I apologize for not writing sooner, I know I promised I would - but the world moves so much faster in the city, you lose track of time. I arrived safely in New Targonor late last week to begin my formal training before I'm officially admitted into the great army. The summers spent playing around the barracks back home have served me well, as I'm already accustomed to the somewhat unique code of military behavior some of the others seem to be having trouble adjusting to.
I've made a few friends, but have kept to myself for the most part - just taking everything in. The people here seem to always be in a hurry, but they are polite and helpful nonetheless. A local merchant went out of his way to help guide me to the officer's dormitory to report in, but then hurried off before I had the chance to properly thank him. When I can afford the time, I intend to find the man's shop and buy him a drink.
I get ahead of myself though, I'm fairly certain I know what you really want to hear now that you know I'm alive and well. And the answer is yes, the city really is as big as they say. Bigger even. The very keep which guards our village could grow legs and walk right through New Targonor's gates. Never in my life could I have imagined such a place to exist. Even during the most exhaustive drills, the site of the great walls serves as an inspiration to us all. They are massive and may outlast everything but the gods themselves.
The captain is calling for us, I will write more as soon as I can. Send my wishes to the others, and please make sure uncle Zeke doesn't cook my pig.
My apologies for stopping so short in my last letter - the roof over our supply building partially collapsed and we had to repair it quickly or the weather may have damaged our equipment. I'm sure you're eager though to hear more about the city.
Before I was allowed to enter New Targonor, I was questioned thoroughly by one of the many guards stationed at the gate. I was not offended though, in fact it is pleasing to see such care being taken to safeguard the city. And as a young man carrying nothing but a knapsack on his back and a cudgel on his shoulder I can understand the need to know my reason for being there. After I explained my business within the walls the guard brightened considerably. He told me that the training could be grueling, and that I would be pushed to my limits but to stay strong and finish because the end result is very rewarding. He seemed to be a good man, perhaps I will serve alongside him someday.
I know no words to accurately describe what happened next as I passed through the main gates. The transformation was startling, in but a few mere steps I left the open countryside and entered a teaming city positively overflowing with activity. Even the largest festivals back home cannot compare to the average day in New Targonor. Merchants peddle their wares at every corner; workers hang from the sides of buildings building them forever higher and armored guards patrol the streets, doing their best to remain in the background until they are needed.
One morning as the patrol of new recruits I am in was marching through part of the city; a merchant's cart full of apples broke an axel and tipped over, spilling its contents into the street. Two guards helped him clean up the mess and watched the cart while the merchant went to find a replacement. I think I shall enjoy serving very much.
I have heard that next week all the new recruits will be invited to dine within the keep itself one evening. I very much hope that this rumor turns out to be true. For every bit massive that the city's walls are the keep is that much greater. I have seen mountains peak closer to the ground than the keep. I do not expect us to be able to ascend to the top, as I'm told that is a restricted area reserved for royalty and only the most important of diplomats. But from even halfway up, I wonder how far I would be able to see. It's exciting to think about—still, I shouldn't get my hopes up as the captain hasn't spoken a word of it yet. But until he does, I shall wait eagerly.
As I write this my heart is still pounding. I have just returned from a banquet held in our honor at the keep this evening. It was truly a marvelous experience and most certainly a highlight of my life.
The captain waited to tell us anything until just this morning when we awoke for the day at dawn. As we began to prepare ourselves for the day's drills and training exercises, the captain walked into the barracks and acted as if he were extremely displeased with us. I thought one of the recruits must have gotten into trouble in the city and been arrested from the way he was storming about. After a few moments though he cracked a smile, something he rarely does, and informed us to go bathe and put on our best clothes.
I had a thousand things flying through my head as we rushed off to do as the captain ordered. I wasn't the only one who'd heard the rumor that we may be invited to the keep - many of the others speculated excitedly that maybe tonight was to be the night. I very much wished that indeed it was, but I didn't want to get my hopes up in case that wasn't what all the ruckus was about.
After we'd all bathed, which I must say was very much needed, we assembled back in our barracks as we were instructed. The captain was waiting for us and it was then that he informed us we'd be eating our supper inside the walls of the great keep.
