August 6, 2011
By RahXephon 
Author's Notes: I'm changing the default chapter sizes of this fic and all my other fics from 10k words to 5k words because 10k is just too massive. My experience with The Star Empire showed me that a larger chapter didn't necessarily equate to better quality. While chapters that are very short do have a negative on immersion, any gains will quickly level off when you reach to about 2000-3000 words depending on the type of fic you're writing. In some cases, oversized chapters are actually a detriment to reading experience. It is hard to determine the optimum chapter size, and it really depends on many other factors such as whether it's on paper or digital, or what the purpose a chapter is supposed to fulfill.
In any case, the most important benefit to shorter chapter sizes is that the threshold of writing an update is significantly lower. This is rather difficult for non-writers to understand, but it is like this. When you start an ongoing fic on FFN, you are basically committing a portion of your time to serve your audience of readers. When a fic grows to become something special, that psychological commitment grows larger and the demands placed upon you will also grow in turn. This means that once I pause in a fic to focus on other things, it is hard to pick up the thread because I have a massive amount of content to write after months of hiatus, which is not easy to do if you want to maintain the same standards. I think this pressure is rather similar to the ones placed upon film producers and directors who are tasked to create a sequel to a successful franchise. You might be able to pull it off and earn a lot of accolades, or you might screw up horribly and end up with something like the fourth Indiana Jones movie. You do not want to be confronted with such a failure.
Dragon Age: Jack Effect
Fucking up the plans
Over the next two weeks Jack's army stayed out of sight. There was nothing else to do but wait for the darkspawn to begin their attack. Despite the Havenites' sizeable army, they were well out of the way from the coming horde of savages. Loghain's forces were just as blind to the reaver threat. The Fereldens were keeping their eye to the south, leaving a gaping blind spot to the north of Ostagar. The main roads were well guarded and well traveled, but that still left many leagues of unattended territory.
The reputation of the Korcari Wilds worked to the rebels' benefit. Heck, even her reavers were too scared to venture far. Only the most level-headed scouts were allowed to observe the preparations at Ostagar and keep an eye on the lands to the south.
Though Jack's scouts were skilled and experienced, they were not as familiar with the Wilds as their Ferelden counterparts. Her reaver scouts were occasionally detected by other Ferelden scouts loyal to the king. The consequences were usually mild though. The King's Scouts did not realize they were dealing with rebels, and usually presumed that the reaver scouts were some other noble's vassals. The only human soldier who remained in the area around Ostagar were all there to fight the darkspawn, not each other they reasoned. As long as her scouts acted the part, they were free to spy on Loghain's encampment and tally the number and composition of men.
As for the darkspawn, their horde was spread out in numerous warbands throughout the southern edge of the Wilds. It was difficult to estimate their numbers, but most guesses hovered around twenty thousand warriors. From all the descriptions, these darkspawn soldiers were almost vermin in their destructive quest for food. Trails of fire and devastation crisscrossed the forests, leaving ugly scars on the untamed wilderness. The only thing that her scouts couldn't find was where these darkspawn were keeping their siege engines. The disorganization in the darkspawn's horde was so great that it was impossible to determine where overall command was being exercised. Only the magic-wielding emissaries seem to be capable of issuing orders, but no other creature with command authority had been spotted. It was hard to decipher how close the darkspawn were to attacking King Cailan's army.
Jack had kept herself busy as well. After her little jaunt in the Wilds and her meeting with Flemeth and Morrigan, she wasn't able to leave the camp again. It wasn't as if someone forbade her to leave, but every time she tried to step her foot outside, something would always come up. She had a sneaking suspicion General Kolgrim was determined to treat Jack like porcelain. Hey, she wasn't that fragile!
With nothing else to do, the biotic cult leader spent her time in relative boredom inspecting the men and practicing her horsemanship, often accompanied by her new bodyguards Paedan and Shaevra. At least she was able to steer Normandy in the right direction now. All that she needed to master was to make the damn horse stop at her command. That proved quite difficult as the spirited horse resented standing still. In that, her mount mimicked his master. The animal didn't have to pour his frustrations onto Jack though. The last time Normandy kicked his master off her saddle, she needed a health potion to ease the bump on her head.
