Darken Rahl had never lost a battle. D'haran, under his command, stroke ultimate fear into any opposition. The D'haran army ruthlessly slaughtered anyone that challenged the tyranny of the lord.
But the winning streak just came to an end as Darken Rahl suffered the worst defeat.
Even after the D'haran army broke through the square, Tony sent out groups of lancers to ride down the escaping troops. He didn't want to kill Darken Rahl, but he wanted to make him as weak as possible. The long lances tore through any group that was larger than ten men and crushed Darken Rahl's plan to regroup and cut the loses. The way back to People's Palace was a trail of tears as countless D'harans were rode down after being exhausted. The light lancers pushed on with their superior speed. Darken Rahl fled as his men fell.
The lord finally had a chance to calm down and catch his breath behind the tall walls of the People's Palace. The lancers whistled at the walls, but they could do nothing to the fortress. After hunting down the last straggler, the lancers left, and the lord had a chance to count the losses.
"Out of the 8000 foot soldiers, 7500 of them didn't return. Less than 30 Dragon Corps from the campaign remain. Half the mord'sith are dead. The survivors are mostly wounded. Only half of them can still fight." A general reported slowly, slightly afraid Darken Rahl would cut him down to express some anger. But the man just stood in his chair and stayed quiet.
"My lord." Freya walked up. Her red leather was covered by blood. A trail of blood stained her pretty face. She had several wounds, but she ignored them as according to experience she found them non-lethal. What's more important is the need to cheer up her leader. "We still have 500 foot soldiers and 300 Dragon Corps that held the Palace. This place is a fortress with enough food and supply. The walls are made impenetrable by magic. 1000 combatants can hold the ground long enough for the border garrisons to march back and defeat the rebel alliance. We are not lost just yet." Her voice radiated confidence in the darkest hours.
But Darken Rahl wasn't inspired. He was always successful after he murdered his father and took over the throne of D'hara, and this shaped his utter pride. Rahl thought himself as invincible, but the settings of the rebel alliance crushed his plan. He was broken by the deadly web Tony knit. Now that the web already caught him, Darken Rahl could understand all the steps his enemy took against him. But the more he knew, the more creeped out he was.
Before the battle even began, Tony planted a spy among his ranks. General Dumont. Somehow the rebel leader turned him. Darken Rahl didn't know the real Dumont was already a pile of ashes and a shapeshifter took his place. Then, knowing that he had a spy in the rebel alliance, Tony claimed he would bait and flood the D'haran army. Tony knew the spy would report the plan to him, and he would lead the army to point A. After all, a discovered trap is no longer threatening. But, using the opening and sending scouts to keep the D'haran army occupied as long as possible, the main rebel army marched down to the open belly of People's Palace. Tony knew he would retreat as quick as possible and would take some risk, and he set up an ambush in the perfect location. Now that he thought about it, it was the traitor that suggested going through the valley of death. This was all part of the plan. Darken Rahl wiped his forehead. He was being set up from the beginning. Whoever this Tony is, he's good. Darken Rahl had a feeling that even if the border garrison returned them would fall.
Then he realized the solution. If Tony could defeat him, then he could win the war by killing outside the battlefield...Of course, assassinating a leader that was protected by an army wasn't the easiest thing, but he had access to someone that made a living by assassination.
Darken Rahl waved out his underlings. He walked to a fireplace and tossed some magic powder into the fire. Seconds later the red flame turned green. "Sister Keri..." He spoke slowly...
The rebel army set up a siege around the People's Palace. Dozens of catapults were set up by engineers that joined the rebel cause. These weapons continuously tossed giant rocks at the palace walls. The walls were of course protected by magic, but the magic had a limit and the rocks didn't. Tons of rocks smashed onto the protective layer of magic with immense kinetic energy and shook the shield. As time passed, the shield started to grow more and more cracks. It would be a matter of time before the magic falls. As soon as the magic falls, so will the D'haran empire.
The border garrisons received news of the situation and returned to aid their lord, but the kingdoms around D'hara, including Caddock, mobilized their forces threateningly. They didn't dare attacking the D'harans when they were strong, but now that they were in crisis the kingdoms gained enough confidence to act. Even though the kingdoms didn't attack, just their presence forced the garrison commanders to leave a fraction behind to defend. As a result, the reinforcements were few and scattered.
