When the Jaccar reached the wall of wagons, the bowmen had put down their bows and picked up their spears, clubs and long, hunting knives. Some had farm hoes and whatever other sharp instrument they possessed that might be turned to a weapon. They bunched up in the gaps between the wagons and got up on the wagons to strike down on their enemy. They were determined to keep the enemy outside the wagon wall, but the Jaccar were just as determined to break in. This became the worst of it for Flern. She got off the wagon top and stepped away from the action to watch, but in reality, she covered her eyes because she could not watch.
One of the Jaccar who tried to push his way through a gap between two wagons, spotted her, and shouts went up and down the Jaccar line. The Jaccar doubled their efforts, and before Flern could do anything at all, a half-dozen Jaccar pushed through in two places. Those gaps in the line quickly closed, but now there were six Jaccar inside the wall of wagons, and that might have been dangerous if this had been a real battle. Fortunately, the Jaccar were only interested in one thing, killing the young, red-haired girl, and that became a problem for them because she was not there anymore. Diogenes had taken her place and drawn both his sword and long knife, and he got angry at the thought that good men probably got killed or hurt when the Jaccar pushed through.
These Jaccar were not really soldiers, though they were perhaps fighters after a fashion, with some experience against hapless opponents. They had never faced anything like Diogenes, to be sure, one trained in the finest military school in Pella, Macedonia, raised to lead men in battle, born to take every ounce of his aggression out on the Persian army, and he did so massively on more than one occasion. Diogenes once killed an elephant with his bare hands when that elephant was bearing down on Alexander. Surely even six Jaccar would be no problem. To be honest, it did take a minute to kill them all, but then it took no longer than a minute. A village man and a traveler came up when they realized that it would not be a good thing to have the enemy at their backs, but they just watched in stunned silence.
Elluin, Thrud and Vinnu each shot their arrow at the beginning, but then they escaped to hide under the tarp, and Vinnu at least had her hands over her ears the whole time as well. They saw it all, and also the look on Diogenes’ face that suggested he really wanted to wade out into the thick of the fighting, and only reluctantly got distracted by the noise downriver where they expected the Jaccar cavalry. Diogenes walked in that direction, surprised to hear cheering.
The scene was simple, and Diogenes understood something the men in that place did not understand. Miroven and his band of thirty were devastating the Jaccar. Their cavalry charge stopped in mid stride, and those Jaccar that were lucky enough to escape the first volley had no escape but to dive into the river. Of course, the river spit them back out, much to their surprise, and then a second arrow from the elves finished the job.
One traveler turned around and quickly nudged the others. Diogenes did not explain a thing. “Get back to the place you were taken from. Go reinforce the main line, now!” The men hurried. Even if they did not recognize the armor, and they likely did, no one argued with a man splattered with blood and who had blood thick and dripping from his weapons. “Miroven.” Diogenes said it out loud, because he had learned the contact got better when he spoke out loud, and now Flern would know that as well since he had done it in her lifetime. “Go and take the Jaccar from the rear. “I don’t want your knives in the battle, but your bows may help if your aim is good.” Diogenes did not play at war. Unlike Flern, he had no qualms about using Miroven’s thirty volunteers for the work for which they volunteered. Miroven understood perfectly well.
“Yes, my Lord,” came the response, and Diogenes turned back toward the main battle. He arrived just after the men he sent, and that force turned everything against the Jaccar. Flern’s men on horseback were in ragged lines on the left and right, and while they were not greatly impacting the battle, they made sure no Jaccar escaped in those directions while they slowly advanced. Some of the sturdier men followed Diogenes out beyond the wall where they could come face to face with their assailants; some because they had spent the last frustrating ten minutes jabbing with their spears at Jaccar who kept ducking, and then ducking in turn as the Jaccar jabbed at them. The blood lust came up in some of them, and the Jaccar sensed something they had never sensed before. They were going to lose. The blood lust came up considerably in Diogenes, and he, alone, might have sent the remaining Jaccar into flight. Sadly, for the Jaccar, there turned out to be nowhere to run. There may have been as many as fifty who tried for the cloud bank, probably figuring if they could make it to the fog, they just might escape. They did not know there were elf bowmen waiting for this very thing. It may have taken two arrows each from the thirty, but elf bowmen rarely miss. None of the Jaccar made it as far as the mist.
Even though there were casualties, some dead and many wounded, the men from the village and the travelers cheered. Diogenes stayed long enough to clean his sword and knife and make sure they were properly sheathed. Then he apologized to Flern, but she apologized to him, because he was the one who had to do the killing. Diogenes went to the tarp where Thrud, Vinnu and Elluin were still in hiding, and he tried to smile for them. When Flern came back, she let go of her armor. She wanted her own dress back. She wanted to be one of the girls again, and she proved it by falling to her knees and weeping. Thrud and Vinnu only hesitated for a second before they fell to each side of her and hugged her and wept with her.
When later came, Flern felt amazed to find that none of her friends from home were dead or even had anything more than scratches and bruises. Borsiloff was dead. Karenski was wounded as well, but not badly. Apparently Arania and Trell dragged the old man to safety before he could be more seriously hurt or killed. Pinn was dirty everywhere, like she might have fallen in the mud several times, and Vilder said he had to pry her fingers apart to get the knife out of her hand. Flern saw the knife and it looked like it had never been used, and she was grateful for that, but after her cry, she became ready to give up this whole foolishness.
“I’m leaving,” she told the girls in a sudden decision. “The Jaccar won’t come here again if I am not here.”
“Flern, you can’t.”
“Flern.” Vilder spoke, but Pinn stood right there with him, agreeing with every word. “We started this together and we need to finish together. We are going for the weapons of bronze and then we find the men to set our village free.”
“I won’t be responsible for more people being killed,” Flern said, with as much determination as she could muster.
“But the Doctor,” Vinnu said. There were many wounded who could use her help, but Flern shook her head again.
“These people need to know the true cost of standing against the Jaccar and softening the blow would not be a good thing.” Doctor Mishka argued with Flern in her mind, but Flern was not going to be swayed.
“Flern.” Kined spoke at last. She had not seen him since the night Bunder tried to rape her. He had kept away, and maybe she had as well. “I believe in you,” he said. “You will figure it out, and I will be here, waiting for your return.”
“Kined!” Tiren and Vilder objected, but Gunder put his big hand out.
“Maybe she needs time,” he said.
“I will miss you,” Fritt added, and with one last look in Kined’s face, Flern turned and walked toward the mist. She went into the cloud and disappeared. A wind came up right away. The cloud dissipated slowly, but no one felt surprised that when it was gone, so was Flern.