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Lord Rayes of Blaiton’s Point of View:

 

I stand on the remains of Blaiton’s walls, staring out at a burning city.

 

Looking down, there's a large gash across my chest. The blood dripping down my front becomes warmer to the touch as my body goes cold.

 

I failed.

 

Blaiton has fallen, countless corpses litter my beautiful city's streets.

 

How did it turn out like this? I can't even remember how Pacore took the city.

 

“I suppose it doesn’t matter now,” I wheeze through my blood-filled lungs, dropping to my knees like a marionette with its strings cut.

 

A horn sounds in the distance as my world starts to darken.

 

More horns start roaring around me as I slip into Goddess Ebeon’s embrace.

 

Watching my city burn, my eyes close for the last time.

 

“Ahhhh!” I let out a scream as I jerk awake in my cot. I don’t have time to think about the nightmare I just awoke from before I hear a blast of a horn from outside my tent.

 

Flinging myself out of bed, I scramble to put my armor on. It fights me every step of the way as I try to throw it on as quickly as possible. I stumble around my tent like a newborn trying to walk, almost forgetting my sword in my haste. When I finally fling my tent flap aside, a chilling morning breeze hits me square in the face, sending a shiver down my spine. At least the cold helps me to wake up quicker, though my adrenaline is doing quite a good job by itself.

 

The sun has only started to rise in the distance, and it's yet to push back the chilly spring morning.

 

Everyone is shouting and running about. “Soldier,” I shout at the closest person running past me. The young man almost drops the crate he’s carrying when he hears me call out to him.

 

"There's no time; I need to-!" The young man starts to yell at me before he realizes who I am. "Lord Rayes, I'm deeply sorry. I didn't mean to-," he tries to apologize to me.

 

“Enough,” I cut him off. “It’s fine. Tell me, what’s happening?”

 

“It’s Scholl, my lord. They’ve started their attack!”

 

“To your station then,” I let the young man get back to his task.

 

"Right away, sir!" He takes off, running towards the nearby rampart stairs.

 

I stand in front of my tent for a minute, frowning. This isn't good. We've been making our preparations on reports from Fort North Ridge and Drey. I'm no military expert, but I've never heard of Scholl starting their attack without first showing off their might. Yet another sign that Scholl has completely changed their tactics… gods help us all.

 

I expected Pacore to use psychological warfare, much like he used at the fort and when he took Drey. What does Scholl's finest have up his sleeve for us?

 

Making my way up the ramparts, I'm relieved not to hear the siege weapons firing yet. If we were already firing our ballistas and catapults, then that would mean Scholl's forces were already within range.

 

No sooner does that thought cross my mind, than I hear the nearby thud of a catapult being fired. You can feel the vibrations through the wall's stones as the siege weapon lets loose its first volley.

 

I pick up my pace, rushing up the stone stairs as I hear more of our siege weapons being fired.

 

When I finally make it to the top of the wall, I scan the plains around Blaiton. My heart drops when I see Scholl’s army slowly closing the distance between us.

 

The three completed siege towers are being pushed towards the western gate in a triangle formation. The middle tower, which is flanked on either side by the other two, is shorter but looks bulkier, while the other two are as tall as our walls. The way they're advancing, it looks like the two outer towers are meant to guard the centermost one.

 

What's surprising is that instead of using their pack animals, it's Scholl's heavy infantry pushing the large towers forward. The towers themselves are teeming with soldiers wielding bows alongside entire mage battalions.

 

There are units spread around the three towers, but the man walking in front of the army draws my attention. An old man with feathers in his beard not wearing armor; that has to be Pacore. Just watching him confidently escort the towers closer to us makes my knees wobble.

 

Even though he’s still far away, I can’t take my eyes off Pacore in fear that he’ll morph into some unstoppable monster should I look away. Stories have spread from the survivors of the Fort North Ridge attack. Tales of Pacore defeating General Pitz after single-handedly withstanding everything the fort could throw at him have been spreading throughout our ranks since Scholl first set up camp outside the city.

 

We tried to silence talk of the battle by issuing a gag order, but word had spread too quickly for it to make any sort of difference.

 

“Release!” A nearby shout pulls my attention away from Pacore. The closest catapult has just finished reloading, and with the unit commander's order, a soldier pulls the siege weapons lever, releasing a five-hundred-pound stone in Scholl's direction.

 

Along with a few other soldiers, I watch the stone sail through the air at breakneck speeds.

 

500 feet.

 

750 feet.

 

1,100 feet.

