[Author’s Foreword: Daybreak extra chapters are either scenes that don’t fit neatly into the story’s pacing, or are meant to address the interests of specific audiences and aren’t for everyone. This particular chapter comes at the request of patreons supporters — it is largely a discussion of military camp life, as well as some Hyperion cultural aspects such as food, sanitation, and other amenities. It is an expansion of chapter 11, after Kaede and Ariadne finished their tour of the riverfront.]
“So, now that you’ve finished your assignment, where to?” Kaede heard Ariadne ask.
The inspection trip to the riverfront fortifications had taken most of the afternoon. The setting sun had just touched the horizon as they returned. Its bright, shining halo met the huge, indigo ‘moon’ to the side. The refraction of light across the gas giant’s atmosphere projected a beautiful blend of colors, which began to dye the clear, blue skies into a picturesque canvas of dusk.
The Samaran girl was still riding behind Ariadne on the back of her pegasus. They were about to enter the outer perimeter of the Lotharin army camp. The guards who kept watch followed the two girls with curious eyes but never approached. It was clear from their gazes that there remained a mix of apprehension and wonder between the Lotharins and their Weichsen allies.
I’m not sure I want to go back yet… Kaede thought with a scowl as she considered the awkward atmosphere that she would be returning to.
Pascal and Sylviane were still at odds, which turned the former into a grumpy workaholic and the latter into a depressed shut-in. The problem, however, was that Kaede also had nowhere else to go.
“How about a visit with me to Perceval first then?” Ariadne offered in a charming voice. “It would force him to take a breather too.”
Kaede thought of the amiable healer whom she hadn’t seen in over a week. She couldn’t help feeling a smile tug on her lips.
“Sure, why not?”
Ariadne nudged the mount with her legs as they took the path to the north side of camp. She never once picked up the reins during their entire trip, not even when they returned at a canter. It was a testament to just how comfortable the pink-haired noblewoman was in the saddle.
— This was in stark contrast to Kaede, who still had her hands locked around Ariadne’s narrow waist in fear of falling off.
“I’m guessing Perceval has also been overworked?” Kaede asked as she remembered the throngs of injured soldiers when they first arrived.
“Especially the first few days, when they’d go from before sunrise until late into the night.” Ariadne expressed her lingering concern with a sigh. “Even with Rejuvenate spells, he was on the verge of collapse after each day. Thankfully, they’ve made it past the peak and their workload is in steady decline now. When we chatted last night, he said they were mostly down to backlogged cases originating from the camp.”
“From the camp?” Kaede raised her eyebrows. “Are we talking about sanitation and diseases?”
“Sanitation was one of the first things they inspected after arriving here.” Ariadne commented. “The Lotharins lack discipline in many aspects. However, it’s good to see that sanitation isn’t one of them.”
“What exactly do they do?” Kaede wondered in curiosity, perhaps a bit too obviously.
Pre-modern armies back on Earth often lost more men to disease than to combat due to the lack of proper sanitation. The Samaran girl did notice that Hyperion societies seemed to care more about cleanliness. Nevertheless, soldiers have always been messy and sloppy in their standards for hygiene. Therefore, she rather doubted they would timely dispose of wastes from night buckets, in the way nobles of the inner camps had their servants empty chamber pots.
“You must be the only girl I’ve ever met who is interested in this kind of detail,” Ariadne chuckled slightly.
“I mean — I’m not asking for a tour of the latrine pits or anything like that. Just wondering about the overall trends.” Kaede justified her curiosity, though she still sounded rather sheepish about it. “Organizational details like this make a huge difference after all.”
“True, true.” Ariadne admitted before she pointed towards a wooden stall just inside a nearby infantry banner’s camp. “The Lotharins build these standard outhouses with latrines that are each covered when not in use. A pit is dug beneath each latrine for waste. Then, when the pits are almost full, they fill them back up with packed earth, dig four more pits elsewhere and move the outhouse. It’s pretty similar to the system we use in Weichsel.”
They might have learned it from the Imperials they spent centuries fighting then, Kaede thought. Reduction of non-combat casualties had always been important for armies to maintain combat effectiveness. And improper waste disposal could contaminate water and spread diseases through insects which often led to outbreaks.