"Leonard." Tony knew he had to buy some time to take down the capital. Once the palace fell, the D'harans would be leaderless and weak. They would likely yield to him, who proved stronger and more menacing than their former leader. He needed to buy time. "I'll give you 1000 men. Move upon the garrisons and do everything you can to stall them. Use all means necessary. It'll be great if you can defeat them, but all you need to do is stop them from reinforcing here."
"Are you sure?" Leonard frowned. "We have 5000 legit combatants. If I leave with twenty percent of them, can you still break through the palace? This is a tough stronghold defended by at least 1000 strong and has enough food for years. Normally we need ten times the men to conquer a castle by force. We don't have the man."
"I'll be fine." Tony said confidently. "The walls can't hold forever. Go." Leonard nodded. He was the adviser and Tony was the leader. His job was to give suggestions that Tony would choose from.
Darken Rahl watched from the castle wall as a fraction of the rebel army left the camp and headed off into a distance. He knew they were leaving to intercept the garrison, but he didn't care. He was never planning on defeating his enemy with an honorable combat.
Tony, enjoy you victory, for your days are numbered... He thought viciously.
It was days since the 1000 interception forces left. Tony launched several assaults on People's Palace but all of them failed after dozens of dead. Tony didn't mind. He was simply testing the water. Instead, he simply continued to bombard the now defenseless walls and waited for a chance to launch a final attack that would seal the deal. He ignored the fact that these testings resulted in the death hundreds of noble warriors.
As night fell and darkness covered the environment, the rebel camp went silent. The catapults stopped firing, and most of the soldiers went to bed. They knew a good night of sleep could enhance their chance of survival if they needed to fight for their lives tomorrow.
Several figures lurked in the woods beside the rebel camp. They wore red cloaks that covered their pleasant curves and their faces. They seemed innocent and beautiful, but their sharp weapons, the dacras, suggested otherwise. Slowly and discreetly, they approached the rebel camp like vipers.
The rebel camp was far from defenseless. Leonard had heard of way too many stories of how armies collapsed due to a surprise attack at night to leave such a shining opening. Four towers were constructed at the door, each of them manned by a soldier that would wake up the rest of the army with a horn if enemies approached. Half a dozen soldiers stood guard at the gate. Several armed patrols moved around the camp with torches. That was just the obvious defenses. Multiple hidden sentries were hidden around the camp. If all the guards fell without giving off a warning, they would finish that job. As soon as a warning was given, the rebel army would assemble into squares and face whatever enemy awaits. Everything seemed perfect.
Except when none of the tricks worked.
Johnson lied under a grass cover, leaving only his eyes out to scan the surrounding. Johnson was a member of the MIA due to his ruthlessness in combat and his skills with his sword. He was impressed, but not that impressed. After all, he didn't join the rebel for fame but for something else. The man signed. A while ago his wife was killed by a D'haran who tried to rape her and failed. He was out when that happened and came home to find his wife dead. The neighbors told him what happened. They warned him not to get revenge because he would die like every other rebel that stood up and fought. He refused and joined a local rebel fraction, which later joined the rebel alliance. At first he frowned upon a teenager being his leader, but then this teenager brought him to victory and gave him a chance to get vengeance for his wife. Tony helped him get revenge, and he was willing to give his life in return. Johnson continued to scan the surrounding before he felt something cold next to his neck. He reached for his sword, but it was too late. The dacra moved, and the man fell down with his throat open. A woman in red grinned proudly and left the hiding. Further away, six more guards were assassinated, and all the hidden pieces were removed.
Six figures ran toward the guards at the gate. The guard saw the incoming and tried to react, but the figures raised their hands simultaneously, and the men merely saw a silver flash before losing conscious. Four of them threw their weapons out, and the towers were silenced forever. The figures walked past the gate and into the camp. They carefully dodged the patrols before arriving at the largest tent in the army. One of the figures cut a hole in the back of the tent and peaked inside. There sat their target.
The figures exchanged a look before charging inside with all the determination in the world...
Leonard was riding on a horse as he lead 1000 troops down a road to battle. He grinned with utter confidence. For the first time he could command a battle completely by himself. Leonard grew up listening to stories of ancient warriors that used their mind as well as their strength to conquer formidable enemies. The ancient days was a great time period for heroes. Sometimes he wished he lived in the past where swords and spears dominated the art of war instead of missiles and tanks. Nowadays no one cared about tactics and ambushes but instead focused on economy and politics. The art of war became useless. Leonard thought he might never get a chance to use what he learned from the stories, but now he was given the chance.
