Lord Marball had been waiting for over an hour now for Shar to return and he was growing quite impatient. Most likely Shar is dead. If so, that is excellent news! It didn’t matter to him whether that was true or not, accidents happened all the time in a battle. If he were to be mistaken for one of the beasts, who would be the wiser?
He was quite proud of himself, for soon he would be rewarded. Perhaps he would even acquire new lands and status! This was an excellent opportunity to increase the fame of his family and hopefully increase his family’s power.
“There is no use waiting any longer. If he hasn’t returned yet, then the beasts most likely have killed him.” He didn’t say this to anyone in particular, but he said it out loud so that others would hear.
“Time to move out, infantry take the lead, cavalry follow from the rear!” Lord Marball gave his orders, but a man at his side coughed to get his attention.
“Hmm, what is it Roderick?”
Roderick was a close friend of Lord Marball and in a position similar to a military adviser for his family. They had known each other for a long time and Roderick was a talented swordsman.
“My lord, we won’t be able to bring our supply wagons into the forest and the horses won’t be of much use either. Perhaps we should have the cavalry dismount and have them guard the wagons? We could leave at least half of our cavalry here to protect them in case bandits are nearby. Also, I don’t believe the archers will be as effective in such a dense forest. Why not have them keep their short swords at the ready, what do you think?”
“Hrm, I see, it is as you say. Cavalry dismount! I will have half of you remain with the wagons. We shouldn’t require much supplies honestly, but it wouldn’t do to have the supplies be attacked by bandits while we are dealing with the Foxkin. Archers, keep your short swords at the ready!” Lord Marball relayed his orders to the men under his command at the behest of Roderick and they began their march into the forest.
“And you, mage, remain close to me at all times, is that clear? Your job is to keep me safe from those savages.” He said to a man in a robe nearby.
There were only a few mages under the command of the Lord of Enrain and Marball’s family only had one in their service. The Lord of Enrain was unwilling to provide any of his mages for use in this expedition. They had recently suffered an invasion by monsters and he was afraid to have his mages risk their lives against the Foxkin.
Since it was Lord Marball who had insisted on taking on this mission in order to gain merit for his family, he had to take on the majority of the risk. He was provided a good number of light infantry from Enrain however, and then there were the heavy infantry under his command provided by the military. He felt this was more than enough to gain victory against the Foxkin who had at best, fifty warriors.
It was never the intention of the Kingdom to let them live to begin with. They would either die serving the kingdom’s interests, or be wiped out by the kingdom before they could pose a threat. The king had every intention of clearing out all the troublesome elements from his kingdom. Those elements included people like Shar, as well as the Demihumans which dirtied their lands.
I don’t think the king would mind me taking a few as slaves.. Lord Marball cackled to himself while thinking of what fun he would have defiling his hard-won slaves. They would have to be beautiful Foxkin women of course!
He was getting excited thinking of what he would do to them. In his mind, he had already won and it was only a matter of time. Lord Marball had some experience as a commander and he was somewhat familiar with the prowess of the Foxkin warriors. He knew that in hand to hand combat, the Foxkin warriors could not match the elite of his forces. Which is why he decided to place his heavy infantry in the vanguard.
They would meet the brunt of the enemies charge while the light infantry flanked their forces. The heavy infantry was equipped with Iron breastplates over chain shirts as well as iron shields and heavy spears. They were part of the elite forces of the kingdom’s army. The enemy would be crushed in no time!
However, there was a big problem with his plan. If Fayde had planned to fight in a traditional way, by meeting his enemy in a frontal assault, then Lord Marball would surely have crushed the Foxkin as he had planned. The problem was, that Fayde had no intention of facing Lord Marball in a frontal assault, none in the least.
Unfortunately for Lord Marball, he could not conceive of this, as the tactics that those in the kingdoms had studied and practiced were not designed to cope with the havoc that Fayde was about to unleash upon them. To make matters worse, none of the soldiers had experience fighting in such a dense forest where visibility was low and it was impossible to remain in formation.
Lord Marball led his forces from the rear, he didn’t feel it was necessary to put his life in danger and so, he had placed himself at the back with the archers and cavalrymen, who were now on foot. He felt he would be safe here and with his mage and Roderick at his side, he felt no fear. This of course made it difficult for him to see exactly what was going on up at the front of his forces, but he didn’t mind. If necessary, he could always send a messenger to check on the front of his forces and the heavy infantry unit sent by the military had a capable commander.
“Roderick, I hear the Foxkin women are renowned for their beauty, I can’t wait to get my hands on some of them.” Lord Marball chuckled joyfully.
Roderick slowly pulled off one of his riding gloves with his teeth before answering, “Indeed, I have heard the same! Surely you won’t mind giving one or two to me?”
Lord Marball chuckled again, “I suppose I could spare one for you”
“You are truly magnanimous sir!”
They both laughed together.
With their playful banter, they failed to realize that a mist was beginning to form around their forces as they slowly made their way through the forest and closer to where the Foxkin village was located.
