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Topics - Marco Bott

Pages: [1] 2
1
Wall Rose / Wildness is a Necessity
« on: November 20, 2019, 11:05:10 AM »
Autumn held on, just barely. The sparse trees that peppered the heathland were all but entirely stripped of their golden leaves, which had fallen to form freezing mulch on the icy ground. Swaths of coarse heather held onto their flowers, though the once twilight-coloured blooms of purple and mauve had faded to brown. Mornings were dark and grim, and today's start came early enough that the cadets were shrouded in the pale, faint light of pre-dawn. Already, teams of two were breaking away, beginning the long hike on varying trails that wouldn't see them return to the barracks until supper - or later, if they were delayed.

It stood to be a long, cold day.

Having checked the bulletin posted the previous evening, Marco already knew he was to be partnered with Kaien Engelbrecht. Seven months into their arduous training and they had yet to share a conversation. It struck the freckled cadet as a little odd, given he tried to speak with everyone and learn as many names as he could. Kaien might tower over him - in the way that Kaien towered over everyone - but he had proved elusive too.

Not so now, the lavender-haired cadet's staggering height and broad build making him easy to spot even in the inky gloom and amidst the sea of bodies. Light was just beginning to paint the far horizon as Marco approached the older boy, his breath ghostly and pale in the still air. "Hey! Kaien, right?" Marco greeted warmly. Winter might almost be upon them, but his smile was all summer, and wide enough to reveal the dimples at the corners of his mouth. Not even the frosty nip and expansive dark could dampen his spirits.

Adjusting his backpack's straps so they rested more comfortably on his shoulders, Marco tilted his head back to regard his partner. "Looks like we'll be conquering the wilderness together," he remarked cheerfully, genuinely looking forward to the hike. It would be refreshing to walk miles from anywhere, hugged by nature on all sides. It would also be nice to finally get to know Kaien a little.

2
Training Corps Barracks & Grounds / [OPEN] An Army Marches on its Stomach
« on: November 11, 2019, 11:51:43 PM »
Of the duties that could be assigned to a cadet - sweeping the dormitories, organising the equipment room, cleaning the mess hall, stock-checking the storerooms - Marco’s favourite was most definitely food preparation.  There was something immensely satisfying in preparing the meals that kept the recruits fuelled, helping give them the energy to tackle their classes and studies.  As his mother always told him, food should be made with love, and that was exactly what he aspired to do.

Upon arriving in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, Marco wasted no time in reaching for an apron and taking himself over to examine the rota, where a handful of names were scribbled haphazardly on the sheet.  Perhaps it was due to the dregs of sleep that still clung to him, but putting faces to some of the names proved impossible for the freckled boy, and he drummed his fingertips thoughtfully against his chin as he made his way to one of the long countertops.

With several hefty, wooden chopping boards and keen-edged knives laid out, Marco hoisted an empty basket into his arms and padded over to the pantry.  The military cuisine was simple, nourishing fare, and it followed the same general pattern from day to day.  Breakfast consisted of bread, bacon and occasionally egg or sausage.  Lunch and dinner often mirrored one another, including more bread, stew (the contents of which varied, depending on what ingredients were available), boiled potatoes and sometimes a piece of fruit.

In the cool, dimly lit space that was the pantry, Marco smiled faintly as he began to fill the basket with carrots, potatoes and onions, pausing once to smother a yawn with the back of his hand.  As far as he was concerned, the only drawback to kitchen duty was rising before the sun.

3
Wall Rose / [EVENT] Wind-chill Factor
« on: November 11, 2019, 02:10:48 PM »
[open to up to 4 cadets, December 845 - Winter Aptitude Test ]

CURRENT TEAM and loose posting order
Marco | Eren | Jean | Javier

(post in whatever order and I'll adjust this accordingly)

It was glacial in the northern expanse, far colder than it had ever been back home in Jinae.  The sky darkened early in the day, the winter sun hanging pale and low.  Bitter winds whipped across the land, bending trees and biting into any and every inch of exposed skin.  It seemed impossible that they could be expected to survive outside, to make the monumental trek, to keep their extremities safe from the nip of frost.  With this thought in mind, Marco dipped his face further beneath the much-loved grey scarf wrapped around his neck.  Snow clung to his long lashes and peppered his dark hair, the cold painting rosy colour on his cheeks and nose.  Their bags were packed, the road stretching long and foreboding ahead of them.  Together they would make it, he was quite sure.

