To hell and back
Michael James Watson She wakes on a forestry rocky plain. Around her are a number of other people, all scratching their chests.
A man who looks a lot like Benedict comes up. He wears modern military attire.
"Welcome to Rasak. Its a Nasty Place.
"I am Banidoc. On your finger is a steel ring. It will rust off your finger in 10 years. Till then it is a ring of Compulsion. Your instructors will wear master rings and can compel you to do anything, and they will.
"Your first section will be physical training. Some of you are strong, some quick, some agile. some untiring. We will test all those things First. Ahead of you are piles of clothes. find clothes that fit you. Soon, we will run. You will not need shoes. If your feet bleed, they will heal.
"This realm will feed you, so you need not eat. This realm will water you so you need not drink. If you receive an injury it will heal. When the run starts, you will forget everything, name, rank, worlds, and you will have a new name for the next nine years. Dress."
When someone is done dressing they walk to a position in a long single file line. A man in a loin cloth comes out. 6'9' and physically fit like no one she has ever seen. He walks down the line., touching each person and counting off numbers. Tapping Alvah he says, "88". Coming back along the line on the other side each person says their number.
Banidoc says, "Run Leader. You may begin."
The Run Leader starts. The first month is flat and straight under different types of weather. No rises, not descents, no left or right, just running full speed.
Alvah knows her name is 88. No history. No Future. No hopes. no ambitions. But she remembers. Running. rain, heat, a runner's burn.
At the end of the 3rd day the Run Leader starts singing. He sings songs that the runners sing along till they know the words by heart. If they are running, they are singing.
At the end of the month 88 sees in the distance growing mountains. Reaching them days later the Run Leader takes them up, down and running among the mountains. Feet leap and land exactly on place, a free run ballet.
At the end of a year she has run and jumped over trees, streams, rocks, gorges deep. The air is thin, burning in her lungs. The sky darkened and lightened regularly but she is unaffected by cold or heat except feeling the pain of it. Her feet feel like stumps but she does not stumble as she mimics the move of the Run Leader at each step.
Somewhere in the first year she stopped thinking, just moved to the compulsions and time became a pain filled blur with something like enthusiasm and adrenaline feeding her. A life long runner, something dreamlike effects 88. At the end of the first year they come down out of the mountains to a flat calm ocean with no waves.
Run leader never pauses. He runs directly into the water and starts swimming to the horizon.
As the second year ends 88 sees land ahead.
Beyond the beach is a city empty of people. Buildings, fences, pools, fountains, playgrounds, stadiums, and all the features of a major city.
Run leader moves into the city and the run is three dimensional of running, jumping over fences, up stairs, across roofs, in and among playground equipment. Running down streets, over bridges, along pipes, in and among the skeletal iron frames of buildings in construction.
After a month they arrive in a plaza. There are 500 iron bars weighing 100 pounds each. Run leader picks on up, using both hands to brace it against his chest, and after him running line follow suit. 88 pick up her iron bar as the run line returns to the track the first month ran.
a month latter they arrive in a plaza, dropping the iron bars. Weights are strapped to wrists and ankles. The run continues. No foot missteps, or runner stumbles
A month occurs where the run is done in a torrential rain.
Somewhere the clothes had ripped to shreds and been discarded.
A month is done where everything seems to be on fire except where each foot lands or each hand grasps.
A month occurs were runners make a long line and given axes cut into long rubber material that does not cut, but the limbs remember the motion.
A month occurs Where they throw the flat snap, the basic sword strike, into rubber that does not cut. But the arm remembers.
Months of lunges, stabs, offhand strikes.
Then a month of running to a long descent into a forest area with a large military camp. Tents are set up. BBQ are cooking and suddenly the smell of food is almost intoxicating.
As the line comes into camp the Run Leader passes command to the Camp Master. As the Run Leader walks the Camp Master directs 10 at a time into tents and to lay down on bunks.
Once all 500 are laying on bunks the Camp Master releases the runners. A great moan rises with screams of pain as for the first time in 3 years and 10 months, the runners are allowed to feel. Most after screaming pass out since few have the endurance to complete the course and not be exhausted. Sleep.
The next 2 months 88 and her fellow campmates are allowed to interact, though without memories.
In the 2 months there are campfires, BBQ, Fitness Games. Teaching of Amber history through war-stories and personal experiences of course graduates. Explanation and lessons in the Amber Battle Hand Sign system.
The compulsion continues as they do what they are told but otherwise are instructed in camp behaviors. They take down and move the camp weekly.
At the end of the two months of the Celebration of Endurance they are compelled to back the camp for a move. The three day run, carrying everything brings them a large ground for camps and they know how to set it up. But beyond the camp line are weaponry of all kinds. fighting pits, open fields, archery ranges.
Benidoc returns. "Welcome to Camp Rasak. This will be your home for the next 6 years and 2 months. You will keep it clean and orderly as you go about your studies. Companies will take turns cooking breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day. There are 50 companies of 10 each. They are formed into Cohorts of 100 for 5 cohorts.
