“Uh huh,” White cast a doubtful glance over his guests, “They’re vicious fighters, and my lads are not trained soldiers. Just boys who are handier with a blade than a plowshare and possessed with a remarkable lack of compunction over spilt blood. Plus, the orc chieftain, Shagrat, he’s got a head on his shoulders that many humans would wish for. Cunning little bugger.”
“Are you saying he would out strategize you?”
“Sounds to me like the Baron of Dunn is a mewling little coward.”
“You speak out of turn, barbarian.” snapped the accused, “I’m saying that it is hard to out strategize sixty orcish warriors with a mere handful of cutthroats. Hard, reckless, and lacking any kind of percentage.”
“Surely Black would account for a few.”
“Surely he would. As would I. As would every one of my men. And at the end? If I survive, I’d be lucky to have enough men able to walk to open the gate. And they would find a new leader before long. I don’t get endless throw away troops from the mountain clans like the Church does!”
“Whaddaya mean, throw aways?” snarled Wain.
“All right, all right.” Sir James held up his hands, “Listen. I obviously do not have training in the strategy and tactics of large scale warfare. But I do think you are counting out a few factors.”
“My comrade and I.”
“Two more men against a horde? What good is that?”
“You have not seen us in action.”
“Can you hold the line and stand in the shield wall? I thought not.”
“Never say never until you try. But that is not what I would propose.”
“Oh?” White threw his hands into the air, “And what would you propose?”
“Flanking elements. You do have some horses, correct?”
“Yes. But my men aren’t cavalry.”
“They have never conducted a raid on horseback?”
“I thought so. Listen. You give me five men on horseback and Black and we will guard your right flank. Wain will cover the left. You hold the main line and lure them into fixed battle. Then we sweep them up.”
“Wain will cover…” White spluttered, “One man, one short man, will conduct an entire flanking maneuver on his own?”
“You haven’t seen me fight, turkey butt.”
“He will control his tongue or I will cut it out!”
“Wain! Wait outside. And do not start any fights. We need them all.”
“Don’t need no one. I’ll kill the horde on my own. Sixty orcs. Pah.” Wain sulked out the door.
“He would make a good jester, that one,” White looked after the barbarian, “But at the rate he’s going, someone will have him burnt alive for his jests.”
“A social trial, perhaps, but a true boon in battle. And he keeps me humble.”
“A little pride is no bad thing. Can he truly make the flanking attack on his own?”
“Yes. At least enough to disrupt their line.”
“Cold. Effective, but cold. I’ve heard the Church uses them like that, and it makes sense, but it still gives me the chills.”
“He’ll survive until we break through to him.”
White arched an eyebrow.
“The real concern is if he’ll kill your men along with the orcs.”
White drummed his fingers on the table as he considered the plan. Sir James chewed on his carrot.
“Why are you pushing so hard to engage them in the field? What is your percentage?”
“I do not play percentages. It is the right thing to do.”
“Like I said. It is the only feasible field strategy that I can see. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t terrible. Three to one odds, my men would be butchered. There is no percentage that I can see. We’ll wait here.” White rose from the table. “If you wish to shelter with us, you are welcome, and I would suggest that you do. Their outriders will be all over the roads by now.”
Sir James finished chewing his carrot, swallowed, and cleared his throat.
“You say you cannot see the percentage. Perhaps you will allow me to illuminate it for you.”
“You do like a gab. Just like all the Church agents I’ve met.”
“When I return to the Holy Isle.” Sir James regarded White sternly, “And believe me, I will return. I will have to make a report on my findings in the County Dunn. Whether the ore trade has resumed and the banditry has ceased.”