a lesser field of vision and was a pain to march with. On the whole, however, Herzer was glad they had chosen this design. He'd rather have a hard time seeing around than never see again.

The pilums were the spears of the Roman legions and it was another design that had been copied virtually intact. It consisted of a relatively short wooden shaft, no more than a meter and a bit, and an unusually long, thin spearhead with a wickedly sharp, barbed head. The weapon could be used as a spear and the triari trained extensively with it in that manner, marching in formation and then advancing with them lowered. But the primary use of the pilum was as a throwing weapon. The long, light-steel head was designed to penetrate a shield and then bend. With it stuck in a shield and bent over onto the ground, the enemy would be forced to stop and work it out, with their shield well out of line when they did so. Since the weapons were thrown at "point blank" range, the technique was to throw and then immediately charge. The front rank of the enemy would then be stuck, essentially shieldless and without a defense, open to a sword charge.

The swords they were issued were short and almost leaf-bladed, a Celtic design rather than the original Roman. They rode in a high scabbard tucked just forward of the armpit on the right side. Their primary method of employment was short, fast, chops and jabs, designed to wound the enemy as much as kill them. The ones that they were issued now were wooden with a heavy weight of lead down the center. Herzer hoped that the "real" ones would be a tad lighter.

The last of the new equipment was the shield, and Herzer found himself dissatisfied in the extreme with it. Instead of the shield being held at two points with the forearm going across the back, it was held at one point with the arm extended straight down. For formation fighting it was superb; the idea was to form a "shield wall" and the shield was difficult to hold any way but directly in front of the body. But for someone who had trained in a much more "open" style of combat, it was a pain to use and gave a feeling of being "trapped."

They began training immediately, primarily formation marching with the new weapons. Carrying the swords was simply an additional weight but the shield and pilum were another matter. When marching they did not "sling" their shields and simply holding onto the shields, which, like the swords, had been weighted with lead, was agony until the appropriate muscles strengthened.

The pilum wasn't as painful to carry, being lighter, but maneuvering with the things, until they got used to them, was difficult. More than once the armor was put to good use as a pilum head was jabbed into a back.

Each afternoon they were given one hour to prepare and then held a full dress inspection. The slightest hint of dirt on any of their equipment led to a harsh rebuke and rust was punished by the entire decuri being loaded with weights and forced to run the Hill. They quickly learned to take good care of the equipment they had been issued.

Finally, the Gunny pronounced himself marginally satisfied that they could march with the things. At which point, naturally, they went out on a long forced march.

If they thought the previous marches had been brutal, Gunny quickly disabused them of the notion. Instead of staying mostly to the Via and some of the better graded roads around it, the Gunny took them on long marches by tracks that only he seemed to know. At one point Herzer realized that they had never gotten more than twenty miles from the town, but it was impossible to recognize that from the terrain and the distances they had marched. They marched on traces along the ridgelines where hawks flew beneath their feet and narrow trails through marshes. They marched along the edges of cliffs where one slip would mean instant death and across rushing streams cold from spring water. And all of it at a clip that made the previous marches seem like nothing. Gunny wasn't as much into setting up camp; he seemed to think that movement was the key. They would awake in the morning and eat as they marched; for five days they ate nothing but parched corn and monkey washed down with water. For the last two days, before they met up with a packtrain in the middle of no-where, they were at half rations.

Every morning there was an inspection of their gear. Woe betide the person who had so much as a spot of rust on armor, pilum, shield, helmet or sword. If he did, the gunny loaded up the whole decuri's rucksacks with rocks until they could barely stagger. And then took off at full speed, fully expecting them to catch up.

After the second time that happened, people could be seen by the fires late at night, scrubbing at their gear.

When they did make a full camp, Herzer noticed that it was always in a tactically viable spot. The other sergeants seemed to just care about finding somewhere reasonably flat. Gunny always set up on a hill, generally one that commanded a view of the trail that they were using and generally at a chokepoint in the terrain. The Gunny never pointed that fact out and sometimes Herzer wondered if it was a subtle lesson or simply that the Gunny had been doing this for so long that he always chose a defensible spot.

Finally, after two weeks of marching, with a few limited tests of their pilum throwing ability but no training with sword or shield, they found themselves back in camp.

There was a new building among the tents and Corporal Wilson was set up outside it. Herzer noticed this as the gunny brought them into the parade ground and called them to a halt.

"TRIARI, LEFT, FACE!" he called, then "STAND-AT, EASE."

Herzer lowered his shield to rest against his left thigh, spread his feet shoulder width apart and placed both hands, overlapped, on top of the shield.

"By squads, on my command, fall out and turn your weapons in to the armory," the Gunny said, pointing at the new building. "Then fall back in on your positions."

They filed off and turned over their swords, still in the sheathes, and pilums, then fell back in on the Gunny.

"Tomorrow we're going to start training you to use that sword you just gave up as well as more training with the pilum. We're also going to show you that a shield is a weapon as well as something to keep weapons off of you. But that is tomorrow. Tonight, get a good solid meal and some rest. Because if you think the last couple of weeks have been tough, you've got another think coming. FALL OUT."

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