The troops finally made it to the city without further incident after the short battle against the goblins. Reivyn was able to see the tops of the walls looming in the distance over the heads of those marching in front of him long before they were anywhere close to arriving at the destination. They simply dwarfed the basic defenses afforded by the wooden pallisade of Haluville, easily standing 50 feet tall.
Fortifications that were taken seriously all had to account for the possibility of high level assailants in any siege, but high level masons made the work and quality considerably higher. A seat of power such as Magron definitely had at least a few decently high level craftsman of the various Lifestyle Classes.
Ramshackle huts, tents, and lean-to's marred the vision, as there were more people seeking to live in the city than there was space available, and the poorest people were obviously the first ones squeezed out.
Reivyn spotted men in similar garb as the soldiers standing guard in front of the portcullis, and more men could be spotted patrolling the tops of the walls as they passed in and out of view from the crenellations.
Haluville liked to claim they were between a town and a city, but there were obviously gradients of city. This was a proper city.
The foot traffic entering and exiting the city stood to the side as the soldiers marched through the city, having been waved away by the guards long before they had arrived. As the civilians watched the soldiers parade through, Reivyn, keeping his head straight, in turn watched them. There was an overall level of quality to the clothing and demeanor of the citizens of Magron that subtly spoke of a higher standard of living.
The formation made an immediate right turn after passing through the sally port. They didn't enter the city proper, but stayed on the outskirts next to the inner walls. The barracks was located in such a spot that they could quickly muster, but not so close to the main thoroughfare as to be a nuisance.
Reivyn mentally chuckled to himself as he realized the barracks was located in the relative exact same position as his home in Haluville: the south east corner near the fortifications.
The barracks wasn't just a living quarters for the soldiers. It was a military encampment all on its own. It was roughly styled after a castle fortification, though with much smaller walls. There was a stone headquarters located down the center line with a large parade/drill field taking up the center. There was everything expected to find in a location that housed and trained professional soldiers, and the actual barracks were just a small portion.
The soldiers and levis came to a halt on the parade deck. Even with nearly a thousand troops, the space wasn't completely filled. A delegation of people in uniform, but not armor, came out to greet the officers, and they disappeared into the headquarters building while the sergeants delegated the corporals with getting their squads settled. Sergeant Mok met up with some more unarmored men and women to start processing the documents filled out when the conscription took place.
"Reivyn," Corporal Decker beckoned him over. The drill field had devolved into controlled chaos as the administrative personnel took charge of the conscripts and broke them up into multiple groups handling various tasks simultaneously. As Reivyn approached his squad leader, the man told him, "In a moment we'll go to the headquarters building to get your documents and token sorted out. Until then, stick with me."
Reivyn followed Corporal Decker and the rest of the squad to the barracks where they were housed. After supervising his men to ensure they were properly maintaining and stowing their gear, Decker dismissed his squad for the day. After ending a long march, the men had some down time allotted to them. They couldn't leave the enclosure of the compound as a whole, but they could freely go about their own business.
His own duties as the supervisor seen to, Decker motioned for Reivyn to follow him and quickly strode towards the headquarters building. He was moving at a fast clip, his mind seemingly preoccupied, because the sooner he finally got done with Reivyn, the sooner he could enjoy his own relaxation time.
Reivyn kept his head on a swivel as he took in all the sights available to him. There was nothing much to the actual buildings and grounds themselves, but it was a sight to see the efficiency of the people who called the place home. In the short amount of time they had been inside of the barracks where their squad was housed, the administrative soldiers had already bivouacked the levis.
The conscripts had been segmented into smaller units and given some chow. A quarter of the drill field had been sectioned off for them, and they were taking the time to enjoy a meal and get some rest as an unfortunate few had been volun-told to participate in a work detail setting up their temporary lodging. The soldiers weren't going to make them just stay out in the open, but there was definitely not room for them in the permanent structures.
The path that the duo took towards their destination led them past a group of men training in various methods. They all stopped to watch as Reivyn passed, and he could see many different expressions on their faces: surprise, amusement, deadpan, and scorn. He could almost feel the few unfriendly gazes eyeing him up and down.
