"COMPANY!" Kilroy boomed. "ATTEN-TION!"
One hundred and seven left feet hit the stonework in a disorganized trill. The execution was poor, but two weeks of training was nowhere near enough to produce an elite soldier.
"COMPANY! STAND AT - EASE!" Another machine gun of feet.
"Rest!" he shouted. "If I call your name, fall out and make your way over to Captain Lawrence on my left."
"Acara! Anthony! Atkinson! Briggs! Briston!" the men and women fell out of the ranks one at a time as their name was called. Barnaby honestly didn't know it was alphabetical order (on account of not knowing the alphabet), so he remained anxious long after his name was skipped. Jon eventually left the rank, as did Elizabeth right at the end.
"Those names I called out!" Kilroy called, directed at the fifty-two recruits standing by the officer. "Will be joining the 10th Brigade in Howling Fjord! The rest of you!" he directed at the remnants. "Will be joining the 9th in Dragonblight!"
Barnaby's felt a pang of disappointment somewhere in the overwhelming excitement. Dragonblight seemed a horrible enough place - perfect for a fresh private to test his mettle - but he didn't enjoy the idea of being split up with his friend of twelve years. Riley, Decklyn and Katherine were still with him, as was the Kul Tiras rogue Marcus. He supposed it could have been worse.
"Company! To your duties! FALL - OUT!"
More bad drill. Once they were released from the ranks the new Privates left were summoned to a Lieutenant.
"Morning lads." he began. He stood a little taller than Barnaby and barely a year older, clean-shaven and a short, respectable cut of blonde hair. A knight's tabard - despite not being a Knight-Lieutenant and embelishments endorsed his rank.
"My name is Lieutenant Karl, ladies and gentlemen." he said. "2IC Charlie Company, 77th Battlaion, 9th Brigade. To you, that means I'm just another face among the twelve footmen companies that make up the Brigade. Some of you." he began pacing, making eye contact where he could. "May fall under my command. If so, good to have you. If not, let's hope we aren't shredded enough to start amalgamating and keep it that way."
Decklyn laughed. Most had no idea what 'amalgamating' means.
"We're marching in four hours with a supply train bound for Fordragon Hold." Karl said. "Make no mistake - the Scourge could swarm en masse five minutes out of that gate. I want each and every one of you formed up at the gate in three and a half hours, ready to destroy anything that rears its ugly head at us. Questions?"
Katherine raised her hand.
"Private Katherine, sir." she started, prompting Barnaby to make a mental note to do the same if needed. "What other units are we travelling with, sir? Fighting units that is, sir."
"Good question, Private." the officer replied. "The convoy itself has a battalion of footmen and a company of heavy cavalry in escort, which should do most of the fighting should anything come our way. We also have a company of dwarven riflemen for the first leg - they're escorting some engineers up to Fizzcrank Airstrip." Barnaby was amazed the lieutenant had such a grasp on his situational awareness and decided it must be an officer thing. "A detatchment of Sentinels from Star's Rest have also offered security for us once we enter Dragonblight proper.
No one put their hand up.
"Good. Go get your things, ladies and gents."
Everyone remained nervously put. A few stirred uncertainly. Lieutenant Karl made a friendly shooing gesture.
"Go! You have your timing, I'll see you all there."
Katherine left, inciting confidence in everyone else to move. Barnaby left for the sleeping quarters where he gathered his things. He could be killing Scourge in four hours! It hardly seemed real. Two weeks ago he was on a steamboat, six weeks ago he was in Theramore telling his boss 'I quit, I'm joining the army.' with a grin on his face. Two weeks from now he could be in Dragonblight, or dead, his flesh rotting and his teeth in the neck of a former comrade.
Plunging into the unknown never felt so exciting.
It took fifteen minutes to tidy up and hand back what training equipment the staff wanted, though some hardly seemed to have started by the time he was good to go. He went back to the courtyard where scores of new privates were saying their farewells and last conversations. He took two steps before Elizabeth found him.
"Hey you." he said happily. "Howling Fjord eh? I heard that the vrykul like to wear the entrails of their enemies like a necklace."
She made a stern face and shoved him, obviously not finding it funny. Barnaby laughed anyway.
"Lighten up." he said.
"Easy for you to say Mr Semi-finalist." she replied. "I was beaten in three seconds."
"Any luck on the quartermaster thing?"
"Redf- Jon asked if any of us would be doing administration jobs, though he worded it like he didn't want to himself. The Captain said we would be assigned jobs once we get to the Fjord in a fortnight."
"A few weeks?" Barnaby asked. "When do you march?"
"We're taking a ship in four days. What about your group?"
"We're marching in four hours."
"Oh." that seemed to quieten her a little.
"I just wish the march was now. Get on with it already, y'know?"
"Oh. Okay." she said. "I- I never thanked you for looking out for me."
Barnaby chuckled. "I honestly didn't do anything."
"You did more than most." she said, reddening a little. "I wish I could have returned the favor."
He offered his hand and she shook it ladylike. "I could think of something."
Before she could react, he leaned in and stole a kiss.
"Oh- I- Uh..." if she wasn't blushing before, she was now. Her face gradually went scarlet as she fidgeted with her hair, at a loss for words.
"Take care of yourself, love." Barnaby said with a childish grin and left her to find Jon. It didn't take long, as he had been watching the exchange and laughed when Barnaby approached.
"She'll be aching for you for weeks now." Jon said, slapping Barnaby on the shoulder.
"It's one way to leave an impression." Barnaby replied and the two almost giggled. Jon had a girl named Angela back on Theramore so by some twisted logic Barnaby couldn't understand, tried not to flirt with other women. Nice girl, loyal as far as he could tell. A brief silence fell between them.
"At least we'll have different stories during leave."
"There is that." Barnaby conceded. "Plus living with you was hard enough. Not sure how I could have coped living *and* working with you."
They laughed, and Barnaby got shoved for a second time.
"Kill one for me?"
"I'll send you his head."
They shook hands and Barnaby left the barracks with his things. A quick meander around the Keep yielded a lot of killed time and before he knew it, he was at the gate with fifty-four other privates and Lieuteant Karl conducting a role-call. Dragonblight was just a short march away.