His soldiers could only walk two abreast and so their line was extremely long. This made it even more difficult to be aware of what was going on at the front and it took a while for him to realize what was going on in his immediate surroundings.
The column suddenly stopped moving and it was then that Lord Marball realized that a thick mist had formed and visibility was extremely low. He could barely see in front of him, “Mage, what is going on?”
“I do not know for certain my lord, it seems to be magic…” The mage replied uncertainly.
“Roderick, any ideas?”
“I’m not sure, we should be close to their village by now. I will go check the front.”
Lord Marball nodded and sent him off. How did such a thick fog surround us so suddenly? Lord Marball became wary as he waited for a report from Roderick.
He returned after several minutes had passed.
“Lord Marball, the column at the front has stopped and is awaiting orders, they say that it is becoming difficult to see and continuing could be dangerous.”
“How dare they! We will finish these beasts today, fog or no fog! Tell them to march, now!” Said Marball furiously.
Roderick looked nervous, but he felt uncomfortable about the fog and decided to voice his opinion.
“Lord Marball, perhaps we should be a little more cautious, this fog is clearly a trap. It might be better for us to pull back and…”
Roderick was cut off by loud shouts from the soldiers ahead.
“Enemy sighted in the front!”
Lord Marball brightened up at those words.
“Finally! Roderick, let’s finish this.”
Roderick still felt an uneasiness that he couldn’t explain, “Sir, I really think we should….”
Lord Marball wouldn’t let him finished and slammed his gauntleted hand on his leg.
“Enough! It’s time to fight, order the infantry forward into the village and destroy it!”
The order was sent out and the infantry began marching again.
“We won’t be able to make use of our archers in this thick fog, we can’t see anything. Lord Marball, I really think we should stop the advance.”
Roderick was never this persistent and even though it was beginning to grate on Lord Marball’s nerves, he began to seriously consider Roderick’s advice. He was beginning to feel uneasy himself and even though he greatly desired to acquire merit, it would be a waste if he failed here. He was about to order his men to fall back when sudden loud cries echoed from the front of the column.
“Roderick, what is going on?”
“I am not sure my lord, perhaps they have engaged the enemy? I will go check.”
Roderick was about to head to the front of the column, but he suddenly stopped.
“Roderick, what are you doing? Hurry!”
“My lord, I smell something burning…”
Lord Marball sniffed the air and could also smell burning. What in the name of the Divines is going on? Don’t tell me….
One of the men shouted out, fear etched on his face, “My lord!! Fire! We are surrounded!”
“What?!” Lord Marball couldn’t contain his fear.
“Where? Do they plan to burn down the forest, how can this be? Isn’t this their home? We must escape, quickly! Roderick find a way out of here!”
“It is difficult to see anything in this fog and the fire is growing, I can’t see anything!”
Lord Marball frantically looked at his surroundings, but he too was having trouble seeing.
“Damn this cursed fog! I can’t see anything.”
Though that wasn’t entirely true. He could see the fog lit up by the light of the flames and he could feel the warmth of the fire slowly growing warmer as the fire continued to spread all around him.
“Chief, the fire has started, at the rear of the enemy army!”
One of the fox-kin warriors was giving me his report. That’s right, I was now the Chief of the Foxkin tribe, somehow. It was difficult to believe myself, but I was now engaged to Reia and then placed in charge of the Foxkin warriors. None of them complained and accepted it as if it were natural. It seems they all greatly respected me and they were all now following my orders as if it were the natural thing to do.
Reia was close by my side too. She was an extremely important part of the battle plans and had helped in organizing everything. Her knowledge of what the Foxkin were capable of was indispensable and had helped me come up with a sufficient plan to win. She was also an important part of our fighting potential. The kingdom forces had arrived earlier than expected, but we had still been able to finish our preparations. Now we just needed to see the plan through.
The Foxkin were diligent and followed our instructions exactly. We built spiked pits around the village and covered them over with fake ground, we set up spiked barricades all around the area so that it would be difficult for them to escape the fire, and we prepared other various traps throughout as well.
We had basically turned the village into a death trap. With the use of magic, this took far less time than one would think. There was no reason to fight the enemy ourselves as long as we could kill them with traps, although some fighting would be necessary. Whenever we did have to fight, it wasn’t necessary to fight fairly. It was most important that we wipe out the heavy infantry and that was what the traps were really for. Dealing with the light infantry would not be difficult.
“Good, the fire will soon spread from the rear and the front, once we burn the village that is. They will surely be thrown into a panic and that is when we make our move. Have the heavy infantry almost reached the village yet?”
Among the Foxkin were mages with an affinity for illusion magic. They were quite skilled and had begun to create a dense fog. The main reason for the dense fog was so that the illusions within the village would not be seen through until it was too late.