 

It's incredible how far a well-tuned siege engine can throw a boulder of that size. However, I would be more Impressed if the stone landed anywhere near Scholl's forces. I'd estimate Scholl needs to advance another 100 feet or so before they even enter our catapults range.

 

“Reload!” The unit commander bellows at his men. What the hell are they doing!?

 

“Who gave you orders to start firing!?” I angrily storm up the unit commander.

 

Unlike the young soldier earlier, the unit commander immediately recognizes me. Snapping to attention, he offers me his best salute. “Sir, I was ordered to start firing twenty minutes ago and told not to let up.”

 

“By who?!” I growl. Though it’s hard to gauge how far away Scholl is, any fool could see after the first volley that they’re not close enough yet.

 

“Commander Heleos, sir," the unit commander quickly replies. Judging by the awkward look on his face, he's aware of how asinine the orders are.

 

“Heleos?" I bark in anger. He's one of the bigwigs from Yleles that thinks he should've been placed in charge, but unlike Kelder who was sent with him, Heleos is only the captain of the guard back in Yleles. Much like me, he has almost zero battle experience. Most likely he’s just here for the glory. "Don't waste any more ammunition," I order the unit commander.

 

“Yes, sir,” he salutes me once more before moving back to ordering around his catapult unit.

 

While the unit commander looks happy now that he has new orders, I'm still steaming mad. Our chances of winning are already slim, and we can't afford mistakes like this. "Communications mage," I shout.

 

“Here!” a woman wearing a robe and some light armor rushes over to me.

 

"Send word immediately to all the siege units; they are not to attack until Scholl is in range. And I want them to focus solely on the towers, is that clear?!"

 

“Sir!” The mage starts mumbling her spell.

 

It takes twenty or so minutes before my orders are conveyed, and I hear the rest of our catapults stop firing.

 

“Lord Rayes, Sir; Heleos is demanding to know why you’ve stopped our bombardment?”

 

I turn on the communications mage with fire in my eyes, and she steps back. "Where is Heleos right now?" I demand.

 

"One moment, please?" The mage bows her head and mumbles another spell. She eventually looks back up at me with an awkward look, obviously uncomfortable answering my question.

 

"Spit it out," I command.

 

“Sir, Heleos said he’s reinforcing the southern gate,” the mage squeaks out.

 

That bastard! You can't even see Scholl's main forces from the southern gate. How is he in any position to give out orders? "Tell him he can order the men around the western gate if he joins us here!"

 

"Are you sure that's exactly what you want me to say?" The communication mage hesitantly asks me. I narrow my eyes, and she takes the hint and sends Heleos my offer.

 

Heleos reply comes so quickly it’s almost comical. “Sir, Heleos offers his apologies, but he’s tied up with the Scholl unit outside his gate,” the communication mage conveys the man’s message.

 

I snort, hearing his excuse. The Scholl unit he's referring to is a scouting party meant to keep supplies from entering the city. Similar units could be found around the northern and eastern gates, but they aren't equipped to attack the walls.

 

Now that that’s taken care of, I can turn my attention back to what really matters, Scholl’s main forces.

 

The war towers have only moved a few dozen feet forward. If they stay at this speed, they’ll reach the walls by sundown. We can’t let that happen.

 

I have to raise my hand to shield the morning sun as it crests over the horizon. Today is going to be a long day.

 

**********

 

“Signal the next volley!” I command.

 

A soldier with a horn blows twice, and the wall trembles under my feet. Nearly twenty large stones along with ten ballista bolts are launched at Scholl's right tower.

 

In the distance, all three of Scholl's war towers light up with magic. Dozens of mana shields overlap with one another, covering most of the tower. A few of the shields break, but most of our attacks are simply brushed off. The soldiers stationed around the towers dodge the falling projectiles with ease and quickly reform their formation.

 

So, this is what a trained army can do; I'm both awed and terrified by the spectacle.

 

None of my men have seen war; I haven't seen war. Are we making a difference? It's so hard to tell. I can only reference the books my parents made me study in my youth.

 

Blaiton hasn't seen war in years. I think the last time the city was attacked was during my great grandfather's time, and that was merely a large bandit brigade that grew too confident in their abilities.

 

Sure, every so often, a large goblin horde might try to attack the city, but killing them is never any trouble, not like this.

 

Once Scholl entered the range of our siege weapons, we started pelting them with rocks and ballista bolts, and thankfully we've managed to slow them down a bit. But no matter how hard we hit them, they don't retreat an inch. The towers have been inching closer to us all day, and soon they'll be in range to start counter-attacking us.

