1x1 Hazing

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Berko of the Iqinile
It was no surprise to find the pot empty. With his bowl equally void of food and so his stomach Berko could hear the snickers of the guards behind him, whispers mixing in with that low mocking murmur as they were exchanging crude snides amongst each other about the Iqinile newcomer.

"They need less food, very efficient." Berko heard someone say, as if he was a well-designed stove instead. It was one of the kinder whispers he had caught onto, the feeling of being unwanted thick in the air as Berko avoided the glares given to him.

"What's with the spots, even?" the question rose above the crowd, intentionally rising over the general volume of the murmurs exchanged as a sly eye was thrown into Berko's direction, still new and still friendless as he dropped the spoon back into the pot, his bowl still empty as he willed himself not to reach for his face, not wanting to give them the satisfaction that he had heard them and understood them and that he was conscious of the blooming spots in his face.

He felt the fool, agreeing to stay behind to polish the armour while the rest went ahead for lunch. Only now did Berko realise that the request to polish and oil his armour was only a pretension from the rest of the guards, meant to hold him back as the rest ate.

"Think his disease is contagious?" The question came, not directed at him, but at one of the guards that had been appointed to mentor him. A mentor that had soon abandoned him as Berko found himself alone and trying to figure out the patterns of the patrols on his own, unable to figure out who to talk to if his own mentor was unwilling to actually mentor.

"About to find out, he is glued to me," the guard had responded as Berko winced, knowing that he had indeed been loitering around his mentor in the hopes of observing how the job was done.

But a man was hungry and the day was long and not knowing any better now that there was no food Berko picked up the empty pot and his bowl and walked down to where he knew the kitchen to be, hoping that there might be some scraps left behind, or to find out that the cook had per accident gotten the amount wrong and gotten too few out.

"Hello?" His voice was uncertain, already discouraged at the reaction of his own fellow-guards, while he stepped deeper into the kitchen, reaching a counter on which he set the empty pot.

@Doctor Jax

In the kitchens, it was warm, bustling. The post-lunch clean-up was ensuing, pots and pans scrubbed by maids, men taking away the scraps of cut carrots, tubers, onion skins, and the rest to toss to the hogs. Yet, there was other preparations that were necessary, the work in the kitchens seemingly never-ending. And amongst the hive within, Kinya stood out a mile.
Tall, wiry, with his white hair bound back, he whistled a happy tune to himself, an incomprehensible smattering of notes resembling no recognizable song. Surely, he was an awful musician, but that seemed no deterrent to him as he shelled walnuts for some dish he was to make for the royal family's dinner.

At Berko's entrance, he looked up, waving him over.

"Young Berko! Imagine seeing a strapping lad like you in a woman's world like this," Kinya joked, the women around him groaning, one tossing a potato peel at his head. He paid them no heed, merely smiled with mischief. "What can I do for you?"

Seeing the empty curry pot, he whistled.

"You all made short work of it! I'll tell Yona her curry was a hit," he stated. "You could have left that up there, we would have fetched it."

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Berko of the Iqinile
Cooking was hard work, Berko knew that in the back of his mind, but it always took a visual to realise that it wasn't just a matter of throwing and stewing everything in pots and pans and hoping for a good result. If the outside had been hot under the sun, the kitchen was an earthen pot in the oven of the world, the inhabitants the ingredients of the stew.

It made him feel bad coming down to ask for more. He should have been quicker about it, his own fault.

"It was very good," Berko said instead, licking the residue of the curry that got stuck on his fingers. It was good, from what little he could taste, but he was still hungry with a long day ahead of him where he needed the energy. "Very, very good," he continued as he felt his stomach protest, not liking the decision to forego food just because the kitchen was busy and the lads Berko called his colleagues decided that he should go hungry.

The grumble that came from his stomach told everyone that Berko had an appetite, earning a giggle from one of the maidens in the kitchen who continued the preparation for the next meals.

"Is there more?" Berko resigned himself to finally ask, feeling betrayed by the world and his own body.
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The former general grinned at the compliment he was paid by the warrior, that his food had indeed been good. Well - of course it had been. Kinya had prepared it, after all. The older man however saw in Berko a strange hesitancy as he licked his fingers, looked forlornly. He reminded him of a piglet that was nosing around its siblings in an effort to try and get at his mother's milk, outcompeted by more forceful rivals. This was not the look of a man who'd been sated, as stoic as his face might be.

