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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2233048-The-Lady-and-the-Thug-Part-1
by RickyZ
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Fantasy · #2233048
Sergeant Ordell defends the honor of a noble lady -- perhaps too roughly
Richard raised his cigarette, gripping one end between his lips. Staring off down the dim streets, he fumbled about the interior of his hip box. It was easy to distinguish his coin purse and the cigarette box he had just returned there, but the more he dug with his fingers, the deeper his brow furrowed. With a long frustrated breath, he came to terms with the reality of his situation. Plucking the cigarette from his mouth, in annoyance, he glared back at the theatre.

Damn you Miles, he thought to himself. What was it about that infuriating little cuss that drove him to always lift lights off of other people? More specifically, off of Richard? Couldn’t he, for once, just carry his own damn match book? All the time with the pickpocketing, the pilfering little filcher. Richard enjoyed that phrase in particular, as it described Miles with pointed precision.
He was, after all, a pilfering little filcher. There were some days where Richard wondered, if the man could ever just lift his coin, instead. Currency wasn’t nearly as valuable to Richard as material goods. He never got convinced to start betting against Peggy. Probably because the bets were always against him. Either way, he didn’t lose his coin, or need it readily available to give away. Unlike Hank.

But his match book? He could, at least, punch another man for stealing his money, and be perfectly justified. Punching a man over a match book, however, was much different. That was a display of lacking control over your tobacco, and it wouldn’t be the one who stole the match book, who would be viewed as having the problem.

There was nothing for it, but to wait for Miles and the others. Wait for them to finish praising the cast and director for the marvelous performance. Marvelous performance? He didn’t see what was so great about the whole thing. It really was a piece of complete toss, as far as he was concerned. First the rat show, now this? He couldn’t ever enjoy one quick smoke? He’d be sure to find the time to break Miles’ nose for this. Though it would be some time yet, before he could make that happen.
Resigned to waiting in the dark, smokeless, he pulled the cigarette box out once again. Folding the top open, he aligned his cigarette to drop back into the box, standing vertically, along with its other fellows.

“You lost, little lady?”

It was the tone of which the stranger had used, that first caught Richard’s attention, in a bad way. Sliding his cigarette home, his face turned up towards the source of the offputting inquiry. His scowl found four city watchmen creeping on some noble lady. City watchmen.

Now had she been a courtesan, she would’ve been perfectly within her own rights to tell the four of them off. Particularly with some cleverly off-handed, yet deceptively deep cutting retort. At least, as far as he was concerned. However, this was no courtesan.

This was about as far from a courtesan as you could get. Aside from royalty, and the imperial family. Chances were, judging by the fineness of her dress, she was even wealthier than most royalty. As far as he was concerned, she reserved the right to kick each of them in the teeth. Yet she remained perfectly calm and reserved, as they leered at her.

He couldn’t really make out much of the exchange, but the watchmen made their intentions clear. Her demeanor showed a complete lack of interest with this lot. She had no intent on humoring them in the slightest.

They encircled her, trying to play friendly, but there was nothing friendly about this. The way they crowded around her, like dogs trying to smell at her. It was sickening to fathom, much less see it happening.

They showed absolutely no dignity, no respect, no tact. They weren’t men, at all. They didn’t deserve to call themselves men. They were animals. Filthy, wretched animals.

Suddenly the lead deputy snatched something from under her arm. Whatever it was, it was large and flat, like a pamphlet, or a booklet. Probably a booklet given the nature of the evening. Regardless, it most certainly belonged to her. Now they looked to bribe her, in exchange for returning her property.

Richard felt the cigarette box flexing in his hand, as his fingers tightened around it. Eyes locked on the four watchmen, he tucked his cigarettes into his hip box, then strode towards the group. He halted a few yards from them, clenching white knuckles at his sides.

“Give the booklet back to her, you limp dick, shit suckler,” his bellow echoed up and down the streets. Might have been a touch too loud. Still, all four watchmen, plus the noble lady, turned to face him. They looked particularly off-put by his interjection. Perhaps it was his choice of language? His tone? Maybe both. The lead deputy eyed him.

“This is our jurisdiction, soldier,” he dismissed the matter, casually waving the booklet. “Move along now.”

“I said,” growling this time, “give the damn booklet back.” Richard glared flames upon the watchmen, as they gawked back at him. They seemed incapable of believing that anyone, anyone at all, would challenge them. Especially like this.

