“So out of all people, she wants to privately speak to her?” Tweedy asked.
“That’s what was said wasn’t it?” Swish muttered and prodded at her bowl of porridge.
Tweedy glanced at her with a frown but continued. “First it was the Factory and now you’ve gotten the attention of the superiors. My conclusion: Depending on what you are called for, your future will be either filled with fortune or misfortune, but personally I think misfortune.”
“Misfortune?” Mason exclaimed with a scowl. “How could you say something like that. Isn’t it already enough we’re all here in this dreadful Axon?”
Tweedy, blushing bashfully, cleared his throat and said, “Was only a conclusion and I’m never good at those. Forget I ever said it really.”
Mason’s scowl eased. “You should really be more careful with what you say. A person’s future is nothing to trifle about.”
All the while, Rebekka had been listening quietly, thinking over what the commander may have wanted. She couldn’t tell why, but she had a feeling of impending doom hovering in her mind. Maybe it was the bleak outlook of her new life, or maybe it was the fact of the commander discovering who her father was. Whichever it was, certainly had a way of driving her to the point of silent madness. She pushed her plate of porridge away.
“I can’t take this any longer,” she muttered getting from the table. “I’m through with waiting.”
“You’re going now?” Mason asked. “But you haven’t touched your food.”
“Doesn’t matter. I will not let this suspense rule over my mind.”
“Well, if you aren’t eating your plate, couldn’t I have it?” Tweedy asked and right after received icy looks from both Mason and Swish. “Alright, forget I even asked.”
“I’ll see all of you later,” Rebekka muttered turning to leave.
“You can find us near the fountain if there’s nothing to do.” Tweedy said after her.
Outside the mess hall, Yorin was waiting.
“Ah, there you are,” he said. “That was very… hasty.”
“I didn’t eat,” Rebekka replied.
In silence, he led her out of the garrison. The day was grey and gloomy, and Rebekka was certain rain would come later. She and Yorin walked through the square, passed the blacksmith’s workshop, the leather tanner, and weaved through several busy streets. Eventually, Yorin led her from the familiar parts of the Sect, into the part where the housing was somewhat better and there seemed to be more of a community in place. The people greeted Yorin warmly but weren’t afraid to cast quick glances of distain or even pity Rebekka’s way. Rebekka, however, couldn’t care less of what they thought of her.
The further they went, the more and more of the Axon’s towering wall Rebekka began to see. When she could see nearly all of it, Yorin announced they had reached their destination. Their surroundings had taken a drastic change. Built against the wall, were what looked like garrisons. They weren’t exactly like those the cadets were housed in; they were smaller.
“Garrisons?” Rebekka asked, thinking out loud.
“Yes,” Yorin replied answering her thought. “These are the garrisons for the teams.”
“After the training course, the remaining cadets become teams. Each garrison is for one team.”
“It seems there aren’t many. I only count fifteen.”
“Yes, unfortunately there aren’t many teams. This way.” Yorin began leading her to a separate group of housing. They weren’t garrisons, but neither were they houses.
“What are those up ahead?” Rebekka asked, but Yorin didn’t answer. He was staring off into the distance, looking nervous.
Yorin broke his stare. “Yes?”
“Those buildings, what are they?”
“Oh those? They are the homes of Commanders Bastōn, Stratuss, and Gerrit.”
So that was the cause of his nervousness. Rebekka thought about all of the things he had said and the possible reasons for him being nervous.
“Sir, what will–” she began but Yorin stopped her.
“Please, address me as Yorin.”
“But you are within a rank above me, aren’t you?”
Yorin smiled tautly, almost painfully, “Not anymore, I’m afraid. We are now to be considered equals.”
They reached the first of the houses. All three of them looked the same; a basic coat of paint, two stories high, four windows at the front, and a clay shingled roof. Yorin slipped a ring of keys from his pocket and let himself inside.
“Well, come on then,” he said and waved her in. “I’m not going to leave you out here.”
Rebekka stepped inside and was greatly surprised. The house’s interior was completely different than the exterior. The walls were painted in light mellow tones and though the amount of furniture and décor was small in number, it added grace to the home.
Yorin led her into the guest room which actually contained much more décor than any other part of the house Rebekka was led through. There were vases, paintings on the wall or just stacked and placed against the wall, shields of different types, urns, and many other things. The “guest room” looked more like an exhibition than anything else.
“Ah, she isn’t here,” Yorin noted. “She must be upstairs…. I’ll go fetch her.”
So, Yorin left Rebekka to be alone in the guest room. While she waited, Rebekka took the liberty to study some of the objects in the room. Her eyes aimlessly drifted over the countless items made of wood, stone, or metal. She was rather bored of it all, that is until, her eyes took notice of a particular painting hanging on the wall to her left.
It was a simple painting of serene blue misty mountains, but for Rebekka it was a piece of familiarity. It reminded her of cool mornings, quiet farmlands, summer sunsets, and frozen ponds. It reminded her of home. It was a sad thought, thinking back on the place of her childhood; she hadn’t seen it in years.
“The mountains of Elleris,” someone said.
Rebekka turned from the painting to see Commander Bastōn standing near one of the sofas of the room. She had been so engrossed into her thoughts she didn’t hear her enter. In her own home, Commander Bastōn held a more casual air, but she was still neat and disciplined in appearance. She wore a pair of leather boots, dark colored slim fitting trousers, and a linen long-sleeved shirt. Her black hair, which she usually had tied up, hung just past her shoulders.
“You should know of them,” the commander continued and sat in the sofa she stood by.
“I do,” Rebekka replied. “I would see them every day in the town I spent my childhood.”
“Childhood. The grace given to the world. Yorin.”
