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The trees lining the road offered shade in the mid-summer heat as the troops made their return trip to Magron. Reivyn marvelled at the sights and sounds all around him, his head constantly twisting and turning about. He was surprised that the change in perspective from riding a horse compared to walking on his own two feet was so pronounced. Not only was he able to easily peer over everyone's heads to gaze into the depths of the woods at will, but even if he had been as free to look around while walking, he wouldn't have seen anything except the heads of the other men surrounding him in formation.

The change of command when the permanent garrison troops arrived had happened without a hitch. He had followed Knight-Lieutenant Brand out to greet the new commander, carrying a stack of reports that had been prepared ahead of time. The Knight-Lieutenant had cordially greeted the other man, and even though he was only the XO meeting a new Commanding Officer, Reivyn had seen surprise and a little flattery on the other man's face.

The man commanding the new guards was technically at the equivalent rank as the Company Commander under the Adjutant, and Reivyn suspected there was something to do with non-military standing involving the designation of "Knight" in Brand's title. Reivyn didn't understand all of the nuances involved, but from the way the men acted, it was more than appropriate for Knight-Lieutenant Brand to handle the matter in Knight-Captain Reifold's stead.

Reivyn had stood behind and to the side of the Adjutant as the two men walked and talked. Upon observation, the new guards weren't quite as crisp in their military bearing as the troops making up the Lord's Retinue, but that wasn't their job. They were more peacekeepers and security than soldiers. Despite that, the NCO's leading them were capable and didn't require the micromanagement of their commander, allowing him to simultaneously handle the formalities as his men assumed their roles.

Reivyn's presence hadn't gone unnoticed by the man. A perplexed expression had crossed his face when he noticed Reivyn's age and slightly smaller stature.

"I haven't heard of any young, promising officer candidates, Knight-Lieutenant," the man said with a nod towards Reivyn. It was a fair assumption made by the man.

Brand glanced at Reivyn and then chuckled. "He's not an officer candidate, Captain Aren," the Adjutant said. "Technically, he's a conscript." He waved his hands about and shook his head. "It's complicated. It's all in the reports if you want to find out for yourself later. Anyway, this is Reivyn, The Little Hero." Reivyn momentarily froze upon hearing those words. He knew from the debriefing the other day that some people had started calling him a hero, but for the Knight-Lieutenant to say so in his official capacity could only have been a deliberate, calculated move.

Captain Aren's interest in Reivyn had obviously dimmed when Brand had said that instead of being a promising officer candidate he was actually a conscript, but his eyes had lit up with even more interest upon hearing the title of "Little Hero" being assigned to him. He looked Reivyn up and down, and then, with a smile, he clapped the youngster on the shoulder.

"If Knight-Lieutenant Brand refers to you as such, then you obviously have a bright future ahead of you, kid," The man said.

"Yes, sir," Reivyn said. It wasn't an invitation into the conversation, so he kept his response a short acknowledgement of the praise.

The two officers continued their conversation along the way to the Adjutant's tent, and as they ducked inside to continue the meeting, Reivyn noticed out of the corner of his eye that it wasn't just the new militia unit that had arrived. He paused for a second to get a better look, and he spotted a long caravan of civilians with all kinds of different building materials along with personal possessions stacked in carts.

Getting in on the ground floor of a brand new settlement that had the potential to become a prosperous city in the near future was a huge opportunity for a lot of people. Most of the first arrivals were young men and women who had recently completed an apprenticeship or were journeymen without having an established footing of their own. There were bound to be larger organizations branching out to the new location eventually, but they weren't going to participate in building it themselves.

"What are you thinking about?" Reivyn was brought out of his contemplation by the voice of the Knight-Lieutenant.

"I was just thinking that a small shift in perspective completely changes the scenery," Reivyn answered. Knight-Lieutenant Brand smiled at the response.

"Indeed it does," he said. "It is all about perspective. It's interesting that you've had this bit of insight all on your own. The best example I've ever heard was an explanation given by my father.

"He's a baron attached to Count Ilpir, and he was working his men towards a specific goal. There were many moving parts, and he didn't have the time, nor inclination, to explain every little detail to everyone involved. Because the men didn't understand the whole situation, some grumblings of discontent appeared over some apparent contradictions in orders.

