Chapter Twenty-Six: The Windswept Plain.

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Chapter Twenty-Six: The Windswept Plain.

“All Hail The KING!” The screaming, echoing cry echoed through the streets, bounced back and forth by a thousand voices, forming a joyous, violent cry. A war cry. A cry of hope.

Jaden had his best smile on for the people, but at the moment he felt ready to drop. Two hundred miles of marching had taken a lot out of his men, and now that they were finally within the massive walls of T'kara, it was everything they could do to keep a brave face on their tired body's. Eastern Netheron was fallen. Too many Halavardes had been able to land before his few men had been able to repulse them, and now they were heading west.

T'kara was the strongest fortress for a thousand miles, rich, prosperous, and incredibly well defended, built as it was on the edge of a massive cliff overlooking the sea -the only way into it through the gates -and the cliff-edged road- or up from the port. Jaden knew he could hold it against anything for an infinite amount of time. Magic could provide food for all, and water was in abundance.

His gaze scanned the towering stone buildings, noting the way the formation of the city blocks provided little cover for any force coming from the walls, and a huge amount of cover for any defenders. Every house was the exact same, built of heavy granite stones, whether it was a bakery or a peasant's home. All of the people had a healthy, lively, colorful look to them as they cheered the soldiers along the middle of the road.

The T'karan's had known that without a powerful magician they would starve quickly, and now they had one (along with twenty thousand Arrel above-the-line warriors). They would be safe till Jaden chose otherwise.

“ALL HAIL THE KING!” The cry swept the streets again, slightly surprising Jaden. His experience in the east had led him to believe that the Nethers had little love for their Arrel protectors -not viewing them as protectors at all- but either the west was different, or these people had learned something over the past few weeks.

Up ahead of them loomed the keep, massive and towering, painted a soft white color -more of a castle really, with towers, and turrets, and curtains on broad windows, and flags and everything. Quite beautiful, and quite well built at the same time. A nice combination.

At the gates stood a row of royally dressed figures, all tall and dark-haired like all T'karans. They would be the nobles of the area, and the powerful-looking man and woman standing at the front would be Lord and Lady T'kara. These people were nobles in all ways. There were politicians, who knew how to swing a sword for honor and self-defense . . . but they weren't warrior-kings like Jaden. Well, former warrior-kings, but still.

As he came closer he saw that many of the nobles had broad smiles on their faces, including the T'karan rulers. That boded well. A good attitude went a long way. Stopping before the Duke and Duchess he dropped to a knee -feeling oddly humble, but knowing that they should have gone first. He didn't care though. “I am Jaden Clasheron former Warlord of Arreland, humbly beseeching your graces to grant me and my men a place on your walls. A place we shall defend to the last.” He said calmly.

They looked surprised, but Jaden caught a nice looking appreciative look in Lord T'kara's dark blue eyes. “A place that I would beg you to take, sire.”

Jaden smiled to himself and rose. “Then take it we do. May I?” He nodded toward the watching crowds.

Lord T'kara nodded. “Of course.”

Jaden stepped up the steps a bit, so he could see everything. “People of T'kara!” He called out in his loudest wind-quelling voice. Instantly there was silence. “Today I, Jaden Clasheron of Arreland join you, to defend your city against the Halavardes. Today I swear I will do everything I can to protect your lives. I will see that promise kept. But you must understand: If I am to rule the defense of this city, then I must have your help. Everyone must lend a hand. I will not ask the unwilling man to fight, but anyone can help. I do not come to replace your rulers. I come to help. Nothing more. A hundred thousand Halavardes our coming our way. They will be here soon. And their numbers will simply grow with time. I cannot promise hope. But I can promise freedom . . . and survival. Who will have me?”

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