Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 23
Kensley guided the horse slowly over the soft ground of the ridge. Several feet below, the rhythmic pounding of the formation marched them forward. The mountain pass was sparse, just above the tree line. The ground was soft with soggy earth and covered in a thin layer of freshly budding grass, as if no fighting had ever taken place. Bits of frost and snow still lingered in the shadows of large boulders dotting the rocky slopes.
In the distance, Kensley could see the thick forests of the Tuleforian province start to catch the morning sunlight as it began to creep over the peak of the mountain range. Boughlin prodded at the sides of his horse’s flank with his heels, causing it to slow and allow Kensley to catch up.
“I pray you aren’t too hot in that suit of armor.” Boughlin nodded at Kensley as he moved to the side. Out of the limited peripheral vision, Kensley could see the morning light reflecting off the plates of armor hanging off his body.
“The enchantments provide my body shelter from many conditions.” Kensley remarked.
“I could have never worn such a thing.” Boughlin boasted. “I want to feel the sweat and dirt on my body as I find myself in combat. I want to feel the spray of a man’s blood as I chop into their fleshy parts.”
Kensley turned his head side to side, cracking his neck with a dull pop. “You should have refused your promotions if you had wanted to be the first on the battlefield.”
Boughlin let out a short laugh before yanking on the reins of his horse as the formation slowly crept ahead. Kensley reacted the the same to keep the pace. His horse snorted loudly at him and crept forward. “What is your plan of attack, Boughlin?” He called out, the horse struggling to find proper footing in the soft soil.
“As soon as we see an opening, we shall march upon their gates and push inside. If what Edrian has told me is true, a surprise attack such as the one you carried out will give us great success.”
“And if they are expecting us?”
“My experience with Tulefore tells me that they only have an advantage when they are on the offensive. You know the layout of their settlement, their stronghold at the base of the mountain. Tell me what you believe to be the best vector of attack.”
Kensley blinked his eyes slowly and re-imagined the timber walls of the encampment. “There are to main gates; one leading off likely towards Tulefore City, and one smaller one leading out into the forest. If we split the men and push at both gates…”
“My men do not split up.” Boughlin interrupted, sending a glare back at Kensley.
“The side gate, then.” Kensley cleared his throat. “It is smaller, but will be less defended.”
“Will you be comfortable at the head of the formation, guiding them forward?”
Kensley looked down at the formation of soldiers, in the pristine dark armor, continuing to match in perfect lines. “I do not fear for my safety, wearing this armor. But a gate will not fall so easily, just against men. They will be sure to close us off long before we reach the walls.”
“Formation, Halt!” Boughlin suddenly pulled on the reins of his horse as he called out the booming order. Kensley’s horse dug it’s feet into the ground and shook it’s head in surprise.
The pass had begun to slope downward into the valley, where the land was thick with trees and brush. Through the trunks of the timbers, Kensley could see the clearing surrounding the tall walls of the Tuleforian settlement. The morning light had just begun to shine upon the tents and buildings within the walls. The smoke of fires to warm the men and cook breakfast had just begun to drift up into the air.
Boughlin shifted to the side and began fiddling with an object strapped to the rear saddlebag on his horse. He quickly extracted a banner wrapped around a long, wooden baton and offered it up to Kensley. “Take this, present it to the sky.”
Kensley unfurled the fabric in his hands to reveal the white Lion Emblem upon it. “My men know to follow the banner. Hopefully Tulefore will learn fear it as you lead our men forward to trounce their defenses.”