88 sees that she is in 8th Company of the 1st Cohort.
For the next three years we will be doing battle drills. Karate, Tia Chi, weapon katas, sword and shield, spears. archery. We will practice rhythmic dance. You will learn to juggle. We will play combat games, and sports. You will learn the card game Tonk. You will play Tonk rather then sleep.
Each day is spent with groups of ten paired off to fight groups of ten in motion battles led by groups of Drill Leaders. The Drill Leaders perform the moves of Karate, tai chi, sword and shield, two handed combat, spear combat, and other stylized martial arts. The body is trained to remember the moves of each instinctively.
The Dance portion interests 88 especially, for reasons she knows are submerged wit the rest of her identity, history, and prospects. Dances like the waltz, the jitterbug, the Dallay Ai, and others from a dozen worlds are taught so the body remembers them.
The teaching of games is particularly bizarre to 88. Teams of instructors play the games while cohorts are divided up to match the numbers of the game and they play out the games so the body remembers how to play them.
Every night, in the middle of the night, groups of instructors cause companies to break into groups of 5. They take up decks of cards identical to the cards of the instructors. The instructors Shuffle, deal, arrange and play hands of cards for 3 nights each night, allowing 3 hours sleep before and after each game. The companies watch the play of the games till they know how to play and understand the strategy of the game Tonk. They learn that the game is incredibly popular across the military of the golden circle. Many of the soldiers during the times when they are not under compulsion claim that the loss of memory is the only reason they have to learn the game; that their hands remember the rhythm of the game and its obvious they have spent many years playing it.
After 3 years and 10 months the day comes when the compulsions end for the 2 month Celebration of the Body. During this time they are shown horsemanship, dottleship, and they play the games they learned under compulsion.
There are campfires, and singing of songs. Soldiers from across shadow come and tell their war stories. And they are told true. No tall tales. Difference of opinions but no lies.
The beginning of the 3rd section of 3 years and 10 months begins differently. Groups are told that while compulsion will be used in instruction the groups will vary so they will have a great deal of freedom of movement and speech. Battle Drills. Horse Drill. Artillery Drills. Classroom battle and warfare instruction. War Games. Classes in Metal work. Leather Work. Woodwork. Sewing. Medical training.
At the end of the third section is a 2 month Celebration of Knowledge. Tests aren't given but questions are asked around the camp fires, the breakfast, lunch and dinner tables, the Tonk games.
Through out the first 2 sections of 3 years and 10 days there was no fraternization. There was no memory and not ambition to make it worthwhile.
The 2 month celebrations of Endurance and the Body allowed enough freewill that people paired off, or trioed off in friendships and bondings. There were vast amounts of alcohol and food and frsternization was common.
In the last 4 year section the minds of all were open and friendships formed. Some platonic, some based on competition, some sexual. Its not discouraged but since they don't have their memories its told to them that anything that happened in Rasak will stay in Rasak, mostly.
The Final year approaches in the last days of the Celebration of Knowledge. Banidoc returns. He tells of the coming Practicum. Adledross is a warrior world. 5 seperate armies will start at the eastern Mountain edge and fight its way across 200 miles of mixed terrains and climates to reach the western ocean first. Each Army will consist of 5000 soldiers that have trained for and been sent to Adledross to compete. Each Army trains its people differently.
Amber, Banidoc says, runs 10 sessions of Rasak simultaneously and they all go to Adledross together.
They will arrive in battle uniforms without weapons. They will find, build, or take weapons. There goal is to cross the continent from East to west-2000 miles. Along the way they will be faced with many challenges; How to feed everyone? How to arm everyone? How to shelter everyone? Those killed will be translated to the starting line and must do their best to rejoin their forces.
The enemies will be forces drawn to fight on Adledross from across shadow. They will fight to the best of their skills and abilities. Once slain a foeman is sent to their home world at the time of their summoning with no memory of their experiences except a slight feeling of having more luck. The magical luck is the unknown payment they receive for the suffering and deaths they endured.
All soldiers will remember their names, histories, ranks. They will remember everything they have ever done. However, all participants arrive without rank distinctions regardless of their histories.
The Lords of Adledross set certain rules. WHile forces can come from anywhare, contestants can not summon magics, forces, allies from beyond the realms except under certain circumstance. They also control certain elements within the organization of forces. They appoint who commands the armies. They will change commanders often. Training was meant to teach soldier to lead and to follow. You will do both. Good Luck. In the morning you awake in Adledross with your names.
Alvah would have been during the periods with lesser compulsion still very to herself. Eventho she has no memory of herself the urge to sit and watch is there.
She will move along with the group be flexible join in on everything not compelled but expected.
Her instinctive fighting style is up close personal and vicious.
Alvah might have a bit more a wildstreak without the limitations of her upbringing.