After thanking Ghan for his explanation of his berries, Deor steps outside to prepare his departure. Trusting the majority of the debate over marching order to his brother, Deor mounts his horse in a practiced but still awkward motion, looks upward, and whistles. A heartbeat later, his hawk flutters down from the rooftop and alights on his gloved left fist, her head pivoting as she takes in the assembling party. Deor catches her gaze and the pair stare at one another for a few moments, then Folca flutters upwards again, lost in the darkness of the night.
I’m too low-level to be able to directly talk to my familiar, but I’m supposed to have an “empathic link” at this level, so as best I could, I told Folca to keep an eye out for me from above but to avoid being seen unless I’m in grave danger.
So we’ve got ourselves, which is nine characters, plus plus the NPCs Merry, Anthar, and Ornan, for a grand total of twelve. Brin and Gil-Gandel should probably scout out ahead and to the right and left, so they might not matter in the marching order. We’ve got Theogrim, Ornan, and Thoroncir on warhorses, and Anthar and Gwaelur whose horses will not handle well in combat and must dismount to fight. Finally, there’s Deor and Ghan, who will both avoid combat. Merry is probably too old and frail for combat directly, and will stick with the spellcasters, as will Mal Took.
I’m going to figure that in a fight, the least mobile (Gwaelur and Anthar) should be nearest the fight to begin with, and so should march in the front. The fastest melee fighters should be in the back, which would be Thoroncir and Ornan on light warhorses. Theogrim could stick in the center with myself, Ghan, Mal, and Merry. That way, if we meet enemies to our fore (which we’re most likely to do) our muscle is already up front (Anthar and Gwaelur). Besides, Anthar knows the way. If we get struck from the rear, Thoroncir and Ornan can hold on long enough to allow everyone else to circle the metaphorical wagons. Theogrim is quick enough to get wherever he’s needed. While he won’t be able to charge from the center of the group, we also don’t want him to get surrounded and out of reach of help by charging early. That leaves the spellcasters and hobbits in the center where they can be easily supported. I suspect that Mal will be able to disappear easily amongst the chaos of our rearranging if necessary.