The clanging slowly subsided as the opposing generals agreed to halt the battle for the night. Sentara was angry, angrier than he had ever been, and he was not a violent person. He looked across at the opposing Derrenlanders, at his enemies, and then to his own people, the Terrelians. How could Derrenland dare to invade his homeland of Terrelia? What event had precipitated this war? Sentara didn't know. He only knew that, somehow, he had to end it.
"Lestre," he called to his general.
"Yes, Your Majesty?" replied the stout man.
"Who do you say appears to be winning right now? Answer me truthfully, Lestre."
"They are, Sire," sighed the general. "There are on the slopes of Mount Daggerblade, so they have the advantage of the high ground."
"Is there any way we could get some troops behind them?" asked the king.
"None that I know of, Sire,"
"What about those caves at the base of the mountain? Do they lead upward or just dead-end?"
"I---I don't know, Sire. We've never explored them. We didn't think the battle would get this far inward. We thought for sure we could have ended it out by Sathren Terrel."
"I'm going in there," Sentara told him. "Place some troops under my direct command. Nothing vital, but enough so that I can take any advantage of any situation that may appear."
"Yes, Sire, right away. Will you be going in tonight?"
"Yes. And also, make sure I have some archers. The Derrenlanders may not be keen on missile weapons, but Terrelia is famous for its archers."
The King of Terrelia led a sizable number of troops--about equal numbers of archers, swordfighters, and spearmen--into the caves at moonrise. A number of smaller openings allowed the moonlight to guide them in lieu of using torches, whose light might be seen by the enemies. They walked quietly and spoke as little as possible. After foundering around in deceptive tunnels beneath the opposing army, Sentara's command found the top exit halfway up the slope of Mount Daggerblade.
"Sire," announced the scout, "the Derrenlanders and Eristanians are directly below us. Our archers should have easy targets."
"Let's wait until dawn," Sentara commanded. "Then we'll give them a surprise. We'll find a defendable location and shoot at them until they come to investigate. Then the spearmen will charge them. The swordsmen will defend the archers. We can't lose those archers."
The archers were grateful for this. At close range, they were virtually helpless.
Almost reluctantly, the sky turned grey in the Tenlish version of dawn. The peculiar, eerie light they were all accustomed to filled the cloudly winter sky, declaring morning in the world of Tenlands. Then the sky opened and the sun shone down.
As if on cure, the fighting started again, and King Sentara gave the order to fire from their concealed place. It didn't take the Derrenlanders long to figure out what must have happened and send some troops up to weed out the attackers.
A fairly sizable number of Derrenlanders wielding scimitars approached Sentara's position. On Sentara's signal, the spearmen lowered their spears and prepared to charge. He waited until he deemed the warriors too close to retreat and gestured. The spearmen plunged through the foliage between the archers and skewered fully half of the Derrenlish scouts. Then they pulled back to give the swordsmen and archers room to work. By then, the Derrenlanders were scrambling for cover, some rolling down the steep slope and disorganizing their own troops below.
"What's going on up there?" demanded a Derrenlish officer. "Where'd those archers come from?"
"They're eating away at our rear!" shouted someone else.
"Get somebody up there!" ordered the first speaker. "Where are those Plumorians and their crossbows? We could use them about now. What's keeping them?"
Sentara heard this comment, however, because his elven hearing was keener than the humans he commanded. "Scout! Go through the caves and warn General Lestre the Plumorians are coming. You swordsmen, watch our flanks. They may come around the mountain."
A group of Eristanians carrying round shields pressed toward their position. Most of them managed to deflect the arrows directed at them with these plain shields.
Sentara cursed. "Cause a rockslide," he ordered some swordfighters. "I don't care how, just do it!"
The swordsmen scrambled to loosen some rocks and roll them down at the approaching Eristanians. The foes were thrown off balance, many whirling their arms to keep from falling, thus making themselves better targets for the Terrelian archers. But still many of them got through. Then the spearmen and swordsmen attacked them directly, trying to keep them out of the way of the archers.
"Pry loose that big boulder over there!" Sentara shouted as soon as the Eristanians were flung down the slope.
The spearmen set at the huge rock with a vengeance, using their spears as makeshift shovels and levers. Finally, they freed enough of the roundish boulder to send it rolling down the slope, gaining momentum until it slammed right through the center of the enemy forces, finally stopping right in the middle of the Derrenlish unit.
Thoroughly flustered, the Derrenlish general called a retreat. Then the Plumorians finally arrived, covering their allies' escape. Their crossbows would have been more effective if the Plumorians weren't so far from the main fighting, and if the crossbowmen had not been overextended by a night-long march.
"Pull out," called Sentara. "Return to Sathren Terrel."
Glad for the unexpected victory, the Terrelians turned and marched back home.
"Kíerelet," Sentara called upon his arrival back at the castle. The word was not a name, but a term of endearment. Literally translated, it meant "Treasure."
An elven woman, startlingly beautiful, spun out of the misty lavender curtains and kissed the king on his cheek. "I see my favorite uncle is back from the fighting," the young maiden observed.
"Don't be silly, Karelle, I'm your only uncle," Sentara smiled, taking off his cloak.
"There's something bothering you," his niece pointed out. She had incredible insight though not much tact, so when she noticed something she pointed it out immediately without giving a thought to whether or not bringing it up would be a good idea.
"I want to end this war," Sentara told her. "No, I need to end this war. Something has to be done. I can't stand it to see my people killing each other over nothing."
Karelle was silent for a moment. "Do you think magic would work?"
"Kíerelet, you know how I feel about magic," the king replied.
"Nevertheless, there may be no other way," his niece commented.
Sentara sighed. "You may be right, Karelle."
"Check out the library when you have a minute."