The two winged horses dropped out of the sky over the city. They circled lower, almost lazily, until Portia spotted a large courtyard on the side of the city farthest from the sea.
“That will do nicely,” she said. Rhinseth folded her wings and dropped. Rattelan, Aaron’s companion, dove quickly after. Halfway to the ground, Rhinseth opened her wings again and slowed to a more reasonable rate of descent, landing on the wet grass noiselessly. Half a minute later, Aaron, on Rattelan’s back, landed beside Portia. The two humans dismounted and let their companions rest for a moment, and then Portia said, “Call.” Aaron took a horn from his saddlebag and sounded it. The sound rang loud, clear, long, and sharp in the late morning air. The martial tone hung for what seemed like an eternity, and then, in all the walls bordering the courtyard, windows and doors flew open. Aaron shifted the horn on his lips, and the sound lifted up again. As his breath expired, he let his hand fall to his side.
“Anything more?” he asked.
“Reveille. That’ll rouse them, I’m sure,” she said. He lifted the horn to his lips again, but before he could sound it, a drum somewhere began a soft, slow tattoo. Portia waved Aaron to silence and listened. Another drum joined in a steady quiet roll, and then a fife’s piping soared above the beat. A gate toward the sea and the center of the city opened, and a double column of men and women in robelike uniforms marched in toward Portia and Aaron. At each column’s head was a drummer followed by a man with a fife. Portia checked her sword and shield, but otherwise remained still. Rhinseth shifted uneasily on her hooves. Aaron’s face remained passive.
Ten yards in front of Portia and Aaron, the columns split. They circled the little group, coming to a sudden halt when they met again.