“You have no business here,” the deputy pressed, lowering the booklet. “This is our business. Our authority. Our watch. We’re the watchmen here, soldier,” he thrust a finger towards his own chest. Then jabbed the finger towards Richard, “Not you. We’ll handle this,” he motioned to his fellows. Then jabbed at Richard again, “Not you. Now bugger off, or we’ll take you in for disturbing the peace and inciting malcontent.”

Richard felt pure heat rising through him. He squeezed his fists tighter still. Malcontent? Oh, he’d show them malcontent. He’d give them all the malcontent they could stomach. He’d leave them all shitting malcontent for the next fortnight.

“Maybe,” he growled, “if you were to ask me nicely, and refer to me by my proper rank, then I’ll put you to bed with just one lump, rather than pounding your ass like the Great Baldacci kneading dough.” He didn’t mean to yell Baldacci kneading dough, but that’s just how it came out.

They all stared at him for a long moment. Then the watchmen began laughing amongst themselves. The noble lady appeared to be holding a hand to her mouth. It was difficult to tell, as his inflamed glare remained upon watchmen. The lead deputy casually tossed the booklet aside, then sauntered towards Richard.

“Is that so?” he mused. “You’ll knead me, eh? Like the Great Baldacci, himself?” He halted less than a foot from Richard, and chuckled right in his face. He grasped the scabbard of his arming sword with one hand, while fingering the handle of his riot club with the other. Leaning in close, he appraised Richard, as if daring him to try something.

“You’re a nutter,” he spat humoredly.

Richard’s rear foot shot out, swinging up and under the inside of the deputy’s legs. Driving forward, the top of his foot contacted the underside of the deputy’s bits, smashing them up into his pelvis. A resounding smack, with just a hint of a crunch, seemed to echo up and down the empty streets.

Now, when it came to kicking another man square in the bollocks, Richard was conflicted. On one count, it was quite possibly the single most painful thing a man could ever experience. He, himself, had felt just how much of a cheap shot Calvin Halstead could be, back when they were sparring as kids. On top of which, he still wasn’t particularly fond of riding horses. Nigel insisted riding was a skill well worth honing, yet his bits couldn’t help but disagree. Considering his limited experience, and just how many that had hurt, he determined that he never wished that pain upon anyone.

Yet here stood some thug, wearing a police uniform, presenting himself. This scum didn’t deserve the pair hung between his legs. He deserved to hurt. That much. If nothing else, it was a legitimate maneuver as illustrated within the Coppenbach Treatise. If ever there was a fitting time for this maneuver, it was here. Now.

He felt a strange satisfaction from the sound of crushing bits, as though it alone told how much pain had just delivered. More satisfying yet, was the combination of sheer surprise and overwhelming agony on the deputy’s face.

His eyes bulged. He gaped, clinging to his own fruits, as though shielding them with his hands, despite the damage already done. He looked as though he had forgotten how to breathe. Air escaped past his gaping mouth in a long wheeze.

“How about those two?” Richard roared in the scum-bag’s face. “They feel good?”

The deputy could only wheeze in response. The pain seemed to overwhelm him, as he slowly sank to the ground, still clutching at himself. Before he could collapse , however, Richard reached down, grasping the neck of the deputy’s mail and tunic. Lifting, he forced the breathless gaper to look him square in the face.

“Now say ‘Goodnight, Sergeant’.”

The deputy let loose a low wheezing moan, his bulging eyes goggling up at Richard. He held him there, cocking one fist back. Like a striking serpent, his fist shot out, and caught the deputy right in the jaw. Another, less responding, smack echoed out, as the fist drove through. The neck of the mail and tunic slipped from Richard’s fingers, and the deputy crashed into an unconscious heap.

Well, that’s one down.

His eyes flicked to the other three, who appeared perplexed with shock. He blazed fury.

“And which of you three fucks is next?” he barked in challenge.

In unison, they drew their riot clubs, and began advancing on him. Fanning out, they gradually encircled him. This could be bad. The two towards the street, he could keep his eyes on, but the third rounded out of sight. It was a smart maneuver, and a great way to take an opponent down. A quick hit from behind and he’d drop to the ground. Most likely already unconscious, even. He couldn’t allow them that advantage. The third one had to be dealt with, so he feinted.