I had ordered the Foxkin to create the illusion of a populated village, but the illusions were somewhat transparent and could be seen through easily. Reia had suggested using a thick fog to mask this and it had worked perfectly. With the fog, it was no longer easy to discern between the illusion and reality. The soldiers would think that the Foxkin were in the village and walk straight into the traps.
“Then let’s get into position, are the illusions working out as we planned?”
“Yes, Chief, Maralli is maintaining them, they look very realistic in the fog and the enemy won’t be able to see through them.”
“Good, Reia, let’s move out.”
Reia and I led a force of forty five warriors to the rear of the kingdom’s forces. The heavy infantry at the front, thinking they were about to engage the Foxkin, were currently marching right into a trap thanks to the fog and the illusions. With the heavy infantry in the front of the enemy column, the chances of many of them falling into the traps was high.
The pits they had dug were relatively deep and and the entire floor of the pit was filled with sharp spikes made of thick wood. They should easily impale any that fall into the pit, especially those with the heavier iron armor because of the combined force of weight and gravity. We made sure to make the spikes thick enough so that they wouldn’t break on impact.
“It’s time to make the enemy regret ever setting foot in this forest!”
Reia seemed a little too excited about this.
Henk looked straight ahead and he could finally make out the Foxkin village. He could just barely make some of the Demihumans within, they didn’t seem to have noticed their presence yet. He found that quite strange because they were supposed to have enhanced senses, but maybe the fog that had risen was somehow impeding their senses.
Now that his men were in reach of the village and the enemy seemed oblivious to their approach, the fate of the Foxkin was sealed. He thought this mission would be much more difficult than it was, but they had traveled this far into the forest without encountering any serious problems. He didn’t know much about the Foxkin, being from the Capitol, but he had heard some rumors about them. It seemed that their existence was quite mysterious and even those who lived nearby, in Enrain, knew very little about them.
They were supposedly proficient magic users, which was why his heavy infantry were necessary for this mission. He knew they had lived in the forest for a long time, but their physique was said to be weaker than Humans. He heard stories of their agility, but their physical power was below a Human. Henk would have liked to get more information about them if possible, but he just didn’t have the time.
Henk was sure that the battle wouldn’t last long, there was just too few of the Demihumans to put up a decent fight. He had heard about their magic, but magic was somewhat overrated in his opinion. It wouldn’t save them, not against the elite of the kingdom. Henk was the squad commander of the heavy infantry which had been sent by the king to force compliance from the Demihuman, or to eliminate them. They were an elite unit experienced with dealing with magic casters and were chosen specifically for this job.
His men were equipped with metal shields, polished to a sheen shine. These shields, despite having no magic qualities, could reflect the power of direct magic attacks. Because of this of the special quality of these seemingly normal metal shields, they were known as ‘Mirror shields’. It wasn’t just the shields, even their iron armor had magic deflection properties and could protect them from direct magic attacks. They were the perfect soldiers to take on magic casters.
Henk never really questioned it, he had seen the effectiveness of them and that was all that was necessary to him. Since the Foxkin could not match the physical prowess of his heavy infantry and their armor would render the Foxkin’s magic unusable, he was sure of the outcome. In a normal battle, with their shield formation, they could stop ‘Fireball’ bombardments. Even if a ‘Fireball’ wasn’t directly fired at them, but nearby, they could deflect the impact and would suffer no damage. They were a very effective force against both mages and infantry.
The only weakness of his unit was their lack of mobility, but this was only a minor issue. Henk considered his men to be invincible and he had full confidence that his men would succeed.
Being in sight of the enemy, Henk’s blood began to boil with excitement. His forces would charge into the village and wreak havoc on the unsuspecting Foxkin. He had orders to kill them all, and he would carry out his mission with due diligence.
Henk raised his arm, which was holding his spear, and violently thrust it forward, yelling “Charge!”
In response to his roaring command, his forces that had spread out in a wide arc around the village charged in. It would be difficult for the heavy infantry to maintain this speed for long, but the enemy was right in front of them and were not expecting the attack. They would be within the village within mere moments and slaughtering the Foxkin to their heart’s content.
Henk charged into the village at the front of his soldiers, he was a brave man who proudly led his forces in the front, he would not allow anyone to get the first kill.
His eyes and the eyes of his men were plastered forward. The fog was thickest at ground level, and while they could see some of the enemy straight ahead, it was difficult for them to see the ground they were jogging on. The only way they knew they were on solid ground was the feeling of impact every time their foot touched the dirt.
And so, when Henk suddenly felt a feeling of weightlessness, he had no time to react. He suddenly lost his footing, his feet no longer touching solid ground.
Instead he fell, without knowing what had happened or why, and before he knew it, he had been impaled on a hardened wooden spike that pierced through his armor with little resistance. His death came swiftly, as did those behind him.
They had no time to stop as they barreled into the village and no warning as their comrades disappeared one by one into the fog around them.
It was as if they were suddenly spirited away, they couldn’t even see the holes that the men had fallen into, only that they had fallen, and swiftly faded away.