Colonel Malphite was grim. This was generally a redundancy that went without saying, but today even he felt the weight of it pressing down on his rocky shoulders. This was the first real action most of the 14th had seen, and they were bloodied badly. He hated to do it, but it was now necessary to consolidate his troops in the truly vital strategic locations – this would leave villages recently reclaimed open to further pillaging by the Goblin hordes, but it was unavoidable. The populations that had so gratefully welcomed the Leonorans had gotten used to enjoying their protection, and he knew that despair and resentment would soon settle back in across the population of the western Elder Empire.
Looking down at his map, alone in his tent, one forward base held his attention. The mining and lumber camp crossroads at the front lines – one of the few success stories from yesterday’s mess – was also one of the most vital locations he had left. Troops were flowing towards it as fast as he could manage, although they were no doubt trailing far behind his most important agent of the moment. As if his thoughts summoned her, his comm-stone began to glow softly in its cradle on his desk. He picked it up and spoke as softly as he was physically able. “Major,” his voice was still a rumbling growl, “were you successful in your quest?”
“Yes… and so the Troll Slayers have begun theirs. You may be interested to know that your questionable decision has paid off after all – the Goliath has proven to be very effective. I am sending you a dossier on the others as well. The cleric seems harmless enough; I was surprised at how capable he was in combat. I’ve had an eye on the bounty hunter for a while already; he has been quite an asset. There is something about the sergeant, though… I do not know why he rubs me the wrong way, but my instincts are rarely wrong.”
“From all accounts, he was most courageous in putting his body directly in the path of the Troll’s club, Major. Whatever secrets he may have, I feel we can trust him here.”
“Either way, it is done.”
“Good, stay at the camp. I need to know instantly if they are successful.”
“Of course. Wherever, whenever, and however you need me.”
The glow faded, and Malphite set his stone back in the cradle. He was bemused by the spy’s lack of formal language. He could tell she was teasing him with her lack of proper military deference. She was technically without rank – “Major” was a meaningless affectation – but most spies still managed to find their way to the word “sir” when they were addressing such an imposing figure as Malphite. He wasn’t used to being actively teased, and he was surprised to find he enjoyed it. He didn’t even know her home city! Or, for that matter, her real name…
The Colonel snapped out of it. Focusing on the map again, he breathed a prayer to his Solsune Corpse-God. He would need all the help that he could receive, even as little as he could get this far from his home desert… for regardless of whether the Troll Slayers were successful, regardless of the monsters arrayed against them, the 14th Regiment would soon have to mount an assault.