A plan is formed to take back the coast, and those going into battle say their goodbyes.
The noise in the room eventually started to die down. Sentinel and Snitch were still at the front of the room. Bone had approached them and was talking to them as well, and the rest of us were all just waiting for our first orders. I felt a pang of anxiety in my stomach.
It hadn’t fully set in that we were going to be fighting for our lives again before that moment.
The room was completely silent by the time Sentinel stood up. All of us Chimeras sat down if there was something nearby to sit on. Storm and I sat next to each other on a table, and Quiver sat on the chair next to us with Red leaning on her shoulders. The elves looked around awkwardly, before kneeling on the ground in front of us. Bone looked at Storm and I, and then at the elves.
“Everyone,” Sentinel said, his voice loud and clear to everyone in the room. “Earlier, the soldiers of Lassania brazenly attacked our land, taking the coast from us and blocking us into our land. Before this, those who lived on the coast believe that they might not know the location of our village. They have seen ships before, slowly getting closer. A while back, they noticed a ship dangerously close, but a dust storm destroyed it before they could investigate where it landed. No other ships got that close until the attack started, and it started from the western coast. We believe that by this point, it is likely that the entire coast has been taken, and potentially parts of the mountains that we have not seen Lassania enter since we fled from the dungeon.”
Storm and I looked at the Elves. Safiena and Nayila’s faces were red, and Fayne raised his hand. Sentinel looked at him, and the rest of the chimeras seemed shocked that he would interrupt Sentinel like that.
“Do you have something to say?”
“Yes. One of those boats was the one that us elves arrived on. The one that was destroyed in the dust storm was the one we arrived on. However… that ship was the only one our country, Akalai, has sent to this area.”
“That makes sense. Thank you.” Sentinel turned back to the rest of the chimeras. “It is likely that the rest of the ships do, in fact, belong to Lassania in that case. Which means that they have likely been watching us for quite some time. However… that does not mean that we have already lost the fight.”
I caught Red shaking his head, and shot him a glare.
“Even if Lassania knows about the dust, I doubt they have had to live through a dust storm. And even if they did live through the dust storm, we can not forget… what they did to us, now that we are free, is something that we can use against them. They beat us until we were violent and resilient. They made us weapons that they wanted to use in their own wars. But now, we are our own weapons- and now that a year has passed, we know how to use ourselves and our powers for our own will. And more importantly… we now know what our own will is, and that is something that every person in this room is here to fight for: our right to keep living our lives free of the torture they want to put us under!”
Some chimeras started clapping, and others were nodding. Even the elves were nodding in agreement. As soon as that died down, however, Sentinel took a deep breath. “That does not mean that we are going to have an easy fight, however. Lassania will be better armored and better armed than we are; however, if we can stay hidden in the forest and force them to fight us there, where we can outnumber them, we might stand a chance. This means that we can win, and if we can scare them enough, we might just be able to scare them away from our lands for a while, though our fight will not end there.”
“And that is where we need to make a decision as a group,” Bone said, his rough voice filling the room. The elves immediately turned their attention to him more than anyone else did. “On whether to attack where the farms are, or attack from the mountains on either side of our land.”
“Wouldn’t the farms make more sense?” Quiver asked. “That way we could secure our food source again.”
“But that would be harder to attack and would take longer to secure,” Bone said. “The areas around the farms are cleared out to make it easier to clean up after dust storms there. That would make it harder to use stealth to gain the upper hand- assuming that they are mostly on the coast and not spreading into the forest already.”
“How long can we afford this battle taking?” Fayne asked.
“We don’t know. The shorter the better, of course, but if necessary, we could hunt and forage inside the forest to keep ourselves fed between clashes.”
“Then maybe that would be better. Besides, the sooner we get the farms back, the less likely Lassania is to raze them.”
“But why would they raze them instead of merely scavenging from them?” Snitch asked. It was hard to read whether he was mocking Fayne or simply asking the question seriously.
“They have a whole country that they can get food from backing them. You don’t- at least, not yet.” There were some confused and apprehensive looks from the other chimeras, but an interesting lack of hostility. “Lassania may very well have set up systems to get food to the soldiers on the coast.”
Storm seemed thoughtful. “But that makes me wonder… perhaps if we take the flanks, we can get at least one or two shipments of food for ourselves and cut them off.”
“It might be by ship, though.”
“Shit. Nevermind, then.”
I looked up at Bone. “Bone. How many places are there on the coast to hide from the dust?”
“Near the farms, there’s only the house, though I suppose we could set up more with the cloths that are normally used to cover the food.”
“But there are more near the mountains, right?”
I nodded. “If we take the mountains back, then, we can force them into the areas that don’t have shelter. And then when there’s another dust storm, we could get to shelter and keep as many of them as possible out of the available shelter. Then, even if it turns out they are receiving food and supplies from ships, we’ll notice, and they won’t survive the dust without shelter.”
“But that’ll split everyone in half,” Bone said, thoughtfully. “Though, if we get a dust storm… I suppose that would be a non-issue.”
Sentinel nodded at me. “I agree. But it would be best to not rely on sheer luck.”
Nayila was the next to speak. “Well… what’s to say they haven’t already razed the fields? Or that the crops aren’t going to be destroyed by the dust if they haven’t?”
Bone suddenly perked up. “That’s it,” he said. “If they haven’t razed the fields and are planning on using the crops… if they were to try to eat the crops, that would be as harmful as staying out in a dust storm. So even if some on the coast sheltered in the house, the moment they tried to eat contaminated food, it would finish the job for us. So if it’s going to be a long battle… it would be best to let them have the food. It may very well be poison by the time we next see it.”
“Then it would be safer to take the flanks and better,” Sentinel said. Everyone seemed to agree, and it was settled.
We went to go home and say goodbye to everyone for some time.
“I swear, Storm, Gray, if you two don’t come back, I’m going to continue my research- and imagine how dangerous it would be without you two protecting me,” Rune growled, giving Storm and I a big hug. Then, he turned to Red. “And you? Don’t even think about dying on me and Rain. Quiver, that goes for you too. Just… don’t do it. And do your best to give them a hard time for everything they’ve done.”
“We will,” I said, putting my hand on Rune’s head. He pinned his ears and dodged out, pouting. Then he hugged Red briefly, his tail swishing behind him.
Then, I felt a gentle touch on my upper arm. I turned to see Valla, holding her hand on my arm. It was shaking. She looked a little bitter, but mostly just… sad.
“Please don’t get hurt,” she whispered. “Please.”
“I’ll do my best,” I said, holding her hand. For a second, I brushed my tail against her legs, but not for long enough for anyone else to notice.
Valla nodded. She hesitated, before pulling herself closer to me and hugging me tightly.
Somehow, that memory would stick with me and give me another layer of desperation in the fight.