Saturday, October 10, 2015

Angusel settles a score in RAGING SEA Ch 7/Sc 5B #amwriting #Arthurverse

Graphic overlay (c)2015 by Kim Headlee.
As a cadet at the US Air Force Academy, many decades ago when doolie (i.e., freshman) discipline was nowhere near as lenient as it is these days, I learned firsthand the meaning of self discipline. Because if I didn't discipline myself, someone else—usually an upperclass cadet—was going to do it for me, an experience to be avoided at all costs.

It was a necessary evil to be endured, however, because rigid discipline forges soldiers who are infinitely better equipped to handle the rigors of combat.

Doolie punishments, however, do not as a rule involve deliberate bloodshed.

The US military models much of its organization and policies upon the most famous professional armed force in history, the Roman army, but I for one was very glad that corporal punishment for "everyday" infractions didn't make the list.

Another fine ancient tradition among armies the world over involves what we cadets called hazing: the practice of bullying the newcomers to test their mettle. In combat, soldiers need to know they can rely upon each other, and hazing is a way of weeding out those individuals who aren't suited for the particular demands that define the military life.

At the Air Force Academy, the hazing officially ends upon the conclusion of "Hell Week," the period (no longer a week, alas) of the most intense hazing of doolies as a rite of passage to become recognized as bona fide members of the Cadet Wing.

In today's installment of Raging Sea, Angusel uses his punishment to effect his own rite of passage for recognition.

Previous excerpts of Raging Sea 
 Chapter 7: Sc 1 | Sc 2 | Sc 3 | Sc 4 | Sc 5a |

Raging Sea Chapter 7, Scene 5b
©2015 by Kim Headlee
All rights reserved.

The grin soured as he directed his attention toward the practice field, where the rest of First Ala had gathered.

He left Stonn in his stall and, clutching the fouled tunic in his white-knuckled fist, stalked off to join his unit.

The most frustrating thing about the pranks—the humiliation and stripes aside—was that Angusel had no clue who was responsible. He would have preferred to have confronted the man or men privately; brawling was punished with ten stripes and ten days’ confinement to barracks at half pay, with no guarantee that the pranks would stop.

After what had happened to Drustanus, Angusel didn’t care what anybody thought of his actions.

“You’re late again, Optio. And this time you have forgotten your horse.” Several of the other horse-warriors snickered. Centurion Cato silenced them with his glare, though a few continued smirking. Cato dismounted and removed the whip from his belt. “That has earned you ten stripes.” He began to close the gap.

“As you will, sir.” Angusel flung the tunic at the centurion’s feet, halting the man’s advance.

“What in hell is this piece of filth?”

“When you report my punishment, you can also report that the nephew of Centurion Marcus slipped and fell in my horse’s stall because of a muck bucket that had been rigged to fall on me.”

“What!” Cato rounded on the others. The smirking men adopted serious demeanors, but not fast enough. By name he called them out of formation. They dismounted and hastened to line up before the fuming centurion. “This foolishness ends now. Ten stripes for each of you.” Cato held up a gloved fist, forestalling any protest. “I don’t give a bloody damn if you are responsible or not.” He leveled his glare on the rest of the unit. “If I hear of one more incident like this, the entire ala will get the lash. Understood?”

After a resounding chorus of, “Yes, sir!” Cato ordered the chosen men to strip to the waist and kneel. Angusel prepared to join them.

“Optio, what are you doing? This is their punishment, not yours.”

“I was late, and not mounted. I deserve ten lashes too, sir, just as you ordered.” In spite of the cost, Angusel needed the favoritism far less than he needed those damned pranks. He’d grab the whip and flay himself, if the centurion wasn’t going to wield it on him.

“Very well, then. Kneel,” said his commander, though Angusel thought he heard a note of respect as he obeyed the order.

In the moments before he shut his eyes to gird himself for the stinging blows, he saw the same sentiment glimmering on the other men’s faces.

*** The end of Chapter 7 ***

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