Reivyn stood in formation once again. The men had been told during morning chow that there was an all-hands formation where Knight-Captain Reifold would be addressing everyone. As was the case with every military formation called in the history of ever, the men were formed up early and had to wait past the appointed time for the officer to show up.
Evidence of the struggle from the previous day could be spotted everywhere. The strewn about gear and bird bodies had long since been picked up, but there were shredded canvas and splintered wood all around.
After waiting around at the position of attention for no apparent reason for about ten minutes, Knight-Captain Reifold, followed by Knight-Lieutenant Brand, walked onto the open space in front of the men. The only people not in attendance were the cavalry units who had been sent out to disperse the beast tide after it had passed by so it wouldn't converge on any villages in force further away. The levies were milling about, not in any sort of military bearing, but they were silent.
Knight-Captain Reifold surveyed the men before him as he came to a halt, centered on the company. He looked at them for a couple of seconds before turning to his Adjutant. He said in an exasperated voice, "Put them At Ease."
Knight-Lieutenant Brand adopted a sheepish look for a second before he stepped forward and ordered, "At Ease."
Reivyn and the other men adopted a loose imitation of the Parade Rest stance, their feet shoulder-width apart and arms folded in the small of their backs. Parade Rest was a serious position requiring military precision and sharp angles. Standing At Ease, they just had to kind of look like it.
"First and foremost, I am extremely proud of all of you," Knight-Captain Reifold began. "Everyone performed their duties well. Orders were executed swiftly and without complaint. Most importantly, everyone acted with common sense.
"Sadly, we lost some more good men to the beast tide. They were our friends and compatriots. They were our brothers. We will honor them like they deserve when we return to Magron.
"And that brings me to the main purpose of this assembly. The beast tide and attempt at pressing a claim have a silver lining to it. We will be able to return much faster now. All of the beasts that we would have had to send out many patrols to root out were swept up in the tide and flushed down the mountain. Mission Complete.
"The other Count pressing his Claim was also something that was inevitable, and we would have had to remain here until it came. So, also, Mission Complete.
"As such the only duty we have remaining is to simply occupy the area and wait for the new, specialized Militia to come and take over. Standard military procedures shall remain in place, but the patrols and other duties will be much more in line with In Garrison, and because we can relax those duties, we will now allow squads to take turns exploring the Dungeon.
"The levies are also allowed to form their own Parties, but it is recommended for those not aiming for a Combat Tier 2 Class, or who have already Tiered up and chosen a Lifestyle Class, to not participate. Dungeon Running isn't a game. You don't have to explore it if you don't want to, and if I find out any Party coerced someone into going in order to make up the numbers, there will be consequences."
Knight-Captain Reifold let the words hang in the air as he scanned the crowd to let everyone know how serious he was.
"Conversely, that does not apply to the regulars. Running the Dungeon at least once a week will now be part of your obligatory duties.
"This Dungeon, upon recon, is an infinitely instanced Dungeon. For those who don't know, that means as long as you are either solo or in a System established Party, you will be in your own sub-space, and the Dungeon can handle an infinite amount of them. The bottleneck for exploring the Dungeon isn't waiting for your turn, but it is instead the obligation of performing military duties.
"The final piece of news I have to pass on is that nobody was expected to have to deal with a beast tide. It was an artificial instigation, and, even though the levies didn't fight, everyone was placed in much more danger than was estimated when this mission was planned.
"I will be petitioning the Count for everyone to receive a combat bonus. None of you have to worry about whether or not he'll decide to honor that decision, because I will be paying you all upfront from my own, personal coffers. I will simply hand the Count a receipt, and we'll see if he refuses to pay me." Everyone gave a low chuckle at the mental image of the Count being placed in such a predicament.
"A notice board has been put up detailing which squads have which availability to the Dungeon, and the levies focused on Combat Classes can place their name in the same registry as the Adventurers for preferred access," Knight-Captain Reifold finished. He looked at the Adjutant, gave him a nod, and then walked off.
"Attention," Knight-Lieutenant Brand commanded as soon as the commander was out of sight. "Dismissed."
Reivyn fell out of the formation with the rest of his squad, and they converged on Corporal Decker. Once everyone was gathered around, the squad leader addressed them.
"I've already looked at the notice board, and it's set up as simple as possible," he said. "It goes down the list for each platoon in order, so first squads are going today, second squads tomorrow, and so on. So everybody just needs to treat today as any other day." The men nodded their heads in acknowledgment and turned to go about their duties, but Corporal Decker called out once more. "Except for you, Reivyn. You are to report to Knight-Lieutenant Brand."
Reivyn frowned and tilted his head. "Do you know why, Corporal?"
