Chapter Nine - Shieldmates
27 Griev 10.075 Z.C., Mid-morning
Mav and Splatz reported to the barracks, stowing the rest of their new belongings along with eight other roommates. A minotaur sergeant barged in, designated them unit four, and, with emphatic bellows, directed them to a mustering hall where they rejoined the other units of recruits. Mav saw Lilla enter and raised an arm to signal her when one of four sergeants barked at them to line up and stand at attention, berating the sloppy and slow.
New to lining up in formation, chaos reigned while recruits scrambled over each other, attempting to assemble into straight lines. “No, a height-line you brainless thrulls!” commanded the minotaur with breathless exasperation. “Is this disorganized lot the best the city has to offer these days?” they shouted to another sergeant.
Mav’s wojek uncles made sure both he and Splatz could stand at attention before puberty. Moving around their new comrades, however, made matters more difficult. The clumsy process took almost two minutes, and by the end of it, every recruit received at least two personalized tongue lashings from their new instructing sergeants.
Without moving his head, Mav glanced around the large room and marvelled at how fast the transformation occurred. This ragtag assortment of recruits, once discordant independents, now stood in formation and looked quite formidable even dressed in fatigues. His heart swelled with pride; Splatz, Lilla, these others, they were his brothers and sisters now.
Turning his attention to the front of the large room, he summed up the Boros brass and high-ranking officials who filed into the room while the recruits lined up. Familiar with the importance of hierarchy in the Legion, Mav habitually checked rank insignia of uniformed soldiers and officers - even before looking at their faces. He paused for a moment, ensuring his eyes didn’t deceive him - was that Commander Yaszen?
Mav only knew of four commanders in the Legion; the highest rank anyone could reach unless they had wings and a halo. Commanders answered directly to the angels, overseeing entire theaters of the Legions’ operations. Shifting his gaze up from the polished insignia, Mav studied the young officer’s face. Yaszen, in the flesh.
Yaszen flew with Mav’s father, an up-and-comer in the skyknights’ aerobatic wing who shot through the ranks because of his extreme bravery and strategic thinking. The best of the best, and currently commander of Horizon Military Academy. Commander Yaszen did a lot in the last decade to increase the profile of the Legion’s aerial forces throughout Ravnica. His expansion of the program meant more skyknights in the air, and increased Mav and Splatz’ chances of earning a saddle. Assuming they didn’t get kicked out during training, of course.
As if on command, a shaft of bright sunlight streamed in through the tall open windows of the training hall’s arched ceilings. Mav heard the minotaur introduce Yaszen. He stepped forward, his armor gleaming in the light. The room hushed, dazzled by the charismatic presence of the tall, fresh-faced commander as he surveyed his newest recruits.
“All of you standing here before me today are here for different reasons,” he began, his powerful voice carrying easily across the large open hall. He spoke with a resonant voice meant to be followed, accustomed to coordinating a squadron of skyknights over howling winds. His force and confidence alone merited Mav’s attention and loyalty.
“Some of you may have relatives in the Legion already. Some are here seeking a better life for yourselves and your families. Some seek fame and glory, and others respect. From all walks of life, you gathered together here. To join the Legion. To serve Ravnica.” Commander Yaszen paused, the deafening silence underscoring his last words. His steely eyes searched the forty recruits for hesitation before he continued.
“Welcome to your new life. You are now, and always will be, a legionnaire. Whatever you did before, whatever you will do in the future - you are a part of the Legion, now and forever.” Mav heard Lilla swallow hard.
“You are bound in service with every legionnaire of the past, present, and future. Look around you; these are your shieldmates.” Yaszen paused again, and Mav felt a surge of doubt. Could he really be a worthy companion to the rest of them? He glanced over and saw his fellows looking around, really seeing each other for the first time.
Mav felt something cold pierce his awareness, and turned back to see the commander’s authoritative gaze on him. Mav’s knees quavered under the weight of the stare. Did the commander recognize him? He hoped not. But could he keep hiding from his destiny when it stared him in the face?
