A dirt stained and weary soldier made his way into Geraldo’s throne room and dropped down onto one knee in front of Geraldo. Geraldo glared at the soldier out of his eye and scowled. “I don’t recall summoning any soldiers into my presence. What do you want?”
The soldier swallowed the lump forming in his throat before replying. “I come with news from General Elymas. He believes that Aldrick is working with the rebellion. They were far more organized than any of our reports had suggested and as a result, they were able to deal us a staggering defeat. General Elymas requests more troops be sent to replace the ones that fell in the rebellion’s attack.”
Geraldo stared at the soldier wordlessly for what seemed to the soldier like minutes. Sweat beaded on his brow and flowed down his face, and he quivered when Geraldo calmly said, “Do you want to explain to me how one of my Generals, one that superior numbers means nothing to, was dealt a defeat by that sad excuse for a rebellion?”
The soldier whimpered back, “It’s General Aldrick! He is the one that…”
Geraldo interrupted the man with an angry eruption. “I don’t care if Geraldo is there! General Elymas had a force that he has molded over years into something feared everywhere! Aldrick has had less than a week with these people! If Aldrick’s presence is enough to change these rebels into an unstoppable force, then he was clearly the greatest of my Generals, and he was severely under ranked! Elymas had better do better with the reinforcements I’m sending him.”
The soldier let out a relieved breath. “Thank you, Lord Geraldo. I’m sure that General Elymas’ next report will be filled with accounts of how the men that you sent him helped him to win a great victory for you.”
“No.” The soldier looked up at Geraldo with confusion. “Elymas won’t receive another man in backup from me. Men are weak, treacherous, and incompetent, and I have lost my faith in them. Not like my Acerbi.”
The soldier cringed and said, “Actually, the Acerbi you sent with us were all wiped up in the attack as well.”
Geraldo quivered in rage and shouted, “Out! Get out of my sight before I end your life right now!”
The soldier got up and stumbled across the room. He lost his balance and collapsed onto his face, but immediately scrambled his way back up to his feet and made his way out the door. Geraldo watched him go with contempt and snorted at the man once he was gone. He turned his gaze onto his shadow on the floor and said, “Come forth, and cover the land in darkness, my Acerbi!” Geraldo gripped the arms of his throne tightly as tigers emerged one after another from his shadow. His face contorted in pain and he writhed on his throne as more and more tigers joined those in the room. Geraldo’s breath came in short, pain filled bursts as the last tiger emerged from the shadow. He looked at the seventy tiger Acerbi filling the room, watching him with the quiet grace of a predator. “Go to the Falance province and aid Elymas. Make sure that he knows that the price of further failure is death.”
The tigers dropped down into puddles and darted out of the room. Geraldo slumped back into his chair and fought to stay awake.
A man made his way through the small camp to General Elymas’ tent. He pulled back the flap of the tent and made his way inside. He dropped down to one knee and waited for Elymas’ command to speak. Elymas was looking over a map of the Falance province covered with notations from the reports from his scouts. Without looking up he said, “Report.”
“I have come across the remains of what would appear to be campsites scattered throughout the area, but none of them seem to very old. It’s almost as if the rebellion never stays two nights at the same site.”
Elymas nodded his head. “That seems to agree with the reports I’ve been hearing from the other scouts. Have you seen any of the rebels at these campsites?”
The scout nodded his head. “Yes, at one. I came across something quite strange while exploring a clearing to the west of here; a stationary camp building up its defenses. There weren’t many people there, just a handful.”
Elymas looked up from the maps and shook his head. “You found a camp setting up permanent bulwarks? If the rebels have turned into a mobile force, why would they want to set up a permanent place like that? Has the rebellion split into two different factions?”
The scout shrugged. “It is difficult to say without speaking with them, General.”
