The south-bound travellers finally found themselves in the city of Sawbill. First stop was an eatery with cheap food. Fin paid for all of them, as he was the only one with any money, but the others promised to pay him back if they ever became rich and famous and he showed up at their door with the receipt.

When they'd entered town, thunder had been rumbling across the sky, and clouds had turned it a dark grey. Finally, while they were eating their fish, the long-awaited storm began. Lightly at first, but by the time they'd finished, rain was pouring down like tears from a thousand zombie trout in the sky. Much to the traveller's anguish, the owner wouldn't let them stay unless they bought more food, so they headed out into the pouring rain.

'What do we do now?' inquired Fin. 'I'm not paying for the crazy goon to attend swordsmanship academy just so he can kill us more effectively.'

'I'll get a scholarship because I'm so talented!' He waved his stick around, accidentally striking a passing clergyman.

'We should look for work.' said Melville. 'Look, a recruitment poster. While we were wandering the paths north of here, war was declared with the treacherous southerners after they blew up the royal yacht.'

'I can't fight. I'm a girl. Girls are wimpy and pathetic. Everyone knows that.'

'That's just codswallop causing people's brains to be all silly. Girls are just as good as boys at such things.'

'Maybe you're right. I never really thought about it that way.'

'What way?' put in Fin.

'Never mind. So we join the army. Then what? Snook's only twelve. He can't fight in a war.'

'Seems to me that he has the most experience at nearly killing people as anyone I've ever met.' responded Fin. 'And the poster says the minimum age is twelve, see?' He pointed at the line on the recruitment poster that read 'Minimum age: 12.' He went on, 'Clearly this is the perfect job for him. Though it may be more effective for Tanenbaum Region if he joined the /enemy/ army.'

'Fine.' replied Hilfa. 'But we all join the same army, even little nutty nuttikins here.'

'You're supposed to defend me while /Fin/ insults me. You're a lousy sister.'

'They'll probably teach you sword-fighting in the army.' said Hilfa.

'Army! Hut two three four! Hroop horp hreef hop!' Snook began a dance-like march down the street in the direction he presumed the recruitment office would be found. The others followed, though without the dancing.

At the recruitment office, they all went in together to ensure their fine group wasn't split up. 'We all want to join the army, and we all want to be in the same unit!' proclaimed Melville.

'What? All of you?' asked the recruiter. 'But this one's a girl. Girl's can't fight. Girls are wimpy and pathetic. Everyone knows that.'

'That's just codswallop causing people's brains to be all silly. Girls are just as good as boys at such things.'

'Gee, I suppose you could br right.' the guard responded, clearly deep in though. 'I suppose I just never really thought about it that way.' Fin rolled his eyes skyward, only to find the ceiling was in the way. 'Fine, then. Do any of you have fighting experience?'

'I was a professional pirate until I quit due to, er, being a complete failure at the trade.' Melville told the recruiter.

'And I nearly killed them all a couple nights ago!' exclaimed Snook proudly. 'Didn't I, guys? Didn't I nearly kill you all? Wasn't it exciting?'

'That you did, Snook.' said Melville, patting the pyromaniac on the head.

The recruiter frowned and then looked at Fin. 'How about you, boy? Any experience?'

'No, none, but I did prevent Snook from killing the lot of us. The army can always use people stopping the enemy, can't it?'

'I suppose so. And the girl?'

'She throws acorns.' This elicited a glare from Hilfa.

'Ah, acorns, yes. Okay. Well, you're a bit late. We've already trained a bunch of soldiers and they shipped out a few days ago. But we could send you as part of a special ops unit to flank the enemy from the east.'

'That sounds just fine!' exclaimed Melville happily. 'How large will our unit be?'

'Oh, about four people, I'd say. Maybe more if another straggler shows up.' He looked at the clock and sat there for a moment. 'Nope, just you four then!' He pulled out a map, unrolled it on his desk, and drew a rough path for the group to take. 'Follow this red line south and then curve around to the east. You'll cross over into enemy territory and then travel westward towards their encampment. When you reach it, blow the place up and then come back.' He handed the map to Melville.

The members of the unit looked at one another and then shrugged. 'Do we get any supplies? Our resident crazy guy burned the last of ours.'

'What? Oh, yes, yes. Fine.' Scribbling something on a note, he directed them to take it to the supply desk down the hall.

Taking the note, Fin and the others walked out into the hallway. Hilfa pointed out the supply office at the end. 'There it is! Just where he said it'd be!'

'Just a minute.' replied Fin, reading over the note. 'Anyone got a pencil?'

'Here's one!' said Snook, grabbing a stray pencil from the floor.

Fin carefully erased something from the note and wrote something in its place. 'Okay, let's go.' he said, walking down the hall.

Fin handed the note the lady at the supply desk who read it out loud. 'Travelling supplies for four people, weapons for four people, special ops gear for four people, and supplemental spending money for three hundred people. Okay, this all looks in order. If you'll just wait here for a moment I'll go grab your stuff from the back room.' She headed into the back room talking to herself. 'Special ops. Imagine that! They don't really look it, but I suppose that's what makes them so special. They're probably martial arts experts or something.'

