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Reivyn sat up in an unfamiliar tent. People were rushing about tending to a steady stream of wounded people brought into the tent in various levels of distress. Some were being supported by their comrades as they limped in under their own strength, and some were being carried in on gurneys or slung over shoulders. He quickly realized that he was in the field infirmary.

Reivyn jumped up and, vaguely remembering a claw slash to his midsection, quickly checked himself over. His clothes and leathers were still tattered over his stomach, but there was no wound. He had managed to hang on to his sword, and someone had sheathed it for him. He checked his Health and Stamina and saw that he was fully healed and at about 90% Stamina.

All of the medical personnel were busy doing much more important work than explaining things to him, so he joined a line of others who had been healed in exiting the large tent. As he stepped through the tent flap, he glanced back into the depths. He could see several bodies covered in sheets laid out on the ground.

Sounds of beasts roaring, men screaming, and the clashes of conflict washed over him as he emerged from the medical tent. Large birds of prey, some from the same species that had hounded him and his squad previously but combined with several new flocks, were flying overhead. They weren't circling the battlefield, but were instead involved in a larger migration that continued on past the pallisade. They were just taking the passing chance to swoop down and assault the men below. They were aggressive, ferocious beasts that had been granted an opportunity, so they took it.

He and the others returning to the front lines ran with their heads ducked. Reivyn noticed the other men raising their shields to cover themselves, and he remembered that he had discarded his shield hundreds of yards up the slope. There was gear strewn about on the ground littering the compound: shields, spears, helmets, he even saw a single, solitary boot. He snatched up a nicked shield and spear from the ground as he ran. Gear adrift is a gift, he justified.

The men ran to the northern wall of the compound where a gap had been cut to allow men to pass in and out. Upon emerging he witnessed what had been the result of activity he couldn't make out during his mad dash down the mountain.

The logs from the original pallisade in the prospector town, which had been previously transported up to the new pallisade but left discarded at the time, had been placed into a makeshift, inverted "v" wall. The men had reinforced it and were standing behind the wall using the gaps to thrust their spears through into the beast horde on the other side.

An NCO was waving people coming in towards the wall. "1st Platoon on the Left. 2nd Platoon on the Right. Find your squad later, man the wall!" He repeated the orders over and over.

Reivyn ran towards a small gap in the men lining the wall on the right. He noticed that Knight-Captain Reifold and Knight-Lieutenant Brand were at the very tip of the inverted "v," and they were working together to bear the brunt of the tide and redirect the horde's momentum to the sides. The base was like a rock in the rapids, and the beasts were the water.

"Don't try to kill them. Poke your spear through to make them retreat from the wall and keep the pressure off. Deterrence is key," a seasoned veteran said to Reivyn while never missing a beat performing the actions himself.

Reivyn joined the long line of troops at the wall. The NCO's were simultaneously directing the troops and defending them from the birds overhead. He didn't know if someone had mentioned his stunt with the fire mana whip, but the NCO's had procured chains from somewhere, and they were swinging them around over the top of the heads of men.

There were still gaps in the defenses from the flying threat, and Reivyn noticed that most of the injuries were sustained from a large bird making it past the chains to rake at the unprotected necks of the men. Some of the birds just barrelled into the men beak first, not caring whether they did any damage or not. Despite an increased level of Intelligence in many animals, especially those on the cusp of being, or were already, ferocious beasts, they were still beasts.

Thrust. Retract. Quick check of the skies. Thrust. Retract. Raise shield to block. Thrust. Retract...

The combat was actually pretty rote once Reivyn got into the rhythm of it. Every now and then, a small monster, like a wild goblin or orc, would jump up on top of the log wall and swipe down at the men with crude weaponry. Sometimes they got lucky and bashed a head enough to knock a man down or got a lucky stab in before the defenders could pull their spears back from the gaps in the wall to handle the new threat. These instances made up the other minority of injuries sustained.

There was one thing that puzzled Reivyn, though. The levies. As he performed his duty of keeping the pressure off of the wall, he glanced back and saw them just standing in the center of the new fortification. Upon running in, he had assumed they would act as a reserve unit and take the place of any tired or wounded regulars, but that was not the case. They just stood there, not doing anything other then defending against the attacks of the birds. With a much larger concentration of men able to focus on the aerial adversaries, though, they didn't suffer any damage.

He put the thought out of his mind and focused on his task. The commanders hadn't made stupid decisions yet, so he was confident they were on standby for a reason.

"Archers! Archers! Anyone with a ranged Combat Skill of 15 or higher," an NCO ran up and down the line calling out. "Report to the watch towers to reinforce the Skirmishers. Anyone with a ranged Combat Skill of 15 or higher..." the man's voice was drowned out by the sounds of battle as he ran past.