Elymas nodded his head. “Yes, I suppose it would. Take several of the scouts with you back to these permanent fortifications and try to slip into their ranks. I want you to spread rumors that Aldrick is the one that is calling the shots in their rebellion and watch for their reaction. If Aldrick is lying to them about who he is, we may be able to shatter the rebellion and turn them into easy pickings.”
The scout stood up. “It will be as you say, General Elymas.”
The scout turned to go but paused when Elymas said, “And don’t forget to leave your uniforms behind.” The scout continued out of the tent.
Six men dressed in gray rags made their way out of Elymas’ camp shortly before seventy tiger acerbi prowled into camp. One of Elymas’ sorcerers hurried into his tent after their arrival and Elymas emerged from his tent shortly after. Elymas eyed the tigers appraisingly and said, “Where are the humans that Geraldo sent with you? Will they be arriving soon?”
One of the tigers stalked toward Elymas. “Geraldo has lost faith in humans, so we will be all the support you will be receiving, and we should be more than enough. Is that a problem?”
Elymas shook his head. “Unless they know magic, human’s are no better than Acerbi. You will do fine.”
The tiger growled in reply, “You should know that Geraldo has lost patience with you, Elymas. If you continue to fail we have been ordered to take your life.”
Elymas glared at the tiger. “I was taken by surprise, but I am prepared for the rebellion’s tactics now. As long as you Acerbi can follow orders, victory should be assured. Know this; I refuse to be punished for your incompetence.”
The tiger snarled, “Know your place, human! It won’t be long before there is no need for humans like you any longer!”
Elymas stopped, turned and looked at the tiger. “Do you wish to continue to make threats, or may I go and make plans for our next attack on the rebellion?” The tigers watched Elymas stalk off toward his tent.
Henry snuck through the forest toward the rebel’s camp. The other five men that had came with him were approaching the camp from different spots. They hoped that if one of them should be caught trying to sneak in, that the others would be able to make it in undetected. Henry stopped to watched for any guards and shook his head. He didn’t see anyone that looked like they were watching for an attack. Were the rebels really that arrogant that they thought that their little stunt had sent them packing?
Henry wasn’t going to complain about it though. It sure made it easier for him and the others to sneak into camp.He approached a gap in the dirt wall and was almost into the camp, but he froze when he heard someone call, “Hey!” He turned and looked at man who had called out to him, fighting to keep panic off of his face. “What do you think you’re doing? Come and help me with this wall.”
Henry relaxed and made his way over to where the man was digging a trench in front of the wall. “Sorry, I was just going to get something to drink. Working on this wall builds up quite a thirst.”
The man snorted. “Don’t I know it. It’s not break time yet, though. Some of the women should be around with the water buckets soon though. Help me with this trench.”
Henry picked up a shovel and started to dig at the side of the trench. Henry knew that he had been sent there to spread rumors, but what was the best way to go about doing that? “So, did you hear about the new guy in charge of the rebellion?”
The other man leaned on his shovel. “Do you mean General Adrick? Has he sent new orders in for us?”
Henry paused. This man knew that Aldrick was a part of the rebellion? And they were okay with it? He couldn’t believe it; how had Aldrick managed to convince these people to trust him so quickly? “Yes, I heard that he wants us to finish up with this soon. He expects General Elymas to attack us soon.”
The man frowned at Henry. “When did you hear that? The scouts didn’t bring any news anything like that the last time that they were here.”
Henry shrugged. “Maybe I just dreamed it then.” Henry started to dig harder and hoped that the man wouldn’t ask him any more questions. He started trying to think of an excuse that would allow him to slip away. He had a lot of information to report to General Elymas, including the number of men at this camp, and the fact that they were part of the other force. He just need a chance to get away without making this rebel suspicious. Well, more suspicious than he already was.
The crack of wooden practice swords filled the clearing where Apollos sat watching the twenty recruits he was teaching how to sword fight. Apollos got off of the stump he was sitting on and started walking amongst those he was training. “No! You have to use more than just your arms when you swing! You must use your body to put force behind your swings, otherwise using a sword is pointless! Watch the way that Tara is doing it!” Tara flowed into another stance and brought her sword down in a powerful swing against her partners thigh. “I’m sure that Kenneth will tell you that she put more than just the force of her arm into that swing!”
