Sureshot Excerpt: Training

I drew very literally from my own basic training experience to write the pages about Durbar’s training. They are some of my favorite scenes.

The next morning came quickly for Durbar. He was up with the sun, but noticed little about the spring’s beauty as he prepared to leave his temporary home at the Lone Pine Inn. He thought of very little except what the day would bring as he washed his face and put his clothes on. No one else was up yet, and he knew this, so he dropped some coins on the counter and left. He didn’t look back at the inn, walking toward the garrison. The sun was low in the sky and the mud of the streets was still frozen from the night’s frost. As he approached the garrison, he heard the sound of a horn apparently signaling something. The new recruit would soon learn what every signal meant.
He reached the guards at the entrance where he had entered before. It was the main entrance through the walls that surrounded the garrison, separating it from the rest of the city. The guards halted him and ordered him to identify himself. Durbar answered with his name and his purpose. They knew who he was, and one of them offered to lead him to the training barracks. It was normal for one of the guards to escort a new recruit to the training area. Durbar didn’t realize that there were separate barracks for trainees.
“You mean, I won’t be staying with all the other men?” he asked the guard.
“Nay, not yet anyway. After your training, you will; that is, of course, if you make it. I’m sure you won’t have a problem, if everything I’ve heard is true,” explained the soldier. “Follow me.”
So, Durbar followed the soldier through the main building where there were soldiers everywhere getting dressed and preparing for the day. They paid little heed to Durbar as he walked by them. They were all focused on their morning routine. The soldier led the young woodsman through the building and exited on the far side into the center of the compound. They walked over a small hill and some buildings came into view by the outer wall of the garrison. They were made of logs like most everything else. In the square that the buildings formed, there was a bit of a scramble. About twenty men were running about and appeared to be forming into some kind of an order. There was only one man who wasn’t running. Durbar could hear him at a distance.
“Move it! Faster! Form up!” he commanded.
“That’s Captain Noashk,” Durbar’s escort declared, “the officer in charge of training. He’ll be your new family. Don’t worry. He only yells at you if he likes you. You’ll do fine, trust me.”
“If you say so,” is all Durbar could say as he began to doubt his decision. They continued their approach, and by now all of the other recruits had formed four ranks of about five men each. The two men reached the group.
“Captain Noashk, Sir, here is another recruit, Sir,” shouted the guard in a loud voice.
“Thank you, Sergeant, you’re dismissed,” replied Noashk without turning from his formation. The men in the formation were being as still as they could, but most were fidgeting a little.
“Good luck,” encouraged the soldier that led Durbar there, and with that, he turned and headed back to his post. Durbar was also trying to be still. He held his bow in his left hand. His knapsack was over his left shoulder and his quiver over his right. He was still, as if anticipating an attack. He was poised to spring and run at any moment. Slowly Noashk turned around. He wasn’t a large man, at least not in stature, but he did have strength. He was wearing a black leather tunic with metal studs sewn onto it. He also wore black studded leather pants and heavy leather boots. His tunic did not have any sleeves but around his wrists he wore bracers. A sword was attached to his left hip. His head was bald but his face bore a trimmed dark gray beard. He studied Durbar for a moment, looking at him from head to toe; he noted the bow in Durbar’s hand.
“You’re Sureshot, no?” he asked calmly.
“Yes,” Durbar answered hesitantly. As soon as the word left his mouth Noashk exploded into a rage and charged Durbar stopping just short of the young man’s face. Durbar froze.
“Address me as ‘Sir,’ boy, or I’ll throw you over the wall or maybe I’ll just cut your tongue out!” screamed the man, his face only inches from Durbar’s. “You wouldn’t like that would you?” Durbar didn’t respond out of fear. “Answer me!”
“No,” replied Durbar timidly.
“No what?” yelled the man.
“No, Sir.”
“That’s right. Now I’m just going to say this once so you better listen,” Noashk lowered his deep, scratchy voice. “I don’t care if you think you already can do something. I don’t care if you think you are already fit to serve at this unit. I don’t care if you are the best bowman around or even in all of Dirka. Here you are all the same to me. I call the shots around here. I just want to make that clear. Now that we got that straight, go inside and talk to Sergeant Urlaum. He will get you the things you need. Then we’ll find out if you are good enough to be a part of this garrison,” he paused as if expecting Durbar to do something. “Go!” he shouted. Durbar dashed toward the building, his backpack banging on his back and his bow swinging with his arm. He ran inside the building and quickly assessed the area trying to remember what he was supposed to do when he got there. He saw a man at the far south end of the building. He trotted over to him still feeling some urgency but not as much as he had initially. The man noticed Durbar when he ran in and addressed him as he neared.
“New recruit?” he asked.
“Yes, I mean, yes Sir,” Durbar stammered.

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