The foyer of the headquarters building was spotlessly clean, and more elegant than Reivyn would have expected. There were some curved stairwells leading to an open balcony lined by a balustrade on the second floor that in turn led down the hallways on either side. Their destination was on the first floor, down the hallway on the right.
"We don't ever use those stairs," Decker said to him over his shoulder. "If we ever have business on the second floor, we use the stairs at the ends of the halls. Only the officers and messengers with emergency messages use the central stairs."
Reivyn nodded his head at this information. He seemed to have a very specific dream about being lost in a maze of a building, looking for some way to get upstairs because of some nonsensical rule labelling the only obvious way as off limits. Stupid, arbitrary rules seemed to permeate even the most efficient organizations.
Decker appropriated Reivyn's token from him as they arrived at their destination, which was just a small room towards the end of the hall with some more administrative people. He approached a man, presented the form that Reivyn had filled out along with his token, and explained the situation to him.
There was no hassle or runaround. There was no, go here and get this signed by this person, then go across to another building, then hop on one leg shenanigans. It was quick and easy, and Reivyn was soon the holder of a brand new, shinier token. He was no expert on metals or alloys, but he was pretty sure the conscription token had been tin, and this new one was made of bronze. He held it to his core to attune it, and then he was officially a Regular.
Decker led him back out of the headquarters building, and clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Well, I know you've been with us for a while now, but, welcome aboard. Your bunk is the one next to Brace's, like we showed you. I got some things to do, I trust you can find your way back on your own?" He asked. At Reivyn's nod, he gave a small smile and said, "good man."
Corporal Decker hurried off in another direction, leaving Reivyn to walk back across the drill field on his own. Nothing had changed in the short time they had been inside, and the environment was saturated with a military atmosphere.
"Well looky what we 'ave here, boys," a mean sounding voice interrupted Reivyn's sight-seeing of the compound. He had been lost in the similarities between his current situation and many of the dreams he remembered, and he hadn't been paying attention to where he was going. He looked up and saw the group of men that had been training nearby when he had followed Corporal Decker to the headquarters. He recognized the tone of voice of the man who had spoken, and he sighed to himself.
"Looks like we got some fresh meat," the man walking towards him called over his shoulder to his training mates. The other men chuckled gleefully at the expected good play they were about to witness. The man turned to face Reivyn, eyed him up and down with a smirk on his face, and said, "Does your mommy know you're here?"
Reivyn looked at the man, then looked at the others who were also approaching, and he simply turned and walked away. A hand snatched out and grabbed him by the shoulder, holding him in place. His eyes followed the hand up the arm to the frowning face of the one who had approached him. He thought he had had enough time to keep the distance enough between them, but he had moved a lot faster than he had expected when he tried to get away.
"I'm talking to you, boy." The man spit to the side, a familiar gesture that only served to cause Reivyn irritation. "Seems to me like you got no respect for your elders," he reached his left hand out without looking, and another person handed him a training spear. "I'm a magnanimous person, so I'll take it upon myself to teach you a few pointers." The man let go of his shoulder and stepped back an appropriate distance for sparring with a spear.
Before he had realized it, Reivyn had been surrounded by the group of older soldiers. A spear came flying at him, horizontally so as not to actually hurt him, but it was fast enough that he had to scramble to catch it before it smashed into his face. He looked at the man standing before him and all around at the others. All that met his eyes were mocking gazes of schadenfreude.
The man lunged forward with a proper spear thrust, and the one exchange caused Reivyn's stomach to drop. The man had a higher level, higher Stats, and clearly a higher Skill level. There was no way to disengage from the confrontation in such a situation, and he could only hope to put in a good showing.
He expertly parried the thrust and assumed a proper stance. The man was slightly surprised at first, but he quickly focused wholeheartedly on the fight. He had no intention of going easy on the new guy.
Sweat began to trickle down Reivyn's face as he fended off lightning-quick jabs, feints, loops, and sweeps from the more experienced combatant. The blunted tip of the practice spear would whistle past his head as he quickly jerked out of the way, but he never lost his balance or overextended.
A glint flashed in the man's eye, and the spear in his hands thrust straight towards Reivyn's eye. This wasn't a simple sparring jab any longer. It was a killing move, and he had been instructed over and over to never actually perform such a maneuver during a sparring session, because accidents invariably happened. The utter gall of the man to launch such a strike momentarily stunned Reivyn, and with a sinking feeling he realized he had fallen for a trap.