Despite the tranquility, the time for battle slowly drew close. At the next evening briefing, Jack finally received the news.
"The darkspawn horde is moving to attack. Their warbands are converging together in a giant horde, which is moving northwards at a slow but steady pace. It will be less than two more days before they arrive in front of the gates of Ostagar."
"Scout-Lieutenant Barton," Captain Farla inquired the scout leader. "Have you or your men sighted their siege engines?"
"Not as yet, captain. The darkspawn horde is still too dispersed to risk a closer look. We can only glean a little from their general movements and outer deployments. What they are hiding in the center of their formation is anyone's guess."
"This behavior is consistent with previous darkspawn raids." Captain Rodney of the Eastfrost Lancers mused. "Their leaders need to have the siege engines close at hand, supposedly because they need to exert tighter control on the units who operate the machines."
From all the stories Jack had heard about Rodney, the nobleman used to be a notorious skirt chaser and had difficulty holding his coins together. She was curious whether he still retained those vices after he had been converted.
At the very least, she could still identify an element of bluster in his confident tone. "Their chaos is nothing but a sign of their disunity. It will be easy to misdirect them for our own gain."
Most of those assembled were not as confident as the cavalry captain. Kolgrim's own protégé – Captain Sokor of the Prime Reavers – retorted first. "That's easy for you to say, since you can just ride away with your pretty horses if things don't go your way. Our footsoldiers can't disentangle themselves from the enemy that easily."
"Are you suggestion that my men are cowards?" Rodney accused as he puffed up his chest. His contempt for Captain Sokor had grown to a new low.
"Fall back!" General Kolgrim sternly intervened. "This discussion is pointless. Let us focus on the matter at hand." He tapped his gauntleted finger on the battle map in the center of the circular table. "Now, as I was saying, we will be attacking Loghain's forces in their flank or rear. If everything goes according to plan, we will be out of the battle before the darkspawn reaches our lines."
The plan was something that they had discussed for ages. It was the least they could do when they sat on their asses for two weeks. All the really technical arguments passed over Jack's head, but she knew enough of fighting to have a say in the proceedings.
While Ostagar was a defensible position, it was not the bulwark it used to be in its prime. The outer walls were completely decayed, and the inner defenses might as well be air. Only its prodigious height and the abundance of choke points gave Loghain's forces a chance of beating back the darkspawn. Besides that, the entire outer perimeter was completely bereft of cover or obstacles.
Therein lay the key to defeating the Fereldens. With their entire defenses directed to the south, they would not expect an attack from the rear. The sight of another human faction fighting with the darkspawn should be enough of a shock factor to spark a panic. At least that was what everyone was hoping for. At worst, Loghain would have to direct more men to defend the rear, leaving fewer reserves able to shore up the front. Hopefully the Ferelden's casualties would be high.
"There is another matter of some urgency I need to mention." The scout lieutenant added. "Loghain's army is rearranging itself in an unusual pattern. It… I cannot describe it. You will have to see for yourselves." With a trembling finger, he retrieved a folded map from his pocket.
Jack snatched the creased paper and unfolded it to find a sketch of troop positions. The acronyms and jargon meant nothing to her, but she could see as plain as day that there were far more Xs positioned behind Ostagar than what actually defended the front entrance. She passed the paper to Kolgrim and the rest to let them take a look. "What does it mean?"
"It means," Her general murmured, "That the teyrn does not intend to use the ruins of Ostagar as a defensive position."
A quick discussion flew back and forth between the officers. Jack just laid back and took a sip from her wine goblet. The brainy officers quickly reached a consensus.
"It's the most likely explanation." Kolgrim concluded, pointing at the openings that the split formation created. "Abandoning the fortress would render their siege engines ineffective. The small formation of infantrymen positioned in this lower chokepoint is likely meant to funnel the darkspawn into a narrow passage and block their charge. In other words, they act as an anvil for the creatures to blunt their attacks on. Loghain's remaining footsoldiers positioned on the high ground can then circle around and use the declining slope to their advantage. I can image that his infantry will charge down the hill to hammer the unaware darkspawn from their flanks. It's a high risk strategem. However, if successful, the shock and encirclement might break the backs of the entire darkspawn horde. It seems likely that Teyrn Loghain is aiming to annihilate the entire horde."