"No idea. Just that you gotta go," replied Decker. "So get goin'," he made a shooing motion towards Reivyn. Reivyn turned and looked at Brace, his eyebrows raised in question.
"I guess... I'll see you in a bit," Reivyn said.
"Sure, sure," Brace clapped him on the shoulder in a familiar gesture. "I'll give you a primer on dungeons when we get a chance."
Reivyn waved to the others and made his way to the section of tents reserved for the officers. The level of activity dropped precipitously as he crossed the invisible threshold. There were a couple of soldiers hurrying along, probably delivering reports or messages, and some standing sentry outside of the quarters/field offices of the officers.
Reivyn walked up to the Adjutant's tent, briefly recalling the last time he had had to do so with Corporal Decker. He had gone out on a limb to trust a semi-noble officer with his secret, and as far as he could tell, his secret had been maintained and handled with care. There were no rumors about his Mythic Skill circulating that he, or anyone he knew, had heard of.
"Private Reivyn reporting to the Adjutant," he said to the sentries as he approached. The sentries, clearly expecting him, did not seek permission for him to enter, and they simply waved him through. He walked in, centered himself on the desk that Knight-Lieutenant Brand was seated behind, and assumed the position of attention.
"Private Reivyn, reporting as ordered, sir," He said.
Knight-Lieutenant Brand finished writing what he was working on and then gestured to his side with his pen.
"Sit," he commanded.
Reivyn glanced over and saw a smaller desk perpendicular to the officers with a chair facing inward. There was a pen, a stamp, and a sheaf of papers set on it. He didn't question the order he received, out loud, and took a seat as he had been commanded. He sat there, quietly, and waited.
Reivyn was starting to think that he had been completely forgotten as the officer went about his own duties. Eventually, though, the older man stopped and set his pen down on the table. He turned to look Reivyn up and down.
"Do you have the Penmanship Skill?" He abruptly asked.
"Yes, sir," Reivyn replied. He sat in silence for a moment as he and the officer just looked at each other. Knight-Lieutenant Brand finally wiped imaginary sweat from his brow.
"Ok, it is at this point that you would tell me the Skill Level. You don't have to wait for me to prompt you," he said with a chuckle.
"Yes, sir. It is at 21," Reivyn informed him. He tried to maintain a neutral face, but he still had a slight frown, not understanding why the officer would ask him if he had such a basic Skill.
"That's... pretty high, actually. From the look on your face, I take it you don't know that most people who can read and write don't actually have the Penmanship Skill. Being able to write legibly is the bare minimum to unlocking the Skill. It is a Skill, after all, and doing the bare minimum hardly expresses mastery," Brand patiently educated the youngster.
Reivyn had a moment of epiphany. He had always assumed that practicing writing was standard for all children, but this revelation told him differently. The real question is: If I had never unlocked the Skill, would my mother have made me work on it so hard? It was a question without an answer.
"What about Arithmetic?" Brand continued to question.
"No, sir, but I do have Mathematics at 14, and I have Number Concepts at 8," Reivyn answered the asked and implied questions.
"Mathematics, you say? That's unexpected. Arithmetic is a subset of Mathematics, and it is by far more common. Hmm," Knight-Lieutenant Brand rubbed his chin in thought. "I've never actually heard of Number Concepts. But I'm no scholar, so whatever. Sounds like math theory. You won't need it here. Do you have any other Skills that might be put to use in an administrative role?" Reivyn glanced through his Skills page at the question.
"I think... I have Linguistics at 10 and Strategy at 1?" He asked more than answered.
"Strategy? How did you unlock Strategy?" Brand leaned back in his chair and looked at Reivyn with a puzzled expression.
"I think I got it from observing the defensive measures implemented yesterday, sir," Reivyn said.
"Huh. That's... interesting. Typically one would have to devise a plan and successfully implement it to unlock the Skill," Brand mused. "Well...ok. Not much use for those two Skills in your role... Wait, do you even know why you're here?"
"No, sir. I was simply told to report to you." Reivyn replied. Knight-Lieutenant Brand rested his forehead in the palm of his hand as he sighed.
"You know, you enlisted take the whole 'instant obedience to orders' thing a little too far, sometimes. I told the Platoon Sergeant why I was having you report to me. I'm sure the conversation between him and your squad leader went something like, 'Send Reivyn to the Adjutant,' 'Yes, sergeant.'" Knight-Lieutenant Brand chuckled. "We have this whole thing about Commander's Intent, where we specifically explain the mission and why we're making certain decisions so that everyone knows what's going on, and yet, paradoxically, information about orders is routinely withheld for who knows why.
