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#1 [fr] 

Oren pyr Lydia

Yesterday, I applied for a job with the Fyros Legions. You know that ever since I was a kid, I've dreamed of joining them. Mom used to say that they were very rough homins, but as she liked to say, to become a patriot one day and be able to exercise our duty within the empire, there are only two solutions: be rich enough to pay for the rite of citizenship, or become a legionnaire. Legions in fact pay the rite of passage to the authorities, in return for a year's commitment to them.

So, yesterday morning, I went to Pyr, in front of the Cerakos gate. Every month, the legions organize a recruitment session. Here, a dozen of us were waiting. An officer arrived, accompanied by a helmeted legionnaire, and had us line up. Then he explained the legionnaires' rite, saying that it would be very hard and that only a handful would pass. I'd been training for months, pounding the goaris and kipees of the imperial dunes, but looking at the other pretenders, I wondered if I belonged here. Most of them were burly, with a patient look on their faces. It's said that the legions attract a lot of outcasts, even criminals, who hope to regain their virginity by joining the legions. So, at the age of 16, I'll admit that I was in a bit of a pickle.

The first test began without us even having to introduce ourselves. The officer pointed to the first applicant in line and took him aside, towards the cliff of the burnt corridor. Meanwhile, we had to wait in line, neither moving nor speaking, under the mocking eye of the legionnaire who stayed with us. When the officer returned, he was alone. I wondered if he'd thrown the applicant over the cliff. We heard everything and anything about the legionnaires' ritual. The worst I heard was about camping out for a night alone in the devil's bosom. Anyway, we waited like that for hours under the sweltering sun, which was starting to get seriously hot, and no applicants came back. When I was called, it was towards the end. The officer took me to the top of a dune, then asked me to remove my armor and keep only my loincloth on. He then pointed to a large lumper grazing in the distance. A godgin, one of those huge lumpers that sometimes wander around here. The officer then told me to go and fight the lumper with my bare hands. The look on his face was unmistakable. So I went for the godgin. As you can imagine, I didn't last long. He knocked me to the ground with two blows. The officer picked me up and told me to get back into the fight, which I did. How many times did I fall? Frankly, I don't know. I'd been kicked by paws and attacked by thorns, and I'd gone into a rage like you wouldn't believe. It was stupid, I know, but I had no chance of defeating the godgin. Not without weapons, not naked, and certainly not with my little fists. And yet I was going. I was going to fight, again and again. Then the officer said stop and showed me a place, behind a dune, where I met up with other would-be legionnaires. The others and I looked at each other. We didn't know whether we'd passed or failed. None of us dared speak. Some time later, another applicant joined our group. The officer and the legionnaire who had been watching us in front of Pyr joined us. The officer announced that we had passed the first test. I'd passed? And yet I hadn't even managed to scratch the godgin? I later learned that this test was designed to test combativeness. It didn't matter if we managed to kill the lumper, as long as we got up to fight again, it was positive.

By the end of the first round, there were only six of us left. Half had been eliminated. The second round awaited us.

[...]

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#2 [fr] 

The officer explained what the test was all about. We had to get to the town of Thesos, without mektoub, without a teleporter, without the help of anyone or anything, just as we were, in loincloths. Above all, we weren't to help or look after each other. It was every man for himself. Then, with a toothy grin, he turned to the legionnaire and added: "Lyren gives you a 20-second head start". The legionnaire twirled her axe, laughing. We all took off running.

I'd never been to Thesos on foot. Remember, the only time we'd ever been there, just before Dad's death, we'd left on the New Horizons mektub transport to visit one of Mom's old uncles. So I knew we had to go over various bridges to reach the Sawdust Mines and then Thesos. But just as I could see the bridge in the distance, I heard a shout behind me: "'ren pyr, I'm coming!". The legionnaire was running behind us, axe ready to strike. As I was dead last and clearly not a sprinter, I knew the blow would be for me. So I turned left into a narrow canal. Do you remember that canal not far from Pyr that runs down to the forbidden canyon and that Mom forbade us to use? Well, that's where I headed. I didn't really think about it. It was either this or the axe. And given the legionnaire, I knew that one blow from the axe wouldn't get me back up. At the very bottom of the canal, after dodging a gingo, I emerged into the canyon. I could have stopped and turned back, but I was too afraid that the legionnaire would be waiting for me at the top. So I thought, why not go through the canyon? After all, she wouldn't come looking for me here, and there was no time limit to reach Thesos. If I took my time, and hid well, I could avoid the many creatures that haunted this place. Besides, I was curious to explore it. I don't know how long it took me to get out of that damn place, carefully avoiding all dangers, even if it meant sometimes staying more than an hour stashed somewhere waiting for the beasts to move. All I can tell you is that the daylight was starting to fade by the time I finally found my way out.

