“Miranda, you and the irregulars will keep watch at the edge of the work site,” Maximilian stated. “Have your people work in rotating shifts and don’t let any Amazons past.”
“We won’t,” Miranda vowed.
“I’ll have Geoff’s regiment backing you up. Francis and Patricia can take their teams to watch the flanks. Just in case the Amazons decide to circle around. Judith’s team will guard the rear and move in, should it be deemed necessary. Miranda, you will be in overall command. If all goes well, the twins, Janice, Alexander and George can relieve you five after a week. George will be in charge overall. If the situation devolves into a full battle, we’ll bring all of our regiments as quickly as possible to repel the threat.”
“A small team could assassinate the king,” Janice warned.
“Oh, that would just be fa too dirty,” Judith said. “They have a sense of honour, don’t they?”
“It is a legitimate concern,” George said. “They may see it as a quick way to de-escalate tensions. There’s also those on our own side who desire peace to the point where they may decide eliminating Leonard the fourth is justified.”
“There’s no need for concern in that regard,” Maximilian said. “Sir Beras and I are going to establish an elite force of guards who can defend his Majesty once I join the fray.”
“Oh well, that’s good then,” Judith said. “See, Jani? There’s no call to be worried about his majesty. Our handsome captain has it all covered.”
“So it seems,” George muttered.
Rose and Rachel rode out to the queen’s chosen location. It was a good sized clearing with trees all around.
“Ladies, we must establish this outpost quickly,” Rose ordered. “Remember, the Torlans are going to be on their way as quickly as possible. We have to not only prevent their advance, but prevent them from doing as much damage as we can.”
“Rose, we all know that,” Rachel said. “For now, how about my unit starts chopping trees to establish a perimeter and getting some basic fortifications together. While we’re doing that,you guys can take care of the trees left inside and start getting tents built up.”
Fine,” Rose said. “We’ll start building some temporary scout and archer nests up in the trees outside of the base once we’re done.”
“And we’ll get some hidden pitfalls and traps set up after we’re done,” Rachel said. “Don’t stray too far from the camp without sticking to the trees.”
“Like I’d ever fall into a trap you set,” Rose stated.
Rachel gingerly moved some of Rose’s hair from her forehead. “Oh, I could trap you if I wanted to. And you’d like it.”
“If you’re going to flirt with someone, chase after Artura,” Rose said. “I have other things to worry about.”
“Well, she’s not here,” Rachel stated. “Plus she just had her heart broken. Have some empathy, would you?”
The two split away from each other and went to work establishing their base of operations.
Courtney and the rest of the Hawk unit were busy. They had to acquire provisions for the war effort before heading out to meet the other units.
Courtney readied her long bow and fired. A perfect shot, the elk went down.
The other members of her group went to retrieve it. She sighed. When she’d gotten Miranda’s warning, it had been hopeful. They’d both secretly felt that stopping the capture of her mum would lead to a few tense months while peace was brokered. But that last letter and these preparations had just cemented the simple fact. There was no turning back.
I won’t harm you
Hearing that from Miranda was the one piece of good news she had. “Not that I could bring myself to hurt her either,” Courtney muttered.
“Nothing wrong at all, Artura,” Courtney said.
“Don’t lie,” Artura said.
“Well, okay there is one thing,” Courtney said. “I… I’m worried about Miranda. I’m worried about what’ll happen on the battlefield, you know?”
“She will be a target,” Artura stated. “You may have to brace yourself.”
Courtney looked down at the grass. She didn’t want to see Miranda kill anyone she knew. She also didn’t want to see Miranda get killed. And as much as she felt like a traitor, she knew which one would destroy her more.
Miranda watched alongside Aiko and a couple others on her squad. Five days and there had been no sign of the Amazons. The deforestation was proceeding pretty smoothly.
“Think the Amazons are just going to let us do this?” a young man asked.
“No,” Miranda answered. “They may not be ready to mobilise, but they’re definitely going to strike. Just stay vigilant. We have to be ready when they do come.”
Her hand brushed her zweihänder’s hilt.
“Courtney, please stay safe out there,” she quietly prayed.