The men tried to imitate Tara, but Apollos just shook his head at their efforts. “That’s enough for now, go and get something to drink and we’ll try again in a little bit.” The men dropped their practice swords on the ground and moved off to the wagon that held the water barrels. Tara carried her sword over to Apollos, who was shaking his head. “Look at the way they just left their weapons lying around. It’s as if they don’t pay any attention to anything I tell them to do! I don’t know why I thought I could find others to take up my craft.”
Tara sighed. “What is the point of any of this? If Lucas is dead, doesn’t that mean that we can’t defeat Geraldo? Instead of fighting, shouldn’t we be trying to get as far away from him as we can?”
Apollos frowned. “I’m not entirely convinced that Lucas is dead. I don’t think that fate would chose to have someone find two of the legendary beast blades just to have him die. Even if he is dead, fate will chose someone else to take up the task. When that happens, I will go to aid whoever that is to prepare to defeat Geraldo.”
Tara looked at Apollos with concern. “You’re going to leave the rebellion? They need you!”
Apollos shook his head. “I never promised that I was going to stay with the rebellion. Besides, the rebellion has what it really needed: leadership from Aldrick.”
Tara frowned. “The rebellion needs great fighters like you if we’re going to be able to free our province!”
Apollos chuckled. “Why do you think I’ve been training you and the other men to fight? I wanted to make sure that the rebellion had great fighters prepared to take my place when it is finally time for me to leave.”
Tara blinked back the tears that were forming in her eyes. “Will you at least take me with you when you leave?”
Apollos looked at Tara in startlement. “You want to leave with me? What about the rebellion? It was all you ever talked about when you were away from them.”
Tara’s hands formed into fists. “It’s true that I love the rebellion; these people are the closest thing I have to familly now, but I feel that I am supposed to help whoever wields the legendary beast blades. That has to be why Malcolm told you that you needed to take me with you.”
Apollos nodded his head. “Very well, I won’t leave the rebellion without you then.”
Aldrick scanned over the pages filled with the latest reports that their scouts had brought back from the field. Elymas had sent out scouts to try and find him as well. Fortunately for them it seemed that his scouts were far more skilled because as far as he could tell, they hadn’t seen his scouts yet.
The reports suggested that Elymas’ scouts had come across a number of their old campsites. It was safe to assume that Elymas knew that he had made this force mobile. The only question was if this gave away that he was the one who had convinced the rebellion to do this maneuver. He doubted that Elymas didn’t detect his touch on the rebellions first strike, which from what the scouts had reported, had gone over better than he had hoped. If their estimations were correct, there were only fifteen soldiers left and five sorcerers. He had Elymas in the perfect position to wipe his force out, and against anyone else he wouldn’t hesitate to order the attack. Elymas wasn’t a normal foe however; he was a sorcerer.
Elymas was capable of wiping out their force by himself, assuming of course he had enough scrolls filled with spells. He wasn’t alone though, he had five other sorcerers with him, each as dangerous as him. He wished that more of them had been killed in their first attack, but doing so wasn’t going to lesson their numbers any further. He had to work with what he had in front of him, and what he had was not even half trained swordsmen.
Apollos was doing the best he could, but these men weren’t picking up the craft as quickly as they had hoped they would. Aldrick pounded his fist onto his desk and cursed under his breath. He was going to have to hold out on an attack for now. He had carefully crafted plans for how to deal with Elymas, and he was going to rely on those. He hoped that something changed soon with Apollos’ recruits so that they would be ready when he needed them.
Sunlight streamed into the tent, and Aldrick spun to see a man holding his tent flap open. “I just returned from bringing news to the workers in the camp, and I spotted Elymas’ scouts sniffing around the old campsite.”