"I would certainly hope it had been," he said, waiting patiently with a knowing look as Berko lingered.

And his stomach growled, traitorously.

The men and women in the kitchen nearest to Berko laughed, an elderly lady patting the poor boy on the shoulder. Kinya gestured for the boy to come over.

"You could have asked at any time, child. Though, I do have to ask, why is it you did not get enough to quiet the beast? I try to cook enough for the entire guard," Kinya said with a bit more gravitas. "If I have not made enough, that is my fault, young man. My apologies. Here - I'll make something just right quick for you."

Kinya pulled pots from a few shelves, grains and spices in equal number seeming to fly off the shelves and onto the work table.
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Berko of the Iqinile
A gentle pat to his shoulder, foreign compared to the violence Berko was used to, and a room full of laughter that wasn't mockery. It was a room full of new experiences that the guard hadn't known before from his own fellows, his body twitching involuntarily, thinking it has to move out of the way. Few ever dared to touch the Iqinile, the rumours about their robust skin too wide-spread, and fewer dared to touch Berko, the fear of whatever 'contaminated' him being contagious.

Berko truly felt like a child in the kitchen at that moment, once more the young son that loitered around his father to train and listened to his mother for guidance. Both people who had devoted themselves to servitude like Berko had done so now.

"There was plenty for all. The fault is mine," Berko was quick to deflect the blame, reverting it back to himself, "I am to blame for being slow in my tasks," he continued to explain, wondering if he was saying too much. He didn't want anyone to get unnecessarily blamed for his own tardiness.

And while the spices Kinya pulled Berko felt a guilt welling up, not wanting to inconvenience the already busy kitchen with his own laments, "bread is fine," he tries, though his mouth is already watering at the smell that meets him and the idea of a warm meal, "I'm tardy as is," Berko tries to convince himself, but he finds his legs firmly planted next to Kinya and his eyes fixated on the pot instead of looking for a loaf of bread. Treacherous as his body and senses were.

"That, friend, is what I call 'nonsense.'"

Kinya was already putting together a bowl, pulling out yams, a small jug of oil. The cook looked sidelong to Berko.

"I was once a man who was a soldier, you know," the older fellow stated as he measured out spices into a small bowl. Each was measured out purely by sight, as if this man simply knew what needed to be there in what proportion. A pan was placed over a fire, and the cook handed Berko a pot.

"Fill this with water please. No, this is nonsense. For if you had been tardy, some other soldier should have saved you rations and done you the kindness of saving you something to eat. A soldier must fight on his feet, but he marches upon his stomach. What I hear, then, is it is not my fault for making too little food, nor your fault for arriving late, but the fault of your unit -- that they would not save a bowl for a brother of theirs. Who is your unit leader? I will speak to them."

Putting everything together, it did turn Kinya's stomach. What had the army come to, that they would let one of their own - even in Iquinile - go hungry? And then have the heartlessness to take the pots downstairs and smell the kitchens, while starved? Disgraceful. Such a unit leader was in need of desperate correction. The chain snaps at its weakest link.

Many would say to remove the weakest link, then, but always will there be a new weakest link. So instead, make every link as strong as you can.
Berko of the Iqinile
Ah, Kinya was displeased. Curling into himself Berko felt like a child caught redhanded in mischief. Even if the man didn't believe himself to have told a lie Berko did feel like he was called a liar now, eyes focussing at the many spices that went into the pot that melded together into a familiar fragrance of what was lunch today.

"I am new," Berko tried to pipe up, diligently following Kinya's order to follow the pot with water. The lack of direction on how much water the man left to the interpretation, presuming that, since Berko was asked, Kinya wanted a full and heavy pot returned, "they may have forgotten me because I haven't been there long," he mused when hauling the pot back.

What Berko didn't mention were the whispers he had heard about his spots. The ones he couldn't help and that the doctors couldn't cure but saw no harm in either. He knew his captain had stared at him warily, refusing to shake his hand upon introduction and Berko knew that this had set the tone with the rest of his brothers.

"We of the Iqinile have to work double as hard to be accepted," he heard his father's advice, which counted another double time for Berko.
The older man directed the younger Iqinile to put the pot onto the stove, scooping out just a touch of water using a jug that was on the counter.

"Ah, my apologies, soldier. Sometimes, one gets so used to their surroundings, they forget others are not so familiar. You want only enough water to cover your yams when you cook them, so they all cook even. It is dangerous to lift a pot of boiling water so heavy that you struggle to control it when you pour it out," Kinya chuckled, showing Berko how high the water needed to be.

