Dawn had not broken, and yet the armies were on the move. The barbarian peoples of the Dunsward had mostly kept to themselves for the last few centuries, and clashes with the people of the Mistmarches were not common. The Toor’Ash, as they called themselves, were made up of several tribes, clans, and groups of various sizes that fought more among themselves than with others, so long as the others stayed out of their lands. They were a people married to rigid tradition, and so the movement of such large forces – and before the sun rose – would have stood out as odd, even shocking, to the knowledgeable observer.
Each Mosh, or war band, had its own leader, who was in theory answerable to his or her tribal or clan elders. How many elders varied from group to group, with some headed by a single leader while others by councils. Like other Balkanized peoples, large-scale cooperation over a period of time was rare. And yet here they were, moving westward into the Tors of Levenies with riders ranging between them to carry information. A few small settlements – mostly farmsteds – had been taken, and the next targets were the passes that led to the western slopes of the jagged mountains and Lake Silverstep or, as they knew it from their ancient stories, Sky Water.
Spring had come early to the land this year, with only mild rains thus far. The Prophet’s promise of good weather for war had been accurate.
Scouts reported back to Hrach, leader of the Mosh tasked with capturing one of the southernmost passes: enemy forces had been spotted, and they’d fortified the pass. He ground his teeth in frustration, then snorted dismissively. “There will be a fight – fine,” he said to those around him. Looking down from his horse at the scout, he smiled and continued.
“Hold your position. Stay hidden at pain of death!,” he barked, then turned to one of his lieutenants. “Bring Ezdrenza forward to the scouts. She will open our assault. I will arrange the Mosh and will tell you when to unleash her.” His men nodded, knowing what to do. As they scattered to go about their work he took a moment to savor the morning air.
‘Only a lone hunter moves in the dark – but now we move as one,’ he thought. “Today is a good day for blood” he said aloud as he rapped the reigns of his horse and set off to prepare for battle.