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Authors: David Fredric

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BOOK: Recruited Mage
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The towels were warm but we were still freezing cold and struggled to get our sopping uniforms off with our numb hands. The men however quickly had a fire burning which helped a lot. We were presented with a new set of uniforms each and gratefully put them on. The uniforms, despite being itchy were
, to our expectations, warm and a relief from sitting around in the rough blankets. We decided to make camp for the night and we erected tents around the fire as a change to sleeping in the wagons. However before we could call it a day, we had a talk on our tunics and were sent to go and get them from our bags. Looking at them again I remembered the thin strips of metal sown into the leather. All we were told was that they are quite heavy and that they are designed to stop swords and not arrows.

It was colder in the tents than in the wagon but I was relieved that Donal had stopped being so sad.

The next morning I felt fresh and well rested but I ate a lot of salted beef before we set off, which my stomach complained about after an hour or so. The only interesting things that happened before noon was Oldross fell asleep and fell out the back of the wagon and someone riding a horse very fast was bucked off when the horse saw some chickens. We were given cold carrot soup for lunch then had a quick spring bow practice at a redroot.

In the evening it was announced we would reach Rayne the next day. It was a relief to know we would soon stop travelling and hopefully stay in one place for a while. We slept in the wagons again and in the morning we had a long target practice because apparently we would do a demonstratio
n to the men who started the Royal Engineers so that they might even mass produce them. I was allowed to sit on the front of the wagon and learnt to drive it. The horses were well trained and I was able to control them well and it was surprisingly easy. We took it in turns however, so I was soon once again in the cramped back of the wagon.

Suddenly around mid-afternoon the road joined into the side of a huge road which could fit four carts side by side. We just gaped as we could see convoys of carts filled with wares stretching far along the road behind us
.  But most exiting was that if we leant around the back we could see Rayne up ahead with huge open gates at least fifty metres high. Along the walls every hundred metres or so where large towers with battlements on the tops and after a while we could begin to make out a few soldiers slowly patrolling the walls.

The North G
ates were soon looming over us and when we reached the stations we had to go to get checked for entry but Commander Beasley showed some papers to the guards and we were allowed straight through. The buildings towered over us in stone splendour and we all craned our necks to see the gargoyles and decorations carved on the tops of churches that were dotted through the city. It felt like the city would go on forever. We barely went half an mile before turning onto a road that would take us straight to the south gate. The city was not all splendour and we soon were going through an area filled with houses and flats and every now and again we caught the smell of human waste. The roads were getting narrower and we started to see beggars in side streets and piles of horse dung littered the streets. We made our way through the increasingly busy streets. Eventually we arrived at the South Gates and continued through miles of farm land. The sun was almost setting when we suddenly crested a hill and spread out before us for at least a mile were thousands of tents with huge gaps in between, which we figured out where the training grounds. Hundreds of bonfires where already lit in the camp but the thousands of soldiers were training, fighting, running, and being taught basic skills. However, we kept going, for a lot further. We went over the crest of another hill and in front of us was a huge compound, looking new in the light of the setting sun. It was painted white with slate tiles. Despite its size there was no more than the ground floor and the roof was more than ten metres high. We all took this in without a problem; it was what we saw next that scared us. On the far side of the buildings where huge pits and cages. Each cage contained a horrific monster. The nearest cages contained what looked like wolves but if you looked closely you could see that the wolves were at least twice the size of normal wolves and covered in black, greasy, course hair. Guessing their size, by comparing the few people that stood beside them, they was at least one metre tall with the tallest reaching around two metres tall. We looked at each other for support as we got closer and our eyes drifted to the other cages behind and the huge pits that stretched tens of metres across and we could only guess at the size and horrors of what may be contained within.

As we drew up to the front we started to hear multitudes of shrieks and bays and clicks that drifted with a light breeze through the compound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 New training

 

 

We climbed out of the wagons with our
bags and started walking toward some large gates joined by tall walls to the buildings, following Commander Beasley. We could see a large courtyard in front through the gates filled with boys lined up in straight and symmetrical rows. I was wondering why they were doing that when I saw a large man walking up and down between them shouting loudly. As we walked through the gates it felt like I was walking into a prison; the walls seemed to be casting huge shadows over everything and the courtyard was grim and bare. The large man saw us and strode in huge steps that were possible because of his huge size that only then became apparent. He was at least seven foot tall and covered in tight skin and muscle. He towered over Commander Beasley as he spoke to him in hushed whispers. We huddled together, all silently agreeing that the man was one of the scariest men we had ever seen and trying to work out what they were saying.