Aldrick’s eyes opened wide in panic. “So soon? I thought we would have more time before they found it, especially since they found the signs of our new campsites.”
“Unfortunately that isn’t the case. I thought that I should return and tell you right away. What should we do?”
“Return to the camp immediately and bring the workers back with you. The women and children as well. We can’t risk their safety any longer, it is time they joined us.”
The scout nodded his head. “I’ll go and give the order myself!”
Jack, the scout that had reported seeing Elymas’ scouts snooping around their old campsite, strode into the camp. One of the workers waved to Jack with a confused look on his face. “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon, Jack. Is something wrong?”
Jack nodded his head. “Yes, I saw some of Elymas’ troops scouting around outside of the camp when I left. Aldrick says that you all need to return to the main force at once.”
The worker looked at Jack incredulously. “What was the point of building all these defenses if we were going to abandon them at the first sign of trouble? Shouldn’t we be trying to defend them?”
Jack shrugged. “I’m just the messenger; Aldrick gave the order. Help me to spread the word and get everyone to safety.”
The worker shook his head. “Very well, but it might take a while. The women just put the children down for their afternoon naps.”
Elymas stood in the fringes of the forest, watching the walls of rebel camp with confusion. What is the point of making these walls if they weren’t going to set anyone to watch over them? He had been watching the wall for over an hour, and he hadn’t seen any movement from the camp in that entire time. He shook his head. Aldrick was certainly losing his touch if he wasn’t setting up a guard. No matter, it would make his victory that much easier. Once his scouts returned he would mount his attack.
A tiger Acerbi crept through the woods to Elymas’ side. “I have spoken with the other scouts and they reported no movement on the walls. It is time to attack.”
Elymas nodded his head. “I’ll have one of my sorcerers blow a hole in the wall, then I want you and the other tiger Acerbi to rush inside and deal with any resistance that you encounter. My soldiers will come in after you and provide assistance. My sorcerers and I will remain out here to blast any rebels that try to escape.”
The Acerbi nodded his head. “I’ll spread your orders. Just make sure to make the hole big enough for us to get through quickly.”
Elymas watched the tiger stalk off with contempt. He couldn’t understand why Lord Geraldo put so much stock in these creatures. Clearly humans were superior to Acerbi, at least they knew how to follow orders. Elymas motioned to his group of sorcerers standing behind him. They moved up toward him and he whispered, “Simon, once I give the order I want you to blast a hole into the wall large enough for the tigers to get through. Mark, you will stay here with Simon and I to cover the hole. You other three go and cover the front gate. As for any rebels that try to escape, let’s just say that I don’t want to take any prisoners.”
The three sorcerers moved off to cover the front gate, and once they were in position Elymas gave Simon a nod. Simon unrolled a scroll and touched a symbol that looked like a fireball. The symbol disintegrated and Simion breathed in the dust. A fireball formed over his hand and he thrust it toward the wall. The fireball crashed into the wall, and it erupted into a shower of fire and dirt.
The tigers rushed into the opening amidst the rain of dirt, and the soldiers rushed in behind them. Elymas and his sorcerers each had a scroll opened up and were ready to cast a spell on anyone who tried to escape. A few moments later a tiger emerged from the camp. “It’s empty. There doesn’t appear to be anyone in the camp anywhere!”
Elymas shook his head. Why would the rebels abandon this camp after they put so much effort into building the walls? Did his scouts give away that they weren’t actually rebels when they infiltrated this camp yesterday? “Search the entire place again! If there is one rebel still hiding in there somewhere I want him found!” The tiger rolled his eyes but turned and stalked back into the camp.
Elymas turned to Simon and said, “Go and let the others know they are to enter the camp. The rebels may have abandoned it, but I intend to make use of it.” Simon nodded his head and made his way over to where the other sorcerers were watching the gate. Elymas made his way into the encampment with Mark following behind him.