"Well, Loghain just made our task easier. We can just attack one of his flanks and roll them up like a carpet!" Rodney suggested confidently as he pointed his finger towards Loghain's western pincer.
"It's not that easy." Sokor said as he gestured towards the small mass of cavalry positioned at the edge of the eastern forest. The mounted knights had a direct path to the pass below and could with some effort flank around to reinforce the two pincer formation instead. "Their cavalry can counter-charge our forces while we are engaged, turning our ambush around."
Captain Farla nodded, analyzing the situation in an acher's point of view. "The main Ferelden thrusts will march through thick forest cover. Our arrows won't have much effect until they are back out into the open."
"So what do we do?" Jack asked to no one in particular as she puzzled over the complex maneuvering. She got the gist of the discussion. The Fereldens wouldn't hole up in Ostagar as they had expected. Instead they were doing some aggressive moves that spread out their army over a larger territory. While they would be more dispersed, their enhanced mobility would allow them to turn the tables on both the darkspawn and her forces much more quickly than they had all anticipated.
"Obviously we can't just pick an angle to attack from and expect everything to fall in our laps."
They argued about it for the rest of the afternoon. The only thing they could all agree on was that they needed to intercept one of the two branches that acted as the hammers of the main Ferelden army. With one hammer out of commission, the other hammer would have a reduced impact on the darkspawn. Meanwhile, the center anvil formation would not get the relief it would be hoping for and crumble away quickly. But the question was how to stop a column of about six thousand men-at-arms with an army of just fifteen hundred? In addition, King Cailan's combined cavalry company would be waiting to pounce on any unexpected developments. Repelling a mounted charge of three hundred knights was very difficult even though cavalry was something of a joke in Ferelden.
As the meeting adjourned and everyone went off to have supper, there was still no good plan to deal with the changes in formation. This Loghain fellow seemed to have unintentionally minimized his army's openings against any surprise attack. Even with the might of the infected upon them, the King's most trusted man might still be able to beat the darkspawn back while repelling Jack's reavers at the same time. There were simply no obvious vulnerabilities to exploit, not with such a high disparity in numbers.
'What I really need is to work together with the darkspawn. If we could just coordinate – heck, – if the fucking darkspawn would just stop charging straight ahead into a trap, we can fuck up Cailan's army for good.'
They hadn't managed to come up with a plan after supper either. Loghain's formation was just too robust. It was like the guy had an ingrained habit of minimizing unexpected events. His troops followed their orders to the letter. None of them were undisciplined enough to leave a hole in their defenses.
The next day didn't bring any reprieve despite updated reports on troop movements. The teyrn was keeping a tight lip over his final troop movements, though he did start evacuating the fortress.
It took another night for the darkspawn to begin their final approach. The Battle of Ostagar was about to start.
In its heyday, Ostagar stood as a proud monument at the edge of civilization. In a time when the Tevinter Imperium ruled virtually all of Thedas, the fortress symbolized the border that kept out the Chasind barbarians. Strategically positioned over a narrow pass, it guarded the entrance to the rest of Ferelden, and from there, the rest of the world. No sizable army could go around it, only through it. Its proud arches and tall architecture bespoke of ancient wealth and power. Though fallen, remnants of its former glory still remained due to lingering Tevinter enchantments. Throughout the nine ages of man many of its formidable defenses had crumbled. Still, even the rubble presented a formidable obstruction to any interloper that tried to bull through. A ruin it may be, an obstacle remained an obstacle.
Amongst its decaying walls and fallen buildings, the Tower of Ishal stood out like a tree over a hill of hedges. The white-washed structure showed none of the decay that marred its siblings. Most of its walls were solid, and no major gaps had emerged on its venerable surface. Its continued defiance against the forces of nature and man represented the finest of Tevinter architecture. The Imperium still endured within each independent country even after they had been repelled. From their language, to their script, to the use of magic, much of modern Ferelden were merely offshoots from greatest civilization known on Thedas. It was a testament of greatness that this tower named after a long-forgotten Archon was never equaled again by the successor state that inherited these lands.
The young witch known as Morrigan sat atop one of the pillars cresting the crown of the tower. With child-like interest she gazed down upon the thousands of men and women moving in orderly ranks and columns. Drums, trumpets and screams orchestrated the movement of these precise clockworks. It was incredibly interesting how these common soldiers rid themselves of their emotions on this crucial time. There were no tears, no fits of fright nor any last farewells. No, they just surrendered themselves to their puppet masters. They were men no more.
A presence appeared beside the beautiful woman.
"Ah, mother, I was wondering whether you would come."
The eagle transformed itself into the shape of an old and ugly crone. Flemeth turned to her daughter and frowned. "It seems you've chosen a rather exposed location to view the coming fight."
"Did you come here to hold my hand so I wouldn't fall? Oh how very protective of you."
"Do not mock me, child."
Morrigan brushed off Flemeth's glare. "I'll only do that when you stop making fun of my maturity. I'm hardly a child anymore you know. I have every right to be here."
"Is that so?" The elder witch smirked. "Well then, seeming as you are so eager to show your independence, I can leave my task to you."
"And what would that be, oh gentle mother?"
As the two witches bickered on top of the tower, the armies below were finishing their preparations. Loghain's forces had left Ostagar and started to branch out in two, spreading deep into the woods and out of sight from the approaching darkspawn. The Grey Warden contingent started to mass down below in the valley that served as a chokepoint to block the darkspawn's approach.
The warden's distinct blue markings stood out brightly against the more utilitarian Ferelden uniforms. Loghain's forces could aptly be described as an army of many. The Grey Wardens on the other hand was an army of one. Their banners also only depicted a single crest: a stylized griffin. They were singular in purpose and renowned in their accomplishments. To them, the Fifth Blight had come, and this was to be the time they would do what they had dedicated their entire lives.
But not at this moment. At the very front of the formation, Riordan watched grimly as Loghain's forces retreated into the woods. Supposedly to flank the darkspawn. But the Wardens knew better. The Ferelden nobility aimed to finish the treachery they started with Duncan's assassination. Well, the Wardens were nobody's fools. He turned to the mage waiting besides him.
"Guillard, have you confirmed it?"
The thin elven mage looked back at his superior with a stoic expression. He spoke with the remnants of an Orlesian accent. "Nothing can be confirmed, least of all what you've asked. But my spirit tells me that our worst suspicions might very well come true."
That corroborated everything the scouts had seen with their own two eyes. The troop formations were moving too far away from Ostagar to come to the Grey Warden's aid in time. They had no intention of relieving Riordan's men. Instead it became clear that they arranged themselves to be as far away as possible. The cavalry waiting to the northeast were also positioned oddly. If they charged down the hill, they wouldn't be able to reach the darkspawn directly. They were however most conveniently in place to trample over the Wardens' unprotected rear. If the letter from Eastfrost hadn't warned them of Loghain's possible treachery, then Riordan would have never recognized the signs. Duncan's death, though grievous as it may be, had given the rest of his men the warning they needed most. The Orlesian bowed his head in gratitude and remembrance to his former comrade.
Lightning crackled overhead. The wind howled through the ruins, chilling the Grey Wardens even as they waited in anticipation. The mabari hounds in their midst began to bark at the growing smell of rot. A chantry sister walked amongst them chanting verses.
"The plan will work." Riordan said, though his voice lacked in certainty. "The Blight may not end this day, but we will survive."
"For Duncan!" Someone in their midst had shouted.
"FOR DUNCAN!" The rest of them shouted in turn.
The front elements of the horde replied with their own mindless roar. Their thunderous cries echoed throughout the valley and penetrated well into the forest.
Even amongst the cavalry at the rear of the battlefield, Cailan could not suppress a chill as he saw the growing mob of torchlight move closer.
"Steel yourself, boy." Teyrn Loghain advised as he held a protective gauntlet over his charge's shoulder. "We have tactics and the terrain on our side. You will keep your Ferelden throne."
The king looked less than reassured. His apprehensive movements were beginning to worry everyone around him.
"I know Loghain, it's just.. ugh, Duncan guided me after my father died, you know? He was my friend. I just can't wrap my head around his motives. He's a Ferelden. He wouldn't betray his own country, would he?"
"If there is anything I learned from the Orlesian occupation, it's that there are always enough Fereldens who are low enough to sell out their own country." The teyrn shook his head at Cailan's naïve perspective. Will the boy ever learn?
"These aren't the Grey Wardens from your fanciful stories, your majesty. They're Orlesian scum, all of them. Even Duncan spent most of his Grey Warden days in Orlais himself. Just admit it, he's a frog lover."
The boy didn't argue any further, which suited the teyrn just fine. As long as king didn't actively oppose the plan to crush the Grey Wardens, those traitors would be out of the way eventually. Ferelden didn't need the Grey Warden's help to kick off a few unruly darkspawn off their lands. He had no patience either with their cryptic warnings and vague allusions to Archdemons.
A trumpet sounded out.
"That's the first signal." Loghain helpfully pointed out. The lazy boy still hadn't learned all the patterns yet. "The Grey Wardens will start to fire their arrows towards the enemy vanguard."
And indeed, just as planned the small contingent of archers rained fire arrows upon the horde of approaching darkspawn. The first casualties began to fall. The terrible creatures didn't let the strike go unpunished and fired back their own volley of poisoned projectiles.
Only to land upon nothing.
"What in the Fade?" The teyrn of Gwaren sputtered as he snatched an eyeglass from a nearby lieutenant. He stood up from the stirrups of his horse in order to get a better look from his vantage point overlooking the valley. "No.. this cannot be.. this wasn't part of the plan!"
Surely enough, the Grey Wardens were doing nothing like they were supposed to do. The plan was for the Wardens to bottleneck the valley. Their steady retreat under fire had not been mentioned in any consideration, but that was exactly what the Wardens were doing. They continued to fire back sporadically at the pursuing darkspawn lines, but the arrows only goaded the monsters into following them through the pass.
"By Andraste! Cauthrien, signal those damned Wardens to stand ground. Use trumpets, banners, send out a rider if you have to, but tell them to halt!"
"Very well my liege!" The knight complied as she hurriedly went out her way to pass the orders.
Even as the trumpets continued to holler the same pattern of notes, the Grey Wardens didn't show any signs of dropping their act. They were leading the darkspawn straight through the valley underneath the bridges of Ostagar. Their intentions quickly became clear.
"By Maric.. the Wardens are leading the darkspawn to us!"
Sure enough, once the blue warriors left the valley they slanted to the east, straight towards the cavalry reserves Cailan and Loghain were part of. Though the Wardens had to march a long amount of distance uphill, they didn't show any signs of tiring.
"I knew this was a mistake!" Cailan said, his doubts coming back to the fore. "We shouldn't have plotted to betray the Grey Wardens. We should be fighting at their side!"
In an of what Loghain thought was pure stupidity, the king reared his horse and unsheathed his sword. "Charge on my mark, knights! For Ferel—"
—but was cut off when Loghain slugged him in the face. The adolescent monarch didn't have a chance and collapsed backwards on his saddle. His bodyguards quickly moved to stabilize his woozy body. Still, despite the obvious assault, none of them dared to draw their sword at the powerful warmaster.
His stare bore down sharply at the royal guards. "The boy seems to be ill. Bring him back to the camp and keep him sedated. There is no point worrying His Majesty of the outcome of this battle."
The guards didn't acknowledge the general's command, but they did what he asked of them.
As the guards gently guided Cailan's horse from the front, Loghain looked contemptuously at the approaching mob of Wardens with the Horde at their heels. He had to admit that the Grey Wardens had outplayed him. To turn his ambush right back around him took guts.
There were only a couple of minor problems with that plan though. First, the Wardens were marching their way uphill. At this pace and with a significant amount of armor weighing them down they would barely reach the cavalry at the top. Second, Loghain and his riders had no obligation to stand around and wait for the Wardens to sucker punch him. Loghain could avoid most of the harm if he simply pulled back his cavalry beyond the reach of the Wardens. It would be child's play to outrun a man on horseback, Wardens or no. Still, it was not an ideal.
While the Grey Wardens would eventually tire and be consumed, it would still leave the horde intact, much of them ready to occupy the high ground, or worse, Ostagar itself. It would be difficult to coordinate his two major infantry formations to strike at the darkspawn without suffering the same disadvantages of charging uphill.
Yet, with the darkspawn pouring out of the valley, most of the advantages of fighting them at Ostagar were moot. If he was smart, he would have pulled back all his troops and let the Grey Wardens fend for themselves.
Perhaps he would do so… 'Yes.. I can't believe the Wardens would assume I would stand and fight. Let the darkspawn rampage for a while if that is what it takes to wipe out you infernal scum.'
He motioned for Cauthrien to pass along another command. "Sound the retreat. We're not giving the Wardens what they want."
"But milord, if we run, we'll have to abandon our supplies and leave the countryside to fend for themselves."
"Do not question me!" He snapped and squeezed Cauthrien's hand. "Now go!"
She nodded cautiously, then turned back to signal the trumpeters to sound the retreat. But before she could do so, a commotion erupted on the far side of the battlefield, towards the western flank. The camouflaged signal flags Loghain had setup atop the trees began to wave frantically.
"What is it now?" The man hissed angrily as he brought up his telescope to read the pattern of the banners.
Everyone stood silently while the teyrn interpreted the signals. Those who carried mechanical or magical eyeglasses tried to peer through the thick of the forest in order to figure out what was going on, but they had little luck penetrating the foliage.
"What are your orders, ser?" An officer asked, already apprehensive at the huge horde storming towards them.
Loghain only took a few more seconds to make his decision. "Our western flank has been.. outflanked somehow. A retreat would turn half of our forces into easy pickings. We won't be able to retreat unless we're prepared to sacrifice half our troops. For better or worse, we have to attack. Signal the western flank to hold and the eastern flank to come around. We have to consolidate our forces or we won't stand a chance against the darkspawn."
"What about our cavalry, milord?"
The teyrn withdrew his sword and held it out. His iron gaze swept over his assembled riders. They might not be as invincible as the fabled Orlesian chevaliers, but these hardened Fereldens were nothing to scoff at. They all held their lances ready. Despite the setbacks, everyone looked eager to battle. Loghain nodded in approval and turned his mount back towards the enemy. The Grey Wardens were making good speed staying ahead of the darkspawn tide, but they would run out of breath soon enough. Still, the warmaster didn't want to rely on luck. He had to make sure the Grey Wardens would fall. He would make Ostagar their graveyard.
With his heart set upon this course, he rallied his men. "Men, we have been betrayed. The Grey Wardens were tasked to guard the pass and block the darkspawn from spilling out into our heartland. Instead, they run like cowards, leading the infernal beasts right to us. Will you let their cowardice stand?"
"Will you let them destroy your homes?"
"Will you let them rape your wives?"
"Will you let them ruin your country?"
"Then charge! FOR FERELDEN!" He called out with his booming voice, a thousand times more thunderous than the pup's petty warcry.
"FOR FERELDEN!" The inspired knights echoed as they began to charge down the hill and right into the exhausted formation of Wardens. They would pay them back for their crimes.
The battle did not unfold the way they had expected. From a distance, the Ferelden's disposition had been clear. The Grey Wardens would bottle up the darkspawn while the pincers would move to flank and annihilate the foul-smelling creatures. Instead, it seemed the Wardens had abandoned their duty and let the darkspawn spill right out of the pass and into open ground.
"It seems our gamble with the forged missives has paid off." Father Eirik muttered. "Though it seems to have turned the battle into chaos. What are your orders, milady Andraste?"
Jack sat atop her unruly destrier overlooking a portion of the battlefield. So far they hadn't been spotted yet by both the Fereldens and the darkspawn, but that could rapidly change. She peered as much as she could with her enchanted quartz eyeglass, but her vision suddenly jerked as Normandy neighed in restlessness.
