Aiko, Maximilian and Miranda all moved their units forward. Right for the Amazonian camp.
The first sign of resistance came before they even reached their target point. Arrows fired from the treetops at them.
“Keep moving!” Maximilian ordered. “There aren’t that many archers. They’re just trying to delay us. Aiko, take a small part of your unit to deal with them.”
Aiko nodded. She quickly picked out a dozen soldiers to follow her to the treetops. She could hear the Amazons moving back. She could catch some slight glimpses of them if she looked closely.
“Fire into the trees,” she ordered. “I’ll get up there and take the fight to them.”
She used her shadow merging spell to carry herself up to the treetops and her blade quickly dispatched a couple of Amazons while the others fell back.
She probably could have gotten a third, but the Amazon looked like she could be Courtney based off of Miranda’s description. So, Aiko let her go.
The archers quickly pulled back.
“Meet up with the others,” Artura ordered. “We don’t have the numbers to deal with them.”
Aiko and her soldiers returned to the group.
“They retreated,” she reported. “They knew they didn’t have enough to stop us without reinforcements.”
Maximilian nodded. “Then let’s get to the target point before they return. It won’t take them too long. Well done.”
Aiko moved up to Miranda. “I think I saw that close friend of yours,” she said. “She looked well. Don’t worry. I kept my promise.”
Miranda nodded, allowing herself a brief smile.
Artura quickly reported the Torlan incursion to Cassandra.
“We expected them to strike while their reconnaissance was still mostly accurate,” Cassandra said. “We’ll send the Tigers, Vipers and Wolves with you and the Hawks backing them up. I’ll have the Falcons on standby. If things go awry, we’ll move in. Make sure you keep communication open. Susan and the Vixens will be prepared for any injuries you all sustain. So, don’t be afraid to pull back.”
“Understood,” Artura said. “I’ll let Rose, Rachel & Petunia know.”
Artura was on her way to make preparations when she was stopped by a slender woman with short red hair and freckles.
“Hannah,” she acknowledged.
“Ma’am, something is bothering me,” Hannah said. “If I may speak freely.”
“Go ahead,” Artura said.
“It looked like the feralial woman let Courtney escape,” Hannah said. “It looked to me like she had a clean strike.”
“I’m sure she just wasn’t certain with her footing,” Artura stated. “Remember, the Torlan soldiers aren’t used to getting up in the trees like we are.”I think she got up there, quickly lashed out and had to pause briefly to check her surroundings. If we’d been quick, we probably could have struck her down while she was doing that.”
“Do you really think so?” Hannah asked. She sounded unconvinced.
“Do you think it more likely that she recognised our Queen’s daughter in spite of never having visited Preklam and decided to let her go for no reason?” Artura asked.
“That does sound absurd,” Hannah answered. “I’m sure you’re right. Forgive me, I let myself get paranoid.”
Artura watched her go. Hannah had good instincts. The feralial had definitely hesitated. Artura wasn’t sure why. Either Courtney had reminded her of someone or Miranda had been ordering her people not to attack Courtney.
It didn’t seem likely. Such an action would definitely be reported. Unless…. unless it was a favour she was only asking of her close friends.
That was probably it. Artura decided to ignore it. Anything that made it easier for her to keep one of her soldiers alive was fine by her.
She just hoped they acted more subtly in future.
George, Frederick and Judith moved carefully. They had to move quietly if they didn’t want the Amazons to notice.
“We’ll stop here for a couple hours,” George said. “Give the Amazons a little time to engage the others.”
“But aren’t we supposed to be stopping their reinforcements as quickly as possible?” Judith asked. “If we keep moving, that could easily make the difference between their allies reaching them safely and suffering heavy casualties first. I think we should keep moving, cut them off and deal them a heavy blow. I bet we can…”
George held up a hand to silence her. “We need to get there in secrecy, remember?”
“Judith, you don’t need to worry,” Frederick reassured her. “Their allies won’t be arriving yet, right?” He looked at George.
“Not yet,” George answered. “Even if they met with them and got an immediate response, it should still take a half a day for them to get their troops together and set out.”
“That’s about what Rod told me,” Frederick stated.
“Your brother has a good head on his shoulders,” George said.
“Don’t tell him that. He has enough of an ego problem,” Frederick stated.
“Oh, but he always seems so nice,” Judith said. “Why, I can recall so many cases where he just offered his assistance for no reason. If anything, he’s more apt to do that than you are. I think…”
“Judith, I’d like you and Frederick to pass out provisions for your units,” George said. “I’ll get some people together to watch over us while we rest. Be prepared to resume marching on my orders.”