Elymas looked over the soldiers and tigers milling about and a smile crossed his face. “Soldiers!” The human fighters stopped where they were and stood to attention. “I intent to make this our new base of operations, and I want my wall repaired.”
The soldiers saluted and moved over to the wall and began to make plans of how to repair the wall. Simon and the other sorcerers approached Elymas’ side. “Apparently these rebels didn’t know who they were dealing with after all. These walls they built wouldn’t have hindered us at all. The same doesn’t apply to them, however. I think these walls will prove to be very useful for keeping them out, should the need arise.” He swept his eye over the camp and smiled when his eye landed upon a small wooden structure. “I will be taking that as my personal quarters.”
One of the nearby tigers growled, “We will require such a building for shelter as well. You will see to it that a suitable place is prepared for us.”
Elymas sighed. “Very well, once they have repaired my wall I’ll set my soldiers to making something for you. Have you found anyone hiding? Perhaps any clue or indication of where they went or what their next move is?”
The tiger shook his head. “No, we have found nothing. I can’t imagine what they were doing here at all besides building a wall.”
Elymas shook his head. “You will continue to search for any such clue until I am convinced there is nothing to be found here. Send five tigers out to search the surroundings. I want those rebels found!”
A scout stood in the fringe of the forest watching everything going on in the camp. He turned and made his way deeper into the forest. He couldn’t wait to see how Aldrick would react to the news of what happened this night.
Douglas made his way through the camp to Aldrick’s command tent. He pulled back the flap and found Barnabas and Aldrick conferring over the maps on Aldrick’s desk. “Elymas invaded the original campsite last night. It looks like we got our people out of there just in time. It would appear that Elymas has decided to turn the place into his base.”
Barnabas glared at Aldrick. “I’m glad that you went to such trouble to make sure that one of your old friends had such a nice place for his base of operations. I can’t believe that I allowed you to waste so much of our troops’ time making fortifications for our enemy! You gave them up without so much as a fight!”
Aldrick chuckled. “This is all happening just as I planned.”
Barnabas stood up and glared at Aldrick. “Get the guards, Douglas. It would appear that Aldrick has been working against us from the beginning!”
Douglas turned to leave the tent, but Aldrick spoke up. “Hold on, Douglas. This works out to our advantage for many reasons. Now that he has a permanent base of operations, Elymas won’t leave it completely abandoned. He’s always going to leave a handful of fighters behind to keep it secure, including some of his sorcerers. We won’t have to worry about facing his full force any time soon, unless we’re the ones doing a surprise attack.”
Barnabas nodded his head. “I can see the advantages to such a thing, but I don’t know that it’s enough of an advantage to have given them such a strong defense.”
Aldrick smiled. “Good thing that’s not the only advantage it gives us then. I gave some of the camp workers a special task.”
Barnabas looked at Aldrick suspiciously. “What kind of a special task?”
Aldrick gave Barnabas a sly look. “I had them dig a secret tunnel under the camp, hidden so that Elymas won’t be able to find it. When the time is right we can sneak into the tunnels and collapse the camp from beneath them. We’ll be able to take them by surprise just like we did in our first attack, and this time, we’ll make sure that there are no survivors.”
Barnabas gave Aldrick a considering look. “You really thought this through. You should have let me know about it, though.”
Aldrick frowned. “I apologize, but in order to ensure that our enemy didn’t find out about it, only myself and the ones that I had working on the tunnel knew about it.”
Barnabas sighed. “I understand, but you won’t keep anything like this from me again.”
Aldrick nodded his head. “Of course. Douglas, I how many troops did Elymas have with him?”
Douglas frowned. “He only had about twenty humans with him, but he had seventy more of those tiger Acerbi with him.”
Aldrick shook his head. “It seems that Geraldo doesn’t trust humans to get the job done anymore.”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see a Time Bubble Interview with General Elymas. Then come back on Monday when I will post part of one the second chapter of The Godard Brothers, and check out my newly published book, The Kids on the Case.