The small groups had departed at staggered times, their current path marred by the prints of those who had left before.  Those indentations were disappearing fast, buried beneath the fresh flurry of snow.  Soon they would be alone, without any indication of what routes their comrades had chosen.  Armed with only a map, it was left to the group to decide exactly how they would reach the designated checkpoints and, at last, return to the warmth and security of basecamp.  A minimum of five lonely days lay ahead of them – more if they suffered injury, or became disorientated, or halted to hunt for food.  They carried only a basic ration, scarcely enough to keep them fed.

Nervousness bloomed faintly as he cast his gaze towards his companions, brown eyes regarding his them from beneath the shadow of his hood.  “The first checkpoint is almost directly north from here,” Marco remarked, having spent the evening before poring over the maps the cadets had each been supplied with.  “There’s a river between here and there.  I guess we’ll need to look for a place shallow enough to cross, then follow one of the tributaries north?”

4
IC / The Supreme Art of Medicine
« on: October 30, 2019, 06:32:34 AM »
It had started with sniffles and coughs - which weren’t unusual at any time of year, and were especially common in the dead of winter - but then the symptoms had escalated.  Fever burned through the ranks like fire, young faces slick and eyes dull with fever.  Classes had ground to a halt as so many of the youths were in the grips of sickness.  They weren’t in mortal danger but it was unpleasant.  Marco counted himself lucky that he had remained healthy and hale thus far.

He willingly and gladly risked his wellness, eager to help those less fortunate. Perched on the edge of the bed, he dabbed at a first year cadet's brow with a damp cloth.  He spoke softly, quietly, about nothing and everything, the patient having already told him she liked the sound of his voice, that there was something in his warm tone that steadied and distracted her.  That was all the encouragement Marco needed to keep talking. At least until she groaned, sliding down in the bed, complaining of a rising wave of nausea.

Murmuring to the poorly girl that he would be back soon - brushing damp hair back from her brow - Marco retreated to a small side room, off the main bay. It was a space used by the doctor and volunteers; shelves layered all the way up to the ceiling were stacked with glass jars containing various medicines and herbal remedies, several storage chests contained clean linen and there was a sink and a stove. A large, deep pot of water was currently warming, steaming even in the stifling heat of the infirmary. Some of this Marco ladled into a clean mug, moving swiftly to prepare fresh ginger and lemon tea. Lemons were expensive, but mercifully it seemed the Training Corps' budget had stretched to acquire them for their ailing cadets. As he worked, brown eyes half-glanced at the occupied beds through the doorway, the main room filled with the sounds of groans and hacking coughs.

5
Training Corps Barracks & Grounds / Confidence Under Fire
« on: October 26, 2019, 06:39:41 AM »
Don’t pull, just squeeze, Marco reminded himself.  Exhaling tremulously, he did just that - and promptly flinched at the loud sound that followed.  Fragments of thatch exploded from the straw target, indicating his shot had landed outside of the desired circle.  Frustrated by his failure, Marco huffed dark hair out of his eyes, the musket dropping to point harmlessly at the ground.  Normally cheerful, his expression had crumpled into one of disappointment.  It didn’t matter that he was normally keen-sighted, not when he couldn’t quite translate that talent into the ability to shoot with accuracy.

Panic fluttered in his chest as he suffered a crisis of confidence.  What if his score in this class dragged him down, and cost him a place in the top ten?  If his dream of having the iconic green unicorn emblazoned over his heart was to be realised, he had to master firearms.  Trouble was, until he joined the Training Corps, Marco had never held a gun in his hands, and already he hoped he would never have cause to fire with the intention of causing harm - at least not at another human being.  But that was no excuse for mediocrity.

Disheartened, he cast his honey-brown eyes along the row of cadets diligently making their own shots, with varying degrees of success. Then his attention settled on the boy next to him. Eren Jaeger. Marco didn't know him all that well, except for a couple of brief conversations, and having been witness to a few cataclysmic arguments between Eren and Jean. But he knew the boy took his training seriously, applied himself unwaveringly, and wanted to excel. Except, right now, it seemed he was struggling a bit too.

"This is much harder than I thought," Marco muttered quietly, though they stood little chance of being overheard between the smatterings of gunfire.

