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Separation: Part Three
It did not take long for the troops to gather their weapons, and in no time at all, we were formed up into a marching column at the gate of the castle. I did not wish for a repeat of the same foolish events which had just taken place, so I allotted those men who wished to stay back along with a modest number of knights and footmen to remain in Euretheyum as well. This would allow the kingdom to still remain protected in our absence, and yet enable my men and I to only contemplate one goal, “Freeing our loved ones.”
As we marched out of the gates and into the moist air of the Euretheyese climate, the gleaming sun reflected off the treetops of our many lush surrounding forests, and only the sight of dead Gyroophian knights killed in the earlier skirmish hindered the beautiful sight. We knew that we had roughly two days march ahead until we neared Gyroophian territory, and that on horseback, this would significantly be cut down to a day at most. However, the enemy already had at least half a day’s head start on us, so time was of the essence. “If only we could catch them off guard before they approached Gyroophia, then we would surely have an advantage.” As I thought these words, it became apparent to me that with our footmen travelling at such a slower pace than us mounted knights, our speed was therefore lost. I thus came upon the conclusion that the best way for us to rescue our fellow Euretheyese, was to separate our forces into two joint formations.
“Sir Demoy!” I exclaimed, calling on my second in command to share my thoughts.
“Yes Sir?” he replied, curiously wondering what scheme I had come up with.
“I feel that we should send our knights forward in order to pass ahead of our enemy, and have our footmen follow and attack the enemy from the rear. We would then be able to box the Gyroophians in, and hopefully retrieve our families.” I continued, awaiting Sir Demoy’s opinion. “A flaming arrow should be lit to indicate that our foot section is ready to attack, and then the battle will commence. The mounted troops will already be in position, and will cut the enemy’s escape off. It is imperative that we act soon, for once the enemy reaches the walls of their kingdom, we do not stand a chance.” Judging by the admiring look which Demoy casted upon me, I could sense his approval, and quickly sent him off to divide our forces in the appropriate manner.
When he returned to my side, I quickly looked over the two separate battle groups which were formed. Most of our knights, along with a group of mounted archers and spearmen comprised of my section, and the mobility of this horse-powered unit was evident. The other group, comprised of mainly footmen and archers, along with a small amount of knights, would be used as the initial strike force against the enemy, while my section would attack them from their rear shortly after. I sent Sir Demoy to command my initial battle force, while I would lead my pincer movement section. With this complete, my men and I galloped off steadily north-east, in the direction of the Gyroophian column, while the slower foot section trudged along at our rear. “Soon, we will lose sight of our brothers, and only a single arrow will indicate if they have successfully reached their position. That is, if we make it to our target as well…” These thoughts stuck out in my mind, and I desperately pushed the doubt out of my head.
As the sun began to set in the night sky, my section of men and I had gained much ground. We had only stopped once momentarily to top up on water and give our horses a small break, but we have been riding hard since. “If we ride through the night, then we should be on them by day break.” The thought warmed my heart, as the chances of rescuing Evelyn grew larger with each crushing step of Heremeus’ hooves. My men were clearly tiring, but their resolve to free their families strengthened our reasoning, and we continued to fly through the rolling, grass-covered plains.
When the sun finally disappeared from the night’s sky, I did not wish for low visibility to be a factor for my men at all. Therefore I ordered torches to be lit, and to be ridden starting at the front of our column, continuing at regular intervals until the rear of our column was reached. This would allow for the men to gain increased visibility, and for our ride to go without hitch. The enemy was still too far away for these torches to be noticed, so for now, we were in the clear. The cool crisp air that the night carried was a pleasant change from the constant pounding of the sun during the day, and our horses seemed to enjoy the change as well, as by the break of dawn, we noticed fresh hoof marks in our path. “We’re almost there!” I was ecstatic, but knew that only catching the Gyroophians was half of the problem. “Beating these supernatural soldiers will be the real task!”
The intense heat of the morning sun was so much that I ordered my men to take a quick break to eat and such, and to allow their steeds to rest as well. When it was decided rather quickly that the men were ready to get moving again, it became quite apparent to me that my men truly were anxious to save their people, which made me proud. After all, there was nothing better than to know that the men beside you were willing to give their lives for the cause which you fought for. The morale amongst our ranks was outstandingly high, and I hoped that this would give us the edge in battle that we needed.
My heart leapt as I heard it. The constant trample of hooves in the distance, and the periodic sound of commands being exclaimed in the harsh Gyroophian tongue. I gestured to my men using hand signals, and we quickly scampered to the far right of the enemy column, just beyond their sight. They chose to ride through a gently sloping valley, with cresting hills rising on its two flanks. “Perfect.” The tactical importance of this prime ambush location was large, and by shadowing the edge of the valley, we were able to keep watch on the column’s movements, without being seen. We counted roughly 2,000 enemy soldiers, including 200 on horseback, which were inferior numbers compared to our own 5,000 troops, with 1,000 mounted. Marching on the flanks of the train of horses and men, were the infamous Gyroophian troops which King Deliuse had detailed to us. Their dark black armour allowed us to easily identify them, and they seemed to be the least affected by the long march. But although a scouting report of the enemy was necessary, I could not help but to notice the long line of Euretheyese citizens, all shackled and being pushed forward by ruthless Gyroophian soldiers. I searched the mass of Euretheyese in hopes of finding Evelyn, but to no avail. They were all so tired, that they dragged their feet along the ground and did not look up, making it impossible to locate any one certain individual. I did not think that they had been given any food or water since being captured, so it became even more apparent that we must act fast. “When Sir Demoy arrives with the rest of the men, all will be well…”
We continued to follow the column into the afternoon, and as the evening approached, I became more and more anxious. I knew that if night reached us before we had engaged the enemy, then they would surely make it to Gyroophia safely, under the cover of the darkened night sky. Just off on the horizon, a single figure was walking towards us, and my men quickly drew their weapons in fears of being discovered. However, as the figure neared, it became clearer that it was merely an elderly man, who did not seem alarmed by our presence. When he finally reached the front of our section, with me at the head, he came to a stop, and I dismounted from my steed.
