Chapter 35: A City Under Siege
“Who’s going there?”
Luthais’ exclamation had prompted a reaction from the guards stationed above the gate, and a shiny metal helm appeared above the balustrade, glaring down pretentiously on the party.
“Identify yourself! If you are an enemy, I recommend you to start running now, or we’ll hit you down where you stand, Terus scum! Well, we’ll open fire even if you run, so it would be less bothersome if you don’t…”
To strengthen the threat, an arrow was shot and landed to their right, a proof of the defender’s fine marksmanship – or a hasty shot.
He wouldn’t hit us, would he? That’s too brash.
Observing the narrow openings in the blocks of rock crowning the wall, Nisha was monitoring the bowmen, ready to warn her companions.
“Anthony, you stupid ape, if you fire one more arrow at me, I’m going to climb that wall and throw you down, we’ll see if your empty head can help you fly! This is not how you treat your commanding officer!”
Yelling at the soldier, Rivers looked completely different from the person Nisha had met.
He looked like a loud and foul-mouthed soldier, the stereotypical picture of a nail spitting sergeant; the astounding change in his behaviour confounded more than one, not only the dragon girl, but also her two sisters and the half-elf.
As Luthais was about to say something to the soldier on top of the gate to smooth the turbulent exchange, an incredulous voice answered.
“Brandon, is that you? Wait a moment, we’ll open these doors for you, we wouldn’t want you to start singing and destroy them with that crooked voice of yours.”
Blackened by the time, eroded by the countless years the forces of nature had rained down on them, the impressive dark wood doors immediately parted from each other to reveal to the anxious company a small strip of the pure blue sky they had been hiding, granting access to the city.
A young man wearing the kingdom’s colours appeared at the entrance of the city, waving them to hurry.
“Be quick, the cavalry is about halfway here, and we still need to close the gate after you.
Scurrying through the opening, Sergeant Rivers drove the carriage, the half-elf making sure to be the last one entering the town to throw a large ball of glowing aura in the direction of the pursuing horses to delay them and delay them from arriving at the city before the locking of the gate.
“A small present for our foreign friends. I’m sure they’ll love it.”
The doors closed in a thundering clap; however Nisha was unsure whether it was the sound of the two heavy pieces of wood hitting each other or the impact of Luthais’ aura skill on their followers.
Annabelle worriedly noticed that a roguish expression had appeared on her smallest sister’s face, who was apparently enjoying Luthais’ display of power, cheering at the thought of evil soldiers getting what they deserved for chasing them; the woman wrote herself a mental note, she would have to talk about this issue with her younger friend when they would be in a safer place, the loss of life was supposed to be sad and taking pleasure slaughter wasn’t proper for a lady.
Actually, Nisha was much more interested in the technique itself than its effects on people, the pursuers were already long forgotten in her mind. She didn’t have any relations with either Terus nor Leandar, whatever had happened and would be happening between them was not of her business.
This was just the first time she had seen the half-elf use an aura skill, and she was quite satisfied to see that the feeling she had had about his strength was accurate.
Such a powerful light. A beautiful azure arrow, flying at a great speed. I wonder what is the attack’s designation.
She had to stop recollecting and analyzing the strike in her head, as a rather corpulent officer came down the stairs leading to the tower at the summit of the fortification.
“Brandon, what were you doing, startling the Terus’ hornet’s nest. It’s already hopeless as it is, there’s no need to give them more reasons to trample us. Weren’t you sent to get Marshall Dharnas anyway? What are you doing with a bunch of civilians here? You know we can’t shelter all those wimps, that bunch of useless whiners will only drain our supplies faster.”
Sergeant Rivers threw a panicked glance at Luthais, the reddish tint of his cheeks suggesting that he would have rather disappeared into the ground out of shame; he promptly bowed in an apologetic and respectful manner.
“Sir, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Sergeant Clarke, serving in the support companies the [Silverwood] House has graciously sent to back up the men holding the walls.
We have become somewhat … of drinking buddies in the past half turn, please I beg you to be lenient with him.
Anthony, this is Marshall Luthais Dharnas, head of the Dharnas Dukedom, accompanied by members of his house. And if I’m not completely wrong, he is the commanding officer of this army – hence he’s also your commanding officer.”
Sergeant Clarke turned as white as a sheet of paper, a thin film of perspiration appeared on his forehead; insulting a member of nobility was punishable of death, not to mention a leader of the army in times of war.
“Sir, I had no idea, please -”
He looks so flustered.
“That’s alright, I’m not wearing anything that could indicate my rank after all, although it probably would be better if you don’t speak like that in front of civilians, we’re here to protect them.
Which reminds me, would you be able to assist me in finding an uniform? It would be a shame if someone else mistook me for a citizen and tried to bar me from entering a key location, I might not be as lenient if such events were to happen a second time.”
Taking the insensitive remarks indulgently, the half-elf didn’t seem particularly upset, but on the contrary quite amused by the outburst of the soldier; he knew what general attitude the soldiers had adopted after spending almost a turn on the walls.
Before, the enemy army had not seemed to bother with their supply chain and the long lines of carts had been able to pass through the north gate, but now they were even sending a cavalry charge after a lone carriage.
“Of course, Sir, right away, Sir. And thank you for your lenience, Sir!”
Still muddled by his faux pas, Sergeant Clarke was practically bursting with energy, eager to make amends by fulfilling all of the marshall’s demands.
“What about your house members, would you like me to make arrangements for them to stay?”
Eyeing the entourage of a high noble which was coincidentally also that of a high ranking military officer, Anthony Clarke was wondering what exactly were they doing two steps away from a battlefield, in a besieged town; bringing more fighters to the city would have been useful, but the three women did not have soldier’s bearing, much less that of guards or knights.
