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29. Battle of the Bridge

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Ayla's tent was situated about three hundred yards away from the barricade, far enough back so as not to be hit by any arrows from the battle, as long as the barricade wasn't breached. It was also situated to the side, so that Ayla could see past their defensive line to whatever lay beyond. She was both grateful and frightened that Isenbard had placed it thus.

Grateful because it showed her he trusted in her ability to handle what she saw.

Frightened because it left her no choice but to see.

She saw beyond the barricade. And at that moment, seeing beyond the barricade meant that she could see the enemy approaching in full force.

So, apparently, could Sir Rudolfus and Sir Waldar, who had joined her on the meadow behind the barricade. They hurried over to her.

“Milady! Milady, do you see this?” With a shaking finger, Sir Rudolfus pointed towards the opposite bank.

Ayla studied the hundreds of pikemen and archers approaching the barricade. The sun glittered on the tips of a forest of spears.

“I would say they are rather hard to miss,” she pointed out.

“We must surrender immediately!”

“Must we?” She raised an eyebrow. “I was under the impression that I am the one in charge here.”

“Now look here, girl,” Waldar chuckled nervously. “You can't honestly expect us to fight this many men. Quit this silly game and tell this Sir Luca you're surrendering.”

Behind the two men, Ayla could see a massive iron-clad figure leaving Isenbard's tent. He moved slowly, but held himself perfectly erect. Thank the Lord!

Returning her attention to her other two vassals, she fixed them with a death-stare. “I do not consider protecting the lives of my subjects a silly game, Sir Waldar,” she said. “And when conversing with me, you will kindly use the proper form of address. Listen closely now. I have no intention of surrendering my land and my people to some villainous invader! I have commanded you to defend those lands, and you are sworn to defend me. If you choose to break that vow, then you had better go to the castle dungeons and lock yourselves in, traitors that you are. I have not the men to spare to do it for you!”

She let her gaze wander from one to the other. Behind them, the iron-clad figure of the knight took up his position and gripped his sword. “Now are you two going to follow my orders, yes or no?”

Sir Rudolfus swallowed, hard. “I will do my duty, as you command, Milady. Though I do not know what use I will be in battle.”

“That we will have to see. Sir Waldar?”

The fat man's three chins worked for a moment. And for a moment longer. And longer. A deep sound came out of his throat. It took Ayla a moment to realize it was laughter, getting louder and louder.

“Ha!” the fat man boomed. “Haaahahaha! You're a good one! All right, Milady! I've never avoided a drunken brawl, maybe it's time I get into one while I'm sober! Let's go show these sons of bitches what stuff we're made of!”

Ayla breathed out in relief. “An admirable attitude, Sir Waldar. Though I would appreciate it if you could moderate your language. Then we are decided?”

The two men nodded.

“Very well. Sir Isenbard?”

Both Sir Waldar and Sir Rudolfus whirled around, and then flinched at the sight of the imposing knight, his hand on his sword. Neither of them, so it seemed, had been aware that he had been standing behind them the whole time.

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