Cyprus quickly scanned the ranger’s field report. Slovenia appeared to be following a fairly orthodox strategy, slowly advancing her front-lines so as to ensure consistent access to the supply trains feeding her army. The sudden change from measured retreat to bold advance had initially surprised him, but the timing of her change in strategy was revealing. Lord Jordan had been out of camp for a little over two days and suddenly her tactics were reversed. Cyprus was not an overly pessimistic man, he was however, coldly rational and the possibility that this turn of events was entirely coincidental seemed slim. He dismissed the ranger with a wave of his hand and a terse instruction to continue scouting the enemy lines. The ranger nodded and hurried away, disappearing into the general hubbub of activity in the camp.

Cyprus took a moment to observe the activities, trying to gauge the general mood in the camp. He detected some anxiety in the faces of the men hurrying to and fro, busy with the machinations and logistics of army life. To a more casual observer there would have been no apparent change. Cyprus was no casual observer. He had an uncanny sense of intuition that served him well in his role as steward. He could tell a mans mood by the set of his shoulders, the subtle tension in the mouth or a furtive glance. The signals he was receiving at the moment told him a lot. Thankfully the general impression was of excitement and anticipation rather than worry or concern. It was apparent that Slovenia’s change in strategy was not being perceived as the potential disaster he could see looming in front of him. It seemed the men were itching for battle. He was confident that the army could meet anything Slovenia might throw at them. At least, in a straight fight. However, if news of Jordan’s fate, whatever it may be, was received, the impact on troop morale might swing the tide of battle in Slovenia’s favour.

Jordan’s warrior reputation was the stuff of legend among the rank and file of his army. Tales of his debauchery with the spoils of war had kept many a fresh-faced recruit motivated in the darkest moments of battle. Now the chain of command in Jordan’s army was effectively broken and Cyprus knew that his word would never carry the same weight that Jordan or his heir’s had done. Cyprus’s mind raced furiously, he needed leverage and he needed it fast. He turned and marched back in to Jordan’s tent.

I suppose it’s my tent now, he thought to himself.

The tent was large and ornately decorated. Thick, opulent curtains of  material divided it in to separate living areas that served various functions. The entrance opened up into a large open space that passed as a meeting room. The space was dominated by a large circular table that was covered with a large woven cloth. The cloth was expertly woven with a rudimentary map of the region that served as a strategy board. A multitude of small iron statuettes covered the map, representing the various troop placements as well as approximations of enemy positions gleaned from scouting activity. Cyprus leaned over the table and carefully adjusted the placement of Slovenia’s front-lines based on the rangers report of their movements. He studied the changes carefully, his brow furrowing with concentration.

She must have captured Jordan. Nothing else made sense. She was clearly outnumbered while he held the higher ground, was better supplied and carried tactical advantage on practically every front. Yet here she was, squaring up for the mother of all fights. It was possible that this was a diversion but the more he thought about it, the less likely it seemed. Why risk everything, practically your entire army, unless you thought you could win?

He stood up straight and turned away from the table. It was time a decision was made. He could never assume the role of general directly, he didn’t possess the qualities expected by the warrior class, but he did have a final card to play. He pushed past the table and walked in to Jordan’s sleeping quarters. The space was dark and humid. The musty scent of Jordan’s rutting hung in the air. Cyprus wrinkled his nose and shook his head to clear the unspeakable visions of Jordan’s proclivities from his mind. The sleeping quarters led on to another area within the tent. Cyprus pulled aside the dividing curtain and peered in to the gloom of the small ante-chamber.

“Hello Norway, my darling.” He spoke soothingly.

There was a short intake of breath and a scrabbling sound.

“I have wonderful news.”