“Sir,” the soldier shouted from atop the wall, “a rider bearing our flag is coming this way. He’s riding hard, sir.”
“Is it a messenger?” another soldier shouted from below.
“No, sir,” the first soldier shouted back. “It’s…it’s the general, not a messenger.”
“The general?” the second soldier asked. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, sir,” the first soldier said. “I can see the general’s flag below the company flag.”
“What’s the general doing out here?” the second soldier asked no one in particular. “Is he alone?”
The first soldier looked out over the wall again. “Yes sir,” he said. “He appears to be fleeing.”
“Fleeing?” the second soldier said. “Fleeing from what?”
The first soldier shook his head. “I’m not sure, sir,” he said. “I see no one pursuing the general.”
The second soldier thought for a moment. “Something must be wrong,” he said. “Lacedaemon!” he shouted over the noise of the fort. “Get your men saddled. protect the general.”
“Yes, sir!” a giant of a man shouted back at the second soldier before running off.
Moments later ten men on horseback rode past the second soldier and through the now open gate.
“Archers!” the second soldier shouted. “Keep your eyes trained on the area behind the general. If anything moves, shoot it.”
As the riders drew near the general, arrows began to poor out of the wooded area behind him. The soldier on the wall could hear Lacedaemon shouting orders, but couldn’t hear what he was saying. Two men fell before the soldiers had time to react.
“Sir,” the first soldier shouted. “Two of our men have fallen. It’s an ambush!”
The second soldier swore. “What’s happening?” he replied.
“The remaining 8 men have the general surrounded,” the first soldier called back. “They have their shields up and are riding this way. They’re been shot at from the woods. I can’t see anyone, but I’d say there are probably 5 archers hiding in the trees.”
“Has anybody come out of the woods?” the second soldier asked.
“No sir,” the first replied. “All I can see are the arrows.”
The second soldier swore again. “Lambanu!” he shouted. “Get your men suited up. Wait for my orders by the gate.”
“Yes, sir,” a tall, wiry man replied. He ran off in the same direction Lacedaemon had gone.
“Machomai!” the second man shouted. “Get your men on the wall.”
“Yes, sir,” cried a small, mousy man. He ran off after Lambanu.
“What’s happening out there?” the second soldier asked the first.
“The arrows have stopped,” the first soldier said. “Nobody has emerged from the woods. The men with the general are almost here.”
The second man sighed. “Excellent,” he said. “Tell me if anything changes.”
“Yes, sir,” the first soldier replied.
Moments later Lacedaemon entered through the gate with the general and his men. Lambanu and his men were the first to greet them.
The second soldier ran over to them. “General Strategos,” he cried. “What has happened?”
The general emerged from the group of soldiers circled around him. “Colonel Kuros,” the general said in surprise. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
“Nor was I expecting to see you,” Colonel Kuros replied. “May I ask what plagues you?”
“Oh yes,” the general replied. “Is there someplace…quieter we may talk?”
“Yes, of course,” Colonel Kuros said. “Follow me please.” The two men disappeared from the view of the remaining soldiers.
The first soldier watched the men leave, then turned back towards the woods. “Archers,” he shouted. “Keep your eyes open. Whoever tried to kill the general is still out there. We may have a battle on our hands before nightfall.”
“Yes, Captain,” the nearest archer replied.”
“Captain,” Lacedaemon shouted. “What of us?”
“You may be needed yet, Lieutenant,” the captain replied. “Stay where you are until you have orders.”
“Yes Captain,” Lacedaemon replied.
The men waited on their guard until the general emerged with Colonel Kuros.
“Captain Nikau,” Colonel Kuros called. “Tell the men to stand down.”
“Yes sir,” the captain replied. “You heard the colonel,” he shouted to the men. “Unless you’re on guard duty, stand down.”
The men ran off to get back to their duties.
“Captain Nikau,” Colonel Kuros said. “Let us move into the office.”
“Yes, sir,” the captain replied. He followed the colonel and the general into the office.
“We need a stategy,” Colonel Kuros said once the door was closed.
“A strategy for what, sir?” Captain Nikau asked.
“A strategy to keep this place from falling,” General Strategos replied. “The men that followed me here have already managed to take three forts.”
“Who are they?” Captain Nikau asked.
“They call themselves the Paidon,” General Strategos replied.