A grey tide moved silently through the trees.
The tide ebbed and flowed in the forests, swaying back and forth.
The tide flowed on.
Tramping along a dusty road, that cut through the forest, was a column of armed folk. Without exception mounted, the group was tired, but wary. They were trotting along path that ran through the center of a small valley, between two large spurs of rock that jotted out from the Iron Mountains that loomed overhead.
Astride a massive destrier, covered in white and yellow trappings, a steel-plated warrior rode. A long ashen lance was in his hand, a shield upon his arm, and a sword lay in a scabbard hanging from his saddlebow. Emblazoned upon his shield was a badger. He wore a full helm, but the visor was open to reveal an older face, his wizened face lined with care. He turned in the saddle, looking for danger. His eyes widened, and he slammed his visor down, shouting at the same time.
“Alarm! Attack, attack! In the trees!” The column began forming a rough line, facing the trees. Half a dozen arrows whined out of the woods, burying themselves in men and horses. Slashing with their spurs, the line moved forward, drawing together with the knight at the head.
“For the King!”
There was a rush of feet, and the elves were upon them. They were clad in grey, white, and black, wearing steel armor that glinted blue, bore swords, spears, shields, and axes, and leaped through the trees with abandon, shouting their own warcry.
The skirmish didn’t last. The elves jumped to meet the horsemen, yanking them from their saddles or stabbing at mounts with spears. A dozen or so elves fell, dead or wounded, but the ferocity and suddenness of the attack, coupled with the inability of the horsemen to maneuver, handicapped the riders. They fought as best they could, but that wasn’t enough.
Belar turned the body over with his foot. The knight was dead, the remnants of his cloven shield still cling to his left arm where Belar’s axe had smashed through. Belar thought for a moment, shrugged, and bent to to remove his fallen enemy’s helm. He drew a dagger, bent over, and slashed.
Tucking the bloody clump of flesh and hair into his belt, he turned to look around him. The elves were moving from one corpse to another, finishing off the wounded. The surviving mercenaries had fled after a few moments of battle, leaving the knight and his entourage to die alone. They’d died well, though, better than Belar could have hoped.
He whistled. Instantly, the warriors reformed into a rough line, and then at a command from the Belar, they vanished back uphill into the woods. The bodies, of both sides, they left behind.