Training— Day 1
Before the dawn had arisen, Rebekka and Mason were making their way through the wakening streets of the Slums. Their benefactor, Fishker was his name, had sent them on their way with kindness and a small stack of provisions. He supplied them with little loaf of bread, some cheese; supposing they may not be in time for first meal, and a small, sweet tart.
“Here’s a thing of bread and nice slice of cheese for the two of you,” Fishker said wrapping the loaf in a thing of paper. The very building Rebekka and Mason were sheltered happened to be Fishker’s very own bakery. “First meals generally start quite early in the Sect and I have a small doubt you will be in time for it.”
“What’s the tart for?”” Mason asked eyeing it as he placed it in a gift box.
“The tart,” he told her, “is a gift for Yorin. He happens to be an old friend of mine.”
“Who is this Yorin?” Rebekka asked taking the sack up.
“He should be a keeper of your garrison. You did say you were under Bastōn’s command yes?”
“Oh, so that’s his name,” Mason said trying to peek into the sack. “Quite odd that he didn’t properly introduce himself.”
Fishker stroked his chin. “Yes, my friend has a mysterious way. Introductions are nothing,’ he’d say, ‘One can always change their name when the time is needed.’ Oh, but it is time for the two of you to go. The streets will be busy in the coming hour.” He led them to the door and opened it.
“Remember the treat I packed. If Yorin finds you, and I’m sure he will, the treat will save you from his wrath.” He trailed of muttering, “But I hope Matina doesn’t happen to catch him. He has my pity if she does.”
Before stepping out into the alley, Rebekka turned to the old man and bowed her head with a hand over her heart. This was a sign of deep gratitude, which Fishker return with a customary nod. Mason, following Rebekka’s example, repeated the gesture. After a final farewell, the two left Fishker’s household, headed for the garrisons.
“Mason hold on a moment,” Rebekka said and looked around into the garrison’s inner court. There wasn’t a soul to be seen, only the stones washed in the cold dawn greeted them. “Alright its empty. Let’s go before anyone sees us.” They hurriedly rounded the corner and headed for the doorway leading to the rest of the garrison.
“Ah, ah, ah,” someone said behind them. They froze in their tracks. “Where do you two misses think you are to be going?”
Rebekka and Mason turned to face the garrison keeper. He looked rather snappy in his suit of clothes, not a wrinkle to be found on any inch of him… well, except his face. He waited for his answer expectantly.
“Ahhhh… we were just–” Rebekka began.
He shook a finger. “Don’t start your lying. Matina told me the two of you were missing in your bunks when she woke the other recruits an hour ago. Now I will ask only once.” He bent and leaned closer. “Where were the two of you last night?”
Under the knowing eye of the garrison keeper, Rebekka knew there was no use trying to concoct an elaborate fib.
“Well,” Mason began with her nose up, “If you really want to know, we just happened to wake before all the others including yourself and Matina and go for a nice sprint in the morning air. We must have taken a wrong turn along the way and gotten lost, but fortunately we met a kind man by the name of Fishker.”
At the name Yorin’s brows perked. “Fishker you say?”
“Yes. Elderly man, a little stooped, with kind brown eyes. Lives with his family and happens to be a baker. Oh, and I almost forgot. He told us to give you this.”
Mason nudged Rebekka out of her spellbound amazement at her carefully crafted story and cleared her throat expectantly. She presented the tart which was in a box all done up in ribbon. Yorin took it up with haste, looked about him secretively, and excitedly peeked into the little box.
“A musenberry tart!” he exclaimed and danced a little jig. “Oh, my favorite!”
“Yorin!” someone called from the garrison and that someone just happened to be Matina. “Yorin! What are you doing out here?”
Yorin grimaced before straightening himself and hiding the box behind his back. He turned to face the squab woman plodding towards them.
“Goodness me Yorin,” she said huffing and all flustered looking. “You have me searching every inch of that building looking for you and here you are. You’re supposed to be helping me get the recruits up. Bastōn won’t be too happy about this.”
“Hey, you said the other recruits had already been awaken,” Mason said and crossed her arms.
Yorin glanced back at her with a frown.
Matina planted her fists on her wide hips. “Yorin what is going on here?”
“Umm…” he replied nervously. “Well, uh-um, you see I, uh, happened to be out early this morning see these two trying to find their way back in the garrison.”
“Ah, yes, and so they told me they had woken before everyone else to have a run about in the morning air, you know young people and their energetic spirit.”
“Get on with it Yorin.”
“Well, that’s it. I was just on my way to helping them back to their bunks.”