“That takes care of the dirty business. But what about hygiene?”
“See those three giant buckets of water between the outhouse and the tables?” Ariadne pointed out next. “they’re always placed in order. The bucket closest to the tables are used to wash hands and faces. The middle is used to wash the upper body. The last is for clothes and the lower body. Twice a day they rotate in a new bucket of water while dumping out the dirtiest.”
“So they’re keeping the water in order of cleanliness?” Kaede watched as a squad of chattering men went to those buckets and began to wash their hands and faces in order.
“Yes. I’ve seen the Northmen use the same setup.” Ariadne added. “Though Perceval says the tradition likely came from the Samaran Expeditionary Force during the Lotharin Independence War.”
It reminded Kaede of how Vikings on Earth also had higher hygiene and grooming standards than their European contemporaries. As a result, Scandinavian men were seen as highly attractive by women in mixed culture regions like the English Danelaw and the Kievan Rus. This in turn played a major role in helping to promote cleanliness in Medieval societies, as appeal to the fairer sex was a powerful motivator.
The Samaran girl watched from her saddle as the men finished their cleaning. The soldiers returned to their tents afterwards, where they removed their grimy, sweat-stained tunics and put on fresh garments. Their dirty clothes were then tossed into several empty buckets, which they passed to one of the girls in camp along with a few coins.
One of the men even gave the laundress a kiss on her cheeks. The fact she smiled back at him seemed to show that their relationship was more than just transactional.
“Do Weichsen units ever bring along civilians in the way Lotharin armies do?” Kaede wondered aloud. She knew from conversations with Pascal that the Weichsel army did not tolerate ‘camp followers’. Nevertheless, someone had to do the low-end jobs like cleaning, which soldiers often looked down upon.
“Yes. But not in the same manner.” Ariadne replied. “We often recruit civilians to fill roles in the support companies that are integrated into our battalions. But they would be hired on a contractual basis, and only professionals would travel along with the army. Though that’s not to say officers have never tried to sneak their mistresses along.” She added in a disapproving tone.
Some things never change, Kaede couldn’t help thinking.
The trotting pegasus took the two girls past the encampment that Kaede had been observing. The next camp belonged to a banner of levied longbowmen. There, Kaede could see a dozen camp women who sat in a circle chatting while they made arrow shafts — a laborious process that involved grinding down wooden sticks with knives and rocks until they formed long, smooth rods.
The finished shafts were then passed to two women, whose darker wardrobes and fitting clothes could pass them for military auxiliaries. Kaede quickly realized that these two were dedicated fletchers. They focused on the higher expertise work of attaching the tail feathers and reinforcing the notch. A final, rather stocky woman was then responsible for securing the arrowhead with a vice-like tool.
“Are those the arrowheads brought from Nordkreuz?” Kaede pondered aloud.
Ariadne turned halfway towards the familiar before the Samaran girl pointed out the arrow-making circle of women. Besides them laid a small pile of straight, wooden branches and a wooden box of what seemed to be arrowheads.
“Hmmmm, I Can’t tell from this distance. The box is too generic.” The lady answered. “Though Weichsen arrowheads usually stand out from Lotharin ones.”
“In what way?”
“Because all Weichsen war arrows and crossbow bolts are crafted to standard measurements.” Ariadne began to explain in a voice that was clearly proud of her country’s achievements in this field. “They come in three — the head, shaft, and tail — all of which are interchangeable. That means any projectile you find on the battlefield can be immediately repaired by swapping out a damaged component with one from another arrow.
“Of course, our precision and standards aren’t something the Lotharins can match,” she added. “Their tails aren’t replaceable. And every blacksmith’s arrowheads differ slightly.”
“It’s not exactly a level of standardization that’s easy to meet,” Kaede expressed with more than a hint of amazement. Especially for a pre-industrial society without machine tools.
The only example she could think of back on Earth was the Kingdom of Qin, whose machine of war allowed them to unify China through sheer military force. Every Qin weapon component, from arrow shafts to pike heads, was made to standard measurements and was interchangeable for ease of repair. Qin weapons found with the Terracotta Army were even labeled with the model and year of make, as well as the name of the blacksmith and inspector for each.