6
Training Corps Barracks & Grounds / Learning from the Master
« on: October 24, 2019, 11:40:49 PM »
This afternoon was a rare treasure, their last class of the day having been cancelled. All around, cadets seemed set to enjoy their gifted free time, lounging on their beds or walking the grounds. As much as Marco would have liked to spend the spare hours writing or reading - for pleasure, rather than study - he decided it was best used more constructively. And today, he was hoping for a little help.

The cadet dropped his books and notes at his bunk, tucking them safely into his storage chest, before casting his gaze around the sleeping quarters. Several groups of cadets loitered, chatting idly, but the one Marco sought wasn't among their number. Maybe it's a sign, he thought to himself as he stepped out of the cabin, onto the porch and into the autumn sunshine. I shouldn't make a nuisance of myself, I should -

Just as the freckled cadet was on the cusp of talking himself out of asking for assistance altogether, he all but walked into the one he was looking for. Literally, as it seemed his quarry was on his way into the dormitory. "Oh, hey Jean! You got a minute?" Marco greeted brightly, a note of laughter warming his voice. "I'm going to sign out my ODM gear, get some practice in," he explained, feeling an odd bloom of nervousness as he worked his way up to the question. It seemed like a lot to ask of anyone, especially on a crisp, sunny day like this. Jean probably had a hundred other things he would rather do. The fortunate thing was, if that was true, Marco could trust him to speak plainly.

"I was wondering, maybe you could join me? And give me some pointers?" He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "It seems so instinctive with you. Maybe that can't be taught…" Feeding Jean's ego might not be the wisest decision, but the boy from Jinae could only be honest. Truth was, Jean was a natural at ODM manoeuvres; his movements were swift and decisive, and he almost always seemed to have a read on any given situation. There was greatness in him, Marco was sure. "Don't worry if you've already got plans," he hastened to add, wanting to give his comrade a ready-made excuse, just in case he didn't fancy spending the afternoon practising a skill he already seemed to have mastered.

7
IC / To Write is Human
« on: October 21, 2019, 08:32:15 PM »
There was a certain rhythm to the days, and pattern to the weeks, that was becoming increasingly familiar to Marco. He was glad of that, finding it had taken some time to adjust and settle into the strict structure of military life. How fortunate he was that Mina had enlisted at the same time as him, the kind-hearted girl a little piece of home and a friend in a sea of strangers. Slowly though, he was putting names to faces, getting acquainted with his comrades. They were his roots, giving him a sense of belonging.

In the short time he had been with the Training Corps, Marco had penned a letter to his mother every other day, unabashedly pouring his heart onto parchment, recalling and sharing little details of his days. Ever optimistic, he told her of his fellow cadets and their instructors (naturally, not wishing to worry her, he omitted the beration he had received from Commandant Keith Shadis). Responses came regularly, though not quite so often as to match Marco's frequency. After all, life in Jinae ticked on as it always had, and Ms. Bott had less to say than her son.

How he missed his mother. How he missed home.

With a free hour between classes, some cadets trained - riding horses in the arena, or running laps of the training grounds - whilst others chose to lounge in the dormitories, the barracks pleasantly warm with the afternoon sun. Marco, however, seized on the opportunity to write, his boots carrying him to the mess hall. Between mealtimes, it was likely to be empty.

Only, it wasn't.

Stepping inside the room, Marco's earthy eyes landed almost immediately on the figure of another cadet, sitting at one of the benches. "Hey Jean," he greeted brightly, though he did not know the boy well. His first thought was that Jean was studying - making the top ten took some graft, after all - but as he moved closer a half-glance told him it was letter paper on the tabletop, rather than books or notes. Marco smiled wide and warm at that, readjusting his grip on the parchment he carried, several pencils clutched in his freckled fingers. "Oh, so you're writing home too!"

8
Trost District / Break New Ground
« on: March 20, 2018, 11:18:22 PM »
Even if he had desired it, Armin would have been hard pressed to disguise his sleeplessness from Marco.  They were both relegated to bottom bunks, their beds running parallel, mere feet apart.  For one as attentive as the boy from Jinae, Armin’s tossing and turning was as obvious as the dark rings that circled his intelligent, azure eyes during the hours of daylight.

