chapter 546 – the heart of the legion

Titus walked the long corridors of his new billet with a training report held in one hand, his face cast in stone as usual. It was difficult though, since the corner of his mouth kept threatening to curl up as he read of his daughter’s training exploits. The centurions in charge of her training had used some interesting terms, ‘manic dedication’, ‘boundless tolerance for bloodshed’ and ‘disturbing disregard for pain’ where a few of his favorites.

The trainers in the Iron Temple didn’t hand out praise lightly, an ornery group of veterans from the deep strata, they prided themselves on producing the best results and the most conditioned Legionaries. Judging by the numbers Morrelia had achieved in her new Class and the growth of her Skills, she’d excelled even by their standards. Pride tinged with sadness welled up within him. He was filled with joy to see Morrelia achieving her potential, but it was bittersweet that her brother would never receive the same opportunities.

He shook his head to shake off the creeping melancholy. Romanus wasn’t served by him wallowing in self-pity and Titus wasn’t about to allow it of himself. He finished reading the report and dropped it into the satchel by his side as he reached a door set into the stone wall. He knocked firmly and opened it without waiting for a reply.

At his entrance, three figures inside the room stood to attention once they caught sight of him. He snapped a quick salute, fist to heart, before waving for them to be at ease.

“Greetings all, just checking in with Aurillia.”

The room was a typical office space in the Legion, sparse and militant, a desk, a bookshelf and a few chairs. Aurillia stood behind the desk, laden with papers whilst two of the younger Legionaries from Liria assisted with the tedious minutiae of administration. Titus had been all too willing to offload the paperwork to his long suffering adjutant, he simply didn’t have the time to look after his own Legionaries since the upper brass were intent on having him run all over the temple for meeting after meeting.

“Any chance you’ve arrived to assist with these requisition forms, commander?” Aurillia asked with an arched brow.

“Not in a million years,” he replied flatly and the faces of the two assistants fell.

Donnelan and Mirryn had been stuck in this office for days now, wading through the demanding beaurocracy of the Abyssal Legion. They’d never imagined that the Legion they’d signed up for so long ago would have such strict requirements for paperwork. When the tribune had pointed out that running an independent army on a global scale required as disciplined an approach to administration as it did to soldier training, they could only nod their heads and agree.

“How’s progress rehoming our Legionaries?” Titus asked.

Aurillia sighed.

“Slow, commander. Very slow. There’s hot spots flaring all over the Dungeon and every commander in the fortress is demanding supplies and reinforcements. Our request to reform our Legion has been accepted, but there seems to be an issue giving us the people we need.”

Titus frowned.

“It’s not unexpected,” he said, “but still disappointing. We were understrength to start with, and after the defense at the Bulwark we are undermanned, but deserving.”

“The last wave pushed a lot of garrisons hard, apparently. There just aren’t enough recruits to go around, commander.”

Titus’ eyes glinted.

“I might have to make use of my connections if this thing is going to get done.”

Aurillia blanched.

“You’d actually try it? With her?”

Titus nodded.

“She’s not that scary,” he said offhandedly, “you just have to get used to her.”

“Maybe to you she’s not,” Aurillia shot back, “I haven’t met her in ten years and she still scared me.”

Donnelan and Myrrin stared at each other wide eyed. Who could the two officers possibly be talking about? Someone able to scare tribune Aurillia? Even intimidate the commander? What sort of legendary figure could this be?!

“Have you even been to see her since we arrived?” Aurillia asked.

“Of course I have,” Titus said, impatient.

“How many times?” Aurillia was skeptical

“Three or four,” Titus mused.

“That’s all? That’s your wife, Titus!”

“She’s busy and so am I,” he harrumphed, “you think I can just march into her office whenever I want?”

Aurillia blinked.

“You can’t?”

“Of course not! If I show up there unannounced, she’d kick me out herself!”

“But now you think you can just wander in there and ask her to give us preferential treatment?”

“No. I have an appointment.”

“You do?”

Titus shrugged.

“It was always going to come down to this. The Abyssal Legion has never had an abundance of resources, we squeeze every centimeter out of what we have. If nothing else, the brass know that whatever they place in my hands won’t be wasted. So I planned ahead and set this up.”

Aurillia ran her eyes over the stacks of paper heaped on her desk.

“Are you telling me,” she said, her voice trembling with barely suppressed rage, “that I’ve been going to war with these damned forms for nothing?”

“No!” He hastened to assure her. “All of this stuff still needs to get done. If we don’t toe the line, we won’t get so much as a sword. If anything, these efforts have been central to our chances of success.”

He ran an eye over his longest serving officer.

“Take a day off Aurillia. After today, our situation will change anyway. You can come back and tackle the paper once we know where we stand.”

He turned to the two young Legionaries who looked as if they were trying to fade into the walls.

“I’ll take these two with me. Minerva always had a soft spot for the young, up and comers. She won’t get too nasty with them around. Get up you two. Time to go meet the Consul.”

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