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The countryside slowly, but steadily passed by as the soldiers and conscripts marched down the road. Reivyn was much more comfortable in his new, form fitting armor, as even though they had cinched the slightly too big set before, such a stopgap measure was never perfect, and he had to constantly adjust the straps and move in a marginally unnatural gait to prevent chafing.

The landscape outside of Magron was beautifully attired in the multicolored splendor of growing crops. The golden glint reflected off of wheat was the most prevalent, but other crops, and even some neat rows of orchards, could be found interspersed. The land immediately surrounding the city was ultimately owned by the Count himself, but he had no time or inclination to oversee the production. Elaborate systems were in place to allow multiple people to skim benefits with the end result of low-levelled Tier 2 farmhands employed doing the majority of the manual labor under supervision of the higher levelled, more experienced farmers.

With Skills, Classes, and mana being factors in crop growth, seasons consisted of multiple planting and harvesting sessions, resulting in an abundance of produce. One would think this would saturate the market, but that was not so. It allowed for a varied diet for a healthy population, and certain foodstuffs, like the hard roll the military used, were designed in such a way as to cram as many nutrients into a small form as possible.

Large barges and smaller boats travelled up and down a wide river that the city had been built next to. The trade and transportation it allowed was one of the reasons Magron was such a prosperous city, but the river did not go in the direction of the destination of the troops, otherwise they would have just caught a ride on some transport boats.

The military unit snaked along the road for a considerable length. There was more to the regular battalion than Reivyn had originally realised. There were three companies in total, one company of cavalry and two of infantry. Only one company of infantry, the company Reivyn was attached to, and two platoons of cavalry, obviously accompanied by the levies, were deployed. The other infantry company remained in the city, and they were responsible for maintaining patrols outside of the city, and the platoon of cavalry that stayed behind was only technically part of the battalion, as they were the Count's personal bodyguards.

The makeup of the companies consisted of two medium infantry platoons that could seamlessly switch between being spearmen and swordsmen, as Reivyn had personally experienced, and one platoon of skirmishers which consisted of archers and scouts. The cavalry company was one platoon of light, medium, and heavy each, with the heavy cavalry being the noble bodyguard unit.

The light cavalry unit had split off to perform scouting missions, even this close to the city, and the platoon of skirmishers lead the formation. The 1st Platoon of infantry was next, Knight-Captain Reifold and his staff were directly behind them, and the 2nd Platoon, where Reivyn's squad was located, followed behind. The levies brought up the rear, being led by Sergeant Mok, and the Company Commander had the honor of leading the entire procession in the front.

As the day wore on, the formation passed through little farming communities that littered the countryside between slightly larger hamlets. There wasn't a proper town for several day's walk from Magron in any direction, but the people working the farms needed a place to live nearby where they tended to their farms, which led to the establishment of such communities and hamlets. It would be entirely too impractical for them to live in the city proper and have to make the journey to and from the farmlands everyday.

This feature led to the phenomenon that the closest farms to the city were the choicest locations to work, and thus the highest levelled farmers oversaw the fields right outside the city walls. It created a noticeable change in quality of the crops as one moved further and further away. That wasn't to say that the quality of the crops ever got low, but Reivyn definitely noticed a lack of splendor the farther they marched along the road.

 


 

New Skill Unlocked!
Woodworking (1)

Reivyn had finally had to participate in the building of the temporary pallisade, and with some guidance in how to effectively select and chop a tree and then build it into a defensive fortification, he had acquired the Skill.

They had been on the road for six days, and they had passed the only township two days prior. Only a smattering of smaller villages could be found out this far, and the countryside was no longer endless fields of neatly tended to crops, but instead there were forests and empty fields interspersed with the farmlands, woodcutting lodges, and hunter camps dotting the wilderness. Every now and then, a group of people who were clearly Adventurers, could be spotted doing some sort of adventuring activity or another, usually walking somewhere.

The duties assigned to each individual squad was varied enough that Reivyn had been busy each time they stopped, but he had only just now participated in the building of the encampment. It was actually the levies who were the most carefree. Now properly outfitted in their gambesons and helmets, they no longer looked like a peasant uprising, but as they were irregulars and not actually trained for the life of being a soldier, they had the least duties. They were basically only expected to do some manual labor and to show up for combat when needed.

