People still snake towards the edge of the plateau, too many to safely run. By the speed of the approaching mass, I can tell they have no intention of stopping to parley. The cavalry intends to ride them down.
Mirlin and I push our mounts to haul in the back of the line, there to make a stand. Many laden horses and donkeys are at the end of the immigration; they too will soon know agony.
Hauling our horses around to face what comes, we halt there and draw swords. I know I have no experience fighting on horseback, but even if I did, I will make little difference now to the outcome.
Hoof beats sound behind us. By the stars, have the Blues split their forces to take us on two fronts? But no, the Messengers ride towards us, all with swords drawn. They at least have some fighting experience. Swiftly fifteen of us stand between what goes and what comes.
We will not be enough.
Panic sounds behind us now, but we cannot afford to look. I hope folk flee; I pray they make it.
Clods of mud hurtle into the air as the cavalry races towards us. The ground shakes. The rumble of hoof beats removes all other sound from the region.
We see blue shields and plumes. We see armoured horses. Spears and blades glint in the gloomy light. I wish for a downpour; it may obscure the innocent long enough for them to reach safety.
A donkey nudges between Mirlin and I … with a determined rider upon its back.
“Horin!” I scream as the lad goes boldly forward. Mirlin grips my arm and holds me back as I knee Forest. “Let me go!”
“Wait!” Mirlin hisses.
Horin lifts his right hand, fingers splayed. Bright green light erupts from his palm.