 

“They’re switching again,” a nearby scout with Perception skills informs me.

 

"Quick! Reload and send another volley before they can finish!" I shout. My commands are signaled by horn and conveyed again through magic. As one, the various siege teams hustle to follow orders.

 

Scholl has managed to continue as they have because they have multiple mage squads switching out with one another. My mages informed me that the towers should hold enough mages that none of our attacks should break their shields, and yet every thirty minutes or so, we score a decent hit, and part of their shields fall. But just as quickly as we destroy them, a new shield forms and takes its place.

 

After the first two hours of this, we quickly deduced what was happening. Scholl is using the fewest mages possible to defend their siege towers. As soon as a mage’s shield breaks, they’re swapped with a new mage and given time to rest.

 

They’re doing the same thing with their men pushing the towers forward. And then we have Pacore.

 

I was skeptical when I heard the stories about Pacore surviving an entire mage volley by himself but not any longer. Pacore acts like a magnet and regularly draws in our attacks to give his mages a slight reprieve. Though most of what we've done could be considered a failure, we've learned a bit about our opponents.

 

Like right now, in these rare moments when Scholl switches around their people, we have a small window to do extra damage.

 

I pray for a miracle as another volley is launched at Scholl's right tower. Again, their shields flare to life, and most of our projectiles are deflected. That is, all but one boulder was deflected. I grin when the large chunk of stone punches a hole into the siege tower. It didn't do much other than rip a three-foot hole in the tower’s siding, but it’s progress.

 

The real takeaway from that volley is much more critical, however. Even though the tower's shields failed, Pacore didn't use his skill to defend his men; or rather, he couldn't.

 

I've been tracking the intervals between Pacore activating his magnet skill, and I've noticed he can't use it more than once an hour. Pacore changes the frequency at which he activates his skill, but there's always been at least a 55-minute interval before he uses his skill again. I can't be sure, but I'm guessing his skill has a 55-minute cooldown. Let's make it 45 minutes just to be on the safer side. It might be a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but we can use one more opening to exploit.

 

And that isn't the only thing I've observed about Pacore. Knowing the cooldown time for his skill is a good bit of information to have, but his skill limits have also started to become apparent.

 

Pacore's skill draws in all attacks, a frighteningly powerful skill to have in a war, but it’s not omnipotent. Pacore can only draw in attacks for about six minutes before his skill stops working and can’t stop the skill once it’s activated. I wish I could take credit for the discovery, but it was actually thanks to those pesky nobles trying to subvert my orders that led to figuring this bit of information out.

 

Volleys are much more effective when synchronized. Punching through magic shields is already hard, but if the projectiles are spaced out, it gives the mages time to recover and reinforce their shields.

 

During one of our initial volleys, the lord of Drey crawled out of his hole and tried to take command of one of the farther trebuchets. The fool ordered them to fire as fast as possible despite my orders to synchronize our attacks. But thanks to his insubordination, we were able to see that Pacore's skill only lasted a few minutes.

 

If we stagger our shots, even if Pacore activates his skill it would effectively become useless, but our overall damage would plummet to almost nothing. It's quite the conundrum, indeed. Do I change our plan of attack, or do I continue to-?

 

Suddenly, while I'm debating over my strategy, bright light erupts from the tops of Scholl's two leading towers. That's not defensive magic!

 

“Mages, shields up!” I scream.

 

The nearby mages follow my orders, while the communication mage frantically sends my commands to the rest of the wall. Our shielding spells activate just as two massive siege fireball spells are launched from Scholl’s towers.

 

One ball of flame soars directly to my section of the wall, while another is sent flying at one of the other lesser-guarded catapults. The mages around me brace for the spell's impact, and for a moment, I see what the inside of a fireball looks like.

 

The air itself burns the inside of my throat as the siege fireball spell collides with our defenses. The force of the spell hitting our shields creates a small shockwave that pushes a few unprepared people off their feet, but thankfully our shields did their job and no one suffered any major injuries. The spell immediately starts to dissipate after failing to break our shields but not before heating all the moisture in the nearby air. The moist spring air becomes humid and clings to the skin.

 

When the flames around us finally dissipate, I look over to the other section of the wall that was targeted. "Shit!" I swear, seeing the burning siege weapon. It looks like most of the catapult's operating team survived, but two smoldering husks weren’t so lucky.

 

Now the real battle begins.

 

“Mages! Form up! One group protects the siege engines, while the other returns fire! We mustn't lose our catapults!” I bellow before turning to my communication mage. “Inform the other commanders that I want them to switch targets.”