By the time we reached the Thesos fortress, it was already dark. I thought I was going to be set on fire by the officer, yet when I joined the group of postulants, which now consisted of just two other homins, he gave me a big slap on the back and congratulated me with a "I'm not a homin". selum. He told me he'd followed me discreetly all the way through the canyon before rejoining Thesos once I'd reached the Sawdust Mines. Going through the canyon was a daring undertaking, and few applicants had ever ventured it. Clearly, the ordeal was a test of daring.

So there were only three of us. Three applicants out of twelve, in a terrible state. Sawdust was sticking to our skin along with sweat, and we hadn't eaten or drunk since this morning. We could barely stand. Yet there was still one test left. The interrogation!

[...]

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#3 [fr] 

One by one, the officer called us aside from the group. By the time it was my turn, one of the other two candidates had been eliminated. The officer asked me to stand at attention. Then he asked me three questions. The first was to recall the legionnaires' battle cry. This one was easy. I'd already shouted this when I played legionnaires with my wooden soldiers. Cal i selak! Strength and glory! a rallying cry invented by the legions' founder, the late Ufo. The second question was just as simple. What were the four pillars of the Empire? Even a fool could have answered that: Honor, Truth, Justice, Discipline. I wondered how it was possible that a guy could have failed with such simple questions. The last question had to be a tough one. And it was. The officer then asked me what was the most important pillar in my eyes, justifying myself. I must confess I was taken aback. One pillar more important than another? I thought they were all equal, that one couldn't exist without the others. What could be the most important pillar for a legionnaire? Discipline? While I pondered, the officer waited. He didn't seem in a hurry to hear an answer. I thought back to what he'd told me on my arrival in Thesos, and decided to be bold.
I replied:
"All of them! All pillars are equal, none is more valuable to me. Because favoring one pillar can unbalance the foundations of the Empire."
He looked at me and smiled, then said:
"That's an interesting point of view, although I know one who would disagree."
He told me to join the other successful applicant at the foot of the fortress. What was the purpose of this question? The other applicant, whose name was Herpios, thought that if you were sure enough of your answer, you'd succeed. That it tests assertiveness in some way.

The officer congratulated us on passing the three tests of the legionnaire's rite. He threw a beige suit of armor at our feet and ordered us to get dressed. The armor was heavy and worn. It was the first time I'd ever put on such armor. Then, at his command, we climbed to the top of the fortress stairs. Waiting for us at the top of the stairs was a fyros with a burned face and a horrible hole in the middle of his forehead. His armor was black but gleaming, and on his back he carried an axe of fire even blacker than his armor. I'd never seen Azazor before, the leader of the Fyros legions. He's an akenakos from Thesos, so you hardly ever see him in Pyr. He scared me, I must admit. I was even more scared of him than I was of the ocyx in the forbidden canyon. His blue eyes stared at both of us, shifting from one to the other as if he were judging us. I was dreading a final test. Azazor told us to take a step towards him, which we did. Then he told us, in a loud voice that would wake the inhabitants of Thesos who were asleep at this late hour:
"Malos, you have passed the three tests of the Legionnaire's Rite. Before I present you with the Legions' insignia, you must answer ney to each of my questions."
Then, in an even louder voice, he said:
"Do you accept to be part of the Fyros Legions?"
We tried to say ney as loud as he did. But on the second question, he raised his voice even higher:
"Do you agree to defend the Empire, sharükos and the four pillars, at the risk of your life?"
We also answered ney by trying to outdo him in shouting. But it was hopeless, with each of the other two questions he still seemed to have room to raise his voice in intensity.
"Do you accept to fight with Force in their midst for the Glory of the Empire?"
We shouted ney at the top of our lungs.
"Do you agree to always speak in Truth with other legionnaires?"
Ney, we screamed ney like never before. My throat hurt. I thought I saw a slight smile on his charred face. Then he walked over to us and pinned the coat of arms of the Fyros legions to our breastplates. A beautiful blazon depicting a flame on a yellow and red background. He then ordered us to join the other legionnaires at the bottom of the fortress. As we descended, I noticed some fifty legionnaires waiting for us, lined up at attention.

