“The Jaccar will wait until morning at the very least,” one big man said. Vilder, Tiren, Gunder, Borsiloff and Karenski all looked at Flern, and she did not disappoint them as she shook her head most firmly. She heard from Diogenes and the Princess, her two experts in this sort of thing, and she spoke as well as she could, and with an uncharacteristic decisiveness.
“The Jaccar may wait until morning or until the rain stops, but we cannot count on that. My decision would be to press forward in the bad conditions because I would expect my enemy to become lax and lazy. I say double the watchers in the night and be sure they can keep watch on each other as well. That way, if some sneaky, grass covered Jaccar takes out one watcher, the other can raise the alarm.” Flern looked down at her boots. She felt sure that whether in the night or in the morning, good men were going to die to protect her. The Jaccar seemed only interested in getting to her, after all. “Maybe we can plan a surprise for them in the morning,” Flern said offhandedly. “A good bit of morning fog might help.” She looked up toward the sky, full of rain clouds. She started toward the tent, not wanting to argue with anyone. Vilder called after her to ask where she was going, and she did not mind telling him. “Doctor Mishka needs a nap,” she said. “And so do I.”
Flern woke up before sunrise and sat up to very little light. It took a few seconds of eye adjustment to discern that the other girls were all present and sleeping. The rain had stopped, and the clouds had cleared off, so the light of the nearly full moon helped a lot. What is that knocking at my door, Flern wondered. “Who is there?” She asked out loud, but soft enough to not wake the others.
“Miroven.” The answer came quickly, and a message came with it. “The Jaccar have arrived in force, nearly a hundred, and they are preparing to move.”
Flern jumped up. “Show time!” She shouted, and everyone in the tent began to stir, slowly. Flern called for her weapons and felt surprised to learn that she now knew how to use them. Of course, she understood that head knowledge and hand knowledge were two different things. She felt the other gift, too—the one from Baldur. Wlvn received the gift of speed. She knew, but it probably would not help her fly. “Show time!” Flern shouted again. “Hurry up!” She said, as she left the tent.
Flern listened to Miroven as she walked to what she called the command tarp. “We are presently arrayed behind their position. If they pull back, we will have them.”
“I hope by the time we are done, there will be none left to pull back,” Flern said, and she cut the connection and found that her headache did not feel as bad as before. Perhaps, in time, she thought she might be able to do this without any headache at all. Flern had gotten up when Mishka awoke, and she arranged things before she put herself back to bed. Now she would see, and she let her thoughts drift up to the sky, and the few lazy clouds that remained there.
“Little friends in the sky, come down now. Bring the clouds to make the wall and I will be so grateful.” That was all she thought before she came to Karenski and the lone village elder who presently had the duty. Gunder stood there as well to represent the young people, and they all looked at her for what to do. “Get the men up and moving,” Flern said. “They are coming.”
“Are you sure?” Gunder asked, and Flern frowned. She did not need her own people questioning her. She was not used to this command business, and such a question might make her question herself.
“I am sure.” That seemed all she could say. Fortunately, it was enough. As the men went off to their appointed tasks, Flern floated up to the top of the nearest house wagon. She looked up briefly and said thank you to Nanna, the moon goddess for the flight, and again as she felt the light of the moon rise up inside of her. When she raised her hands, she still did not know if it might work, but sure enough, light came from her hands and then from her eyes, and it looked like several spotlights of moonlight, like moonbeams that she could move back and forth. To be sure, it looked dim, not much better than spotlight flashlights, but it looked strong enough to reflect off the gathering fog bank. The bank looked more like two hundred yards off rather than a hundred yards, but it should still work if the sky sprites made it thick enough. If the Jaccar came on foot, she figured the travelers and villagers would have an advantage, being able to deploy some of their men on horseback. But if the Jaccar came on horseback, she felt they would be in trouble. A cavalry charge would overwhelm the poor defenses of the village. This artificial fog bank created by her sky sprites should make a cavalry charge impossible. The Jaccar would have to slow considerably to get through the fog lest they become disoriented and begin crashing into each other.
Flern turned off her lights when they began to simply reflect back from the fog. She scared herself a little because it took a minute to figure out how to do that. “Entering the fog on this side. They are on foot.” Flern heard from her elf spy while she floated back to the earth. “There are thirty horsemen down the riverbank. I suspect they will charge once the footmen engage your forces.” Flern’s panic must have been palpable as she ran to where Vilder waited, Pinn beside him.
“Vilder. They have horsemen downriver. What are we going to do if they charge our flank?”
Vilder might not have known what a flank was, exactly, but he moved quickly to draw one in five men on the wall of wagons to reinforce that side. The sides of the wall had been virtually deserted to strengthen the center where they all felt sure the Jaccar would strike. Now, the downriver side of the wall got staffed again. “We can’t do more,” Vilder said. “We can only hope that if they charge, these men will be able to hold them until we can send more help.”
All of a sudden, poor Flern became a nervous wreck. She felt sure that this would not work, and good men were going to die needlessly, for her, to protect her. “Pinn?” She looked to her friend, the strong one on whom they always depended.
“There isn’t any more we can do. We are as ready as we are going to be. I only wish it was over,” Pinn said, and walked away to catch up with Vilder. Flern followed more slowly and dragged her feet but started when she heard from Miroven once again.
“They are coming to the edge of the fog bank and should present targets soon.” Flern ran.
“Get ready!” She yelled. “Get ready!” she shouted down the wall and jumped-floated up again to the top of a house wagon. She saw the first, and then more and more, coming on slowly and carefully. There seemed so many of them, Flern had to hold her breath and listen very closely to the words inside her head. She had to bite her lower lip to keep from screaming despite Diogenes repeating his phrases, “Be patient. Not yet. Be patient.” When Diogenes finally said, “Now!” She almost did not hear it. Then she shouted, and while the barrage of arrows turned out to be an intermittent thing, there were enough arrows all at once to pin more than one Jaccar to the ground.
The Jaccar charged as arrows continued to rain on them. Flern’s hunters knew how to shoot a bow and hit their target, even if they were not warriors and did not have the experience at war that the Jaccar had.
“Again!” Flern shouted, and she let her moonbeams fall on those places where the Jaccar were bunched up. Any archer attracted to the light could hardly help hitting someone with an arrow. Then the arrows stopped, not all at once, but in a ragged sort of way as the horsemen from the villagers and travelers pushed out between the wagons and, spears in hand, affected a counter charge. These men were chosen for their ability to hunt with their spears from horseback, and they cut big gaping holes in the Jaccar charge, but there were still plenty of Jaccar coming on, screaming and yelling in a way that would frighten the villagers and travelers, not because the Jaccar were courageous, but because they were giving voice to their own fears. The screams were the sounds of terror and imminent death. Many were going to die.
There is a battle and Flern runs away, but then the mixup happens and Flern ends up vanishing. Wlvn takes her place and there does not seem to be a way back. Until Monday, Happy Reading.