As they finished erecting the wooden pallisade, Corporal Decker approached the squad members, "Platoon Sergeant has called everyone to gather up. He's probably going to fill us in on what we're doing out here." They were soldiers, and so they went where they were ordered when they were ordered. As of yet, nobody had actually told the troops where they were going or what they were doing.

Reivyn could at least guess where they were headed. He looked up in the fading light and spotted a mountain range coming into view. It was an arm that stabbed down into the plains, branching off from a much larger cluster, and way off into the horizon so far that he couldn't tell if it was mist or clouds playing tricks on him. It appeared that there were some truly, terrifyingly huge mountain peaks. If they weren't an optical illusion, then the scale of this mountain range was mind boggling. It would obviously span multiple countries if that was the case, but even then, this was just a small corner of the continent they resided on.

The squad tidied up their tools and headed towards the assembly location. Reivyn noticed other instances of troops forming up and getting information passed down to them. Everyone was going to understand what their mission was, even the levies. The 2nd Squad met up with the rest of the platoon and took a seat in front of their waiting platoon sergeant, a man Reivyn had never interacted with before but had seen issuing orders and instruction to the corporals.

"Everyone's here, so I'll begin," he said. He had a portable writing board with a map of the local area on it, centered on a small town located at the foot of the mountain range they were approaching. "Our first destination is here, an old prospecting town. It doesn't have a proper name, and it's been abandoned for decades. Most of the original buildings don't exist anymore, and only the foundations remain.

"This old town has recently been revitalized, however, as an Orc encampment has taken up ownership. As everyone knows, Orcs always, always turn into roving bands that raid villages and small towns. This encampment is a future threat to the surrounding people that must be eliminated.

"Preliminary scouting reports indicate about a hundred Orcs with about 300 goblin slaves. They have been in place for well over a year, so we can expect them to be fully outfitted with crude iron weaponry. Goblins are typically not a threat to a military unit, but we have the Orcs to deal with, so the levies will be handling the goblins. We expect a casualty rate of about 10-20%, with a 5% mortality rate among the levies. We all know they have poor morale compared to professional troops, so we'll have to be ready to pick up the slack if something unexpected happens and they rout for whatever reason. This is not a likely scenario, but it is a possible one.

"There are no indications of an Orc Shaman, so long-range magic bombardment is not expected. They have one Orc Chief, which is equivalent to mid-Tier 3. We're not responsible for specifically engaging the Orc Chief, but if he appears in our area of operations, listen and obey the commands and you'll defeat him. The rest of the Orcs are about the same strength level as us, equivalent to a low-to-mid-Tier 2, but they're unruly berserkers, so they can't bring to bear the same amount of combined force as we can.

"Orcs aren't known to sit behind fortifications, so the plan for tomorrow is pretty simple. We'll march all the way to the destination and form up just outside of line of sight, immediately. The skirmishers will go forward and launch a ranged assault on their position. Either they or their goblin slave army will pursue, and depending on which, or both, will determine who will first engage, but we'll be adaptable to the situation. The medium cavalry will hit them from the flank after we've engaged, and the light cavalry will pick off any ranged units and stragglers, funneling them towards our formation. The commanders know what they're doing, so always follow orders instantly. Any questions?"

Reivyn looked around and saw that nobody had any questions, but he was curious about something, so he raised his hand. "Sergeant, I'm just curious about two things. One, why go into so much detail for us, and two, why do we have so many people, almost double the 400 enemies?"

The sergeant looked curiously at the speaker for a second before recognition dawned on his face, "That's simple. The first point is towards the Commander's Intent. If anything goes wrong, and the commanders can't give orders, the men in the field need to know what the end goal is to be able to make the proper decisions in such a situation. As for having double the enemy, the only reason it's going to work is because of how weak the goblins are. In a normal assault, the number is supposed to be three to one. So we're technically short by 400 troops, and we're evenly matched in numbers of regulars versus the Orcs. We're leaning on our superior military discipline to make up for the numbers."

They broke up into their respective squads after that. The men spent most of the time in only mild silence as they maintained their gear, making sure everything was in tip top shape for the coming action. Reivyn noticed that the levies were behaving in much the same way, though there was a much more solemn atmosphere in their part of the camp. Things had very quickly become all too real for them.