We then set off at night on a ritual hunt for ploderos somewhere not far from Thesos. When we arrived at the hunting ground, the officer who had supervised our rite turned to us and told us to fetch a dozen barrels of shooki liqueur from the barman's, who was still open despite the hour, and bring them back to the hunting ground. I would later learn that for the next month, this would be one of the many jobs for the "ditalos", as they call the newcomers. At the end of the month, when a new legionnaires' rite took place and we had passed the fyros citizenship rite, we would become authentic legionnaires, but for now, we had to go through it. It was a sort of hazing. We went to bed very late, sleeping in the barracks for the first time. Well, for ditalos like us, on the dormitory floor outside the door.

I had an hour's leave today, so I took the opportunity to write you this letter. We'll have a new one in a week. I'll tell you about our first week of training in a later letter. Right now, I have to go scrub the latrines.

I can't wait to see you again, sis. We'll have a day's leave at the end of the month, once we've become glados, full-fledged legionnaires. You'll be proud when you see me in the red armor of the legionnaires. And we'll visit Mom's grave.

Aby, your beloved brother

Last edited by Azazor (2 months ago)

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#4 [fr] 

oren pyr Lydia

Sorry for the late letter. My first week with the Legions has been particularly tough, and I'm only taking advantage of this weekend off to write to you. So let me describe a typical day.

Already, the dormitory sergeant wakes us up at 5am. The legions call it daikos. Apparently, it used to be 6am, but the new niakünos Azazor is an early riser and prefers to see the legionnaires out at 6am. Anyway, from 5 to 6, we do 200 kamipompes and 200 kamiabdos followed by stretching. We have 10 minutes to eat a piece of dried meat with cheese and water, then go to the rack to get our gear. We have to be out the door, in armor and weapons, by 7am sharp. And when I say sharp, I mean sharp. If you're not lined up in front of the onkos, the cohort lieutenant, at 7 a.m., they'll beat the crap out of you to find out what "tapante" means. The day before yesterday, poor Barillus was kicked by the officer for being 10 seconds late. They've got an hourglass in the yard and it's down to the last grain of sawdust.

Then the whole morning is spent training. We're divided into level groups, each headed by a daikos. Our group, the ditalos, i.e. novices under a month old, stay at the Frahar tower level. We train mainly on them, but also on kitins and varinx. We fight with two-handed axes. We don't have a choice of weapons as ditalos, which is a shame. Only ditalos with combat experience can use magic or other weapons such as the hatchet or the pike. I'd have liked to fight with a sword, but they made me understand that swords were a Matis thing. I didn't dare reply that the Emperor also had a sword. Because yes, if you want to make yourself look good with the atalos, the officers, you have to give the matis a hard time.

I know, atalos, ditalos, daïkos, that's a lot of technical terms. Let's just say that among legionnaires, hierarchy is important. Let me explain. At the very top is the niakünos, Azazor. Just below him are the deokunos and the okunos, known as the lokos. Okunos, who theoretically has the upper hand over deokunos, is akenakos. You might know it as Naveruss. She's a walking terror. They say she can crack your skull between her thighs. And don't think it's a joke. No, the legionnaires who say that look terrified when they talk about it. And yet, it takes a lot to terrorize a legionnaire, believe me. Anyway, under the lokos, you have the atalos. These are the senior officers who hold the key to all the weapons racks. They're made up of hukos, the cohort captains, and onkos, the lieutenants. The hukos have a particular responsibility, such as the management of weapons, drilling materials or propaganda. It is said that Azazor was in charge of propaganda under Lopyrèch, the former head of the legions. That explains why there are so many posters urging people to join Thesos. He relied heavily on it. Then, under the atalos, we have the glados, who are divided into daikos, then glados-an, the first-class soldiers. Finally, under the glados, you have us, the ditalos. Those who haven't yet fully earned their stripes and aren't even considered full-fledged legionnaires. To tell you the truth, we have special armor. Legionnaires all have red armor, except for certain senior officers. But we've got a well-worn beige one. Normally, though, it only lasts a month, unless you're declared unfit, in which case you either reapply for another month, or you're fired. Once you've been declared unfit, you go through the Fyros citizenship rite and actually become a legionnaire. I can't wait!

