Miranda didn’t notice what Geoff and Francis were doing. She and Aiko were struggling against the Amazonian queen.
Cassandra’s blade nearly pierced her breast plate. Miranda barely parried the strike in time.
Aiko attempted to take advantage of Cassandra’s attack on Miranda by striking the queen as she turned. Cassandra stomped a foot and conjured an earthen spike that very nearly pierced the vulpine woman.
Miranda channelled some lightning magic through her blade in a bright flash to temporarily blind Cassandra. Aiko dove into a shadow and emerged right beneath Cassandra, slicing upwards.
The queen blocked the strike with her shield and kicked Aiko in the chest.
Geoff and Francis pursued Lynn and Rachel.
“We’re closing in!” Francis declared. “I’ll take the blonde one with the sabre. You can have the brunette.”
Geoff didn’t like the way his associate said that, but he kept it to himself. They had to work together, after all. Truthfully, he also didn’t like the idea of matching his rapier against a scythe. It struck him as a poor match up.
They were close. The Amazons were moving more slowly than they were. It would be ten minutes, at most, and they’d catch the rear guard.
That was when the arrows rained down.
Geoff’s horse went down, knocking him across the ground. He scrambled up to find heavy casualties among their soldiers. Francis was swiping arrows away from him with his axe. He had an arrow in his left arm, but didn’t let that slow him.
“We have to pull back!” Geoff called.
“Let the weaklings fall! We’ll still take their heads!” Francis cried.
“Don’t be a fool,” Geoff stated. “We can’t push through as things stand. Would you really die without earning honour?”
Francis hesitated. He seemed to be judging the strength of the Amazonian troops versus who they had left. “Fine,” he muttered. “Retreat!”
Geoff breathed a quick sigh of relief. It was the last breath he’d ever take. An arrow pierced through his throat from behind and he fell.
Cassandra was getting tired. She was confident that she could beat either Aiko or Miranda one on one, but the pair of them covered for one another very well. She couldn’t break them apart and their youth granted them a level of stamina that she didn’t quite have any more.
She channelled magic into the ground once more, showering the area with dust. She withdrew under the cover of the dirt screen. Lynn and Rachel would have finished already any way, one way or the other.
Free of Cassandra’s attacks, Miranda was able to take the situation in. There were a lot of casualties in her unit. Dead Amazons too.
Patricia hurried over to her. “Problem,” Patricia reported.
“What is it?” Miranda asked.
“Francis took Geoff,” Patricia answered, nodding her head outwards.
Miranda understood the gesture immediately. “I warned them about the traps!” she declared. “Dammit!”
“We following?” Patricia asked.
“No,” Miranda answered. “If they make it back, they make it back. For now, the three of us will have to distribute our units to guard this site properly until reinforcements come in the morning. Aiko!”
“Yeah?” Aiko asked. She ran her fingers across her scar.
“I want you to take a portion of the irregulars and take charge of the rear,” Miranda said. “Patricia, you take the left flank. I’ll take the right until Francis and Geoff return. Judith’s unit is still fresh, she can take charge of the front.”
Francis returned in the early hours of the morning. He had a good amount of troops left, when you counted both his and Geoff’s.
He noticed Judith manning the front. She gave orders to a nearby soldier upon seeing him. He was not looking forward to this.
Miranda met him shortly upon his return.
“What happened?” she demanded.
“Geoff and I pursued some fleeing Amazons,” he answered.
“I know that much,” Miranda said. “What happened to your soldiers and Geoff?” she kept glancing at the arrow in his arm.
It got on his nerves. She knew what happened. She was just going to make him say it. “Dead,” he answered. “Ambush.”
“And did I not warn you against pursuing them?” Miranda asked.
“And how many of your soldiers died?” Francis pressed.
Miranda sighed. “Get your arm fixed up. Until further notice, you are not in command of any unit. I’ll assign what’s left of you and Geoff’s soldiers to someone who understands the importance of thinking things through.”
“You can’t do that!” Francis protested.
“Yes, I can,” she said. “If you have a problem with it, talk to Maximilian when he gets here.”
Francis watched her turn and walk away from him. He vowed, in that moment, that he was going to outlive her.