“Certainly not when they can’t even march in straight lines.” Ariadne added in a quieter voice as a platoon-sized group of soldiers returned to their camp.
The men were boisterous as they sang a folk song in good cheer. And sure enough, they strode past the two girls in more of a messy lump rather than the neat columns Kaede often saw from Weichsen soldiers in Nordkreuz. Even the squads that patrolled the camp with weapons in hand often walked about in uneven lines. The difference in discipline was as clear as day and night.
Guess that’s just what happens when most of these men are levies with little formal training. Kaede thought. Meanwhile, even the average Weichsen reservist had monthly drills as part of local militia training.
The Lotharins’ saving grace was the fact they practiced archery as a national sport. As a result, even many common peasants had a good deal of shooting experience. Kaede would bet that this tradition had been intentionally cultivated by the Lotharin leadership, just like it had been for the Welsh and English on Earth. For without their archery traditions, she doubted an average Lotharin army could match even a Weichsen or Imperial force half its size in combat effectiveness.
The two girls rode past three more camps before they entered a clearing where several paths converged. The grassy field was surrounded by over two dozen tents, covered wagons, and several wall-less sheds.
The largest sheds were occupied by the cooks and aides of two field kitchens. The staff were mostly camp women as they worked at simple wooden tables to prepare food for the returning soldiers. A makeshift baking oven built from stone could be seen in the back where one woman extracted bread from. Meanwhile in the front was a row of cauldrons suspended from log frames over campfires.
Kaede brought her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun’s glare as she examined the food being prepared. It did not surprise her that the meals of average soldiers were far less refined than what she ate in the inner camp. She could see sacks of flour, barley, oats, and beans left standing near the pillars. The remains of a freshly butchered animal — either a deer or sheep by the look of it — could be seen hanging from several meat hooks.
Several covered wagons were parked beside each shed. Kaede could see three camp girls emerging from the inside of one wagon with cabbage heads and baskets filled with carrots and onions. The vegetables look surprisingly fresh considering it was already late winter.
What are they making? Kaede wondered as she sniffed at the air. Even from several dozen meters away, the delicious aroma of food was making her mouth water slightly.
She also wasn’t the only one as dozens of soldiers were already starting to congregate. Many of them sat chatting on the benches surrounding the half-log tables. Some of them were less patient as they paced back and forth in front of the cauldrons with a wooden bowl and spoon in hand.
The Samaran girl could smell the onions, garlic, and beans being cooked in the cauldrons. However, what surprised her most was the faint smell of pork, since there was no sign of a slain pig in sight.
Kaede’s stomach took the opportunity to growl as it protested its emptiness. The familiar had been hungry for so long she almost forgot.
“Hungry?” Ariadne asked in a humored tone.
“Yeah. I haven’t eaten much since breakfast.” Kaede responded in a sullen tone. Pascal’s workaholism was definitely taking a toll on her dietary biorhythm.
“Then let’s eat after getting Perceval,” Ariadne added kindly. “He’s right over there.”
Kaede peeled her eyes away from the kitchens as she followed the noblewoman’s hand. On the opposite side of the path from the kitchens was a row of tents and unhitched wagons.
Some of these were occupied by merchants peddling their wares. Rows of items were displayed on the ground or hanging from wooden frames. These included everything from leather shoes to dried fruits to jugs of alcohol. There were even various carved trinkets that were advertised as cheap ‘protective charms’, even though Kaede couldn’t sense any magic from them.
Must be placebos for the troops. The familiar thought as she remembered that soldiers tended to be highly superstitious.
Meanwhile, other tents had signs offering specialized services with prices placed in front of them. This included two scribes who offered to write letters home — since most soldiers were illiterate — as well as a blacksmith who made repairs using a makeshift forge.
The largest tent was stationed at the end of the clearing, near a patch of barren trees. It instantly drew Kaede’s attention when she saw it, as the fabric was snowy white with crosses in the pinkish-red color of Samaran blood. Two sisters of the Knights Hospitaller stood guard outside the main entrance in full armor. Meanwhile, a young camp woman wearing peach-colored stays over a bright yellow dress emerged from inside.
