Three years passed. William wasn’t bad at waiting, but since the event he was waiting for was coming at an indeterminate time, it was hard to not worry about it. That was also because the event was dangerous. Not that he didn’t have things to do in the meantime. There were the Archmage records to update, people to meet, and many other things involving the guild. Somehow, people still thought it was a good time for politics even with a war coming any time. Of course, William thought it was never a good time for some of the politics that happened. He couldn’t do anything about it though. In fact, he thought he was pretty good at pretending to be interested. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to hit some of the people, though. He didn’t mind people offering him to visit, since most people didn’t actually expect anything anyway. However, there were a few who seemed to think he should be honored to visit them. It wasn’t just one country, there were those to the west, south, and east who were equally arrogant. William didn’t want to visit them anyway, but he definitely couldn’t afford a trip of months there and back. The war could have started by then.
William’s desire to hit things with a stick led him to ride with some patrols along the border. Demons could show up any time, but it was also good to keep the area clear of magical beasts. Though there would likely just be one large battle, the demons would probably send smaller groups through the lesser passes, to attack the heart of the country. Thus, about a quarter of the forces were detailed to scouting and patrolling, or guarding the closest cities. On the patrols, even though they saw magical beasts, and William killed some, he didn’t actually get to hit any with his staff. It didn’t really fit the dignity of Archmage to do that, so it was really Chris doing all the work, and magic. Of course, if it became dangerous, William didn’t care about dignity one bit, but it wasn’t necessary. It was somewhat embarrassing that he was probably better at melee combat than magic, especially since it wasn’t really his own magic. Of course, he was best when he used both Chris for both magic and blunt force.
If demons weren’t so individually strong, they wouldn’t have had to worry about any coming through the passes at all. That was because they were, at best, narrow and dangerous. Magical beasts also lived up in the mountains, especially some flying type ones that would attack when it was inevitably required to climb up a steep slope, or when moving along narrow ledges. If it weren’t for demons previously crossing, they would probably not be considered passes at all. If small numbers went through at a time, they could avoid attracting the attention of the magical beasts. Thus, it wasn’t so much a limit on the capability of the demons to get through, but rather how big their losses would be. Small groups of 10 or less could usually go unnoticed, while if they tried to bring an army of 100 or 1000, they would attract enough attention to lose many of their number. Although the idea of having some of the army watch over others in the “dangerous parts”, William suspected the whole of the terrain was dangerous and not suited to fighting in groups. Although demons could do magic, careless magic would cause avalanches. Thus, records showed that although small groups of demons would traverse the “passes”, that would usually be the limits. That didn’t mean they could expect a small group to be weak, however.
The patrols consisted of 100 men, not a small scouting party, but rather a combat group. There were often 10 knights with them, which would help significantly against the demons with their much better training and equipment. Then, about half the patrols also had a wizard. Although there were few enough patrols to increase the number of knights or wizards, that would leave the border fort less well prepared. It could take a few days to two weeks before patrols would be able to return, depending on whether they were going or returning. Thus, if there were demons spotted at the fort, it couldn’t be presumed that the patrols would return in time. If the scouts spotted the enemy coming and managed to survive to provide advanced warning, then they would likely have enough time to return all but one or two patrols to the keep, but otherwise they couldn’t count on it.
William had thought about what role magic would play in battle. It would be different than what was used in the duels, even if the were wizards or their equivalent on the other side. This was because in duels, contestants went in without any magical defenses cast. That meant that defensive spells wouldn’t help if they couldn’t get them up before being struck by an offensive spell. It was a different style, so William had trained the wizards both in group combat and with defenses already prepared. It was also relevant that the battlefields would be much longer than the dueling arenas. William continued his work on a combat training manual, since he could find no details records on that. At least, not that he considered good or complete. There were records of previous battles, but not on the level of detail he would like.
What defenses were used depended much on the situation. If advancing toward the enemy, earth walls would be more a hinderance to the wizards side, but they were good for defensive battles. Lightning bolts could only travel a certain distance based on the power of the opposing wizards, though they would cover the distance almost immediately. Defending against a lightning bolt required setting up easier paths for it to travel before the actual lightning came, which involved some guesswork. Generally, it would be the exclusive job of some wizards to make the electricity travel into the ground instead of into their troops. Meanwhile, fireballs, which contained some momentum, could travel further, but there would usually be time to react, especially at the distance of a real battlefield. It was sometimes possible to deflect the fireball back at the enemy, but it was generally safer to make it explode high in the air. Blocking it at personal range would usually just cause those around the targeted area to be injured.
With all the effort that had been put into this war, William was almost relieved when the patrol spotted demons. Almost, because he knew that many people would die, for pretty much no good reason he could think of. Well, William would try to make sure that at least a fair share of them were demons.