The Riders of Aviandria–Have You Got What it Takes?

One of my favorite things about Aviandria is the Sky Corps—the elite riders who get to fly on the back of Aviandria’s giant rocs. Although the riders in the Sky Corps are a huge part of Aviandria, there isn’t really all that much about them in Gateway to Aviandria. There may be bits and pieces in future books, but there are still many aspects to this special group of people that may never be mentioned in the course of the story. Perhaps this post will quench any curiosity regarding who they are exactly, and what it means to be a rider.

Who are the riders of Aviandria?
The riders of Aviandria are the members of an elite branch of the Aviandrian military. They ride the giant birds which are native to Aviandria that the people call rocs. They have many different duties, including scouts, messengers, and protectors. They are handy to have in a battle, especially if the enemy isn’t familiar with fighting around these flying warriors. In fact, since few other countries anywhere near Aviandria (the exception would be Draconland) have access to a means of airborne combat, the riders usually give Aviandria the edge it needs to be victorious.

What does it mean to be a rider in Aviandria?
Being a rider in Aviandria is not an easy job. There are fairly strict requirements to even be eligible to start training as a rider. A rider has to be able to both read and write fluently, as well as having a good knowledge of physics and mathematics. Much of this they are expected to know before they can even be considered to become a rider. Once they are a rider, they are trained in most things any normal soldier would be trained in. They are trained in and practice hand to hand combat skills, both with and without weapons. They are expected to develop superior skill in archery and tracking. They are also drilled in their stealth and survival skills. They need to have a basic knowledge of first aid and herbal medicine. They are also required to learn a series of hand signs they can use to communicate across distances while flying on their rocs and a number of different whistle patterns they can use to signal each other and their rocs.

Riders are also held to a very high behavioral standard. They are required to abstain from any alcoholic beverages or other substances that warp thinking and impair judgment. They must maintain a certain level of physical fitness. They also must be able to keep their temper in all situations. They must take an oath to help those they find in need of help whether it be something as simple as saving a cat up a tree, or something like saving a life. People in Aviandria have a very high opinion of riders and are willing to trust them. Riders must live up to these expectations.

What does it take to become a rider?
The process of becoming a rider is quite long and difficult. Few people are able to make it into the training program, and even if someone does make it into the program, there is no guarantee they will complete it. If a candidate doesn’t consistently meet the high standard expected in every aspect of the training, they are dismissed. In fact, only about half those accepted into the program make it through the first two years. However, if somebody does make it that far, their chances of graduating the program and becoming a fully qualified rider increase substantially. From beginning to end, it usually takes six years.

The process usually starts when the hopeful candidate is about twelve years old. He or she must present themselves before a special panel and do their best to convince him that he or she is right for the job. This might be thought of as a sort of spoken resume. If the prospective applicant passes that stage, they have their “interview,” where they are asked questions of both a subjective and objective nature to determine their education level, and also more about their personality, reactions, and temperament. If they pass this, they are accepted into the program, but as I said before, they only remain in it as long as they maintain high enough standards. This is not so easy to do because it is said that the first two years of the program are the hardest and most intense out of all six years.

Part of the reason the first two years are so difficult is that two years into the program, the candidates are paired with a roc egg. They tend the egg until it hatches, then raise the baby roc to maturity. Because of the bond created between the rider and their roc, it is difficult to separate them. That is why the program is designed to weed out as many as possible the first two years. This is also why it is less likely for a candidate to be released from the program from this point on. However, the Sky Corps will not compromise its standards just to spare the feelings of a roc and trainee. If there is a good enough reason, the candidate will still be released.

After the roc is old enough to be ridden, the rider spends a good amount of time learning to work with and fly their roc. On top of this, they are still required to train and practice all the other skills they have learned up to that point. This continues for the last three years until they are ready to graduate and become an official member of the Sky Corps. There is usually only a handful that makes it to this point.

There is more to being a rider than I feel I should fit into a post, but this covers the basics and gives you a better idea how the riders fit in and why they are so respected.

Do you think you could make it as a rider? Is it something you would want to try?

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