I hope we will not be with him for the next few weeks, he looks like hell.

Before long the man turned quickly to us. “Drop your bags over there by the wall,” he shouted extremely loudly and we bowed our heads and obeyed suddenly feeling insignificant in front of such an imposing man. “Get in to line, now!”

We didn’t dare to hesitate
and ran into line, copying everyone else by standing with our hands by our sides and our heads held high. Everyone was wearing the same uniform as us, so we no longer stood out. The man finished talking to Commander Beasley and then he turned and strode through a door. Commander Beasley strode to a podium towards which we were facing and stepped on to it.

“I am your new Head of T
raining” he said addressing us all.
Yes!
“Now I believe you all arrived yesterday?” The rest of the boys nodded enthusiastically. “Before we get started I need to tell you that we will start moving toward the invasion in one week!”
What? Only one week? Just seven days? I haven’t even held a real sword before!
Everyone else must have been thinking the same thing, because they all started whispering and fidgeting.

“…a
nd because of this,” he continued, “we are starting training for the invasion now so I will now put you into groups for the first exercises.” Commander Beasley split us by our rows and numbered us. I was in Group One and we were taken outside the compound where there was a large range set out.

I saw there were no targets but before I could ask any questions we were handed a crossbow
and a bundle of bolts each. An Engineer called us to gather around him and he explained that we would split into teams of three so we had two people reloading whilst the third person would fire at the targets. He also explained that the targets were operated by ropes and would be pulled up at various intervals by some engineers at the back. When we shot the targets they would be pulled back down.

I went with Donal and another boy who we had not met before and he introduced himself to us as Braden. I winched back the crossbow string and placed on a bolt. Once Donal and Braden were loaded we went over to a position and decided Braden would go first. He stepped up to the front and raised his crossbow to his shoulder
. When everyone was ready an Engineer shouted go and suddenly ten targets were swung up into position; one for every group. Braden aimed at the target most in front of us and pulled the trigger. His bolt shot out and struck the edge of the target where it hit. Next it was Donal’s turn and he stepped forward to aim at the target.

His shot hit nearer the
centre; just next to the figure drawn on the target. Now it was my turn and I stepped into position.

I aimed carefully at the
target and as I breathed out, I fired.

The bolt sailed fo
rward and struck just a few metres to the left of the figured head.
So close.
I stepped back out the way as Braden stepped forward to take another shot. As loaded the crossbow as quickly as I could I realised that we were firing a bolt each in less than twenty seconds.

S
o between the ten groups of us we are firing ninety shots a minute and that is fast!

I had no time to think about it
more though as Donal took his shot. As I stepped forward I saw that both he and Braden had hit the target where the shoulders were depicted. However before I could aim the target was pulled down and another was pulled up. The new target was smaller and looked like a wolf.

I took more carful aim
this time and the bolt flew right into the head of the wolf target. I congratulated myself but before I could Braden stepped forward for his shot.

For the next five minutes we kept going, the target changing every now and again.
There were more wolf targets but there were also other human targets.

Then almost at exactly the same time every group including us ran o
ut of bolts and stopped. A few Engineers ran forward to give us new bolts before returning to behind a wall at the far end of the range where I did not doubt they operated the targets from.

The next five mi
nutes seemed to pass quicker than the first and we had already got our eye in and were hitting the drawings on the targets nearly every time. This time when the engineer came forward to replenish our bolts they were smiling and nodding to each other. We could not guess why but we found out less than a minute later when a huge wooden target ten metres high and wide was pulled up with a large creature with many tentacles drawn on the front.

W
ithin a few seconds dozens of bolts were embedded in to it and in the entire minute that it was held up, the entire surface of the target was covered in at least one hundred bolts. When the target was then pulled down there was a short silence before we heard the Engineers behind the wall at the far end laughing and cheering. Then they came around to the front and started patting us on the backs and congratulating us. Everyone agreed that we had impressed ourselves and the Engineers hugely.

After talking for a few minutes we walked back in to the compound.
Donal and I were called by an Engineer and given the room number Forty Eight. After getting our bags and asking Braden where that was, he showed us to a second courtyard joined on to the first. All around the outside were doors and each had a number on the front.