"You've been assigned to be my Aide," Brand answered. "Normally, for someone of my rank, a Lieutenant or officer candidate would fill that position; however, our unit is not very big, and we don't have that many officers or candidates to waste on such a role. Plus, I don't actually need one, and my position doesn't usually have one. Normally the commanding officer would have an Aide, but, for various reasons, we deemed it, ugh, inappropriate to have you assigned to the Knight-Captain." The man paused at this point and looked at Reivyn as if he was expecting a question.
"Then... why me?" Reivyn supplied the question.
"Aha," Knight-Lieutenant Brand gestured with his finger. "We've been puzzled about what to do with you. It is extremely irregular for someone your age to fit the requirements for conscription, but, we have orders with specific parameters. After Knight-Captain Reifold discovered you, he would have technically been derelict in his duty if he didn't bring you, and the System would have made note of it.
"So we have a nine-year-old, who mysteriously has a legitimate Combat Class from forced conscription, but he fits the minimum requirements for Health and Stamina and his body has already started developing through puberty because of Stat growth. What do we do with him?
"We initially wanted to assign you as an Aide right away, but there were some problems with that. You didn't understand how the unit worked, you didn't understand how to be a soldier, and you didn't understand the environment. So we assigned you to an, ugh, empathetic squad.
"And, trust me, someone had an eye on you in each battle. We're not heartless monsters. If we had had any inkling that such a beast tide could have possibly been incited yesterday, you would have never gone out on that patrol, and you would have been assigned a logistical role during the battle. For that, and the situation with Ren, I, we, apologize." The man bowed his head in contrition.
"And so now that you have learned those things, and the fact that your opportunities for gaining Experience doing normal soldier things, yes, we did take that into account, have drastically reduced with the local fauna getting swept away, you're here. Before you ask, you will still go with your squad into the dungeon if you want to. Your time as an 'official' regular is over. You will remain as my Aide until the levies are discharged."
Reivyn sat there and processed the information that had been revealed to him. It would have been nice to have known all of this before he had been thrown to the wolves, so to speak. Upon careful examination, though, Reivyn realized the officers hadn't had much free time, nor responsibility, to devote so much attention to him.
Other than the beast tide and Ren, which nobody could have predicted and Knight-Lieutenant Brand apologized for, all of the encounters had been in fairly tight control. Well, Ren betraying me in combat could have been predicted, but it was a hectic situation. The officers probably didn't know that Ren had finagled his way into the position directly behind me.
"Ok. But, umm, sir, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do as an Aide," Reivyn finally said.
"Hahaha," Knight-Lieutenant Brand laughed at the admission. "Trust me, I know. Luckily, as I said, I don't need an Aide. You're basically going to be a glorified messenger. If a report comes in, you take it. You determine if I need to attend to it, personally, or if I don't, you use that stamp with my seal. If an order needs to go out, you take it. You will speak with my voice, hence the position usually taken by an officer or candidate, and everyone knows it. Which means you also have to watch what you say when you're not in the dungeon with your squad. Understand?"
"Yes, sir, "Reivyn replied.
"Good. Don't hesitate to ask if you're not sure about something. I know perfectly well this is above your pay grade, but, hey, you can't learn to swim if you don't get in the water."
Reivyn nodded and was about to get to work, but he noticed he didn't actually have anything to do yet. Knight-Lieutenant Brand noticed him looking around, and he chuckled as he passed over a book.
"Here. When you don't have anything to do, you can read this," Brand said. "It's meant for a Lieutenant, and it will answer a lot of your questions and more."
Reivyn accepted the tome and opened it to the Table of Contents. It was fairly thick, and there were a lot of entries and sub-entries listed. He spotted sections on formations and what their appropriate use was, sections on small unit tactics, sections on conduct, and a section on what was expected of Aides. He flipped to that particular section first.
Reivyn read through the long list of things that a normal Aide would be required to know and the duties they would have to perform. The gist of it was: know what your superior wants before he wants it, and do it before he knows it needs to be done. That... didn't seem like something he could do. He was relieved that he wasn't expected to perform as an actual Aide.
"Oh, sir, I have Map Making at 6," he suddenly said after he read an entry on how he might be required to read maps.
"Excellent. That's not exactly the same thing as being able to read a map, which isn't a System recognized Skill, but it should definitely help you grasp the ability to do so much quicker. I'm probably not going to need you to do so, but it's great that you can."
Reivyn sat at the desk for the rest of the day with a short break for chow. He wasn't on the same schedule as anyone from his squad, so he ate alone. He mainly read through the book that had been given to him, but he would occasionally accept a report that was brought to the Adjutant's tent.
There was a wide range of subjects contained within the reports, but it was mostly details of patrols from the infantry, the results from cavalry units, or requisitions for supplies. Reivyn stamped the reports containing "nothing unusual" or similar language and set them aside, but he passed along any reports that had actual details in them, such as the ones from the cavalry units dispersing the beast tide remnants.
