The Prince Tactician

10 months, 7 days ago
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“...and if we make our way around the windward wall, the rain should cover our footprints!”

Calliope sat huddled in a tent with Aurelius, reading a map he’d annotated by flickering lamplight. If Aurelius didn’t have such a bright and loud voice, it would have been hard to hear him over the roar of the rain. As it was, that seemed like the easiest part of everything that was happening today.

They were travelling to the nearest town, but this was the most brutal part of their journey since they’d left Whiteflame Mountain. Following Aurelius’s map, which had become weather-worn, they’d made their way into a hilled, snowy valley, dominated by an abandoned fort. They would pass through the fort, and a scant few miles later they would reach Rosenbrun, a large town.

Only, since the map was made, the fort had found new inhabitants.

Aurgelmiri soldiers, clad in bright blue armour lined with white yak’s fur, patrolled it from edge to edge. The fort now looked like one of their own make. This happened often; when Aurgelmiri ships stormed a port and took a town, they did not pillage it and leave. “A conquest is like a dead deer,” Aurgelmir soldiers were supposedly taught. “Waste nothing and use every part of it.”

Calliope’s stomach had turned when she saw the fort. It was proof they did exactly that, and did it well. But Aurelius had led her back to their camp, fire in his eyes, and insisted he had a plan. Now that plan was before her, and she was still nervous.

“This seems much more complicated than just going back,” she said to him. “And risky.”

“We can’t climb the hills to either side, Calli,” Aurelius reminded her. “That’d be even riskier. And if we leave the valley we’ll be delaying our trip by at least two days. We have to go through. But my plan covered everything!”

Calliope looked down at the tent floor. “How do you know they’ll have things set up like you say?”

Aurelius beamed. “Because I’ve attended all of our briefings at home, and studied their habits in the military academy library. I know how they operate! They’re taught to use the watchtowers and tunnels as much as possible. The patrols don’t go outside much because they’re trained to avoid exposure…”

Aurelius had more to say on the matter, but Calliope was already convinced by that point, so she just waited for him to finish. She’d heard a few things about the way Aurgelmiri soldiers acted, but Aurelius sounded authentically like he knew what they were dealing with.

She could trust him.

“...forts have a temple too, which they’ll have renovated, and they won’t skip their afternoon prayers to the asuras, because they believe that directly impacts their ability to fight. So it’s the perfect time!” Aurelius finished, a smile on his face.

“Okay,” Calliope said, folding up the map. “You win. But we should hurry; if you’re right, we have about ten minutes.”

Aurelius jumped to his feet and offered Calliope a hand from her sitting position.