Argentoe could take no more. He cuffed Stynard in the ear with an open hand like a schoolboy. “I do not think I want to hear your voice again until at least this afternoon.
“As always, I will do the lion’s share of the fighting if you all choose that route, but there will be far too many enemies for me to control at once if at all. If you vote to fight, be prepared to lose lives.”
There was a moment of talk at the table as Stynard shriveled in his seat. Tibare stood and spoke for the group. “If the Trogos kill the livestock, we may as well be dead anyway. We will have no way to farm, no way to take goods to market and little to eat. Our lives will be over here. If you will help us, Argentoe, we will do what we can to fight.”
Argentoe smiled and patted the great brute on the shoulder. “That is nearly word for word what I had determined as well, but I needed you to choose to fight. In anticipation of your response, I have a plan ready to go. If everything goes exactly according to plan, no one will be put in danger and we will win. Mind you, if everything goes exactly as planned that will be the first time in history.
“Corilon will lead the women to the barn where they will force the animals into the corral. They can smell the enemies about and will not want to leave the barn. It is imperative that they enter the corral. First, they need to walk off the nervous energy they have built up or they will end up tearing down the barn themselves. The second reason is that we want the Trogos to get a good look at their target. When they attack we want them to focus all their attention on that barn. This way they can trust their eyes and their noses.
“Once the animals are in the corral, Doronin, Giltore and Stynard will scythe long wild grass from the plain. There is no sense burning through our hay now. Corilon and her group will gather the grass and feed the animals well. Then they will be sure the troughs are full of water.
“Rolanna, this will be the last hot meal for the day. There is no reason to fill the air with even more delectable smells for our adversary. For the rest of the day we will eat dried meats and rations.
“Tibare and I will be on wagon duty. There are two weak points on these buildings; the doors and the roofs. Since the wind continues to blow from the north, we can expect their attack to come on the south side of the barn where there is not a corral in the way and there is an unobstructed path from the south double door of the barn to the forest.
“The two of us will take the coverings and supports off the wagons and then turn them on their sides. On the north side of the barn, we will push one directly against the doors once they are shut for the night with the stock inside and the lock is in place. The wagon will lie horizontally with two wheels sticking out flat on the ground and no room between it and the door. To be sure of that we will drive stakes into the ground behind it to prevent the Trogos from moving it out of position or creating enough space for one of them to slip between the wagon and the door and use its claws to shred the gate. Then another wagon will be placed behind it to prevent access to the first wagon. On the south side, only one wagon will be staked into place. I plan to have a fire burning over there and we cannot afford to have it too far from the barn. For good measure, a fourth wagon will be staked in front of the smoke house.”
Tibare looked at the barn and the wagons before interjecting a thought. “You have all the wagons lying on their sides. That means a Trogo could climb on top and attack the top of the door. Why not stand the wagons backward against the barn doors so they are completely covered?”
“That is fine thinking,” complimented Argentoe. “I thought of that and there is a problem. Giltore, how strong are those roofs we built?”
Giltore stumbled a little as he stood. He had not expected to be called upon. “They were built from tree limbs and sticks and held together with twine and pine tar. We live in a fairly temperate climate so I designed them to withstand wind and rain more than weight.”
“Could it hold a man?”
“Provided he was gentle with his footing, I should think it would hold.”
“What if a Trogoandras bigger than Tibare jumped from a standing wagon onto the roof?”
Giltore sighed. “The beast would fall right through.”
Argentoe turned to Tibare and said, “That is why we cannot stand them up. The gates to the barn are made of solid logs. Even with their claws, it will take time to work through them. What we cannot afford is to allow them access to the roof. That area is reserved for us.
“Just before nightfall, you will all climb carefully onto the roof of the great house. Space yourselves out so you do not put too much pressure on any one place. Carry your swords in case they are needed. Do not move around or you will fall through the ceiling and become dinner for a Trogoandras.
“I will take my bow and hold position on top of the barn. Any Trogos making it on top of the wagon will be cut down. They will have to be near as I have a limited number of arrows left and they will be hard to strike at a distance in the dark. If all goes well they will find the northern door to the barn too hard to access and focus on the southern door. If I can kill or wound enough of them, it is their nature to decide the price of their meal is too high and move off for good.
“There is the chance, however, that some will smell the fear on you and try to assault the great house. The roof is lower there and you could be within their limited leaping range. With luck, I can keep most of them busy and there will only be a couple with which to contend. If one of you falls, all of you descend on the beast. Attack it in numbers. Remember, do not try for killing blows as your sword can easily become lodged. Stab at it. Your goal is to drive it off, not kill it. Their hide is strong, but it is most vulnerable at the rear.
“Does everyone understand what I expect them to do?” The table was silent as they all looked at one another hoping someone else had caught the details. In the end, they nodded. “Good,” noted Argentoe. “Now let us eat before we begin work.”