It really wasn’t much of a feint. He had barely even moved his feet. However, it was convincing enough to halt the two in front of him in their tracks. They drew their clubs back above their shoulders, in defense. Richard seized the opportunity.

Pivoting, he spun around to face the third, just as the swing was coming. With lightning speed, he reached out, seizing hold of the deputy’s forearm, at the wrist and just above the elbow. Redirecting the swing, he allowed momentum to carry the club harmlessly by. As it hit only air, Richard applied a sharp levering motion, and pulled the deputy forward. Staggering, he tripped over Richard’s extended rear foot, and was pitched into the air. soaring momentarily for the street, he crashed some distance away.

The other two quickly shuffled around their pathetic heap of a friend, and prepared to strike. Richard quickly fainted left. The deputy closest made to catch him with a downward swing, but then Richard ducked back to the right, instead. The club hummed through the air.

Richard managed to catch the second deputy completely by surprise. Grabbing at wrist and forearm, too slow in reacting, he shoved his shoulder into the second deputy’s chest, knocking him off balance. Heaving, he threw the deputy out into space. Yet another pathetic heap crashed hard on his back.

Richard pivoted in place, to find the only deputy still standing, readying for a side swing. With a crushing hand, he seized hold of the deputy’s fingers wrapped around the handle. The club halted before moving so much as an inch. Too slow. His other hand balled into a fist, and struck the deputy square in the cheek. The little shit sprawled to the ground. Though he didn’t crash as hard as the other two.

Turning, Richard caught sight of the third deputy, having finally recovered a bit, now beginning to return to his feet. Striding up behind him, Richard dug a foot into the pit of one of the deputy’s knees, forcing him to drop instantly. Then he stomped down on one of the deputy’s ankles. There was a sharp smack accompanied by a crunch, snap, and pop as the ankle gave. The scream that burst forth from the deputy, could have woken the dead of the city. He wouldn’t be getting back up anytime soon.
Just two remaining.

The second deputy scrapped himself off the ground, scrambled back to his feet, looking shocked beyond belief. He glanced wide eyed at his screaming companion, then back at Richard. Then he actually dropped his club, as his off hand gripped his scabbard.

Richard did the one sensible thing to do, and charged. Now when it came to arming swords, Richard could have repainted the entire theatre building, both outside and in, with this chump. However, he really didn’t feel like killing anyone. Certainly no one who wasn’t a damn bloody Royal, the real enemy. This was no enemy. Just some lowly shit sack in the guise of the law.
Speaking of law, killing a policeman would hardly go over well with city ordinance, much less military ordinance. He needed to refrain from using his own sword. Which meant preventing the deputy from drawing his. Naturally, that meant charging.

Rushing forward, Richard seized the deputy’s hand and wrist, just as the tip of the sword cleared the scabbard. He pushed forward, raising the hilt towards the deputy’s ear. The blade was forced dangerously close to the deputy’s own throat, causing his eyes to bulge in terror. Richard glared into him. Gradually, the deputy raised his off hand towards his other ear, displaying an open palm. He could feel the deputy’s fingers loosen around the sword handle, and eased his own grip until the sword fell free, clattering to the ground.

Then, mere inches away, Richard shot his fist forward, slamming the deputy in the nose. It broke instantly, spraying blood out from under Richard’s knuckles in an ever expanding ring. The deputy’s empty hands clasped over his own face, providing little comfort. Dropping to his knees, he screamed into his palms. He wouldn’t be getting back up either.

Just one remaining.

He turned to face the first deputy, sitting on his knees in quite the daze, cradling his cheek. Richard stiffened, and advanced on him. The deputy’s eyes widened, as he took stock of Richard.

“Draw sword on me, will you?” Richard bellowed fury at the pathetic little shit, cringing before him. He could see the word yield being formed on the little shit’s ass sucking lips, but he didn’t care.

“Come at me, will you?” He was pissed. He was right bloody, fucking pissed. The deputy raised a hand before himself pleading yield more fervently.

“You want to start shit with me?” he grabbed hold of the neck of the deputy’s mail and tunic, pulling him in close. “I’ll fuck you into the dirt!”

“Yield!” the little shit cried in desperation, throwing his hands before his face. “Yield. For the love of Her Grace, I yield!” Richard pulled him within inches from his face.

