Episode 43: A time to talk and a time to act

It had been raining for two days. Isabelle glumly reminded herself that the rains at that time of year were far worse in her hometown, but it didn't help much: she was still getting wet. They had met and killed an enemy scouting party, and Aurora was still arguing with Arthur over various aspects of politics and religion. She seemed skeptical of some of what Arthur was saying but hadn't tried to escape. Of course, her ankle wasn't completely healed yet. Isabelle sighed and tried to ignore Ardon's poor advances towards Orlaith. Silent Thunder slept.

On the morning of the third day, the clouds cleared. This seemed rather inconsequential in light of what followed. On the morning of the third day, Isabelle woke to the sounds of battle. Thunder had shaken her awake, and was already moving to do the same to Percy by the time that she realized what she was happening. They had camped in a grove on the southeast side of a hill to avoid being stumbled across by enemy patrols, and sometime during the night an enemy force had passed to their east and was now engaged in battle. Isabelle grabbed her armour and began to ready herself for the fight.

Orlaith, although woken last, had the least armour to don and thus was the first one ready. She immediately set out on a scouting mission. Percy, with his youthful quickness, tied Isabelle, and scouted in a slightly different direction. Arthur finished at the same time and began conferring with Aurora. Max and his men continued getting ready as Thunder, off-duty again, fell asleep. Soon everyone was ready and the scouts had returned.

Percy spoke first. "The enemy appears to be a combined-arms group led by a Captain, or whatever their equivalent is. They're on foot and have a good mix of front-line troops, archers, a few magi, and a support squad."

Isabelle interrupted him. "Two magi. At least, only two that are doing anything."

Percy looked a bit surprised that she had spotted what he couldn't, but continued. "The defense force looks like one of our Captain-led units rather than a full group, but are front-line infantry and have the high ground. The enemy seems content to attack them from the front rather than encircling them and provoking final defensive measures."

As he was speaking, Orlaith used her knife to sketch the unit positions in the dirt. "There's no cover between us and the defenders, so we might not make it if we try to join up. If we attack the enemy directly, we'll definitely be on our own, but we won't have to deal with as many front-line troops before hitting their auxiliaries."

"And," pointed out Arthur, "it will definitely cause some chaos as they try to shift their—"

A great fanfare filled the air. It was not so much loud as all-encompassing; it seemed as if the very land itself was calling out. It had a reasonably uplifting effect on Isabelle and most of the others, but the change on Arthur's face was incredible. He sprung up, lifted his own horn to his lips, and echoed back the call. In an instant he was at his horse; he mounted and was gone.