Only Fools Complain: Cp32

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Only Fools Complain
Chapter Thirty-Two
Tactics That Do Not Work

This was King Chellor's land. He was the one who had supreme power, so the one with ultimate authority. His troops thus had the responsibility to travel throughout Peranty and enforce the rules of the king.

The Duke of Aperkin had a more local influence. From there we were in the domain of Baron Norvaum. Soldiers of the duchy or barony also could do patrols to assure the safety of the people and that everyone obeyed the laws. The one that truly had no influence, although he was hoping to gain some authority, was Aneron.

He had the luxury of not having to worry about the laws. He was rebelling against the entire system of nobility in the land, which included the concern for the people and the laws they lived under. While none doubted that he would institute his own decrees, his own actions declared him not worrying about how others expected him to act.

I said all of that to basically have it understood that the forces of Aneron did not maintain patrols. They kept a vigil of the activities of others, but did not stay active asserting any real concern of accepting their duties should they actually gain control. As I moved with the squad I studied the opposing forces and came to the conclusion that what I was doing was not that risky at all.

We did not travel that fast. Considering that we were supposed to support another squad, it would not fulfill our mission if we moved beyond any point where we could easily gain their aid. The men had mentioned a number of odd little duties we could do simply to waste time. As we finished one little field inspection of the plants while speaking of crops, I noticed the invading squad moving into position, so put into a motion a plan of my own. I rode up close to the lines of the opposing troops, then spoke to my men as if I did not see the other soldiers so close.

"Horsemen, you have not heard any reports of werewolves?"

I do not know if the soldier understood my deception, but I appreciated his crisp reply, "No, Major. I do however keep a silver dagger in my boot."

"That is good, as some of Aneron's men appear a little shaggy. Considering that he hired some mercenaries, he could have gained a number of lycanthropes."

The one I had spoken to just had his mouth stay open, but the corporal quickly spoke to fill the silence. "It is possible, Major! However, no reports of lycanthropes have been passed from King Chellor."

From the forces of Aneron came the comment, "The king would not have told you anyway."

"That's true," I calmly replied. "King Chellor really did not mention anything about the dragon. It was killed easily enough, but there could be other monsters in the opposing military."

Suddenly, a debate started. That was what I wanted. None of my soldiers or those from Aneron stepped past any line of safety. Words flew, but that was all. I worked to keep the debate going, as it had the men focused on my squad and not on those who would actually make the incursion.

Faces that showed some pleasure in the exchange of words turned to display anger upon realizing that they had been seduced into diverting their attention. While the discussion had not been a planned activity, I saw arrows fly from those in my squad before those of our opponents could draw their weapons. Not having a large number under my authority, not everyone who had joined our debate could be stopped before they drew their weapons. A few more met their fate from arrows as they sought for some order directing them to either attack us or the group invading their forces. Finally, a few turned their faces toward us showing some pleasure in coming to their own realization that they would have to deal with us no matter what their actual orders were.

I dismounted not just to save the life of my horse, but to prevent myself from being such a visible target to the archers of my opponents. One man dying from an arrow let the others know the reason for my actions. The rest dismounted and joined me in advancing into direct combat.

Rushing upon adversaries was something that I knew well. It had been often required of me as I went to rescue those being abducted. There had been times when I needed to attack other military patrols seeking to state the presence of somebody who felt able to secure some territory out in the desert, and even claim some part of Thiminy or Veriddian. Most knew better than to challenge my homeland, but had to be taught the friendship between those of us in the valley and the dwarves of the neighboring mountains. I moved into combat without fear, but with the confidence of knowing that I had survived such encounters before.

Seeing the mass of forces beyond the one I dropped, I had to smile thinking of myself as being able to take on the entire army of Aneron. I found myself working at duplicating some steps that my king had taught me as methods of limiting the number of opponents who could come upon me. Of course, in this battle I had others supporting me. As the one put in charge of the squad, I also needed to work to provide them with confidence and aid. The ones that joined with me however were not new soldiers, but those who also felt the confidence of having survived previous battles. I worked to turn blades that would have inflicted harm to my comrades even as they took moments to save me from harm. It became enjoyable for a time as I saw those of my squad attempt to duplicate my steps even as I performed some of theirs with us all successfully taking on those of the army of Aneron.

