“You shouldn’t be the one who always takes the risks.” Mynar is being permitted to ‘protect’ the Keep. Provided he and his guards don’t go beyond the inner wall. Father and Mother are in her tower, surrounded by the full contingent of both of their guards, and my training master. Jes is with Lord Taver, observing, learning, and acting as bodyguard, although we don’t insult Taver by telling him. Mynar and I are still in his library, waiting for me to be summoned.
“I have the Sword,” I remind him. “And I think our warriors would win, even if I had been assassinated.”
Mynar nods in agreement. “We have underestimated our forces, proclaimed our dependence on the Sword for so many years, it’s likely our enemies believe we will crumble without it.”
One of my guards opens the door, “The attack on the Lower Gate isn’t a feint, they are attacking there in full force.”
I give Mynar a quick hug on the way out. “Don’t do anything stupid little brother.”
When we enter the outer courtyard my guards surge in front of me as a figure steps out of the shadows. It is Alan. I have to push my guards aside to hear him.
“I can help,” is what he says, but I hear as clearly as I hear my sword ‘I will help’; declaring intent, not asking permission.
“Yes,” I agree, and start moving toward the town again, my Sergeant on one side, Alan on the other.
“And when we have won the battle, we can open the chest.”
I look at Alan to see if he is laughing. He isn’t.
The town is orderly, main streets empty except for reinforcements heading to the Lower Gate. The soldiers press against the walls of the houses to give us room to pass. A roofing tile falls to the street, and I look up to see householders on their roofs, bows ready.
There are dead bodies in the street leading up to the gate, and fighting before the gate, but the gate is still closed, and in no danger of being opened. Most of the dead are the infiltrators who were suppose to open it. I can hear thudding against the gate as a battering ram tries to succeed where their inside men have failed. The thudding stops momentarily when our archers unleash a flight of arrows, but then resumes.
I go up the stairs in the tower to the left of the gate, to the top floor and on up to the roof, where I can see the attacking force, Alan and my Sergeant right behind me.
The moon is full and bright, I can see the attackers before me, and footprints in the snow to the right along the wall. I don’t worry, Taver is smart, he won’t have left any of the gates vulnerable. I can see dark forms on the riverbank, ships. We had debated hiding archers along the river to shoot fire arrows on the ships, but decided against it; we don’t want them stranded here. We want them defeated and gone. The light from the Spires march down to the flatlands, both beacons lit—warning and attack.
I can see one of their great ships, and seven lesser. In better weather, I would worry about them ravaging the countryside, but the deep snow is as good of a protection for the farming villages as walls. I look around, there should be more raiders, given the number of ships. I turn in complete circle, and see raiders behind us in the city streets, running swiftly and silently toward the gate.
One of the raiders is a Sorcerer, and he throws fire toward the backs of the guards holding the gate; they have no chance. Alan mutters beside me, and the fire dissipates before it hits our guards. The Sorcerer looks up, and readies more fire. “No.” I draw my Sword, knowing I cannot reach the street in time. I start toward the stairs when my Sword whispers in my ear “Jump”. At that moment I clearly realized I am insane, because I do. I climb into a crenel and jump for the Sorcerer. He unleashes more fire, and most of it gets through, but my guards are not taken by surprise, and have sought what cover is available. And then I am there, landing lightly on my feet, laughing loudly, because I really am crazy, and there is no more fire because it is very hard for a Sorcerer to cast a spell without his head.
My sword is flame and lightening and burning, and enemies fall, but more keep coming. I finally understand, somehow they have opened the sally port. My guards join me, thankfully coming down by the stairs. My knowledge of the cities byways tells me what to do, and I run for a tight alley off the paved street. It is so tight, we can only run two abreast, but we do run. I force away the realization Alan isn’t with us. I have no time to think about that now. When the alley ends, we cut diagonally across a small square and take another even tighter alley to come out just before the sally port. It stands wide open, undamaged. It hasn’t been broken, it has been opened from the inside. But it is a small door, and easily blocked by my Sword. No one else gets in, and my guard have my back, dealing with the attackers who have already made it inside our gates. The householders shoot from their roofs, accounting for a fair number of the enemy. Reserves send by Taver start arriving, trapping the raiders between us, and I gain enough space to let the gate be forced shut, and barred.
Two of the houses are on fire, but there are plenty of townsmen running about with buckets, so I ignore the flames.
I look around. Most of my guard are still with me, and more reserves are arriving. I find their Captain.
“You need to watch for traitors,” I warn him. “The gate was opened.”
He looks in surprise at the undamaged and re-barred gate. “We will find him.”