by Matthew Ross
To the Men and Women of the Onyx Legion,
When the daylight hours dwindle and the nights grow ever longer, it can only mean two things: the Winter Solstice draws near…heralding the arrival of the Onyx Legion’s annual end-of-year missive from our beloved warlord! The High General bids you all her greetings and commands me to convey her warmest wishes to you this Solstice season. It has been nigh on six millennia since the infernal hordes last dared to cross the Adamantine Pass and terrorize the realms of men – six millennia of uninterrupted peace and prosperity that the Seven Lands owe to the steadfast watchfulness of the Onyx Legion. And though many believe that the great Fergus the Red (hallowed be his name) wiped their loathsome race from the face of the earth so many years ago, we cannot rely on faith alone to shield us should they ever return once more. The ongoing existence of the Seven Lands depends upon the unceasing vigilance of the men and women of the Onyx Legion. Whether your enlistment into the Legion came voluntarily or otherwise, that is something that should make us all square our shoulders in pride.
Though it is nearly time to bid farewell to A.F. 5,962 and toll the welcome bells for A.F. 5,963, at the High General’s behest, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on all that we have accomplished this past year. A.F. 5,962 will surely be entered into the logbooks as a banner year for the Sundered Keep. In addition to keeping the infernal horde (should they still exist) from sweeping down through the Adamantine Pass to menace our loved ones once again, we also fought – and won – a good twenty-six skirmishes with local tribesmen treacherously seeking to steal back the land rightfully commandeered by the Legion during the reign of Niall the Peacemaker (hallowed be his name). That’s nearly ten more victories than last year – way to show those filthy goatkissers what’s what! In addition, though the Keep continues to lose more hands to self-slaughter than the High General would prefer, our overall casualty numbers actually dipped a bit from A.F. 5,961, with accidental maimings suffered in the line of duty hitting a new ten-year low. Let’s all be sure to show our gratitude to Morale Centurion Mordha by giving him an extra-big round of applause at next week’s series of mandatory safety lectures!
Having now conveyed her Solstice greetings, the High General has directed me to issue a brief series of announcements and reminders for all Legion personnel, which I shall append below.
-Following the results of last week’s surprise barracks inspection, all personnel are to be reminded that Legionnaires are forbidden from keeping animals in their living quarters. Anyone caught harboring mice, rats, squirrels, hedgehogs, woodchucks, voles, moles, lizards, toads, newts, or birds of any kind – whether as pets or unauthorized livestock – will be assigned to Punishment Detail and the offending creature (or creatures) destroyed forthwith. In addition, Morale Centurion Mordha has directed me to add that the Legion’s rations have been carefully portioned to provide a Legionnaire with all the nutritional sustenance that they require and assures me that there is no valid physiological reason why a Legionnaire need supplement them further.
-All personnel are also to be reminded that while they are free to visit the Legion’s Taproom during their off-duty hours, the consumption of intoxicating spirits while on duty is a serious offense that will result in an extended assignment to Punishment Detail. Legionnaires are also advised to remember that both the possession and consumption of unauthorized intoxicants is strictly prohibited.
Morale Centurion Mordha wishes to add that these prohibitions are there to safeguard your health and wellbeing, as unauthorized intoxicants have been placed off limits for good reason. Legion studies have shown that the fermented berry spirits commonly known as ‘swipe’ have been known to cause blindness in up to one third of Medical Corps test subjects drawn from Punishment Details.
-Morale Centurion Mordha would also like to remind all personnel that the hallucinogenic mushrooms which grow in the caves west of the Sundered Keep are still officially classified as an ‘intoxicating spirit’ and remain off limits to all Keep personnel. All Legionnaires are to be advised that a new guard rotation has been posted to the entrance of these caves since the previous guards were found to have been trading in said mushrooms and permanently reassigned to Punishment Detail.
-Lastly, all personnel are to be reminded that enlistment in the Legion, both voluntary and compulsory, lasts for the duration of a Legionnaire’s natural lifetime. While Legionnaires who sustain disabling injuries honorably in the course of their duties will be reassigned appropriately, any Legionnaires who suffer disabling injuries that are later deemed to have been self-inflicted will NOT be discharged, but instead assigned to a suitable Punishment Detail. THIS INCLUDES ANY LEGIONNAIRES FOUND TO HAVE SUFFERED DEBILITATING INJURIES RESULTING FROM THE CONSUMPTION OF UNAUTHORIZED SPIRITS! Legionnaires would do well to remember that blindness would be no serious impediment should they be assigned Punishment Detail to the Brothel, Medical Testing corps, or Sewer Maintenance division, and to conduct themselves accordingly both on and off duty.
Turning now to cheerier subjects, the High General and Morale Centurion Mordha have some very exciting news and announcements to share, which they have directed me to disseminate as follows:
The High General wishes to announce that due to the ongoing financial crisis, his radiant majesty Duncan the Festive (hallowed be his name) has tabled the hoped-for increase to the Legion’s monthly wages for at least another year. The High General is proud to add that it was only thanks to her personal petition that she was able to convince his radiant majesty not to decrease the Legion’s monthly wages, and that we should all celebrate that generous concession as the great victory that it is.
The High General is very excited to announce an exhilarating new initiative aimed at improving the Winter Solstice experience for everyone here at the Sundered Keep. As we all know, Solstice season is a time of celebration, but also a time when many Legionnaires may find themselves missing their friends and family back home. Thus, Solstice season does tend to be one of the busiest times of year for the Keep’s Brothel.
