Morrelia groaned as she peeled her eyes open. Her eyelids had other ideas and refused to respond to orders. Her brain and muscles immediately fell into a battle, neither side willing to budge until at last, she triumphed and forced her eyes open. A victory, but hard fought. She was already exhausted and all she’d done was open her eyes.
She wouldn’t be defeated like this, not before she’d even rolled out of bed! Slowly, she grit her teeth and began to move her arms and legs. Only slight movements, just a little twitch of a finger, or a curl of toe. Every time she made the attempt, her body would scream with protest and send jagged pokers of pain shooting down her nerves. She was nothing if not determined, or stubborn, her mother would say with a smile, so she persisted. Eventually she was able to clench her hands into fists, which was another win. Then, she was able to shift her feet without significant pain.
Sensing victory, she decided to attempt to leap from her bed in one go. She carefully gathered her strength, grit her teeth in determination and loosened her joints before she flung herself forward! Only to find she moved not a bit, since she was still strapped into the runic armour she’d had on yesterday. In fact, judging by the somewhat lowered perspective she currently enjoyed, it was entirely possible that when she collapsed into bed, the legs on it had broken.
“Crud,” she muttered as her body continued to remind her of its numerous aches.
There was nothing for it. She stifled her groans and levered herself out of bed awkwardly, waddling like a turtle to shift the heavy plates of enchanted stone and metal. She might be strong, stronger than she’d ever been, but this stuff was heavy. Once she was up she was able to appreciate the areas of her skin where the leather strapping had chafed as she slept. A whole new type of pain for her to enjoy during today’s training. Without much time to prepare herself, she grabbed her well-used pot of salve down from her shelf and awkwardly reached between the plates to try and cover the worst of her injuries.
All of the new Legionaries were sharing medicinal tips and this particular ointment had proven to be a boon. Cheap to requisition from the Legionary supply and effective for the price, the stuff was a godsend to Morrelia on a day like this. Ministrations complete, she stomped out of her room and into the corridor before making her way to the gathering square outside. Already, seven other newly promoted Legionaries in full armour stood to attention, watched over by a stone-still centurion. Cheering that she hadn’t been the last to awake, she rushed to take her place in line, posture perfect and gaze determined.
It was another three minutes before the last unfortunates clattered out of the dorm and into the square, by which time the centurion was practically radiating his displeasure. The last to emerge took one frantic glance around the square, which only confirmed her fate. Without even being ordered, she turned toward the parade ground and started running.
“Double it,” the centurion said in clipped tones.
Each of the Legionaries stood in line winced at the fate of their comrade. Double the usual run? That’s ten kilometres in full armour before training even begins! As the unfortunate clanked off, the metal of her boots jarring with each step, the rest of them awaited their instructions for the day. The centurion looked over them with a critical eye, making note of their appearance, their demeanor and how willing their glares were. He firmly believed that cultivating one’s glare was a critical part of Legionary training. If you couldn’t stare down a tier three monster then you shouldn’t be let off the base.
“There aren’t many Legionaries who arrive in the here without having completed their runic armour training,” the centurion began, “but those that do receive the most vigorous and punishing regime the Legion has to offer. The Iron Temple does not produce weak Legionaries.”
Morrelia and the rest nodded firmly. The lot of them had been promoted from all over Pangera and not one of them had gone through anything like what they’d experienced over the last month. Brutal, unforgiving, relentless, merciless centurions had driven them to the brink of breaking down and held them there for the entire duration of their stay. If they weren’t undertaking endless physical drills, they were in the Dungeon, exhausted and fighting until they dropped. Only to get a splash of water in the face and sent back in.
It was madness, but it worked. Morrelia had experienced growth incomparable to anything she’d experienced before. Her stats, her levels, her Skills. All had exploded rapidly, a testament to the quality of training given here.
“Now for today’s assignment, rest!” The centurion barked.
The Legionaries flinched before the words had a chance to soak in. When they had, they only looked confused. Rest? There was never rest! What the heck was this ‘rest’ that he spoke of?!
“Training course is done, Legionaries. Your Classes have reached the required level and your Skills have progressed to the point that you are no longer required to report here. Your time in the Iron Temple is done.”
Relief washed over the faces of most of them, but not Morrelia. The centurion was amused to note a flicker of irritation on her face before it was replaced with a decidedly false smile.
“A report on your training progress and accomplishment will be sent to your commanders. You have two hours before you are expected to report to your divisions, until then, pack and clean your armour.”
“What about the rest?” One of the Legionaries protested.
The centurion shot her a glare.
“That IS your rest! Or would you rather run?” He jerked a thumb at the still running member.
“That’s what I thought. Legionary Faronicus, report to me. The rest of you are dismissed.”
They each crashed a fist over their heart before moving to their duty, an excited babble of chatter rising as they went. Morrelia stepped toward the centurion warily. She hadn’t tried to stand out during her training, but her father’s surname carried certain connotations that she’d only become aware of once she’d arrived.
“Your situation is a little unusual, Legionary, in that your training report will end up in the hands of your father. Before I submit it, I want to be sure you are comfortable with that scenario.”
Morrelia breathed a sigh of relief. If that was all it was, she didn’t have a problem.
“No, that’s fine,” she said.
The centurion looked at the fierce young woman before with approval in his gaze. Commander Titus would no doubt be pleased by the glowing report about to land in his hands. His daughter would be a rare Legionary if she were given the chance to grow.
“Dismissed, Legionary. Good luck in your division.”
“Thank you, centurion.”
Morrelia turned and marched back to her rooms where she began the long and painful process of peeling herself out of her runic armour and cleaning down each individual piece. Before that though, another round of salve.