The rest of the new Legionaries were gathered together in a cluster at the end of their ward under the watchful eye of a few Centurions.
The young soldiers felt restless. They still didn’t know how to feel towards the Legion and the seniors who had cared for and trained them for so long. The pain of the Baptism was still fresh in their minds, the scars still raw. Many of them felt a strange dual emotion towards the people they had once admired, equal parts anger and respect.
Aurillia stepped forward to address them.
“Thank you for gathering young Legionaries. You have endured the pain of the Baptism and suffered the loss of friends, as have we all” she looked each of them in the eye directly, letting them see that she knew of their pain, shared it.
“I’m sure you’ve felt it already, the changes in your body. You are no longer what you were before. Your very flesh has been infused with mana and this means a few things will change. Firstly, you can never live on the surface without regular doses of liquid mana to support your body. The mana there is too thin. Here inside the Dungeon you’ll be fine but in the upper levels you’ll begin to feel a bit weak”.
Murmurs erupted from the new Legionaries at these words. Unable to live on the surface without liquid mana? If the Legion were the only ones who knew how to make it, isn’t this just another way for them to be controlled?
“It also means” Aurrilia interrupted their thoughts, “that so long as you are able to absorb enough mana you will be able to do things that you had never imagined possible before”.
Now she glared at them. Impressing her will on them. All of them wilted before the strength she held in her gaze.
“I know that you are questioning the Legion, I did once also. When you have experienced the fight we are engaged in for yourself you will no longer hold any such childish notions! If you truly want to protect you loved ones from the horrors of the Dungeon, then you’ve come to the right place. The Abyssal Legion stands on the frontline against the true threats and for thousands of years we have done battle far beneath the surface, an unending war that few people in Liria have ever heard of”.
She glared at them once more.
So saying, she turned and pushed open the heavy wooden doors that separated their ward from the rest of the Legionary building before marching briskly through. The former trainees followed closely behind, trying to not stare at the bustle around them. Legionaries in their customary blackened leather armour stood in guard positions down every down corridor or passage they moved through, auxiliaries dashed about, delivering papers, meals, equipment or any of the million other tasks that the Legion needed done in order to operate. The new Legionaries were hardly spared a glance as they followed behind Aurillia, escorted by the Centurions who followed them.
The castle was carved directly into the wall of the space in which Railleh was situated. As with all things the Legion constructed it was built on very clean lines, straight corridors and square rooms, giving the entire structure a very austere feeling. It was easy to tell that the structure was old. Possibly too old.
Mirryn looked around and made a few estimations in her head before she came to the shocking realisation than this base, indeed, the city of Railleh itself, probably predated Liria by a considerable amount of time. The Legion had been here long before the nation of her birth had even been created? This whole city?
It didn’t make sense. Why would the surface be so neglected that it was the last place to be developed, to be made habitable for people? She thought of her family and their humble history, working hard to carve out a life for themselves in the frontier kingdoms and the pride they had felt at what they achieved in such trying circumstances.
Was it all a joke? There’s an entire city down here! Long before her ancestors had even thought to join the expedition to the frontier.
As she muddled through her conflicted feelings the passage they were travelling through suddenly opened into a vast hall. Mirryn gasped, shocked out of her thoughts by the grand scale of the space they now occupied. A high arched ceiling, buttressed by powerful columns of stone and been carved straight into the rock, ornate, almost delicate supports stretched across the empty space to give strength and proportion to the stone.
Clusters of glowstones illuminated the room in bright light, causing Mirryn to squint against the sudden glare. Down the center of the room, between the columns stood two rows of stone statues raised on marble plinths. Each of the figures was a masterpiece. Incredibly detailed, perfectly proportioned. The level of skill that would go into making such a perfect piece of art boggled the young Legionaries minds.
Each of the statues was a Legionary. Men and women in full battle armour, weapons in hand, standing ready. Most of them were of advanced age, clearly senior officers or veteran soldiers. Scars criss-crossed their faces and arms and their expressions were hard, as if there was little they hadn’t seen. So lifelike were they that it felt as if they could jump down from their plinths and stride into battle at any moment.
“This the hall of remembrance” Aurillia said over her shoulder, “here the greatest members of our branch have been immortilised in stone, preserved for history and for the battles to come”.
She pointed to one of the figures towards the end of the room as they continued to stride through the hall. “Over there is commander Titus’ father, Magnus”.
Almost despite themselves the young Legionaries felt their heads snap around to stare at the statue in the distance. A tall, bull shouldered figure stood there, a great two handed hammer resting on the plinth and held casually in one hand. Even at this distance Mirryn could see that the statues features, broad chin, stern eyes and thick neck were the same as commander Titus.
Some of the trainees were somewhat surprised to learn the commander even had a father. They’d felt as if he’d walked fully formed out of a mountain side…
Once through the hall they were quickly brought into the armoury. Before a large ornate door stood the commander himself, a rare half smile on his lips as he watched his newest Legionaries assemble before him.
Oddly he didn’t say a word to them. He simply turned and pushed open the door before indicating with his head that they should walk through.
Mirryn had somehow found herself in the front. Feeling somewhat nervous she stepped through the grand door and into the darkened space on the other side, cautiously letting her eyes adjust to the gloom before moving too far.
As her vision improved her footsteps slowed until she was completely still, dumbstruck.
Lining the walls on either side of the room where massive suits of armour of obsidian stone and polished steel. An endless network of enchantments webbed the plates, the glittering blue light of residual mana providing most of the illumination in the space.
‘What the heck are these?’ Mirryn thought in wonder.
The commander grinned. “Who wants to suit up first?” he asked.