 

"Sir?" The mage gives me a questioning look, but I don't have time to explain myself.

 

“Spread word that I want our men to target the groups of Scholl’s soldiers stationed around the towers. Now,” I demand.

 

Leaving my frantic mage to convey my demands, I turn my attention back to Scholl. It looks like they aren't moving to immediately launch another barrage like that one. Scholl needs to keep its defenses up, or our siege weapons will pick them apart, so they need to ration their magic. At least that's some good news. I don't think we would be able to hold out for long if they could continuously launch spells of that caliber.

 

I've heard people talk about siege magic before, but this is the first time I've seen it for myself. I bring my hand up to my chest; I can feel my heart beating through my armor. To be the target of such magic, I feel like I've aged a few years in that split second the spell hit our shields.

 

And I'm not the only person shaken up by the spell. Looking at the soldiers around me, many look more terrified than I after that first spell. Most of my mages are conscripts from all the nearby cities; few have actually experienced a life-or-death situation; in that, we are the same. I'm just happy none of my men fled after the attack.

 

But if Scholl is close enough to hit us with magic, we can do the same thing.

 

A group of five mages to my left start chanting under their breath together. All five of them are standing in a semicircle around a large rock, like what we use in the catapults. I watch, amazed, as the stone starts to hover and glow.

 

I might not have been born with any magic talent myself, but I still had to study the subject before the title of Lord was passed down to me from my father. If I'm not mistaken, they're casting stone missile. The spell is not usually considered a siege spell, but siege magic has many common misconceptions.

 

Few spells are genuine siege spells. Most people think that just because a group of mages can cast a colossal fireball together, it's a siege spell. In truth, in a group of mages, at least one will have a linking skill that connects the group's spells. They're all just casting the same spell using the skill to magnify the outcome.

 

A genuine siege spell is cast by a single person, using vast amounts of control and mana. Merging five spells into one will create a seemingly massive spell, but forcing those five magics together, no matter how similar they are, will not equal a genuine siege spell. When magic is used in tandem with multiple people, there's a degree of resistance between each of the spells. Skills mitigate this resistance, but not completely.

 

It's a good thing my father demanded I learned to differentiate the two, along with those boring books on military strategy. One is a standard method taught to those who study magic; the other is a sign of a truly powerful mage. I can only hope Scholl didn't bring anyone like that with them, because I'm not sure my conscripted mages could defend against such a spell. Only a two-star mage could perform such a feat, and the Earl employs the only one in the area. It would've helped immensely if he came to our aid, but after what Giovanni told me, I highly doubt the Earl would let him leave his estate.

 

The mages finish their spell, and with a loud boom, the boulder is launched at Scholl. Like I ordered, the magic projectile is aimed at the units trailing behind Scholl's towers. A shield forms to stop the magic-propelled rock, but Scholl obviously wasn't prepared for us to target their back units.

 

The units trailing behind the towers are those waiting for their turn to push. Some must be tired from just switching out, and now is the best time to strike. If we can kill a significant amount of their forces, they won't be able to push the towers any further.

 

After the magic stone crashes into Scholl's men, a dozen other spells are launched from our walls. Our targets are physical fighters, so I'm not expecting many fatalities, but Scholl is the one who decided to make this a war of attrition. It's only fitting I show them what that looks like.

 

**********

 

“Light the torches!”

“Light the torches!”

“Light the torches!”

 

My soldiers’ voices echo across the wall as they scramble to light the evening torches. In the distance, Scholl's war towers light up with magical light. It must be nice to have so many well-trained mages at your disposal, I complain to myself.

 

“Incoming!” Someone shouts.

 

I run forward and take shelter behind a mage unit that just erected its shield. Grinding my teeth, I wait for the fireball spell to dissipate. By now I've grown numb from all the times I've had to take shelter like this.

 

“Report!?” I shout as soon as the spell dissipates.

 

"Another catapult lost, sir," I'm informed by my new communications mage. The previous girl was running low on mana and was injured by one of Scholl's spells a few hours ago. My new communication mage looks too old to be on a battlefield, but surprisingly he's been able to keep up with my orders.

 

“How many left?” I ask, not sure if I want to hear the answer.

 

“We have three catapults and five ballistas left, Lord Rayes.”

 

Damn. “And the ones from the other sections of the walls?”

 

“I’m being told the nobles guarding the other gates are reluctant to give up their siege weapons,” the mage tells me with a frown.

