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Like Distant Thunder
After a great deal of effort,
the paladins of Gailah and
several sympathetic militias
managed to corral the army
of Gorrein's followers enough
to wage a decisive battle.
The enemy nearly filled
the small valley, and as soon
as they were all inside, the rangers
set fire behind them so they could not
retreat back the way they came.
On the high sides of the valley,
troops of peasant militia rolled stones
down on the soldiers from above.
Gorrein's army surged forward
in hopes of escaping the ambush.
They were blocked at the far end
of the valley by the gathered army
that stood strong against them.
The sound of battled rolled over
the land like distant thunder.
Slowly the soldiers of Gorrein
began to push their way out of
the valley, for they loved nothing
better than fighting and did not
hesitate to fling themselves into it.
If they could win footing on
the open plain, they would be
that much harder to stop.
"Now," Shahana said. "They've
stretched their neck out so
that we can cut it off."
Her sword slashed down.
Shahana and Ari led the charge
of the flanking maneuver, hitting
the column hard from the side
where it spilled out of the valley.
They hacked their way through
to the far side, driving a wedge
between the soldiers in the open
and those still inside the valley.
Most of the leaders were in front.
Ari sought out the feathered crests
that marked the officers and swung
her sword with savage strength,
cutting them down one by one.
A paladin of Gorrein turned
to face her -- only to be impaled
by a pikeman behind him.
With their leadership slaughtered,
the rest of Gorrein's army began
to break into smaller clots around
the few surviving sergeants.
"Cut them apart!" Ari shouted.
The troop divided in half,
some following her and
others following Shahana,
using their forces to wrap
around enemy clusters
and keep them separate.
These groups they drove
toward the main body
of the allied militia
to be crushed utterly.
By the time the battle was over,
Shahana and Ari were exhausted.
The field was strewn with corpses
as the wounded were carried away.
Lost horses -- some of them also injured --
wandered over the land, whinnying distress.
"Call to them," Ari said. "Plenty of people
are looking after the other humans, but
nobody's taking care of the horses."
So Shahana and Ari called
to the battlesteeds, and
the draft horses came too,
gathering into little herds.
Their hoofbeats echoed
like distant thunder.
"What do we do now?"
Ari said. "I wasn't
"Choose a warhorse,"
Shahana said, taking
the bridle of a dapple gray.
"All right," Ari said, and
picked a golden bay.
"Now we don't have
to walk everywhere!"
Then she looked around
at the horses crowding close.
"But what should we do with
all of the others?" Ari said.
"I don't know," Shahana said.
"Some of them are injured,
and I am exhausted."
A shrill whistle caught their ears.
Turning, they saw a man and
a woman dressed as priests
of Syvera, Lady of Beasts.
"Give them to us," he said.
"I am Tyvane and this is
my sister Thiarra. We
are collecting the horses
gone astray in the battle."
"Our acolytes are building
a corral where we can feed
them and treat their injuries,"
Thiarra added. "Will you
help us herd them there?"
"Gladly," Shahana said.
"We've chosen warhorses
to keep," Ari said. "Can we
get food and care for ours too?"
"Of course," said Tyvane. "We
care for all of the Lady's creatures."
So Shahana and Ari helped them
gather in the scattered horses.
There were even blankets
and hot oats for the two women
after their hard day of work.
Somehow, surrounded by
the warm breathing horses,
the aftermath of the battle
didn't seem quite so bad.
* * *
Horses in war have spanned combat and noncombat roles. Warhorses generally divide into destriers (for heavy cavalry such as armored knights) and coursers (for light cavalry such as mounted archers). Many of the modern breeds classified as light draft horses, such as the Andalusian and the Friesian, descend from these battlesteeds. The Dancing White Stallions of the Lippizaner breed still perform battlesteed moves, now for entertainment.
[To be continued ...]