Thesoldiers knelt just below his position in the gully, watching as he silently motioned where he wanted each of them. Alfred, now his first corporal, gestured from the far end of the line and Erik nodded. Each man knew what to do.
The enemy had camped in a relatively defensible position on the trail north of Krondor. About three miles up the road was the small town of Eggly, the objective of the invaders. The enemy had stopped their march before sundown, and Erik was certain they would launch an attack just before dawn.
Erik had watched them from his hidden vantage, his men camped a short distance away while he decided his best course of action. He had observed the enemy erect their camp, and saw they had been as disorganized as he had suspected they would be; their pickets were placed poorly, and were undisciplined, spending as much time looking into the camp to chat with comrades as actually watching for an enemy approach. The constant glances in the direction of the campfires were certainly diminishing their night vision. After gauging the strength and position of the invaders, Erik knew his choices. He had decided to strike first. While outnumbered by at least five to one, his men would have the advantage of surprise and superior training; at least, he hoped the latter was true.
Erik took a moment for one last inspection of the enemy's position. If anything, the pickets were even more inattentive than they had been when Erik had sent for his company. It was clear the invaders thought their mission one of minor importance, taking a small town off the beaten track, while major conflicts would be ragingto the south near the capital city of Krondor. Erik was determined to teach them that there were no minor conflicts in any war.
When his men were in place, Erik slipped down a small defile, until he was almost within touching distance of a bored guard. He tossed a small stone behind the man, who looked without thought. As Erik knew would be the case, the man glanced back into the camp, at the nearest campfire, which blinded him for a moment. A soldier sitting near the fire said, "What is it, Henry?"
The guard said, "Nothing."
He turned to find Erik standing directly before him, and faster than he could shout alarm, Erik hit him with his balled fist, catching him as he fell.
"Henry?" said the man at the campfire, starting to rise, vainly trying to see into the gloom beyond the campfire light.
Erik attempted to imitate the guard's voice. "I said, 'Nothing.'"
The attempt failed, for the soldier started to shout alarm and pulled on his sword. But before he could clear the blade from his scabbard, Erik was upon him like a cat on a mouse. Grabbing the man by the back of his tunic, Erik pulled him over backward, slamming him hard into the ground. Putting a dagger at the man's throat, he said, "You're dead. No noise."
The man gave him a sour look, but nodded. Softly he said, "Well, at least I get to finish my supper." He sat up and returned to his dinner plate, while two other men blinked in incomprehension as Erik circled the campfire and "cut" each of their throats before they realized an attack was under way.
Shouts from around the camp announced that the rest of Erik's company was now in force among the enemy, cutting throats, knocking down tents, and generally creating havoc. The only prohibition Erik had put on them was no fires. Although tempted, he thought the Baron of Tyr-Sog would not appreciate the damage to his baggage.
Erik hurried through the struggle, dispatching sleeping soldiers as they emerged from tents. He cut a few ropes, trapping soldiers inside as the canvas fell upon them, and heard shouts of outrage from within. Throughout the camp, men cursed as they were "killed," and Erik could hardly contain his amusement. The strike was fast and he was at the center of the camp within two minutes of the start of the assault. He reached the command tent as the Baron came out, obviously half-asleep as he buckled his sword belt around his nightshirt, and clearly displeased by the disruption. "What have we here?" he demanded of Erik.
"Your company is destroyed, my lord," said Erik with a light tap of his sword upon the Baron's chest. "And you are now dead."
The Baron studied the man who was sheathing his sword: he was tall, unusually broad across the shoulders without being fat, like a young blacksmith, with unremarkable features. His smile was engaging, however, friendly and open. In the firelight his pale blond hair danced with ruby highlights.
"Nonsense," said the stout Baron. His neatly trimmed beard and fine silk nightshirt said volumes about his campaign experience. "We were to attack Eggly tomorrow. No one said anything about this -- he waved his hand around the campsite -- "business of a night attack. Had we known, we would have taken precautions."
Erik said, "My lord, we are attempting to prove a point."
A voice came out of the darkness. "And you proved it well."
Owen Greylock, Knight-Captain of the Prince of Krondor's Royal Garrison, came into the light. His gaunt features gave him a sinister appearance in the dancing shadows of the firelight. "I judge you've killed or incapacitated three-quarters of the soldiers, Erik. How many men did you bring?"
Erik said, "Sixty."
"But I have three hundred!" said the Baron, clearly disturbed. "With an auxiliary of Hadati warriors."
Erik glanced about and said, "I don't see any Hadati. From out of the dark came an accented voice. "As it should be."
A group of men dressed in kilts and plaids entered the camp. They wore their hair tied atop their heads in a knot, with a long fall of it spilling down their backs. Rage of a Demon King
. Copyright © by Raymond Feist. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.