“So, how are we attacking?” Rachel asked.
“Depends on what my scouts find,” Rose answered. “All I know is that the Tiger unit will provide backup.”
“And why is that?” Petunia asked. “Because I have to wear an eye patch?”
“Yes,” Rose stated. “Besides, someone has to do it in case they try to move around us to get to Artura and her people.”
“Lady Gardess,” Three Amazons approached, bowing before her.
“What did you find?” Rose asked.
“The Torlans seem to be trying to establish a base camp within striking distance of ours. They’ve stopped and are working on clearing the forest.”
“They also have some riders in the rear with a strange emblem on their armour. We believe it could be a medic team since it is using a serpent. Which could be a reference to the God Asclepius.”
“If it is a medical unit, they’re anticipating a long battle,” Rose mused. “All right, we’ll have to move quickly. We need to save as much of the forest as we can. Rachel, you and I will strike them from both sides in a pincer attack. We’ll hit hard and quickly pull back. Hopefully, they’ll follow us into the Hawk’s arrows.”
“They may be wise to that tactic,” Petunia pointed out. “I’d suggest having something else ready.”
“If they’re too cautious to follow us, we’ll just have to keep hitting them,” Rachel said. “Simple as that.”
“As crude a suggestion as it is, Rachel is right,” Rose agreed. “They don’t follow us, we go back in and drive them back with hit and run tactics. Artura, if they won’t follow us, I want the Hawks to move forward and provide us covering fire while we hit them.”
“Got it,” Artura agreed.
“Then, let’s get to it,” Rose said, grabbing her lance.
Caroline inspected the centaur troops. They looked formidable with bows strapped across their human backs and various weapons strapped to their flanks.
“We march first thing in the morning,” Ida stated. “I trust your people are ready to receive us.”
“Cassandra has assured me that there will be space allocated at our base camp for you,” Caroline answered. “It is regrettable that we must tear down so much of our great forest to defend it, but we’re hoping to replant after Torla is beaten.”
Ida nodded. “We will do what we can to help. But the pixies and dryads will be more suited for the task than us.”
“Your majesty!” The centaur that called out to them was a stern-faced, middle aged woman. She trotted over quickly. “The Amazons mount appears to be in excellent shape. She will be ready to march with us.”
“Thank you, Fiona. And, how are our soldiers?” Ida asked. “Are their spirits high?”
“They are eager,” Fiona answered. “Though they are concerned that the Amazons may try to use them as mounts.” She glared at Caroline.
“I can assure you, we won’t,” Caroline said. “We are well aware of what it means for a centaur to permit an outsider to ride them. It is possible that one of our soldiers and a centaur may fall under Aphrodite’s spell and choose to make that commitment, but it will not be something requested casually.”
“You will be held to that,” Fiona said. “Majesty, I wish you would reconsider allowing me to join you.”
“Fiona, you know that the monarch must leave someone capable in charge of things at home while they fight in battle,” Ida said. “You are the most capable person I can think of for that task.”
“I… appreciate your faith in me,” Fiona said. “I have spoken with my son. He will safeguard you at all costs.”
“Thank you, Fiona,” Ida said. “Your loyalty is admirable.”
Miranda was watching the forest when the Amazons attacked. Se quickly sounded the alarm and engaged. Her zweihänder moved with surprising swiftness, cutting down one rider.
The Amazons quickly retreated, leaving several Torlan casualties in their wake.
“Don’t pursue!” Miranda ordered. “They’re trying to lure us, don’t pursue!”
The medic unit carried away the injured and the bodies of the dead while Miranda and Aiko reformed the line.
The Amazons took note of their purely defensive movements.
“All right,” Rose said. “We’re going back in. Rachel, deal with the vixen feralial. She seems to be a captain. I’ll take Miss Jhunta. Petunia, be ready to move your Tigers in for support.”
“Got it,” Petunia acknowledged.
“Artura is already moving forward,” Rachel said. “Let’s try to deal them a heavy blow with this strike.”
“Agreed,” Rose said. “Let’s not withdraw without accomplishing anything. We need to drive them back as quickly as possible. They can’t be allowed to establish that base.”