Farren, Karles and Ragnar went to look for commander Brianus. They now needed his orders to proceed.
The distance of the commander's quarters from their dorms wasn't much, but it took considerably longer to make their way through the crowd of the soldiers who tried to rescue those still trapped in the burning barracks, or simply panicked.
Farren bumped into them multiple times, and had to repeatedly step aside as the injured were carried out.
She stopped in her tracks as she heard a dull thud behind her, followed by a terrified scream.
She turned to see Alan who had been following close behind her, kneeling on the dirt. He gripped on his dark hair as he stared wide eyed at the burnt corpses being carried out — too much for a novice to take.
“Alan!?” Farren struggled through the crowd and rushed over to her junior. She wrapped her arms protectively over his shoulders. He kept shaking in her grip and seemed to have trouble breathing.
Looking at him, she could see her younger self flash before her eyes — the teen girl who joined the Eastern Ring forces many years ago; she was scared too.
But she didn't have anyone to comfort her that day.
“Shh,” she tried to comfort him, “you'll be okay. Our commander will teach those attackers a lesson, you'll see,” she said, as if he were a small child.
“S-sorry...,” Alan stood up with great effort as his legs were still shaking.
Farren looked up to see Chloe coming over to them. Looking at Alan, she could understand what was going on.
“Just got commander's orders,” Chloe panted, “leaving for the southern bunkers with new recruits — come with me, quick!” she gestured to Alan.
After they were gone, Farren joined Karles and Ragnar again.
Meanwhile, patrollers of the next shift hurried to get the cranes ready, for the wall-up and one of them climbed the watchtower to spot the source of firings.
“Cover the north east! Go, go, go!”
Captain Torryn of the patroller squad ordered at the top of his lungs.
The heavy chains and gears creaked as the patroller squad hauled up massive, thick panels made of Glionix, an alloy strong enough to block even the heavy blow of cannonfires.
Installing the panels and then fastening them to the ground by steel fittings; getting this job done as fast as possible was the patroller squad's most crucial purpose.
And that was how Meriwaldans dealt with Firemounts.
Casey and Jon joined Farren on the way.
“Why the heck did they stop firing now, huh?” Jon said, watching the patrolers struggle to extinguish the fire with an unusual amused tone in his voice.
“Aren't you glad they did?” Ragnar snapped, “or do you have a death wish?”
The turned and saw commander Brianus, already mounted on his horse, coming over to them with a troubled look in his face.
“The firings seem to have stopped. For now, at least.”
“Yes, commander. Shall we charge now?” Farren asked.
“There's not enough manpower to arrange our cannons now. With three barracks destroyed, the casualties are high. Charging with cavalry against Firemounts will result in more casualties,” he said, his brows furrowed,
“Casey, relay the news of the attack to the squad two and three, along our ring,” the Commander ordered, and then turned to Jon.
“I want you to evacuate with the injured to the southern bunkers. Take the bodies too.”
Jon nodded and walked away to carry out his command.
The commander send all his experienced soldiers with instructions, yet he didn't say anything to the other three eager for his orders.
The camp soon began to fall silent with the soldiers leaving. They left for the southern bunkers, closer to Meriwald frontiers. Farren sighed as she watched the corpses being stacked on the horse driven carts.
“What now?” Ragnar asked the commander. He made no reply, pacing to and fro by the rails as the cranes moved along them, putting up more panels to secure the remaining barracks.
The troubled look in the commander's face disturbed Farren to the core. He had not uttered a word since the others left and avoided eye contact with the three of them. Farren noticed it all.
It wasn't the first time they had to face such a situation. In fact, in the Supreme Regiment of Meriwald, this wasn't anything new.
What's bothering him so much?
She saw a patroller get down from the watchtower and say something to the commander in a low voice. She couldn't hear what he said, but she saw the troubled expression on the commander's face change into a stern, deadpan one.
“I thought he would send us to spread the word. But he's not doing anything,” Karles said in a quiet voice.
“That's a bit strange, don't you think? That he chose to be on defense instead of launching a counter attack?” said Farren, stroking her chin, “what could he be planning?”
“God knows what!” Ragnar said, frustrated and loud enough for commander Brianus to hear. He looked at them, his eyes narrowed. Then he walked over to them.
“Do you trust your Commander?” he looked at Ragnar dead in the eyes.
“Of course, sir! Please forgive my outburst.” he said with a salute.
Brianus cleared his throat, “then do as I say. Go and relay the news of the attack to the Wrexor camp…”
“Take the southern route. Not the western one.”
“But, commander! It's the longer way, it'll be past dawn for us to get there. You can't possibly hold the attackers back for that long. And if they have a bigger force—” Ragnar started but he was cut off by the commander.
“Dagen from the patroller squad identified and reported to me the location of the enemy from the watchtower just now,” he said,“currently they are near the north western direction from our base. If you take the western route, though it's relatively shorter, now there's a high risk that you'd be spotted.”
He paused and said,“it's better to set off from the back of the camp and take the southern route. With the patroller squad, we can hold them back for a while.”
There was a moment of hesitation as the three looked at each other. But they agreed, the commander's judgement seeming correct to them.
“I'm glad you finally got it, blockheads,” he smiled slightly and sighed as he patted Farren on the shoulder,“go. I've still got work to do.”
The three young warriors mounted their horses. They rode out of the camp, soon disappearing into the night.
“Go…,” commander Brianus muttered under his breath, staring at their silhouettes fading into the distance.
“Go and don't look back.”