Disclaimers: See Part 1
Fortunatus Light of Dark
by AJ Marks
Ami stepped out of her tent seeing the increase of activity going on. She quickly found Janice standing nearby, calmly looking at it all.
“What’s going on?” Ami asked, stepping aside as a cart went flying past.
“The army is assembling, they are moving out,” Janice said.
“Oh, that’s good news right?” Ami replied.
“Yes, and no,” Janice replied to her causing Ami to frown. “General Russell received word that the attack went as planned. The town the empress attacked had almost no defenders and we received word that the scouts noticed an increase in activity early this morning from the main group, they are moving towards the Empress. She now has the hard mission of returning home.”
Ami froze at that statement. She had not considered that a factor. “Is it really dangerous?”
“Well, she’s captured the town, she had to hold it long enough for General Russell to free the siege of Navatown,” Janice said. “That means she will be attacked by the larger force, if she was laying siege to the town she could retreat a bit easier.”
“Oh, I didn’t see all that, I thought once the army left she would return,” Ami said, slightly disappointed and now a bit fearful of Tess’ return. “She will be all right?”
Ami saw Janice look over at her in amazement before answering the question. “If anyone can return it will be her.”
Ami did not feel too relieved at that statement. She would not feel any relief until Tess and the army had returned.
“I think you’re the first to actually show such affection for her,” Janice said surprising Ami.
“W-What do you mean?” Ami replied quickly.
“You’re worried about her returning, most slaves in your position don’t care, or don’t wish them to return,” Janice replied.
“She’s my friend,” Ami replied, not even thinking about the answer. She saw Janice looked shocked at that but quickly recover and started laughing a bit. Ami only knew she spoke the truth, Tess was a friend, along with Kari and Kira.
“You two are so meant for each other,” Janice finally said. Ami wondered if that was good or bad. “It should be interesting to see you two reunited, and it explains her recent attitude.”
“What attitude?” Ami asked. She knew only one attitude from Tess that was the person she spent every evening with. She thought about that, realizing that last night was the first time she had not been with the Empress since coming to this world. She then realized she missed the Empress. That thought caused her some pause and wondered slightly if Tess missed it as well.
“It’s difficult to explain, but she can be hard to deal with in the morning. We always like it when she finds a new pleasure slave as she is more energetic, but lately it lasted longer than normal,” Janice said. “We knew you were her new slave, but none of us had met you until recently.”
“I spend my time in the library,” Ami stated, not saying that it had to do with her learning about this world. She had no idea how Janice would take the fact she was what they call a Zero-Mage.
“I see, like stories, do you write?” Janice asked catching Ami off guard.
“Um, no,” Ami replied.
“So, have you been a slave all your life?” Janice asked.
Ami thought about the long conversations she had with Tess about this subject. She did not wish to lie to people, but knowing where she came from could cause problems with some people. The twins were all right, she just avoided the subject with Kari, while Kira wanted to know everything she could about where Ami came from.
“Its complex, but long story short I was falsely accused but cannot clear my name,” Ami finally replied. She liked that answer as it told the truth but did not mention where she came from.
“Don’t like to talk about it, but if you were falsely accused then when not try and clear your name,” Janice asked.
“Ah, that would be difficult and cause a lot of problems. It’s actually safer for me to be the Empress’ slave than anything else right now,” Ami replied. She had overheard some conversations about Zero-Mages and how people thought about them. Some wanted to kill them on sight. She had made mental notes about those people and to be very careful about around them.
“Sounds like a lot to tell, I’m a good listener?” Janice said.
“I’d rather not make trouble for the Empress, she trusts me,” Ami replied honestly, hoping Janice would not ask any more questions. “What do you know about other groups like the Zero-Mages, as a slave I don’t get much except for what other servants say. What do you guys in the military think about them?”
“Ah, been reading about them,” Janice said, to which Ami nodded. “Well, they are a nuisance more than anything else. I’ve seen several different types, but they tend to band together and all are easy to spot.”
Ami’s heartbeat doubled at that statement. Did she already know her secret? “How?” she forced herself to ask, hoping to remain calm.
“Simple, first off they have no magic, but that alone doesn’t mean they are Zero-Mages, as there are some here who have no magic, rare but can happen. It’s the next observation that does them in. They all have the same disregard for life and rules. They are the lowest of low-lives I’ve ever seen. I think that the theory that they come from an evil world is right. But why they are coming here I don’t know,” Janice said.
