Boot Camp

"Oh Helena, my kingdom and my life..." As Elias returned to consciousness, William was bellowing the Royal Anthem, and being met with thunderous disapproval from the other prisoners. The man clearly could not carry a tune to save his life. "Now, what was the next line..."

"What are you doing?" Elias asked, bewildered by this sudden show of nationalism. William glanced over at Elias, startled by the interruption.

"Did I wake you?" William asked after a moment. "Thought, seeing as we"re joining the army and all, we might as well know the tune. Can't seem to get past the first line, though."

After a moment of thought, Elias quietly murmured, "Oh Helena, my kingdom and my life, for your sake I fear no mortal strife. I stand ready to serve and to bleed, should that ever be what my Queen should need."

William applauded loudly, and even some of the other inmates made grunts of general approval. "That was pretty good, lad!" he exclaimed. "You ever think of takin' up music? :eave the brigand's life behind and become a minstrel, maybe?"

"Thought of it, yes," Elias responded. "But as far as giving the thought any serious consideration, no."

"Well now, tha's a shame," William said. "You're pretty good. It'd make for an honest living."

A guard entered the dungeon and pointed at Elias and William, as well as the neighboring inmates, saying, "You four - you're coming with us!" He summoned four more guards and commanded them to escort the prisoners as he led them to their destination.

The five soldiers led Elias and his companions through a series of corridors and out of the prison, then through the streets until eventually they arrived at an awaiting carriage on the outskirts of the city. The carriage had a black flag on the front, and the man driving the carriage wore the uniform of a soldier.

"Load them up, then," the driver said, and the prisoners were loaded into the cart, along with one of the soldiers who had escorted them. Soon, the horses began moving, at the driver's command, and the group were on their way.

The carriage passed through thick forests before eventually stopping outside of a group of buildings surrounded by a tall stone wall. In front of the carriage lay a wooden gate which presumably allowed individuals to pass into the interior of the wall, with a guard tower to the left of it, manned by a single soldier.

"Hold there," the soldier called. "State your Authority and business."

The soldier in the carriage responded, "Five-zero-one, reporting with cargo delivery six-three-one."

The guard in the tower flipped through a log book, then nodded. "Aye," he said. "Here you are. One moment and I'll have the gate for you." With that, he nodded to an unseen individual inside, and the gate began to swing open.

After the gate was opened, the carriage driver proceeded through the gateway. He drove to a nearby stable and parked the carriage next to the stable, then unloaded Elias and the other prisoners.

Immediately upon exiting the carriage, Elias and his groups were met with the sight of a grizzled old soldier standing before them in full uniform. As soon as the four prisoners were all out of the carriage, the man began to speak, saying, "Listen well, the lot of you; we've no time to lose. You are now soldiers in the army of Queen Helena Croft the Great, and you will faithfully serve her to the best of your ability, or meet with the firing squad upon failure to do so. Any questions thus far?"

The four prisoners were silent, and so the soldier - Elias spotted a Captain's medal on the man's chest - continued. "Good. This attitude - take orders, obey, ask no questions, and execute - will serve you well here in training, as well as on the field. This is because strict obedience allows for speed and efficiency, with clear enough instruction from those in a commanding position. In other words, when a commander opens his mouth, he is expected to utter words which waste no time with idle talk and which are simple and easy to follow. After the commander is heard, orders are to be followed immediately and without hesitation. This will ensure speed and efficient movement on the field of battle." The Captain was silent for just a second, then barked, "Understood?"

The prisoners - or recruits, rather - all responded in the affirmative, William saying, "Aye, sir," Elias "Yes, Captain," and the other two simply saying, "Yes."

The Captain turned his head at Elias' response. "You," he said. "You're familiar with military ranking, are you?"

Elias stared the Captain straight in the eyes, never faltering, and stated, "I have dealt with military personnel before; I've watched commanders in action, heard orders called, and seen men ready for action. In short, sir, yes I am familiar with the workings of Her Majesty's Royal Army."

The Captain made no response, but turned to address the entire group. "We will begin with basic formations," he said. "First among these is stand: it means to hold your ground, give no way to the enemy, and not move from your position, whatever your position may be. Stand together, then, may be understood as just that: your group will come together, standing tight against one another, with the men in the front forming a shield-wall while men in the back set their shields on the ground to their exposed side and act as the formation's arms, using their weapons to combat the enemy from behind their comrades. We'll attempt this formation now: recruits - stand together!"

As the Captain shouted his command, Elias and William formed the front of the formation while the other two men retreated behind them with surprising speed.

"Good," the Captain said, then introduced another set of formations, and then another.

The formations continued until dusk, when the Captain approached Elias and said, "You understand the duties of a commanding officer in this army?"

"Aye, sir," Elias responded.

"Good," the Captain said. "You're now the Squad-Regent of this battlegroup. Get your men something to eat, and then report to the residence quarter for your assigned rooms. Tomorrow morning, have your men assembled and ready here at ten sharp."

The End

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