been out in the wild


Maybe training a recruit wouldn’t be so bad after all. Cal’s smirk curled a little more at the corners as the colour fled Saffron’s guilt-ridden face, leaving her ghostly pale. Teenagers. Always thought they were one step ahead of the adults but never realised that the adults had done the exact same thing themselves when they were young. Cal could recall, with painful clarity, the poundings she’d exchanged with the other cadets in her first couple of months with the common force. Policing on Xara was a male-dominated profession and most of the few girls who signed up for it didn’t last beyond the first few weeks. Cal had had to learn to hawk spit, slap shoulders and down booze with the rest of them. Even then, it had taken her years of quality work before she’d be accepted as an equal to even the most mediocre male officer.

Saffy reminded her a little of her younger self. She was shyer than Cal had ever been but, like Cal, was determined to solve her own problems without intervention from her superiors. Cal could respect that. She refrained from passing further commentary and allowed Saffron to change the subject to something which was presumably a little easier to handle.

“We’re patrolling Augury Vale.” Cal informed her, choosing to ignore her poor articulation. It was natural to be nervous in the early days of a new job – especially when you were of questing age and felt a need to prove yourself. “Prime hunting ground. Outlaws mostly stick to the forest but we still get some poachers on the king’s land, so that’s mainly what we’re on the lookout for. I’m just supposed to show you the usual today, though.” She stepped to one side as Saffron led her chosen steed out onto the masonry, where a stable-hand swiftly appeared to help tack the animal up. Nobody used tack in Xara and Cal had never tacked a horse, so she was no use here. She watched curiously for a moment before remembering what she was saying. “So, uh, yeah. We’ll be doing a lot of walking around, chatting to locals, checking everything’s okay. I’m supposed to show you how to negotiate the wilderness.”

She tried to sound enthusiastic. Frankly, it seemed like a dull itinerary.

The stable-hand finished tacking Saffron’s horse and fetched a mounting block for her. Cal placed her hands on Buddy’s back and swung herself confidently up. Sitting bareback, she entwined her fingers through her familiar’s spiky black-and-blue mane and waited for Saffron to mount, before gesturing for Buddy to lead on. He knew where they were going, so she didn’t worry about navigating and focused more on mentally documenting her surroundings. Once a common force officer, always a common force officer.

“I don’t know what training you’ve already had so stop me if I sound patronising.” Cal grinned and waved at the guards on duty at the castle’s main gates as they passed through them. “Rule number one of patrol, never go alone. You always need a buddy with you in case of an emergency. If you’re injured, you’ll need to send someone for help. Likewise, if you come across someone who’s injured, one of you has to stay with them while the other goes for help.” She paused, a thought occurring. “Have you had first aid training?”


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