Sir Banyon looked out over the battlements above the gate. He could see the small fires burning in the distance. There was movement in front of and behind the flames.
Banyon strained, but he could not hear the crackling of wood, in fact, he could not hear much of anything. A profound silence had come with the darkness.
It was so quiet that Banyon could hear the dull thud of his heart. Banyon looked out to the ocean of darkness before the gate. The glisten of large blinking eyes gave away the horde that waited beyond the gate. Banyon reached out and steadied himself on the stone wall. He slumped forward taking the weight off his feet.
“Sir Banyon, the Queen, requests your company,” said a voice from below. Banyon straightened himself up and descended the ladder.
At ground level, Banyon observed the scene. Foot soldiers were busying themselves, sharpening swords and reinforcing barricades. Banyon saw one foot soldier with wood standing staring at the gate lever. The foot soldier was in a trance. Banyon approached him.
“Let me lighten your load,” Banyon said taking several blocks from the soldier. The soldier did not respond. “Hey,” Banyon said, the soldier turned to face him, “Let’s get these logs to the shed”.
Banyon and the foot soldier deposited the wood in a shed. “Here, you have my permission to take some extra soup,” Banyon said handing the soldier a coin. The foot soldier nodded and ran in the direction of the mess hall.
Banyon saw Vrigamere talking with some other men. They huddled around a map illuminated by an overhead lamp. Vrigamere saw Banyon approaching and dismissed his council.
“The queen has requested your presence,” Vrigamere said.
“I am aware if she dies of waiting that is a better end than the rest of us are likely to meet,” Banyon said.
“You are more likely to die from making her wait.”
“See how highly strung the men are. The gate lever speaks to them; I caught a man listening”
“The orcs don’t have access to such wizardry.”
“I don’t think they do either. Whatever the cause of bewitchment all it takes is one pull, and our planning has been for nought.”
“We could sabotage the contraption,” said Vrigamere.
“No I don’t want to go down in history as the one who broke the Grand Gate of Tulluthcarr,” Banyon said.
“You don’t need to worry about going down in history sir, I’ve heard the songs that orcs sing to each other”
“I want an archer in the west tower. If someone comes within a pikes distance, then you are to shoot them until dead.”
“Yes sir, permission to speak freely.”
“You look terrible sir, get some sleep.”
“I reckon that I only have a few more hours of consciousness left in this life, I want to see as much as I can,” Banyon said. A soldier approached Vrigamere, “Right to see what her highness wants”. The two men saluted each other. Banyon walked in the direction of the keep.
Tulluthcarr was a shadow of its former self. Once a jewel of the west now a groove where a jewel once laid. The cobbled stones that were the streets were always wet despite it having not rained in over a week.
Banyon was glad that it was dark. The city in the sunlight made him sad. Emaciated women carrying skeletal children. Sometimes the babes in arms were already dead. People wanting to separate mother and the dead newborns not to ease her suffering but that they might get nourishment.
The orc invasion took Talluthcarr by surprise. Banyon remembered submitting reports of orc advancement. Banyon also recalled superiors casting aside those reports.
“Orcs are creatures of habit. They never venture a days journey from their cave,” Sir Igniol said at one of the conflict councils.
Banyon remembered arguing for reinforcements in the outer townships. Banyon was right; they were wrong. He was alive; they were dead. Banyon envied his fallen colleagues. Eternal rest, no decisions to make.
As Banyon made his way towards the keep, he heard a groaning. He looked towards the source of the sound. Banyon could make out the silhouette of a group of children picking at something. Banyon put a hand on his sword and approached.
“Get get” shouted Banyon pulling his sword halfway out of it’s sheath. The children hissed and scattered. Banyon stood over what they had been picking at, an old man. The children had gnawed the fingers from his left hand.
“Thank you, sir,” the old man said, frail, hard to hear.
“They will return once I have left,” Banyon said.
“I know sir, could you afford me a small mercy?” The old man said. Banyon nodded.
Banyon knelt down close in front of the old man and removed a small knife.
“My biggest fear was the birds would eat my corpse, not the young to eat my living body. I was a traveller from” the old man started, but Banyon cut him off.
“Old man I will do my utmost to ease your suffering, quicken your passing. Please, the last thing the air need carry is another tale of woe. Now, give me your hand.” Banyon said taking off a glove. “Your good hand, that’s it”
“I don’t need my palm read, I know my fate,” said the old man, smile on his face.
“You have a good humour old man considering your circumstance, but I don’t wish to tell you your future,” Banyon said.
“Then what need have you for my hand, I hope you are not peckish yourself.”
“When I part from this plane I would like someone to hold my hand. I would rather feel the warmth of another rather than the cold of steel. Look at the stars; the clerics say that is where we come from and that is where we return”.
Banyon slid the blade underneath the old man’s ribcage as he spoke. The old man gasped, shuddered and was dead.
Banyon watched the old man for a moment longer to make sure that he was gone. Banyon continued along the road to the keep.
Banyon entered the keep.
Continued on Wednesday