Two day we spent preparing for the big day. Our king didn’t bothered to come out of his tent for all that time. I was told he was planning on how to defeat the enemy. Forest was thick, and the scouts were many. They patrolled the dark vegetation, turning rocks and hiding behind broad tree trunks, lurking in the shadows, waiting for the Zarian Honor Cavalry.
We had to march for five days in circle, running away from the Zarian horde of riders and mounted archers that gave us little sleep, even less rest. Our cavalry has been dispatched away in search for help from the surrounding villages and towns, known for aiding Ildock and avoided for the same reason. We had to stall to gain more time, but was it worth it? We have lost more than a hundred men trying to outrun the light cavalry. Poor souls couldn’t keep up the pace with the main force anymore and they were ran down by the swift riders, easy on their hoofs. It was a massacre, but for the greater goal.
As soon we reached the forestline, we were ordered to dig, dig deep, find water. Others used axes to level the hostile wilderness and build a wall around us. We had to do it quietly so the Zarians wouldn’t hear it. Two days we worked and then, the rider in green paused on the distant plain, proudly presenting gold bordered red banner.
– They are here!!! – a shieldbearer screamed running through the camp.
That night we all gathered around the fire for our last supper, when the advisor summoned me to the royal tent. I stepped in as the elected leader of infantry, when the king placed me in a circle around his ground.
– We have 2 000 battle ready troops and 200 cavalry. We stand no chance against 5 000 veteran riders in the open field. Battle axes gave them a scent of what are we doing, but ears spoke of illusion. They think we are here to stay, fortify ourselves in woodland, but we are not. We attack tonight. You, my trusted friend will lead your men against them. Carry only the most agile fighters, slit their throats in the dark, and leave them for the morning horrors when our cavalry gives them a run. The rest of the troops will wait here, on the sides of the forest, hidden beneath the hundred year old humus. The water you digged for, made a swamp at the other side of the battlefield, so the horses will drown and pull the foolish veterans into the soil’s mouth. Nowhere to run, nowhere to go, but to the glory of combat. – our wise king spoke to his officers.
They all looked at him as under a spell with sparks in their eyes and renewed spirits, but I wasn’t fresh in the skirmish. I scratched my beard, looked at the floor with the drawn lines on it and thought of our chances to stretch so wide and spacious. I caught my king’s gaze, wondering why am I not cheering in joy of the enemy’s bloodbath.
– Your Undyingness, I am afraid your plan is farfetched. Your expectations to pull such a dead is… – I saw his lip shaking in anger, – It is too much Sire.
– Is it now?… – an awkward pause ensued following the mutual looks of other leaders, – I did sent for the army, and they have replied. Over 500 men march our way, crossing the hills as we speak. Some reports speak of them entering the forest. This is all I have, and I have more than Zarians think. You have more than them. You have terrain in your favor, you have skill fighting on foot, while the Zarian horse riders have too much pride of fighting dismounted… You have a King giving you commands, their forces have no leader! They are a snake with no head! – he yelled the last one leaning in my face, then he paused, walked two steps looking away and turned at me once again, – It was an illusion, my friend. All we try is to deceive our enemies into thinking we are bigger than them, just this time, we will do the exact opposite. We will do the unthinkable. We will destroy them where they stand. Make sure you cut the throats of their banner riders first. They will fly with no heading, hitting every obstacle we provide them. There are more traps placed around us. Scouts didn’t sleep on their duty. All we need is to take out a third of them and make other flee into the forest. They will find beartraps and our cavalry running them down. It was all an illusion… Now fall to command and rest easy.
Soon we got back to our posts, informed our soldiers of battle to come and listened our commands to the last letter. It ended as our King has foreseen. The Zarians charged without order, shooting at the wooden walls we made to capture their speed, and when we were close enough to smell the fresh horse shit, the meat grinding has begun.