“They can not stand up to us in open battle Astrid, they couldn’t when we landed and they can’t now. They aren’t trained or equipped to fight Lions toe to toe, but their skirmishers will tear us to pieces if we have a long march. They’ve lived and fought in these lands for centuries. They have adapted their tactics to their ancestral foes well.”
The masters of the Order were all studying a map of Mardrun, not even the Ulven had fully mapped the continent but that which was known was on display before them. On such knowledge did the future lie.
“Mordok and Ulven are worthy foes Folkvar, as I recall you have the scars to prove it. I healed them, I should know. I’ll bring the tea.” The Runemaster retrieved the steaming pot and poured cups for her compatriots.
“Believe me, I have not forgotten. I did not mean to diminish Mordok or Ulven battle skill or ferocity, just that we fight differently. Neither has ever faced tight formations of heavy infantry, supported by skilled archers and engines. Have any of you ever known either race to use a siege machine?”
His question was met with silence.
“Exactly. Ulven towns aren’t built to withstand a siege, either their warriors will fight off the Mordok raid or they break out before the supplies vanish. It’s simply the way things have been done here. Raid followed by counter-raid. I’ve talked to enough Ulven among our allies to know that the last time they faced an army of Mordok was decades ago. It rampaged through Ulven lands for at least a season until enough warriors were gathered to stop it. The simple fact is that the Ulven don’t wage war, not by our definition.”
Folkvar takes a sip of the tea and traces the thin lines on the map.
“Raid, counter raid, repeat and so on. They don’t besiege the Mordok, they don’t fight pitched battles. Their history is one long skirmish. We force them to fight us our way. We attack their towns, surround them and reduce them. If they try and bait us, we ignore them. As long as we keep our supplies and support troops in the center of the column and don’t enter any terrain with an ‘ambush here’ sign they will have to face us to stop us. We can repair our armor and heal ourselves on the move, as long as we have food…”
He moves to the part of the map that signifies the lands of the Greytide.
“The most Greytide will be able to do is slow us down and save their people. Non-combatants may flee but most of their warriors will want to stand and defend their homes. We will crush them in a pitched battle and we will give them no other choice.”
He takes another sip of tea and tips over a few wooden markers on the map.
“This is all irrelevant. The war will not stay between us and Greytide. If it happens it will be all the Colonies and all the Ulven, with the Mordok thrown in for good measure. The Dead never crushed me because I could trade land for time, falling back to a better position, retreating when necessary. We simple don’t have any room to maneuver here. The land we have is home, we have nothing to trade for time. If this becomes a race war they will simply isolate us and starve us out. Not being able to break open our walls doesn’t mean they can’t win.”
Astrid looks up from the map. “Well Warmaster, aren’t you just…”
A harried looking young messenger, perhaps ten, bows and stumbles over to Master Anundar’s place in the corner. The boy hands a letter over, bows again, and leaves. Anundar open the letter and begins to read, his expression turning darker and darker.
“The Runemaster steps forward first. “Well, what is it?”
I’ll just read it: “A Lich has been sighted between New Aldoria and New Hope, a old man calling himself Boomhowler managed to warn a small trading post and fight off an attack. Mordok raised but killed quickly, stopped a ritual the beast was performing. Lich escaped, current location unknown. Ulven know.”
The Masters shared a stunned silence for some time. After a time Folkvar stood up and looked at Astrid: “When do I march, and with how many?”
“Forty Lions and as many Eagles as can be spared. All assets in the area now have a new focus. Send word to…everyone, including Aedan. His mission is still his priority, now we must have peace with the Ulven. It’s not against who we thought, but we march”
“Make sure all of them know. Never again.”
“Not here, not again.”