Book 2 – Text Updates 019
As cities had fallen before them and their holy ranks had swelled, Ansom often remarked to his Commanders that this was not war as he knew it.
In war, things went terribly wrong all the time. You planned, and you planned contingencies, and you planned contingencies to the contingencies, and you set up reserves and fallbacks to those, et cetera. You thought as hard as you could, all the time, about what to do when your plans failed. Then you marched into battle, and the failures began, and you hoped to have planned for one more failure than actually occurred.
His Commanders argued that things were different now. The great hands of the Titans moved them across the hexes of the world. Who now could stop them?
But Ansom could never bring himself to believe that rationale. And anyway, after Unaroyal, he seldom heard it offered again. All the while, he continued to overplan.
When his Mistress had left him there and taken his brother to glory, he had allowed himself entirely too much pity. For perhaps as long as fifteen minutes, he sat by the side of the road, and declined to entertain questions or issue orders. His troops milled about, or sat in silence with him.
Would any battle ever mean so much to him again? How could Mistress Wanda simply discard him, proceed without his guidance, his familiarity and contacts with Jetstone, even his combat bonus? There would be a battle, after all! It was simply a poor command decision...
Then he raised his head. He looked around. There were three Warlords, two heavies, sixty-two infantry, and sixteen archery left in this hex. There were no Casters, no flyers, no Archons.
And there in the adjoining hex stood Jetstone's finest units, with multiple Casters and Warlords. A formula for catastrophic collapse. His contingency plans...
He stood up, with some effort. His wounds were an unpleasant distraction. "Ford!" he grunted.
Captain Ford trotted up and saluted. "Chief!"
"Cut through the trees to the back of the column, and march forward all the top units," Ansom ordered. Ford was the Warlord for this, a forest-capable ranger. "Leave a minimal rearguard, and pack this hex tight with the best we've got."
In less than an hour, it was war as Ansom knew it again. His vague dread had been borne out, and his preparations validated. It wasn't something he could even smile about.
The Coalition was on its turn, for some inexplicable reason. And his Mistress was in peril. He got brief word from Gobwin Knob, but nothing actionable. With zero move, they were stuck here. But at least they were strong. He organized a stack of heavies and high-level pikers for himself, and mounted the only Spidew. He did not know if there would be a battle to direct, but he felt ready.
In time he saw great yellow shapes arrive in the sky, and settle to the ground in Tramennis' hex. He nodded. "Queen" Jillian, of Faq. It was a good sign that her complete force was with her; she had left the city without having fought. Perhaps it was that she was outmatched, but he doubted that. He had seen her fight with almost reckless disregard for the odds.
Queen Jillian. He grimaced, recalling a time when that was what he'd wanted for her. As "Prince Ansom," he had wounded "Commander Zamussels" with the mere suggestion that she restore Faq and take the throne. He saw the throne as her salvation, then. To her, it was doom.
Irony had never much interested him, but this was too great to ignore. He'd been as wrong as one can be, but he knew better now. At long last, he did smile a little bit at one idle thought:
Perhaps if she attacked, he would have one more chance to save Jillian after all.