“Apply the medicine I gave you over the next week and the rash should completely subside.” Kaede heard Perceval’s voice coming from within the tent. “Try to refrain from any more… activities, in the meantime.”
“I’ll try. Thank you, dear. You’re a sweetheart.” The woman said in an overly sweet voice before she let the entrance flap fall back down. She had just turned about and was about to walk away when she came face to face with Ariadne.
Kaede had barely landed both feet on the ground when she felt an aura of menace expand from Ariadne. The lady wore a smile sharp enough to cut steel as she looked upon the camp woman who looked to be in her late twenties.
“M-milady.” The woman made a hasty curtsy before she hurriedly left their presence. Even the two Hospitaller sisters looked upon the departing woman with aversion and disgust.
“Do you know her?” Kaede was puzzled as she looked at Ariadne a half-minute later. I haven’t felt that much hostility from her since she slapped Pascal back in the Alisia Academy.
“No. But it’s easy to tell what she is.” The noblewoman answered with contempt still shadowing her smile as she dismounted. “Decent commoner women don’t wear such brightly-colored clothes, or leave their stays’ shoulder straps hanging to the sides like that.”
Ah, a prostitute. Kaede immediately realized.
This meant the woman wasn’t merely a camp follower who had relationships with soldiers. It was someone who straight out traded sex for coin. It also implied that the ‘rash’ they heard Perceval speak of was most likely an infection from sexually transmitted diseases.
In the meantime, Ariadne’s expression had returned to her unusual charming and gracious self. She exchanged a few pleasantries with the two Hospitaller sisters as if they were already acquaintances.
She must be a frequent visitor.
“Aria.” Perceval’s cheerful voice then interrupted them as the tall, young healer emerged from the tent. He wore a white apron and was wiping his hands with a cloth that smelled of disinfectant. “And Kaede as well. A pleasant surprise to see you here.” He added with a smile as his aquamarine gaze met the Samaran girl.
“It’s been a week.” Kaede grinned back as all her anxieties from the past few days were chased away from her mind. However, her stomach did not forget as it growled again, which prompted the familiar to blush faintly.
Perceval merely chuckled as he rubbed the petite girl’s silky hair. “Let’s grab some food. I could use a break myself.”
“Why are the soldiers all looking at us?” Kaede asked Ariadne several minutes later as they sat down on a bench near the edge of the clearing.
Perceval had gone to get food while sending the two girls to find a good seat. Ariadne in turn suggested they stay to the fringes to not attract attention. Kaede had thought at first that this was because Ariadne wore the black-on-burning-red uniform of a Knight Phantom. However, the amount of attention they were garnering seemed to far exceed the attention they drew during their trip here.
The familiar could even pick up an occasional line or two of chatter. It was difficult to overhear much as all the voices seemed to overlap. Nevertheless, the words ‘Manteuffel’ and ‘Baguette’ were spoken repeatedly. The fact that Ariadne was a daughter of the Manteuffel clan and the future Duchess of Baguette seemed to spread like wildfire.
“Apart from the fact I’m a Knight Phantom Captain who is engaged to a future Lotharin Duke?” Ariadne smiled as though she was perfectly accustomed to being the center of attention. “There’s also how nobles don’t normally eat here.”
“How come?” The younger girl asked.
“Most nobles — at least here in Rhin-Lotharingie — bring their own cooks, food stocks, and spices.” Perceval’s voice answered as he returned with several wooden bowls on top of what looked to be a cutting board.
The young lord lowered the makeshift tray onto the table before he passed out the food. They included one bowl each of barley and vegetable stew, which had been flavored with small chunks of either mutton or venison. There was also a wholemeal baguette, a large bowl of oats and beans pottage to be shared, and a small dish of what looked to be pan-fried salmon covered by an abundance of green sauce.
“They bring their own cooks even on campaign then?” Kaede asked in wonder before she remembered that even knights in Medieval Europe often brought a host of luxuries to war, including their own beds. “Though Weichsel doesn’t do that.” She added as she looked at Ariadne.
