Ch11: A new home
By the time the carriage stopped in front of the barracks, she was positively committed to what she was doing. The commander was frank with her. She would have to follow the rules. She would have to do things she never did before. He knew that the children he had taught before were not used to chores or doing manual work. He also knew that once he got them to task, they all fell in and followed orders. There should be no difference in this one.
Upon exiting the carriage, the commander lifted her down, and as they walked to the massive fortified doors of the guard he held her hand. As they walked up, black and gold paint adorned the solid structure. House Lyrandar flags flew over long poles above another flag. A boar gored on a spike. The symbol was that of the guard itself. The grass was patchy. This is something that she found very odd. Such a big building but no one took care of the things that made it beautiful, and gave it life.
Along the way, she gave in to distractions. Her eyes would look at little nooks or cracks in the walls. Here and there was an odd black mark, parts of solid stone punched missing from what would be a smooth surface. As she wandered, she felt a tug on her arm.
“Focus girl.” as commander Tagrus looked down at her.
Upon reaching the front door they stopped. The door was massive, four doors wide and at least twice as tall as any in her house. The commander banged on the door three times. A head popped over the wall and yelled something she could not understand. The speech of the person was very high and nasally.
Moments later, she could hear the sound of a large timber being moved from the front door. Slowly, it creaked open. Inside, she saw boys and girls of different ages. Some milling, some marching, some doing drills. They all wore the black and gold uniforms of the city guard.
Once inside, the door was closed and again barred. It took three men on either side of the gate to close it. Two large chains on either side of it were used to raise and lower the timber. As it was fit into place, it gave a loud thunk. She wondered, was the door there to keep people out, or in?
As the commander walked, hand in hand with Magdaline, they quickly went to an office located near the front entrance. A broad half elf stood inside behind a desk, and took her name and age. Upon hearing her age, he eyed her warily.
“Sign her up as a recruit under me.”
“I know,” he said. “She will grow here.”
He quickly wrote her information down and gave an assignment of housing for her. C35-23. She had no idea what he was referring to. The half elf saluted the commander and he left the office, leaving her there with a stranger. Upon seeing him leave, she wanted to follow, but he stopped for a moment and commanded her to stay. His voice again resonated. She obeyed.
The corporal led the young girl outside and motioned for an older boy to come and take her to her destination. What approached was a fit and serious looking half elf of almost twenty. He was handsome and dashing. She knew this from the books that her mother would read her. The boy took the paperwork from the corporal and looked at the assignment. He quickly saluted his superior and told the girl to follow him. She followed him. At this point she had no idea where or what was happening, but felt that the commander would be mad at her if she did not follow.
He walked very quickly, almost at a stride where she would not be able to keep up. When she broke into a sprint just to keep up, he immediately turned and told her to walk like a soldier. He was stern and his eyes were piercing. She stopped suddenly, and started walking. When the boy returned to his gait, she found herself torn. She moved her legs as fast as she could without breaking into a run.
“A.” he said pointing to a row of buildings. “B.” with the next. “C.” With that he turned 90 degrees and started walking down a long row of buildings. As she tried to keep up, things suddenly made sense about this place. Everything here must be made of numbers and letters. She was taught well. She could read.
“Thirty five.” He stopped in front of a building, on it was the designation “C35” above the door. He knocked on the door and a matron opened up. He saluted her and gave her the paperwork.
He looked down at the winded girl with a twirl of his hand on her head and said “Now you be a good girl.” And with that, he walked off. His stride was just as fast as when they came.
In the doorway, the half elven woman looked down at her. She wore thin rimmed glasses which had a chain with which she could drop her glasses and wear them around her neck when needed. She looked the paperwork over, then the girl. This was sergeant Lorafean. She was to be the warden of her barracks.
“Come inside.” She said gruffly.
Magdaline complied and entered the barracks. As they moved, they passed from the entryway, through another door that led to the interior of the building. The sergeant pulled a blanket, pillow and uniform from a set of racks on the wall and handed it to Magdaline. As they progressed, she saw rows of cots on each side, Each had a small footlocker at the base, and was very clean. Each was made up, save for a few on the end which did not have any sort of sheets. No other children were in the barracks.
She stopped at the foot of one of the cots. Magdaline gathered quickly that this was hers, as she read the number 23 on it. She started to make her bed, when the woman cleared her throat. “Girl.”
She looked back, startled. “Yes ma’am?”
“You are to do what I tell you, when I tell you to do it. Do you understand?”
“Uh, yes ma’am.” She started to work on her cot again, when again the woman cleared her throat. She stopped, almost unsure of what was going on.
“Stand at attention.” The woman barked.
Magdaline stood straight. She understood what she was supposed to be doing, however, her body did not conform to the right position that the sergeant wanted. She persisted on proding sections of the young girl and telling her to straighten this, or move this here or there. It all seemed a little tedious.
“Salute.” The woman said.
Magdaline tried as best she could, but again was corrected. She had never felt humiliated like this before. She was ashamed.
When the woman was done, she said, “carry on.” This of course meant, “now get to work.”
Magdaline looked at the cot next to hers and worked every detail out. She made her bed just like everyone else and changed her clothes. Once done, it was now unclear what she should do next. She made up her mind to go find the sergeant and see what she should do.
The woman was sitting in the antechamber reading papers when Magdaline knocked on the door. “Come in.”
She slowly opened the door and stood at attention, the best she could. “My bed has been made, ma’am. What do I do next?”
The woman got up, and started walking towards the door. Magdaline was a little unsure what to do, so she moved to the side. The sergeant passed by her on her way to inspect her work. Magdaline followed.
When they reached the cot, the woman scowled. “Did no one teach you how to make a bed properly?” With that, she tore the blanket from the bed, wadded it up and threw it back down. “Do it again.”
Magdaline’s jaw dropped. She felt she was about to cry outright. “I… I did the best I could ma’am.” she retorted.
The woman surveyed the young girl’s emotions. “You will no longer cry.” She said abruptly. “Crying is a weakness here. Do you understand, girl?”
Magdaline wiped her eyes and nodded.
“I am not your maid. ” The sergeant replied harshly. “You will learn to do things the right way. Everything you do from now until you leave this place will be done ‘our’ way.”
The sergeant stood over Magdaline and instructed her on exactly how her bed should be made. She was not kind, and her words threw darts at Magdaline’s soul. When she was done, her bed looked perfect. Just like everyone else’s.