Ah, the morning, being woken up by songbirds and greeted by loved-one, except if you are Hector, being woken by sleepy guard and greeted by the donkey. 'Oh well,' thought Hector 'still better than the street.'. 'Wake up kid, time to go.' Said guard, 'Come for some food first, trust me you gonna need it.'.
Now Hector had a chance to get a good look at the guard. He was a middle aged man, not too tall but stocky. His hair was short, and beard shaved, from what he could see it was black, contrasting the pale face. He than entered into a guard house, a modest structure, holding the table, furnace and few chairs. On the walls hanged a collection of old wanted lists, and two army-grade crossbows. The guard himself wore a chainmail covered with cloth, alongside hamlet and sword. Symbol of the town,town ringed with trees, lied on the cloth, but otherwise it was brownish pale in color.
'Thanks for everything, sir, but I must ask why did you take me in, not like you are obliged to do so?' Asked grateful Hector.
'Again with the sir, never-mind, why did I took you? Well because you remind me of myself when i got the same brilliant idea, except I was left on the street, not an experience i wish reputing, so yeah that's why.'
Than a hooves stooping could be heard outside on the street. 'Who is the authority of this outpost!' yelled someone outside, 'Here, here, wait a moment.' hurried a guard to the door.
'I am for the time being.' said guard.
'Identify yourself.' said man, and messenger, most likely from the capital, and clearly of a higher rank.
'Corin Sud, Roadwood town watch, and currently the authority of this guard-post, milord.'
'Verywell, the message is as fallowing, 'To all loyal towns of the Estilia, and by the order of the Count Istwan the Wise, a force of recruits are to be raised, from the age of 19-25, for service in Imperial army, at-least some number of recruits must be collected, the gather point is at the nearest army recruitment point, disobedience for the order will be punished.' Now solider, where are the other guard posts at the town?'
'Not many, there's one close to the hall, although you most likely were there, and the one further west on the opposite side of the town, if you hurry you might be able to get to them and reach the next town before night.' explained Corin. The messenger, clearly in the hurry just stormed to the west.
'What was that all about, I have not heard of any war starting?' Asked Hector concerned.
'Nah, most likely replacing old generation of soldiers, they do this from time to time.' answered Corin, used to this stuff, 'Although, you might catch a free ticket out kid, the message often comes with a coach, they come to pick up anyone from the town watch who might be interested, they usually stay at inn nearby, just in the next street, the 'Guard's wife' don't ask about the name long story, anyway if you go now you might catch them.'
'Thanks, that was quite convenient, so this is goodbye. Any last advice?' Said Hector while packing up.
'Stay quiet and never say you are bored, that will go a long way, oh and I heard rumors about forming of mixed companies, if that is a case be very careful what you say or do.'
'Thanks, I hope we see each-other soon.' Thanked Hector one last time before going beside corner.
Close to the eastern guardpost lies the inn 'Guard's wife', a known gathering point for the town guard. Most of the costumers have just finished duty or slacking on the duty. There are quite a few former guardsmen, gathering together to recall old days. Inn itself is quite ordinary on the first sight, but few things make it stick out from the rest. First ,and most obliviously do to number of guardsmen at any given time, it is very rarely robed, with stupid or inexperienced robers quickly finding out why. Secondly do to it's connections with Roadwood's administration this inn is an center for many diplomatic and important trade agreements, usually happening behind in the hidden rooms. Third reason, and most important one for our attempting solider, this is a place where Imperial recruiters come to rest when visiting Roadwood, and today was no exception.
As Hector entered inside he quickly drew views from regulars. He was not a guardsmen, and obviously not a diplomat or important trader, and his age made it quite obvious what he was doing here.
He approached to the innkeeper and before he could ask he got an answer.
'You came for recruitment, have you? '
'Yes, I heard that Imperial recruiters were here.'
'To the left from you, two men next to the window, ask them, seeing that they were out of luck today they might not ask too many questions.' Pointed innkeeper and continued on his work.
Hector approached the two men, both in the Imperial uniform, one on the left had a officers hamlet with feathers, clearly showing a higher rank, while the other had just an ordinary soldiers hat. Despite the deference in rank, the two seamed quite relaxed to one another.
