We stopped around midday to let our horses rest. Lang summoned those of us who were leading units.
“We’ll fight in rotation,” he said. “Units 3, 7 & 9 will move in first. Units 2, 5 & 12 will hold back and move in to relieve the other units when they need to fall back to regroup or rest. Remember, we don’t need to win right away. We just need to hold the enemy at bay long enough to give our comrades time to finish their work in Het Wald and join us here and press them hard enough that we can break through their ranks when the time comes.”
One of the other commanders interjected. She was a large, muscular woman with her blonde hair neatly tied. She carried a massive scythe strapped to her back. Her armour bore the crest of a fiery pine tree, marking her as a part of the Elzray family. She also had a “V” proudly adorning her right shoulder. So, I was certain she led the fifth unit. “What if we find ourselves with the opportunity to deal some serious damage?”
“I would caution you to be wary of possible attempts to lure you,” Lang began. “But if you believe you truly have a golden opportunity, I will leave it up to you whether or not you take advantage.”
She nodded, seemingly satisfied.
“We should arrive at our target point by nightfall,” Lang continued. “Once the sun rises, we’ll begin our counter-offensive. Make sure to set strong night watches and to get some rest. We’ll all need it.”
The Elzray daughter approached me alongside a relatively short, but strong looking elf. He had spiked black hair and an eye patch over his right eye.
“Looks like it’s the three of us,” she said. She held out her hand to me “Layla Elzray, fifth unit commander. This is Luco Ekmil, second unit commander.”
“Lynai Elfblood,” I said, taking her hand. “A pleasure to meet you.”
Luco scowled. “We don’t need some pampered princess playing soldier.”
“Luco!” Layla cried out. “Royals do not go into battle without the skills to survive. We both fought alongside Liys and Leaf. You know that.”
“But we did fight alongside them,” Luco said. “I’ve never seen this whelp on the battlefield before. Have you?”
“My father would not allow me on the battlefield,” I said, trying to think of a way to defuse the situation. “But I did train under intense conditions with Lais Elivy herself. If you doubt my mettle, I’d be glad to have a sparring session against you.”
Layla laughed and clapped me on the back. “Nicely said!”
Luco kept scowling. “The battlefield isn’t like a nice, safe sparring session. Keep that in mind. And don’t get us killed.” He wandered off towards his troops.
“Don’t mind him,” Layla said. “Once he sees your skills he’ll soften. He didn’t trust me to fight alongside him at first either. Nor did he trust your brothers. He… doesn’t care for noble families, especially royals.”
I nodded. “I’ve heard of people like that.”
Layla laughed. “You may well find quite a few of them among the soldiers. But don’t worry. I’m certain you’ll prove yourself to them in no time.”
We separated and went to our own troops.
Callie approached me, she’d removed her helmet. “Have a good meeting? Didn’t miss me too much, I trust.”
“The meeting was fine,” I said, deliberately ignoring the second half of her statement. I turned to address everyone. “My comrades, by nightfall we’ll have reached our camp site. I want a watch rotation with four groups of six soldiers staying up for two hour shifts. I will personally join in the first watch. When we arrive at the camp, I’ll ask for volunteers to take part in the rotation. Don’t volunteer if it’s going to affect your ability to fight. In the morning, we’ll take part in the battle. Our unit will start by staying back alongside units Five and Two. When the other units retreat to rest and regroup, we’ll move in to pick up the slack. I want a close formation with everyone watching one another’s backs. That’s all for now, prepare for the last stretch of the journey. We leave within the hour.”
I watched as they began moving off. There wasn’t any sign of discontent. Which was good. I felt Callie’s hand wrap around me. “You know I’ll be n the first watch with you, right?”
“You don’t have to be,” I said. I briefly thought of pushing her hand away, but decided not to. It wasn’t bothering me or anything.”
“Believe me, I know,” she said. “But I am the best choice. My vision isn’t hampered by the darkness.”
“Fine,” I agreed. “Just make sure you’re paying attention to or surroundings and not just to me.”
Orontios was not as I remembered it. Of course, the last draconian who had visited the city had done so three hundred and fifteen years ago when it was just being established. At that time, it had been a simple, but clean and bustling city full of promise. Now it was sprawling with structures built atop the old buildings to accommodate more people. The architecture had grown archaic and was clearly not properly maintained.
Those people who wandered the streets were noticeably unclean. It had become little better than a slum. I moved slightly closer to Illyana, just in case someone decided that we looked wealthy enough to confront and I was required to shield her. We made our way through a noisy marketplace where untrustworthy looking people had set up stalls to peddle wares. Except for two, who were currently involved in an altercation over space.
“Illyana, I will return momentarily,” I said. I flew up into the sky. The arena was easily located. It had a very distinct design. I landed back beside Illyana. “We will arrive shortly,” I informed her. “Are you functioning adequately?”
“I’m fine,” she answered. “It’s just really loud here. I feel a little disoriented.”
“If there is anything I can do to assist you, just let me know,” I stated.
“In that case, hold out your hand,” she demanded. I quickly deduced what she wanted and acquiesced. She held my hand. “There. Now I just have to trust you to guide me.”
“Very well,” I said. “It is this way.” We continued on our way.