“No, we don’t.” The noblewoman answered. “The Writ of Universal Conscription makes it clear that nobles should not bring unnecessary baggage. It would only slow down military movements. Nevertheless, it is an aristocratic privilege here in Rhin-Lotharingie.”
Ariadne had purposefully kept her tone as plain as she could manage. Nevertheless hints of her prejudice against the Lotharin ways still slipped past.
“Yes, well, I certainly didn’t bring any servants or spice cabinets before leaving home.” Perceval commented dryly as he sat down. “I’m afraid you might find the taste a little dull compared to what Pascal has been feeding you, Kaede. Though I did pay the kitchen maids for today’s ‘special sauce’. There’s also a cheese merchant over there if you’d like some to go with your bread.”
Spices were expensive before the dawn of globalized trade. Kaede reflected as she examined the selection of food before her. Most of it was plain but also looked hearty and filling. The only exception was the small fish dish that could pass for an ‘appetizer’.
“No, this is perfectly fine for me.” The Samaran girl smiled back as Perceval broke the long bread and handed her a piece. The sound of its crispy crust shearing made it clear that the baguette came fresh from an oven.
“Though I am a bit surprised you didn’t opt for more… upper class food,” she added with a thankful nod. The ceremonial bread breaking made it clear that she was being treated as a guest here.
“Maybe a few years ago. But I’ve adjusted after time spent traveling with Reynaud and Gerard.” Perceval shrugged. “Food is food. And Aria here is already used to eating simple while on campaign.”
Meanwhile, the familiar used her wooden spoon to take out a piece of salmon from the small dish that was covered in sauce. She hungrily put the combination into her mouth and began to chew.
“Kaede, you shouldn’t… eat that by itself.” Ariadne’s warning came too late as the Samaran girl’s eyes went wide.
The petite familiar coughed as a fresh yet pungent taste immediately filled her mouth and nostrils.
“That’s got… quite a kick.” The familiar answered in a slightly hoarse voice as she hurriedly ate some carrot and cabbage stew.
“It’s a sauce made from ground parsley, sage, and garlic — ‘commoner spices’.” Perceval spoke as he grinned in amusement. “It’s meant to add more flavor. Since the stew is largely just vegetables and grains with only a single deer shared among hundreds. The pottage is at least flavored with bacon and herbs. Still not much meat, but the salt does give it more taste.”
I forgot even salt used to be expensive in large quantities. Kaede grimaced as she thought about how spoiled Pascal’s living standards had made her.
“Are most food preserved with salt?” The girl from another world then asked. If there was one thing in history that most historians lacked knowledge of, it was how the common people often lived. Part of this is due to a comparative lack of interest. However, it was also because most records were left behind by society’s upper classes — such as the recipes of accomplished cooks.
“Among the common people, meat is usually preserved either through salt, smoking, or curing. Sometimes a mix of two.” Perceval began to explain in between spoonfuls of stew. “Meat and vegetables are also stored in insulated, ice-chilled cellars. Though rural villages often use evaporative coolers when they’re short on ice.”
“Evaporative cooler?” Kaede tilted her head.
“Aria, could you explain?” Perceval asked with a sheepish look. “Sorry, physics isn’t my strong suit.” He added before taking another piece of bread and biting in.
“It’s an assembly that produces cool air by pushing it through pipes built inside a container of water, and uses the evaporation of water to absorb heat.” Ariadne filled in with what she knew. “The best designs can cool even hot, summer air to cold, autumn chill. However, they require conductive materials like bronze which are expensive, hence why those are most commonly used to cool the estates of the nobility.”
“Though for armies and trade caravans, we usually use insulated ice chests — which you can find in those wagons.” Perceval spoke next as he gestured towards the vehicles parked by the kitchens. “Ice spells may also be used to flash freeze food, which is the best way to keep them fresh for a long time. However, keeping frozen food below freezing requires magic items — usually the same ‘freezers’ used to produce ice. Enchanted items are always expensive. Though they are often built on ley lines.”