“Apologize,” he let each syllable slide out, full of venom.

“I am so very sorry,” the deputy sobbed.

“Not to me, numb nuts!” Richard roared spit into his face. Then flung him by the neck of his mail and tunic, towards the noble lady. She hadn’t budged an inch, it seemed, during the entire altercation. Though her hand hovered just beneath her chin, as if she had been covering her mouth in shock.

Richard sauntered up to the shoulders of the weary little shit, now splayed on the ground, like a crushed insect. The insect peered up at him in terrified confusion. Then he pointed at the noble lady.

“To her. Apologize to her.”

Bleary eyed the deputy raised his gaze towards the noble lady, who, in kind, regarded him with an emotionless stare. Her hand dropped to rest near her navel.

“I am so sorry, my lady,” his voice was small and sad.

“I do not believe you,” she replied so flatly, it cut right through whatever hope lingered before the deputy’s eyes. Like winter’s chill, arriving before a complete harvest.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,” his pleas grew more desperate. “Truly, my lady. I am.”

“I still do not believe you.” Frost formed from her lips.

“Maybe you should try being sincere,” Richard leaned towards the deputy’s ear, growling.

“Please!” he cried. “I’m so sorry. So sorry. For everything. What we did. What we did was wrong. We made a mistake, and it was wrong of us. I’m so sorry. Please, forgive us. Her Grace, forgive me.” His face sagged to the cobbles, as he cried out his shame. She allowed him to blubber into the walkway, until his sobs began to quiet down.

“I do not forgive you,” she finally declared, with all the ice of Deep Regret. The deputy looked up at her, face strewn with tears. All hope drained.

“I will never forgive you for this. However, you may come to regret your actions, should you ever disrespect me in any manner again.” The deputy’s face sank back to the cobbles once again.

Then her eyes fixed on Richard. Where there had been no emotion at all, no light or life of any kind, they suddenly appeared to absolutely brim. With what, he couldn’t be sure. Still, they filled with every star in the sky.

Two deserts devoid of any feeling, now replaced by vast oceans. They churned. Though with what? Is that really what he saw? Where the hell had that come from? What was he thinking?

Her eyes seemed to waver on him, before darting back to the deputy once more, turning empty.

“Furthermore,” the deputy’s tearful face shot up to her, “should you ever do anything dishonorable against him,” and she indicated to Richard, “then you will come to regret it ten fold.”

She was… protecting him? Quite the twist on tonight’s events.

“Do you understand me?”

“Yes, my lady,” his whisper was hardly audible, but the noble lady appeared satisfied. Settling into herself, she withdrew slightly. Richard, not being fully satisfied, dealt a swift kick to the deputy’s side. The pathetic, little shit curled, clutching at his diaphragm, and wheezing.

Now we’re done here.

Turning back to the noble lady, Richard saw those same oceans within her eyes. Something about them seemed expectant, yet she looked as if she intended to speak. What should he do? Be cordial, of course, but how, exactly? He immediately stood to attention.

Fucking perfect, you stupid twit.

He felt so out of place, just standing there, gawking at her. Everything he did, or could do, seemed wrong. Should he do something else, say something, perhaps? Or should he wait for her to speak? She just stared at him, though. With wonderful eyes, sure, but still just staring. Expectant. Suddenly he remembered the other reason for the altercation, and his eyes lit.

“Your booklet,” he announced.

She blinked at him, confused. Wheeling about, he saw it lying on the walkway, and rushed to retrieve it. Kneeling, he collected the booklet, as if it were more precious than his baby sister. No offense to Gabby. Though, Gabby could hardly be thought of as a baby, now. Her Grace’s sake, she was ten. A bit short for her age, perhaps, but still hardly a baby.

Regardless, he cradled the booklet, feeling the fine textile that encased the outer binding. There was a plushness to it, but he didn’t feel much like squeezing it. Rather rude to squeeze someone else’s property, especially when it alone was probably worth the same value as the entire Greyshat Manor sitting room. No offense to Nigel, of course, but it really was an incredibly fine booklet.

Slick in black, embroidering of gold, green, and white lined the corners in vivid decor, while more gold trimming lay between, running the lengths of the outer edges. A family crest proudly displaying a coat of arms lay at the center. Something about that crest looked vaguely familiar. He went to study it, but suddenly realized what he was doing.

