Vol.1, Ch.2, P.2
Revision – 2022.10.27
The assembled recruits soon dispersed, each heading off to the offices of his respective brigade.
These offices were not individual buildings in and of themselves, but were instead each housed in different sections of the headquarters proper. Large spaces they were, but for its part, the Owlcrane Brigade had no office of its own, and for good reason: it is, for all intents and purposes, a cut above the other brigades.
Only a select few compose this special unit, but what it lacks in number, it makes up with executive privilege, for its members are counted amongst the highest echelons of the 5th’s leadership. As such, they are each accorded a private quarters of their own, and as with the mareschal, the Owlcranes are often occupied with administrative duties, and so are not ones to while away in the confines of an office.
All fine and well, but there was one matter: I knew not of where to report. I relayed my situation to the under-mareschal, who then proceeded to beckon to a man nearby.
“Kranz,” he called. “Gerd Kranz! The Owlcranes move to flock as well?”
“They do, sir. I go to join with them myself,” the officer confirmed. Well-groomed and well-shaped of hair and nose, this “Gerd”, and he was, by all accounts, the image of a dashing young man.
“Take this fledgling along then, will you? He’s one of yours now.”
“Him?” Sharp eyes darted to me. “Will do, sir.” With a swift turn upon his heels, Gerd proceeded on his way. “Come.”
“Aye, sir,” I answered, trailing him.
From the sound of the earlier exchange, Gerd, too, wore the feathers of the Owlcrane Brigade. And befitting of that executive position, silver armour adorned his entire body.
Through the training grounds we walked, and finally leaving it, entered the opulent monolith that was the headquarters proper. Its halls bustled with personnel, made busier still with the influx of recruits finding their way. Not so with the second floor, where we then found ourselves.
As we emerged into an empty corridor, Gerd spoke up once more.
“So, what’s your deal?”
Our voices, along with our footfalls, echoed through the ornate space.
“I’ve heard of you.” Gerd turned to me, leering as he walked. “Of how there’s nary a wisp of odyl in that soul of yours. But hearsay is a thing to be gainsaid. So I say again: what is your deal?”
In those eyes: unclouded scorn.
“It is my lot, sir,” I answered evenly. “The face of the dice cast by the Roun of Orisons.”
“By the Deiva’s hand, you mean. Hands that bore you no gift—none at all. Is that it?”
“That is correct, yes.”
“Yoná, Almighty,” he turned ahead with a mutter. The very idea of a man left odylless seemed utterly incredulous to Gerd. “Even Her benevolence has its bounds, then.”
“It would seem so.”
“Benevolence that sooner spared your soul than spared you a scrap of odyl. What humour is this?”
“I’m afraid I’m just as baffled.”
A man ungraced. He who should not walk this earth. To such a man—deviant of the world’s order—Gerd showed his unbridled disgust.
“And so the black sheep of Yoná’s herd intends to join the Order. With what foul aim, I wonder?”
“The aim of becoming a knight, sir.”
“Look here, you.”
With a twist of his heels and shoulders both, Gerd set himself right into my midst and seized me by the collars. A thud bellowed down the marbled halls as I was pressed against the wall.
“We’re not here to frolic and make merry,” he said in a low voice, seething with ire. “This place smells of banquets to your cur snout, does it? Huh? Think yourself the silver-spoon hound? Here to lick your helpings of fiefs and titles off the silver platters? Is that what the 5th is to you? Well, sorry to say, hound, that’s hardly the way of things here. Serious business, it is—day in, day out.”
The grip on my collars strained with pure force.
“Sir, I am not come for decorations,” I clarified. “Knighthood is what I seek; that is no lie.”
“What are you playing at, hm? A discarded dog dares to don the armour of his knightly masters; how will he, now? Huh? Your fangs, your claws, they are dead and dulled of all sharpness. Yet you mean to bare them in battle!?”
“I do. I will.”
With a scornful click of his tongue, Gerd threw down my collars. Turning about, he resumed on his way.
“Nevermind the lack of odyl—sounds like you’ve not even the wits to figure out your damned place here. Scum, the lot of you.”
Up another staircase we ascended, emerging at the third floor—Gerd’s destination, and perhaps the most exclusive space in the entire building.
“You’ve heard it once at orientation, but I’ll air it again: think to tread here without proper permission, and you best turn back,” he warned.
“Understood, sir,” I answered.
“Oh? Did you, now? Really? A stone might more swiftly understand than you, by my measure.”
It seemed Gerd took no small umbrage from having to show me through so consecrated a section of the headquarters.
“Then it’s lost that race, sir; I shall request permission for entry as needed.”
Following him through the black marble corridor, we soon arrived at a door adorned with a title plate, reading “Chamber of the Knight Mareschal”. Gerd gave a knock and proceeded inside. I followed, finding the room occupied with four other knights.
“Officer Gerd Kranz, reporting.” A salute directed at a man seated further in: Bartt Tallien himself, Knight Mareschal to the 5th Chivalric Order.