Again I found myself tiring, but took it upon myself to sing a battle song. As with the flayers, my objective was to keep my mind off of the fatigue of my body. I dropped a few more of the enemy, so felt things were going well until I heard one of my fellow soldiers make a statement.

"I don't know that one."

"Well," I replied, "do you know Dwarvish?"

"No."

"How about Elvish?"

"Some."

I tried a song that I knew in that language. As my king and those of an elf kingdom were working together to claim a section of the desert, I had heard some of their tales of previous successful battles. I however heard a number tell me to sing something that they would know.

After exclaiming my frustration, I started into something that I would sing with men after drinking a couple of rounds. I almost lost concentration on the combat in hearing the others of my squad take up the chorus. There was a feeling that I needed to find something better. I however remembered that my reason for starting a song was to just keep my mind off of the effects of the constant movements upon my body. Seeing a keg of ale in the enemy camp, I moved to grab a cup. I then stopped to pour myself some of the brew, and lifted it to show all that I was going to take a drink while exclaiming a boast.

"We are going to win this battle!"

As my men cheered, suddenly shouts sounded. I felt a strange sensation pass through me. Horns then sounded letting all know that the mission had been successful.

From the faces that turned to me, I felt that others in my squad also felt able to keep going. Some seemed to express a desire for me to command them to continue with the battle. I however had been a soldier long enough to obey orders. Most of the missions I had performed had the objective to rescue people, and not annihilate the ones that had abducted them. While it often distressed me and my men so watch the bad guys flee, there was always a hope that they would learn their lesson and seek another occupation. I told those that turned to me looking for orders to fall back and see what further plans our leadership had.

It felt good only having lost two men. The one that had been initially struck by an arrow had been tended by someone in position to rush up. We thus found him waiting for us with our horses. Two however did not answer my call of their names. One we could spot his corpse. The other we had no idea what had happened to him. Looking at the expanding forces due to having to guard their mages, we had to accept that we could not safely go after our missing men.

The pause to consider bringing back my squad complete worked against us, as one of Aneron's mages fled the influence of the staff near our position. He noticed us, surely by our colors, and sent a spell in our direction. Suddenly fire erupted around us. Magic was not unknown to me, although I did not use it myself. I paused to consider my options that would not bring harm to my squad.

Yes, the fire was hot. I had seen the heat ruin arrows in flight. I however commanded the men to throw daggers. Others in the squad singled out the mage through the flames, and we all directed our small blades at the figure. A scream caused us to smile with pleasure, although being drenched by water helped us deal with the heat of the fire.

"Patrol! This way!"

That command definitely sounded like one of the king's men. It did however help my confidence to hear a couple in my squad recognize the voice. I replied that we would be coming through. The man returned a command that I knew well from my early days of being in the military.

"That was an order!"

I knew from experience that nothing needed to be said to that. One just had to perform. I did issue a command to my squad, but it was more to assure that we would act together. With nothing more being said, we commanded our horses to move through the fire.

The presence of the flames did have me, and I assumed the rest of my squad, expecting to feel some heat. Having a substantial amount of armor on my body, I did not fear for me. My mount however only had some pieces to protect it from arrows. I thus feared that the heat would bother the horses, but we all went through the flames without feeling any of the effects.

I saw that the voice was indeed who my men had identified it as he ordered, "All right, you are to return to camp. King Chellor might have further orders for you, but it is now time for the rest of us to take on this fight. Thank you for your actions."

The orders did not surprise me. While the others from my squad would almost certainly be sent back out, I suspected that my participation had come to an end. I did have a desire to stay to find out who won this day, but I felt that the company of my wives and their family would be who I needed around me. It thus surprised me to suddenly hear myself challenged.

"YOU – THE ONE THAT BROUGHT DOWN MY DRAGON – FEEL THE MISERY OF KNOWING THAT YOU BROUGHT ABOUT EVERYONE'S DOOM!"

Suddenly there was an eruption of noise in the distance. There were cracks similar to thunder, but what disturbed me was a roar as if that of an avalanche. Understanding that I had been called out, I signaled my squad to return to camp as ordered while I had my mount take off in a direction away from the concentration of soldiers. I found myself wondering exactly what I would do as I saw an eruption of wings as the carcass of the dragon rose up from where it had been lying in wait of being properly disposed of.

Yes, things do not look good, but everyone was ready for war.