“This is your army?” Ohoudulus The Unliving’s hands were at his waist, elbows sticking out, as he looked over the two dozen men and women on the training ground below him.
They were all on the wide stone balcony at the back of the castle. Ohoudulus was wearing long shorts and a sweatshirt.
“He looks like a gym teacher I had back in high school,” General Lukomendrius Dungerame whispered to Geoffrey. “If he takes out a whistle, run.”
“He must have had those clothes custom-tailored in Krim City,” said Bartram. “I wonder who he used.”
The Duke nudged them all out of the way as he stepped up next to Ohoudulus. “We’re still recruiting. It’s a little hard to get people out here, especially since we can’t actually guarantee that they’ll see action, or tell them who the specific enemy is. Everybody wants to fight the celebrities bandits down on the plains, not the no-name gangs we’ve got up here.”
“Well, I traveled two weeks to get here, so I might as well see what I can do,” said Ohoudulus. He walked down the steps and walked around the troops, who stood at attention in four rows of six people each.
“On World of Battle, you’d need at least ten thousand people to call yourself an army,” said Geoffrey.
“I’d be happy with a hundred,” said the Duke.
As Ohoudulus circled the soldiers, Flame came out of the castle and joined them. “Who’s the new guy?”
“He’s our new team-building consultant,” said the Duke. “He’s going to help turn us into a unified, coherent fighting force that can take on bandits, rival cities, or anything else Krim throws at us.” He puffed out his chest. “We’re going to be a lean, mean fighting machine.”
“Fighting isn’t going to bring people to Heartburgh,” said Flame. “People come here for the community, for the lifestyle.”
“Can’t have much of a lifestyle if you can’t stay alive,” said the General. “Personally, I still don’t see why we need a team-building consultant. If we want to build unit cohesion, we should run training exercises, then send the troops into battle. Nothing builds bonds faster than risking your life for someone. But if I suggested it.. maybe I was onto something and forgot.”
“Or maybe you were just on something,” said Geoffrey, who knew the General from back on World of Battle. The man did like to indulge.
The consultant rejoined them on the balcony. “I’ve got some ideas.”
“I’m listening,” the Duke said.
“Have you heard of Alexander the Great?” asked Ohoudulus. “His empire stretched from Greece to Pakistan.”
“He also had more than 30,000 men,” Ayoob said.
“Or the Sacred Band of Thebes? They conquered Sparta.”
“That one was 300 men,” said Ayoob.
“I see we’ve got a military historian here,” said Ohoudulus.
“Game designers,” said Ayoob.
“Same thing,” said Ohoudulus. “I’ve got some ideas from that time period that could be a perfect fit for the situation you’re in today. Would you like me to demonstrate?”
The Duke opened his arms. “Go ahead.”
Ohoudulus turned back to the troops and stepped forward so that he was standing at the very edge of the balcony.
“Listen up everybody! I’m going to tell you about the ancient Greeks. They had one of the most fearsome fighting forces ever known. Those men were willing to fight for each other, and die for each other.”
Ohoudulus turned, walked a couple of steps, and turned back towards the troops. “And do you know what helped them together?”
“Trust!” he said. “Let me hear you say it. Trust!”
“Trust?” said someone weakly in the front row.
“And you know what else they had? Respect.” He waited a few seconds, then motioned for them to say it back.
“And do you know what else they had? Love! Now, I can tell what you’re thinking.” Ohoudulus pointed at the soldiers in the front. “You’re thinking that love is a wishy-washy emotion that has not place on a battlefield. But you’d be wrong! There is a love that does belong in the battlefield. No, not the love you feel for a puppy or kitten. Not even the love you feel for your children. I’m talking about manly love.”
He turned around and nodded at a trumpeter standing at the back of the balcony. Geoffrey hadn’t even seen him there.
The trumpeter played the opening strains of YMCA.
The soldiers, who had previously all had blank, stoic looks on their faces, started to look a little worried.
“I’m talking about real man-on-man action,” Ohoudulus continued. “I want you all to strip down. I’m talking all the way naked. We’re going to start building bonds with some Greek wrestling.”
The soldiers grumbled.
“I don’t care how cold it is!” Ohoudulus yelled. “I want all of you men stripped naked. Now!”
One of the soldiers raised her hand.
The trumpeter paused.
“What exactly do you mean by men?” The soldier asked. “Do you mean it in a general sense, as in, people?”
“No, I was talking about the Greeks, and when I say man, I mean man.”
“But I’m a woman,” she said.
“In that case, you’re excused.”
“You can go.” He pointed off to the side. “Go wait over there. We’ll find something for you to do later. Maybe you can make bandages.”
The general pulled the Duke toward the back of the balcony. “Are you sure about this?” he asked. “We can’t afford to lose any able-bodied fighters.”
The woman fighter stepped forward. “You want me to go? I’m a great soldier. And back in real life, I’m a guy.”
“You’re still excused.” Ohoudulus waved her off. “Now, what was I saying? Yes. Hot, man on man… what now?”
Another soldier had raised his hand. “What you’re saying sounds a little suggestive,” he said. And I’m married.”
“Oh, and your little wifey doesn’t understand the importance of winning battles?”
“Well, I don’t know what my husband understands or not…”
“Because it doesn’t matter!” yelled Ohoudulus. “This is your family now. Look to your left. Look to your right. You will live and die with these men. We won’t have any divided loyalties here. If you’re going to fight alongside your fellow soldiers then God darn it, you will love them.” He shook his fist in the air.
Another soldier raised his hand. “I have a male avatar now, but in real life, I’m a woman.”
Ohoudulus frowned and paused for a few seconds. “You’re excused,” he finally said. He pointed to the side, where the first woman soldier was sitting on a low stone wall.
“I’m a woman, too,” said another soldier.
“I’m a woman now,” said a female fighter in the back row.
“You know what, I just remembered,” the married soldier said. “In real life, I”m also a woman. Don’t know how I forgot that.”
“I don’t think we have an army left,” said the General.
“Damn it,” said Ohoudulus. “This is the same thing that happened last time.”