Cassandra inspected their temporary base.
“It looks just about perfect,” she stated. “So, on to our plan of attack. Rose, what do you suggest?”
“I believe our best plan would be to mobilise in hit and run teams,” Rose stated. “Artura, Susan and Caroline can remain here and provide cover if we’re pursued. Me, Rachel, Petunia, Ivy & Lynn can split our forces and trade off on making attacks.”
“Caroline?” Cassandra asked.
“It’s not a bad tactic,” Caroline said. “I would, however, make one change. I would send the hawks to take to the trees and provide cover fire. They’re the best archers we’ve got, it’s a perfect task for them. I would have the panthers remain here as support.”
Cassandra thought for a moment. “We’ll send the vipers and tigers in first to test their defences and draw first blood. The hawks will provide assistance from the treetops. The panthers and wolves will provide cover for their escape. Hopefully, they’ll chase us back here and we cam lure them into all the lovely traps the vipers set. Remember, the Torlan elite take priority. If we can slay them, they’ll be in disarray.”
“We will prepare as you command,” Rose said.
“Caroline, I’ll take temporary command of the falcons,” Cassandra said. “I need you to go back to the forests of Preklam and meet with the leaders of the dryads, centaurs and pixies. See if you can convince them all to aid us in this conflict. If only to preserve their homes.”
“I’ll try, but they may want to stay out of it,” Caroline said. “They may well adopt a policy of waiting to see how things shape up.”
“You mean they’ll see it as an opportunity to thin our numbers so that they can gain more territory for themselves,” Rachel said.
“Rachel, peace,” Cassandra said. She turned to Caroline. “I’ll be counting on you to help them see the wisdom of swift action. For the rest of us, we strike in the morning.”
Miranda woke up early that morning, put on her armour and went out to meet up with the night patrol. “How did everything go?” she asked.
“Still no sign of the Amazons,” Aiko reported. “But we both know that won’t last.”
Miranda nodded. “I’ll be surprised if we switch places tomorrow as planned.” She looked up towards the trees. They’d cleared out the ones closest to the encampment, but there were still plenty close enough to pose a danger.
She caught a glimpse of a shiny glint. Her zweihänder flashed from its hilt, knocking the arrow aside before it reached her. She saw several members of the irregulars go down after being hit.
“Aiko?” Miranda asked.
The vulpine woman leapt out of her shadow. “I’m fine. I’ll go sound the alarm.”
“We’re under attack!” Aiko shouted. “The Amazons are here!”
Miranda turned to a couple other soldiers. “You two, grab some volunteers and get the injured out of here. You, go alert Geoff and his team. The rest of us will get into formation. They’ll ride in on horses soon.”
Courtney looked over at Miranda. She looked so confident and brave giving out orders. That was when she noticed the soldier next to her notching another arrow. Courtney hurriedly reached for one of her own and fired at just the perfect angle to knock both arrows off course.
“You ruined my shot,” the woman noted.
“Sorry,” Courtney lied. “I didn’t see you firing that one.”
They heard what sounded like a wood thrush.
“Won’t get another chance now,” the woman muttered. “Just make sure your cover fire is better than that.”
Courtney nodded. Silently, she prayed. “Great Artemis, please don’t let anyone hit Miranda.”
Rachel and Petunia rode forward. They knew they had to take advantage of the confusion to slay as many Torlan soldiers as possible.
“I’ll go after their unit leader,” Petunia stated. “Cover me.”
“You’ve got it,” Rachel agreed.
The first battle of the war had begun.