Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 13

Jacques took a deep breath. The tower looked like it would almost be done. After days--weeks, really--of effort, they’d be finished. They’d be finished, and he could rest.

“Lovely weather,” said a voice at his side. Jacques turned to see Pierre, sitting by his side. Jacques fidgeted uneasily. He and Pierre no longer spent much time together--things had changed between them after Simon’s death, with Pierre seeming to grow ever louder and more desperate in his proclaimed loyalty to the Seven and Leonais. It had made a man who Jacques had found to be poor company previously utterly intolerable. And somehow, the connection to Simon just made that worse, made Jacques feel soiled and worthless when he dealt with Pierre.

“Yes, yes it is,” said Jacques. And it was. It was sunny, and reasonably warm, especially considering the time of year.

“We should be done with the tower soon,” said Pierre. He smiled broadly. “Seven be praised!”

Jacques nodded. “It will be nice to be done with the damned thing.”

“The HOLY thing,” said Pierre. “It’s holy! Blessed by the Seven.” He nodded emphatically. “We need it to defeat the apostates and their allies.”

“Right.” Jaques coughed quietly. “Well, I’m just glad we’ll be done with it soon. It’s been a long, hard bit of work.

“I‘d be pleased,” said the old-timer, taking a seat next to them, “except for what they’ll have us do once it gets done.” He shook his head. “Ever storm a city? It’s not pleasant.”

Jacques blinked. He hadn’t considered that bit. “How… unpleasant?”

“Oh,” said the old-timer, stretching, “about as unpleasant as you’d imagine rushing up a wall as men shoot things at you. And drop things on you. And try to stab you.” He shrugged. “And then there’s the bit where you try to stab them” The old man gave a sigh. “Really, not very pleasant.”

“Well, I will cheerily give my all against the Nightfolk and their allies!” declared Pierre. “And if I perish fighting them--well, I’ll die proudly.” He nodded, took a deep breath, then nodded again. “Proudly,” he muttered.

Jacques sat there trying to consider all that, when Pierre gave a shout. “It’s the Badb! On the walls! Look!” Jacques followed Pierre’s finger, to see the faint shape of a woman, standing on the gates of Montalban. Her fair reddish-blonde hair fluttered in the breeze, as she spread her hands wide. It seemed to Jacques that he almost heard a woman’s voice, faint and low, muttering the words of some strange, forgotten tongue--but that might have been his imagination.

What wasn’t was the way the siege towers all simultaneously burst into flame. As Pierre screamed in horror, and he watched in dull amazement, the thing they’d worked so long on began to collapse, still ablaze. And then the old-timer began to chuckle. Jacques turned to him. The old-timer shrugged. “Really, sometimes, you just have to laugh,” he noted.

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