The Lupine Saga 48

The boys could hear the shouts of men coming from various directions. Requests for supplies, curses, and calls for help littered the air of Tendal. The boys had escaped from their confinement, yet they still were unsure of where to go. More shouts could be heard in certain directions than others, and the corresponding shakes and crashes from those directions confirmed where the action was. Nevertheless, they didn’t simply rush to the scene and risk exposure.

The boys had noticed that their caretaker, Var, was nowhere to be found. The group of soldiers that should have been relaxing at the inn were nowhere to be seen. The master of the lodge must have gone to his room, for the boys were able to walk into the darkness without anyone noticing.

“Hey, do you think that there is no one else left?” Kelin asked while turning to look back at the inn. He looked lost in thought.

“It’ll be fine. She’s safer there anyways. It’s near the middle of the town,” Va’il said while looking around. “Alright. Where shall we go? Towards danger and malice?”

“The usual,” Zeick replied.

“The usual, right?” Va’il smiled. “Of course, the usual.”

The usual thing to do, when deciding which direction to head, was to find the highest spot and look out over their surroundings. Whether it was a tree, a house, or a tower, the highest spot was usually the best place to observe from.

The boys wandered around the town, looking for an appropriately high place. That proved difficult, as Tendal didn’t have that many tall buildings, and it was difficult to see far in the soft light of the moon. They also had to keep their steps quiet, and avoid the people that were running around. Somehow, they eventually ended up at the west side of the city’s walls, where they stopped.

“The wall is pretty high,” Zeick said as he looked up.

“I don’t know, it’s too close to the outside. If something happens, it could be bad,” Pete said.

“What bad could possibly happen? The walls are solid. Are you afraid that they may come crashing down?” Kelin asked sarcastically. He walked over to the wall as he spoke, and put a hand on it.

A loud thud against the wall caused Kelin to jump as far as he could away from the wall. The others would have laughed, if they hadn’t been so shocked by the sound. Kelin looked back at the wall, his eyes wide from the surprise. Another loud thud was heard, and the ground shook slightly.

“Do, do you want to go up?” Va’il asked. He was summoning bravery from reserves he didn’t realize he had.

“It’s still standing. It’s solid.” Zeick said in a voice filled with awe. “We should see.”

“No, absolutely not.” Pete said forcefully. That was all the prodding that the rest needed in order to lose their summoned bravery.

“Fine,” Va’il said while sounding dejected. He felt relieved.

“Yeah, I think I saw a high place more towards the middle of the city. We can go that way. Away from the walls,” Zeick said. Realizing that the walls might not stay standing, he lost his desire to see what was going on. He also felt relieved.

They all nodded in agreement, and started walking back towards the middle of the city. As they started, Va’il stopped and again looked at the walls.

“Did you hear that?” Va’il asked while twitching his ears. He looked towards a certain tower sitting at the top of the walls.

“What did you just say?” Kelin asked as he and the other two returned to Va’il’s side.

“There it was again. Did you hear that?” Va’il asked again. Kelin was already looking up.

“That sound. Yeah. I heard it,” Kelin said in the same dazed manner as Va’il.

“Oh, that. I heard it now, too,” Pete said. The three of them stared up at the walls while Zeick was left scratching his head.

“What is it?” Va’il spoke as he started to walk towards the wall. He walked until he came to the stairs that led to the top of the walls. Behind him, Kelin and Pete followed. The three of them disappeared up the stairs, and Zeick stayed behind trying to figure out what the rest were doing. Eventually, he shrugged to himself, and ran up the stairs in pursuit.

Halfway up the stairs, Zeick heard a sound that made him stop. He didn’t hear it well enough to describe it, so he quickly ran up the stairs. He arrived at the top and nearly bumped into the group already waiting for him. There, the three of them stood motionless, staring into the opening of a tower. Zeick stood at Pete’s side and looked in.

There was a person there. He wore colorful robes and sandals. His hair was brown, and so was his skin. He was human. His face had two stripes of red and yellow on each of his cheeks. In his right arm, he held a xylophone unlike any that the boys had seen before. In his left hand was a rod. His eyes were closed, and every so often, he would tap on the xylophone, making a strange sound. The plates on the xylophone were made of glass, and the rod was metal. Each note resounded as it traveled through the air. The boys felt something inside them vibrate each time the sound hit them.

