Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Wilder, Marfa, Jack, Moya: Cohen’s friends since childhood.
- Steven, Manta, Dimmock: Son of the leader of wingman, dwarf, sandman.
- Martin Luther: Aka Grandpa Red-nose, a Swabian retired general.
- Flynn & Carey Rohna, Winslet(elf): Cohen’s wives.
Wilder dashed in front and dragged the wingman scout up on his feet. Poor wingman, his face got scratched.
“What did you say!” Wilder pulled his face so close to the scout’s that the two were almost touching, “Say that again!”
“Sir!” The wingman in his haste replied without even wiping the blood off of his bleeding wounds, “Scout team No. 17, we’ve found massive light cavalries at the desert portal yesterday dawn.”
“Calvary?!” Wilder gave me a look and rushed, “I’ll get my people!”
“Calm down, you.” I marked the scout and said, “Get him some water, and a physician.”
The poor wingman sat down, and Jack passed over a glass of water for him to drink.
“Order!” I shouted to the people outside, and the messenger leader ran in immediately.
“To all senior commanding officers, directors of City Hall and clan chiefs, gather outside right away!”
After giving the order, I lowered my voice and began a discussion with grandpa red-nose.
Flynn and Winslet arranged a table for writing, and Carey helped Wilder to roll out the largest map that we had so far down to its corners.
The scene looked exactly like the days I spent training in Uncle Tennessee’s.
A while later, the sound of footsteps indicated that my men had arrived.
I kept them waiting outside, and only a physician was allowed to enter and heal the wounded.
After I had finished talking to Grandpa, I began to call them in.
“Summoning all senior commanding officers, liaison chiefs, and clan leaders!” My guards repeated my words loudly. A dozen people came in without any additional chatter. They saluted and gathered around the map.
“Feeling better? Can you talk?” I asked the wingman scout. He nodded.
“Okay, repeat what you said one more time!” I stood in front of the map, “I want to know everything you saw! Not a single detail will be missed!”
“Yes, sir!” He saluted and took a metal stick from another officer.
“We are scout team No.17! We’ve been monitoring around this area, four hundred miles directly from Dark City.”
He marked a point on the map, “Before yesterday dawn, everything was normal…”
“After midnight, my leader and I were to fly and take the daily duty. We circled by the desert portal, and at the ninth time, we spotted massive shadows on the ground.” He moved the stick to the right of the map, “We lowered ourselves and looked closer to find no less than three hundred light cavalries. The darkness had limited us to accurately calculate their numbers, and there can only be more of them coming for us. Judging from their messy armors, they seem to be bandits. But, my scout leader commented that their formation was neat, and they’ve been marching without sound and did not show signs of fatigue.”
“What else?” An officer asked.
“They stopped here, and as if they were the leading strike team, they guarded the portal. However, they made a defensive formation in both the front and the back. My scout leader sent me back to report the situation, and he is still there, observing. He said he’ll send men back once in awhile to update us on the situation. Right! He was afraid that he’ll be short on soldiers, so he had gathered few other teams around us.”
The wingman said as we listened. This was why I let him take a rest and drink water. Man will often make mistakes when he was tense especially for these newbies and tended to miss out crucial information.
In such moments, a period of rest could release him from his anxiety and give him time to sort things out in his mind. Giving him medical attention was for the same purpose, for pain would distract him as well.”
“Did they see you?” Grandpa asked.
“No! And I’m very sure about it!” It was probably because of my grandpa’s mighty look, the wingman straightened his body.
“How can you be so sure?” Grandpa questioned closely, “Soldier, this information concerns many others’ lives!”
“It was dark.” The scout said, “And we’ve been careful to always be under cover. Besides, we weren’t even close enough for them to detect us!”
“When did you leave for here?”
“At dawn. We were concerned about their mages, so that’s why I flew close to the ground.”
Grandpa nodded towards me to show he was done with his questioning.
“Take a rest, you’ve done a great job.” I said, “Soldier, if you think of anything else, you can come and report to me any time.”
“Yes, sir!” The wingman left with a physician.
All the remaining men were gathering around the map. They need time to think.
“What do you think?” I asked after giving them enough time.
My knowledge on the military had given me hints that such incidents could not possibly be simple matters. And I discovered the enemy’s intentions after hearing the scout’s briefings.
However, I could not immediately reveal the solutions, for the people in front my eyes were rookies at most. I needed to lead them to the right track and find the answer on their own.
“Think my ass! Let’s fight!” Just as I expected, Moya yelled, “I need five hundred men! What a bunch of bastards!”
“Good, I’m impressed!” I said, “But I need you to tell me, what made you think they are a bunch of bastards?”
“Didn’t he say it already?” Moya was confused by my words, “They are only three hundred men.”
“Four hundred miles away!” I pointed at the map, “That wingman flew for a whole day, and even if I let you ride, it’ll take a day and a half. Even if you arrive within a day, they’ve probably reinforced to three thousand soldiers. As a commander, you need to keep calm. You get what I’m saying?”
“Yes, I got you, sir!”
“Who else?” I asked, and grandpa seemed to know my intentions and kept quiet.
“My Lord! I think!” Dimmock said, “We need to find out more!”
“Indeed.” I said, “There will be more intel later!”
“Same here.” Wilder said, “If we are in the dark, then we can always try harder on the scouting range.”
“Correct.” I nodded, “Steven!”
“Here!” Steven said, without his trademark hippie smile.
“Gather your best men and wait out the tent!” I said.
“Roger!” He dashed away.
“Anything else?” I looked at them encouragingly, “Tell me! We still have time.”
Then everyone began brainstorming.
“How about this.” I said, “I’ll ask, and you’ll answer. I hope we can think this through.”
