The more reports she read and the more the captain fumbled his way through explanations, the angrier the Kaldorei grew. Fortunately, her amusement from the obvious nervousness bordering on fear coming from Captain McCormick soothed her enough not to do something … well, not exactly regrettable but something she’d have to find a way to explain to Ace. Cutting off his last stumbling speech with a wave of her hand, she eyed the relatively young human. “Your reports, Captain,” a finger tapped one stack of papers, “don’t mention much about the naga and blood trolls near this base.”

“No, ma’am. They weren’t specifically part of our assignment so other than noting their positions I didn’t feel it was necessary to waste time or manpower on them.”

Where do they get these guys and how in Goldrinn’s name do they ever become officers? The druid held up another stack of parchment. “But you did feel it was necessary to document every bit of punishment detail assigned to each man.”

Captain McCormick stiffened. “Of course! Proper military discipline is mandatory in all situations, not just combat zones.”

“I see.” Slapping the stack back down on the desk, Etsi leaned forward, bracing her hands on the wood top in order to prevent herself from reaching across and throttling the young officer. “So, instead of assigning punishment details that would actually help the camp, you assigned ones that were simply odious or annoying.”

If possible, the captain’s posture became even stiffer. “If you’re referring to the shit detail, that is helpful to the camp. The enemy can’t use our own bowel movements against us.”

“Is this a desert, captain?”

Startled, the young man blinked. “Pardon?”

“It was a simple question. Is this a desert?”

A frown creased his brow. “No. What does that have to do with anything?”

“In a desert, you have no good way of naturally removing shit so your procedure would be fitting.” Etsi tapped a fingertip against the desktop. “This is the jungle, not the desert. There are more than enough creatures that creep and crawl around that will scavenge and scatter anything you leave behind, particularly if you bury it. As often as it rains around here, any shit you leave on the surface will turn to sludge and run off with the detritus from the forest floor.” Rising, she stood to her full height to look down upon the captain. “You’re in the middle of a mangrove patch, not desert sand dunes. Adjust your way of thinking.” The last part came out as a whiplash snap, causing the officer to stiffen again. “Fortunately, for all of us, you’re only here for another two weeks before you’re to report directly to Grand Marshal Walkinson.” At the discernable sense of relief coming from the other person, Etsi leaned down until her face was mere inches from his. “Make no mistake, captain. The Grand Marshal sent me here because I’m good at cleaning up other officers’ fuckups. If I were you, I wouldn’t be looking forward to being under his direct command.” With those words, the Kaldorei spun around and strode from the tent.

“Corporal Orebender!”

Upon hearing his name, Halonan jogged over to the waiting druid. “Ma’am?”

Etsi held out a piece of parchment. “As per Grand Marshal Walkinson’s orders, you’ve been granted a temporary rank increase to sergeant. Its permanency is contingent on my observations and reports back to the grand marshal. Any questions?”

“No, ma’am. Orders?”

Nodding at the soldiers moving around the camp, she handed him a clipboard. “Find out what these men can do besides playing at being soldiers. Any skills they have no matter how trivial they think they are. Tailoring, farming, fishing. Everything they think or know they can do. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.” At his prompt spin to carry out her orders, her lips twitched. “And remind the men that while I appreciate the respect, we’re in a combat zone. They don’t salute me or any other officers. I’d rather not have a target painted on my back.”

Looking over his shoulder, the newly promoted sergeant grinned in return, “Yes, ma’am,” and trotted off to question the men.

Author Elli
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