Tonunda drove his army from behind, not in a charge but a retreating pattern. Superior numbers and organisation took its toll in the Vindavians’ favour over the years. Aye, he had won battles, but at a cost. Thus far, the war with the southmen had been one of attrition. To be the last man standing was no victory, especially for a nation.
Natas had pushed well into Nusalle and ate up the land like a plague of locusts. He at least allowed non combatant villagers to live, but may as well have killed them. His army devoured livestock and food reserves, even half grown plants in the farms.
Tonunda shed a tear whenever he thought of the starvation of his people. Outnumbered by Natas’ forces by two to one he dared not make an open stand against the southmen once they crossed the river. He tried to use the knowledge of his homeland to his advantage. Large guerrilla forces were deployed in either dense bushland or at mountain passes. On the whole, his strategy proved successful. Each skirmish led to Vindavians dying off at a rate of three to one, before the main force arrived to their rescue. His tactics thinned their numbers, but far from enough to make a difference.
Even if he wanted to fight Natas’ forces head on, he could not. The Vindavian army always pursued them, making it impossible to have time enough to set up defenses.
He wanted to give up the fight, but to such a cruel king?
How many times had he prayed that a Vindavian sword would find him to end his anguish? He was powerless against Natas. His beloved Nusalle slowly died, as his army dwindled. Every successful skirmish merely prolonged the war another day. The men of Nusalle followed him blindly, looking on him with confidence. Such stares, crushed him almost to the point of tears, as he could not guarantee the victory they so hoped for.
He prayed as he rode behind his men, through the valley to an area most familiar to him. There he stopped, slowly turning, surveying the mountain of his upbringing. Fond memories returned to him of running with the pack, hunting and playing, before he took on the concerns of men.
His army ran on at least a hundred paces before he noticed they had stopped. He could make out the village of the Dog tribe behind them. Memories just as warm came to him of his new family and of the woman he loved; now his queen. Did he not already rescue these people? He could not watch it happen again. Even if he fled, and eventually routed Natas, he could not let it happen again. Here; today; he would die, as he would run no further.
The first of the Vindavian army rounded the mountain’s base and spread itself on the backs of the foothills.
Two riders galloped to a halt beside him. Concern etched themselves on the faces of his General, Arjaran, and the man carrying Tonunda’s personal banner. The soldier held a lance with a triangular piece of cloth dangling from the butt end, displaying the Dog tribe’s emblem, the head of the snarling dog.