Pallian stood at the crest of the hill, holding his mount by its reins, and watched as his older brother looked out over the likely battlefield below.
It wasn't a good spot for either side, just a low valley with a wide creek across its center. High grasses alternated with clumps of scattered trees, and the dozen or so farms that occupied the area were rapidly being abandoned. On the far side, uniformed men organized into neat units occupied a matching ridge, and didn't seem any more inclined to descend into the valley than Pallian was. Still, they were a foreign army on his father's lands, and didn't seem likely to turn back without a fight.
"What do you think, Brother?" Ravaj was pale-skinned and dark-haired, with a lean, handsome face. He wore heavy armor and carried his helm in one gloved hand.
From within his armor, Pallian inclined his head. Ravaj was the heir, and had been put in charge of this expedition to gain some experience in battle. There was no particular reason for him to seek the opinion of his youngest brother, but perhaps he was having a moment of uncertainty out here in the wilderness of the world, so very far away from the citadel and their father's protection.
"Starting with the obvious? This is no simple farmers' rebellion."
"No. And I do not like the look of that army." Ravaj glanced down. "Or this valley."
"It's a terrible battlefield," Pallian replied. "Advantage to the defender. Victory by attrition. Costly. I'd guess we have the advantage in sorceries, but they have the advantage in numbers."
"So we could win, and still be at a loss." Ravaj was nodding; he was pampered and sometimes cruel, but he wasn't a fool. "Perhaps that's what they want." Not when it came to matters of power.
Pallian frowned. "The best outcome for them is if we attack while they hold the far ridge. The same, in reverse, for us." He paused as an arrow slammed into his armor and shattered. It must have been ensorceled, to fly so far; but his armor was their father's work, an extension of his strength, and Pallian had yet to find anything that could pierce it.
A second arrow tangled itself in his brother's sorcerous defenses; Ravaj laid a hand on the shaft, whispered new instructions, and sent it back to the archer that had loosed it.
"Neither side will get that," said Ravaj, picking up the track of Pallian' thought. "So we'll either need to draw each other out, or keep each other distracted while we do something else."
"We'll make camp here, set up defenses as best we can. We can send some skirmishers down to keep them occupied. Likely they'll do the same, and nothing much will come of it. You'll head south, cross the valley after dark, and hit them from behind. If you can get to their leaders, do it. If you can't, work through their stores and supply lines. If they don't have food, they'll have to move, and whichever way they go we can take advantage of it."
Pallian nodded again. "It will be done. Be careful while I'm gone, brother: they're likely thinking similar thoughts."
Ravaj considered that, then nodded. "Then they may be expecting you. I'll take extra precautions; you do the same."
"As you command," said Pallian.
Notes: I think this will be an ongoing series, but rather like Into The Black it may have a couple of false starts before it finds a direction. Also: if you read the original version of this, Pallian was named Ingloris; I changed that.