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POV Greta

That baby is strange.

I have helped to deliver babies since I was a little girl, and in the past 30 years at least a third of the children born in Oakbridge have had my help to do so. From my experience I can say that Helen’s baby, Ben, goes against common sense.

I’ve known Helen and David since they were babes and that was why I was so sad when Helen got sick. She was in the final few months of her pregnancy when she started to get a fever. We did everything we could, gave her nutritious soups, plenty of water and rest, but she slowly weakened. They couldn’t afford to fetch a maester and I had seen this sort of fever before and it always ends with either the mother dying in childbirth or they both die.

I told David he should pray for a miracle. And he must have because that is exactly what happened.

Helen tells me it started when she first felt the baby kick and move. A few days later the fever settled, her appetite returned and her skin regained its colour. The entire village was in good spirits, especially when the baby was born. I was worried at the start when it came out silently. When a baby’s born it will cry, if not then it is either dead or lame. Thankfully after a quick pat the brat started crying like no one's business, healthy pair of lungs too.

It was the months following that i noticed things were strange with the boy. The bugger's appetite being particularly large wasn’t anything of concern, but his manners were the real concern. When you think of babies, manners should be the furthest thing to come to mind. But this one will almost never cry when his parents have company and when he needs attending to, he will use only small voices at the start and progressively get louder until he is noticed. Babies are supposed to act like kings, when they want something, they want it immediately and will use the loudest voice they can to demand it.

His social skills are also unheard of. When his parents are feeling sad, he almost seems to instinctually know, as he will give a clumsy smile, make silly noises and even stroke and hug their arms or hands. Which side are the parents and which is the baby here?!

The parents are helpless, they think he’s a genius and the other parents though concerned at first, have started to be jealous at how well behaved he is and how easy Helen has it. Though they are right about one thing though, that boy is a genius.

At just 4 months he was already crawling about as if with boundless energy, at 7 months he said “mama” and “dada” soon after. By the time his first name day came he was responding to dinner calls and fetching cups of water for the pregnant Helen. Yep seems that those two had it so easy the first time around they thought to have another. I’m looking forward to seeing if all their children will be as special, or if they will receive experience the countless sleepless nights that all new parents should suffer through. Hehehe.

POV Ben

“Ben, can you go check on your siblings please” Helen asked, busy cutting the freshly made pies.

“Sure Mum.” I replied, putting down the cloth and bowl I was cleaning.

Leaving the kitchen, I maneuverer through the noisy inn. It was lunch time and particularly busy today so mother hasn’t had the chance to take a break yet. As I walk down the road past several houses, I reach my home. My family lives in a small single-story thatch house with a single wood paned door, three rooms. The front room acts as the dinning and kitchen in one, in the back there is a door that leads to my parent’s room that has a double bed made from straw and woollen blanket holding it together. To the right of the bed is a small cot where me and my brother used to sleep, but now holds my baby sister. To the right is small closet like room that has a single bed which my brother and I share.

Yep my family now has 5 immediate members. My dad, David, who is a member of the town's guardsman, one of two sergeants who leads 9 others each. When I first met him, he had apparently just come back from a long mission that day. There were apparently a number of illegal loggers in the area and the margrave had tasked a knight, Ser Roc, to lead a squad to find them and arrest them.

My father was just a normal guardsman at the time, serving for 2 years, with the sergeant being the second in command to the knight. After searching for several days, they found the loggers, but what they originally thought was a few vagrant loggers was instead a camp of 14 outlaws. The guards were spotted, losing the element of surprise but fortunately the bandits were in the middle of dinner so they were unprepared for combat. Like this although the bandits outnumbered them, thanks to the skill of Ser Roc and the fact our men were battle-ready state they were victorious, although the cost was great. 4 guards died, the sergeant at the time being one of them, dying to a crossbow, the same one that almost killed Roc if my father hadn’t killed the user in time. Thanks to that act and the strong performance he apparently showed, he became the replacement sergeant from that day on, one of the youngest in our villages history.

My mother, Helen, is the cook at the only inn in town. Her father, my grandad, is the head chef for the margrave. Their children are myself as the oldest, nearly 4, my brother Ed, named after my Grandad, is a year younger than me, while my baby sister, Elsa, was born just 2 months ago.

We’re a normal sized family, but better off than most due to my father having a good position in the guards and my mother’s job brings some extra money to the house. She can also bring the leftovers home after work which means we get some plenty of meat and veg in our diets, though not the best quality of course.

