27. Flying Death

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For a while, Reuben was silent. His forehead creased, and the smile disappeared from his lips. He did not let go of Ayla's hand though. If anything, she felt his grip tighten.

“Hmm...” he muttered at last. “It looks like they're building some kind of siege weapon. But... why? They've got us where they want us.”

And even though that wasn't a very cheering thought, Ayla thrilled to the sound of the last word.

Us.

He was thinking of “us”. Did that mean everybody in the castle or more precisely the two of them? She bit her lip. No, now wasn't the time to get distracted by thoughts like that. She had to focus.

“I know it's a siege weapon,” Isenbard said, impatiently. “But what is it exactly?”

“Well, it can't be a trebuchet.” Reuben pointed at several of the trees down in the valley that the men were working on. “The pieces are too small. The arm is missing.”

Isenbard frowned. “A trebu- what?”

Reuben waved his hand dismissively. “A Trebuchet. It's a siege weapon, a rather recent invention. It... oh, never mind.” He shook his head. “None of the trees they are felling are big enough to build one. They don't even look large enough for a normal catapult. The only thing that I can think of...Hmm…”

He cut off, chewing his lower lip.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Isenbard growled, raising an eyebrow at Reuben. Ayla looked questioningly from the old knight to the young one, but neither saw fit to elaborate.

Reuben nodded, grimly. “Yes, I’m thinking exactly that. But it doesn’t make any sense.”

“No sense at all.” Isenbard, nodded back at him just as grimly. “I completely agree.”

“Me too,” said Ayla. They both turned to stare at her.

“How do you know it’s not making any sense? Do you actually know what we’re talking about?” Reuben wanted to know.

She glared back at them. “No, I don’t know. I think it’s the two of you who aren't making any sense! Can you please tell me what you're talking about before I go mad? What is a trebuthingy?”

“A trebuchet. But as I said, it’s not one of those. The trees they are felling are too small. And... Yes, do you see these, there?” Reuben pointed again, this time at two pieces of wood which had already been cut into shape and were now being rammed into the ground so that they met in mid-air.

“That looks like supports for something,” Ayla said.

“They are. My guess is that they’ll hold in place a central beam of wood, on which in turn another beam is placed, with a rope attached at the end. This acts like a staff sling, making it possible to throw stones and other objects over quite some distance.”

“Stones?” gasped Ayla, alarmed. “Does that mean they intend to bombard us?”

“If they are, it will be highly amusing.”

“Amusing? Reuben, how can you say that?” Ayla felt the color drain from her face. “Those are my people you’re talking about! My castle! You can you say it’s amusing, when—“

“Amusing because,” he cut her off, “they cannot throw anything large or dangerous enough to really harm us.”

“Oh.” She felt a blush coming on. “Well, you should have mentioned that.”

“I was just going to. As I said before, what they are building looks like a small, even primitive version of a siege weapon. Look, I’ll show you.” Reuben gestured to one of her guards. The man took a few steps back, looking apprehensive.

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