232 Honor Over Gold
"Yes, that about sums everything that Ferrutius reported." Centurion Cyrac mused...
Sixtus nodded, "But you have managed to do so with far more clarity and less embellishment. Well done, young Decanus."
There was... one thing that Decanus Justus had hidden from the Centurion and Optio...
Decanus Zehr could... speak to the kobolds. The fact... bothered him. He had never heard of anyone being able to speak to beasts... maybe a druid of Alizeau... maybe of the Beast Kingdoms to the west... but not in Tyrion, for sure.
But such words hinted at treason-- and there was no way that Zehr was a traitor, not with everything he'd done.
No... Justus would take the secret to his grave.
Optio Sixtus sighed, "I shall take the blame for our failure to accurately judge the kobold threat."
"Nonsense, Sixtus." Cyrac growled, waving his hand, "The scouts told us there were a few stray dogs in the woods-- not gods-damned hundreds of them, and armed with spears and crossbows, and Flame-scarred burning shite-pots."
Justus nodded, "With respect, Centurion, Optio, is there anything else? I'd really like to return to the infirmary. My... close friend has had a rough sun."
He had a feeling if Rena woke up and he wasn't around, she would cry. She had always been overly emotional... and even though they had both grown into independent adults, she somehow hasn't quite grown up yet.
"He can wait a short while longer-- or she, if you're referring to a particularly outspoken archer." Sixtus waved Justus over, "Come sit on my side and I'll instruct you how to properly maintain your new Decanus armor. I highly doubt Caelistis showed you... or if the blockhead even cleaned his own set."
"Ah, yes. There was one more thing," Cyrac narrowed his eyes in thought. "What would you say to the rank of Tesserarius?"
Justus' eyes widened at the thought. The Tesserarius was only second to the Optio. That would make him superior to even the Decani.
Sixtus scoffed, "Keh... You're a bit new, but you have what it takes, I'd say. There are major differences in watching over 100, rather than 10..."
The Optio shook his head, "But as the Centurion says, I could use the help..."
Guilt again hounded at his conscience, "I... I can't, Centurion."
The refusal spawned a harsh glare from Optio Sixtus, but Justus couldn't relent, "The honors of the sun belong to Decanus Zehr... He was the one that led the escape. And then Decanus Constantina led her scouts, and-and Decanus Ferrutius--"
"Yes, yes, Decanus Justus." Cyrac nodded, "You've made your point several times during your account. But in this case, it's not a reward for your achievements."
"Centurion?" Justus' mouth hung open, trying to understand.
"From what I'm told-- and from what I've seen, you handled yourself very well. You command a battlefield presence better suited for a young officer and you're not bad with a shield and sword. You care for your peers, and that's something that won't change with a different rank or title."
Justus was left speechless, "But-- but I..."
"You're a born leader, Hero of Leopardon," Sixtus turned up his nose. "In the dire straits of the Rhodok adventuring company, we're giving you a chance to act like one."
The sound of a few soldiers quickly approaching the tent with muddy footsteps interrupted Justus' train of thought.
"Primus Pilus, we've found a suspicious intruder," A voice called from outside.
"Of course you would reject it, with your humbleness. But I will ask again after our mission is completed, young Decanus." Cyrac turned to the entrance of the tent, "Come in-- and brush off your damned sandals."
The sound of furious brushing came from outside before two Munifex entered the tent out from the rain. They escorted a third... Decanus Zehr, his green-hair and armor filthy, caked in mud and traces of kobold blood. His golden eyes seemed to glow, reflecting the tent's dim oil lamp.
The Centurion glared at the two flanking soldiers, "And why is the prisoner not bound, you empty-headed mushrooms?"
The Munifices shared a tacit grimace. One answered, "He... he came willingly, Primus Pilus."
"A coward who'd run and hid in the forest until the fighting's stopped?" Cyran grimaced, "Twenty lashes. Now get out of my sight."
"The usual punishment is twenty strikes with a cudgel." Optio Sixtus crossed his arms, "Consider yourself lucky, Decanus."
"Wait, wait! Hold on, Centurion!!" Justus interrupted, "On my honor, that's Decanus Zehr! He led away the kobolds! He was the one who led us out in the first place!!"
Zehr narrowed his eyes, "Don't be so quick to put your honor on the line, young Decanus."
Sixtus looked over, "I agree. Honor to a Tyrion has more worth than gold, Decanus Justus."
Cyrac was visibly stunned. He took a second look at the green-haired youth... "You look like a Flame-scarred mess, Zehr."
"With respect, Pilus Prior." Zehr raised an eyebrow, "It's not my blood."
Optio Sixtus broke out in unabated laughter, "Haha! Not my blood!! True, true... Perhaps we can go without the lashing, Centurion? This one seems to have seen his share of beatings."
"Right, right," Cyrac shrugged. "Forgive me, Zehr."
"A misunderstanding, Pilus Prior. I shall take no offense," Zehr lightly inclined his head.
Justus frowned. As young as Decanus Zehr looked... with the way he acted, it always felt that he was decades older than he was.
Cyrac sighed, "As a token of my apology, I'm placing you in charge of one of the tent groups in the First Cohort."
"I must respectfully decline," Zehr bowed his head again.
Justus twisted his face, absolutely baffled by what he'd just heard.
"Wh-what? Why?!" He blurted out.
Sixtus frowned at him. Justus covered his mouth-- he had spoken out of line. The last time he did that, Caelistis made certain he never forgot the consequences.
"Yes, why not...?" Cyrac was equally confused, a deep line set between his brows.
"I am merely a Bronze-Rank, Centurion." Zehr gestured at Justus, "The honors belong to Decanus Justus. I only request permission to return to my tent group."
"...I might believe you." Cyrac narrowed his eyes, "--f the fiery-haired young Decanus in our presence had already volunteered your name as the one who deserved the honors, first."
He pointed, "You, Zehr. I'm rewarding you with the rank of Duplicarius. That way, you can keep wearing the armor. It's not like we have enough Decani that could use it..."
The Centurion waved his hand in annoyance, "Return with Decanus Justus and serve as his advisor. Shape him into something you can be proud of."
Zehr snapped to attention, "Understood, Pilus Prior."
"Now all of you, get out. Get some rest and stop bothering me with stupid shite."
""Yes, Primus Pilus!!"" Everyone in the tent replied.
"Not you, Optio." Cyrac grumbled, "Stay here, you thief."
"Very well." Sixtus chuckled, "Decanus Justus, we'll continue our conversation in the morning."
"Yes, Optio," Justus nodded as he quickly excused himself to follow the others out into the rain.
Emerging from the tent and stepping through mud and ran out of earshot, Justus could barely contain his excitement.
"H-how did you make it out, Decanus Zehr?" He asked, "Have you been running this whole time? How many did you kill? Did you find anyone e--"
Zehr raised his hand to object, "I apologize for interrupting, but I have a task of import. Get the others. Ah, and get Ferrutius and Constantina, too."
Justus' heart fell deep into the pit of his stomach and the hair on the back of his neck rose, "Is... is there trouble?"