“Sir! The enemy is regrouping and reforming into their lines, they looked prepped to send another attack. It looks like to be twice the size of their previous engaged force. Orders?” a sentry called from his lookout position, they’d constructed a small look out position made out of a few beams of oak wood they’d sourced from nearby trees, there was also a platform at the top, it was rudimentary in its design, but it served its purpose well.
Maarten thoughtfully stroked his short beard before replying, “Hmm, that may present a problem, for us,” the king conceded. He beckoned his second in command forward, a younger man of about thirty, who, like the king, was tall and slender and well built, unlike the king, he didn’t have the look of having spent many long years of battle in his life, though he was a more than capable swordsman.
The younger man had a single scar down the side of his cheek, twelve years to the day he had been ambushed by a fleet of Scirasu pirates on his journey from his homeland of Normlieth to Azarowa, he had been one of the five survivors in a group of twenty, during the encounter he had deflected a dirk that opened a gash, since then it had closed and faded, but he still felt the pain of the blow, a local surgeon had tried his best to heal the wound but his face would always bear the remnants of the attack. He looked out at the enemy, he cursed them, hating them all for what they had done in their lives, promising himself he’d rid the country of their poison once again.
“Paul, the Aylesburians, I take it they’re here to fight, fetch them for me. Perhaps they have an idea as to how we can counteract they’re superior numbers” he said, seemingly unmoving as did so.
Paul hesitated a moment, forgetting his emotions towards those who invaded his country, before he moved to do as ordered when something caught his focus out of the corner of his eye, those Commissioners have an uncanny knack he thought to himself. “No need my lord...” Paul responded with a smile.
The King slowly turned towards Paul, he glared at the man, rage building inside of him, this was not a time to be testing his patience. “Why…the…hell…not?” the king said slowly, he careful to keep his anger from being unleashed.
It was the sentry this time that replied, “Sir! The foreigners are on their way down to meet us, should we let them through?” the sentry called down. Paul raised his eyebrows at that, as if to say “that’s why”. The king snarled at the man, holding his gaze for another moment or two before he followed the sentry’s gaze to the hills to their left and saw the two figures approaching them.
Maarten looked at his advisor and friend, and made a sign of apology with his hands, he knew that he had no right to act so aggressively towards his friend, “wars make monsters out of the best of people, sometimes” he muttered to himself.
“Of course, let them through, Paul see to it that they’re brought up to date on events, although that probably won’t be needed, these people have a knack of knowing anything and everything about the proceedings of a battle.” The king insisted.
Paul, glad that the anger of Maarten had subsided for the moment, gave a simple nod and bowed showing that his bitterness towards him had done no harm, and went off and did as was asked.
The two newcomers entered the king’s pavilion, which consisted of a simple table, several well-furnished chairs, some lighting and a map rolled out on the table. The King, who usually wore his robes, studded with the Sapphires mined from the nearby shafts, and his royal crown, was wearing his chain mail that had the royal insignia on the left breast that displayed a blue bird of prey that represented the royal cachet of Azarowa.
However, as Eamonn noted, it was strange to see an insignia on the left breast, throughout his time as Aaren’s apprentice when they’d visited his own king in his castle, his insignia and those of many other royals, was on their right breast, Eamonn made a mental note to bring this up with Aaren later, then realised that there may not be a later.
“We’re here as you requested my lord, my name is Aaren Fairweather of the Aylesburian sector in the Joint Ayleserowan Royal Commission and this…” Aaren began.
The king, eager to get the business of discussing battle plans underway, cut off any further needless chit-chat there.
“No need for ‘my lord’, ‘your highness’ or stuffy titles today Aaren, I see all men as my equal in battle and there is no need for that sort of thing when we should be concentrating on the matter at hand, all I need to know is yours and the boy’s name and we can try to get this problem sorted, now please sit.” Maarten gestured for the two Commissioners to sit.
Aaren nodded in agreement and the two of them sat in the chairs furthest from the King, as Maarten knew they would, and the three got down to business of discussing plans to overcome the odds along with Maarten’s chiefs of staff. Before they’d arrived, Aaren had instructed his young pupil to leave the talking to him, while he expected Maarten to ignore titles and such as he had, he couldn’t help but feel that anything the boy added might fall on deaf ears, and he needed the Azarowan king to adhere to his thoughts.
