When William was two dozen and eight, or thirty-two, he received news of demons entering into Eclea. It was only a small number, and they were all quickly killed. Still, it signalled the start of the war. William knew that there would be half a dozen or more ‘official’ start dates for the war written down by historians, perhaps even more. Regardless, this was the first known incursion by demons in this war.
Normally, the news could have taken a few days to a month to reach Liaoyang, depending on how the message came. If by a series of messenger birds, it might reach Liaoyang in a few days, depending on how direct the route was. If carried by horse, it could take almost a month, if they didn’t press themselves. If carried by a series of different horses and riders, it might take just two weeks. Still, William got the message faster than either of those options. He still had a disk given to him by Amelia, and the news was certainly important enough to use the messaging system for.
Within a year, even the common populace knew that a war had started. There were a few skirmishes on the borders of Liaoyang, Ostana, and Eclea, as well as raids by the demons. The raids resulted in destroyed villages and sometimes missing people. William sat in a war council room. Mostly, he just sat and listened to people discuss strategy. There were various leaders from Liaoyang, some of who were in the order and some who were not. There were also generals from Ostana, and of course Knight-Commander Tyler. From Eclea, there was Amelia and the Archmage Marjani. There were also some generals from Ustil present, which showed their solidarity even though Ustil itself was not yet in danger and likely wouldn’t be for some time.
The main point of the council was to figure out how to win the war. How would troops best be stationed to deal with demonic intrusions? Would raids into the demon lands be beneficial? How should the forces be arranged in combat? All of these were important question. Even though destroying the Demon King was the most important thing… humanity also needed to win the war… or at least survive it. William’s presence in the meetings was basically not required. He’d already outlined what was necessary. At some point, all of those who could use Shattering the Soul needed to get to the Demon King… preferably without expending too much energy, but also without sacrificing too many others. However, in addition to that, those from Ustil put more emphasis on Williams opinions because of the prophecy. Since he knew very little about strategy, he just trusted their judgement and the judgement of the others.
It was decided that the company of those who could use Shattering the Soul would need battlefield combat experience. Though their numbers were slightly less than a company, the numbers were made up by a smattering of others. There were those who were martial artists from Liaoyang, as well as those who were primarily knights, but had been talented in the area of the soul. With them was a detachment of elite warriors from Ustil, since Ustil was most invested in seeing that particular mission succeed. Eclea even devoted some of their wizards to the mix. Knight-Commander Tyler was qualified to use Shattering the Soul… but she had more important duties elsewhere. When it came to the real battle with the Demon King, she would be helping as much as possible, but she would still likely serve better by coordinating the knights rather than just being one more attacker in the mix.
Of course, they couldn’t use Shattering the Soul in combat before meeting the Demon King, but they could work on coordination, and just general combat experience. Thus, they were sent out to fight small raiding parties. The number of demons would still be less in a pitched battle, so tactics learned would be appropriate in pitched battles as well. As for actually finding the raiding parties… while relying on reports from scouts and villages sometimes did the trick, it wasn’t always good enough. Although paths with easily passable terrain were known, there were still several options for the where the demons could be travelling. In this case, though, William’s group had an advantage. Ustil had no wizards. This was the commonly held belief, and it was practically true. However, they did have a few who could use magic, and in Ustil the only magic that was used was divination magic. It wasn’t like they could predict exactly when and where raiding parties would appear, but if they knew of a raiding party in a particular area, they fairly accurately judged their targets. This at least increased the probability of encountering the raiding parties.
When the company actually found raiding parties, it didn’t always turn into conflict. Sometimes, if they spotted the company at a far enough distance, they would turn and retreat. The company would then track them down, and either engage them or make sure they left human territory. Either way left William exhausted, even when there wasn’t combat. He would need to recover from days to a week to feel ‘normal’ afterwards.
When combat did happen, William felt good about the coordination. The wizards focused more on blocking any spells the demons launched from a distance. Though individuals could protect themselves… the horses they rode were somewhat less capable of doing so. When they engaged the enemy, the knights and warriors from Ustil often took the first impact. For all their bulk, the warriors from Ustil’s attacks were quick and deadly, slashing with curved blades and usually finding openings in demon’s armor. The knights were most capable at receiving hits, since they wore heavy armor and used shields. Even their horses were armored, and special raising and training methods had been used to make them stronger than normal horses so that they were still swift even in armor. Still, the armor only protected the horses from more casual attacks, and none of them were perfectly safe. The overall synergy of the company was good, and William was confident in their abilities. Now, he just had to wonder how long the war would continue, and when the Demon King would show himself.