Sergeant Rivers had introduced them as members of the Dharnas household, but the exact purpose for their presence there eluded the fat man.
“Is the guild house still the headquarter of the defense forces?” – A nod from his interlocutor confirmed Luthais’ thought – “Then I’ll take them with me and find a place for them to stay after I talked with General Blackport. Sergeant Clarke, please bring the uniform to the guild house after you find one. Dismissed.”
Anthony saluted and left in a brisk walk, his large frame somewhat hindering him, no doubt he would feverishly search for a set of clothing fit for the marshall, the orders absolute.
The half-elf on the other hand went back to the carriage, sitting on the coach’s seat after handing over the horse to Sergeant Rivers, heading to the center of the city, a broad street lined with grand houses and stores on each side.
So that’s a human city. Based on what Anna told me, I thought the buildings were supposed to be pretty and interesting, but it doesn’t look as nice as our cottage.
Nisha had never seen so many buildings at once before, the only comparison she could make was with the best place she had seen so far, the mansion of a king in the hunting grounds. The houses on the main street of a growing city surely were more luxurious than the average, but they were merely the houses of wealthy merchants and low nobility, that couldn’t match the cottage Eldrin had gotten as a gift from his royal friend Giles.
A few inhabitants were looking at them through the windows, the loud thunder of the gates opening had drawn their attention, as it was a highly unusual occurrence, especially since the siege had resumed worse than it had been.
Luthais didn’t stop to talk to any of them, guiding his group straight to an impressively huge building on the same street as the wealthiest resident houses and main shops. Three entrances of different shapes and sizes led into the castle-like structure, and as a coat-of-arms a large sword planted in a monsters head were painted on the wall facing the street, above the words ‘Adventurer Guild’.
Feeding the [Strider Deer] a piece of sugar, the half-elf bound its reins to a wooden post while Nisha and her two big sisters were climbing down from the cargo space, stretching their limbs, tensed and anxious from having been chased by a platoon of horsemen.
“State your business, the attacks on the city are about to restart, we are busy.”
One of the soldiers guarding the entrances stepped forward and, seemingly to confirm his words, the whole town shook as a stone that had sailed through the air hit the wall, the ground still vibrating from the impact after a few seconds; it had been fired by one of the large wooden war machines outside.
“Sergeant Brandon Rivers reporting back. I have accomplished my assignment and have escorted Marshall Dharnas back to [Blackquarry]. He wishes to see General Blackport before assuming control over the gathered military forces.”
The soldiers straightened their back right away, looking nervously at the half-elf, his reputation as the newest duke house’s head well spread among the ranks of the common soldiers. The ring on his finger confirming his words, Luthais had raised his hand to prove his identity, presenting the jewel, a stag carved in a blood-red ruby, the Dharnas’ crest.
“Of course! Please enter, sir. What about your … guests?”
“They will come with me for the moment, step aside now.”
The way freed of any obstacles, Nisha, Annabelle and Lydia followed Luthais in the guild building, passing in front of several other stern-looking uniformed officers.
Adventurer’s Guild … I wonder what they do. Grandpa told me some stories about adventurers, but what has the guild to do with that?
Ascending the stairs to the third floor, the small party stopped in front of a lavish door made of precious wood, inlaid with gold threads.
Without bothering to knock, the half-elf barged right in.
A surprisingly short man, exhibiting a beard so dignified that it would make a dwarf jealous, the tip of the monument almost touching the ground, swaying between the legs of its owner as he was dictating a report to be send to the King, pacing back and forth inside the room.
“The goddamn Terus garbage started building trebuchets, probably to tear down our stupid slab of stone that is our wall. We have no response from the enemy’s army, the whole bloody affair makes no sense anyway. Where the hell are all those soldiers? …”
Reaching the end of the room, he brutally turned around, only to notice his visitors.
“Sir! It was about damn time you came back, we’re currently in a full blown siege, nothing like that soft-assed war game we had been getting used to over the past turn. I’d suggest we gather our troops and make a decisive strike, shoving a boot so far up their ass that they’ll taste leather.
Give me half of the troops on the walls and everyone at rest and we’ll break this fuckin’ siege by tonight!”
Does he ever pauses to breathe? So many words, and his accent is really strange to hear.
The general saluted by placing his hand over his heart and bowing slightly, probably a manifestation of his respect for his commander, as the commonly accepted gestures seemed to be the handshake he initiated too; he wasn’t apparently concerned about the fact that his commander had made his way in a city under siege.
“Sadly I can’t lend you any soldiers at the moment; you see, we don’t know where the enemy has hidden those eight armies. If they are holed up nearby in the forest, we won’t be able to hold the city for another day once they show up, a surprise attack from them during that charge you’re talking about would be particularly deadly.
And it’s great to see you too, Grant. It has been too long.”
Holding the outstretched hand, Luthais returned the greeting, and spoke again.
“Allow me to introduce you my companions. First we have Annabelle and Lydia Shannon, they are currently affiliated to my house as free traders.
And then there’s Nisha Dharnas, my father’s granddaughter, she comes from another family line, she’s also good friends with the two other girls.
We are transporting the remains of my father in the carriage, he passed away a short while ago and he deserves more than any other man a proper burial on the family compound, to rest with his wife.”
The general was first keeping an affable expression, nodding as to acknowledge the two women; but his eyes soon widened when the half-elf introduced the small dragon girl; and finally a pained expression painted itself on his face when he heard of Eldrin’s death.
“Truly a shame, about your father. He was always nice to everyone… shit, even the servants loved him.
The ladies can of course stay here at the guild, it’s our temporary headquarter, but we still have some good rooms remaining.
Anyway, we have an urgent situation at hand and if you don’t allow me to lead an attack force, I am still glad to give you back the command of the army, this goddamn siege was starting to get on my nerves anyway.”