George glanced at the sky. “The time should be right, let’s get moving,” he said. “Remember, quickly and silently will be the key. So, I don’t want any chatter until I give the signal. Am I clear?”
“Understood,” Frederick said. He glanced at Judith.
“I’ll make sure no one in my unit talks. You can count on me! I will absolutely…” Judith began.
“Thank you,” George interrupted.
The units began making their way past the Amazonian encampment.
The Amazons were striking in a more sustained fashion this time around. They struck at the fringes of Torla’s defences and pushed desperately against them.
While they were striking, Artura’s unit rained arrows down on the Torlan defenders. Miranda stood her ground, encouraging her troops to guard the line and cover for the wounded so they could get to safety.
That was when Rose made her move. She leapt from a tree, driving her lance down towards Miranda. Miranda’s zweihänder swung up to push the lance away and she punched Rose squarely in the stomach.
Rose quickly regained her footing and circled Miranda cautiously. Anyone who could swing that blade that well single-handed was a foe worthy of respect.
She tried some test thrusts, trying to gauge how fast Miranda’s response times were.
Miranda readily blocked the thrusts. She was fast but Rose was confident she could move faster.
She rushed forward, getting close and thrusting towards Miranda’s chest. The lance pushed lightly against Miranda’s armour before Miranda’s blade moved in front of her, deflecting the strike. She kicked, pushing Rose away.
Rose moved in for an onslaught of thrusts, Miranda wasn’t about to let her take the offensive. She struck back. The pair traded a quick succession of thrusts, parries and strikes. Neither one could hit the other.
Rose wondered how quickly Miranda would tire out. She was strong, but she was also swinging a massive blade. The real question was, would Miranda tire quickly enough to beat her before they withdrew?
Rachel managed to find the vixen quickly. She was swinging her blade at some Amazon soldiers. The blade was definitely enchanted. It swung far too smoothly and had a feeling to it beyond a normal blade.
She approached the feralial with a confident stride and held out her sabre.
“Rachel Halbre, Leader of the Amazonian Viper unit challenges you.”
“I’m Aiko Kugari,” Aiko answered. “I’ll warn you now, I won’t lose.”
“Cocky little thing, aren’t you?” Rachel muttered.
Aiko shrugged. “I’ve fought a crystal hydra and worked my way to the top of Orontios’ arena. If it’s one on one, there aren’t many I can’t beat.”
“Well, I don’t dislike confidence like that,” Rachel stated. “If you weren’t my enemy, you might even be my type.” She ran forward, slashing at Aiko’s face. “But I won’t take it easy on you.”
Aiko blocked her initial strike easily enough. She somersaulted towards Rachel, thrusting and slashing as she went and forcing the Amazon to take the defensive.
Rachel could block and narrowly evade her strikes by focusing all her energy on it, but the vixen wasn’t giving her any chances to counter.
Rachel would just have to make her own opening. She waiting for Aiko to make a strong, straight thrust and dropped, jabbing her own sabre at Aiko’s chest. The vixen vanished, sinking into the ground only to reappear behind Rachel. Rachel couldn’t block in time and ended up taking a nasty cut into her armour.
Rachel thrust her blade backwards, it met Aiko’s own blade as she parried the strike.
The vixen was every bit as good as she’d boasted. Aiko hurriedly withdrew when several arrows narrowly missed her. Two of Rachel’s soldiers hurried over.
“Time to withdraw,” one said. “Rose’s order.”
Rachel almost protested, but stopped herself. She nodded and allowed them to lead her away while Artura’s ladies provided covering fire.
She met with Rose on the way back.
“You manage to beat Jhunta?” Rachel asked.
“No,” Rose answered. “Perhaps with more time, but their rear troops were starting to come forward to encircle us. We’ll give it another shot in a little bit. How about you?”
“I didn’t either,” Rachel answered. “That feralial is very good. She’s got magic skills and an enchanted sword. Cassandra could beat her but I don’t know if I can.”
“You’ll have a better grasp of her abilities and style next time,” Rose stated. “Could make all the difference.”
“How are we doing?” Maximilian asked.
“Twenty eight percent of my unit is injured,” Miranda reported. Our casualties have been, thankfully, minimal.”
“I have about three percent fatalities and close to thirty percent injuries,” Aiko stated.
“My injuries are a bit lighter but not by that much,” Maximilian said. “We may have to withdraw after their next attack. Make sure everyone knows that, if that order goes through, the strongest should take the rear to cover for the wounded.” He glanced at Miranda’s armour. “One of them get close to you?”
“I engaged on of their unit leaders,” Miranda reported. “My armour’s a little dented in places, but I’m fine.”
“I engaged one as well,” Aiko said. “Her name was Rachel. I had her on the ropes for a while, but her troops came to her rescue.”
Maximilian nodded. “All right. I’ll start the preparations. If we’re going to run, I want some kind of edge. Fortunately, I do have a plan.”
“What did you have in mind?” Miranda asked.
“I’m going to spread some oil and light the forest ablaze,” Maximilian answered. “They’ll have to stop to fight the blaze if they want to safeguard their precious forest. If we’re lucky, we may severely burn or even kill some of them.”
Miranda tried to think of some objection that Maximilian would accept. After all, if the forest burned the archers in the trees would be the most at risk. Including Courtney.
She couldn’t think of a single objection Maximilian would accept.