We looked for number Forty E
ight and found it in the corner of the courtyard to the left of the entrance. The door was wooden and old, and creaked as we opened it.

The room was empty apart from two bunk beds and a small chair. The beds were just
woollen sacks filled with feathers on wooden boards.

Baden turned to us.
“Well, this is where you will be spending the next week.” he said and almost turned to leave but stopped and pointed to a green painted door on the far side of the courtyard. “Oh and I forgot to say that you can relieve yourself through there.” Then Braden turned and walked away towards a group of boys in the courtyard.

Donal and I turns our attention back to our room and cla
imed a top of a bunk bed each, before taking out our blankets and laying them out on the beds.

“So what do you think?” Donal asked.

“Well it could have been worse.” I replied.

“Yes I do suppose we could have been on a long run with that big man then had to carry logs or something.” Donal turned over onto his back and star
ed at the ceiling. “I miss home” he said sadly.

I haven’t thought about that in a long
time, I wish I was back at the Guild. With Billy and Mr Morrin and I suppose Sedys.

Had Mr Morrin really cried when I left? What must he have done without me? Braden walked in.

“Up you get!” he said cheerfully.

“What’s happening?” a
sked Donal.

“Food is happening!” a
nnounced Braden and turned back out into the courtyard.

As quickly as we could we climbed down from the bunk beds and followed him. By now the sun had lowered behind the walls of the compou
nd and shadows bathed the courtyard.

In the
centre of the court yard was a table and on it were large bread buns.

Donal and I sighed.
Just bread? Nothing else?

Once at the table however I saw that the rolls were being cut in half and I saw that the rolls were stuffed with meats and gravy.

When we were given out halves we stood back a bit from everyone else and bit into the rolls.

The bread was soft and the meats well cooked. We could not help is b
ut as we ate this delicious meal, warm drips of the sauce rolled down our chins and we just avoided getting it on our uniforms.

Once we had finished we looked to see if there was any more but it was reserved for the other gro
ups who had not yet returned.  As we were told the other groups jogged in.

We watched hungrily as the groups ate their meal. It was
one of the best meals I had eaten in weeks.

Seeing that nothing else was on offer to eat we walked slowly off to our room and lay back down on our bunk beds.

Before Donal could say anything, Rador and Oldross walked in.

“He
y! How come you two get the good beds?” exclaimed Oldross jokingly.

“Well I did get here first,” r
eplied Donal.

“That is so unfair! Just because we spent lon
ger out doing better stuff than...”

“What did you do?” Donal interrupted before Oldross had finished. “It can’t have been better than what we did; we were on a shooting range
and Engineers pulled up targets for us to shoot. At the end they pulled up a huge target with a monster or something on the front and we completely peppered it! I swear nothing could have survived how many bolts we were firing every minute.”

“Really? We actually were doing the same
thing up over the hill,” said Oldross whilst laying out his blankets on his bed. “How many were you firing?” Then his voice turned sarcastic. “Let me guess four between all of you!”

“No! More like a hundred!”

“Well everyone can do a hundred in a year!”

“Not a year!” s
houted Donal, getting very angry and ignoring that Oldross was just teasing him. “In just a minute!”

I frowned at Oldross indicating for him to stop but he grinned and continued. “Well for your dumb mind it may have been a minute,” I flinched knowing that Rador would not take the
next part of his sentence well, “but to the rest of us it was a year and we all were twenty by the time you took one shot.”

Donal steamed in fury and jumped onto Oldross pinning him to the ground. I decided I should intervene and climbed dow
n from my bed and grabbed Donal, and at the same time Rador grabbed Oldross.

“Calm down Donal!” I shouted as Donal tried to break away from my grip to get back at Oldross. Donal still tried to escape but I had my arms under his arms and clasped behind his head so all he could do was thrash around.

After lots of shouting Donal finally calmed down so I let go of him and he climbed up onto his bunk bed fuming. We lay in silence on our beds trying to get to sleep, none of us wanting to talk in case we infuriated Donal for one reason or another.

After about half an hour I heard Oldross and Rador’s breathing slow down and I assumed they had fallen asleep. I
t was another half an hour before I heard Donal’s breathing slowdown as well.

Only one week!
I pondered before final falling asleep myself.

 

BOOK: Recruited Mage
4.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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