So it's back to my day with the legions. After a good morning's crabbing, we usually return to the barracks for lunch. Yesterday, and this is bound to become more frequent, we stayed behind and were asked to hunt and cook our own food. And in truth, I prefer it. Because when we go back to the barracks to eat, all we get is bread and water. I'm not saying the boiled meat we had for lunch yesterday was great, but it's better than bread. Besides, I hear legionnaires are pros at cooking meat. I'm sure I'll learn from them how to make proper dishes.

The afternoon is mainly devoted to fighting between legionnaires. Duels and multi-person battles follow one another. We also practice our magic. I've made great progress in offensive magic. I can now cast fire spells! We don't return to the barracks until dusk at 8pm. We then take a dip in the Lake of Thesos to clean up before sitting down to dinner. Legionnaires are entitled to a real bath at the Pyr public baths every month. Unlike legionnaires, we don't have free time in the evening. Afterwards, we have to wash up and clean the premises, including the latrines, until 11pm. We only have free time once a week, from 10pm to 11pm, but we're not allowed to leave the barracks. And you see, I spend my first hour of relative freedom of the week writing to you. That's how much I love you, little sister. However, I'm going to have to cut my letter short, as I thought I heard the characteristic footsteps of the daikos in the corridor. It's going to be lights out. Just enough time to send the izam before he gets to our dormitory.

Abyleus

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#5 [fr] 

oren pyr Lydia

Last night, I almost died. Others weren't as lucky as me. The daikos Meriops and my friend Galeus died. You know, Galeus, the fyros who passed the legion entrance test with me. We were together in the burnt corridor, practicing our axe skills on the kinchers with the daikos. Suddenly, I was knocked out from behind! I had just enough time to see black matis boots before I collapsed. When I was picked up, there was a whole bunch of homins around me, including the niakünos himself. They were in the middle of cleaning up the desert on the orders of archivist Apotheps when they came upon me, sprawled in the sawdust. Azazor interrupted the clean-up to set off in search of the two missing men. For yes, by my side, there was no trace of Meriops and Galeus.

We immediately suspected the nearby Ecorchés tribe. There were fights diplomatic exchanges with their chief Staero, but nothing came of it. They had nothing to do with it. They did, however, speak of strange homins seen in the area, some with red eyes. They seemed to be afraid of them. However, it seems that the Ecorchés manipulate magic at a very advanced stage and make friends with marauders. For them to be afraid of them, these red-eyed homins must have had a bad reputation. But obviously, nobody in the group knew who they were. Except the leader. But I hesitate to tell you. There's something taboo about it. Azazor led us to a cave not far from the fyros camp on the burnt corridor. Inside, we discovered a huge extinguished inferno and around it, the decapitated bodies of Galeus and Meriops. Yes, DECAPITATED! Impossible to revive. Apparently, it takes some serious skill to manage to kill someone without being brought back by the powers that be.

I carried Galeus' body to the altar of Dyron, and Lyren carried the sergeant's. The altar kami welcomed them. The altar kami welcomed them. Their bodies returned to the sawdust and their souls descended into the depths to fight the dragon.

Come on, I'll dare to tell you the name of the people who did this. They're followers of the cult of fyrak! Fanatics who make sacrifices to the dragon to gain power. And they dared to attack legionnaires not far from the fyros camp? Can you imagine the crazies? The chief seems to be in such a rage that he's sworn to track them down in the Old Lands. We're in for some dark times, I can feel it. But don't worry about me. At the barracks, nothing can happen to me. After that, I confess I'm not looking forward to going back to the burnt corridor.

Anyway, be well sis, and see you soon for my leave. We'll be praying at the Dyron kami altar for the fallen legionnaires.

cal i selak!

Your brother Abyleus

Last edited by Azazor (3 weeks ago)

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