That Which I Vowed
We arrived in the camp just a little before people began cooking for dinner. The one good thing about midsummer was that there was plenty of light left to set up camp and guards before nightfall. As we approached the perimeter I could see soldiers working hard to prepare various tents for medical and command. I could even smell the fires of cooking pots starting to go, everything was looking like it was being set up incredibly efficient for a collaborated gathering of private armies.
The guards standing at the perimeter saw us approach and quickly leveled their spears towards us, looking ready to charge in if we became aggressive. Because you know that a pair of people are going to be a threat against the backline of a seven-thousand strong army. Then again I guess that would make us more suspicious.. huh.
“Halt! Turn around travelers or we will arrest you.”
I raised my sword hand up in greeting while the other tightened on the reins and brought my horse to a stop about ten feet away from them. My ass was getting sore after hours of riding, and I was feeling slightly annoyed and grumpy from the day. I felt jealous that Blue was not going to have to suffer the ride as we had.
“I’m the Red Hero.I’ve come to aid the fight against the invading army.”
One of the guards made a sneering noise as he looked at me and Violet. A spear thrust forward just a little more, if I had been closer it probably would have been intimidating having it pushed up into my face.
“With a woman? Are you trying to have bribery available for the Baron if we get overrun?”
I was about to answer when Violet admonished the guard with her sharp voice. She was sitting up straighter in her saddle, trying to look as regal as she could, though I’m pretty sure she was as sore as I was.
“Bribery for that monster? Perhaps you should learn to understand who you are talking to before you judge them. I am Mademoiselle Écrivaine, Court Wizard to the throne. And I will not be treated like some common putain de rue. Escort us to your commander immediately.”
“Y-yes, Mademoiselle. It’ll be my honor.”
The guard who had been threatening us quickly paled and lifted his spear away looked quite fearful and upset. The rest of the guards also followed suit and moved to the sides, giving us space to pass through. The flustered looking guard quickly turned and started escorting us toward the large command tent set up toward the middle of the rear camp.
The tent was pretty easy to pick out that we didn’t really need an escort to find it. But I had a feeling Violet knew a little more about how nobles liked to handle things like this more than I did. My own experience was just movies and the occasional light novel when I was feeling bored, but she had been in this world and knew enough to take place in the court when she got here.
I took a side glance at Violet to see how she was doing, but all I could see was her in the regal mode of a courtier. Even I was feeling slightly intimidated by her presence, and it wasn’t even being directed at me. The guard rushed inside the tent as quickly as he could manage while maintaining military discipline. There seemed to be a bit of a stir inside the tent before a pair of men stepped outside.
These guys were dressed up in much finer attire than their soldiers, though at the same time they looked less military than the men standing at attention around them. In fact, as I got a closer look at the camp and the men around us, this was seemingly one of the most informal gatherings I’d seen. Though this could just be my own experience in modern military tinting my expectations.
But one could see that they seemed to be quite flustered and even a little surprised to see us. Giving a deep courteous bow to us, the pair seemed to be almost trembling while they stood back up but didn’t even dare raise their heads up to talk to us.
“Mademoiselle, it is an honor and surprise to see you this far out from the capital. But to come this far out alone, surely you would be joining the main army camps. We do not expect to last more than a day or two out here. And to bring a hero along with you…”
Violet reached out a hand, ringing a pair of guards to help her dismount like a lady noble from her horse. I have to say I was impressed with how well she was carrying herself. She walked up closer to the two men and gave a small curtsy to them.
“I understand and I agree that your army will not stop the advance for long. But we need some solid ideas on what kind of warrior this Baron is so we can plot a way to stop him at the main battle. Even if all we can do is stall him a little while getting an idea of his fighting method is just as valuable.”
“But. To sacrifice a hero like that, Mademoiselle…”
I paused in the middle of my own dismounting and gave a look at them. Yeah… no. I’m not throwing my life away that easily. You guys aren’t real enough for me to play that kind of hero. I pass a look at Clarion and even he looks a bit taken aback by the suggestion.
“He’s here as my bodyguard and assessor. I’m afraid we are not going to win your battle for you, Commander.”
They looked a little crestfallen at her comment- I myself was a bit relieved- They looked at me questioningly with some glimmer of hope I would deny that. Sorry to disappoint you guys. I finish getting off my horse and stand next to Violet with a nod of my head.
“As you said this battle is just to stall the invasion. I want to see how the Baron and his men fight, give the General an idea of what to prepare for. Granted the longer you can stall him the better but don’t recklessly throw everyone’s life away here. The more soldiers who survive to meet up with the main army the better.”
The commanders nodded their heads, looking a bit disappointed as they bowed and then offered us to join inside the tent. We followed gratefully and stepped inside, a few moments later I was looking over the table with Clarion, observing the placements of both armies in the valley. It was looking grim but we knew that from the beginning.
The valley itself was fairly large, you could probably fit the main part of a small city inside comfortably without even touching the hills that surrounded the entire area. We were camped in front of the main path to the center of the kingdom, though there were four others each of them went along the borders for several miles before any of them turned back toward the central area of the kingdom. The land was mainly wooded and wild solely from the lack of water aside from a large pond in one of the corners of the valley, enough for the wildlife but not enough to sustain a civilized frontier village… This was essentially the easiest keypoint for any invader to take control of if they wished to access the main kingdom.
“Because the Baron’s troops are almost seventy-five percent cavalry this road is the safest pass to fit the bulk through. Any other route delays him for days, he can afford to fight us and winning a battle over a day or two won’t hinder him enough to seek an alternative.”
Clarions sighed, having taken a perch near the map, the commander looked at him, but he had already been introduced as a magical familiar. Tapping his beak at a spot on the map close to where the path narrowed.
“If only we had a Green with us, eh? The path could have been turned into a horses’ nightmare. Or rather… How many cavalries do ye have here in the camp?”
“There is a regiment of five hundred. What do you mean horses’ nightmare?”
“Quite simply. Ye turn as much of that area into potholes across the entire field, they just have to be deep and large enough to fit a horse’s foot.”
The two commanders got wide-eyed at the comment.
“It would slow him down tremendously having to rework the land enough to fill in the holes. At least a day of work and searching. Corporal! Get the leader of the builder brigade over here. We have something for them to do immediately.”
“How much you think they can get done?” I asked looking over the map to see if I could find something else to suggest.
“We’ll see, if possible we spare as many men as we can from the battle. With this, we might have a different strategy to use if we can give ourselves a better chance of escaping during the inevitable rout.”
I look up from the map with a puzzled expression, the two commanders looking a bit excited as they sat across from us. Violet mostly standing quietly and looking regal since she didn’t have much to say about army tactics.
“We will get him to commit as much of his forces to the battle as we can, and then turn and retreat across the traps, We can then work on regrouping and setting up at the next keypoint pass. We know these hills better than his troops so there will be no chance of him capturing too many of us to continue.”
I nodded my head slightly, giving a quick look to Clarion. He nodded back his head, no doubt thinking the same thing that I was. We both turned to Violet, her face looking a bit surprised as she faced us.
“Blue won’t be recovered enough to help us. Especially if they try this tactic. So…” I spoke to her in Japanese, trying to look a bit apologetic.
She realized what I was saying and lowered her head down. “So we need to tell them to stay in the village for another day. And we’ll meet them on our way escaping from the advancing army.”
“Don’t make me regret leaving her alone with him, Red-san.”
“I’ll try not to, Violet-san.”