Two halflings stood, gazing at the entrance to the barracks with enraptured eyes.
“Are you ready?” asked one.
“Is that a real question?” retorted the other.
“Why are you so excited? I’d have thought you’d have been inside this place already, your father being the Commander and all.””
A shadow passed over the face of the second halfling, “Well, you know my father. He is… very good at separating his personal life and professional life. And he never leaves his professional life.”
With a consoling pat, the smaller of the two halflings tried to give his friend some support. He knew what it was like to live without a father.
“Ah, what’re we thinking of him for, today is our day! Let’’s go Fin!” and the smaller halfling took off. Followed by his grinning companion.
“Right behind you Racieus!”
It wasn’t difficult to figure out where they needed to go. During the beginning of the training of season, everything was clearly marked, for a time. New recruits didn’t have time to waste, wandering the corridors of the enormous building. However, even with the signs, the two could have found their way easily enough. There was a line stretching out the huge double doors and into the courtyard today.
It was Recruitment Day, the day every young Dolmen Halfling looked forward to with boundless excitement. The day they began their training.
The history behind the Dolmen was shady. No one knew quite why they were formed, why they had decided to break away from their lackadaisical cousins. All the other races knew, was that since that day, and nobody could quite agree on when it happened either, the Dolmen had quickly become a force to be reckoned with, earning the respect of many of the denizens of Teranore.
But not all of them.
It didn’t matter that they had come to the aid of just about every goodly faction at one point or another, it didn’t matter that they had battled orcs, goblins, giants, and just about everything aside from dragons, there were still those who insisted on looking down on the halflings.
Literally and metaphorically.
There were whispers among the Dolmen that a plan was in the works, a plan that would either earn the respect of the surround races, or ultimately prove their doom. But it was only a rumor, and an infrequent one at that. Those who spoke of the plot, often forgot they had even mentioned it within a few days, vehemently denying any knowledge of the “conspiracy.”
In any event, the halflings did all that they could, which was continue to train, continue to fight, and continue to sway those who mocked them.
“Name?” asked the officer at the desk, his flat tone making it clear he didn’t view this day with the same excitement as the recruits.
“Thank you” drawled the receptionist, as he leafed through some papers. After a minute he pulled out a stack, handed them to Racieus and said in the same uninterested voice,
“Step to the side and wait for a medical examination.”
Racieus complied, the man’s attitude not bothering him in the least, and heard his friend repeating the process.
The attendants eyebrows rose at that, “Longriver? As in Commander Longriver? You the General’s son?”
Finnin nodded proudly, his chest puffing out.
“Didn’t even know he had a son” muttered the attendant, and Finnin deflated. He accepted the papers from the officer and trudged over to stand with Racieus.
“He doesn’t talk about me. What a surprise” grumbled the halfling.
“Hey, buck up Fin! It doesn’t matter if he talks about you or not, everyone will be soon enough right?” Racieus said with a wink. Spreading his hands out above his head, Racieus continued, “I can see it now, Captain Finnin hero of Teranore! Slayer of ten thousand trolls, and many more orcs besides, and the first halfling to kill a dragon!”
His friend grinned, Racieus’ cheery mood catching, “Bah, that’ll probably be you Raci, just don’t forget to mention your old pal Finnin when you save the world.”
The shorter halfling waved away the praise, “Ah, if I ever save the world, it’ll be rightbeside you Fin.”
“Next!” shouted an attendant, shocking the two recruits out of their reverie. Each moved to an empty medical station and handed over their paperwork then took seats on opposite sides of the medical area. Racieus’ physician, surprisingly young for a doctor, flipped quickly through the papers then set them on the small side table beside him. Glancing at the name, the doctor made to turn back to his patient, then did a double take.
“Racieus?” the doctor asked, a smile beaming on his face.
Racieus stared hard at the older halfling, searching for any familiar sign. The smile caught his attention, and if the hair were a bit longer, and the glasses were gone…
“Pherson! You’re a doctor now?” Racieus asked incredulously. “Last I heard you were over in… Ashborne right? What happened?”
“Whaddaya mean ‘What happened?’ Does something have to happen for a halfling to decide he’d rather save lives, than take them? As if it’s somehow inferior to running around hitting things?”
Racieus, thoroughly chided, looked down at his feet for a moment, “I didn’t mean it like that Pher-” he started, but stopped and looked up to see his old friend trying to hold in a laugh.
“I know you didn’t Race, and that’s Doctor Pherson now” he commanded with mock sterness. Then his gaze softened and he was no longer looking at Racieus, but through him. “It’s just, not for everyone my friend. Once the screams take hold… and the blood, and-” he cut himself off, with a shake. “You’ll see what I mean soon enough. Or maybe you won’t,” he said, nudging Racieus with an elbow, “From what I’ve heard, you’re pretty handy with a blade.”
“Well, against this lot maybe, I’m sure it’ll be different, fighting against real enemies.”
The doctor waved the comment away, “Ah ever the modest one. Well let’s get you checked, and on your way huh?” He looked back down at the stack of papers, then moved behind Racieus, running his hands the younger halfling’s hair. “You don’t have any allergies right?” Racieus shook his head. “No recent illnesses? Weakness in the limbs? Insanity?”
“No, no, and of course not.”
Pherson fixed him with a worried glance, “That’s just what a crazy person would say.”
“Hilarious, Doctor” Racieus said, punching his friend on the arm.
“Hey! I need that arm thank you very much!” When Racieus shrugged, the doctor gave an exasperated sigh, and continued leafing through the papers. “Alright, looks like you’re all set. Now get out off here before you get somebody important, like myself, hurt.”
“Oh man up,” Racieus teased.
“Man? Why in the world would I want to be a man?” Pherson responded, using the joke that was common among halflings, dwarves, and just about any race that wasn’t human.
Racieus chuckled and hopped off the stool, to find Finnin waiting impatiently.
“Could you take any longer Racieus? Gahern’s foot hair! Been waiting for like, five minutes already!”
Racieus rolled his eyes and shook his head, “You’ll never guess who my Doctor was.”
“I don’t know who your doctor was, but I do know he was slower than Ruad when it comes to doing anything besides eating. I swear, he should just join the plumpies and be done with it,” Finnin ranted, using the Dolmen term for their more domesticated cousins.
“It was Pherson.”
Finnin’s eyebrows shot up and looked back over his shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse of his old friends, but the he was hidden by one of the hastily erected curtains. “Pherson? How’s he doing? How’d he end up here? Wasn’t he just in…”
“Ashborne” Racieus finished, “And he’s fine, he just found that fighting didn’t quite agree with him or his stomach.”
“Ah…” replied the other halfling, disappointment tinging his voice.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a doctor Fin. And there’s nothing wrong with not being a soldier. We couldn’t function if everyone decided to do that.”
Finnin turned a sidelong glance on his friend, “You can’t tell me you aren’t thinking the same thing.”
Racieus returned the look, but looked down after a few seconds. “Maybe I am, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still our friend.”
This prompted Finnin to raise his eyebrows once again, “Well of course! What do you take me for Raci?”
“Granted” replied the smaller halfling cheekily, and he skipped ahead before Finnin could grab him, and the two sprinted through the rest of the courtyard, and into the barracks. Soon, they’d be soldiers.