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One of Taver’s couriers arrives, calling me back to the Lower Gate. They are still battering our gate, but are attempting the walls now, also. And so we end up right back where we started, on top of the walls. I discover I can use the Sword to set the scaling ladders on fire. I don’t even have to touch them, just be near. The attackers seem to find this discouraging.
I look at the massed attackers below, and for a wild moment think about jumping into the middle of them. “Could we kill them all,” I whisper.
“Don’t be stupid.” This time it isn’t the Sword talking to me, it is the memory of everything my training master has ever taught me. So I set some more ladders on fire. And somehow Taver has arrived when I wasn’t paying attention. He looks pleased. Jes stands behind him, looking as if he has seen fighting, too.
“Can you burn the battering ram?”
“Too far,” my Sword whispers.
“Let me look,” I answer, moving far enough away to be able to ‘whisper’ to my sword. “There are barrels of oil in the gatehouse, being heated to pour though the murder holes if the gate is breached. There will be reserves still cold. We will bring one of them up here, set it on fire and drop it on the battering ram.”
I send for two of the barrels, and explain to Taver. I only need to use one barrel, it bursts into flame nicely, and falls truly to land right on top of the battering ram. Some of the men holding it run howling to dive into snow banks, others must be dragged by their comrades.
The flames provide light, and we can see a group of men standing back directing the attack. Our archers don’t need to be ordered, and our archers are very good. The captains of the commanding force have arrows raining down on them before the light of the flames die down. They had clearly misjudged our archers’ range.
I light the second barrel and push it over. This time the archers know what to expect and are ready.
I’ve burned their ladders and their battering ram, and the traitor has failed. By now, they know the assassins have also failed. They withdraw beyond bow range and re-group.
“What next?” I ask Taver.
“Nothing. We wait. There aren’t enough warriors for this to be an attempt to conquer the city, this is a raiding party. They thought to find us weak and surprised and open to their looting. Their plans are in shambles, I will not help their leaders by sending out an attacking force to give them purpose. They have failed, they just need some time to realize it.”
He is right. As the sun rises we watch the ships sailing down the river to the sea. We don’t harass them as they withdraw. We have won, and don’t need more bodies to burn.
“There is a traitor to find,” I tell Lord Taver, “And a Sorcerer’s body to deal with.” I can see his thoughts on his face, he wants to send me back to the keep to be cleaned and fed and comforted. Nope.
“I am going to speak to the wounded.”
Sister Mays has everything well ordered, I need do nothing except give them my attention. Let them know their actions are valued. Mother does this sort of thing much better than I, but I am learning. Four of my guards are wounded, and two are dead. I don’t try to hide the tears running down my face.
The townspeople come out to help. One overly dressed burgher says loudly that Sister Mays shouldn’t be treating the wounded attackers, but decides to change his opinion when I walk over carrying my blade still bare and tell him he is a disgrace to our city.
I finally find Alan, propped against a wall, out of the way. He is wrapped in a blanket, drinking something hot, and looking pale as death. But alive.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop the second flame,” he apologizes.
“You stopped the one first, so they weren’t taken by surprise. Thank you.” Even half dead, he still looks like a prince in a fable. A slightly battered prince.
“You have spoken to everyone Princess Adava, it is time to go back to the keep.”
I turn around to argue with my Sergeant, but he is busy arranging to transport my wounded guards and Alan to the castle. The world seems to sway around me for a moment, and I decide he could be right, and let him arrange things.