The man quickly spun his spear out of the fatal strike, and solidly drove the butt of the pole into his unprotected midsection. Reivyn doubled over in pain, his mouth open and saliva spitting out as the wind was knocked from him. He sucked in a deep breath easily, but it was like the pressure was off balance between his lungs and the outside air and he could barely force the air back out.
He went to a knee, dropping the practice spear to hold his stomach and attempt to gasp much needed oxygen into his lungs. He could vaguely sense feet shuffling around him, and then the man spoke to him.
"Tsk, tsk. Spears Skill needs work," he mockingly said. "On your feet. Let's check out your Swords Skill." Reivyn finally mastered his breathing after a short moment of panic, and a man thrust a training sword upon him.
He assumed a proper fighting stance with his sword at guard, calling upon his years of intense training while exhausted and his Mental Fortitude Skill.
The other man engaged in quick thrusts, slashes, feints, and parries once again. There were hardly any wasted movements, and his strikes landed heavily upon Reivyn's training weapon, threatening to knock it off course repeatedly. He utilized his footwork to the best of his ability and danced around the encirclement of cheering and jeering men. He vaguely got the sense of a foot sticking slightly out in his path from his Spatial Awareness Skill. He hadn't had much opportunity to level it, so it was still very low and only provided him the barest hint of a sensation.
He made to step over the protruding foot as the other man relentlessly pressed him, but the foot followed his path up and tripped him anyway. He knew it was obviously intentional, but the other man had been watching and capitalized on his loss of balance. The man ruthlessly drove his sword horizontally into Reivyn's side, overwhelming his Pain Resistance Skill, and causing his upper body to involuntarily form a "C" shape as he gasped in pain.
The man shook his head as he evaluated Reivyn's performance, "Swords Skill... not very good." He tossed his training weapon to the side and assumed an unarmed stance. "People don't always have access to weapons, so maybe you have some training in hand to hand, hmm?" The man was clearly insulting him as there was no way he couldn't recognize that Reivyn was performing at the Journeyman mastery.
Reivyn glared at the man as he tossed his sword away and also assumed a fighting stance once more. His opponent didn't wait for him to recover as he descended upon him in a flurry of fists, knees, elbows, and feet. He was clearly a very skilled fighter in all three forms of combat he had chosen. He was able to utilize most of his body as a weapon in some form or fashion.
The man suddenly ducked down and attempted a leg sweep, but Reivyn deftly avoided it. The man sprang back up into action without missing a beat from the failed maneuver. He threw out a feint with his left hand, and his right hand came swinging over in an exaggerated haymaker. Such an obvious attack was easily countered by Reivyn's block, but the man suddenly dropped his elbow down and flipped his hand forward. His fingers splayed open, and handful of dirt flew right into Reivyn's face and eyes, blinding him.
Reivyn pulled back into a more defensive stance as he utilized every last scrap of his willpower to make Spatial Awareness function at a higher level. He took a few body shots, but he was able to successfully fend off the man's barrage of fists and feet.
The man finally backed off as he couldn't get a good hit in, and Reivyn heard him say in a petulant voice, "Fine! It seems you do have a little bit of skill in at least one thing." The man sounded like he was personally offended that he couldn't cause more justified pain to Reivyn.
Reivyn relaxed his stance and tried to wipe some of the dirt and grit out of his eye when a pair of arms suddenly snaked around him from behind, locking him place.
He could hear the sneer as the man he had been fighting approached him again and said, "A little skill in hand to hand. Hardly an accomplishment for a military fighting unit. You appear to have been coddled all your life, so in final instruction, let me help you unlock the Pain Resistance Skill."
Reivyn didn't have time, or any way, to prepare before a heavy blow landed in his rib cage quickly followed by another on the other side, causing him to grunt unintentionally. The man began to wail on Reivyn in an unhinged manner. Reivyn lost focus of everything going on around him as his Pain Resistance Skill crumbled and he was consumed by the agony.
