Chapter 210: Awaiting the Horde
We arrived at the ground level of the Wall, where a small welcoming team was waiting for us around the designated landing podium.
Sylvie, after dropping Boo on the ground, transformed back to her human form.
“Ahh—oof!” my sister let out as she fell into my arms. “Couldn’t you have used wind magic to like… I don’t know… gently float me down to the ground?”
I looked down at her with a smirk. “I thought all girls wanted to be carried this way at one point in their lives.”
“Gross,” Ellie groaned as she rolled out of my arms, landing deftly on her feet. As she dusted herself off, she looked around for the first time, only to start blushing as her eyes scanned our surroundings.
‘Arthur,’ Sylvie nudged mentally from beside me.
I pried my gaze from my sister to realize that there was a crowd forming, silent and expectant. Callum and Gavik had already handed their mounts off to the beastkeepers and were awaiting orders.
“L-Let go of me, idiot brother!” Ellie whispered.
Dropping her on her feet, I teased, “Are you embarrassed of your brother?”
“General Arthur,” a familiar voice called out. I turned to see Captain Trodius Flamesworth with both Albanth and Jesmiya on either side of him. Upon making eye contact, the three of them inclined their heads respectfully.
Rather than addressing the captains first, I swept my gaze through the crowd. Most of the people appeared to be the merchants or workers who worked within the Wall, rather than the soldiers.
You should’ve stayed in your draconic form, Sylvie.
‘They’re staring at you, not me,’ my bond responded with a faint smile.
To keep the morale high, the soldiers most likely did not inform them of how large the enemy force was, but even then, their eyes were filled with worry. It seemed that having a boy the age of many of their children as backup didn’t particularly fill them with confidence. Some of them were even mumbling to their neighbors about whether or not I was really a lance.
I let out a heavy breath and ignited Realmheart. Power surged through my limbs and the world shifted into a colorless scene aside from mana particles that lit up around me. While the runes glowing on my body were covered by my clothes, it was obvious that the change in my hair and eyes stunned the crowd.
There were gasps that could be heard even from where I was standing and many of the people in the crowd buckled, unable to bear the pressure of my aura—even with me holding back.
“While my presence in this fortress may be unnecessary, my only wish is to expedite our victory with as little loss to our forces as possible,” I stated with my head held high.
The people in the crowd erupted into cheers and shouts as I walked toward Trodius and the two captains beside him.
Suppressing my dragon will, I returned to my normal auburn-haired form to greet the senior captain in charge of the Wall.
“Senior Captain Trodius Flamesworth.” I held out a gloved hand. “I didn’t think I’d have the pleasure of meeting you again so soon.”
The senior captain shook my hand with a tired smile and waited as I repeated the same gesture to the other two captains.
“General,” Jesmiya said curtly.
Albanth removed his armored gauntlet and shook my hand. “General Arthur. Pleasure to have you here.”
“Let’s head to the meeting room,” I declared, matching my pace with the large armored man in charge of the Bulwark Division, whose main duty was to defend the Wall. “My younger sister would like to contribute in this battle. Her skills as a magic archer should be of use to your troops. If you’d like to test her out…”
“No need for that, General. A lance’s word is plenty enough for me and my men,” Captain Albanth responded resolutely. “I’ll also have my most capable soldier guiding her.”
“Benjamin!” Without stopping, Albanth beckoned for a messenger and had him fetch the guard.
“I don’t need a babysitter, you know,” my sister complained, walking up to me. “I still have the pendant you gave me and Mom, remember?”
Ellie pulled out the phoenix wyrm pendant I had gotten her and Mother on Ellie’s twelfth birthday.
“I’ve let you come on this mission as I promised, but you’re not allowed to say anything about me taking extra precautions,” I chided. “That pendant only works once and it’s not something I can easily acquire again.”
By the time our small group had arrived at the familiar meeting tent, the soldier that had been beckoned for by Albanth was already there.
“Stella,” Albanth called out. “This is General Arthur’s younger sister…”
“Eleanor Leywin,” my sister finished with a salute.
“Eleanor Leywin. She’s a capable magic archer that I’ll leave under your direct care,” the captain of the Bulwark Division ordered. “Make sure she’s properly equipped before taking her to the top level.”
If the woman named Stella was discontent with being stuck protecting my sister, she did a great job of hiding it. Her scarred face was expressionless as she held her helmet in one hand and a mace in the other.
“Yes, Captain,” the soldier barked, clicking her armored heels. “Please follow me, Lady Eleanor.”
“Please. Just Eleanor, or even soldier, is fine.” My sister scratched her head in frustration as she followed after Stella.
“My apologies for having one of your soldiers guard my sister like this. She was rather adamant about serving and I thought the Wall would be a safe place to start.”
“Normally, I’d agree with you. But with the size and strength of this beast army approaching, I can’t say that for sure,” Albanth responded.
After everyone had settled into their seats around the table, we started the strategy meeting. Those present were Senior Captain Trodius, Captain Jesmiya, Captain Albanth, Callum, Gavik, Sylvie and myself.
“While discussing battle strategy is important, I believe getting a better understanding of our troops currently at the Wall, out in the Beast Glades, and those arriving should take precedence,” Trodius began.
With a silver croupier’s rake, the senior captain began sliding markers around the large map spread out on the table.
“Each large marker represents a thousand troops and small, a hundred. Does this look about right?” Trodius confirmed with Jesmiya and Albanth.
“Not including the freelance adventurers currently under my wing, we have just bit shy of two thousand,” Albanth confirmed.
