Scourge Fifty-One – Alliance
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Scourge Fifty-One - Alliance

I don’t think the Commander was expecting my reply, but he does consider it, his attention straying over to the many monsters lingering in the woods around us.

“There is precedent,” he says. “It’s old, nearly forgotten history. But our Lord has fought side-by-side with the Goddess of Darkness before.”

I blink. What? When? I don’t remember mom ever saying anything about that. I haven’t read anything about it either. Judging by the confused look Esme’s wearing, this is news to her too. “Well, honestly, we’re going to build a big army regardless of if you come along or not. But having some experienced Templars around couldn’t hurt.”

“You’re confident,” Lily snaps.

I shrug. “Having a big army is a real confidence booster. Besides, I’m pretty sure we’re guaranteed to win, at least if this becomes a war of attrition. The more people the undead kill, the more souls will be cut loose to become new monsters, and the more monsters I can make.”

Commander Nunez shifts on his log. “What you’re proposing would generally be considered heretical, at best.”

“I don’t really care,” I say. “I think mom would want us to clear out Altum’s people, and they stole from Semper, which pretty much marks them as an enemy. Also, they attacked us while we were on the road, and in Semper’s vault. I think we have enough reasons to want to fight them.”

“You just want to cause trouble,” Lily says.

I glare at her. “I’m not the one who lights buildings on fire on a whim.”

She leans forwards, hands balling into fists as if she’s getting ready to fight. Commander Nunez raises a hand, stalling her. “Initiate, I invited you to come along because you are familiar with the... princess and her companions. Not for you to incite a fight.”

Lily backs down again, but I think it’s pretty clear she’d rather be swinging. I notice Felix relaxing a little as Lily sits back. Was she ready to jump in?

“We should discuss this further, before you rush in with an army of monsters by your back,” the Commander says.

I’m not going to point out that I won’t be leading the monsters from the front. Mom has told me that leading from the front, while brave, is also really stupid. “What are you thinking then? Your plan was to charge in and die a noble death, right?”

Commander Nunez shakes his head. “I’ve studied the history of war my entire life, and have lived through battles and skirmishes aplenty. No, charging in is what someone with overwhelming numbers and strength does. If I were to assault Algecante, then I’d do so carefully. Small raids, where our numbers are even to those we’d be fighting and where our lanes of retreat are clear. My lord has charged me with this group of Templars, which means that every loss is my responsibility to shoulder.”

“You’d use asymmetrical tactics, then,” Esme says.

The Commander nods. “Exactly, yes. Though how long we’d be able to do so uncontested is up for debate. It would depend entirely on how well Altum’s people control and corral their undead forces, and how much value they put in keeping them operational.”

“So, you’re against us throwing an army at the walls?” I ask.

“Oh no, far from it,” he says. “You’d thin out their numbers greatly. And even if your first assault fails, it’s probable that you’d survive long enough to raise a second army to try again. As you pointed out earlier, it would be a war of attrition, and anything that results in more enemy casualties would only be to our advantage.”

“Alright, then what are you saying?” I ask.

Commander Nunez rubs at his chin in careful thought. “How many assaults do you think it would take you to break the walls of Algecante?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen them. One, if everything goes right. I can make siege engine monsters. And monsters who can fly,” I say.

“I suspect, and pardon my lack of faith in your abilities, but I suspect that it would take you several attempts to breach the fortifications of the city. The moment you fail at your first attempt and draw back, Altum’s people will reinforce and improve their defences. They can create monstrosities of their own, maybe even some which will be specifically designed to counter your own forces.”

I want to tell him that he’s wrong but... well, maybe he’s not entirely incorrect. I don’t know much about war. My idea was to create maybe a thousand monsters, collect some local ones, then charge them at the walls and hope the gates are open. I’d come up with solutions on the fly.

And I’d probably fail. How many undead were we dealing with? “Bianca, how many people live in Algecante?”

“The population of the city itself is nearly fifty thousand, at a guess. There should be three times as many people living in the towns and settlements around the city.”

That’s... a lot. They’d outnumber my initial force ten to one or more. And I was planning on making a lot of smaller, faster monsters, those would be weaker by necessity.

“Commander Nunez,” I say slowly. “I think you’re right. I’m going over my plans and there’s a chance they’d fail. My friends and I are pretty strong, and I'm sure I could have some powerful monsters helping us, but I don’t know if that would be enough.”

The Commander nods. “Thank you. It is not often that I speak with fledgling officers who are willing to admit that they don’t know better. Your humility might serve you well.”

Lily looks like she just bit into a lemon, and the lieutenant--who has been quiet so far--looks rather stoney-faced.

“Here is my proposal,” the Commander says. “We, and I do mean we, focus our attention less on the undead, and more on those creating them. Altum’s cultists will vary in strength, but I presume that a number of them will be powerful fear cultivators. Those tend to do very well in defensive situations, or in places where they are outnumbered or in danger. Such is the nature of the emotion they cultivate. They will be tough opponents, I fear, even for us Templars.”

“And they can make more undead,” I say. “As long as they’re alive then... well, it’s like having me around, I can produce monsters as long as there are souls, and they just need bodies. I think they might even be able to raise bodies that have already died.”

“Their troops need no food or supplies, can be brought back from death, and never tire. Individually they may be significantly weaker, but they are still a threat.”

“And they stink,” Felix adds.

The Commander blinks, then nods. “And they are malodorous, yes. I suspect that they carry disease and sickness with them.”

“Okay,” I say. This is going to be a bit of a gamble, but it’ll be the same for the Commander. “We’ll work together, then. I’ll provide the troops. You provide the experts. We’ll hit the city with a plan that’ll allow us to slip past their defences, and then you and your Templars can kill the cultists.”

“And afterwards?” the Commander asks. “An alliance of convenience is well and good, but I worry that my men will not want our backs to you.”

I hum. “Fine. Then we come to an agreement here and now. Let’s say... forty-eight hours of peace, even after the city is retaken.”

The commander thinks on it, then extends a hand. “Very well. For forty-eight hours after our successful recapturing of the city, none of my men will assault you or your companions. In exchange, your companions, yourself, and your monsters will refrain from assaulting the Templars and our associates.”

He extends a hand towards me.

I take it and shake. His hand is like an oven mitt, it’s so big, and calloused too. He’s not a backseat commander, I take it.

“Thank you,” I say. “Are you going to continue to move towards the city now?”

“We are. Our group isn’t too large, but we are still moving at a relatively relaxed pace. We should make it to the edge of Algecante in two days.”

I nod. “That’s plenty of time for me. We’ll keep in touch, Commander. We can send letters to you via monster, and if you want to have a letter returned, I’ll instruct my monsters to take anything you give to them back to me.”

“A workable system,” he says. “We might want to reconvene before any final assault, to determine strategy and tactics.”

“Of course,” I say. “I’m glad that this worked out so well.”

The commander rises, and so does Lily and Lieutenant Obrero. “I’m glad as well, Princess. Ladies.” He nods to my friends. “Let’s enter the history books, shall we?”

With that, the Commander and his second lieutenant walk off. Lily stays.

“You’ve changed a lot, Luna,” she says after staring at me for a moment. “But not that much.” And then she walks off to catch up to the others.

“That girl’s got some marbles missing,” Felix says.


And we're back!

He's the schedule for... probably the rest of the month? Assuming none of these stories end, in which case... I'll post a new schedule?

Monday Heart of Dorkness Fluff Spore
Tuesday Stray Cat Strut Cinnamon Bun  
Wednesday Spore    
Thursday Stray Cat Strut Cinnamon Bun  
Friday Heart of Dorkness Fluff Spore