 



Reivyn was located in the second row of troops for this engagement. He stood, spear held relaxedly, behind the man from 1st Squad who would bear the brunt of the coming assault. They stood loosely at rest, the formation located about a quarter of a mile in the treeline completely out of sight of the encampment. No point in ordering the men to stand at attention and drain their energy, and they had taken a break to recover as much as they could from the march an hour before arriving in position.

The Orcs had cleared some of the trees around the prospecting town to create an open space between the forest and their camp. There had been some comment on this, because it wasn't typical Orc behaviour and indicated a smarter than average leader. They had shown that they didn't fully grasp the concept of having a space cleared, though, as they didn't capitalize on any of the advantages that it could provide. It was like they had been instructed on what to do but not why.

Reivyn wasn't nearly as nervous this time around as he had been before his first real battle. He could still feel his heart beating in his chest in anticipation, but the nervous butterflies in his stomach were absent. Some of his confidence came from the relaxed nature of the older soldiers, and the fact that their formation was exactly the same as from the goblin attack down to the positioning of Knight-Captain Reifold and Knight-Lieutenant Brand.

There was one significant difference, though. The two officers wore gleaming plate mail. It wasn't what one would think of as "full-plate," as that was entirely too impractical. Where Reivyn's and the other's armor were segmented plates of metal riveted to a leather undershirt, the officer's armor was solid bands of metal over chain.

Brace saw him eyeing the commander out of the corner of his eye and bent over to whisper, "The Knight-Captain is a Level 70 Epic Tier 3 Paladin. If he didn't have to worry about unexpected situations, he could probably wipe them out all on his own. Also, if he did that, he would cripple us, and we would never get a chance to Level our Skills and Classes properly."

Reivyn's eyebrows rose in surprise. He had known the Knight-Captain was powerful, but he hadn't realized he was only 20 levels away from reaching Tier 4. At his incredulous look, Brace smirked and said with a chuckle, "Yeah, he's famous."

The troops stood and waited, idly chatting in muted whispers. Suddenly, a bright flash shot up to the sky over the canopy in the distance.

"Signal," Knight-Captain Reifold calmly intoned.

"Attention," Knight-Lieutenant Brand commanded. All of the troops stopped resting and stood ready. Reivyn suddenly had sweaty palms, and he continuously had to adjust his grip.

Knight-Captain Reifold, upon seeing everyone at the ready, lifted his sword high above his head, and a bright glow radiated out from it. It expanded over all of the troops and then covered them like a blanket, settling into the men. Reivyn felt all of the travel fatigue melt away from him like it had never been there.

Divine Blessing!
Stamina consumption halved.
STR +20%
VIT +20%
DEX +20%
Duration: 1 Hour
Helpful Hint!
Divine Blessings have no backlash after the effects expire.

"Advance," Knight-Lieutenant Brand ordered. Reivyn only had time for a cursory glance at the notification, but that was enough to leave him speechless. No wonder nobody else is ever nervous when he's in command, he thought to himself.    

With the fatigue washed away and a new pep in their step, the formation quickly moved through the trees out into the open. Reivyn got his first look at the Orc berserkers as they chased after the skirmishers who were hightailing it towards the oncoming medium infantry. The goblin army was haphazardly trailing behind them, stretching out into an unorganized mess.

The skirmishers ran through the line of infantry that had given them enough space to pass through the ranks, and they reformed behind them as the spearmen closed ranks again.

"Javelins," the familiar order came, and the front rank responded in good military order. "Throw. Swords. Skirmishers, column right. Sergeant Mok, send the Levies with them." The Adjutant sent out rapid fire commands in multiple directions.

The front row threw their spears and assumed a pose with shields up and swords at the ready in a smooth motion. The makeshift javelins impaled themselves into the oncoming Orcs, further disrupting their already loose line charging towards the men. Only a few of them went down, and most of the Orcs simply snapped the spears off and roared their displeasure as they didn't even slow down.

The Orcs didn't show any fear at being tricked into rushing headlong into an ambush, and they simply used the scent of their own blood and the aggression inherent in their species to work themselves up into a bloodlust.