“Marg u here” I called as I opened the door.

“Ben you’re home later than usual, where’s Helen, did something happen at the inn?” asked Marg from the bedroom.

The woman, or girl depending on who you ask, is Marg my aunt on my father’s side. The reason she’s here is to look after my siblings while my parents are working. The usual case with families like ours is that the wife would stay home to look after the young ones while the father works. There are 3 reasons both my parents can work at the same time, Marg is the primary reason.

Shortly after Ed was born mother was complaining to Marg about how she missed working at the inn. Marg, 13 at the time, suggested that she could look after the 2 of us while she was working. Dad was sceptical, but Marg mentioned that if mum was working then they could afford to pay her to look after us, which she could use to save for her dowry. Dad's dad was just a small farm owner and put a lot of money towards getting dad into the guardsmen, so there wasn’t a lot saved for Marg. This made sense, and so for the past 2 years Marg has been looking after Ed and Elsa, I was nearly self-sufficient by 2 and really helped Marg with the others than her help me.

The second reason was me, the fact I could already do the job of a sibling several years older than I, as well as having a calming effect on my siblings helped put their mind to ease. The third is that Dad took advantage of his patrolling duties,  since our house is on the main road, to check in on us several times a day.

Like this we have continued till this day. Dad has cemented his position in the guard, mother works as the cook at the Oakstrong inn, Ed and Elsa spend their days sleeping or playing, while I have started to make preparations for the future.

From my cultivation I have found that the qi in the air is much smaller than in the past, so I deduced that this is not the same area, or even continent, as when I died. The village I am living in is called Oakbridge due to the fact the surround woods are primarily oak and the origin of the town was based next to a bridge that spans a small stream about 5 metres across. There are around 1000 to 1200 people living here, all free rather than slaves or serfs, thank god for that. The surrounding farms amount to another 500 to 800 people. The armed force amounts to 20 guardsmen, 2 knights and their 4 squires. The person in charge is the margrave. The village belongs to Lord Eddard Stark whose Sigel is a direwolf and is also the Lord Paramount of the North, Warden of the North.

The social structure of this land was hard to figure out and was more of piecing together several conversations to get a rough idea. The lowest rung is the peasants, that’s me, we have the obligation to pay taxes and obey the laws the nobility makes and in exchange they impose order and protect us from outside threats.

The next rung would be knights, sworn to defend the people and their Lords. These are the lowest form of nobility and are sort of in between peasants and lords in terms of power and rights. A knight must be called Ser if not requested otherwise, repeated offences will result in either being fined or jailed if brought to the attention of the local lord. They are given their title by lords either for their skill in combat or for an act of valour. The lord then gives him a small part of their land, usually a few acres, and they pay a portion of anything they earn from the land to the lord, if they earn nothing, they pay nothing. An example is if a peasant farms the land then they have to give 80% of the food to the lord while a knight only has to pay 40%.

The knight is considered in service to the lord, meaning they must fight alongside them when the lord goes to battle, in exchange they are considered a part of the lord's retinue and insulting them is considered insulting the lord and they can demand satisfaction in the form of either an apology or a duel. Most peasants choose to apologise as even the weakest knight has typically been trained since young and they have no requirement to provide an even playing field. Meaning if you’re a poor, crippled farmer and you refuse to apologise you will have to fight an armed and armoured knight with whatever weapons and armour you possess, even if all that amounts to is a stick and some dirty clothes.

The title of knight can be either inherited or passed down along with any land you own, but the title can only be held by one person at a time. This means if your father is a knight you are still nothing more than a peasant until he passes the title to you, and if you have a sibling and they become peasants as well.

The next step is a margrave, and these are knights who are trusted by the lords to manage parts of their territory if the size of it exceeds their family's eye. The margrave doesn’t get to keep the taxes from the territory and still has to pay the tax for their own territory, but they are payed a generous salary by the lords, and they are considered higher than the knights and local knights need to listen to their requests unless they have good reason to do so otherwise. The title is non-hereditary, and when they die only the title knight is passed to the children.

After that is the lords. They have vast stretches of lands with even the smallest having a town and several villages. A lord is named only by the Lord Paramount, when a knight has accomplished an exceptional feat. They are given a part of their territory and choose a Sigil to mark their house. They can do whatever they want in their territory so long as they pay their taxes to the lord paramount and don’t break the laws of the kingdom, of which there are few besides from treason and slavery. They don’t need to follow anyone’s order except the ones they choose and the oaths they swear upon.

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