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Contents Copyright by Bruce Durham unless noted otherwise
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Just beyond the square, by the wood steps of the town hall, several hard-faced men and women assessed a young farmer standing nervously before a portable desk and the small, wrinkled man seated behind it.

 

“Name?” Sergeant Slagg asked, his eyes raking the thin, gangly teen.

 

“Tastok.”

 

The sergeant made a series of marks on the page of a worn hidebound ledger. “Age?”

 

“Not sure.”

 

Slagg frowned. “Seventeen, I reckon. Weapon skill?”

 

“Pitchfork.”

 

“Pitchfork?” Slagg sat back and crossed his arms. He glanced briefly at the grinning mercenaries. “Right. Pikes, then.” Leaning forward, he made another entry and offered the writing implement, a piece of graphite.

 

Tastok stared at it.

 

Slagg growled and jabbed a bony finger at the ledger. “Sign your name. Here. If you can’t write, make a mark.”

 

Tastok took the implement and made a mark.

 

Slagg reached into a pouch, and with a show of great reluctance handed over a silver coin. “This is your signing bonus. Don’t spend it all at once. Now go join the other recruits.”

 

“Aye.”

 

“Sir.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Sir. You belong to the Iron Regiment now. Anyone more important than you, and that will be everyone, you call sir.”

 

“Aye, sir.” The boy shuffled to join three other townspeople of varying size and age standing near by.

Standard Diplomacy
Excerpt
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