I didn't sleep much the first night at camp. Too many things had happened, and in too short a time. Between the open sobbing one bunk over, or the shouts and yells from the tents bordering our own, it was difficult.
Instead of sleeping, though, I used [Identify] on everything I could find. I learned the ability seemed to have a range of five feet, or something fairly close. It gave me feeling... control? Maybe, just getting an answer to my questions, instead of a stern look or the threat of a beating, was something I craved at that point.
An efficiently made bunk intended for soldiers. Decent quality.
Sturdy weapon with no enchantments. Intended for stabbing attacks. Useful for around-camp purposes.
I'd found the dagger stashed in the cloth and hay of my top bunk. One of many pieces of evidence there were previous tenants. Where they were now, I could only guess, but it lead to me considering what else I might be able to find, if I looked.
Still, that night we were the only ones in the mud-tent. Three women, four men, and on the very far side- with a far nicer bunk, our Squad leader, Kepler.
Not just in name, but title- too.
Title: Squad Leader
Upon our entering of the tent, he broke down the rules for us. In essence, they were simple.
We were part of the Golden Wing Mercenary Company, which as a whole had been hired by the Nautalin Empire.
We were not soldiers, but contracted possessions, placed in his squad, which meant we were his responsibility until further notice. That meant, until we died, or he died- and someone replaced him, we were under his command. We were to follow his orders, and disobeying him could be inferred as mutiny.
He told us the camp was set near the frontlines, and the local towns- saying we made it to one, were all offered high bounties to turn in deserters who break contract. Dead, or alive. He mentioned that if by some chance we decide to run, if we don't starve- or the monsters don't get us, the people would. No one gave a flying-fuck about the fact that we were "heroes" beyond the fact that we cost more.
Aside from that, he told us pay was after each battle, and not to bother him.
Kepler, it seemed, didn't care much for us.
Not for our well-being, and not much at all. There was mention of following drills with him, in the mornings. That was apparently required of him, but he said nothing about food or drink. Considering his comments on how he expected us all to be dead, soon enough, I supposed his attitude made sense, but it still stung.
Kepler didn't want to invest in a waste of time, which- considering the state of our group, we probably were. Half of our number barely bothered with the training back at the palace. Most of us had been content to lounge around in the shade and rest.
The next morning, it turned out that was no longer an option.
It was brutal.
Real spears, this time. They held a different weight, and were much more tiresome than the staff I remembered back at the palace. The same forms, at least (though, with a few different motions thrown in) but absolutely no rest. No respite, no breaks- or the lashing "snaps" of Kepler's own spear would be on us in an instant. We worked for hours, until we were completely spent. Then, we were dismissed.
"If you want food, you can go find it." Kepler told us, after a healthy amount of spear swinging. "There's a cook station, but they want coin."
None of us had coin.
By us, I should clarify: Despite my introverted tendencies, I did finally get to learn everyone's name.
The three girls were Linda, Mars, and Cate. The other guys were Kevin, Scott, Jones, and Mike. Of those, Jones seemed to have taken upon the role of "leader" and begun trying to get things sorted out. After my mention of finding a dagger in my bunk, he had us checking all the others for anything we could find.
I wasn't so lucky, this time around, but I did find a few copper-looking coins. The girls, Cate and Mars both found silver ones, and even a cloth bag of some stale biscuits. After considering their options, and being told to "fuck off" by Kepler, several of the group went to locate food and bring it back. Scott, Jones, and Kevin went at what I imagined to be noon.
Then, we waited.
Linda got anxious, and wanted to go looking for them. Mike argued we should wait. I supported Mike, but mostly because I had poked my head out of the tent earlier, and decided our neighbors were far from friendly. As I'd rather die of starvation than blood-loss, I maintained my place in the tent, and happily accepted a stale biscuit.
Scott, Jones, and Kevin came back at sundown, with a few stale loaf of bread, a cook pot with some sort of soup, and a hell of a lot more bruises.
None of them talked about it.