Hastening back upright, still cradling the booklet, he strode towards her. Once again, he was standing before her, feeling incredibly out of place. He snapped to attention, again. She was still staring at him with those same wonderful eyes. Expectant, yet about to speak? Which was it? What the hell was he doing?

Just give her the bloody fucking booklet back, all damn ready. He extended the booklet towards her.

“I um,” it was a pathetic attempt at speech.

Say something, damn it.

“...Hope... you find everything orderly,” it only took a year to stumble out.

Really? That was the best he could do?

“In regards to the uh,” he continued, “contents of your booklet.”

Smooth. Real damn smooth there. What a right gentleman you are.

“My lady,” he quickly added.

His lips curled in self frustration. Everything he did felt wrong. His rough, northern commoner’s accent sounded wrong.

“Thank you,” she finally took hold of the booklet with both hands. Sliding from his fingers, her property was returned, at last. She glanced down at it, inspecting.

“Though this is a pamphlet,” the words came out matter-of-factly, as her eyes returned to him.

“Of course,” he tried to hide how stupid he felt.

Of course. Of course, it was a pamphlet. He had mistook her business, as leisure. Could he offend her some other way? The silence lingered. Time dragged, with her frozen in place, while he found it difficult to keep looking at her. Her gaze locked on him, with such intensity. So expectant. Of what?

“That was very brave of you,” she finally relieved the gathering silence, “standing up for me like that”

He couldn’t keep his surprise from showing. Praise? She was praising him?

“Well… of course, my lady,” he tried playing it off casually.

“I consider it my duty to defend those-” he searched for the right words, “...who could use a hand.” It trickled out, each syllable losing energy.

Way to keep it casual. Her Grace’s sake, I’m a right twit.

“I am grateful.”

Wonderful, unexpected words, too good to be true. Words as wonderful as her eyes. His surprise returned anew.

“My lady?” A feminine voice, full of confusion, called out from the street.

A woman, of about the same age as the noble lady, bustled towards them. Mostly likely, the lady’s handmaiden. This seemed a perfect opportunity to leave the noble lady in peace, and with what little dignity he had left.

“Well, I’d better be getting back to my command, my lady. I’ll... need to report this incident.” Better not to mention the part where he’d have to turn himself in.

“Of course,” the noble lady nodded slightly. Her eyes were so expectant.

“I... hope,” he couldn’t stop himself, “...that you find your stay here... to be much more pleasant, and this city much more agreeable.” She blinked.

“Thank you,” she just kept staring.

“Enjoy the rest of your evening, my lady,” he barely managed.

Embarrassed, he went to turn away, then froze momentarily, wondering if he should salute her, or bow to her, or anything. Finally tearing his eyes from her, he turned, and began striding off for the shadows.

Real damn smooth, you twit.

He hadn’t realized just how much of a crowd had already gathered outside the theatre. The dread of what they may have seen, and heard, mounted. He fought off the desire to shake his head at himself in disappointment. Glimpsing at the crowd, all shocked with confusion, he caught no signs of his bunk mates.

Of course they’d still be inside. Still praising the performance into a level of ascendancy, while he was outside busting a bunch of low life badges. Better to just keep walking. Let them catch up to him at the-

“Wait,” the noble lady called after him.

He spun around, in surprise, to see her jogging up to him, and immediately snapped to attention once more. She stared at him. Such wonderful eyes.

“May I know your rank and name?”

She looked so expectant, as if this was what she wanted from him all along. Though she still appeared to want to say more, the words tumbled forth. Army discipline, after all.

“Sergeant Richard Ordell, my lady.”

Perfect. Finally.

She blinked.

“Richard Ordell,” she repeated as though tasting the words in her mouth, rolling them across her pallet. As though his name were a wine she found appealing.

“Thank you.”

They stood there a while longer, all track of time abandoned to him. He felt as though he were swimming in her gaze. Allowing himself to float in the depths of her eyes, he dared, just the slightest, to imagine looking into those eyes for the rest of his life. What a wonderful fantasy.

“Richard?” A familiar voice called from somewhere far away. Suddenly he remembered where they were, and turned towards the theatre, spotting Miles first. His bunk mates all wore disturbed expressions, to match those of the crowd.

“What’s happening?” Miles’ concern deepened.

“I’d better get going,” Richard turned back to her.

She nodded slightly, like she had before, but remained silent. Still such expectant eyes.

