30. Demon Unchained

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"Where is he? Where is he, Captain?"

The Captain turned, still a little stiff from his encounter with a fifty pounds of falling stone. "Milady! You're here!" The relief that spread over his felt was evident, and made a new surge of guilt well up in Ayla.

No time for that! Not now.

"Yes, I'm here," she told him, briskly. "Now tell me, where is he?"

"Look, there!"

Pointing down from the wall, Linhart indicated something below. At first, Ayla thought he was pointing to the river bank. But then she saw the black banners flapping in the cold autumn wind, and with a sick feeling realized that the enemy had already come much farther than that. A small host, around two-hundred men, were encamped atop a small hill right opposite to the Luntberg. The rest of the enemy army were still crossing the river, on a series of strange wooden bridges, suspended from wooden towers like a castle's drawbridge.

"How did they get across?" she demanded, trying to ignore the inner voice that told her it was all her fault. She had been negligent. She had wallowed in her guilt and forgotten her people! "Why didn't anyone shoot arrows at them while they were building those bridges? Why didn't anyone try to stop them?"

Linhart regarded her with sympathy. "There was nothing we could have done—or you, for that matter, Milady," he told her as if he had been able to read her thoughts. Maybe he had. They probably were plain enough on her face. "The enemy constructed wooden towers with drawbridges well away from the river, out of the range of our archers. Then they rolled them to the water. We sent out archers and tried to shoot at them with burning arrows, but the outside of the towers was covered with wet animal hides. They didn't catch fire. Soon, several battalions of Falkenstein's men were across, and we had to recall our archers into the castle."

Ayla's hands curled tightly around the cold stone of the breastwork. By the apostles! Linhart was right, she couldn't have done anything. That didn't make her feel any better though—only worse. This was exactly the kind of strategy she didn't know how to deal with. The kind of strategy Reuben would have—


Ayla's eyes flashed back to the enemy encampment on the hill, searching frantically for any hint of red. But no! Reuben wasn't wearing red. He had been in disguise when he had crossed the river. What was he wearing? Black? Brown? By all the angels in heaven, if that man got back to her alive, she would see to it that he only wore what she told him to in future! It was torturous, not being able to recognize him at a distance. Besides, she had much better dress-sense, anyway.

"Where is he?" she demanded, whirling towards Linhart. "Your messenger said he was out here, but I don't see hide nor hair of him! Where is he?"

"Do you see that tent?"

Ayla's eyes shot towards the spot where Linhart pointed. There, at the front of the enemy encampment, stood a large black tent, a silver falcon emblazon on the tent flaps. The symbol, so well-known to Ayla, sent a shiver down her back.

"He was carried in there not five minutes ago. So far, they haven't brought him out again."

Ayla was almost afraid to ask.

"H-how did he look?"

"Just the same as ever," Linhart said, darkly. "That's what worries me."

Ayla through him a startled glance. "What do you mean?"

"Haven't you noticed how they positioned their camp, and especially that tent? Well out of the range of our archers, but still in plain sight of the castle? It's as if they want us to see them. If an enemy wants you to see them, Milady, they usually want to show you something that is not very pleasant."

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