"What is wrong with you soldier? Have you not faced almost certain death before?"
The soldier turned to face his commander and Fogand saw that the man was young, no more then twenty years. The soldier spoke up. "I am new to your ranks, My Lord. This is to be my first action."
Fogand nodded in understanding. "See to it that you lose your fear and fight hard. Make yourself proud to be a Houndcroffian."
"I will, My Lord." The man turned back to look over the wall, still visibly frightened, but was shaking less.
Fogand continued marching along the outer defenses. He could see that his men were afraid, and rightly so. They would have almost three hours of action before the main body of Houndcroff's army arrived and that whole time they'd be fighting outnumbered ten to one. It was a fool's fight. The Glocavian army continued to march closer. They could be heard clearly even from this great distance and every minute that passed brought them closer, more into view. Despite the evident fear displayed upon his men's faces, Fogand knew they would hold fast. They might be frightened but they would never do anything to jeopardize their great city of Houndcroff. Fogand squinted into the night as he thought he saw something. At first he dismissed it but then he realized his eyes weren't deceiving him. A group of riders from the Glocavian army were riding at them with a white flag. Fogand's momentary hope flickered before he came to the conclusion that it was most likely merely a last offer of surrender being given to them as a despicable show of kindness. He knew that even if they did accept it, the Glocavians would never consent to merely rule; they needed to slaughter. A minute later, with a one hundred man armed company ready at the gates, Fogand received the four Glocavian riders.
"What is it that has brought you here to our city while your army marches every nearer?" While he knew what it was he refused to let on that he was afraid. "Do you come to surrender to those whom you know to be superior?"
Smiling at Fogand as if he knew that Fogand wouldn't be around much longer to throw further insults, the lead rider spoke. "We come to offer you one last chance to save yourselves and turn over your pitiful city." Glancing around, the Glocavian added, "From the looks of it you won't last very long anyways. Your army seems to have shrunk significantly since our last war. Are your men deserting you when they see our army? Do the remaining men have quivering hearts, knowing that they'll be dead before dawn?"
Fogand scowled at the rider. "Houndcroff will never surrender. My men are willing to fight to the last." Fogand turned towards the company commander. "Arrest these men. They have seen too much of our defenses." He turned back around to the Glocavians. "We will release you to go back your lines after the battle, whether or not we win." With that he marched away, taking the white flag with him and leaving the Glocavians with looks of pure and unadulterated hatred on their face. He walked back up to the top of the wall, fastened the white flag onto a spear and threw into the ground outside Houndcroff's walls. He shouted towards the Glocavian army, "That's what I think of your pitiful surrender offer you cowards! You're just too afraid to fight like real men! Even if it's not today, we will crush you!"
A nervous soldier next to him spoke softly to him. "My Lord, They are too far away and making far too much noise to be able to hear your shouts."
Fogand turned to look at the man and sighed. "I know that soldier. I'm just doing it for the sake of our army's morale and my own sense of satisfaction. Because in the end, Houndcroff will have its revenge for our defeat here today. For defeat is probable, but is certain."
* * *
A courier hustled up to Fargand. "My Lord, another three thousand men have arrived from Dastrage. We now are just waiting on the five thousand men from Lojakir. A courier from that group just rode up and says that they're about five hours away from us."
Fargand turned to look at him. His face was calm and the courier was awed to look into it. Fargand had a short, black beard and small mustache. He wore his hair relatively short and spiked and though many men said that it made him look evil, his soldiers said it matched his daring personality. The crown he wore as he was untitled to because of his princely position was both simple and elegant at the same time. "That's not soon enough. We will ride without them and leave a messenger here to tell them to ride on towards Houndcroff without breaking to rest the horses here."
The courier bowed his head slightly in respect. "Yes, My Lord."
"Tell my commanders to assemble the troops and prepare them for the ride to Houndcroff. When we get there, the battle will most likely have begun. I want the first of our companies to take them from their left flank. I want the second to take them from their right flank and our last company will take them in their center. There is to be no hesitation as we crest the hill. I want no one to pause in order to give Glocave time to contemplate their doom. Once the Glocavians spot us, the charge must already be in progress. If they are given any forewarning of our attack then they will have time to prepare. We must give them as little warning as possible."
"Yes, My Lord." The courier ran off to give word to the company commanders.
Fargand sat upon his horse pondering strategy. Would disobeying an order for the greater good be acceptable? Whether or not it would be considered acceptable, Fargand knew he had to do it for his city, even if it cost him his life. Even if it cost him his family their lives. "Garthem!" He bellowed to his second on command who stood nearby. Garthem came running up the hill as fast as he could.
Kneeling before Fargand, Garthem spoke. "What is it, My Lord?"
"I am giving you command of this army. You must lead it to Houndcroff and save the city if you can. I am going to Glocave with the Lojakir men."
Garthem gasped at the thought. "My Lord, you are under a direct order from your father to lead this army to Houndcroff, you, not me." At the look he received in return, Garthem quickly added, "But if that is your command, My Lord, I will carry it out to its fullest until death overcomes me."
"Very good. I am going to go meet the men from Lojakir before they ride any further. I will take them to Glocave and we will conquer it. It is undefended. Tell my father that if he wants Glocave, all he has to do is send a good portion of the army to Glocave with all haste after he has defeated the enemy army. If he doesn't, I won't be able to hold the city against the retreating Glocavian army and we will suffer needless casualties. You will tell him this, won't you?"
"As long as I draw breath, I will deliver this message, My Lord."
"Yes, My Lord?"
"Good Luck. You'll need it far more then I will."
Garthem smiled. "Thank you, My Lord. Good luck to you as well." Fargand turned and spurred his horse onward into the direction from which the Lojakir men would be coming from. Garthem watched him gallop into the distance. He sighed. He did not want to be the one to lead the charge. He wasn't even sure if all the men would even be willing to follow him. He turned his horse back towards the camp and went to the company commanders.
"Gentlemen!" He bellowed. "Ready your men for battle. We ride at dawns first light."
While at first they seemed bewildered, they were good soldiers so they went about gathering their men for battle without so much as a single question to Garthem's authority. They knew he was the Commanders right hand man and they would follow him to death. Garthem watched from his horse as the camp came to life and began to form up for their departure at first light, in about half an hour. As the minutes passed the battle groups began to look prepared. As the sun's first rays slowly crept over the horizon, Garthem began to speak.
"Fellow Houndcroffians! Today, Glocave has dared to once again challenge our might. They have fielded an army far larger then this earth has ever seen. They have trained for the sole purpose of our destruction. As I speak, Our Lord Fogand fights against this mighty host of men in an attempt to save our city. We must ride hard and fast to Houndcroff and take the enemy from behind before they even have a chance to know we're there. We must defeat them quickly and soundly so that we may make haste to their city of Glocave where we should find Lord Fargand with the Lojakir men, hopefully already occupying the city. If we hurry, we can not only defeat Glocave's army but destroy their city once and for all! Are you with me?" At this, the army led forth a great cheer and the order to ride was given. Houndcroff's army rode to their great city's aide. They knew that they had little hope, knew that they would most likely die, but every single one of those thirty thousand men rode forward without hesitation, ready to meet their doom for the sake of their city.