Matina looked to Rebekka and Mason. “Is this true girls?”
Simultaneously, they both nodded their heads.
The short woman narrowed her eyes. “Hmm… Then what are you hiding behind your back.”
“Hiding b-behind my back? Woman don’t be absurd.”
“Show me the hands.”
“It is not necessary.”
At that, he hung his head and presented the box.
“I knew it! You had these two go to the bakery for an early morning treat. Yorin shame on you. There is no end to what you’d do just to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours.”
“But Matina I–”
She stuck her nose into the air. “I do not want to hear it!”
“Actually ma’am,” Mason intervened, “we were fortunate to meet a friend of his, in our early morning run, who happened to want this gift delivered to him.”
“And let me guess,” Matina said and cut her eyes to Yorin, “this friend happened to be Fishker.”
“Actually, he was.”
“Happens to be much coincidence in this tale.”
Yorin gave a half-hearted nervous chuckle, but Matina didn’t push any further.
“Come on then. We have to get these recruits up and since the two of you are up also, you can help as well.”
Yorin sighed with relief, cheerfully winked back at Mason, and happily followed alongside Matina. However, Rebekka couldn’t tell if he was happy he had escaped Matina’s wrath or was able to keep his tart.
Following the waking of the entire Third Garrison, as Rebekka had learned it was called, first meal was hastily eaten. In that time, Mason quickly explained a summary of their wild last night adventure and narrow morning escape to Tweedy. Rebekka wanted to tell her it wasn’t so wise to do so, but once Mason started talking there was no stopping her. Luckily Yorin wasn’t around…
After first meal, the recruits were given orders to line up outside in the garrison’s outer court. Dawn was beginning to fade; the sun was just starting to peek over the edge of the world spreading its golden light. Commander Bastōn and the two wizards in blue were waiting there.
“This is all of them?” Commander Bastōn asked Yorin.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “We were sure that every cot was empty… Is there a problem?”
“Problem? No, no problem Yorin. It seems there is much fewer than the last batch.”
“That’s because there is. By ten exactly.”
The commander sighed. “The fewer they send the less survive.” She looked to the wizards and nodded.
Wordlessly, the two turned towards each other and began to chant.
“Wonder what they’re doing?” Tweedy asked to no one in particular.
Mason grinned and said, “Casting a spell.” She then erupted into a merry little chortle afterward.
Tweedy grinned. “How funny, who knew Mason was such the jokester. Seriously though, I wonder what they’re doing.”
“Maybe they’ll turn us into mice and squash us all.”
“And why would they do that?” Rebekka asked. “We’re here as recruits not to be experiments.”
Mason shrugged, “How should I know why?”
“You’re the one who made up the suggestion.”
“Yeah, I made it up, but who’s to say I would know the reason why they would do such a thing.”
“Maybe they’ll do it to see if you can simply survive as a mouse,” Tweedy said. “Just think about it. If you can’t survive being a mouse you can’t survive at all. Poor little mice… with their small feet… and little whiskers. They have it rough you know.”
“Or they could’ve been making a portal,” Swish said and pointed a thumb, “like they did.”
In the space between the two wizards was a rather large oval of translucent silver. It shimmered and slowly swirled into its center, but the edges appeared to dissipate into thin air. Since it had a translucent nature one could somewhat make out what was at the other side, but not by much.
“Listen up!” Commander Bastōn announced loudly, “before the lot of you step through here remember this. Do not stray or try to escape. If you do, the ID collars you were issued on your arrival, will constrict until you pass out or until it snaps your neck and severs your head from your body.” She took a moment to look over the recruits. “Do I make myself clear?”
“That’s what I like to hear. Now let’s see how many of you can survive a ten-mile hike through the Mylian Forests!” She dived in through the portal sending a pulse of light through it.
“Well, what are you all waiting for!” Yorin shouted. “Get a move on! Get! Get!”
Rebekka looked to Mason. “You ready for this?”
“Haven’t been much of a runner, but I think I’ll make it,” she replied. “Or so I hope.”
“Ten-mile hike!” Tweedy exclaimed in a complaint. “I thought Finch said five.”
“Five miles out, five miles back,” Rebekka said. “Makes ten every time.”
“I swear when I get back I’ll give Finch a good lesson on how to give accurate information. He should have said a five-mile hike out instead ‘five-mile hike’.”
“Oh, pipe down and come on,” Swish said. “If we don’t go now we’ll be the last ones through.”
Tweedy simmered down for the moment but was still grumbling even as they jogged through the portal.
(to be continued…)
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© 2020 Alison Bankroft