Reivyn pulled his spear back and tapped the man to his side on the shoulder. He gestured back towards the pallisade proper, "I've got a ranged Combat Skill. I'm heading out. Good luck." The man acknowledged him with a nod.

Reivyn propped his spear up against the wall in case anyone on the line would need it, and he made his way back towards the opening in the wall of the pallisade. He glanced up at the watchtowers and noticed the considerably more concentrated assault by the flying beasts. He gulped and berated himself as he ran, Why did I volunteer?! I'm already moving, so it's too late now. Life lesson learned: Never volunteer for anything!

As he ran towards the watchtower that was located on the same side as his platoon, he felt a weird, subtle pulling towards the opposite tower. He decided to trust his gut and go towards the other tower. He hadn't been instructed to go to any specific location, so he just decided on his own.

Reivyn stopped a man, blood running down his face along with several other wounds on his body obviously caused by claw and beak strikes, who was making his way towards the medical tent. He was holding a bow and had an empty quiver on him, so Reivyn knew he was one of the Skirmishers. He stopped the man and held his hand out.

"Bow! I'm going up the tower," He informed the man. The man tossed him his bow without a second thought and continued on his way. There were more important things to him at the moment than keeping a bow with no arrows that he could always replace later. Reivyn slung it over his shoulder as he climbed the ladder up the tower.

When he reached the top he found an unexpected surprise. The first Adventurer group he had seen come through the gates of the pallisade were up there. The rogue and archer were using bows to attack targets down on the ground, the two frontline melee combatants were fully armored with the visors of their helmets down as they defended the others from the birds, and the mage was sitting in a corner, presumably recovering spent mana. The porter was nowhere to be seen, but several full quivers and stacks of arrows that wouldn't fit were neatly piled to the side of the ranged combatants.

"Hey, kid!" The larger, burly armored man said. He had a kite shield in one hand and a large sword that would probably require Reivyn to use both of his hands to properly use in the other. "You're Lucky. You stick with us, and you don't gotta worry about anything. We got you." He was in high spirits despite the intense situation and was quite jovial.

"What about the guy I just passed covered in blood?" Reivyn asked wryly as he assumed a position at the edge of the tower. There had originally been a roof overhead, but it had been shredded into splinters and offered no protection.

The big man paused for half a second at the rebuttal. "Learning experience! Learning experience. Won't happen again. Trust us."

Reivyn shrugged his shoulders as he knocked an arrow. He was going to have to, whether he wanted to or not.

"Don't worry about most of the beasts down there," the rogue called out to him as he continued to fire his bow. "Pick out larger beasts that seem to move with purpose or intelligence, if you can tell, and the monsters. Those are the only things down there that will actively attack."

Reivyn took the advice to heart as he searched through the beasts. It wasn't hard to spot the targets he was looking for, as most of them were either already close to or actively converging on the walls below.

Pull. Loose. Pull. Loose...

The battle continued. Same concept, different action. Reivyn's proficiency with a bow was just as high as his ability with a spear, and it was augmented by the Aim Skill, so he more or less hit the targets he was aiming for. The beasts and monsters weren't actively trying to dodge his attacks, and their movements were mostly predictable in the situation.

Suddenly, a large fireball streaking through the sky caught Reivyn's attention. It sailed from the back of the horde towards the point of the wall where the officers were still fighting. A light blue screen appeared before it and caused it to explode on impact. The fire splashed down into the beasts and monsters below, well outside the range of the troops. Many of the beasts caught on fire and went berserk, smashing into other beasts erratically and spreading more fire.

The magical attack had actually helped alleviate a lot of the pressure on the officers. Reivyn looked into the distance where the magic attack had originated from, and he spotted what he had been hoping to see for a long time: the end of the beast tide was in sight.

What followed at the heels of the beast tide was a unified tribe of goblins. They were bigger than any of the ones he had seen thus far. They were outfitted in wooden armor and riding mountain goats. If the situation wasn't so serious, it might have appeared comical. Several of the goblins were carrying gnarled staves and had elaborate headdresses worn on their heads. The fireball attack had come from one of them.

"Hobgoblins," Reivyn heard the archer mention. "The other wild goblins are probably members of this tribe. Focus your attacks exclusively on them. This is the last hurdle."

The flocks passed by and the beasts dispersed as the endless ocean finally came to an end. There was a gap between the last of the animals and the hobgoblin tribe, and the latter lined up on their goat mounts. They numbered probably close to 200, and as they lined up, the hobgoblin with the most elaborate headdress raised his arms and staff aloft. The Sun was finally approaching the horizon to the west, and it caused long, creepy shadows to extend out from the hobgoblins.

