Twenty-seven – 06

[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]

“How far is it to the rise?” Phelan asked, glancing away from the pair of scouts and toward the small army they’d craped together from their own settlers and the Hunt’s members. The group was filtering in slowly, most grim-faced and determined. There was not a single one of them that didn’t realize what was at stake.

Survival.

He took a slow breath, glancing back toward the scouts as one answered.

“There’s a narrow trail about a quarter mile from here. That’s the easiest way up, but it’s steep. A horse won’t take it.”

“That’s all right,” Marin said. “We don’t need horses for what we’re planning. Is there enough cover on the ridge for archers to hide? Are they watching it?”

The scout shook his head. “Not closely enough. There should be enough cover up there as long as the force is small.” He stared at all of them for a few seconds, his gaze wandering away to take in the rag-tag troop they’d assembled. The juxtaposition between the more disciplined ranks of the Hunt and the more inexperienced survivor contingent was striking. Phelan knew full well that must have been weighing on the scout’s mind, filling it with questions about how this was going to turn out, doubts that they would survive the battle to come.

Phelan would share those doubts if he could allow himself to believe that failure was any sort of option.

“We’ll leave our horses here,” Marin said, starting to unstrap her bow and quiver from her saddle. “Cameron and Gideon will coordinate our advance on the flats. How’s the ground? Can we mount a cavalry charge?”

The second scout blinked. “It was fairly hard when we went through. I can’t imagine the rain’s softened it enough to make a charge ill-advised. Is—is that the plan? To charge their camp on horseback?”

There was a question in his voice, doubt—perhaps even the barest thread of fear. Phelan had to bite the inside of his cheek to kill a smile. If he was in the same spot, he’d likely express the same incredulity and concern.

“No,” Marin said. “At least not before they’ve seen us and started to feel the consequences of the threat they’ve made.”

“Threat,” the first scout echoed. “Is that what started all of this?”

“Mm,” Marin said, nodding as she slung her bow and quiver across her body. Her gaze flicked toward her brother for a second, then back to the scout. “Orcus gave us an ultimatum. We’re here to ram it back down his throat and send a message to all of them. We’re not to be trifled with. They haven’t learned that in a year of all of them being turned back from our walls. So now we take the fight to them.”

The scout sucked in a breath. “You are dangerous, my lady.”

“I wasn’t until the world ended,” Marin said, then turned away. “I need to see the maps. Phelan, Matt, round up the ranged team. We leave in half an hour.”

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