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    The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: The Art Of War
    Posted on Sat, July 22, 2023 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "

    “We can be one of the scouting units fighting for Highfolk.” Revafour said, gesturing to the rest of the companions. “We’ll take the fight to their ruling council…”

    “…and end their threat to these lands once and for all,” he said, the fire in his eyes belying his calm demeanor.

    Chapter Twenty

    The Art Of War

    Highfolk Town was an armed camp by the time the companions returned. The first contingents from Furyondy and the Vesve elves had already arrived, and more were on their way. The dwarves and gnomes of the southeastern Yatils who attended the Knights’ conference had alerted their kin, who would be ready when the Spine Breakers passed through their lands. Some of the elven and human Knights, specially trained scout and guerilla units who would harass the Spine Breakers before they emerged from the Yatils proper, were preparing to set out on their missions.

    The companions were soon escorted to the lodge where the Knights and their allies had been holding their conference. Several of the Knights’ leaders, including Jolene, were waiting in the lodge’s meeting hall, eagerly awaiting the companions’ return. Kashafen was also waiting for them, as was a second elf. The second elf was of sylvan extraction, his reddish-auburn hair streaked with grey and his frame surprisingly stout and pudgy for a wood elf. He was dressed in pastel green and blue robes, and the roanwood walking stick he carried gave him a distinguished air. The second elf saluted the companions in greeting as they sat down at the table the Knights’ leaders were already waiting at.

    “So, you’re the adventurers I’ve heard so much about,” the wood elf said. “Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Loftin Graystand, Lord Mayor of Highfolk Town.”

    “The Worthy Sir, aren’t you?” Seline said, curtsying politely.

    “So people call me,” Loftin said with an amused chuckle. “Sometimes I wonder, though. Before we begin, do any of you have any objection to my pipeweed? The smoke helps me clear my thoughts,” he said. Without waiting for anyone to reply, he took a wooden pipe case and a tobacco pouch out of his pocket. In a few moments, Graystand had filled and lit his pipe, giving a contented sigh as the rich smell of smoke filled the room.

    “That’s better,” Graystand said. “Now, since I’ve gotten us started, I may as well continue. What news do you brave and upstanding heroes have?”

    In response, Amyalla reached into her pack and pulled out the letters she’d stolen from the hobgoblins’ camp. One of the Knights stood up to take them, and passed a few of them to Graystand. The elven mayor started going through the letters, as the Knight passed the rest of the letters to Jolene, Kashafen and a few of his fellows.

    “I didn’t have much time to go through them,” Amyalla said, shaking her head. “I didn’t have time to try and find any sort of battle maps or other papers, either.”

    “That’s hardly surprising,” Graystand said, glancing at Amyalla over the lenses of the spectacles he’d put on to help him read the letters. “It might’ve been nice if you at least tried, though.”

    Amyalla scowled at that, but the amused twinkle in Graystand’s eye and his apologetic smile made her realize he was joking.

    Jolene, Graystand and the rest of the leaders read the letters in silence for several minutes until Kashafen spoke up.

    “We should thank Corellon that Iuz and the Horned Society don’t seem to be involved,” he said, “but…oh, by Sehanine…”

    “What is it?” Jolene said, looking over at him.

    “You’re mentioned in this letter,” Kashafen said, handing one of the parchments over to her, “and you’re not the only one either.”

    Jolene read the letter, before she turned a ghastly pale. Suddenly jumping to her feet, Jolene seemed about to scream before she slumped back down in her chair, all of the strength seemingly drained out of her. She placed her face in her hands, breathing heavily. When she looked up again, her expression was that of a woman in despair.

    Luna had a sickening feeling as she saw Jolene’s demeanor. She wasn’t sure what could’ve caused it, but she glanced at Airk and Ma’non’go. She suddenly recalled how similar their expressions were to Jolenes when they talked about their false friends’ betrayals.

    “Are you alright, Your Highness?” Luna said.

    Jolene looked at Luna, turning her head slowly.

    “What…? We, we don’t have time to discuss this,” she said, shaking her head as if she’d just woken from a dream. “We’re here to discuss our defenses!”

    Jolene barely seemed to be holding herself together, shaking violently as she rubbed her temples. Everyone else in the room looked at each other nervously, unsure of how to react.

    “Your Highness, are you sure you-“ Loftin said, before Jolene interrupted him.

    “Don’t make me repeat myself!” Jolene said, her eyes flaring angrily as her voice rose to a shout. “We have more important things to talk about!”

    Several of the people in the room still seemed uncertain, but Revafour spoke up.

    “Her Highness is right,” he said, raising his hand to attract everyone’s attention. “The hobgoblins are deeply divided.”

    “Weimar, Amyalla and I all saw hobgoblins brawling and being flogged when we snuck into their camp,” Ma’non’go said, as Weimar and Amyalla nodded in agreement.

    “We sabotaged their war efforts, too,” Revafour said, smiling thinly. “Many of the hobgoblins are likely boiling with rage by now. It wouldn’t take much to make it all boil over.”

    “Such as constant hit and run attacks that give them barely a moment’s rest?” one of the Knight leaders said, returning Revafour’s smile.

    “Indeed,” Revafour said. “The brutality their ruling council’s inflicting on them is likely all that’s keeping them together.”

    Revafour paused to glance back at his friends. Some of them smiled back at him, while the determined expressions the rest wore assured him he was speaking for their entire group.

    “We can be one of the scouting units fighting for Highfolk.” Revafour said, gesturing to the rest of the companions. “We’ll take the fight to their ruling council…”

    “…and end their threat to these lands once and for all,” he said, the fire in his eyes belying his calm demeanor.

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