Thursday, April 2, 2020

Dark Armor 013: Strategems

Pallian reined up behind a low hill, then swung himself off of Black and climbed to where he could see over the top. The Edrian army was not far away, strung out and scattered as they made their way around hill and across ravines. The land here was high plains, almost but not quite desert; mostly grasses and scrub brush, divided by stretches of sand and stone. The orders he'd been given were to turn this army away from the border, and send them back to where Pallian would be waiting with their own forces. It would not be easy, and he'd had a full day's riding to wonder whether Ravaj was deliberately sending him to his death.

It wasn't impossible. Their brother Ariston had gotten into a duel with the heir of the Valinost clan, who held the eastern lands of the kingdom and from whom their father's then-wife had come. Ariston had slain the boy honorably, and their father had declined to punish him despite the clan chief's outrage-- but when Tabrithan bandits had begun ravaging the south, the sorcerer-king had sent Aristan to lead the fighting from the front lines, where he died nobly in service to the kingdom.

Pallian knew perfectly well how he felt about dying nobly in service to the kingdom. He didn't dare ever express his feeling aloud, but he knew that if it came to that he'd flee instead. Rank, titles, a place in his father's court: they were power, they were protection, and they could be revoked at any time at his father's whim. Ephemeral, he thought. Unreliable. His own skills and abilities, the initiations he'd been given and the ones he'd undertaken for himself, were better... but there were dangers there, too. Seeking too much power that way could be taken as rebellion, especially for initiations undertaken secretly. Even the ones he already had, which had helped carry him through the assault from the archer. Even those.

The border to Edrias was closer than any of the richer lands of Teregor; destroying their supply wagons would likely just speed them on their way instead of turning them back. Assaults on the outriders and forward-most units could be done, and might turn them aside, but they weren't likely to turn about completely. Even if he wasn't trying to kill him, Ravaj had set him an impossible task.

His best way out would be to assault the front lines as if trying to turn them back or cut them off, and lure the archer out to deal with him. It was risky; she'd already demonstrated that she might very well be able to kill him, and there was always the possibility that the Shadow of Edrias might show up as well -- even in broad daylight. But if he could manage to take her with the silver net, then he could carry her back to Ravaj as ordered, and let the remainder of the army do as it would.

This, he thought, is the stupidest possible plan ever come up with in the entire history of stupid possible plans. But he could not think of anything better, so he scrambled back down to where Black waited, and settled in to wait for nightfall.

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