“Are you sure you want to do this?” Daniela asked Ronan that afternoon as they were led around the back of the palace with Oblivion. “Because I can manage just fine by myself if you want to drop out now.”
“There is no way I’m dropping out. Once I’ve said I’m doing something, I’m going to see it through.”
The pair travelled in a tense silence around to the back of the palace towards a training ground where several hundred men were waiting. The sight of all those men, waiting to be sent off to fight made Daniela feel ever so slightly sick. Felix could be among those men and she might not ever be able to find him.
“Names,” a man with a wooden board and parchment covered in scrawled handwriting demanded briskly as he approached us.
“Ronan Payne and Danny Gilbert.”
“Right then, you’re with Captain Johnson’s company over there,” the man said, pointing towards a crowd of people being given armour and weapons.
“Wait, I need to find the regiment that came from my village,” Daniela protested. “There is someone I need to find.”
“Really? Then why didn’t you say so?” The man said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “I have better things to do with my time than help you chase one soldier in a single regiment. Now go to Captain Johnson before I get someone to discipline you for wasting my time.”
Ronan grabbed hold of Daniela’s arm to stop her from pursuing the man. He spun her round to face him, a confused expression on his face.
“What was that about?”
“What was what about?”
“That,” he said, gesturing after the disappearing figure. “Why are you really here Danny?”
“I’m here to fight for my country. Why else would I be here?”
“I don’t know. But from what just happened it sounds like you haven’t been completely honest with me. Who is it you’re trying to find from your village regiment?”
“I’m not trying to find anyone,” Daniela protested trying to step away from Ronan but he kept his hold on her arms.
“Don’t lie to me Danny. I’m putting my life on the line here, I might as well know why I’m doing it.”
“I didn’t ask you to join me. Nobody forced you into signing up so why should I have to explain myself to you?”
“Because I need to know I can trust you.”
“And you can trust me. I don’t need to tell you everything about me for you to know that. Now will you please drop it so we can go and join our company.”
Ronan let go of Daniela’s arms and she walked quickly across the training area towards her company, her hands shaking from fear. She knew she’d been too obvious in asking about Felix’s regiment and now Ronan knew something was wrong. She cursed herself internally for not thinking before opening her big mouth. She would just have to hope Ronan would forget about the incident and that she wouldn’t make any more stupid mistakes.
When she reached the company she was signed off again and given a breastplate, helmet and sword by an officer. She looked at the armour, dazed. She had no idea what to do with it.
“Let me help you,” Ronan said, putting down the armour he had been given and trying to take Daniela’s breastplate from her.
“I don’t need your help Ronan,” she snapped. “I can do it myself.” She threw the helmet and sword to the ground and began to try and work out how to put the armour on over her head.
“Look at that runt over there,” came a mocking shout from among the crowd of men. “He can’t even put a breastplate on. I’ll give him two weeks at best on the frontline.”
“I don’t think he’ll last until the end of training.”
Daniela’s blood boiled in her veins as she heard the words taunting her. She threw the breastplate to the ground and stormed towards the direction of the laughing voice.
“What did you say?” She said when she found the culprit.
“I said I don’t think you’ll make it past training,” the man, a smug idiot with a slimy smirk on his swarthy face, said, his friends around him laughing at her.
“Danny don’t cause trouble,” Ronan said, coming up behind her and willing her to stand back.
“Look, the runt has a friend to protect him. How sweet.” The group started laughing again, this time with real maliciousness.
“Don’t call me that,” Daniela said as threateningly as she could.
“Or what? You’ll shout at us?”
“You don’t know who you’re messing with.”
“No, I don’t think you know who you’re messing with,” the man replied, all humour gone from his voice.
“This is Lord Adan, son of the second cousin of the King,” one of the man’s cronies informed Daniela smugly.
“That’s enough Nathan,” Adan ordered, raising his hand. “I’m sure the runt now knows how to act around his betters.”
“You’re not that much better than the rest of us. You're still a soldier,” another voice joined in as a new figure appeared on the scene.
“Shut your mouth Maxwell,” Adan spat. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think I do, your lordship,” the newcomer said smoothly. “And let’s not forget who is in charge of all of us. Funny how Captain Johnson got a commanding position and you’re left to fight with the commoners. It really tells us a lot about who is in favour at court these days.”
“Both you and I know why precious Duke Garrett Johnson got his position. It helps when your sister is married to the future king. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to him now, would we?”
“Now men,” the officer who had been giving out weapons interjected in an attempt to break the group up. “Get ready to march. Captain Johnson will be arriving soon.”
Adan snorted in disgust but wandered off away from Daniela and Ronan, taking his cronies with him.
“Just ignore him,” the man Adan had called Maxwell said. “His head is so far up his own backside he doesn’t remember how to behave in civilized company. I’m Stuart Maxwell.”
“Hello Stuart. I’m Ronan and this is my friend Danny.”
“Will you please stop speaking for me,” Daniela snapped at Ronan. “I can speak for myself thank you very much.”
“Well sometimes it might be better if you kept your mouth shut,” Ronan retorted. “If you hadn’t talked back to Adan then I wouldn’t have had to come and defend you.”
“Who says I needed defending? I was handling the situation just fine.”
“Calm down guys,” Stuart said, getting in between Ronan and Daniela who were getting increasingly angry. “You can’t be like this with each other. We are going to be living, eating, sleeping and training together for the next Gods know how long. We have to learn to get along.”
“I’m not going to try and make friends with him,” Daniela hissed in the direction Adan had disappeared.
“I’m not asking you to. But don’t lose the friends you already have.”
“I’m sorry Ronan,” Daniela said, finally taking the hint. “I didn’t mean to shout at you. I know you meant well.”
“That’s alright. And I suppose I’m sorry too but I’m not sure what for yet.” Ronan smiled and winked at Daniela, causing her to grin back at him.
“That’s better,” Stuart said with a smile and clapping them both on the back. “Now let’s get you into this armour before Garrett turns up.”