In order to keep wait times to a minimum and show a little consideration for our brother and sister Legionnaires on temporary or long-term assignment to the Brothel (it is Solstice season for them too, after all!) the High General is pleased to unveil her new A-B-C campaign. Morale Centurion Mordha is already organizing an invigorating series of mandatory informational lectures for us to enjoy in the coming weeks, but in brief, this electrifying initiative is as simple as A-B-C:
A: Appointment – plan out your Brothel visits in advance by making an appointment with our Brothel’s new Scheduling Department! Just stop by the front desk and ask to speak with Morale Optio Bradaigh for more details.
B: Be Open to Alternative Scheduling – Brothel lines tend to be the longest in the evenings and during the 48 hours that follow each Pay Day. So, the High General will soon be announcing an exciting new Incentives Program to encourage Legionnaires to space out their Brothel visits and/or visit the Brothel during off-peak hours. Come by to pick up your complimentary Incentives Program punch-card from Morale Optio Bradaigh any time after First Moon and start working towards your first upgrade!
C: Consider Alternate Forms of Gratification – the Legion is well aware of the existing gender gap between male and female personnel stationed at the Sundered Keep, as well as the various ways in which that gap contributes to the necessary function that our Brothel plays. In an effort to address that disparity, new Legion directives are now encouraging all troops to be open-minded towards other forms of physical gratification that they may not have sampled previously. Men, if you’ve never experienced it before, have you ever considered consensual buggery? If your answer is ‘No,’ what’s stopping you from trying it out now? How do you know you wouldn’t enjoy it – or perhaps, even prefer it to whatever forms of gratification you currently favor? Why not grab a like-minded bunkmate and give it a go – you might both soon find yourselves saving a fortune in monthly Brothel fees!
And as for you female Legionnaires out there, don’t think we’ve forgotten about you either. If you’ve always preferred the company of your own fairer sex, why not try a roll in the hay with one of your brother Legionnaires – after all, you have nothing to lose, and a whole new world of gratification to potentially gain! And for those female Legionnaires who already take pleasure in rutting freely with their male comrades, have you ever considered seeking to turn your part-time hobby into a full-time profession? The High General has been authorized to offer some very attractive benefits packages to female Legionnaires willing to volunteer for Brothel duty. Not happy with your current duty station? A more rewarding one may only be a short conversation with Morale Optio Bradaigh away!
While the High General is confident that our Keep’s new A-B-C campaign will ensure that all personnel are able to satisfy their physical desires in an orderly and enjoyable fashion, Morale Centurion Mordha bids me remind all Legionnaires that freelance harlotry within the barracks remains strictly prohibited. While Legionnaires are free to pursue consensual physical relationships with personnel of an equal or equivalent rank, it is forbidden for Legionnaires to accept any form of compensation for the physical acts of gratification they may choose to engage in. Legionnaires of any gender who are found guilty of exchanging their favors for coin or barter will be immediately reassigned to Punishment Detail in the Brothel.
Lastly, the High General is pleased to announce that due to the recent civil unrest in the capital, enlistments into the Onyx Legion have just reached their highest point since the food riots of A.F. 5,959. With the courts returning to session shortly after the new year, we can expect to start receiving our first shipments of new recruits by the beginning of Second Moon. The High General encourages you to greet our new brothers and sisters in the same spirit with which we were all initiated into the Legion and to begin accustoming them to our ways as soon as they arrive. Remember, the Legion is only as strong as its weakest link – and the High General is sure you will all go to whatever lengths are required to properly motivate our new fellows and swiftly bring them up to Legion standards of discipline and deportment.
In closing, the High General wishes to commend you all on another year of honorable service to the Onyx Legion. There may not be a feather-bed, a silken handkerchief, or a brandied sweetmeat to be found outside the officer’s quarters, yet the Sundered Keep remains stocked to the brim with far greater rewards – like the satisfaction taken in an honest day’s toil, or the fellowship born of dangers braved with steadfast comrades. And above all else, there is the greatest reward of all – the pride one takes in knowing that a Legionnaire’s life is a worthy one, for the hardships it entails and the sacrifices it demands play a vital role in the protection of the Seven Lands. We are the thin black line which safeguards our countrymen from the hellish terrors of the infernal hordes, should they have the temerity to ever show their grotesque faces above ground once more – and the High General knows that there’s not a man-jack among us who would trade a day in the Legion for all the feather-beds in the world.
All Glory To The Onyx Legion!
–Scribed by Ossian, Scrivener 2nd Class, as directed by High General Kenna
Matthew Ross is a writer, editor, and English professor living in Los Angeles, CA. His fiction has previously appeared in Teleport Magazine and The Chamber and will be forthcoming in Literally Stories. Find him online @matthewrossphd.
As an English professor teaching at a struggling community college, I’ve come to dread the yearly end-of-year emails that seek to put a positive spin on the latest round of hardships that my colleagues and I can expect to face in the upcoming year. This story was inspired by the brief “What If” response I had last December that went, “I wonder what those end-of-year messages would look like in one of those dreadfully barbaric military organizations you always see in fantasy books…” This story is the result. Readers interested in exploring other literary excursions into the realm of workplace dystopias may enjoy Severance by Ling Ma, or Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata.