On retrospect, Max supposed he should have been more suspicious of the enemy's choice of formation, specifically the large patch of clay-rich mud that everyone but a small circle of chanting Demon Masters were avoiding.
At the time, he had assumed that the Dullahan in charge just hated difficult terrain as much as Max himself did. It had hooves. Hooves slipped in mud. There clearly wasn't an ambush going on, or else the enemy would have chosen to fight him in a narrow valley or on a steep mountain path or something. Max still had flashbacks to the nightmare that was their mission to sabotage the Laser Eye. A tiny, treacherous mountain path with winged enemies on all sides, thick-skinned Lizard Men blocking the only route, all made ten times worse by the machine's beams of deadly light that immolated everything in front of them, friend or foe, but that they couldn't really avoid charging into. Now that had been a complicated battle, the sort that kept him awake at night when he was supposed to be sleeping before the next battle or at the very least listening to his adviser Nova's last minute tactical advice, which he had forgotten to do again.
This had looked like a simple battle...
"Ambush! Fall back!" yelled Max as the first of the Golems rose from the ground to the rapidly rising sound of the enemy mages' fervent chanting. Caught in the middle of the mud at the time, Zylo's leg was grabbed by the giant clay servant, who slammed him into the ground with its rock-hard fists. The nearest mage incanted a second-tier Freeze spell at him, conjuring a raging storm of ice shards, while the werewolf was still down, and Max winced as he realised that Lowe, who was already running to aid him, had been caught in the splash damage.
Thundering hooves heralded the sudden appearance of Pelle and Vankar from the other side of the battlefield. The mercenary Centaur grabbed the dying werewolf and hoisted him onto his back as his veteran friend smashed his lance and front hooves into the nearest Golem, shattering its head. The mage cursed and started chanting faster but he was silenced by Diane's arrows. Praying that the tide of battle could be turned, Max stepped in front of the fallen healer and swung at the head of a Golem who had risen to replace the first one. Other creatures were rising from the mud too, ferocious giant worms who had been lying in wait for their prey. One of them sprung out almost underneath Pelle, causing him to fall over. Max swore as he realised that his sword blows weren't enough to cut through the Golem's neck, and that one of the mages was chanting another Ice spell at the small force that had stood far too close together, just as Nova had warned him not to do on a battlefield with hostile spellcasters.
"Oh, for Light's sake... EGRESS!" roared Max, brandishing his sword and focusing his will on the desperate magical command to escape the battlefield. The short-range bulk teleportation spell kicked in and they were gone.
"So, what now?" the High Priest asked the Dullahan stood next to him, "Want us to press the advantage, or...?"
"We don't know where they've gone. I mean, I assume it's that village they came out of, but General Kane said to stay here and intercept them when they came to Dragonia, and I don't want to disobey his orders and be on the wrong end of that sword of his!"
"You're lying. You know he'd reward us either way, as long as they died. You're afraid of that guard dog, aren't you? Admit it!"
"So I'm afraid of a Cerberus. So what? You'd be, if you had any experience of fighting them," he growled, "Besides, I'm the one who was put in charge, not you, so we're doing what I say. And I say we use Egress as well!"
"What? But we'll be punished if we retreat!"
"We took a lot of casualties too, and we'll be slaughtered if we just stand here and wait for them to come back. Didn't you say you needed some more herbs anyway? We'll get back before they do, I promise. Nobody will ever know."
"I didn't know you could even cast Egress."
"I can't, I bought a bunch of Angel Wings while General Kane wasn't looking."
"And the vicar won't tell on us?"
"The vicar couldn't give a monkey's as long as he gets his resurrection money. All the same, those clergymen, profiting from the losses of others!" said Dullahan.
"Talking of healing and money, I want extra danger pay for this battle, you didn't tell me there'd be Jogurts! I've got a phobia of Jogurts!"
The Dullahan sighed and rummaged around in his belt pouch for the Angel Wings. They weren't there, and he couldn't remember where he had put them. It was so difficult to find things when you didn't have a head!