"My father had gathered the men and given them a little speech. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the gist of it went like this: He held up a chair to the men, and he showed them the bottom of it as he said, 'When you look at this chair from this angle, all you see are these four legs and the bottom of the seat. Without context of the whole picture, you have no idea what it is, or what its purpose could be.' He turned the chair right-side up and then said, 'I'm looking at it from this angle. I look at it, and I think, 'This is clearly a chair.' He set the chair down and finished, 'Each order that I'm giving out can be likened to an individual leg of the chair. Trust me that the work you're doing is important, and it's laying the foundation for the project as a whole.'"

Knight-Lieutenant Brand looked at Reivyn expectantly. Reivyn had been listening to every word, and it had resonated with his small insight from the view overlooking the heads of the marching men.

"What was the project?" He asked.

Knight-Lieutenant Brand coughed into his hand in slight embarrassment. "I have no idea. I can't remember," he said. "But that's not the point! Don't focus on the wrong part of the story," he gently reprimanded.

"Anyway, are you finally getting used to riding?" The older man asked. Reivyn tilted his head down and gave him a flat look through his lashes.

"I am now, no thanks to you," he responded. Knight-Lieutenant Brand just laughed and clapped him on the shoulder before returning to his position slightly ahead of Reivyn.

When it was time to finally leave the encampment, Reivyn had been fully prepared to assume his position in the formation and march with his squad again. While he had been going over the final checks of his gear with his squad mates, the Knight-Lieutenant had shown up with a horse.

"No Aide of mine is going to march on his own two feet. You have an image to uphold. You'll be riding next to me," he had declared. "Here, we'll put your gear into the saddlebags instead of the rucksack."

They quickly transferred the gear over, and the spear was placed into a special holster behind the saddle. Knight-Lieutenant Brand pointed out the gear and gave some simple instruction on how to mount the horse and sit in the saddle, but he didn't go into elaborate detail. He helped Reivyn ascend the mount for the first time. Reivyn was only slightly shorter than the average height of the men, but the stirrups had been adjusted to fit his size properly ahead of time.

"Alright, are you good?" The older man asked. Reivyn sat in the saddle, loosely holding the reins as he looked down at the man before nodding. He turned to his squad mates to offer his farewell.

"Yaaahhh!" A loud shout interrupted him, and the horse bolted as the Knight-Lieutenant smacked its flank with the flat of his blade. Reivyn grabbed the reins in a death grip and his entire body tightened at the unexpected movement. The horse galloped through the camp and quickly made it to the road. Reivyn held on for dear life as he was bounced around like a sack of potatoes.

"AAaaahhh!" His loud shout echoed out over the open air.

Luckily, the horse was well trained, and, absent any commands from the clueless rider, it simply followed the road leading down the ridge. Reivyn's heart was beating a thousand miles a minute, but he eventually started to calm down as he noticed the horse not acting crazy. His body loosened up, and he began to absorb the impacts caused by the galloping by utilizing his Balance Skill.

The horse started to slow down on its own after not receiving any instructions for a while, and Reivyn was able to experiment with how to control the horse through the reins and body movements like he had witnessed the cavalry do. He got the horse to come down all the way to a walk, and as he was getting it to turn around to head back to the pallisade, a loud laughter entered his ears. He looked up to find the Adjutant just behind him on his own horse.

"Well, how did you like your first ride?" The man said with a grin. Reivyn looked at him with wide eyes.

"Can you not do that again? That was terrifying!" Reivyn complained.

"Check your notifications," the man said, his grin never leaving his face. Reivyn did just that. With a mental tug, his notification popped up in front of him.

New Skill Unlocked!
Riding (1)

Now that he had calmed down and read the notification, he noticed a subtle increase to his ability to properly sit in the saddle and unconsciously guide the horse. If it hadn't been pointed out to him, he wouldn't have noticed it any time soon, as he was still coming down from the short bout of excitement.

"That's how I got the Skill," Brand said. "That's why I didn't hesitate to use the same tactic. It would take you all day and a sore butt to get the Skill from gentle walking. You can thank me later when you've calmed down." The man smirked at him.

Knight-Lieutenant Brand had then given Reivyn proper instruction on how to ride the horse and control it in various ways. He went through the proper usage of the reins and how and when to shift his balance properly to guide his mount. Brand supervised his practice for about an hour before the troops finally came marching out, and they fell into their proper place in the formation.

