Sergeant Marshall led Daniel, Cloud and Titus through the corridors of Castle Rulandia to a hidden training ground only accessible through the castle. As they walked, the hallways became narrow and dark, as less sunlight shone through from the outside. At last the group reached the end of the corridor, and Sergeant Marshall shoved the heavy wooden door open.
Daniel immediately raised his arm to cover his eyes form the incoming sunlight that quickly flooded the corridor.
Stepping outside, Daniel could see a staircase leading down to a very small courtyard. The sun was too low in the sky to shine on this spot, and the slight breeze made it very cool. The smell of a fire filled the air, as well as some sort of meat roasting, causing Daniel's mouth to water. At the back of the courtyard, it was clear now that this area was located at one of the back corners of Castle Rulandia, as they could see the high wall change directions at its ninety-degree angle. There was a single dummy meant for both swordplay and archery practice in the corner as well.
"Ah, it's the Sergeant!" a deep voice boomed from the courtyard.
Daniel looked directly below from where he was at the top of the staircase. He saw the fire, nothing more than a pile of wood surrounded on all sides by stacks of stone. Next to that was a table where three men all sat, with a large hunk of meat in front of them on the table.
"Come with me," Sergeant Marshall motioned them down the stairs. "I have roughly three-hundred men under my command, and these three are my most trusted officers who assist me in overseeing the activities of my soldiers. Their names are Gavin Storm, Leon Acker, and Dunn Alikos."
Gavin Storm gave them a slight nod and a raise of his cup. He was a small man with almost no hair and a crooked nose. "It's a pleasure."
"Gavin is one of the smartest tacticians I've ever had the pleasure to work with," Marshall said. "Though not much of a fighter, his strategies can win battles for him, even against the odds."
'You should know that I can still hold my own in a fight," Gavin said sourly.
The bigger of the other two began to laugh. "Then explain why your nose isn't straight, Gavin!"
Gavin said nothing, and turned back to his meal.
"The large, loud one is Leon, and it would be best for you to avoid his hammer in battle," Marshall said.
Leon Acker was a large man, even bigger than Titus. His big brown eyes matched his massive beard that hung far below his chin. On his back he had a large war hammer, clearly capable of breaking through limbs with a the right wielder. "It's good to meet you all! Marshall told us at least one new recruit would be joining us!" He shook their hands with freakish strength, and Daniel could have sworn that Leon was trying to break it.
Daniel rubbed now sore hand, and looked at Marshall. Leon had said that a new recruit would be joining them, and he obviously meant Daniel. Which meant that Marshall planned for Daniel to join his ranks directly from the very beginning. Daniel knew he owed his commanding officer even more than before.
Marshall cleared his throat, and Leon took the hint and sat back down. "Now then, the quiet one there is Dunn Alikos. He hardly ever speaks, but he's a smart and loyal officer that I'm lucky to have."
Dunn, as if on cue, didn't say anything giving them only a the slightest of nods. He had a small head, and smooth black hair that he tied to a small ponytail. He had no facial hair either, but a strange mark on the his neck.
Titus saw it first and asked, "I don't mean to be impolite, but what is that strange mark on your neck? Is it some sort of tattoo?"
Marshall swung his head over quickly and gave Titus an angry look. "Don't ask him about it! He-"
"It's alright Marshall," Dunn said quietly. "If we will all be fighting together, than they should know. This mark is a tattoo that was forcefully given to me when I was a child. It's a slave mark from Audun."
"Audun? One of the desert countries far east of Ansinore, right?" Cloud asked.
"Indeed, I was a slave there as a child, before hiding away on a ship that came to Rulandia," Dunn explained. "I have lived here serving the King ever since."
"I see," Titus said, not expecting an answer such as that.
"Anyway," Marshall said stepping forward, "You will be seeing a lot of each other lately. And expect to move out soon to the south. If I know Dylan, he won't sit back to let Mendun storm through the southern parts of the country. he'll want to meet Mendun head on."
Leon clutched at the hammer on his back. "And we wouldn't want it any other way, right Sergeant?"
"I will speak with Dylan soon, and if he wants us to lead the intercepting force, than we will," Marshall confirmed. "Best get some rest, all of you. We could be moving out within the next day or so."
End of chapter...