The beating only lasted for a few moments, but it felt like an eternity to Reivyn. Once the blows stopped, the arms holding him in place let go, and he collapsed to the ground on his knees. His vision was swimming with spots floating around obscuring what he could see. Tears and snot fell down his face as he felt a fist grip his hair and hold his head up. A slap came in from the side that he couldn't see.
"This is what happens to little pissants who don't show the proper respect," a voice filled with vitriol whispered into his ear. The fist holding his head up threw it forward, causing his balance to go with it and he sprawled on the ground, panting. "Stay down, boy." Reivyn heard a few chuckles from those watching, but they sounded more nervous than anything now.
Reivyn was out of it. He had never been in such a state before, and his thoughts weren't forming anything coherent. He just instinctively knew that he didn't like laying down in the dirt. So he, ever so slowly, stood up.
The man who had initiated the altercation didn't like that.
Brace threw out a card onto the small table he and a few other squad mates were using to play their game.
"Who do you think's gonna try to 'initiate' Reivyn, first?" He asked.
Tobin sat to his left holding his cards in one hand while he moved the other one back and forth in indecision on which to play. "I don't know, but they're probably in for a surprise, whoever it is."
The men chuckled at the statement. While it wasn't unusual for some new recruits to show up with a Skill or two at the Journeyman mastery, Reivyn was a special case. They had each witnessed him perform at the same Skill level in multiple weapons. Most of the regular troops had their weapons Skills around the Level 20 range, with the more seasoned veterans having surpassed the threshold of Level 25.
The squad expected to hear a story of a young soldier who had never had the opportunity to lord it over anyone before bite off more than he could chew, and they were happily laughing and joking as they played their card game.
The door to their quarters slammed open, and someone could be heard rushing in. Yorbo came running up with wild eyes. "It's bad, guys. Ren got ahold of Reivyn."
The laughter immediately came to a dead stop. They all looked at each other, each thinking the same thing. They quickly scrambled to make sure they were all properly dressed as they ran out of their quarters.
Brace turned his head to Yorbo and asked, "Where's Corporal Decker?" He didn't stop rushing towards the drill field as he posed the question.
Yorbo threw his hands up and exclaimed, "We were gone for two weeks! Where do you think he is? He's with his girl."
Brace gave him the side-eye and said, "Well, go get him!"
If Ren was the one to spot Reivyn without anyone there to back him up, then there was no way it was going to be a happy ending.
Ren was a spoiled rich kid with connections in the capital. He used his family connections to skirt the rules. This normally wouldn't fly, but Ren also had real Skill. The two factors combined meant he got away with acting like a complete dirt bag all the time. He would take anything that didn't go exactly his way as a personal insult.
The worst thing, though, was that he was a corporal. His men would follow along with his antics, because if they didn't, they would be the target of his ire.
Brace and the squad quickly arrived on the scene to witness a disgruntled Ren punching a crawling Reivyn in the face.
"Why won't you stay down!?" He screamed. He had completely lost his mind.
Reivyn was unresponsive. He was clearly disoriented, and he wasn't even capable of defending himself. Brace stood in horror as he saw the blood and tears streaking his face. His left eye was already turning a dark purple.
Brace ran forward and interjected himself between Ren and Reivyn, the other squad members surrounding the two casting menacing gazes at the ones who had failed to put a stop to this fiasco. "Corporal Ren! Stop!" Brace yelled out with his hands held out in front of him.
Ren shoved his finger into Brace's face, "Stay out of this Lance Corporal."
"No, you've gone too far," Brace retorted. "Look at him! You're killing him!"
Ren glowered at Brace, ready to go into a diatribe, when a shout came from the distance.
"What in the hells?!" Corporal Decker came sprinting up. He had clearly been interrupted, as he was attired only in his pants, boots, and sidearm. The only reason he had the last was because it was still buckled to his pants when he hastily got dressed.
Corporal Decker took in the scene before him and shot a piercing gaze at Ren. Without thinking about the consequences, Decker drew his weapon and attacked Ren. This wasn't a training weapon. He was aiming to seriously hurt his opponent.
Ren jumped back in shock, "What are you doing? You're gonna attack a real man over this guy?" He exclaimed in disbelief with a gesture towards Reivyn who had managed to attain his feet, albeit unsteadily.
