The most elaborately dressed man in the circle stepped forward. “From where come you?” he said slowly. “And to what purpose come you here?”
“I am a knight of the Empire,” Portia said in her best parade-ground tone, bringing her shield down flashing in the sun, “and I bring the warning that an Evil army will attack this city within the day. A local mage requested Imperial assistance, so His Majesty sent me here.”
“Not with these steeds,” the man said, “and where came you by this news?”
“The mage that summoned us is a dragon on yonder mountain. He gave us our initial briefing. Also on that mountain Rhinseth chose me,” Portia said.
“I doubt your word,” a woman behind Portia said.
“I would not say that again if I were you,” Aaron said. “My mistress is a mage and high in the Master’s service, and as a knight of the Empire her word has been proven good.”
“I doubt—” the woman said again. Thunder rolled in the blue sky, and she fell silent.
“We are the only ones in the Master’s service here,” the man said, “and none here is well trained in the art of war. What then must we do?” Aaron looked to Portia, who nodded.
“What sort of defenses does the city have?” Aaron said. “First your name.”
“Thomas,” the man said. “We have the wall, a few towers inside the city—which we will have to raise—and a few siege engines.”
“How long will raising the towers take?” Aaron asked.
“An hour or so,” Thomas said. “The ones in the city are about seven stories tall, so we keep them lowered to the height of other buildings. There are also more standard towers in the wall, and the city has a militia and a small navy.”
“A pity it takes so long to raise them,” Aaron said. “They’ll be enough of an advantage that we can’t afford to have them lowered, but it would have been nice to have our enemy unprepared when he comes to our gate. Raise them, place the siege engines where they can do the most good, and muster the militia. Ah—do you have ghadish?” The word was the closest anyone had come to ‘gunpowder’ in the language of the Power. Thomas shook his head.
“No. I don’t even know what that means, though it must be some kind of explosive. We have tacaren, though.” That was Greek fire. “I’ll have an indirection working laid on the towers, so that no one can look at them directly.”
“An excellent idea,” Aaron said.
“If you’ll give me an exact description of your technological level,” Portia said, “I’ll send it home. We’ll have an Imperial army to back us up as soon as possible, but that can’t be until this battle is over.”