The company reached the front lines as the sun reached its apex the next day. August wiped the sweat from his forehead before dismounting from his horse along with everyone else. A man dressed in a worn leather jerkin over top of a tunic that no doubt used to be white, but was rubbed through with dirt, approached and came to a stop in front of Aldrich. As the two men exchanged words in hushed tones, August took in the camps set at the front lines.
Ten tents were set off to the left, grouped around a small fire. A few men tended to the flames, while others sat close by, sharpening their blades or fastening more arrows. One large tent sat back from the rest, the Royal Crest flying high on a flag above the canvas. The captains of the four teams moved off toward that tent, leaving the servants to attend to their horses. Aldrich broke away from the man and sauntered off to the tent, behind the captains.
On the right side of the lines, was a long tent, filled with raucous laughter and shouts and the clinking of glasses. A few men stumbled out in the afternoon sun, swaying on their feet before emptying their stomachs on the grass near the side of the tent. Soldiers on duty shook their heads, as they started slinging insults and curses at the drunkards. The man who was talking to Aldrich turned and barked orders at the men, bringing them back to attention. The soldiers scrambled back to their posts guarding the wire fence that separated the Royal Army from where they believed the magicians’ camp was. A few men walked out of the gate in the fence, to take up posts facing the line of trees in front of them. August looked at the forest, hoping maybe, to see something hiding amongst the shadows. A light breeze through the leaves made the shadows dance, playing tricks on his eyes.
August turned back to the man still standing in front of them.
“You have fifteen minutes to get organized,” he said. “I suggest not wasting any time.”
Each team separated into their respective groups. August looked over his team: Finn the ever moving, Cade the stoic one, Soren who was painfully stiff standing beside Cade, and Ronan, who refused to look in August’s direction. August turned back to Soren, trying to see what the man was thinking and why he either seemed suspicious or uncomfortable next to Cade, but could see nothing out of the ordinary.
“Alright,” August said, getting his team’s attention. “We have two days from now to find the camp, destroy it, and make it back here.”
“That’s not enough time!” Cade protested, voice bursting out of his thin frame, as the others just agreed along with the plan.
“Orders are orders,” August said, and turned away to see Captain Crestwood approaching them. When he stopped in front of them, he went over exactly what they needed to know for the mission.
The four groups were to head into the woods, into the marked off area—circled on a map given to each leader—and locate the magic camp. No one knew where it was exactly, since anyone that had gotten close had been killed, their bodies burnt beyond recognition. Through the grim process of elimination though, they were able to mark out a ten-mile radius. The teams were given their own direction in which to come at the camp from. The order was to reach the camp by the next morning, where each team would attack at the same time—the signal being a known bird’s call used during their training. General Aldrich believed it to be the best tactic, hoping that the multiple attacks would catch the magicians off-guard, giving the Royal Army the advantage. After the camp was destroyed, they were to come back to the front lines immediately. The company would be moving out and back to Varis in three days’ time.
It seemed simple enough, but August was restless. These magicians were the real danger, and it was up to his team to help take down a camp that had waged war against Varis for twelve years. Even as nerves stormed inside him, a new fire burned strong through it all. He would do this. Then he would march into the throne room and take the head of the monster leashing them. As this new fire raged on in his heart, August shouldered a pack of supplies before joining the group congregating at the gate
General Aldrich stood beside the now opened gate, holding a salute for each soldier—the captains stood obediently by as well. They all returned the gesture except for the Immunes, who stomped past. As the teams walked through the gates and past three rows of trees, all noise from the front lines was abruptly cut off. Silence fell heavy on their shoulders, as each team branched off in their own directions.