Reivyn activated his Mana Sight Skill, and even though the distance was pretty far, he was still able to see large amounts of mana being sucked into the area around the apparent Shaman where it mixed with its own mana being expelled in a controlled manner.

Huh, so a proper magic caster doesn't just utilize their own mana, but can subordinate environmental mana as well, Reivyn thought to himself.

As the Shaman coalesced his attack, Knight-Captain Reifold held out his hand. The Adjutant placed a spear in the waiting appendage, and Knight-Captain Reifold immediately took up a javelin throwing stance and launched the spear through the air. The hobgoblin Shaman was about 50 yards away, too far, Reivyn assumed, for the Paladin to use the same blade light move he had used on the ogre a couple weeks ago.

The spear sailed straight and true, and it pierced right through the throat of the Shaman, killing it instantly. The other hobgoblins went wild with rage and immediately charged the fortification, rage consuming any coherent thought such a monster possessed.

"Go," the archer exclaimed as the hobgoblins entered into effective range. Reivyn and the other two men raised their bows to fire arrows into the last resistance. The three other men on top of the watchtower joined them along the edge to watch the last of the battle.

It was anticlimactic.

The hobgoblins were consumed with rage and didn't make sound decisions. Any of them that made it on top of the log walls to get to men defending on the other side were immediately killed, and most of them were pushed back before they could even mount the wall. The continued barrage of arrows also devastated their ranks.

Fear finally overrode rage, and the hobgoblin shamans that remained regained control of the tribe and directed them to bypass the thorny encampment. At least a quarter of their number had been quickly wiped out.

The men broke out into cheers as the hobgoblins disappeared, Reivyn among them. It had been an extremely stressful day. The archer, along with several others from the skirmishers, that had previously left to get his wounds tended to returned to the top of the tower, and Reivyn passed the bow back to him with a thanks.

A long, low horn sounded in the distance causing the celebrations to come to an immediate halt. Reivyn looked into the distance and saw a long line of men emerge from the brush in the distance. They continued to march forth, most of them attired similarly to the levies down below with helmets, gambesons, and spears.

Once the formation of newcomers was fully out in the open, Reivyn sucked in a cold breath as he realized there were hundreds of them. There was possibly close to a thousand armed men with obviously hostile intentions.

An image of ropes staked into the ground atop a cliff face briefly entered Reivyn's mind as he quickly made his way down the ladder. He needed to return to his squad.

"Hey, we'll come with. Can't get contribution points up here," Reivyn heard the big, armored Adventurer call out to him.

He had no time to think about the intentions of the other men as he hit the bottom of the ladder and sprinted back out into the new fortification. He frowned as he saw the men dismantling the makeshift walls and setting the logs to the side. He quickly spotted his squad and made his way to Corporal Decker.

"What's going on? Why are we getting rid of the defenses?" Reivyn immediately voiced his question upon arriving at the scene.

"Oh, it's not a big deal," Corporal Decker replied. "By the way, where you been?" He didn't have an accusatory tone in his voice. Reivyn pointed behind him, and Corporal Decker nodded his head as he followed his finger towards the watchtower. "Right, makes sense. Anyway, about these new guys. Like I said, not a big deal.

"Those guys are flying the pennant of Count Heliar from the county on the other side of this mountain. Basically, it's politics. The lines of the counties are vague in the mountain, and he's probably trying to enforce a Claim on the new dungeon. The adventurers who discovered it probably sold the information to both sides to double their profit.

"In a situation like this, we don't fight to the death. Both of the counts are part of the same duchy, and the Duke would be furious if they had their people murdering each other. We'll fight until our health gets to 50% and then voluntarily retreat from the conflict. If anyone dies, unless its from a fatal attack that shouldn't have been made, then its considered on the idiot who refused to leave the field when he should have.

"Also, Knight-Captain Reifold is a genius. After I reported the situation we had stumbled upon, he ordered the levies to stand by and not participate in holding off the beast tide. They're probably more fresh than the opponents that had to march all the way here.

"If we lose, we'll just pack up and go home. It would suck for us to do all of the work only for someone else to get the benefits, but hey, that's life. As to the beast tide that was obviously incited by them to wear us down beforehand, we don't have any solid proof, so Knight-Captain Reifold can only inform Count Ilpir and have him handle it."

Reivyn looked around and saw a relaxed atmosphere all around him. The levies had taken up position in formation outside of where the beast tide had suffered the most casualties so it wouldn't be an obstacle under foot, and they were ready to square off against the enemy levies under Sergeant Mok's supervision.

"C'mon, we need to form up," Corporal Decker said. The men all grabbed their gear, did a once over, and then headed towards their position in the formation. Reivyn noticed the adventurer's from the watchtower following them.

"What are you guys doing?" He asked them.

