Answering The Kal
/ooc flashbacks are in italics
Latzu walked in near silence out the back doors of the barracks, wanting to see the clearing in the woods by moonlight, when he could be alone with his thoughts in the near darkness. He walked along cultivated turf paths, past the manicured training grounds and the complex system of lumber and rope that made up the obstacle course, heading for game trail that would lead him deeper into the woods. Though the terrain was unfamiliar to him, this particular trek still brought back memories…
He was twenty two, and looked younger still. Some might mistake him for a true Son who had been gifted at the traditional age, but this was not so. He simply had a youthful look to his features, a healthy vigor, quick twitching muscles and even faster eyes. He was Nothos, and proud of it.
On this day especially, as he walked down the slightly worn path to the clearing with his torch in hand, he was proud.
The natural clearing was certainly large enough, though he would have to send some men to clear out the stumps and poison ivy. While he did not generally believe in interfering with nature, a certain level of cultivation to suit their needs was acceptable in his mind.
He found he could easily imagine the clearing filled with Legionnaires, standing in a circle around a fire that would last the night. The Polemarch looked up to the sky, seeking out the sliver of moon, trying to picture it all in his mind…
As was natural for his kind, he honed in on the sliver moon quickly, assuring himself of its place in the universe…and therefore his own. In the middle of the clearing was a ring of pale stones, and in the center of this there was a small, but intense, fire. Latzu took advantage of the illumination from the fire and the torches, studying the others present. Some would have their first branding, and these young ones looked all too eager, all too nervous, all too green. Others would receive promotions.
And some, like him, would answer the Kal.
Latzu paced a circle around the clearing, measuring, wondering just how many would fit in the space. He could only hope that it would soon become too small. While some of his kind may hold the belief that the only thing worse than gifting a Nothos was –being- a Nothos, Latzu thought this point of view was nothing short of absurd – it was from the Nothos that they would rebuild their Mighty Army once more. Base borns, like him, would restore The Legion to greatness. Ironic that the very taints to the Sons and Daughter’s genealogies were often the ones who chose –not- to procreate by any means, but truly they had the most incentive to take the Kal; not just for the sake of honor, but also true acceptance.
Working his way in a spiral, he came to a place where the stone circle would go, and here he paused, remembering…
He stood perfectly still as he observed the inductions, watching each branding with calm discipline, though inside he still winced with sympathy. All had done well, however; only one fainted and the unfortunate Legionnaire recovered quickly enough. Then came the promotions, which of course meant more marking with the silver brand, more speeches and honors and words from the Strategos.
And then, at last, he and two of his companions were asked to approach the circle and speak their vows. Latzu walked forward, neither quickly nor slowly, and very deliberately drove the torch into the soft earth just inside the stone circle. The three voices spoke the vow as one, the vow that would bind them to the Mighty Army for all their natural lives.
‘We are the torch bearers who light the way.
We are the forerunners who scout the night.
We are the sentinels who guard the dark.
We are the assassins who slay our foes.
We are the warriors who shield our pack
We are the barrier that surrounds them.
We are the Legion, for we are many.
We are the Legion, for we are strong.
I commit my mind to the Legion to hone the blade.
I give my body to the Legion to brace the shield.
I offer up my heart to the Legion to become whole.’
Latzu marked the future ring with his shoe, clearing away pine needles and dead leaves along the way. He could hear the words so clearly in his mind, spoken by a much younger self and two brothers who had gone on to become honored Strategos in their own right. Indeed both honor and acceptance could be found in The Legion, even for Nothos such as them.
He pressed his lips together, which for the Polemarch was a fond smile, recalling old friends…
It seemed as though branding the flames in the center of the rank insignia took much longer than that first marking, but Latzu remained stoic for as long as he could. Even so, the world was turning gray and he was certain he would vomit before the Strategos at last pulled the brand away, leaving the two small flames, red and weeping now, on his hand. The wounds would scar over, just as his other marks had done.
The pain was easy to forget as he felt his brothers’ hands on his shoulders. The only family he would ever have. The only ones he ever needed. And in that moment he could see, not only his peers, his brothers, but the Strategos like a father standing over him, and the newest recruits like true sons and daughters, just behind him.
Deciding he had done what he came here to do and there was no point in getting sentimental, Latzu turned and headed back to the absurdly named residence to turn in. Even so, he could not resist looking over his shoulder, imagining what the clearing would look like with torches standing like sentinels, burning into the night to defy the darkness.