"You're damn right!" Corporal Decker attacked again.
Brace put his hands on either side of his head. Things had gotten completely out of control. He had no idea what to do. He kept glancing between his squad leader and corporal Ren, blinking his eyes rapidly in panic.
Suddenly, between one eye blink and another, Knight-Captain Reifold had materialized out of thin air. He was holding Corporal Decker's sword completely still, pinched between forefinger and thumb.
Everything went eerily still and quiet. Not even the breeze dared make a sound. Knight-Captain Reifold calmly looked at Ren, then he turned his head and calmly looked at Corporal Decker. Finally, his gaze landed on Reivyn who was at risk of collapsing at any moment.
"What," he began as his gaze returned to Corporal Ren, "is happening here?" He casually let go of the sword, and Decker allowed the tip to fall to the ground.
Ren visibly swallowed, but he couldn't think of anything to say.
Knight-Captain Reifold glanced around at everyone present before saying, "This is a serious breach of military discipline. I understand that some rough-housing takes place between the old and the new. It is perfectly fine, even appropriate, to do so. Everyone goes through it. You went through it. Even I went through it," he paused for a moment before continuing. "However... Explain to me what is appropriate about beating a nine year old - who, if not for the unusual circumstances of conscription, would still be legally a child... What is appropriate about beating him to within 5 percent of his Health?"
Everyone's eyes went wide, and Ren's face drained completely of blood. Brace looked at Reivyn in disbelief. People were at risk of going comatose at 5 percent health, yet the youth continued to stand.
It was common knowledge that one risked their hearts stopping if they bottomed out on Stamina, and it was equally common knowledge that one usually passed out unconscious around the 10 percent Health mark. It was a myth that people could stay in a fight all the way to 1 percent health, as the body would have sustained so much damage by that point that it would shut down.
While everyone was still stunned at the revelation, Knight-Captain Reifold addressed Decker, "Corporal Decker. You were negligent in your duty. You allowed your personal reasons to cloud your judgment, and you failed to protect one of your own. You then compounded this mistake by attacking a fellow NCO with a deadly weapon. Five lashes of the Punishment Rod should wake you up."
Brace sucked in a cold breath. The punishment rod was a magic item that completely bypassed the Pain Resistance Skill. The only saving grace of such a punishment was that it didn't cause any actual damage.
"As for Corporal Decker's Squad, I commend you for rushing to the aid of your fellow squad member, even confronting an NCO to do so; however, he's new. At least one of you should have already been there to have his back," Knight-Captain Reifold continued. "Corporal Ren's Squad, you lack the backbone to stand up to your superior when he is clearly in the wrong. You are relegated to exclusively latrine duty from now on. Maybe you can gain the Mental Fortitude Skill while there."
"Corporal Ren," he finally addressed the culprit. "You. Are. An. Embarrassment." He enunciated each word individually. Everyone was completely shocked at the statement. Knight-Captain Reifold was renowned for being hard but fair. He was strict in discipline, but never, not once ever, had anyone ever heard him insult somebody. "You are reduced to the rank of Private."
Ren's eyes threatened to bug out, and before he could catch himself he uttered, "Sir, you can't..." he nearly choked on his words.
"I can't, what?" The Commanding Officer asked.
Ren mustered his courage, set his gaze, grit his teeth, and said, "My father will hear of this."
Knight-Captain Reifold nodded his head. "I see. Well, if I ever hear the words 'my father' from you, directed at me, again... I'll cut your tongue out," he said with a completely straight face. "There is nobody, in this kingdom or the next, who can intimidate me. Especially not you, a man under my command, and especially not your father. Do you understand?"
Ren swallowed once again. He had no more blood to drain from his face, and his complexion was ghostly white. "Yes, sir," he managed to stammer out.
"Dismissed," Knight-Captain Reifold ordered. Everyone acted like they had grown another set of legs as they disappeared from the scene as fast as they had ever escaped a situation before.
Everyone, except Brace. He wasn't going to forget the lesson his Commanding Officer had just given their Squad about not looking out for Reivyn.
The Knight-Captain nodded in approval, "I'll carry him to the infirmary, personally. You follow along."
"Yes, sir," Brace replied.