You cautiously knock on old Uncle Frederik's study door. He's not actually your uncle, of course, he was the local lord's squire and scribe way back when. Out of gratitude, that lord gave him this plot of land on the family estate, which happens to adjoin your family's property. Freddie practically helped raise you kids -- he always gave all of you rides on his donkey cart, and he taught you how to shoot a bow and handle a sword.
- "Hello there, child! What brings you here? Fancy a licorice candy?"
You explain it all -- your family has decided that the time has come to send you out into the world, in service to your region and your realm. The realm always has a need for soldiers, and soldiers need noble troop leaders. You explain that your family is hiring a personal guard for you, a dozen or so of the family's retainers and a few locals. When you've got your unit together, you're to report to the region commander's manor and swear your allegiance to the realm, you tell Freddie. You also take a licorice candy. (Hey -- free candy.)
- "Well, that's certainly good to hear! And I expect you've come to old Uncle Freddie to sort you out and set you in the right direction, have you? Good, good. Let's see, where shall we start. Forgive me for asking, but they know your name up at the manor, don't they?"
- Of course they know my name! you reply. I've been living in this realm all my life!
- "Right, right. Daft of me. And, er, you know which realm you live in?"
- Uncle Freddie, now you're kidding me. I know perfectly well which realm I live in.
Uncle Frederik nods to himself, then stands and takes a few beat-up old books off the shelf. He handles them carefully, as though they were finest crystal. Laying them on the table, he gently wipes the dust from their covers, and you see that they're old journals.
- "Belonged to my master, these did. These were the early days, when he was just starting out -- just a young whippersnapper like yourself, he was. Full of piss and vinegar and other chemicals good for cleaning the silver. Of course, I can't hand these over to you, you understand. Some of the things he writes about are still secret to this day. Tried and true battle strategies, names of fellow troop leaders who are now infiltrators acting behind enemy lines."
He reads for a while from the beginning, deep in thought. A smile crosses his face suddenly, and he gingerly unfolds a piece of paper tucked into the pages.
- "This is the very first message my master sent to his realm! I remember all the commotion about this. He dictated the message on the road to the capital city. I wrote it all down, and then had the messengers copy it and head off to all the other troop leaders of the realm -- even the king himself! Hard to read now:
- Greetings, troop leaders of [something, something.] My family has sent me to serve this realm, and I pledge to do so honourably, and to the absolute best of my ability. Please direct me where to bring my troops.
- I also pledged loyalty to my liege, Lady [Er, something or other. Goodness, I had bad handwriting!] whom I shall serve loyally.
- "Sincerely, etc. etc. I wonder which Lady that was -- ah yes, that was before the region over yonder was taken over by Keplerstan. Evil bastards. You realise of course, that since your family is based in this region, your liege lord is whoever owns your estate at the moment. Do we even have one these days? It's so hard to remember."
- "Anyway, when you've officially joined the realm, you ought to send out a message. It lets people know who you are, and gives them an opportunity to get to know you. It also helps you make sure that your scribes and messengers all know what they're doing. Very important, that."
He gives you a keen look.
- "Well, where shall we start? Once you report in, you'll probably be ordered to travel somewhere -- that's the military, I'm afraid, a lot of 'hurry up and wait' all the time. Scout reports, those are important. The recruitment centres in the capital! What a frightful mess those could be, regular meat markets. Healers... carts... siege engines! I wonder if he wrote anything in this one about his idea for that giant wooden badger? Bulletins and statistics, those are useful. Ah, the election of the old king, that brings back memories..."
The old codger drifts off into a daydream, leafing through the book and smiling to himself. You hate to interrupt him, but you need to report soon, and you have a ton of questions:
- "How do I travel between regions?"
- "What are scout reports?"
- "What about recruiting? Any suggestions?"
- "Should I hire healers, or buy carts or banners?"
- "What was that about a badger?"
- "Can you tell me where to find the bulletins?"
- "I never thought statistics might be useful..."
- "Kings are elected?"
- "How can I make sure I get along with my fellow troop leaders?"
- "How do I win?"