In a remote Norwegian valley, a young elf was gazing out of the window of an army classroom. He was very bored. Outside, the sun was shining and the wind was tossing the branches. Great day to go windsurfing. But in here, Sergeant Lavall was droning on about communication techniques. Boring. He jumped as a piece of chalk whizzed past his ear.
“Wake up and stop day-dreaming,” shouted the sergeant. “You’re not going to get very far in the army if you don’t listen. You don’t think Ace and Will Moseley became the youngest generals the army’s ever seen by gazing out of windows, do you?”
Bewildered, the young elf shook his head, but someone else piped up.
“I’ve heard they were always getting in trouble.”
“Well, yes,” said the sergeant. “Yes, I grant you that. But they listened.”
“Were you here then, Sergeant? When they were recruits?”
The sergeant smiled, remembering. He’d been here, all right. Back in the dark days before the Civil War. He could see them now, in this very classroom, messing about in the back row.
“The year they came here? Yes, I was. My first year in this job.”
They were all listening now, the sergeant noticed. Hoping he’d let slip some tale of past bad behaviour by senior officers. He could do better than that.
“They were lucky they got here at all,” he told his class. “Ace and Will had never even heard of the army. They knew about the police, though - and the police knew about them.”
The class looked more alert. They’d all heard gruesome stories about the things that used to happen if you attracted the attention of the police.
“They could easily have ended up in prison,” said the sergeant. “But they didn’t, because they happened to meet one of the Guidance Squadron. Communication experts, they are, and the one Ace and Will met was one of the best - Major Madge Arley. She can talk without words, and hear the things you don’t even say.”
Sergeant Lavall wasn’t bad at it himself. They were quiet and still now, hanging on his every word.
“Nothing like real-life examples to help things make sense,” he said. “Listen now, and I’ll tell you their story. Ace and Will lived on a wildside in the north of England. You know what a wildside is, don’t you? You get them everywhere. A place that was built on once, but isn’t any more, or a place that is going to be built on, but hasn’t been yet. Wild flowers, litter, odd lumps of concrete. Madge was sent there, expecting no more than her usual sort of mission. She didn’t know what she was in for. But then, neither did Ace and Will.”