“Greetings, Sir,” the man began. “My name is Gregory Emanuel, and I have been exiled from Gyroophia. It is plain to see that you are blatantly stalking that Gyroophian column, and I wish you the best of luck in the coming battle. “
“Thank you, Mr. Emanuel.” I acknowledged, although confused as to the man’s intentions.
“I was once apprentice to Gyroophia’s prized sorcerer,” he continued, “and I learned many of his most valued spells. However, I am sure that you know about his supernatural soldiers. I alone witnessed, that he used magic to make them nearly immortal.”
“Immortal?” I curiously inquired, frightened by the thought of an indestructible enemy.
“Well, nearly immortal,” the man continued. “The magical rules set by the Gods states that no mere mortal can be made immortal, so as a result, the sorcerer was forced to leave one weak point on the bodies of his new super soldiers. To my regret, before I could learn the whereabouts of this weakness, the sorcerer banished me when he found me snooping about his lair, and time has found me here.” As the man finished, the new information which he had delivered to me sunk in, and I was grateful to know that the troops actually had a weakness. However, not knowing the exact location of this point, only a quick head in combat would allow my men to succeed in battle.
“Thank you very much Sir, your information is truly of value to us.” I honestly meant every word of this thanks, and rewarded the man with a horse and water, and sent him on his way. “Now that we know how to better combat the enemy, only the awaited arrival of Sir Demoy will stall this skirmish.” Just as these thoughts circled in my mind, a column of billowing black smoke was launched into the air, and the flickering of a fire was evident on the head of the arrow. “Excellent timing I’d say.”
The roar of the attacking footmen which Sir Demoy lead was a welcome sound to us, and my men patiently hid along the crest of the valley, waiting for my command to flank the enemy. “If only we knew how to kill the Gyroophian elite soldiers. Their regulars will not be a problem for us, but these new troops will surely slow us down. If only we knew how to kill them… one weakness… their armour…fully covered bodies… except… their eyes!” My mind raced as I learned of the secret to cracking the enemy’s armour. “The eyes men!” I passed along the lines, “Aim for their eyes!” I hurriedly dispatched a rider to Sir Demoy, in order for him to alert his troops of the “immortals’” weakness, and readied my troops to pounce on the enemy. Seeing as how most of the enemy troops were engaging our decoy force, it left most of their prisoners easily free able to us. The only issue which we encountered was that our archers could not blanket the enemy in arrows, due to the close proximity in which they were to our loved ones. The best method of fire which I instructed was carefully placed shots, one by one, to prevent any friendly casualties.
As the enemy troops were drawn farther away from their prisoners by Sir Demoy, I gave the command for my men to charge, and a wall of gleaming knights emerged on top of the valley wall, and swiftly rode down into the valley below. The men quickly formed a line between the enemy troops and the prisoners, and designated troopers began to release the citizens, who were all very relieved. They were sent up to the position which my men and I had used for cover before the attack, and the gentle slope of the valley wall proved easy for them to overcome. With the prisoners safe, my archers opened up a blanket of fire lit arrows on the Gyroophians, and they were stunned to find themselves boxed in between two Euretheyese troop divisions and the valley walls. We pushed them into the deepest portion of the valley, so escape was not an option for them. After they had pillaged our kingdom, this was to be a fight to the death.
The sun was starting to fall in the sky, and I knew that the evening was upon us. “We did it,” I thought, “we defeated the enemy.” As these premature thoughts cradled me, our lines were rocked as the Gyroophians desperately tried to break free. “Not while I can help it.”
I weaved through my men until I reached the front line of battle, where the carnage was evident. Many men lied on the ground, mostly Gyroophians, and the fighting was intense. All of a sudden, the glimmer of a blade caught my eye as I spurred Heremeus into the opposite direction, but it was too late. Crash! Before in knew it, I was laying on my back, watching my stead gallop away in fear, as the enemy closed in on me. “This never gets old…” the thoughts humourously echoed in my head. The blood stained grass made it difficult for me to get a firm footing, but as I stood up, I ripped off my helmet as custom, and began my attack on the enemy.
A Gyroophian regular quickly approached me, and I easily disarmed him of his shield and sword before striking the final blow. Almost immediately, a dreaded “immortal” charged at me, his thick black armour radiating the heat of the sun. I quickly parried his thrusts, hacked at his shield, and engaged in a slashing competition with him, before trying out my theory of his weakness for myself. I blocked a swing of his blade with my own, before unsheathing and thrusting my dagger into the slot which acted as his visor. The figure hastily crumpled to the ground, and this sequence of events carried on for some time. As the sun began to set in the sky, the battle was over, and our people had been rescued. The bodies of countless Gyroophians laid maimed on the valley floor, along with a handful of Euretheyese, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war. The superior fighting skills of my men and I proved no match for the enemy, and the victory brought much joy to not only us soldiers, but to the people in which we saved as well.
I quickly raced to the top of the valley wall on foot at the battle’s end, hoping to find Evelyn soon. However, as I desperately searched for her, it became apparent that she was not amongst those rescued. Sir Demoy rode over to me, and firstly congratulated me of the victory, before confirming my darkest thoughts.
End of Part Three