The last thing Reivyn saw of the overall battlefield were the skirmishers getting into position on the right flank to target the goblins and draw them towards the levies that were quickly rushing to get into position behind the ranged unit.

The force of the charge from the Orcs was magnitudes more powerful than the one experienced with the goblins a week prior. The third row of soldiers, instead of giving assistance in absorbing the blow because they were available to, had to assist in order to prevent Reivyn and some of the other, lower levelled regulars from being sent flying.

The Orc before the man in the first row where Reivyn was located had planted its feet and was swinging a giant, double-bladed axe in wild, powerful swings at the man who could only brace with his shield. He didn't have an opportunity after each exchange to retaliate with a sword blow. All up and down the line, the Orcs fought in a much more competent manner, some dodging and weaving the sword slashes and spear thrusts, others attacking wildly in a frenzy, never allowing an opportunity for the shield bearer to recover, and in some other places, the men already had need of switching out to allow a wounded soldier to get to the back and apply first aid.

Pretty much any wound that wasn't instantly fatal was recoverable with a skilled Healer, and first aid techniques could stop the bleeding and facilitate early self recovery to kick in to keep a man in the fight. The trick was to be able to easily and swiftly switch out combatants that received a decently powerful hit so that the wounds couldn't accumulate and slowly drain them away. This was another factor of military discipline that the Orcs lacked.

The Orc in front of Reivyn's location continued to batter the shield of the man holding him at bay, trying to displace it so he could reach the soft flesh behind it. It landed a particularly heavy blow that knocked the man off balance, and sensing victory at hand, it allowed its bloodlust to control it as it stretched its neck out and bellowed its rage at the teetering man, spit and phlegm flying out of its mouth.

Reivyn seized the opportunity, and even as the man was careening into him, he ever so slightly adjusted his stance to shift his right shoulder forward as his left absorbed the man's momentum, and he expertly thrust his spear right through the mouth of the screaming Orc, the spear tip passing through and coming out the back of his neck and then quickly retracted so as not to get stuck. The Orc froze, not quite dead, yet, but stunned, and Reivyn pushed the shield-bearer with his left shoulder to help steady him, and the man capitalized on the momentum to finally slash his sword forward, disembowelling the Orc.

There was no time for anything like a quick thanks or even an acknowledgement as another Orc immediately took the first's place. This one was dual-wielding tomahawks, and it descended on the defender with gusto. Its attacks weren't nearly as powerful, but they were relentless, and they served to quickly drain the man's Stamina.

Reivyn stood behind the man, searching for an opportunity to strike. If he tried to attack when there wasn't enough space, he would risk nicking his ally. He observed the Orc's movements and picked up on a pattern, and when the Orc was, for a fraction of a second, standing in a pose with both of his arms wide apart as one was on the backswing and the other was launching forward, Reivyn thrust his spear straight towards its eyes. The Orc immediately adjusted his attacking arm to block the blow coming from the spear, but this allowed the swordsman to stab forward, underhanded into the beast's gut. Reivyn again took the pause in the Orc's movements caused by the gut wound to stab his spear into its throat, ending its life.

Before the Orc fell, the man in front of Reivyn turned his head, and between panted breaths said, "Quick switch!" He was only about 40% down on his Stamina from the sustained blows he had received from assailants, but one could recover faster if they didn't allow their Stamina to fall too far to begin with, and so they were trained to switch places before reaching 50% if at all possible.

Reivyn dropped his spear, unslung his shield, and drew his sword as he and the man in the first rank maneuvered around each other. The other man defly scooped up the fallen spear and took his place in the third rank to recover as the man who had been in the third rank replaced Reivyn's spot in the second. The fourth rank's were again assembled behind them as a reserve unit.

Another Orc came screaming into their position, this one armed with a giant, spiked club. It wildly attacked Reivyn, lifting its club straight up and bringing it straight down in a frenzy of uncomplicated but fierce blows. Reivyn wasn't quite as Skilled in Shields as the man before him, so he wasn't as adept at absorbing and redirecting the energy transferred into the shield. His Stats weren't quite as high as the other man, either, who was a genuine Tier 2 Combat Class. Luckily, this third Orc was simpleminded and didn't attempt to knock the shield away at all, but just smashed straight into it like a brute.