'Wow. Spending money for three hundred people. I wonder if the officer wrote it wrong. Maybe we should go back and double check, just to be sure.' pondered Melville. Fin's eyes apparently had another one of their uncontrollable urges to stair at the ceiling.

'No, there wasn't a mistake. It's because we're special ops, remember?' Then after a moment's thought, 'You really are bad at the whole "stealing" thing,aren't you?'

'I am.' said Melville sadly. 'But why do you bring it up?'

At that point, the supplies lady returned with a generous bit of supplies and a huge bag of money. 'Here you go. There are the other three hundred and ninety six people?'

'They decided to wait outside. We'll take their money out to them. Thanks!'

'What other peop--ow!' began Meville.

'Okay, thanks. Bye!' Fun quickly hustled Melville and the others out the door and into the street.

'What other people?' repeated Melville.

'There are no other people.'

'But you said...'

Fin unrolled the map. 'It seems we're to head down to Rhimuth and then branch off eastward, heading cross-country to the south-eastern border.' Is there anything we should buy here before setting out?'

'But we can't spend the other soldiers' money. We should take it back to the lady if the people we got it for aren't around.'

'I want to buy a real sword!' shouted Snook.

'You know, stealing isn't very nice.' said Hilfa.

Fin looked through their supplies. 'Looks like we have some decent weapons, but if we could get some explosives' ('Yeah! shouted Snook) 'then we'd have a better chance of succeeding in blowing up the enemy encampment.' He held up a knife. 'Somehow, I don't think these weapons were designed for blowing things up. More cutting people up.'

'Shiny knife!' cried Snook. 'I want a knife! Ooh, three of them,' he said, peering into the pack. 'I can learn to juggle!'

'No weapons for you until you curb this homicidal streak.' Hilfa told Snook, snatching away the weapons.

'Perhaps we should find lodgings for the night. We can start out tomorrow morning. It's still raining, you realise?' Melville was wondering if he was the only one who was still aware of the fact that they were completely soaks and not getting any drying standing out in the rain.

'Yeah. Inns are good,' agreed Fin. 'We can see about booking a couple rooms, and a stable for the pyro.'

'Does hay burn well?' asked Snook.


'There are just too many of them!' General Ghoti said in frustration. 'There's nothing else to be done. We have to send a few of our finest to sneak around east to blow up their encampment.'

'But, sir, protested the Major. 'You know we don't have any finest. Of all the officers, only one has managed to find a troop good enough to serve as a Sargent. The rest of the grunts are bumbling idiots.'

'Well, we can take that one Sargent and pair him up with his three best Privates. He must be a skilled fighter, and he knows his own troops the best. He'll pick a crew that can get the job done. What's the Sargent's name?'

'It's...' The Major flipped through his papers. 'Sargent Morris Dallywonk, sir. He's serving under Captain Leath.'

'Excellent! Let our brave young Sargent know of his new assignment. I'm sure he'll be most pleased.'

/Dallywonk's Tale/

I was not pleased.

I'm an excellent Sargent. Really, I am. I fill out paperwork with immense skill, and I've memorised more regulations than you can shake a stick at. So it was not altogether clear to my just why I had been chosen to lead an assault force on the enemy. I'm not a fighter. I didn't join the army to fight. Who would?

But I had his assignment, for whatever reason, and I was going to carry it out to the letter. I figured at least that if I succeeded I'd get to file a report detailing every aspect. Hey, maybe I'd even be asked to write up recommendations for future missions. That would be a dream come true.

So I headed out to search for who I should put on my team. I knew I wanted Filcher. He was a bit of a klutz but since I'd been promoted to Sargent he and I hadn't gotten to hang out a lot, and this would be a great chance for us to catch up. Plus, you want people you trust on missions such as this.

Since I had been doing paperwork instead of training with the guys, I was a little out of touch with how they were doing. I had an inkling about who was competent and who wasn't, but a lot can change in the course of a few days when you're undergoing intense combat training, so I figured I should see if the Captain had any thoughts. Or maybe Filcher would know who to pick. I decided to start by asking Filcher, and then I'd bother the Captain only if necessary. The Captain didn't seem to like being bothered with questions. Whenever I went to ask him about nuanced army regulations he always just told me to use my own best judgement and shunted me off.

So I tracked down Filcher and told him the news: he was now part of my elite team of saboteurs.

He told me the best fighter around was Private Breck, and that Private Dudders was a stand-up guy all-around. I decided those two would add nicely to our group, and figured I'd check with the Captain to see if he wanted to suggest one or two more candidates. This was my first covert assault task force, and I wasn't sure exactly how many people it would take to blow up the enemy encampment.

When Filcher and I stopped by to talk to the Captain, he told us that whatever we thought was best would be fine, which was kind of what I expected.So it was announced that Filcher, Breck, Dudders, and I were going back up north to prepare future recruits for the battlefield experience, and that very night snuck out of the encampment and headed east to circle wide around for a flanking sneak assault.