January 4th - Bode Batura
Having been summoned back from their march to Vir el Mari heights, Aoifa and her bodyguard were now marching north in good spirits to swell the garrison at Bode Batura, bucklers slung over their backs, single-bladed axes in their belts, scarlet leather tunics covered in dust from the trail.
Ever since she'd embarked on this adventure, leaving her family estates on far off Atamara to make a name for herself in foreign wars, Aoifa had wondered if her decision to settle in Alebad were the right one. Her first duty should have been to stay in Cagil with her sister Brigdha, but the appeal of the Colonies was too strong: a land of such young kingdoms, engaged in such furious warfare where a Knight could prove her worth.
As of yet though Aoifa's company had seen precious little action, and her restless spirit champed at the bit for a good battle. But looking at her men she knew that despite their good cheer they needed time to recover from the long sea voyage and for the recruits she'd picked up in Alebad city to adjust to life on campaign. She supposed a day or two waiting on Alebad's muster would at least give her a chance to drill them further...
The messenger came to a halt on the crest of a hill, the dawn light casting a long shadow behind him. In the distance was a column of troops marching in disordered file, their weary feet trudging through the dry earth in time to their hoarse singing.
"This must be Dame Aoifa's detachment," he thought, recognising the distinctive scarlet livery. He spurred his horse over the rise and hurtled towards them.
Aoifa's men had marched through the night, her scouts bringing back reports of other Alebadian companies converging on Bode Batura. Whilst not much larger than the Lukonian force holding the Vir el Mari heights, the fact that so many knights could mobilise with such speed was testament to the Alebadian fighting spirit and such was her own eagerness to join the muster that her men seemed to gain heart.
Then the rider had appeared. Just a distant figure on the horizon, but with the enemy in force on the heights and little cover to hand she had no choice but to take a defensive position. It would cost them time and delay their arrival at the muster, but there was nothing else for it.
"It looks like we have company lads. Up onto that hill and form circle."
After a tense five minutes the rider was close enough for her chief scout Aladmed to make out the livery of Primus Cicero and with a sigh of relief she told the men to stand down and rest. Some of the younger faces looked relieved, but the veterans turned to their canteens and trail rations as if nothing had happened. Which of course it hadn't.
"A despatch from Primus Cicero Mi'lady," the messenger saluted smartly.
"Thank you trooper," she accepted the wax packet and broke the seal, finding two sheets of vellum inside with fresh orders and a map.
"Interesting," she thought, "it appears that we are to continue to Rola Sierrie with all haste..."
She turned to the messenger, "tell his Lordship that we will be there by dusk tomorrow."