However, he did note the discomfort in Berko's shoulders at the supposition of talking to his unit leader, the scrunch of his posture. The boy was quick to make excuses, but he got the feeling it was not out of true deprecation, or at least that was not the only reason. His keen eyes fell from him, and he nodded his head.

Berko perhaps drew enough attention to himself, without having the former general of all the armies of the King barking on his behalf. A man wanted to feel he was among peers, and there were fewer ways to make one stand out. He already drew stares, even in the kitchens, where some of the serving men and women skirted around him as if he might have some disease of the skin, ignorant of their superstition.

"You are new, yes. Some tomfoolery is expected. But do not hesitate to come back again, should your stomach rumble when your brothers are playing some joke and leaving you with an empty bowl," Kinya said.

He shook out a small container of lard for the last of it, and he tutted his tongue. A spark of inspiration came to him, then.

"I have enough to make you food, but it seems I am out of my lard. Believe it or not, I often hunt for my own ingredients - I make sure they're fresh, best quality," Kinya said, "but do not tell the king that. He'd be up in arms if he knew his head chef was out there, roaming the Nubian wilds looking for his spices. To tell you the truth, these bones are old, and these joints ache... And seeing as you have deprived me of the last of my Giant Boar lard, I'll need to steal you to get more after this."
Berko of the Iqinile
The smell was amazing, rich and deep, and perhaps even more lavish than the pot that his brothers had shared amongst each other. Berko would never know but the warmth that he felt now at the thought that this dish was specially made for him, and the way his stomach rumbled at the idea of being allowed to digest that. The offer that he could come to Kinya in the future one that embarrassed him.

"I don't want to be a --" Berko was about to protest, feeling like a child that couldn't deal with his own problems when Kinya posed the perfect solution with lard.

"I can hunt," Berko offered, though Kinya had already volunteered the guar without a word, so was it still an offer? "I know where to hunt ," he continued, feeling a little more confident at how to repay Kinya for his kindness and perhaps a little more. "I can even get it tonight," the Iqinile offered, one foot already turned towards the exit of the kitchen, forgetting his original purpose of entering the kitchen and the effort the cook already had gone through in cooking him a meal, and in part his own job as well. "Giant Boar, maybe some wildebeest?" he offered, thinking of the great plains at the border. Berko was confident he could get himself posted there once his midday break was over. It wasn't a much sought after post after all, under the full sun with little shade and not to mention far away.

"Berko, come back this instant!"

The command from his captain put his earlier enthusiasm to rest, his shoulders growing frigid at the sight of the lead of the guar marching into the kitchen with a storm on his face, displeasure clear in his expression.

"You need to leave, now," the captain informed the man, calming down at the sight of Kinya. It made Berko wonder what Kinya's role was next to being the chef for the guard had never known the captain as a patient man. Not with him.

"So sorry Kinya. He is a new recruit, still learning the ropes. He hasn't been informed yet how border patrol works," the captain was to fill in the situation.

Berko didn't bother to question the captain, remembering clearly that he wasn't positioned for the border in the afternoon, but figuring that someone in the group had requested a change in their positioning. It was the way things went.


The older general nearly laughed at the eagerness of the recruit, immediately throwing himself at the task of grabbing him more lard - as if he would go out and do it single-handedly, tonight, on his own - before he had even the chance to sit down with a bowl of Kinya's curry. Oh, the poor boy was surely a people-pleaser, a dangerous thing to be in the army. He needed just a pinch more sense of self.

"Hold on, hold on, you cannot hunt on an empty stomach, and besides, you're certainly not going to leave me here in this kitchen either--"

His chuckling reprimand was met with one of true vitriol and sharp retort, Kinya's warm demeanor cooling as the captain of the guard - and the one responsible for Berko's wellbeing - walked into the kitchen to bark for his attention and participation. A disconcert settled on the older general, fighting not to reach for his own bark.

He was not a general anymore. He had left that behind, deliberately, for a reason.

Regardless, the man treated him with the deference due to a man of his previous station, and he nodded to the captain with grace.

"Actually, captain, I was going to ask to borrow young Berko here. I have run out of a particular ingredient, and he seems just the man to help me," Kinya said. "I hope you do not mind if I steal him from your unit for just a few days. You understand, this is a matter of some urgency."

Oh, he could buy lard, but where was the fun in that?