Hylven tried to make sense of the floating figure. Its human shape was hardly visible behind the cloud of dust and smoke that whirled around it. The King had just called it Vazrill. But how could that be? thought the young knight. According to the story he was told by the old man, the dark wizard lived hundreds of years ago. He can’t be alive now. But then again, the King has been acting in madness this entire day; he could be simply blurting out random words from his memory.
The King spoke to the dark figure, slowly, “You will not succeed. There are things that are beyond your reach. The world of men will thrive. We have made sure of it.”
A long moment of silence followed. None of the Knights thought about uttering a word.
The King spoke again, “How bad was it, Trist?” he said, without looking back.
The White Knight replied without formality, “They say you’ve killed a lot of innocent people. And you almost wiped out the future army of Shrinkshard.”
The hall trembled by the King’s scream. Hylven and Rother had to cover their ears to keep themselves from going mad. The cry wasn’t only loud; it also made the young knights feel the giant’s great regret. It sunk deep into their hearts and filled them with sadness; a great sadness that pushed the limits of their sanity. Sir Trist, however, was unfazed by the deafening scream. He stepped forward, toward the King.
“My lord!” he shouted. As if he was commanding the King to calm down.
The giant screamed some more, before his voice trailed off, leaving a grim echo behind it. The young knights could still feel the ground quiver under their feet. They both fell on their knees, breathing heavy, and dropping sweat.
The King looked up at the floating figure. His voice was trembling with anger when he spoke, “This is the last time you will get to use us. It will end here.”
The dark figure was idle the entire time. It didn’t react to the King’s loud cry, nor did it respond to any of his words.
There was another silent moment that was interrupted by the sound of distant thunder.
Sir Vaulhime condensed the majority of the archers on the western wall. The dwarves marched slowly toward the fortress. Their commander, Bolghon, didn’t want to rush blindly into Sir Vaulhime’s trap, after witnessing the consequences of such recklessness. He brought his army to a halt outside the archers’ range, sending countless units to move around the fortress. Dartom was now completely surrounded.
Sir Boygle was inspecting the defenses on the ground. He was accompanied by Ron, one of the veteran grey knights, and a fearsome warrior. Ron was charged with the humble—but important—task of managing the food supply for the men at the fortress. But in times of war, he was Sir Boygle’s right hand, and the one to take his place in command if the Silver Knight was to fall in battle.
The walls of Dartom were impenetrable. The gates, on the other hand, were not. The Svarganian King removed the original stone gates that were built by the dwarves after he conquered the great fortress. They were simply too heavy to move. And he replaced them with normal-wooden gates. That is why barricading those gates was the top priority now, especially the fallen gate at the southern wall.
Boygle spent most of his time observing the work at the destroyed gate, shouting orders here and there. He had rushed there a moment ago to push the soldiers back to work, after they all froze in their place when they heard the King’s cry.
He conveyed his frustration to Sir Ron, “These young cowards will not last an hour if they faced the dwarves, sword to axe.”
Ron replied bluntly, “Can’t really blame them, my lord. None of them has ever fought for his life before. They will die horrible deaths in the battlefield.”
Sir Boygle carried the concept to the soldiers, “You hear that, lads? You will all die if you don’t barricade this gate well. So put your soft backs into it!”
The soldiers upped their speed, and that made both knights laugh—for some reason.
Up on the wall, Vaulhime changed his original formation, and moved the archers to cover all the walls equally. He stayed on the western wall, monitoring Bolghon’s movements.
Sir Trist grabbed the hilt of his sword. “Listen to me, lads,” he said. “Whatever happens next, stay out of it. If anything happens to me, report it to Sir Boygle at once. Is that clear?”
Both knights nodded affirmatively.
A clanking sound pulled all the eyes to the floating figure. Although it was still hardly visible, the three knights noticed, at once, the glowing object in its hands.
“The golden horn,” muttered Hylven to himself.
The King spoke fast, “Listen to me clearly, Trist.”
“You don’t have to say it, my lord,” swiftly answered the White Knight.
“Very well,” said the giant, relieved to hear Trist’s words. “I apologize for what is to come of this.”
“You and I know you don’t have to, my lord.”
The young knights stood like fools, oblivious to what the King and his Knight were talking about. They didn’t have the luxury to dwell on it, for the dark figure has made its first move. It brought the glowing object near its head. Then, a strange scream echoed around the great hall. Sir Trist pulled his silver sword. And the King turned to face the three knights, his eyes were as black as a moonless night, and his face wild like an injured wolf.
The distant clouds were now covering the entire sky. A drop of water descended from the heavens, followed by an entire army of its kind. The heavy rain hit fast and hard. Visibility on the wall weakened. Sir Vaulhime was barely able to see beyond the first lines of the surrounding army. He depended on the light of thunder to illuminate the horizon for him, and show him any changes to the rear side of the dwarven forces.
Yurdin was sound asleep under a tree, so sure of his safety behind the cover of the white fog. He didn’t move when the wooden stick hit him the first time. He turned in his place a little and gave out a frustrated moan at the second strike. The third strike was hard on his head, and it brought him to full awareness. He wrestled with himself for a second before he was standing straight, gawking at the hunched old man in front of him.
“Tell me, fat boy,” said the old man, “Have you ever been to Dartom?”
Yurdin couldn’t close his mouth to speak. He barely manged to turn his head sideways to give a negative answer.
“So you are just fat and stupid then?” said the old man, annoyingly.
Yurdin blinked twice.
“Then go back to sleep!” snapped the old man. “Let me not deter you from the purpose of your life.” He then made a motion with his stick, and the guard dropped like a dead cow, snorting away into happy dreams.
The old man gave a distasteful snort. And vanished back into the fog.
The clouds hid the beautiful sunset from the battlefield. And turned the creeping night into complete darkness.
Boygle left Ron to command the ground preparations, and climbed the stairs to join Sir Vaulhime on the western wall.
“Why haven’t the cowards attacked yet?” He asked.
“Dwarves are anything but cowards,” said Vaulhime. “Bolghon knows I won’t let him get near the walls. But he found aid in the clouds. A starless night will provide him the perfect cover. Expect the attack anytime now.”
And as if they heard his words, the dwarves began their attack. Sir Vaulhime blew into the horn. It was the signal for incoming arrows. Every man on the wall ducked to cover.
Down on the ground, shields were held high above heads. The rain of steel poured from all the four directions. And under its cover, a flood of dwarves closed in on the fortress from all sides.
To be continued…