There was a section in the book that contained typical numbers regarding supplies and requisitions, and Reivyn would use it as a reference to cross-examine the reports. If nothing was out of the ordinary, he would stamp such reports and set them in a pile to be passed back down. If he didn't understand something or couldn't find a ready reference, he would query the Knight-Lieutenant.
The Knight-Lieutenant would take the report, answer it appropriately, and then patiently explain it to Reivyn. He didn't have to do that, but Reivyn was coming to know that the Adjutant, when not on official duty, was actually extremely approachable.
One particular requisition was notable in how unusual it was. Someone was requesting to section off some land to start planting crops. Reivyn didn't even know if they had any seeds available to plant. It was probably some of the levies who were going to focus on being farmers when they were discharged, so it actually made some sense, but he brought it to the attention of the Adjutant just in case.
"Sir, there's a requisition for land to plant crops..." Reivyn started.
"Are they asking for an official appointment or to do it on their own time," Brand interrupted, his head down as he continued to write his own reports. Reivyn glanced back down at the form.
"It doesn't say, sir," he answered.
"Ok, make a note at the bottom: 'Free Time Only - Permission Granted,' and stamp it." Came the answer.
The day, surprisingly, went by pretty fast for Reivyn. He absorbed a lot of knowledge expected of a young leader, and he was very grateful for the attention the Knight-Lieutenant had shown him.
The Sun started to get close to the horizon, and Knight-Lieutenant Brand stowed away all of his writing utensils and papers. He looked at Reivyn and gave him a nod.
"You did well for your first day. This is basically what you can expect on a day-to-day basis. If you want, I can throw you some of the other duties of an Aide as you perform up to standard. We'll take it as we go, but for now, it's about time for chow with your squad, so you're dismissed," Brand ordered.
"Yes, sir," Reivyn replied as he stood to attention. He then quickly left the tent and made his way to the chow area.
When he got to his destination, he saw his squad mates sitting together, laughing and joking as they ate. He grabbed a tray of food and joined them, sitting next to Brace as he typically did.
"There he is," Brace said, gesturing with the hard roll in his hand. "We started to worry about you when you never came back. That is until Corporal Decker went and asked the Platoon Sergeant. The guy knew the whole time and never told anyone!" He threw his hands up in exasperation.
Reivyn laughed as he recalled what the Knight-Lieutenant had said about the situation.
"So you're some big shot Aide now, huh? We gotta call you 'sir' or something now?" Brace teased as he elbowed Reivyn.
"Nah. In his own words, I'm a 'glorified messenger,'" Reivyn replied with a smile. "But, hey, I learned something your Lance Corporal Underground probably doesn't even know," Reivyn leaned in conspiratorially. He paused for effect, and just when Brace started to glare at him and squirm, he spoke up, "Knight-Lieutenant Brand is very easygoing. Once he starts talking, he never shuts up." He said with a laugh. Brace gave him a flat look.
"The Adjutant. Is easygoing. Mr. 'only ever shouts orders' is easy going?" Brace lifted an eyebrow in disbelief. Reivyn nodded his head and gesticulated with his own hard roll.
"Yeah. He sat me down, explained to me why I was put where I was, told me they wouldn't have had me go on patrol if they had known a beast tide was likely, and basically went on and on explaining things to me," Reivyn confirmed. Brace sat there in silence for a moment.
"Huh. Who would have known? The Adjutant is a chatterbox," he snorted. "Maybe he's lonely. What enlisted man is going to strike up a conversation with him? The only other person he really has to talk to is the Knight-Captain, and that's probably like talking to a wall." The two men shared a good-natured laugh.
"But hey!" Brace exclaimed. "We got more important things to talk about, right now." It was his turn to pause for effect, but, as he knew what he was about to say, he was clearly more excited than Reivyn and couldn't hold it in for long. "Dungeons!"
"Speaking of dungeons," Marik, who was sitting across from them, spoke up.
"Gah! You're gonna interrupt me at the most crucial moment?!" Brace yelled in indignation.
"Ahh, shuddup. You can tell him all about dungeons in a minute," Marik replied. "Anyway," he paused to make sure Brace would let him speak, "we went snooping in the register for preferred access to find out who those Adventurers were who helped you yesterday." He took a bite to eat and swallowed it. He's stalling on purpose. Drama queens, all of them. "Turns out they never signed up for preferential access to begin with. Nobody knows who they were or what they were doing here. On top of that, they left right after the battle yesterday," Marik gave Reivyn a flat look. "At dusk."
Reivyn raised his eyebrows and looked at Brace. The other man nodded his head in confirmation.
Questions on top of questions, Reivyn sighed.