Of course that means she's the first to catch the flash of armor that means the Duke and his soldiers are on their way. She gets ushered back to the other recruits to parade for them--though it takes an INCREDIBLY long and detailed description of the sunrise for us to get to the actual flashy thing.
The Duke arrives:
"Welcome, my lord Duke," he said. The cloaked figure pushed back the fur-edged hood, revealing rumpled red hair above a bearded face.
"Early for breakfast, I'd have thought," said the Duke. "What sharp eyes spotted us this time?"
"A recruit, my lord," said Valichi.
The Duke scanned each of the recruit units; Paks felt his gaze like a dagger blade, cold and keen. Then he grinned at Valichi. "Well," he said, "let's keep that one. Good work, Captain."The Duke's last name is Phelan. He spends the next few days inspecting everything and, on occasion, eating in the recruit's mess. The only mention of the trial is when Paks wonders what the Duke did to Stephi. She doesn't ask anyone. The recruits figure out pretty damn fast that they're being tested informally, and they push themselves pretty hard--mostly resulting in minor injuries. On the last day they form up and the Duke gives a little speech. It's short and kind of pretty. Paks unit, of course, is allowed to march out of the training area first.
Then they all go get their armor and weapons issued. This happens:
"Make up your minds," said Stammel, "how you're going to wear your hair. If it's long, I'd say keep it inside the helmet, hot as it is, or some enemy will grab it and throw you. It'll make a cushion." Paks found a way of winding her braid that was comfortable and secure. But the helmet was heavier than she'd expected. So was everything else.It's a really minor point, but the one thread--it doesn't even count as a plot point--that I remember best from this book is Paks' hair. It's a really minor detail that evolves as her character evolves.
They march. Paks reflects on how much she's changed since she started this trip. It's been pretty much a full year since she signed on, if I'm reading it right. Along the way she accepts that she is now a mercenary. Along the march Paks overhears a lot of shouted hints and comments on what lies ahead of her. Eventually they hit a city, and Paks's small-town girl brain promptly explodes. Eventually they reach a courtyard and settle down for dinner. The conversations indicate that the Company has been through here. Several times.
Paks also sees her first elf.
"You mean you don't know? It's a good thing you didn't point. That was an elf, from Lyonya or the Ladysforest, a messenger to the Council."
"Elf—" Paks and Saben looked at each other. "Will we see more of elves and dwarves and things like that?" asked Paks.
Bosk spat. "I hope not. Uncanny, they are, and unfriendly, too. We don't have much to do with them , and the less the better, I say."They also name-drop another type of elves, the kuaknom. This won't materialize for a while, so we can just ignore it for now.
They swap stories for the night--there's a really good description of a chandelier as seen by a poor person--and move out the next day. In the rain.
It's miserable. Moving on.
Eventually they hit a bog they can't march through, in what ought to be a road. Stammel's captian, Pont, orders Paks and the others to fill the bog in with most of the nearest wall.
The chapter ends with Paks and the others making it to something resembling shelter.