She was coming across the regiments’ camp when Ghia’s voice broke into her thoughts.
Rosa – Yarrow’s returned with her regiment and has infiltrated the enemy camp! The girl’s voice was full of unbridled joy. How far away are the regiments?
Rosa calculated quickly. I can make them arrive in about two days, mayhap a bit longer.
Good. I’ll try to get the message to Yarrow. Stay safe, she said, and the contact was broken.
Rosa looked towards the camp, and started to Change.
It was one of the skills she’d learned in the Sarian School that she used rarely. She hated to do it. It was incredibly painful to perform and maintain, and was a tremendous drain on her powers. Bellica Agate and the others would never listen to a talking tree – so it must be done.
She had to go by feel, possessing no mirror, and so was sure her new form was not the epitome of beauty. When have I ever been that? she thought with a small smile. Her features sufficiently distorted and possessing working vocal chords, Rosa bent down and picked up the letter from Anala, then ran into camp.
“Bellica Agate!” the tall, lithe young messenger with a ruddy complexion and green-black hair shouted, and immediately a woman responded, coming to face her.
“Aye – what is it, girl?” the bellica asked, other officers coming to surround her. Rosa passed Agate the letter from Anala.
“Atherton under siege from Vocan forces, Ma’am,” she said, only half-pretending to be out of breath. Walking in Terran form had sent knives of pain up her legs, and now her torso cramped.
The woman frowned, as much at Rosa’s report as her accent. “We’ve just come from Harbourtown and no Vocan army has overtaken us.”
“They rode up through the Three Sisters and took the city from the south, Ma’am,” she said, her voice grim. “I saw it myself.”
Agate looked less than convinced, but opened the letter from Anala and read it anyway. “Story checks out,” she said to her officers, “and it bears the Admiral’s seal.” She looked upon Rosa with a bit more compassion. “Rest in our camp tonight, girl. You look tired.”
Rosa shook her head, the pain of holding Terran form almost more than she could bear. “Admiral Anala said to make all haste, Ma’am, so I go on to warn Harbourtown of possible attack from sea,” she said, lying expertly.
The bellica sighed and looked over her troops. “We’re over-tired, but we’ll leave before dawn. Good luck on your journey.”
Rosa saluted and ran off, stopping beside the road when she was out of sight. With a shudder she shifted back to her natural form, and then turned her attention on the troops. She gave the horses and women renewed energy to the point of restlessness and the speed of huan. When she saw they decided to pack up and leave that night, she let herself fall asleep beside the road, utterly exhausted, and hoped no one would happen by and wonder why a tree that grew only in the north had sprouted up overnight.