Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Great Weapons: Beyond These Walls 01

Yes, we're on to a new chapter. I think the last two pieces -- Miledha finally going to sleep, and Roberr hearing the voices -- will end up being an interlude between the first and second chapters. I won't know for sure until I see if I can keep that up as a pattern; otherwise, they'll have to be an ever-so-slightly-clumsy close to the first chapter (which I'd prefer to end on the memory of Arimil and the First War of the Princes).

Roberr didn't see Miledha again until nightfall.

He was leaning against the curved wall of one of the small corner towers atop the inner keep. He'd found his father's spare seeing-glass in the arming chamber, and taken it up to highest place he could find, under the pretense of surveying the enemy forces. Mainly, though, he'd come all the way up here in order to be alone.

Langoish Keep was designed like many other border forts: a large central keep surrounded by a ring of outer walls. The inner keep was tall enough to for its defenders to see over the outer walls -- or to fire down on them if they were breached. Here, the outer walls formed an irregular pentagon, which roughly matched the shape of the hilltop. The mass of the outer gatehouse dominated the shortest section of wall, facing more to the north than anything else, while squat, sturdy towers defended each corner.

It had been an extremely trying day, one which had left Roberr feeling useless and drained. He had started by going to ask Brother Wend about the voices he had heard in the night; but Brother Wend could offer no help, and Roberr's questions seemed to leave him feeling just as inadequate as Roberr did. Since Miledha was nowhere to be found, Roberr had followed Steward Arkiber to the well-house, where he had discovered that the man had taken over a position as de facto quartermaster, and was well ahead of Roberr in checking over the quantities and distributions of the keep's supplies. The steward had also sent the four remaining knights out to scout for any forage or supplies that the peasants might have left behind. Roberr couldn't decide how he felt about that; it was only a minor usurpation, and it was certainly better to have the knights out doing something than it would have been to leave them trapped and waiting inside the walls. Then again, it was an order (or at least a request) that should have come from him, as well as a reminder that he should have thought of it himself...

He shook his head, and returned his attention to the glass. There was nothing of sorcery to the device, just carefully shaped glass in a collapsible brass mounting, but it let him focus in on the enemy camp. Looking through it, he could pick out individual cook fires, and the figures moving around them. How was their captain feeding all of them? The men alone must consume wagonloads of food in a day, and they had mounts, draft animals, and -- if rumors were to be believed -- other things as well. There were supply lines within the camp, but as far back as he looked he could see no indication of fresh supplies coming into the camp. Did they have some way of carrying all that they needed? Were their soldiers (as another rumor had suggested) all dead men with no need to eat? Could their adepts create food out of thin air?

Roberr shook his head and lowered the glass.

Miledha was standing beside him.

He was neither surprised by her presence, nor especially bothered. For all that he had wanted to be alone, he couldn't see her appearance as an intrusion. In fact, he was relieved enough at her arrival to suspect that some part of him had been waiting for her.

"Well met," he said, half-quoting an ancient piece of poetry and wondering if she'd recognize it.

"Petruvis," she answered. "Only you're not a knight, and I'm not the sort of witch who maintains an inn simply to test the worthiness of travelers. Still, since I am here to save you, I suppose it fits." She grinned at his look of surprised acknowledgement.

"You're looking cheerful," he said.

"I've been up to things," she replied.
His father's sword hummed appreciatively at his side, and he decided not to ask her what. She took his hesitation with good grace, and asked: "Are you ready?"

That was when they heard the sound of wings overhead.

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