Ami knew the truth about it all, but remained quiet. They were evil people, the scum of an entire society all sent here. The only reason she ended up here was bad luck. The only one who ever thought she was innocent had been her lawyer and Tess. She knew Becca and Carrie both kept a close eye on her. Kari did to a point but Kira seemed to not to care, more interested in learning about where Ami came from instead of why she came here.
“What if it’s something different, like something you haven’t thought of,” Ami asked.
“Um,” Ami replied trying to think of something that could head more towards the truth but not show how much she knew. “Well, how about they are demons expelled from their world?”
She watched Janice think about that for a few seconds. “That would explain why they are evil, the most evil of evil.”
Janice was going to say something else when a man with white hair and a neatly trimmed beard walked up to them.
“We are leaving, the scouts report the main body of the Grunt army had packed up and left,” he said to them.
Ami watched Janice as she listened to the man before replying. “All right, good luck general,” Janice replied as they watched the general walk back off towards a group of men waiting nearby.
“Well, now things begin,” Janice said leaning back against a post of a nearby fence.
Ami now tried to figure what to do next. She still had to wait and hope that Tess returned back to the camp. Until that happened she would be left with the rest of the supply group back here in the rear. Ami looked over at Janice wondering how the guard could be so calm in this situation. She decided not to ask.
Tess went over the defensive set up of her troops. She had yet to hear about any Grunt troops heading her way, but had to assume they were on the way. Rushing footsteps revealed a scout running up to her.
“Empress,” he said, panting slightly. Tess nodded at him waiting for his report. “We’ve spotted a large Grunt army coming from the direction of Navatown.”
Tess took in information before giving any reply. “How large?” she asked, hoping the army was indeed the group she wanted to lure away from Navatown.
“It’s estimated to be at least two hundred soldiers,” the scout said. Tess waved her captains over to where she stood.
“When will they be here?’ Tess asked the scout, the one piece of information would dictate her next actions.
“This evening,” he replied back to her, as the captains came up beside her. She saw Lisa standing with the other royal guard captains before Tess turned to look at Eric.
“Eric, take your men and head out into the fields like we talked about. Lisa, take your men and prepare for combat,” Tess said. She could not quite run away. She had to keep the Grunt army occupied before heading back to Navatown to meet up with General Russell’s troops.
Her plan appeared to work for now, except that the Grunts thought the human empire was at war with the Soulvier Empire did not settle well with her. She wanted to try and figure out what else was going on. She had sent off a message to Lycos and Becca to make sure that they were alert to anything that might happen, especially with the Soulvier Empire.
Both captains walked off with the rest of them as Tess had already divided the groups. She hoped Eric’s groups would be able to harass the Grunt army which outnumbered hers before they reached the town. Her group inside the town would hold the town as a delaying tactic.
She had received a note from Russell saying he left for Navatown and would arrive there tomorrow. If the Grunt army arrived tonight and she left today then the army could make it back to Navatown shortly after Russell arrived there catching him between two forces. She would not do that. She finally looked back at the scout before giving him some new orders.
“Get some water and report to your squad,” she ordered, watching as he nodded to her and carried out her order walking away leaving Tess alone.
She walked over towards on the taller buildings, making her way up to the roof and looking at the defenses of the city. They had made some improvements to the town walls but she had purposefully left one area weak. Her captains had protested but she reminded them they were not trying to hold the town, only delay the Grunt army. She would either use that point as a way to escape or to funnel the enemy through.
Tess looked at the sun high overhead then out at the forest watching as Eric left with his squad and a second squad, who would harass the Grunt army before securing the meeting point. She hoped by tomorrow evening they would be ready to head to Navatown the following day. Russell had a short amount of time to defeat the army laying siege to Navatown.
Tess took a moment to spare a thought towards Ami, hoping the small slave, no woman, was doing all right. She almost felt disappointed by the fact she could not have the girl beside her at night. It gave her the drive to get the battle over with quickly, she had other plans she wished to take care of.
“Empress, the soldiers are in position,” Lisa said, walking up to where she stood.
“Good, I don’t expect anything to happen tonight, depends on how much Eric and his men can delay that force,” Tess said.
“So you expect the battle to happen tomorrow morning,” Lisa said.
“If you take how the Grunts operate, they are only taking the town, we don’t have any civilians being held hostage so they might attack tonight depending on what happened,” Tess stated.
“I’ve already told my soldiers to rest while they can,” Lisa said.
