Anvils Should Be Warm (2/2)

The recruits shivered in the cold wind and ankle-deep slush, a ragged sextet of double lines stretching across the Agoge landing field, gazing around them in puzzlement at the empty, frozen wastes stretching to the moon’s horizon in every direction in the dim and ruddy light of distant Arvael and the stormy face of Bastion overhead.

The crack of an activated address system drew their attention, as one, to a single legionary standing by the gate.

”Good day, recruits. I am Marshal mor-Issek Kalvanek, commandant of this facility. Welcome to Agoge, our little training moon.”

”I do not, however, welcome you to the Imperial Legions. Yes, you have been accepted as recruits to the Legions. I’m sure you have all bragged to your friends and families about your new status. That stops now. Disabuse yourself of any such notions that you might have. Legionary is a title that comes at a steep price.”

”Those legionaries in front of you are the Sergeant-Instructors in charge of each section. Their job is to smelt, refine and hammer you, our civilian raw material, into something worthy of the Legions. This training will not be easy. It will, indeed, be the most strenuous period of your lives, however long they extend, and however many wars we send you to. It was designed that way.”

”Those of you who survive to the halfway point of the training you are about to enter into will have earned the right to call yourselves legionary-apprentices. I use the term ’survive’ advisedly; while it is rare for any recruit to graduate without having died at least once, over half of you will wash out or walk out – and I remind you, you are free to leave at any time – before that point is reached. Until then, consider the term ’legionary’ a forbidden word.”

”I have seen some of you looking around you at the landscape. Fort Petrae is 64 miles from here. Before you graduate, you will be required to circumnavigate this moon under full combat conditions to return here, but for today, a nice easy run to your quarters. I will be running with you, and as would be my custom had it ever happened, anyone who beats my time to the Fort will receive a three-day pass for their first weekend off duty.”

”Sergeant-Instructors, take charge of your sections. Begin the Anvil!”