The hunter gazed into the sky, sensing a change in the air. “The wind turns to our favor. We must push ahead while we still have the advantage.”
Lord Vangley nodded, and turned to his men. “Forward,” he called.
“Forward,” the command echoed down the line.
Archers unleashed one last volley before removing the wheels from the wooden daises, and hoisting the trebuchets over their shoulders.
“My lord, the forest is too dense for catapults. Even if we force them through, too many obstacles lie in our path. They will be more of a danger to your men than Enura,” said Lawson.
“The fire has already done a good part of the work. Do not worry, Lawson. It is my men who ultimately bear the burden.” Vangley patted him on the shoulder. “But I refuse to leave them behind. We will need them before all this is through, I am sure of it.” The old man stepped away.
Lawson lingered behind with Laurent. “With fire as our guide, it will be difficult to sneak up on us. Unless-” He redirected his attention to the sky.
“Unless what, Lawson?” Laurent asked.
Thunder erupted, turning Lawson’s skin to gooseflesh.
“Pity we must relinquish the advantage fire affords us. Enura awaits, with another scheme that we will find ourselves ill-prepared for,” he said. “At least our presence prevents her from laying more traps.”
Clouds burst overhead, dousing Vangley’s army in sheets of frigid rain.
“Is this typical of Vissorouy?” Lawson could barely see the vampire standing beside him.
“Typical indeed.” Laurent relished the deluge. The wind howled, swiping Lawson’s hat. Laurent plucked it from the air before it got away, handing it back with a slight grin. “Typically these downpours last minutes, but regardless of how much falls, it will not be enough to put out the blaze.”
The storm continued hammering down, flooding the soil with more water than it could swallow. Undeterred, the soldiers hauled the massive wooden structures through the woodlands, knocking down charred trees in their path, and slowing once the forest thickened.
Talmot emerged from the woods, tearing off large patches from his blackened coat. “The way ahead is clear, my lord.” He approached Lord Vangley.
“Stay close, Talmot,” Vangley replied. “You are my best fighter, and in addition, my field general. I cannot afford to lose another.”
“Understood, my lord.” He bowed and returned to the frontline.
“Lawson, in the event that Talmot wanders from the stage, are you ready to command my legions? I will understand if you decline. The brambles inserted enough poison to kill you twice over.”
“I will be all right.” Lawson stepped forward.
“Are you certain? Laurent is willing if you are too weak.”
“I am able and willing. For quite some time now, my lord,” Lawson replied.
“You are beginning to sound like a vampire,” the elder chuckled.
As the army pressed deeper, soldiers fell waist-deep into a muddy paste. The catapult careened forward, slamming into the mire. As the patriarch cursed, Lawson peeked ahead. Overrun by broad pockets of water, the old fields resembled more a swampland than a pasture. Mist clung to the land, the last of the blaze fizzling out.
“Get her erect!” Vangley screamed.
“Wait, do not move.” Lawson gestured. “We missed something along the way. Look.” He pointed.
“What am I supposed to see, counsel?” the old man snapped.
“It is what you do not see, my lord. Where are the bony scythes that felled your men the last time we passed through?” The muddy waters boiled over. “The land has reorganized its defenses.”