Sleep evaded those who wore familiar paths through their minds, thinking racing thoughts all the time, it escaped the traumatised and the anxious.  Marco couldn’t guess with confidence what was at the root of Armin’s insomnia, but he was determined to help.  At first he tried the herb bundles of his youth; dried apple blossom, lavender and camomile flowers, bunched up in small squares of linen and placed beneath the pillow.  But still the restless nights continued.  A letter to his mother availed of a mysterious tincture, delivered wrapped in brown paper that was decorated with sketched studies of leaves and petals, and tied with fraying string.  The handwriting on the note attached was written in a neat and sweeping script: For Armin. x

It didn’t work either.

In the interregnum, while Ms. Bott worked on another remedy, Marco looked for other apothecaries close to the barracks.  Browsing the stalls of a bustling market one warm autumn afternoon, the freckled cadet was pointed in the direction of the Garrison Headquarters by a helpful vendor.  Feeling oddly nervous at the thought of entering a military building - even though he had the crossed swords stitched onto his cadet jacket - Marco might have balked and turned heel.  But this was for Armin.  Above all else, it was the needs of others that motivated Marco and gave him courage.

Supplying his name to the guards at the front gate, he wandered the corridors of the interior, more lost than he would like to admit; the directions he had been given were imparted hurriedly, with one of the guards regarding him with something akin to suspicion, the other arching her brow in what could only be surprise.

The click of boots against worn stone told him he was no longer alone in this maze - another soldier was coming his way!  Marco immediately seized on the chance of help.  “Excuse me,” he began, his gentle voice tinged with apology.  Military personnel were busy people and he was loath to distract them from their duties.  “Do you know where I could find, ah, Arkin Holt?”

9
IC / Ready, Aim, Fire!
« on: March 19, 2018, 10:37:59 PM »
Early Summer, Year 845

Don’t pull, just squeeze, Marco reminded himself.  Exhaling tremulously, he did just that - and promptly flinched in anticipation of the loud sound that was to follow.  Fragments of thatch exploded from the straw target, indicating his shot had landed outside of the desired circle.  Frustrated by his failure, Marco huffed dark hair out of his eyes, the musket dropping to point harmlessly at the ground.  Normally cheerful, his expression had crumpled into one of disappointment.  It didn’t matter that he was normally keen-sighted, not when he couldn’t quite translate that talent into the ability to shoot with accuracy.

Panic fluttered in his chest as he suffered a crisis of confidence.  What if his score in this class dragged him down, and cost him a place in the top ten?  If his dream of having the iconic green unicorn emblazoned over his heart was to be realised, he had to master firearms.  Trouble was, until he joined the Training Corps, Marco had never held a gun in his hands, and already he hoped he would never have cause to fire with the intention of causing harm - at least not at another human being.  But that was no excuse for mediocrity.

Disheartened, he cast his honey-brown eyes along the row of cadets diligently making their own shots, with varying degrees of success.  One stood out head and shoulders from the rest.  Young but tall for his age, his expression was one of absolute calm and concentration.  Bertholdt Hoover.  Marco knew his name, if only from roll call.  The boy was blazing through the practical as though it was childsplay.

After what felt like an eternity of struggle, the instructor signalled the end of the lesson.  The muskets were discharged of their ammunition, and the youths sloped off to the armory, returning the weapons to their rightful place.  Marco used this moment to close the distance between him and Bertholdt, weaving between the chattering cadets who seemed to have already put the matters of range and accuracy out of their minds.

“You’re really good,” Marco offered the compliment with unshakeable sincerity and warmth; his own failure didn’t mean he would begrudge another their success.  With deft, careful movements, he placed the firearm back onto the rack.  The room smelt of wood polish and gunpowder, an oddly pleasant combination.  Turning to Bertholdt - though they had yet to be formally introduced - Marco smiled.  “Beginner’s luck?  Or have you done this before?”

10
Training Corps Barracks & Grounds / Old Ends, New Beginnings
« on: January 28, 2018, 01:35:00 AM »
(OOC:  I hope this works, Senia!  If anything needs tweaked, please let me know. <3)

There was a nervous energy coiling in the air, an almost palpable anticipation of the trials to come.  As of now, the faces in the crowd belonged to strangers - or to those who barely passed as acquaintances - and it left Marco feeling isolated.  It was odd, though not necessarily unpleasant, to be surrounded by people and yet feel so alone.  But rather than despair, the freckled cadet delighted in the sense of possibility.  They were collectively on the cusp of their greatest adventure thus far, and there was no way of knowing how things were going to fall.  Gathered here were future best friends, rivals, teammates and lovers, brushing shoulders as they passed, with no way of knowing they were in the presence of someone with the power to change the very course of their lives.