#

Darius was frustrated. Every time he sent a group of soldiers to attack a group of maroon, they would return a couple minutes later with broken bones and several bruises. He could only watch helplessly from a distance as a group would charge in, plunge their spears and swords into the muddy bodies, and then be thrown aside by the maroon. The maroon, for their part, didn’t pay much attention to the attackers. Even the largest rhinos was thrown aside by the maroon as they continued pounding at the city walls. They were slow, but single-minded in their objective. If it weren’t for the constant distraction that the soldiers provided, the walls would have already fallen.

Darius was still somewhat relieved, even through his frustration. The maroon made no overt attacks against the soldiers. They simply threw the men aside and removed the weapons from their strange bodies. It was a process that repeated itself ad nauseam. Fire had no effect as well. Flaming arrows pierced the bodies of the maroon, but the fire was extinguished when it realized there was nothing flammable in the muddy bodies of the maroon. The men who returned from the lines complained that neither sword nor spear felt any impact upon hitting the maroon. It was a truly pathetic battle, Darius realized. Yet he couldn’t stop and let the maroon continue their relentless assault on the city’s walls.

The maroon had come in droves a short while after night fell, and had broken through a few feet of the walls in some places before Darius could steady the defense. In the midst of the night, the battle continued for a couple of hours. Then, suddenly, it stopped. The maroon appeared to look up with their featureless heads, and then stayed that way for ten minutes. They were all motionless as the soldiers and Darius tried to figure out what was going on. Then they left, disappearing quicker than they had arrived. They moved too quickly to be followed, disappearing in the east. It left everyone in Tendal speechless, wondering what had just happened. The commander of Tendal’s forces quickly met with Darius for a strategy meeting.

“Darius, Rising’s highest military commander, correct?” the local commander asked.

“Yes,” Darius replied.

“Not to tread on formality here, this being our first meeting, but first to business. This was the first time those creatures have left so quickly. It’s been getting shorter and shorter ever since they first came. But usually only a few minutes earlier each time, never have they left this quickly after arriving. Do you have any thoughts, Commander?” the commander asked.

“Darius is fine. No, honestly this is the first time I’ve encountered them, and I was hoping you could enlighten me,” Darius said.

“My apologies, Darius, but we were hoping Rising knew more about this enemy. We’ve been struggling with the defense for a while now, and nothing seems to work. We can keep them off the walls for a while, but stopping them has been impossible. Those bodies just don’t take any kind of damage. What are those things? It doesn’t seem like it’s possible for them to exist,” the commander said.

“This is ridiculous. We’re all clueless, apparently. All I know about those creatures is that they are old. Probably older than us humans. Rising’s archives really only say that they were lost in history. Not much more. I’d hope that one of the ancient species would know more. But anyways, this just reaffirms what I need to do for this mission.”

“That would be?” the commander asked.

“Evacuate,” Darius said.

“Abandon the city? We couldn’t!” the commander cried.

“I’m sorry, sir. It’s something that I discussed with the governor already. I’d assess whether we could help or not, and then start moving people. At first we were planning on taking Tella’s refugees, one way or another, but we came prepared to take people from Tendal as well,” Darius said. He sighed and shook his head.

The man was knocked speechless by Darius’ suggestion. He looked back at his beloved city, but he didn’t have words, strategies, or weapons that could ease his mind. He felt as if he had no choice but to accept the fate given to the city he tried so hard to defend.

“If that’s the way it is. Another week and the men would be too injured to continue. The fields have already been untended for long enough. Things will only get worse from here on. We don’t know if these shorter battles are just a test by those creatures to see how much force they will really need to take us out. I would die to defend this city. But if it’s going to fall whether I die or not, then my choice is to save as many as possible,” the commander said with a heavy heart. He sounded proud, yet on the verge of tears.

“I apologize. I wish there was more I could do,” Darius said as he placed a hand on the commander’s shoulder.

“It’s fine. I’m a soldier; I’ll accept what was given to me. But, now forgive me for mentioning this, taboo as it may now be, but what will Rising do when these creatures come? They seem to be coming your way, after all,” the commander asked with every bit of concern he had shown for his own city.

“I wish I knew. But that isn’t part of my orders. I trust our ruler to do something. King Fidel of Rising will surely find something. You and I can have confidence in that.”

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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