Book 1 - Page 3

17th of Ties, year 122

Its been an eighth since I came to camp. I've gotten good with the bow and Sergeant Linden wants to enter me in a Guards wide contest next month.

Tomorrow our squad moves to Hill Rampart to do a watch under General Torosh. We're assigned there for the next few eighths.

...The squad was a mixed group of seasoned fighters brought up from posts in the south and green recruits. Over the motley group, Sergeant Linden took charge and tried to shape the squad into a coherent unit.

...Over the next days, Linden and the other more experienced bowmen ran through everything a recruit needed to know to stand in line and fling arrows at the enemy. They trained together and with other squads until they could all fire in a single volley. They also worked at swords, axes, and other implements of combat, but mostly worked on bows and archery.

...Tilland took quickly to the long bows used in the squad and was even able to win a few rounds in their nightly games. True to his word, Captain Fullers returned and checked in on Linden's squad, even challenging them to matches.

...But most of the eighth consisted of marches, training, and relaxing.

..."Fell! My boy!" Sergeant Linden exclaimed after Till's arrow landed less than a flight's width from Linden's own arrow. "You'll be outshooting me by the next moon!" He handed Till a large mug filled with a sour mix of ales called Kay's Blood by the guardsmen.

...Till took a deep drink. "I'd outshoot you now, but don't want to embarrass you in front of your troops." Till replied, clanging his mug against his bow.

...The other squadmen cheered and laughed as Linden sputtered on his drink. Madsen lifted his mug in salute. "Ha!" he exclaimed. "Keep that up and Sarge'll have you assigned to a squad of raw recruits!"

...Till took a second drink. "I'd take over and lead them better than sarge leads this mess of a squad!"

...Sergeant Linden sputtered his drink again, and again the other squadmen cheered at the sport. "That you would, m'boy! That you would." Linden added.

...They all lifted their mugs. "Pax Mortuus!" They cheered.

I could do without the march to get to Hill Rampart. The rains have started and every few hours, we have to stop and get the horse unstuck from whatever hole she had fallen into this time.

...The march to their first assignment after camp training was slow as the early harvest rains had begun and the paths were muddy and slippery. Several squads wound through trees and fields along roads that were often barely visible paths.

...Several times, the squad had to stop and work to get their cart unstuck from this or another hazard on the narrow road. Mud and wet had taken on totally new meanings in the minds of the squads.

...By the beginning of the fourth day, Tilland was quite exhausted from the travel and was quite ready to be there. The other squads in the march were similarly worn and tired, and a unison cheer rose up as the tower of Hill Rampart came into view over the treelines as the noonday sun peaked out from behind scattered clouds.

Hill Rampart is at least cleaner than camp. The troops we are relieving are quite happy to get to go back down.

There are talks of Tremen off less than a day's ride to the west.

...The arrival of the new reinforcement squads gave the existing troops reason to have a celebration. Barrels of Kay's Blood were pierced and fat pigs were gathered from the woods.

...Once the ale started flowing, the outgoing troops were more willing to tell stories of their watch.

...They told stories of raiders and frequent incursion into the territory by Tremen troops. Skirmishes along a river now known as Blood Run. And one battle where General Torosh himself was nearly killed under a hail of bolts lobbed by siege engines.

...The men had seen many battles, but few real casualties. Most attacks started and ended quickly, more tests of limits than real battles, and the wounded were able to make it back to clerics. They were tired and worn, but their spirits were still high and the celebration lasted late into the night.

...Life at Hill Rampart settled into a slow rhythm for the new reinforcements. Most of their days were taken by patrols of the surrounding forests. On their day off, Tilland liked to help round up game from the woods or tend the animals in the pens.

...Tilland even managed to convince Sergeant Linden and others to help with a small garden that had been started by the last group.

...When they weren't on late patrol, the squad would often compete with other squads in games of bolts, piggin, or archery. After many initial losses, the squad got the nickname of Linden's Losers. But for every loss at piggin, the squad won two at archery, so the nickname of Linden's Losers soon became a mark of pride more than derision.

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