 

"Gods damn them!" I can't help but shout. "Do they not realize if they don't send reinforcements, we won't hold through the night?" No, of course, they do; it's just that they don't care. As soon as Scholl breaches our walls, the nobles guarding the other gates will flee to Yleles. They only care about how long I can stall Scholl here and how much damage I can do.

 

If the lives of my family weren't on the line, I would probably cede the city to Pacore just to spite them.

 

But their lives are in my hands, so I refuse to lose!

 

“My lord!” My communications mage reaches out and pulls me behind a mage casting a shield spell. An arrow strikes the ramparts stone floor and ricochets to the side. “Are you okay, Lord Rayes?”

 

"I'm fine, thanks-," it suddenly occurs to me I don't even know this man's name, and he just saved my life. For that matter, I never did get the name of that female mage who assisted me most of the day.

 

“Jargen, my lord. My name is Jargen,” he tells me.

 

I nod in appreciation. “Thank you, Jargen.”

 

"That's my job, my lord." Jargen bows his head in a way that looks respectful while keeping one eye directed towards the battlefield.

 

I look through the mage's shield at the approaching towers. They're close enough now that they've switched from using mages to archers to attack us.

 

My teeth hurt from gritting them so hard. How are they still advancing on us? Both of their leading war towers are filled with holes, and we've killed or injured enough of their foot soldiers that many were rushed from the battlefield. We’ve done all that, and yet Scholl hasn't stopped pushing forward for even a minute!

 

The towers are only 300 feet from our walls, and they've shown no signs of stopping for the night. "How much more must we make them bleed before they retreat?" I curse under my breath.

 

"Scholl doesn't retreat, my lord." Jargen must have heard me. "Just because they changed tactics doesn't mean they've lost the ferocity they're known for," he tells me.

 

“You know how Scholl fights?” I ask the older mage.

 

Jargen nods, "I do. I've lived a decent life, and I've heard about how Scholl wins its wars. They fight to the last man standing and never retreat. If you're hoping to break them emotionally, I'm sorry to say that's a fool's gambit."

 

“We’ll have to meet them with the same ferocity then,” I proclaim.

 

“That would be wise, my lord. Scholl and Pacore would see anything less as a sign of weakness.”

 

"Send word to all the units to keep firing," I order. "And thank you again, Jargen. Blaiton is lucky to have a citizen like yourself to volunteer despite the risk."

 

"It's my job to help my country," Jargen smiles at me. "I'll convey your orders right away, sir," Jargen moves to cast his magic as the sun finally disappears and night overtakes the battlefield.

 

With all the magic being tossed around, visibility isn't impaired by much, so I notice when Scholl's two leading siege towers stop moving. Scholl doesn't stop pelting us with arrows or drop its shields, but they do finally stop advancing. Are they about to retreat?

 

Sadly, Jargen was right; Scholl isn't retreating.

 

Scholl's forward two war towers have stopped moving, but their men have moved behind the trailing tower and are pushing that one forward at a much faster rate.

 

Shit, I can see that it's heading for the gate. "Jorgan, all units fire on the middle tower!”

 

Every one of our remaining siege weapons turns and targets the fast-approaching tower. We throw everything we have at the tower, and-

 

Pacore activates his skill. "But it's only been 39 minutes since he last used it!" I curse. Does that mean he's been holding himself back? Six minutes, that's how long we have to wait before we can attack again; six minutes for the war tower to get closer to the gate.

 

“Detonate the bridge!” I command.

 

A vial is dropped over the ramparts, and when it crashes against the temporary bridge we built, the whole thing ignites in flames. The wood was doused in a highly flammable alchemical solution as soon as Scholl showed up. The vial that was dropped contained an agent that created sparks as soon as it was exposed to air.

 

Five, four, three, two; “Jargen, resume the attack on the tower!”

 

Jargen conveys my orders, but it’s too late. As if possessed by demons, Scholl’s soldiers push the war tower forward at incredible speeds, covering dozens of feet in mere minutes.

 

We still have time! I turn to Jargen, "Send word for all available soldiers to converge on the western gate, hurry." Scholl still needs to get past the ditch we've dug.

 

As if to spite me, two flaps on the front of the third war tower open, one on each side of the structure. In each opening stands a single person, both of which have feathers adorning their hair.

 

“Oh, no!”

 

The two individuals start to glow as they channel large amounts of mana.

 

“Kill the mages!” I shout, but it’s too late. The two mages move their hands like they’re trying to lift something invisible.