I returned not more than an hour ago and I don't even remember what we had to eat. Who would have thought I'd share a meal with important diplomats and even royalty? I'm rambling though, I know. It's late, I'll write more soon, I promise.
As you know, I've never been overly fond of being in the water - especially when I can't see the bottom. This week that changed completely. We began our naval training several days ago and while the work is hard and physically exhausting I must say that I am enjoying it thoroughly.
The docks are far beneath the city in a large natural cavern that leads out to the open sea. Just getting there is an adventure in itself. Due to the time it takes to reach them, we've moved our barracks to a building just off the piers for the duration of our naval exercises. It's taken some time for my eyes to adjust to the dimly lit caverns, as I'm not accustomed to having no sky above my head. While I know the city is above us I feel somewhat removed from it all. I do like it down here though, but it is always nice to see the sun again.
We've been training mostly on the fleet's smaller vessels, which are still many times larger than any boat I'd ever been on before. At first the constant rocking made me nervous and made it difficult to maneuver through the rigging, but the more I'm on the water, the more I like it. It has a calming effect that I've felt nowhere else. I also can't help but take a moment to sit back and stare every time we leave the docks and venture out to sea. The sight of the city standing proudly on top of the rocky cliffs is something I doubt I'll ever tire of.
The city has been under constant siege by violent rainstorms all week. For the first couple of days, the captain took us out for training in spite of the weather, but the fields have since become far too muddy for our marches. Only the crown's elite forces work through conditions like these and strangely, they actually appear to enjoy it.
Yesterday, after three days of grueling indoor exercise and repetitious drills, we were finally granted a day to use however we saw fit. Most of the recruits stayed cloistered in the barracks, and at first, I remained inside as well, determined to catch up on much needed rest. That plan dissolved quickly when it became clear that I wouldn't be able to sleep with the thunder echoing through our chambers.
Instead, I took the opportunity to visit New Targonor's great library. Never in my life have I seen so many books gathered in one place. I tried to convince some of the other recruits to come with me, but to no avail. It is startling to me how few of them are able to read and write. I now realize that all of the long winters you made me sit with the scribes was time not wasted.
So I sat in the library for the entire afternoon, browsing through its' tomes. Textbooks, epic adventures and histories filled the bulk of the shelves and as I pored over the pages the hours seemed to pass like minutes. It would take me years to absorb all that the library has to offer. I greatly look forward to the day I have time to come back and pay the texts the attention they deserve.
I must have walked past the entrance to New Targonor's temple over a hundred times, but until today I had never been inside. As you know, I am not a very religious man, but after seeing the temple's interior it almost makes me wish that I were. Many of the recruits are quite devoted to their faiths and are allowed a significant amount of time for worship. I am beginning to envy them.
The temple itself has been built directly into the side of the earth, giving it a very unique look. The entrance is grand indeed, and though the rooms themselves are not gigantic, there are many of them. I hadn't the time to explore much, but from the look of the hallways I think there is quite a bit left for me to see. Perhaps, on another visit, I shall call on one of the priests to guide me through the premises, if they can spare the time.
My formal training is, as of yesterday, over. After the induction ceremony to be held later this week I will officially be a soldier in the great army of New Targonor. Words cannot accurately describe how excited I am by this. The training has been hard, impossible it seemed at times, but very rewarding.
The captain has asked us to submit requests of which specific area in the army we would like to serve but I am having difficulty making up my mind. While working on the sea vessels was an amazing experience, I would also very much like to see more of Thestra, so perhaps I will request a tower guard assignment. I have until tomorrow night to submit my request, so I will continue to weigh my options. The captain made no promises that our requests would be granted either, so the point may very well be moot.
In other news, now that our training is over we've been rewarded with a small bit of leisure time. I am proud to say, that after much work, I was able to track down the kindly merchant who first helped me when I arrived in New Targonor all those weeks ago. I didn't know any good taverns in the city, but he suggested a place called "The Baron's Tooth". It was loud and rowdy, but fun and I was finally able to buy him that drink.
I hope all of you are doing well and I will write again as soon as I find out where I'm to be assigned.