“Good, they might need it,” Tess said, not looking away from the scenery in front of her. She wondered if leaving during the night was not the best course of action. She turned to Lisa having a sudden inspirational thought. “Assemble the captains again, we have a new plan to work with.”
“What about Eric and Harry?” Lisa asked.
“Their part of the plan hasn’t changed, in fact changing his part would go against what I’m thinking of,” Tess stated. She only hoped her plan would work. She took one last look out in the direction she knew Ami would be and then turned heading to where her captains would be waiting.
“Are you sure this will work?” Lisa said. Tess looked over at the captain with her short brown hair barely visible in the night-light. The town had no lights on and no one in her army had any fire going. Anyone who used fire as their magic were not to use any until the attack occurred. She noticed the fires of the Grunt army marking where they were very nicely. She noted that in a normal siege this might work but she had no plans of holding the city.
“You doubting my plan?” Tess asked her, looking from the fires back to her captain’s face.
“Um, no Empress, just wanting to make sure you thought this through,” Lisa replied.
“Yep,” Tess stated looking up at the moon which was about half full.
“Come on, let’s get this started,” Tess aid to her.
They slowly crept out of the city though some portions of the wall that were in disrepair. She mentioned to the lead groups that the Grunts might try a diversion attack tonight and to be careful as they pushed forward through the forest towards the planned meeting point.
Her first plan had been to attack in a hit and run style but now she moved forward and would head back to Navatown but remain outside the city waiting for the Grunt army to return back to the city catching the forces between her two forces.
She watched a soldier on patrol casually go for a piss unaware of the force only yards away. Tess shook her head at the lack of attention the soldier paid to his surroundings. If she had decided to attack he would have been killed already. She watched her men sneak by far enough away using silent spells to mask any sounds. She had about one hundred men with her allowing her to move quickly, not as powerful as the Grunt army but still a powerful force.
She looked over at one of the captains before spotting Lisa, who led the rear group. They were now all out of the town which was now almost completely deserted. The citizens had fled and the only ones in the city now were locked in the dungeons prisoners.
Tess made her way along towards the meeting area making sure everyone remained silent. She only hoped that the two squads at the meeting place did not think they were under attack. She had no time to inform Eric of the change in plans.
She reached the point seeing a guard hidden in the shadows. She nodded towards him who nodded back but kept his eyes out for anything else. She watched as he made contact with every person coming in. She approved his attention and continued on back to where the camp had been set up. She quickly looked around for the captains.
“Empress,” one soldier said. “Our captain was injured in the battle.”
“Lead on,” Tess said, following him to a tent that had been set up. Inside were five men, all injured. She walked over spotting Eric lying on the cot. He glanced up seeing her.
“Changed the plan?” he asked.
“Something like that,” Tess replied. “You gotta be flexible in combat and take what the enemy gives you.”
Tess heard him chuckle slightly at that. She checked his wound seeing that it was not too bad. He should recover completely in a few days with the proper healers. She looked around for the healer waving him over.
“Empress?” he asked. “Are you hurt?”
“No, what at the injuries and can they move?” she asked.
“Only one is serious, they lost two men in the attacks and seven injured. I stabilized the more severe, but I would advise against moving him,” the healer said.
“All right, you and two others will stay with him, the rest prepare to move out. I’ll give five men to move with the injured who are to head back to the 3rd Army headquarters, the rest will follow me.”
“Where are you going?” the healer asked.
“Best if you don’t know,” Tess replied honestly, watching as he understood the order.
“I understand, I’ll make sure they are all ready,” the healer said.
“Are you sure about that?” Eric asked from his cot. “We could attack, we got about two score of them while they traveled. We can take them out now.”
“While that would be easy, it’s not the goal, remember to always keep your goal in mind,” Tess told him. He almost seemed disappointed that they were not going to attack. “That’s the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, they keep their goal in front of them. If you can get your enemy off their goal then it makes it easier for you.”
“I’ll remember that Empress,” he said.
“I have no doubts you will,” Tess said, then turned as Lisa came up to him.
“Well, you need to learn to dodge or something,” she said to Eric.
“Yeah, but I got the guy,” Eric said with determination.
“I heard,” Lisa said, before she turned to the Empress. “We’re ready to head out on your orders.”
“Then let’s get going. If we can put as much distance between the two of groups tonight it will give us the advantage,” Tess said.
“I’ll get the word out then,” Lisa replied.
“I’ll see you back at HQ,” Tess said, making a mental note to talk to Russell about the captain and his potential. For now she had a night of quick travelling to do.
End Part 8
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