This was the first time Reivyn had ever been on the receiving end of such an attack, and his adrenaline was pumping furiously through his body. His vision was tunneled to what was going on right in front of him, the sounds of the battle all around were muted and he only heard the continuous bashing noises from the club coming into contact with the shield, and he could clearly see and hear the snarl on the face of the Orc in front of him. His world was reduced to his shield and the Orc in front of him.

Suddenly, on the backswing of the club, a spear rocketed out over Reivyn's right shoulder and stabbed into the chest of the Orc. Learning the lesson from when he was the one wielding a spear, he quickly stabbed his sword forward into the soft belly of the Orc, and he twisted it sideways to spill intestines and other organs onto the ground. Blood splashed up onto his armor and face.

During the short reprieve afforded him while this Orc fell and another took its place, another sound finally made it through to his senses. A loud thundering of hooves entered his ears, and it was like a dam had broke as all of the previous sounds that had been automatically tuned out came crashing into focus once again. He noticed out of the corner of his eye the platoon of medium horsemen crash into the flank of the Orcs, and they cut through the Orc horde like a knife through butter, trampling all in front of their path. They continued on and circled around to resume another charge from the rear of the Orcs.

The Orcs were either fearless or stupid, as they paid absolutely no mind to the threat of the horsemen expertly flanking them. A huge roar sounded out, deafening Reivyn as it covered the entire battlefield, and a great, hulking specimen of an Orc made itself known. He had a headdress adorning his head, and he carried a weapon that looked much like a cleaver in his right hand and a short kite shield made of bones and leather in his left.

A bright light-beam pierced through the crowd of Orcs between the chief and Knight-Captain Reifold as he launched an attack at the leader. The Orc Chief managed to divert the attack with his shield, but it had served its purpose in throwing the normal Orcs into disarray, allowing Knight-Captain Reifold to charge through their numbers unhindered as he engaged the chief.

The horse wasn't a high level beast, and it could not withstand the attacks of two Tier 3 combatants clashing together. Knight-Captain Reifold knew this, so he launched himself from the saddle and confronted the bigger opponent on foot. He slashed, stabbed, parried, and shield-bashed the towering figure in a whirlwind assault, never letting up on the offensive. The giant Orc never had a chance as he was simply too outclassed by the Paladin.

After an exchange that lasted about thirty seconds, the Orc Chief's corpse laid at the feet of Knight-Captain Reifold, who calmly turned and resumed his place on his mount.

Reivyn hadn't been watching the fight, even though he could vaguely sense that it had been going on, as he was still preoccupied acting as the first line in the formation. His Stamina was beginning to reach the 60% mark, and he was preparing to switch out with the man behind him when he noticed a change in the Orc's eyes. The red suffusing the sclera of the beast's eyes faded, and a look of fear finally replaced the one of ferocity. All up and down the line, the frenzied assault of the Orcs suffered a stutter, and Knight-Lieutenant Brand was quick to notice.

"Advance!" He commanded in a loud, powerful voice.

The men on the frontline bashed their shields forward as one and started marching forward while maintaining their fighting stance. Reivyn, despite never having done such a maneuver, was able to utilize his Weapons Master Skill to easily accomplish the task as well. Many Orcs fell across the line, and they finally broke and turned to run...

Straight into the oncoming Levies, lead by Sergeant Mok and a few other NCO's, who trapped them in a pincer move. The calvary also continued to charge in and out of the sides of the horde, and being thoroughly surrounded and having given up on the fight, they were quickly dispatched to the last one. Normally, there wouldn't be such a neat annihilation, but the apparently induced bloodlust had harmed the Orcs far more than helped them, having robbed them of their rationality and ability to flee when they still had a chance. The light cavalry could be seen running the fleeing remnants of the goblins down in the distance.

The men spontaneously raised their weapons into the air and cheered, Reivyn among them. He had performed a much more significant role in this battle, and he was eager to check his notifications.

But before that, they had to clean the battlefield, mop up the surviving beasts, and tend to the wounded. A quick glance around showed several regulars with serious injuries, and in the back, he could see some bodies laying on the ground.

The victory hadn't come without its price.

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Kyfe

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