There was beauty in that.

Marco drifted cheerfully amongst the stalls, taking in the sights, though his gaze had yet to snag on anything he felt compelled to purchase.  The closest he had come to parting with his coin had been at a stand selling various stationery; pencils, letter paper, sketchbooks and inks.  It was certainly one to be revisited and inspected a little more closely.  For now, however, he paused in his exploration, and that was when he noticed a girl.  She stood alone, as he did, her brown eyes blown wide, her face framed by black-brown hair.  There was something in her expression that suggested she was uncertain, or perhaps fretful, and that was what drew Marco to her.  He emerged from the milling crowd with an easy smile, a greeting falling from his lips.  “I hadn’t realised just how many of us there were until tonight…” his gaze wandered for a moment, skimming the busy square, before settling on the girl’s face once more.  “How are you enjoying the festivities so far?”

11
Trost District / Where Wild Things Grow
« on: January 23, 2018, 09:39:47 PM »
This was the very best sort of day - bright and warm, with birdsong carrying on the breeze - and it was made all the sweeter by the fact there were no classes scheduled.  Of course Marco had gone looking for Jean, to no avail.  More likely than not, the cadet from Trost was out in the summer sunshine, running laps and pushing his already athletic body to its limit.  By contrast, Marco had plans for something much more leisurely.

Bundled in his arms was a book he had brought from home - a botanical volume, detailing various wildflowers, herbs and trees - and a dog-eared sketchbook that hadn’t seen sunlight in a very long time.  Balanced on top of these were a box of pencils in a spectrum of colours.  These items alone likely made his plans obvious to any who saw him.

Smiling faintly to himself, Marco left the dormitory behind.  As he skirted around the exterior of the cadet quarters, turning one last corner, he unexpectedly collided with someone heading in the opposite direction.  “Oh!” Marco exclaimed, honey-brown eyes widening in surprise.  His reflexes were sharp enough that he instinctively reached out to steady the figure by grasping their wrist, the delicate limb all but swallowed by his freckled hand.  With that movement, his books tumbled unceremoniously to the ground.

For a brief moment, Marco thought it might be Armin - the flash of golden hair combined with the individual’s small stature immediately put him in mind of the bright boy from Shiganshina - but when wide, azure eyes turned up to regard him, he realised he was instead peering down at Krista.  Already the petite blonde had a reputation which preceded her; half the boys wanted to marry her, the other half had intentions far less noble.  How strange it was, then, to peer so closely at a woman who was undeniably fair, and realise he harboured not one sliver of desire to possess her in any way, shape or form.  Marco’s expression of surprise faded away, replaced instead by a smile of apology.

“I’m so sorry,” he began, releasing his grip on the girl’s sleeve.  “I should’ve been paying attention.”

12
Season 2 / ODM Aptitude Test
« on: January 06, 2018, 10:32:11 PM »
ODM Aptitude Test


‹ WHEN ›

June, Year 846

‹ WHERE ›

Near Krolva District, Wall Rose

‹ MEMBERGROUPS INVOLVED›

Cadet - Training Corps

‹ INFORMATION ›

This premise was put together by our very own Draco!  In the summer of Year 846, the cadets will be tested on their ability with ODM equipment.  A day's ride from Krolva District, within the boundaries of Wall Rose, there lies a substantial forest.  While its trees are not quite as gargantuan in the Titan Forest, they still stand tall and imposing.  Here, the young hopefuls will take part in a scavenger hunt.  Divided into teams, they will don coloured armbands and seek to collect four sashes of the same shade.  It is a race, but one that must be navigated carefully as the woodland is peppered with Titan dummies.  The instructors will also be on hand, assessing the cadets on their performance both as individuals and in a group.

‹ RELEVANT/SUPPORTING THREADS ›

Through the Bristling Trees [closed]

13
IC / Cold Hands, Warm Hearts
« on: December 28, 2017, 03:23:39 PM »
Darkness came early.  The winter sun sank swiftly, dipping beneath the horizon in a glorious blaze of opal hues; lilac blending with peach and pale blue.  But the night was even more beautiful, as the lights of the little fishing villages and townships lit their lamps.  Candles glittered in the dark, enclosed by coloured glass, painting the snow with all the shades of a springtime rainbow.  They were strung from wires, perched on tree branches and even adorned the piers and boardwalks.  There was life about the place, and loud laughter to be heard in the spacious wooden lodge rented out on behalf of the cadets.  Snow boots lined up by the door, and spilled messily from the rack, the rooms more homely than any barracks.  It truly was a holiday - and a far cry from the winter aptitude test they had endured the previous year.