"Stay still you dick." And she knocked her horse on the head, which succeeded in silencing him for the moment.
"Your orders, milady?"
"The fuck should I know? Ask Kolgrim."
The general withdrew his eyeglass and eyed his forces. "I am.. uncertain. If we proceed with the original plan, we may be able to hold up the western pincer, but we will still be outnumbered four-to-one. With the added chaos of roaming darkspawn, there is a higher chance that our escape might be cut off. That might prove disastrous for our forces."
Captain Rodney disagreed. "Pah, we are the chosen of Andraste! If the darkspawn get in our way, we'll just smash them aside. My Eastfrost Lancers can bull through anything."
Heavy cavalry could indeed smash through anything, provided they had the luxury to build up their momentum.
"Not if the darkspawn surround us." Captain Sokor shot back. "You need plenty of space to build up a decent charge."
The two rivals glared intensely at each other. Their animosity towards each other had grown like wildfire ever since the merger of their armies. Rodney commanded one of the most elite mounted units of Eastfrost, while Sokor led the most veteran contingent of reavers. The two units battled fiercely for the honor of becoming Andraste's favorites.
But, as usual, Jack didn't care. She just threw a dirty look at both that instantly ceased their power struggle. "Enough squabbling. I want to hear options, realistic ones this time."
She pounded her fist against the neck of her mount, which provoked an indignant neigh from the animal. Jack hissed at the dumb beast, warning it to stay quiet.
"Well, milady, I don't see how we need to change our battle plan." Farla said. The archer captain held out the map of Ostagar's surroundings and pointed to the Ferelden disposition. "The only way Loghain will come out of this battle victorious if he manages to either contain the darkspawn or push them back from a united front. But the way I see it the darkspawn will be too stretched out by the time the Ferelden infantry will be able to envelop them. He has no choice but to merge his split up infantry formations together and possibly make a fighting retreat if there are more darkspawn than expected."
The others looked thoughtfully at Farla's analysis. Kolgrim nodded in agreement. "That is a sound – if dangerous – assumption. If we are meaning to let the darkspawn win, then we must prevent Loghain's infantry from linking up or complete their envelopment. Either of those can be stopped if we distract the western flank. The only issues we have to consider is how long we have to delay them and how to extract ourselves from the engagement. I think it is best to redirect our forces to attack from the north. This will push their western flank back from linking up with the eastern flank and—"
"Stop shaking you stupid idiot!" Jack exploded as Normandy grew more agitated in his desire to lash out.
The sound of marching armies and the smell of decaying darkspawn all called out to his violent nature. From birth, the warhorse had been trained for war, and was well acquainted with the smell of hurlocks. His trainers had done their best associating the smell with battle. Too well in this case.
The horse stamped the ground with his hooves while Jack aggressively tried to rein him in. Paedan moved to calm the mount but the horse's aggressive butting knocked him back.
"That's it, I've had it with you. Can someone please—" But Jack didn't get to finish as the dumb mount reared back in defiance, almost shoving his rider from his back were it not for the extra straps. As soon as the horse lowered his forelegs, Normandy bolted forward, eager to join the battle ahead.
"No! Lady Andraste!"
"What do we do now?"
"We attack as planned." Kolgrim decided quickly. He wanted to go after Andraste immediately but it was more important to direct her army first. "Rodney, rejoin your riders and try to catch up to Andraste. If you don't manage to reach her in time, then do your best to open a wedge. Now go!"
For once, the arrogant captain didn't argue and was already moving to his riders, ordering them to go after Jack immediately.
"Sokor, go after Rodney's lancers and reinforce them if they become entangled in enemy lines. No arguing, now march! Farla, Eirik, march your archers and mages to the designated position and provide support. Oh, and Eirik, send your best enchanter to the front alongside Sokor's reavers and have him cast protections over our lady. Guard-Captain Coster, take up the rear guard."
"What about the rest?"
"I'll lead the main element myself." Kolgrim answered. "Now move out. To battle! For the Risen Andraste!"
"For the Risen Andraste!" The reavers cried as they joined their lady into battle.
End Notes: We'll see how the battle unfolds.