 

Blaiton's walls start to tremble as a large stone ramp rises out of the muddy ground, creating a seamless path to our gate. The two mages are close enough I can see their pale faces as they finish casting their magic. How much mana did they just use? To move that much earth the both of them have to be over level 70. The two of them waited this long to show themselves!?

 

The only thing that keeps me from freezing up upon seeing their overwhelming power is the thought of needing to protect the city. "All earth mages to the front gates! Don't let them in!"

 

All the nearby mages rush to the stairs leading down the ramparts. "How far out are our reinforcements?" I ask Jargen in a panic.

 

Jargen shakes his head. “I don’t know what’s happening. I sent the other gates our emergency message, but none of them are responding,” he tells me with a panicked look.

 

Those traitors didn’t already flee, did they?!

 

Loud thundering comes from the western gate as my mages try to fortify it with earth magic.

 

As my men work to reinforce what they can, Scholl's war tower stops on the other side. Large panels on the front of the tower fall away to reveal a large battering ram hidden inside. I want to order an all-out attack on the tower, but at this exact moment, the two war towers close by light up with their own magic.

 

Forgoing all manner of defense, the two towers that we've been attacking all-day launch countless spells towards our walls. Fireballs, bolts of lightning, rocks, all manner of spells are launched at us with reckless abandon.

 

My mages have no choice but to erect shields in defense.

 

They're pinning us down!

 

*BOOM**BOOM**BOOM*

 

You can feel Scholl's battering ram strike the western gate.

 

"It won't hold! Run!" I hear a mage down by the gate scream and take off.

 

“Everyone down there! We can’t let them enter the city!” I draw my sword and raise it into the air. I’ve only ever used it during practice, but that hardly matters at the moment. “We can’t let Scholl into the city!”

 

“They’re breaking through!” I hear more shouting from the gate.

 

“To the gate!” I valiantly shout.

 

"To the gate!" A few others roar, following my lead. That inspires just enough people to give hope to those about to run away.

 

“On me!” I move to gather everyone and rush down the walls. “We’ll fight them street by street if we have to!”

 

"I'm sorry, Lord Rayes, but I can't let that happen," I hear Jargen say directly behind me.

 

I can’t even turn around before Jargen knocks my sword from my hand. He then forces my head back with his left hand and holds a knife to my throat with his right. Everything happens so quickly all the surrounding soldiers are stunned in place.

 

"What- what are you doing," I choke out.

 

"My job, Lord Rayes," Jargen answers loud enough so everyone can hear him over the sounds of Scholl breaching our gate. "Fighting in the streets would go against Master Pacore's wishes."

 

The hair on my arms stands on end. “You’re a spy from Scholl?”

 

"That's right," he calmly tells me. "I had already infiltrated your communication corps a long time ago and was watching the battle. After your previous mage was injured, I took the opening to get close to you. I hope there aren't any hard feelings."

 

"Then why didn't you kill me earlier or let me die; it would've been easy for you?" I growl in frustration.

 

“For now, Master Pacore wants to capture as many nobles as possible,” Jargen or whoever he is chuckles in my ear.

 

“Then your master is going to be disappointed,” I bite back. “The other nobles are probably halfway to Yleles by now.”

 

The Scholl spy just laughs harder. "Master Pacore is well aware of your nobility's tendency to flee. Not all those who left the battlefield were injured. We have ambushes set up to catch all the fleeing rats. Now, tell your men to stand down," he pokes his dagger into my skin, and I can feel a drop of blood crawl down my neck.

 

All the soldiers around us are wearily looking to one another, unsure of what they should do. Fools, didn't I say we can't let Scholl into the city. I nervously swallow a lump in my throat. "Men!" I shout, and everyone looks at me, some instinctively raising their weapons. "Scholl is not to enter this city! Kill this man and defend the gate; that is my final order for all of you!"

 

Jorgan laughs, “I wasn’t expecting that.”

 

A nearby soldier understands my orders and rushes at us with his spear raised, prepared to skewer us both. I close my eyes, expecting Jargen to kill me or feel the man’s spear pierce me, but instead, he throws me to the ground before stepping forward. With an open hand, Jargen sidesteps the spear thrust and slaps it aside before opening up the soldier's throat with a well-placed swing of his dagger.

 

I scramble to get to my feet, but Jargen kicks me in the side of the head, and everything becomes fuzzy. The only thing I register before passing out is Jargen killing a few more soldiers and the rumblings of the western gate crumbling.

 

I failed.

 

The city is doomed.

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5,550 words.

 

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kosnik4

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