“Come, have you? Our parliament of four is assembled, then,” said Tallien. Those present numbered six in total; it would seem the commander did not count himself—and myself, for that matter. “Behold Emilie: the Owlcranes. My personal guard, and your assigned brigade.”
True to his word, Emilie was also here. The new silver armour enshrouding her figure ill-matched the melancholic and apologetic look she laid upon me.
“Introductions, then,” Tallien began again. “First, we have Gerd Kranz, the spellblade. This lad is eldest amongst you all. That being said, he has yet to shed his fledgling feathers, as I am sure you can see. Gerd, I forget your age.”
“Twenty, sir,” answered Gerd. “A pleasure, Emilie. Gerd is my name. An honour it is to have you.”
“The pleasure and honour are mine both, thank you,” returned Emilie. The two then shook hands.
Twenty years of age. Already the eldest in this unit. While the 5th was well-known for its high turnover, it was especially so for the Owlcranes, from the look of it. Then again, being twenty here meant five years spent in service. And with this being the start of his sixth, Gerd’s was certainly not the tenure of a novice.
“Next, we have Raakel Nyholm, warrior of magicks, and our surgien, Sheila Larsen,” Tallien continued.
“Raakel, that be me,” the warrior greeted. “Already caught word o’ ye, I have—the one with the er… ‘Aureola’, were it?”
“Th-that’s right. The particulars escape me, but Yoná’s ways are ever a mystery, ‘twould seem,” were Emilie’s humble words.
“Another ace in us ranks, ey? Chuff’d to hear it. I reckon ye’ll be doin’ fine service fer us.”
Hands were shaken once again, and another was offered forth.
“Miss Emilie, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I am Sheila, a mender,” the last of the Owlcranes curtsied. “The crossing of our paths is surely the charity of Yoná, Deiva Most Divine. For this, I am most thankful.”
“The pleasure is mine, Officer Sheila,” Emilie curtsied back. “‘Tis my sincere hope to work well hand-in-hand with the both of you.”
These two new women seemed younger somewhat than Gerd, by no more than a couple years perhaps.
Raakel was the larger of the two, tall of figure and crowned with a blaze of red hair. Her toned yet supple muscles were apparent even through her uniform. Rather than a swordfighter, she was classified as a warrior, a fact made clear by the silver war-maul slung at her lower back.
The other, Sheila, seemed the opposite, with long, dark hair tinged in blue. Being capable of mending magicks makes one an indispensable asset in combat, but it seemed that Sheila was also blessed with an immense degree of odyl, befitting of her position as an executive officer. The seeming portrait of a surgien, she held her choice weapon, the silver staff, close to her bosom.
“You are amidst the mighty, Emilie. And like you, they are all hatched from ennobled nests. Let us get along, shall we?” said Tallien.
It was then that he rose from his desk and sauntered to the centre of the room, elaborating upon the Owlcrane Brigade’s purpose in the meanwhile.
“At its core, this unit serves as my shield—a retinue of bodyguards, if you will. However, be not so fain to seek battle, for any situation that calls for my direct intervention is—well, nothing short of an ‘operational misadventure’ by that point, I should say. Nasty business, it is, one that this unit should never be forced to deal with, simply put. Do you understand this, Emilie?”
“Er… yes, I do.”
“Yet the bodyguards to a commander such as I must needs be no less than the very best. And so it is with this unit. Therefore must you always hone both skill and coordination with your fellow Owlcranes. To that end, I entreat that you steel your resolve and fulfil your duties to the very best of your ability.”
“Y-yes, Mareschal! I will!” Emilie nearly yelped from nervousness.
“I suppose it will not do to work you so, today being your first with us and all. Emilie, you are dismissed. Spend the rest of the day as you please,” said Tallien. “Hah, I jest! Let us not make roost-whilers of ourselves. Come now! We fly to the training grounds. I must needs measure how boldly your talons bite, Dame Emilie!”
With the war against the Nafílim having long settled into an unceasing state of conflict, even the 5th—known, as it was, for being solely where the sons and daughters of the nobility come to earn their investitures—could ill-afford to stagnate into a band of dallying knights, idly awaiting their reward or their reckoning. The Owlcranes themselves were no different. Their faces were stern as they headed off to the training grounds—faces that spared not a single glance upon me.
That is, save for Emilie.
“Um, Mareschal, sir…” she called to Tallien, whilst glimpsing sporadically at me.
This would be the first time the mareschal and I made eye contact. But the moment lasted no more than an instant before Tallien’s glance broke away.
“Come,” he commanded, devoid of any interest.
Orders, clear and concise—well-becoming a nest of knights.
(Language: Germanic family) A given name that is a shortened derivative of Gerhard and Gerardus. The g consonant follows Swedish pronunciation, and thus is pronounced with a y sound (as it occurs before a front vowel), as in “yarn” or “yet”.