A steady wind pushed down into the valley and rolled the surface of the Bascan river into white capped waves. Three riders came up from the banks as the defecting force marched toward the water and into the sunrise.
The lead rider drew near and slowed only when he reached Melchior. With a ticking of his tongue and a light tug on the reins, his rouncy faintly neighed, bucked her head and then spun about to come alongside Melchior's courser.
“So?” Said Melchior, the words seeming to barely escape the fathomless shadows of his hooded cloak.
“I see you made it out of there alive.” Said the rider, looking back at the General and his entourage, no doubt panicking amongst each other about the loss of an entire brigade.
“Come on Les, what do you think I am, an amateur?”
“No, not for a moment.” He said, a grin spreading across his face. “Although, we can't keep doing this. We're going to get a bad reputation.”
“It would be worse if we'd turncoat without a legitimate reason.”
“Yes, I understand but, why whores?”
“Because it makes us look like monsters Les.”
“Yes I know, but I'm not entirely sure that's good for business.”
“Really?” Melchior inquired, turning to him as a ray of sunshine braved the darkness of the hood to come splashing against his pale cheeks. “I thought we were in the business of being monsters Les. Am I wrong?”
“Just because we kill people, it doesn't make us monsters.” Les rebutted, yet furrowing his brow in contemplation of his own words.
Melchior chuckled. “I'll let you mull that one over yourself.”
Les turned back and looked at the General as he slowly shrunk into the horizon. “In any case, we should hurry. He's going to make up his mind soon enough, and if we're not in position all sorts of bad things could happen.”
“Are the others ready?”
“Then we shouldn't have any problems.”
“I have absolute trust in you Melchior. It's them I'm concerned about.” Les threw his head in the direction of the marching men.
There were nearly two thousand of them, marching in loose formation, swaying to and fro like a snake slithering ever so steadily down the valley side.
The gathered leaders watched the last of the withdrawing forces crest the ridge and descend into the lowland.
“General Stahll, parlé is our only option. With Melchior's force gone, we risk losing the initiative. If we are forced to fight our way backward into Endrist, we will not have a moment of respite to prepare a proper defense.”
The General silenced the man with the wave of his hand. “Endrist is more than a hundred kilometers south west. We have plenty of space to manoeuver. I will parlé, but only to assess the morale of the enemy. I still intend on finishing what we started yesterday.”
“Sir, I beg of you. Give them the field and let us regroup. Their reinforcements arrived through the night, and we haven't even recovered our dead from yesterday's ... victory.” The last words came off his tongue with the apathy of a man who couldn't convince water that it was wet.
“I have spoken. Return to your men and prepare to receive my orders.” Stahll said, whisking them away with the hurried stroke of his hand.
The leaders did not lament with their tongues, but their lack of words made no difference; all was said in the cantankerous gleam of their eyes.
Stahll did not wait for his leaders to reach their men. He quickly pulled the reins and his chestnut destrier shuffled in its ornate armor. “Come, let's get this over with.” the General said, as he made his way down field with his entourage.