"Depends on what happens," replied the big man. Self appointed or not, he appeared to be the spokesman for the group. "Sometimes a battle isn't enough to convince either side. They could appoint champions to fight it out, and that's where we would be able to step in."

Reivyn nodded at the man's words and assumed his position in the building formation. As the men trickled in from various locations and distances away, Reivyn's hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He could feel a gaze on him, and he turned to find the grinning face of Ren lined up in formation behind him.

The man reached up and placed a hand on Reivyn's shoulder, leaving it resting there. "Hey, we can be considered to have fought side-by-side in life and death, now. I don't want anything else to jeopardize my career, and as a unit we should be able to trust each other. So... water under the bridge?"

Reivyn looked into the other man's eyes for a moment. His vision didn't waver, and he appeared sincere on the surface. Reivyn thought about what he had heard about Ren's family and their situation. He wasn't well versed in politics and spotting lies or anything, but it made sense to Reivyn that Ren would have such an attitude.

"Sure," Reivyn replied. "You leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone."

Ren chuckled as he patted Reivyn's shoulder before dropping his hand. "It's more than that. Yeah, I won't mess with you, but on the battlefield, I'll do my duty and have your back."

Reivyn turned back around after the brief exchange. He was perfectly happy to settle any kind of enmity the two of them might have. They would never be friends, but he could trust Ren to keep his word about doing his duty on the battlefield. It would definitely be career suicide to get up to mischief in such a situation.

Reivyn was in his usual spot in the second row of the formation, and everyone was able to get a breather as they watched the levies duke it out. He had no idea how the winner or loser was determined, but considering what he had been told, that didn't really matter to him right now.

Corporal Decker had been right about the levies, though. The opponents, while having about a hundred more men, were flagging. The combatants didn't have much in the way of armor, so people fell out of the formation quickly as they basically engaged in a large-scale, group sparring match. Reivyn spotted Teilon limping away from the battle and a weight he hadn't known had been on his shoulders lifted.

The levy battle was over pretty quickly. They were able to engage a lot of people all at once, so it wasn't really much of a surprise to Reivyn. The final tally was the levy under Count Ilpir had twenty people still standing in formation when the last of the attackers gave up.

"Attention," Knight-Lieutenant Brand called out. All of the men assumed a brisk, military stance.

"Forward," the formation marched forward and engaged with the enemy regulars.

The combat tactics used were exactly the same as when engaging the orcs, minus the javelin throw, and Reivyn found himself thrusting his spear from behind the shieldman in the front row at another similarly armored man.

The fourth row members comprising the reserve unit wouldn't take part in the beginning, nor would they act as a typical reserve unit in this instance. They would take the place of men who fell out of the formation when their health dropped below half.

Further behind the reserve unit, the adventurers waited. They remained grouped up with their own teams, but they freely milled about, laughing and joking with each other. The team that had been with Reivyn was no exception as they stood around talking to others directly behind Reivyn's position.

Even though the unit tactics were the same, the fighting was very different. The opponents used the same tactics, and they were much more controlled and methodical. The frontline men exchanged sword swings and shield blocks while the second row combatants not only searched for an opening to drain the Health and Stamina of the rival shieldman, but Reivyn also found himself engaged in a sort of mock duel with the other rival spearman as they also attempted to interfere with each other's spear thrusts from behind.

It became a game of seeing who would last longer with their Stamina, and the chess moves were more in line with switching out at the most efficient times to regulate the resources best. While the levy battle had been a quick affair, this portion of the competition was long and drawn out.

Reivyn didn't keep count of how many times he switched between each position in the formation, and the recovery provided by being in the third rank was not nearly enough to maintain the battle indefinitely.

Reivyn found himself fighting on the front lines, and despite all the training he had done while exhausted, there would always be flaws when Stamina dropped beyond a certain threshold. The men all up and down the line on both sides were finally starting to see their Health start to gradually dwindle. Reivyn was no exception.

The opposing man switched out with his counterpart, and Reivyn decided to capitalize on the very brief window of respite to do the same. He tilted his head to the side and called out behind him like he had done many times already.

"Switch."

Reivyn waited for the movements that would indicate Ren was taking his place on the front line. He waited for a second, but the usual instant response from the man was absent. He looked back over his shoulder, and a chill went down his spine as he saw Ren smirking at him.

Reivyn whipped his head around to the front. The man who had taken the spot on the front line came into his view. He wore the same armor as everyone else, but there was a black veil concealing the bottom half of his face, and the familiar eyes of the assassin locked with his own.

A wind blew across Reivyn. A shadow came over his vision as the assassin thrust forward with lightning speed, and Reivyn felt the warmth of hot blood as it splashed across his body.

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Kyfe

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