“Good evening, my lady,” he managed one last time.

Reluctantly, he tore himself away from her, and moved briskly to join his bunk mates.

“Richard,” began Miles, “what in the-”

“Just get me back to command,” Richard interrupted. “You’re all going to have to turn me in to the commander.


“Assault and battery?” roared Commander Wels.

He stood irate behind his desk, prodding an accusatory finger at the contents of a City Justice pamphlet. Inside, a full report recounted the incident outside the Doworth Theatre. Not much of a report, really, as it made immense effort to make Richard appear as bad as possible. Included, were the testimonies of the four citywatch involved, a summary report, and a medical analysis listing injuries sustained.

Richard couldn’t help but notice that the completely one sided report made no mention of harassment on the parts of the watchmen, nor included the testimony of the noble lady who had been victimized. In fact, the only testimonies taken were those of the watchmen in question. City Justice hadn’t even requested his own testimony, or rather confession. Though, he had provided it in full to Major Brougheed and Lieutenant Colonel Helwin. Not that it would do much good in the end.
Commander Wels slid his finger across the print, noting the charges.

“Inciting violence?” For all the disgust the commander had while reading the charges, he may as well be analyzing chamber pot contents.

“Disturbing the peace? Upsetting a refined establishment? Assaulting no less than four men of the law?”

His eyes bulged in fury, before slamming his hand down on top of the open pamphlet.

“Damn it, man, don’t you have any sense of decency? Where is your dignity? Your respectability? This is one of the finest programs in the whole of His Highness’ army, one of the most prestigious divisions! What the hell were you thinking?”

“Well, sir,” Richard muttered, “I thought the watchmen were behaving quite disrespectfully, so I thought to remind them.”

“Remind them?” Commander Wels started, running his finger through the print again. “By issuing demands? Posing
threats? Using pervasive language?” He read over something that made him sigh with grief. “Her Grace’s sake. Baldacci kneading dough?”

He stared at Richard as if he had just read the worst insult fathomable. Richard couldn’t keep from cringing in embarrassment. It really was a stupid thing to say.

“I’ll admit,” he mumbled, “that was a particularly low remark on my part.”

Commander Wels threw a fit, looking as if he had forgotten how to breathe.

“Baldacci was a master swordsman, damn it!” He finally blurted out, slamming his fist for emphasis. “One of the finest in all of imperial history, western civilization even! And you think to tarnish his memory… by making him out to be… some… baker’s invert paramour?”

Richard’s brow furrowed in confusion.

Paramour?

“No, sir,” he reasoned. “I don’t mean any disrespect towards Maestro Baldacci, sir, nor any man who takes a husband.”
“Damn it, man,” the commander continued, “you can’t just abandon all tact whenever you feel like it. We are His Highness’ army! We have a reputation to maintain, an image of the highest regard. We have to conduct ourselves respectfully, with proper manners begetting gentleman. Not… dealing slanderous insolence, like some common street thug!”

“And what about their slanderous insolence?” Richard barked with intensifying heat. “What about the conduct of the law? Aren’t they supposed to uphold their own image, too? Who gives them the right to abandon proper behavior, and act like a bunch of piss pot little shits what crawled up out of the sewers?”

Commander Wels eyed him with a darkening expression, like storm clouds rolling in fast. Richard checked his tone before continuing. This next part would be hard to admit, but it was important. It needed to be said.

“Sir, I understand that my own tact was lacking, and that was wrong of me. I misrepresented my troop, my division, and my king’s army. As a result, I expect to answer for my behavior, and I intend to.”

He noted Commander Wels expression of stone before continuing.

“But I wouldn’t have acted that way, if they hadn’t been lewd to the noble lady. Their actions and remarks to her were completely out of line. They need to answer for their behavior, just as I expect to answer for mine.”

“Don’t let them get away with this,” he pressed urgently. “Don’t let them close the investigation without even including all the details. Otherwise there won’t be any justice for the city. Just a cover up, and a damn disgraceful one at that.”

The commander appraised him with a slightly softer stone.

“Do you have any idea, how badly you’ve already punished those men?” Commander Wels’ voice came low. Then he turned to the medical analysis, and his finger began to trail the list.

“Two bruised cheeks,” he began. “One partially fractured jaw. One shattered nose. Three bruised ribs, one of which is partially fractured. One broken ankle.”