Which makes them free to operate. Kaede contrasted them with the electric freezers on Earth, which were fairly cheap to produce by modern, industrialized nations. However, they were also power hungry and required environmentally destructive refrigerant chemicals to operate. Meanwhile, a single magical freezer could produce ice for storage cellars across a city.
“I guess militaries also carry ‘mobile freezers’ then?” The familiar asked next.
“Yes, but not many, at least not among us Lotharins.” Perceval answered with a scowl. “Though I’ve heard that apparently every Weichsen support company has one.”
He looked at Ariadne, who nodded in response, before exhaling another hapless sigh.
“I wish we could afford that. Best my country can offer for soldiers on extended campaigns are bricks of pemmican.”
“I’ve heard about that.” It was Ariadne’s turn to express curiosity this time. “What is it, exactly?”
“It’s a method of making preserved food that King Alistair popularized.” Perceval explained. “I believe His Majesty brought it back from the New World. It’s made using dried meat, dried berries, and animal fats, then compacted into a brick. The result is very nutrient dense and can preserve for years even at room temperature.”
Oh right, that’s where I heard it before — the ‘Pemmican War’ that started with the ‘Pemmican Proclamation’. Kaede thought as she tried not to giggle. It was one of those moments of history that she always found funny.
“You sure know a lot about food.” The Samaran girl commented next after she swallowed her mouthful. “Do you have a hobby in cooking or something?”
“I’m afraid you’ll find it exceedingly rare for anyone of my rank to ever cook.” Perceval laughed. “My grandfather may be known for his humble origins as a baker. But I doubt I’ll ever be able to cook anything more than hard boil a few eggs. Nevertheless, nutrition and diet are important components of health and medicine. The last thing we would want is for there to be an outbreak of scurvy or goitre.”
It left Kaede with a moment of homesickness, as she remembered one of her mother’s favorite lines: “If you don’t eat food as medicine, one day you’ll have to eat medicine as food.”Author's Comment
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6 thoughts on “Volume 3 Extra Chapter 1 – Life in an Army Camp”
I saw a typo:
Among the common people, meat is unusually preserved either through salt, smoking, or curing -> should be “usually” and not “unusually”
Thanks! Fixed =)
workaholic and latter into -> workaholic and [the] latter into
The bucket closest to the tables are -> The bucket[s] closest to the tables are
cleaniness -> cleanliness [this problem happened 2x is this some kind of new spelling I am unaware of]
as appeal to the fairer -> as [an] appeal to the fairer
with a strong disapproval -> with [remove “a”] strong disapproval [doesn’t sound right either way]
explain in voice -> explain in [a] voice
damage component -> damage[d] component
The staff were -> The staff[s] were
strong suite -> strong suit[remove “e”]
a baguette of wholemeal bread -> a baguette of wholemeal [wheat] / a wholemeal baguette [unless baguette is made of bread? also do people care about wholemeal back then? wouldn’t the common parlance would be black bread/Horsebread/barley bread/mixed bread for low quality bread?]
am I weird for preferring this to the interpersonal/relationship stuff? I mean, to me relationships are a dime a dozen, while it is really hard to find description of historical lives written for entertainment.
Thanks for the fixes as always =)
In preindustrial Earth, wholemeal bread was ‘peasant food’ while white bread back then was ‘refined food’, since smooth white flour required extra processing. Bit of a switch from today. I use ‘wholemeal’ since Kaede is the narrator viewpoint and she wouldn’t be able to tell at a glance what the bread was made of (and it’s not black).
Lol, well as noted in disclaimer — some of my patreons requested the topics in this chapter — so you’re certainly not the only one. Most of this is just me taking parts of our history and stitching it together though. A few recommendations if you’re interesting in this kind of thing
what a pleasant surprise this Saturday! while doing what his work encourages him to do, that is, to think! I imagined how Kaede would react to the horrors she would see as she participated in the conquest and annexation of new territory.
Kaede doesn’t react well to war in general. More of that in the next chapter.
There’s one topic I love and hope to tackle at some point — which is the effects of war on civilians AFTER a war, somethings that’s too rarely covered in our generally pro-war modern media.