Dress Down

First Sergeant Clemons paced back and forth in the small office, his hand betraying just how disquieted he was at being summoned by the Second Lieutenant. The veteran Guardsman felt he had better things to be doing than answering to a paper pushing officer. The office was a simple one. A stone desk, one seemingly uncomfortable seat, and nothing but a window to provide lighting. Though Clemons had always held great ire toward the Lieutenant, he had to take a moment to respect the man’s simple practicality.

At that moment the door to the office swung open, and Second Lieutenant James R. strode in. He was a tall but kind man, exuding self-confidence and calm wherever he went. In fact, Clemons could barely remember a time that James had lost his temper. But such would not be the case today, as Clemons was almost taken aback at what he saw.

The Second Lieutenant’s face was flush and contorted with rage. He walked up to Clemons fast, and the Sergeant was sure he was about to take a punch. To the enlisted Guard’s credit, he did not flinch from attention.

“Damn it, Clemons!” was all James managed. He turned, walking to the window, obviously unsure as how to handle the situation.

“Sir-“ Clemons started.

Turning around, James was quick to cut him off. “No! Shut it! What you did was unacceptable!” His anger only seemed to increase as he spoke. “I need no explanation,” the officer shook his head, “not from you.”

The Lieutenant stepped over to his desk, scooping up an armful of papers and books. He walked to the Sergeant, throwing them into his chest one at a time before tossing the whole stack at him in anger.

“These are all reports from Guardsmen,” James circled Clemons as he spoke, “on the situation from the Skara farmlands. Veterans, privates,” James shook his head, “even recruits! Your actions were so intolerable I’m hearing it from the greens!”

Clemons betrayed no emotion, his face as set in stone as usual, as he parted his lips to speak.

James wasn’t finished. “I swear it, Clemons, if you open your mouth now I will shut it with my boot!” A flash of fury could be seen in the First Sergeant’s eyes, but he said nothing.

The Second Lieutenant went over to his chair and sat, making a visible attempt to calm himself. He stared at the First Sergeant, still at rigid attention, for minutes before speaking again.

“You were not authorized to go after Nimrad.” James’ voice was calmer, now. “You were given your orders, which you neglected. There are things you don’t know, First Sergeant.” James almost spat out the man’s rank.

The Lieutenant took a deep breath and sighed before continuing, “You let some obsession with the alchemist get to you, and it almost cost us all dearly. I do not care what help he may have had, do you really think he could have just walked out of Trinsic? Did it never occur to you that we may need him on the outside?”

Clemons kept his eyes forward, hands at his side, and did not attempt to speak again. He knew his superior was just slinging rhetoric.

“Your heavy handed ways have been excused, thus far. But know that this isn’t the first time we’ve received complaints from our junior ranks on your mistreatment.” James shook his head, “You’ve been quoted as telling them you’d slit their throats. You’ve struck recruits. You berate them when it isn’t necessary. Do you know why it is the late Queen let you keep your Guard posting after so many others from Casca’s regime were dismissed?”

The officer let the question hang in the air, and Clemons became certain he was expecting an answer. “Sir-“

Again the Lieutenant cut him off. “Your dedication to the crown is unshakable. You served the Council with the best you had. You served Casca with utmost loyalty, even with your hatred toward his ways well known among us all.

“For all your faults, Clemons, your brutal ways, your loyalty to the Royal Guard is like no other’s. Never,” James’ voice began to rise again, “have you neglected standing orders! Not once! Until now. We are just fortunate you didn’t kill the alchemist!”

The Lieutenant had already risen from his seat at this point, stepping to within inches of the other man’s face.

“Now. Speak.”

Clemons did not hesitate, “Sir. Yes, Sir.” He left it at that.

The Second Lieutenant nodded, expecting just that answer. “Our structure is weak in the Guard these days, Clemons. The officers, the senior non-coms, almost all were dismissed after Casca’s demise. While Sir Geoffrey has returned to his position as Captain of the Guard, our leadership remains weak. We all need to play by the rules, First Sergeant.”

“Yes, Sir!” For the first time since James entered the office, Clemons broke attention, looking his superior in the eye. “You read my report, as well, Sir. What of those whom disobeyed me?”

The officer cracked a smile, “Our Guardsman need to understand that a man of your rank should never be disobeyed.” This nearly made Clemons smile, he had hoped action could be taken. But he did not expect what came next.

James turned, no longer smiling, “If I had it my way, though, they’d be rewarded for their efforts! Those two Guards, one now a veteran, the other a mere recruit, saved us a lot of trouble. You should thank them; they may well have saved your career as well. Now, get out of my office.” First Sergeant Clemons snapped a salute, turned on his heel, and walked out.

Once well away, Clemons couldn’t stop himself from muttering, “Snot nosed Lieutenants, gargoyle and elven recruits, the death of my Guard.”

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