'Men this trip was poor so far, no wonder that the conscription was made mandatory this year.' Complained the solider to the right.
'It seams so, but at least the next station is bound to give us somebody.' Said officer with certainty.
'My lords, if I may ask?' asked Hector nervously, clearly unused to talking with rank that high.
'Sure go ahed, just make it quick, we are going,' Said officer, before speaking to his subordinate 'hey Benci, pay for the beer and get the horses ready, we are leaving as soon as I finish with this lad.' With solider leaving the conversation continued.
'Have you came for the recruitment lad?' Asked officer.
'Yes I heard you are taking volunteers today.'
'Well this is your lucky day lad, you might save us a embarrassment from going empty to our next destination, and you seem like good, strong young lad, I only need your name and basic information like age and any previous training if any, for now?'
'Hector Cabalona, age 19, no previous training.'
'Good, all checked in, it seams we are good to go.' Said officer after writing down information, 'What is the matter lad, relax a little, you are not at the drill yet, save the stiffness for when you get to the army.'
With that out the way they set their coach on the road and moved to next town, or so Hector thought. He noticed that they were moving towards the border and the mountains across it.
'Where are we going, this is not the way to the next town, or any town?' Asked confused Hector.
'Across the Estilian border, and into the Gorije.' answer came from Benci the solider, 'I assume that you heard about it, after all the trade comes trough your town.'
'I know, but what we have with the highlanders anyway, as far as I know they are independent collection of tribes that come from time to time to market at Roadwood.'
'I kinda doubt that's only thing you heard about them, even here at the south we have stories.' Said Benci, still looking at the Hector.
'I have not heard i saw, I saw one of them trow some drunken punk across the street with one arm, when they come to trade they are easy to spot since they are both taller and wider by anybody around them, hell once i came close to one of their women and she looked down on me, let me say it again, the highland WOMAN looked down on me, somebody tall for my surrounding, before that I have never seen women that tall, even man that tall are rare at the lowlands, and worst of all I heard that they send short people to Roadwood in order to not draw to much attention, the 'short' people.' Said Hector, now starting to feel a little afraid, rumors starting to piece together a terrifying image, 'But the latter is most likely an exaggeration.' he reassured himself.
'Incredible' gasped Benci 'we at the south only have stories, there are no direct contact with them.'
'Heh, you kids know nothing if you are awed by this, wait until we get to training ground.' Said officer with an smirk.
'What do you mean sir?' asked Benci, clearly uninformed about what is going on.
'Oh that's right, I still haven't said you, a new order came from Capital for forming of mixed fighting forces, capitalizing on strengths of deferent groups that inhabit the Empire, these highlanders are just one of these groups, even if they are not technically an part of the Empire, but who cares, anyway this is not the most surprising thing you will see.'
'Wait will that mean that old companies got the same order ?' Asked Benci.
'Well yes, in fact we are drooping you off at your company after we pick up the highlanders, rookie as well seeing that you two get along so well.'
'Hear that rookie, you are going to see southland's after-all, and whatever else is dragged there while we travel.'
'Silence we're there' officer hushed them,'now for the you two, they do not have any centralized government, so do not talk like they have one, do not stare, be respectful, and by the gods do not try to flirt with any girls, the men are incredibly protective of the women, you two do not stand the chance in fistfight anyway.'
'Yes sir.' Acknowledged both simultaneously.
At the foothill of the larger hillside the wagon stopped, and two man approached. Hector and Benci tried their best not to stare at the sight before them, the two men were easily towering above them by over the full head and neck, with wide and clearly strong bodies. To further the point both were armed to the teeth, both carried an musked, and a pair of sabers, one had four pistols at his belt, while the other had three. The large powder bag (what they initially mistaken was for water) hanged on the side. They wore vests and shirts, and wide trousers with leather shoes, on the head they had a small, flat cap, and a long hanging mustaches. One was quite older and gray-haired, while the other much younger and black-haired . The two approached the officer. The officer gave them a some piece of paper and they let them go. While the trio continued their journey one thought crossed Hector's mind, 'It was not an exaggeration.'