His heart sped up and he met Yaszen’s gaze, unflinching. Yaszen’s focus moved on to Lilla, lingering for a moment before he scanned a few others.
“Whatever brought you here, you now serve together for one reason alone.” His firm voice carried the solemn weight of duty. “The good of Ravnica. Aurelia and the angels, with righteous mandate vested in them by the Guildpact, oversee the safety and security of Ravnica - of every citizen of Ravnica. This is a daunting task, even for the angels. That is why the Legion needs you, each and every one of you; large, small, and everything in between. By joining the Boros, you’ve become part of a cause larger than yourself. You protect all of Ravnica when you serve the angels with your heart and soul.”
He fell silent again, letting the weight this charge settle on the room. Glancing around, Mav saw kindred spirits. The sense of duty electrified the hall. Exhilaration, tempered now with the pride of belonging. A collective understanding of the risks of service, and the price of doing nothing.
“That is why you are here. You are called to manifest the blessings of the angels - you will keep the people of this great city safe and prosperous. Aurelia’s plans keep Ravnica secure, and they are greater than any one of us, myself included. Serve the Legion with all your heart and soul, and you will see the destiny the angels have laid out before you.”
For a moment, Mav swore Yaszen addressed him directly as he delivered his final words. He probably just imagined it. The angels’ planned for loftier things than the fate of some orphan loser, the commander said it himself.
Yaszen turned the floor over to one Captain Mebor and saluted the recruits from the dais, who returned the gesture with amateurish enthusiasm. As the commander stepped back, a determined giant took his place, arms clasped behind her back as her eyes passed over the assemblage.
“You lot are now squires in the Legion,” she began, her voice dry and her cadence rehearsed. “You will be a squire for four to six weeks. After that, you will graduate to initiate and spend another four to six weeks training to become a soldier. When you graduate to the rank of soldier, you will receive deployment orders. Once you are assigned to your new station, you can apply to become an officer.”
She paused, addressing them with a stern look as she veered off script. “Don’t let me hear any nonsense about wojek training in your first month. I don’t care who you think you are - you might as well be a discounted corpse-ration until you prove yourself as a soldier!” Mav ignored her insinuative glare.
“A cadet has been assigned to each of you for your squire training. You will meet them shortly. You will serve them, and they will push you to meet the requirements for initiation by the end of your six weeks as a squire. You must be literate. You must be able to maintain weapons and armor. You must know Boros regulations, and be honest and obedient. You must be able to care for your own hygiene. Your cadet may also set additional requirements as they see fit. Squires who show promise may be assigned additional duties as couriers, delivering messages to other garrisons. You will graduate when, and only when, your cadet deems you ready.”
She stopped pacing. “Make no mistake: Being part of the Legion is the biggest sacrifice you could ever make. Your every hour belongs to us now. You will eat when you are told to, you will sleep when you are told to, you will shit when you are told to. Not everyone will make it through training. For those of you who do - I look forward to serving with you,” she finished with a salute. The squires saluted back. With a sharp nod, Captain Mebor turned on her heel and led Commander Yaszen and the other senior officers out of the training hall.
The instructing sergeants didn’t miss a beat. Their sudden barrage of shouts startled the squires, who scrambled to remember their unit and rush toward their sergeant. The sergeants led them back to the barracks one unit at a time; as part of unit four, Mav and Splatz were among the last out of the large training hall.
As they marched single file down the maze of hallways leading to the squires’ barracks, Splatz whispered through taut lips, “What do you think our cadets will be like?” Mav shrugged as he considered the possibilities.
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The Boros Bachelor is based on a DnD campaign my husband is running. I've been writing since I was a young teen, and while I don't have as much time to write now that I have a career, my writing has certainly improved. In addition to being a talented dreamweaver and storyteller, my husband has professional editing experience. The Boros Bachelor is a joint project which combines our skills and talents to create something unique. We hope you enjoy our story as much as we do!
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