“First step, let’s talk about the enemy. They looked like bandits?” I paced slowly in the tent, “Have we got any bandits around Dark City?”
“Nope!” Manta shouted, “The only group of bandits was exterminated years ago!”
“Then who could they possibly be? A group of men well trained and disciplined doesn’t sound like a group of mobs to me.” I continued, “You can think further, and even more complex.”
“We don’t really have any mobsters here.” An officer who was reassigned from my brother said to the map, “If they were troopers, there are only two places around that have armed forces. Darkmoon is ruled out, of course. What’s left is a place owned by a noble general who’s been very close to the Prime Minister. His name is Harric.”
“Right!” Marfa also marked on the map and said, “Take a look, the border between us and his land is extra wide. Thus there’s a possibility for him to send troops at any point.”
“Now that you have assumptions, I need you to prove it!” I was glad that they have noticed this point, albeit rather slowly.
“First of all!” As the air in the atmosphere shook, Moya stood up and said, “We do not get along with the Minister, and he lusts for our land, that’s the motive I’ve come up with!”
“Count as one.” I said, “It’s probable, continue.”
“Second! Since I’m in the army,” Wilder who has been keeping his mouth shut, said, “They could be attacking in multiple routes for convenience. Judging by their movements, and since we’ve ruled out local bandits, they must have come from here!”
“And why is that?” I asked.
“Because they are light-loaded cavalries, and arrived through the portal.” I was glad to see Wilder thinking calmly. “Riding on horseback limits them from travelling far distances in the desert. Thus, there is only one way left to enter: Harric’s land. That portal was not even a hundred miles from his place, even if those are not his men out there, he must be implicated!”
“Excellent! One more question, and it’s a critical one.” I said, “Why are they stopping?”
“Reinforcements!” Moya said after a good while.
“Why bother waiting for help.” Grandpa said, “Isn’t it better to set off together?”
“That…” Moya shook his head to say he did not know.
“Moya,” I smiled as an encouragement, “Think harder, if you were their commander, in what situation will you set such a formation in such a narrow portal?”
“When I need to defend.” He answered.
“Why defending?” I continued, “You are not far from your own land, and you are going for a sneak attack, thus you are the initiative party, you are supposed to do the attacking.”
“I… I…” Slowly, the light was shone into Moya’s eyes, “They are meeting someone!”
“BINGO! Stupid!” Grandpa red-nose stroke Moya’s head roughly, “Took you long enough! I was literally dying for this moment!”
“Good.” I said, “Thanks for the group effort, we now know what they are up to. The question is, who are they meeting? We’re gonna need more intel for this. While we wait, we need to get prepared.”
As all answered, Steven came in and signalled me to tell me everything was done.
“Steven!” I said, “Send all your scout teams to search over the border! Focus on the routes to the Dark Forest mines, Dark City, and the clan settlements. Alert our people in the forest and clans and tell them to get ready. Once they spot any enemies approaching, evacuate immediately. I’ll give you written orders. Remember, I want intel. Do not make contact!”
Just as Steven ran out, I caught him once more by the door. I dragged him aside and whispered, “One more thing, send your best wingman to Harric’s territory across the border. We must figure out where they are meeting up!”
Steven nodded and dashed to his wingman crowd to give orders. Almost instantly, the first wingman started to run, and before he reached the tent fence, he leaped and flew over our heads.
The following wingman acted the same, which made my place like a birds nest. I chuckled and saw my people were actually not paying any attention to them, then I went back in and issued my orders.
Words that came out of my mouth became written rules by Winslet, then Flynn marked them with special seals after I signed my name. Steven delivered them to the outside wingmen that disappeared into the night sky…
My orders have instructed the two rear armies which quartered in two directions to merge as one, and with newly forged armors, led by wingman scouts, gather in Harric’s borders across Dark City.
Any working sites on the possible enemy routes have been fully evacuated and pretended to have been trashed. Any personnel closer to Dark City were called back and the people who were not hid in nearby locations.
Site guards were instructed to detain any strangers immediately. Any resistance would mean death.
I considered my enemies would have definitely laid out their finger men. However, I assumed they will not have many due to their fast marching.
Still, I’ve got to terminate their scouts.
I could vaguely judge that their operation will target mainly the Dark Forest mining project and harassments on Dark City construction. If they were here to disturb us, they wouldn’t need to meet anyone other than hit and run. Thus, in most cases, they were here for the ores.
I have notified the elves particularly to lower the defense of the mines. Once the enemies closed in, workers who were left could just run away.
As for the mines, I’ll let them take whatever and however much they want, the more the better. Once they began to withdraw, I would chase them down with the scouting wingman, with bows and magic to wear the enemies out. Any direct contact was strictly forbidden.
The intel that came next had proven my thoughts to be correct. The enemies at the desert portal remained still. Harric’s meeting point was revealed as well. It was mobile infantry and totaled around five hundred, without camouflages, all standard Swabian soldier looks.
Finally, we found their main forces by the edge of the Dark Forest. All light cavalries marching towards the mine totaled more than three thousand!
I felt helpless that my province was way too large and I was short on people and could only let those scums ride into my place like they owned it. If I fail this time, the Minister would smirk at me.
The total number of the enemies was around four thousand. It was not much. However, my new army was merely three thousand and scattered. It looked like my opponents were quite familiar with my situations. They were quite possibly gonna win this.
Three thousand soldiers was enough to rob even the tools left within the mining facilities.
The headquarters was set in my tent where we analyzed the current situation carefully to decide how to utilize our intel and advantages of warlike clan people to win this war.
I wished they have not known about my friendly relationship with the alien races.
Troops mobilizing speed was crucial.
I put down another dozen of orders and thought that it was time for the Dark Troops to get on the stage.