The Last Campaign
“Good day to you Vanguard Harris,” said the sentry at the gate, as he made a clumsy attempt at a salute.
“And to you too James,” Harris said as he rode his steed through the large oak wood gates of Oakwell Palace.
This took the sentry by guard, no one knew his name, let alone the greatest Vanguard of the kingdom. “Thank you, sir,” He mumbled.
When Harris was fifty metres out from the Castle he looked back one last time, he knew that if he failed he wouldn’t ever see the castle again. He realised, as a side thought, if he fails there will be no castle to come back to anyway. And with this thought, he broke into a gallop.
Harris woke from his half-asleep state to the smell of the acrid wood smoke that now pierced the fresh forest air. He stopped in the middle of the travel worn road and examined the air. The smell was strong and came in from the west, he estimated the army was four kilometres out. He laughed to himself at how cliché it must look to see a tracker point his noise in the air and immediately know where the source of smell is, but with years of training such skills could be made possible. He jumped off his steed and led it off the dirt road into the forest, he continued through the trees and shrubs some fifty metres until he found a small clearing which allowed his horse to graze while tethered to a tree. He then set off in the direction the smoke came from.
Knowing that the smoke was coming from four kilometres to the west, Harris knew that Cailean’s forces must be camping in one of the valleys on the border of Oakwell fief. Which is odd he thought, there are a few smaller valleys in the area that have cave systems dotted into the cliff side that would prevent any smoke from being detected. The only explanation for them not staying in the smaller valleys would be if Cailean had a force larger than expected. Harris shrugged off the idea, most of Cailean’s force had been sighted on the other side of the country defending Candor Hold from other fiefs that Cailean had decided to get unfriendly with. He could have mustered a force of, at max, 1000 men. Which brought him back to the question, why was Cailean camping in one of the larger valleys?
The sentry was drowsy after a long cold shift and didn’t see Harris dart between the trees, as he moved with the patterns and shadows of his surroundings. The sentry noticed a small movement when Harris was 5 metres away, too late. The heavy pommel of Harris’ skean crashed down onto the sentries temple. Anyone nearby would have heard a small cry followed by silence, no one was nearby. Harris knew that if he was to gain the information and get out alive he would have to do so before the next sentry came to replace the unconscious sentry, which can’t be too far away he thought. It was time to replace stealth with speed, he ran.
As he crept closer to the camp he immediately noticed something out of the ordinary, even from 50 metres away from the cliff edge he could hear the sea of voices as they rose from the floor of the valley. As he leant over the cliff his suspicions were confirmed as he was met with the sight of thousands upon thousands of soldiers camped out on the open valley floor. Not only was he surprised at the number of soldiers displayed before him, but he was also surprised and frightened at how meticulous the camp was set up and the orderly way that tasks were carried out. Obviously Cailean was very popular among his men, or feared, he thought. On this thought, a large figure stepped out of the centre tent and barked a single command across the grounds. All the soldiers immediately grabbed their dinnerware and started being served food.
A cold chill crept up his spine, the information he held was the difference between winning the war, and the destruction of the kingdom. Every second he spent in the campsite brought him closer to being found. As he got up to leave he dislodged a small stone from the cliffside, he watched as it seemed to fall in slow motion only to land in a cooking pot hung over a fire. He scrambled backwards from sight and waited to see if he had been spotted. After a minute or two there were still no yells or raised voices from below so he got up to leave. As he stood up the sound of a horn split the night air, the sentry had been found. For the second time that night Harris found himself running.