The ambush on the D'harans was less than challenging. The D'harans knew nothing about tactics. Their command was probably limited to charge or fall back. He was much smarter. With a few smart moves he outmaneuvered a seemingly powerful enemy and forced him back to his turtle shells. Still, he never lost his caution. He knew all too well how a overconfident general could lead to the destruction of his men and himself. In order to make sure he didn't get sneaked upon, he sent dozens of scouts that formed a web around his army, making sure anyone that got close would be spotted half an hour before they can reach the real army.
A rider approached from a distance.
"Commander." The scout stopped and reported respectfully. "The four D'haran border garrisons have converged and are marching toward us. We will meet them in less than a day."
"How many men do they have?"
"How do you know?" Harry frowned suspiciously. He acted as an assistant of Leonard along with Nick. "Did you count the men?"
"I counted the stoves, just like commander Sun told me to." The rider replied with a strange look.
"You did great. Return to scouting duty." Leonard said encouragingly.
"Yes commander." The scout rode away.
"I suggest we set up a defensive position and stall the garrisons. We can't fight 3000 men in a fair fight." Harry suggested.
"We don't need to stand our ground." Leonard stated. "We just have to make sure these troops move as slow as possible. I have a brilliant idea..."
For the next day the D'haran garrison found itself in a sticky situation. Sometime as the army was marching some arrows would fly out from some corner. Sometimes the projectiles got a man or two and sometimes they missed, but either way the D'harans had to slow down and be careful to make sure there would be no more arrows. Sometimes when the men thought the archer was gone another arrow would come out. Sometimes the men would try to charge and take down the archer, but all these brave men received was the back of a few escaping archers and half a dozen dead bodies. The casualty was not as painful as the damage to morale. Every time some noise appeared could force the marching army to pause and stay alert for minutes no matter how much the generals ordered them to stand up and march, especially after two obedient men were sniped. The garrison moved slower and slower.
Even at night Leonard didn't allow the D'harans to sleep well. For every hour Leonard sent a small group of mobile troops to harass the camps. The first few times the D'harans reacted swiftly. The battle hardened troops ran out of their tents and formed thick squares with swords in hand within minutes. They were ready for whatever enemy that would charge the line, but the rebel soldiers noticed their alert and immediately fell back into the cover of the night. These groups didn't cause much damage, but they prevented the exhausted D'harans from taking rest and preparing themselves for combat. Most of the rebels, on the other hand, slept soundly.
"Filthy rebel scum!" The commanding general cursed as he was awoken for the fifth time. He carried a large sword and shouted at the escaping enemy. "Come back here and fight me like a man!" The general was a warrior that fought between life and death. Never before had he dealt with such a shameless tactic. "You coward scum!" He tried his best to find more effective curses, and ended up with nothing more than "scum" and "coward".
Leonard, who happened to be in the group, smiled viciously. "Don't worry. You'll get a chance to fight me soon enough." He turned and rode away, but the D'harans didn't go back to sleep. They knew another attack would come very soon.
The next day every member of the D'haran army had red eyes and a low spirit. Last night, just when the general sent most of the men back to sleep, thinking the rebels were just faking, a rebel group charged into the camps and burned dozens of tents. Dozens of patrols and guards were on the ground when the D'harans woke up and got into battle position. The general was forced to order his men to be armed and ready for the rest of the night. It was exhausting.
"If this goes on they will be crushed when they reach People's Palace." Harry inferred casually as the D'harans tried to get into a line for marching, but he and Leonard were leading a small group of mobile MIA operatives threatening to attack. If the D'harans wanted to fend off the attack, they had to get into a square, but if they intended on moving, they had to form a vulnerable line.
Leonard knew very clearly how to slow an army down.
Suddenly a rider approached from behind. He was a messenger. Leonard frowned at the man's undisguised fear. Something went wrong. "Commander." He said quickly without pausing. "A messenger came from the main camp. Commander Wilde is found dead in his tent, along with half the commanding officers and dozens of guards. The D'harans are preparing for a counterattack and the main army is leaderless and terrified. The condition is critical..."
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