It was agreed that they needed a way of keeping Valon’s attention on the front lines and allow him to over-commit his men to an attack to set a trap, not too far though to cause him to hit them with his cavalry too soon. The king was surprised that Aaren knew the enemy’s strategy, when asked though, Aaren didn’t go into specifics, nothing more than a cursory “I’ve seen it happen before” before he moved on to details of how they would overcome it.
“Once they’ve progressed far enough forward, the idea is to then make way for our archers to shoot from a safe distance, and hit the unprotected enemy” Aaren reasoned. “Place them so they’re in flanking positions on either side, where they will be in the protection of the trees.” Eamonn put in.
The king could see how this would work, but not all bases were covered. “And when the numbers seem to be in our favour, do we then abandon the defensive approach and attack with all forces?” he couldn’t help but let the faint traces of a smile creep into his features, the expression didn’t go unnoticed, he knew Maarten would love nothing more than to destroy what remained of the Caledonians who had invaded his home. Aaren contemplated mentioning this for a few moments, but he saw a better way of dealing with them, “No” he replied simply and Maarten’s face dropped as though his mother had just taken away his favourite toy, but the smile returned and was matched by Aaren, “I’ve got something better planned for him” and Aaren along with Eamonn stood, shaking the hands of Maarten and made their way out.
With a satisfied look on his face Maarten stood up and stopped Aaren before he left, “Just promise me one thing Aaren…make sure that you leave that skulking worm-ridden filth for my men to kill? We wouldn’t want them to think that we needed some foreigner to do our dirty work” he explained, there was a glint in his eye that suggested he would enjoyed the thought a little too much.
Aaren considered the request for a moment. “My lord, nothing would make me happier than to see Valon on the wrong end of an arrow, I can’t promise you, I do however guarantee we’ll get him.” Aaren gave a signal to the king and continued to move towards his horse.
The two men took the brief ride to the barracks to collect some additional equipment for the battle, Aaren had requested some additional arrows for their crossbows to be made up, he’d passed on the cast mold for the arrow head, so they could make more. He was happy to find there were four-dozen freshly made arrows waiting for them, he spent some time with his apprentice refilling their quivers and loading up some of their spare cartridges. Eamonn couldn’t help but think that they were being left out of things.
Checking his surroundings so no one could hear, he spoke in a low tone. “Aaren, why did we spend so much time getting here, spend an hour watching over the enemy, and then we’ve been given a shield wall job?” Aaren looked at his pupil, what a difference eight-months makes he thought with a smile, back then the boy would have simply gone along with anything that was asked of him, he was happy to see that the boy was thinking for himself, and was starting to gain some confidence in his ability, it was good, but an big-headed ego in the Commission wasn’t tolerated well.
“Even though we’re more qualified than most here and Maarten appreciates our being here, this is not our fight, there are other Azarowan Commissioners here that can take care of things.” Aaren put particular emphasis on the word “Azarowan”. He finished loading up his next cartridge and felt he should better explain things. “Look, although Lord Valon has done plenty of things to the kingdom of Aylesbury as well as Azarowa, he’s decided to attack here, Valon would know that Maarten is a proud king and won’t stand by and watch an interloper cruise across the countryside, and he will also know that Maarten will not send for the help from other nations” he paused to take a breath for a moment.
Aaren grabbed another cartridge and loaded in the first bolt, “Jarvis on the other hand, knows of his and his men’s limitations, it isn’t that Jarvis doesn’t believe in his own men it’s just that he doesn’t want any unnecessary losses. I’m getting off topic, it’s because Maarten is a proud man that he’s given us this job to foreigners, he can trust us to do this job while still maintaining the dignity of an Azarowan victory here, if we were to take more of a hand here, he might not feel that same way, and that’s very important to him”.
Eamonn could see the sense in Aaren’s words and could relate to it, “I suppose it’s like how I wouldn’t want you to shoot a target for me, I’d want to be the one to do it”. Aaren nodded in confirmation of the relation, Aaren couldn’t stop a grin from reaching his face, “Don’t worry, if I know Valon and Maarten the way I do, we probably won’t do much, just a few shots from our crossbows and that’ll be about it, unless they’ve got anymore nasty surprises for us, but I doubt that Valon has suddenly become that clever.” Aaren said.
As if on cue another horn blast was sounded and deep-throated yells were made from the other side of the fields, “Looks as if it’s all about to begin again…come on we’d better take our positions.” Aaren suggested.