"You'll get the Horsemanship Skill after you've learned how to properly take care of your beast, not just ride it," Knight-Lieutenant Brand informed him.

True to his word, Reivyn had gained the relevant Skill after properly looking after the horse that evening under the tutelage of the Adjutant. They had taken some time out each day to ride ahead and practice some riding maneuvers each day, and Reivyn's Skill Level steadily climbed. Along with the increase in his Skill, he was able to divert his attention more and more, which had led to him constantly observing his surroundings after a few days.

He still hadn't thanked the man.

 



The city of Magron looked the same as the first time Reivyn had seen its walls looming in the distance. That wasn't to say he had gotten used to it. It still looked amazing to him, and he wondered what it would be like to live in the city.

The troops made their way back to the garrison after entering the city, and Knight-Captain Reifold had all of the men stand in formation for a moment as he addressed them.

"I'm extremely proud of everyone. I only have a couple of points to make before you're all dismissed. I'm sure everyone has better things to do than listen to me speak," he said.

"First, a moment of silence to honor our dead brothers," he bent his head down along with all of the troops. The bodies that had been preserved had not followed them to the garrison, but they had instead gone off immediately to their own destination so as to be returned to their families as soon as possible. After a respectable length of time, Knight-Captain Reifold raised his head to continue his address.

"Second, I sent ahead to prepare the promised combat bonus, and they will be disbursed through your chain of command tomorrow." While the men were excited about getting bonus pay, they maintained their military bearing and didn't celebrate while in formation.

"Lastly, the conscription has formally come to an end, and it will technically come to an end when you return to your homes. The levies will keep their tokens. Sergeant Mok will be in charge of overseeing your return, and before you do, he'll modify your tokens to no longer function as your military identification. They will, however, be your proof of preferred Dungeon access, so anyone who chooses a Combat Class and returns to delve the Dungeon should make sure not to lose them."

Knight-Captain Reifold nodded to the Adjutant and then strode off.

"Dismissed!" Knight-Lieutenant Brand commanded. He turned towards Reivyn, who had remained by his side at the front of the formation, as the men broke off under their NCO's. "Come with me."

Reivyn followed him to his office on the second floor of the headquarters building. To his surprise, they walked up the central stairway in the central foyer that Corporal Decker had told him to never use. Makes sense. If even the Second in Command can't use the stairs, then what's the point of having them?

Reivyn took a seat in front of the desk at the Adjutant's gesture. The older man sat at his desk and relaxed back into his chair.

"Well, that's it. You're officially done," he started. "A couple final points.

"One, you don't have to worry about the court martial of Ren. You don't need to be there for it, so you don't need to stick around any longer than necessary to see it through. We'll handle everything on our end.

"Two, there will be a banquet at the Lord's manor tomorrow evening. Knight-Captain Reifold has extended an invitation for you to attend. You're going to be attending as a guest of the Knight-Captain, not of the Count, so you don't have to worry about performing any sort of duties or anything like that. The banquet is to welcome and congratulate the Knight-Captain on a successful mission, though you will most likely meet the Count in private afterward. Knight-Captain Reifold did say he would make sure you got recognition for your actions, so that makes sense to me.

"We'll have a proper uniform tailored for you to wear tomorrow, so be sure to head to the quartermaster after this," Brand handed him a piece of paper. A glance showed that it was the order for the uniform, and Reivyn placed it in his pocket.

"Other than picking up your uniform and showing up on time for the banquet, we'll meet in front of the headquarters at 5pm tomorrow, you have the rest of today and tomorrow free to do what you want. It was a pleasure having you work as my Aide, short though it was," the man said as he reached across to shake Reivyn's hand. Reivyn stood up and gave a slight bow to the older man.

"Thank you, sir, for everything you did for me," Reivyn said. The Knight-Lieutenant tilted his head to the side as he raised an eyebrow at Reivyn. He rolled his eyes and added, begrudgingly, "And for helping me unlock the Riding Skill."

"You're welcome," Brand said as he got up from behind the desk. He led Reivyn to the door and said, "Alright, I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yes, sir," Reivyn responded as he left to go get his measurements made at the quartermaster. In only a few more days, he would finally be heading back home, and that thought was far more exciting to him than attending a banquet with the upper echelons of the county.

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Kyfe

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