Tavi slept in a tent he shared with several other junior officers. In the middle of the night, unusual noises disturbed his rest, and a moment later Max shook him roughly awake. "Come on," Max ordered him in a low, growling whisper. "Move it."
Tavi rose, pulled on his tunic, grabbed up his boots, and followed Max out into the night. "Where are we going?" Tavi mumbled.
"To the captain's tent. Magnus sent me to get you," Max said. "Something's up." He nodded down another row of tents as they passed, and Tavi looked up to see other figures moving quietly through the night. Tavi recognized the shadowy profile of one of the Tribunes Tactica, and a few moments later, the ugly, rough features of Valiar Marcus, the First Spear, appeared from the night and fell in beside them.
"Marcus," Max muttered.
"Antillar," the First Spear said. "Subtribune Scipio."
Tavi abruptly stopped in his tracks, and looked up. The sky was overcast, making the night very dark, though the clouds were low and swift-moving. Thunder rumbled far in the distance. Through gaps in the cloud cover, the stars glowered down in sullen shades of crimson. "The stars," he said.
Max looked up and blinked. "Bloody crows."
The First Spear grunted without slowing his pace.
"What's happening?" Tavi asked him, catching up.
The First Spear let out a snort but said nothing, until they arrived together at the captain's tent. The senior officers were there, much as they had been on the day Tavi arrived. Magnus and Lorico were both there, and passing out mugs of strong tea to the officers as they arrived. Tavi took one, found a quiet spot against the wall of the tent, and drank the hot, slightly bitter tea while struggling to blink the sleep from his eyes. Gracchus was there, and looking hungover. Lady Antillus was at hand as well, seated with her hands folded in her laps, her expression distant and unreadable.
Tavi had begun to feel almost as though he could string several thoughts together into something resembling intelligence when Captain Cyril entered, immaculately groomed, fully armored, the picture of self-possessed command. The quiet murmurs of the sleepy officers came to a sudden halt.
"Gentlemen, Your Grace," Cyril murmured. "Thank you for coming so promptly." He turned to Gracchus. "Tribune Logistica. What is the status of the stores of standard-issue armor and weaponry."
"Sir?" Gracchus said, blinking.
"The armor, Tribune," Cyril said in a rock-hard voice. "The swords."
"Sir," Gracchus said. He rubbed at his head. "Another thousand sets to go, perhaps. Inspections should be finished in another week."
"I see. Tribune, do you not have three junior officers to assist in inspections?"
Max let out a quiet, nasty little laugh from beside Tavi.
"What?" Tavi whispered.