At his name, Yorin came into the room carrying a platter. On the platter was a tea set and small cakes with pink frosting on top. Yorin placed the platter on the low table between the sofas and, after a bow, left the two women.
“Sit,” said Commander Bastōn and waved Rebekka to the sofa across from hers.
“Ma’am?” Rebekka asked not sure if this were a test of some sort.
“Sit. I will not have you stand through our entire discussion.”
Cautiously, Rebekka made her way to and sat in the plush sofa before Commander Bastōn. It was unsettling, to be seated before your commanding officer as an equal, but knowing you are no such thing.
“Please,” Commander Bastōn said and waved at the tea and tray of cakes, “Help yourself.”
“I rather not,” Rebekka replied quietly.
One of the Commanders brows lifted, “You reject my hospitality?”
Knowing it would be considered rude if she would have rejected the hospitality, Rebekka poured herself a cup of tea. The commander eased and sipped her own cup.
“I know you’re wondering why I brought you. We must start the day fairly soon, so without explanation, I will say it is to promote you.” When Rebekka didn’t comment, the commander continued. “I’ve noticed your qualities and am impressed by them. I’m not easily impressed, and neither am I always willing to take the position of being a mentor.”
The moment she said mentor, Rebekka wondered what the commander had in mind.
“You will now act as my pupil. I will train you myself, and in turn, you will stand as an example to all of the other cadets and act as their shepherd.” She placed her teacup on the table and folded her hands in her lap.
“You don’t seem to have an opinion in this.”
“Because you have not asked it,” Rebekka replied. This made the commander smile faintly.
“You are a clever young woman. I am already taking a liking to you. What is your opinion if you have any?”
“I do not have opinions, only questions.”
Bastōn nodded for her to continue.
“How does the fisherman know what a lake contains just by the first catch?”
“Because the water is either fresh or salt. You come from a noble line, Lady Pien.”
Rebekka looked down into her cup of tea. “Please,” she whispered, “I do not go by that name.”
“But it is your title. Your father is the retired Senior General and your mother the great witch Shannah. These facts would explain, in part, why I chose you. And there is also the fact that your father trained you. He was the best in our rank….”
Rebekka lifted her gaze, traces of disbelief and shock swirling into her emotions. The commander’s gaze was elsewhere and distant in the land of remanence.
“He was a strong leader…. but a painful friend.” She moved her gaze back to Rebekka and there was something cold there. “And since you are his daughter, I know you carry some of his traits.”
“No, that isn’t true,” Rebekka retorted with a splash of anger.
Bastōn remained composed and calmly asked, “How so?”
“Because he betrays and deserts everyone closest to him. Because he turned his back on his people and the cause they fight for. Because he knew I needed him when he left but didn’t care. It didn’t matter if what he was doing was wrong. And he came back and tried to make me into the same monster he is!”
Rebekka withdrew and swallowed, shocked at her sudden fury. She had said all the angry thoughts she kept hidden in the deepest, darkest parts of her heart, without restraint and without caution. Her gaze flew down to her tea again, but this time in realization.
“You put a truth potion in my tea…” she said absently.
“Not in your tea,” Bastōn replied. “It’s in the entire pot. Just as you would tell the truth to me, I would to you.”
Rebekka placed her teacup on the low table. She did so a little too forcefully and made the tea slosh and spill some.
“I don’t like to be beguiled.”
“As do I, but the truth is the base of every negotiation.”
“And what if I decline?”
“You don’t have a choice. Follow my orders or it’s to the stockade with you until you can learn to obey.”
“Then why ask my opinion?”
“For this very reason. I need your obedience and your will to put forth your absolute best. I know how hard your father trained you. It is the core of the very training procedure used in all four Axons. He made you into the pinnacle of all soldiers because that’s what he wanted to be himself. He was obsessed with it.”
“He didn’t,” Rebekka whispered.
“What was that?”
“He didn’t. I ran away when he wanted me to join him to fight with the invasion.”
“But that’s not to say he wasn’t finished with your training. He had an adage. ‘Every soldier is born through fire,’ meaning for one to find their passion to be a warrior–”
“You mean to kill,” Rebekka shot darkly.
“Do not interrupt. For one to find their passion, they need to be sparked. He may have not been able to ignite your will and determination, but by my word, I will.”
Rebekka stared her in the eyes and knew she was telling the truth. She didn’t need the tea to tell her that.
She took a breath to calm her anger and tightly crossed her arms.
“So,” Commander Bastōn said a little jovially, “all is in order. We will hold our training sessions in the morning before the day starts.”
“But what about Mason?” Rebekka blurted.
“What about her?”
“She needs extra training.”
“She’ll have plenty time to train in the course.”
“No. She won’t survive it.”
“If she’s strong enough she will.”
“But she isn’t, and I promised that I would do whatever it takes to keep her safe. If she falls behind in the training…”
“She’ll be eliminated. Death.”
So, what Rebekka feared was true. The cadets who fell behind were culled.
“By all means, you may continue training her, I never said you couldn’t.”
“But how can I continue if my sessions with you are in the place of hers?”
“Simple. Hold them some other time. But of course, this is if you are willing to take up these challenges. I honestly doubt you will have the energies to.” As she was saying this, Rebekka’s anger was slowly rising to rage. The commander obviously saw this silent anger and looked as pleased as a cat at her being in such a powerless position.
“Any more questions?” she asked politely.
“Can I leave?” Rebekka asked through clenched teeth.
“Yes, you can Lieutenant. Yorin, show her the way out please. And would you get the cadets ready for a mock battle?”
Nearly wanting to burst with rage, Rebekka stood and stormed out the room.
(to be continued…)
Click Here for previous chapter Rebekka: Challenges (pt. 12)
© 2020 Alison Bankroft