Chapter 46: A New Plan
Patrick didn’t need to see them squirm to know the council was sick with worry, although squirm they did. It was more than just the way Commander Duuhard’s fingers twitched while he unraveled yet another map, or the way Sergeant Marcus rubbed at the spot under his eyes--it was as if the unease was powerful enough to feel, filling the air with a burning, prickly dust.
Servants had readied the room in a hurry, and now they shuffled back and forth, offering water and food, yet no one ate. The war-room hadn’t been used in ages, and thankfully so. Patrick couldn’t blame the trembling men. It wasn’t that they were cowards, or afraid of fighting--several of them were veterans. No, it was the suddenness of it all. To fall asleep one night, peacefully in your own bed, only to wake the next morning to find that not only your home, but your entire city would soon be up in flames...Patrick pitied the men.
“Shouldn’t we begin?” Seehara asked. She was a tiny, older woman, with wispy bangs of silver hair covering both of her eyes. Patrick had begged the woman to evacuate with the citizens, but the staunch old bird was hearing none of it, insisting she perform her duties as demanded by law. Archaic Kingdom policy required the city’s treasurer to be present during all battle, but it was seldom enforced. Patrick didn’t wish to see the old woman die.
Am I going to die too? He wondered.
“We’ll begin when everyone has arrived,” Patrick said. He stood from the round table and paced the room. He was agitated, unable to remain seated. At the moment he looked anything but princely. His elegant white tunic was stained yellow with sweat, his hair unraveled in an untidy mess, but Patrick didn’t care. What did appearance matter? In war, pretty-men died just as painfully as the ugly.
Hahl’s war-room was a tower built to withstand attack. Located directly in the center of the city, and defended by a hundred men at all times, the war-room granted a three-sixty degree viewing angle of Hahl. From here, commanders could issue orders directly to runners, who would then relay them further down the command line.
Patrick peered out of the open window in the tail-end of the room, a dozen stories above the ground. An ever growing number of soldiers filled the city, taking up reinforcing positions around the gates. Where earlier that morning a baker’s shop filled the city with its pleasant aromas, now, in its place, a fortified archers nest had been erected, with seven men lying prone on the roof, bows ready in hand.
By the dozens the soldiers scampered into the city. Patrick welled with pride. These were his men, his soldiers, and all were ready to die for the sake of their kingdom. One after another they entered the city, trailing behind the fading sunlight. Most would be dead by the end of the next day.
But they won’t die alone, Patrick thought. I’ll be with them until the end.
The sound of feet thumping rock announced yet another pair of arrivals, climbing the stairs to the top of the war-room. The door sprang open, and the two Elves entered. “It is good to see you again, Patrick,” Saerith said. “If you would kindly order your stubborn field-commanders to allow my men into the city, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
Patrick laughed. He nodded once, and a runner was dispatched. “It’s good to see you too, Saerith. Although, it surprises me how long these last few days have been.”