Lord Kendrick stood imperiously behind the table in his office. “Lord Rutten. You have been sent here because we have heard of the effectiveness of your army. There is a task we are sure won’t cause you much trouble, with such skill.” At that point, William knew there would be significant difficulties, but he avoided sighing. “A number of humans have holed up at the end of Stamford Pass,” he pointed to the map in front of him, though the only pass that was nearby was the one outside. “This is a critical operation that must be carried out as soon as possible. You are expected to neutralize them within a month. You will receive a report on the enemy units and composition.” Lord Kendrick stopped, obviously waiting for a response.
“I have heard and understood the orders, sir.” Lord Kendrick was technically higher ranking than William here, and being polite wouldn’t hurt. “Is there anything else?”
“No, so long as you understand. Remember, failure is not an option.”
After they were alone, William looked to Jordan for a response. Jordan pondered for a few moments, before responding carefully. “I fail to see how this is a critical mission, sir.”
“What? You think we should just let humans invade our country?”
“I hear the sarcasm, sir. Both you and I know that the forces already stationed here could hold the pass indefinitely… even without reinforcements or proper fortifications at the nearest choke point.” Jordan frowned, “Lord Kendrick does not seem foolish. He must know that as well.”
“Yes, unlike some of the other lords… Lord Kendrick has a decent track record here, defending the pass. So what do you think about our orders?”
“I must say we have our work cut out for us. Even though we have an advantage in areas where fewer people can reach at once, attacking fortifications is still a hard job.”
“If they have fortifications. We haven’t even received the report on their unit composition yet.”
“…How accurate do you think the report will be?”
William smiled slightly, “I imagine it will be entirely accurate… and also incomplete.”
“I see. Why are we even here?”
“I think it’s somewhat obvious. You know how hard it is to grow a military career, and some people would be interested in seeing ours cut short. At the very least, they want a stain on our record.”
“Wonderful. I am glad to see we are united in these most trying times,” Jordan said with a deadpan look. “I would hate it someone sent a valable unit to take care of a mission that was both unnecessary and dangerous. Fortunately, we have a month to resolve this stalemate that has certainly lasted many years.”
William wasn’t sure how bad it would be. He would certainly lose troops in the assault, but gevai did possess significant advantage in personal strength. If the enemy forces were similar then with the defensive advantage it would be a hard fought battle… but not impossible. Then the report came in. Ten foot thick walls, thirty feet high. A few companies of archers… but more importantly dozens of ballistae and catapults. Unless they were particularly poor quality, those would tear through his ranks regardless of whether they had good shields or armor. A significant amount of resources must have been directed to take care of this particular pass. William thought the defenses were almost excessive, but knowing his own forces he supposed they might be necessary.
Except, that was only if they were attacked at all. Tactically, there was no reason to do so. As the defensive side of the war, the gevai merely needed to hold them off and they would be winning. That made the current stalemate an advantage. If the gevai took the other end of the pass… they would control a pass. If they kept pushing through the mountain range, they could reach Eclea… where there was a giant barrier that would track them and make them easy to maneuver against. William didn’t know the full details of it, but he knew it had been able to do that much in the previous war, even if it couldn’t physically stop entry to the country.
It had already been established that there was no point, but William wondered who in particular wanted him to fail. Was it something personal? That was possible, but most of the lords he’d had real issues with he had killed. It was more likely just the general consensus of the older lords wanting more deaths in the war… and anyone who felt he was gaining momentum too quickly. After calling Lorelei and discussing, they decided it could also be related to their relationship, but had no real clues.
The mages had also been sent to a number of battlefields, but they were under Lorelei’s direct command, and she didn’t technically have any superiors she had to listen to. This irked some lords who had requested reinforcements and not received them, but if anyone were to bring it up Lorelei had statements prepared about the numbers of forces and strategic value. These were real values, though of course there was the factor of whether or not she liked people as well. Regardless, some of the leaders of other academies were starting to cause problems. Lorelei was waiting for an opportunity to deal with some of them- even if that just meant letting them disgrace themselves.
The first thing William did was send some scouts to observe the fort from a distance, to see how accurate the reports were. A visual count of the various defenses revealed numbers of defensive emplacements such as ballistae in similar numbers to what had been reported- but that was just what was easily visible, even though there would clearly be some hidden or further back. Numbers were harder to determine for troop counts, but scouts eventually climbed their way to a better view of the fort, where they could determine approximate numbers. Nothing was particularly different there, but it wasn’t clear how many magical defenses there were on the building, or whether there were knights or others with magical equipment among the defenders.
After the initial scouting, William had his soldiers start cutting trees from the nearby forest to construct a wooden fort at the entrance on the gevai’s side of the valley. It would not be as durable or long lasting as stone, but full logs were still significant defenses. They weren’t entirely without the capacity to gather stone either, because magic could help there. However, William didn’t start that project right away. He was waiting for something else instead.