Each entry spilled forth with accusation. Richard could feel his lips curling, both in frustration and embarrassment. Despite having seen the analysis previously, and what a load of crying crap it was, the commander’s stern disgust towards every injury made him incredibly uncomfortable. He itched to move, yearned to look down, but held his stance. He had to maintain his bearing.

Commander Wels read over something else, and turned aghast. Color drained from his face, as he shut his eyes, sighing sharply. Then he goggled at Richard.

“One pair of crushed…” the commander foamed in fury. “Bruised… and inflamed…” he searched for the proper term. “Testicles?”

Richard stood like a proud soldier., despite his pride fading fast. He wanted to hunch over, but refused. After all the had happened tonight, the least he could do was take an ass chewing properly. He fumbled for a response.

“It’s a legitimate maneuver outlined in the Coppenbach Treatise, sir,” Richard ventured. Commander Wels beat his desk top with a firm fist.

“I am aware of the contents of the damn… treatise…” foam frothed around the commander’s teeth. He beat his desk once again. “Sergeant Ordell!”

“Of course, sir,” Richard mumbled.

It wasn’t easy standing there, tall and head held high. It hadn’t been easy at any point following the incident. Yet this moment was the hardest.

“There are sixteen entries, listing out forty four individual injuries,” Commander Wels looked completely bewildered. “Look at what you have done, man. Look at the damage!”

Now it was the hardest part.

Commander Wel let out a long sigh, eyes drifting shut, as his brows reached heavenward. He looked to be pleading for patience, from Her Grace. Shaking his head slightly, he sank into his chair. Hunched in his seat, he pinched the top of his nose with one weary hand.

“At rest, Sergeant,” the commander finally sighed.

Richard relaxed his limbs, taking up a more normal stance. Though he still had to hold his head up. The commander leaned over his desk, continuing at a low, easy tone.

“I have no doubt that you are an excellent fighter, Sergeant. Her Grace knows, we have plenty of progression reports from your training to validate that. However, for all your notability as a capable warrior, you are equally noted for ill-fit behavior.”

The words ill-fit behavior came with an icy sting.Then the commander continued with some added heat.

“You are harsh, lewd, confrontational, disorderly, and disobedient. You intimidate others, you show a tendency towards aggression, and your language is pervasive, to say the least.”

He sat upright in his chair, and spoke matter-of-factly.

“Your ungentleman-like conduct is unbecoming of an officer. There may yet be a place for you in the army, but it’s not here. Not within this academy, not within this division, and most certainly not under my command.”

“For the assault you committed against four men of the law, you are hereby sentenced to receive no less than fifty lashes with reed cane. As for your inability to maintain proper conduct within doctrine, you are hereby expelled from this academy and it’s programs, and are to be reassigned to the Thirty Seventh Infantry Division.”

Richard’s heart sank. His eyes grew wide with horror. This couldn’t be happening.

“The Thirty Seventh, sir?” Richard gawked in disbelief. “The Lucky Thirty Seventh?”

“The very same,” the commander’s voice came flat.

The Lucky Thirty Seventh. What a load of toss, that was. There wasn’t anything lucky about the Thirty Seventh Infantry. The title was a hoax. The division consisted of rejects, mongrels, and degenerates.

Imperial pardons for grievous crimes were issued in exchange for service in that division. Actual criminals. Murderers, rapists, and low-lifes of all kinds. He was going there, to be among them? To be one of them?

Couldn’t they just cane him for a hundred lashes instead? Two hundred? Any hundred. Any ass whooping over the Thirty Seventh. He thought he should say something, anything, but nothing came.

“Your sentence will be carried out tomorrow at midday,” Commander Wels continued. “After which, you will be confined to the infirmary, until such a time as you are fit enough to journey to Fort Vasbrook. There, you will report to your new command.”
He folded the cover of the pamphlet over the City Justice reports, closing the documents, along with the conversation.
“You are dismissed, Sergeant.”

Richard felt so overwhelmed. Let down. Still, he snapped to attention and gave a rigorously practiced salute to the commander. Then he smartly turned towards, and negotiated his way through the door of the commander’s office.

It was the hardest damn thing he had known. Being escorted back to holding, while still standing tall, head held high. Like a proper soldier should. He didn’t feel much like a soldier then. He only felt shame.
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