Jesmiya used her sheathed sword to move around a few smaller pieces around in the territory of the Beast Glades. “One of my scouting units returned a few minutes before General Arthur arrived. The head will be joining us shortly to report.”
“Thank you,” Trodius said with a nod. “We have a few more adventurers making their way here but their numbers won’t be greater than a hundred so these will be what we have to make do with. General Arthur, I’ve heard many praises from Commander Virion about your strategic abilities. Would you like to offer a plan of action?”
Both Albanth and Jesmiya regarded me with surprise, most likely at the fact that I was not only proficient in combat but in military tactics as well.
I shook my head. “I’m unfamiliar of the inner workings of the Wall and its residents. I think it’d be best if you take charge, though I may offer some suggestions here and there.”
“Noted,” Trodius replied promptly before moving on to his plan.
While I bore little fondness for the man that had tossed his own daughter aside like a broken toy, I had to admit that Trodius’ efficient and callous nature adapted well into his position of power.
The basic premise of his plan was to slay as many of the corrupted beasts as possible before they reached the Wall. This meant that there would be several units sent out as cannon fodder out of range from the mages stationed on the Wall.
Trodius continued on with his plan, moving pieces around the map to indicate four units that would take a more roundabout way in their approach toward the beast horde.
“I believe our main advantage against the approaching enemy is that they do not appear to have a strategy, outside of marching through the doors with a few Alacryan mages to herd them in place.” the senior captain voiced, moving two large pieces on either side of the Wall. “Thus, while we send in a steady stream of normal soldiers and augmenters from the Bulwark Division to impede enemy movement, two units of the Trailblazer Division will move out early and get in position to flank on either side.”
The senior captain paused for a moment before speaking again. “With enough rounds of concentrated attacks on both the front and the sides, by the time the beast horde is in range of the mages at the Wall, the conjurers stationed with the help of General Arthur should be enough to finish it off.”
Captain Albanth looked blatantly dissatisfied with the plan of sending in his soldiers to their death while even Captain Jesmiya was thoroughly studying the map for a better alternative when I spoke up.
Something feels off.
‘While the lives of the soldiers sent out aren’t cheap, this plan seems fairly reasonable,’ Sylvie rebutted, staring at the map as well.
No, not that.
“General Arthur? Is something the matter?” Trodius asked.
“Huh?” I looked up to see all three of the captains, as well as the mages that had I come with staring at me.
“Your finger.” The senior captain pointed at my right hand. Unknowingly, I had been tapping my finger on the table.
“My apologies. I was just thinking.”
Trodius’ brow twitched. “If you are dissatisfied with the plan that I have offered—”
“No it’s not that.” I interrupted, raising my hand. “Whether this is a good or bad strategy, I’m not quite sure yet. However, I feel like this attack will most likely be their last on this front.”
“What do you mean?” Captain Albanth asked.
“The Alacryans have been sending a steady stream of corrupted beasts to the Wall along with their mages, and while effective, thinking from a strategic standpoint, that isn’t a feasible long-term strategy,” I answered.
“Captain Jesmiya.” I locked eyes with the blond-haired division leader. “You’ve stated that your troops have wiped out most of the dungeons that the Alacryans used to hide their teleportation gates in, correct?”
She nodded. “Yes. The few gates that my troops have been finding recently were those already broken.”
It was common knowledge that the Alacryan teleportation gates in the Beast Glades were rather limited in the number of times that they could be used. Even some of the more stable ones that the Trailblazer Division had found were deemed too unstable to safely cross. The fact that the Alacryans had to take a gamble each time they wanted to send their troops to our continent spoke volumes of their leaders’ ruthlessness.
“Having little to no gates available for the Alacryans to slip into Dicathen through, it’ll be nearly impossible for the Alacryans that have made it through into the Beast Glades to receive supplies,” I continued.
“With how untamed the lands are there, they’d be busy just trying to survive once they run out of supplies, let alone plan an attack,” Gavik spoke.
“Which is why I feel they might be devoting everything they have into this last attack,” I finished, my eyes studying the map with furrowed brows.
“Not that I don’t agree with you, General Arthur, but how does that change our current predicament? Trodius asked, his tone impatient.
I circled our current location on the map with my finger. “It means that we might have to rethink our plan of sacrificing soldiers to keep the Wall fully intact.”
Albanth spoke up. “If it means not having to send my soldiers in a single-file line to their deaths, I’m all ears, General Arthur.”
“As am I,” Jesmiya agreed.
“A moment, please,” Trodius stated flatly. “While I am all for preserving as many of our men as possible, I’d like a plan that isn’t based on a ‘feeling’ or ‘hunch’.”
“Fair.” I nodded. “This is speculation on my part as well but my stance is that, in this phase of the war, keeping more men alive is imperative. We can rebuild a wall, Captain. We can’t rebuild people.”
Trodius’ eyes narrowed. “That’s a rather crude oversimplification of the situation, General. What happens if an Alacryan army attacks shortly after the beast horde if the Wall is in shambles?”
“Would a fortified wall hold off mages better than mages themselves?” I retorted. “Captain, I’m not saying we should just freely forfeit the Wall. I’m suggesting we sacrifice parts of our fortress as opposed to our men.”
After a moment of silence, Trodius let out a sigh and slid the silver rake he had been using to maneuver the pieces on the map. “Please continue.”
Accepting the gesture, I stood up and began moving the pieces around, all eyes following my me. “So here is what I had in mind…”