It didn’t take long for the cadets to disperse, to explore their surroundings and join with the festivities.  The scent of cinnamon and spice hung in the frigid air, intermingling with the perfume of winter blossoms and pine.  Marco’s head swivelled as they walked through the busy streets, his eyes wide, brown irises catching the light of lanterns.  When his gaze alighted on the frozen lake, of the skates hung up for hire - all leather straps and keen silver edges, designed to be fastened over the would-be skater’s own footwear - he excitedly nudged Jean with his elbow.

“Fancy it?”

14
IC / Good Deeds Brighten a Dark World
« on: December 14, 2017, 08:33:59 PM »
The cadets had been uprooted, for a time, to serve in Utopia District.  To drive home the lesson that soldiers should toil for the good of the people – indeed, that they should serve the people – the instructors had organised for the cadets to travel to Utopia District.  In the busy urban centre, the youths were to fill their days assisting those in need of aid.  For the most part, their jobs involved using their ODM gear to suspend themselves high over cobbled streets, washing dust from shop fronts and cleaning grime from windows.  Some cadets acted as sentries, helping the local forces keep the peace after dark, though the inexperienced trainees were often assigned to the safer streets and alleys.  Others chose to serve their time in apothecaries and medical houses, tending to the ill and putting their lessons in battlefield medicine to good use.  All in all, the days were long and stifling, the crowded district swaddled in summer heat.

After a long, hot day, Marco had returned to their temporary quarters at the garrison.  It was a relief to wash, wiping the sweat and dirt from his freckled skin.  Dressed in his civilian clothes, his hair hanging damp around his ears, he padded bare foot out into the square upon which the barracks was built.  At the centre stood a weary fountain, almost run dry, witnessed by the structures that surrounded the plaza; their tired stone faces adorned with faded geometric patterns, now chipped and weathered to near non-existence.  In their shining youth, they may have made for an impressive sight, but those glory days were long gone.  Yet, despite the run-down and drab surroundings, there was a beauty in the summer evening, in the way the sunlight painted life into everything it touched.

Perching on the fountain’s surround, Marco breathed a contented, tired sigh and – after a pause – allowed his fingertips to gently skim the water’s surface.  After a long day in the heat, it was warm and pleasant to the touch.  Vague ideas of fetching a pail, and working to refill the fountain and see its glory restored, lived and died in Marco’s mind.  Not this evening, not now, but perhaps tomorrow.

15
IC / These Winter Winds
« on: December 08, 2017, 09:09:18 PM »
It was glacial in the northern expanse; colder than it had ever been back home in Jinae.  The sky darkened early in the day, the winter sun hanging pale and low.  Bitter winds whipped across the land, bending trees and biting into any and every inch of exposed skin.  It seemed impossible that they could be expected to survive outside, to make the monumental trek, to keep their extremities safe from the nip of frost.  With this thought in mind, Marco dipped his face further beneath the much-loved grey scarf wrapped around his neck.  Snow clung to his long lashes and peppered his dark hair, the cold painting rosy colour on his cheeks and nose.  Their horses were saddled, their bags packed, the road stretching long and foreboding ahead of them.  Together they would make it, he was quite sure, and he was glad to have been assigned to a team with Armin, Eren and Axel. 

The small groups had departed at staggered times, their current path marred by the hoofprints of those who had left before.  Those indentations were disappearing fast, buried beneath the fresh flurry of snow.  Soon they would be alone, without any indication of what routes their comrades had chosen.  Armed with only a map, it was left to the boys to decide exactly how they would reach the designated checkpoints and, at last, return to the warmth and security of basecamp.  A minimum of five lonely days lay ahead of them – more if they suffered injury, or became disorientated, or halted to hunt for food.  They carried only a basic ration, scarcely enough to keep them fed.

Nervousness bloomed faintly as he cast his gaze towards his companions, brown eyes regarding his them from beneath the shadow of his hood.  “The first checkpoint is almost directly north from here,” Marco remarked, having spent the evening before poring over the maps the cadets had each been supplied with.  “There’s a river between here and there.  I guess we’ll need to look for a place shallow enough to cross, then follow one of the tributaries north?”

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