For anyone just joining me, on Saturdays I post prose, whether essays or fiction. At present I’m posting a rather short story I wrote several years ago in small pieces; if you haven’t already, I recommend you start at the beginning or read Part Seven, or this isn’t likely to make much sense. This is my second experiment in serialization; the story I serialized here before this one was already divided into chapters, while here I’m breaking wherever it seems sensible to do so.
Two hours later, the sun was nearing the horizon. The towers were up, everything was in place, and the only thing left for Portia to do was wait.
“Messengers to the villages?” she asked.
“Sent,” Aaron said. “We might get a reply, but we can’t expect any help before tomorrow.”
“Recite the count of your army,” she said. He made a face. “This is your first command, and as your knight-mistress I am duty-bound to make sure you don’t flub it. That’s beside the fact that my life is riding on it, and Father will be very annoyed if I get myself killed.”
“Knights, heavily armed and armored—five companies, held for a sortie. I had to remind a few that swords have points for a reason,” he said with a touch of exasperation. “Cavalry, lightly armored—seven companies, held likewise. Mounted infantry—three companies, massed outside, if that’s possible in such small numbers, and held ready to return if the battle there goes ill. Infantry—twelve companies, half on the walls, the other half held for whatever I deem necessary. Pikes—three companies, held for my orders. Archers—ten companies, on the walls and in the towers. Mages—nine companies, where they will. Siege engines—eleven, five in the towers and six in a battery elevated just above the wall within the city.”
“Did you remember to post mages with the siege engines?”
“‘Instruct your aged ancestress,’ mistress mine. I posted mages with nearly everyone, for communication if nothing else.”
A low horn call, more like a bellow than music, sounded in the distance. Half a minute later, Thomas, breathless, was at Portia’s elbow.
“We have seen a black dragon over the enemy army on the horizon,” he said.
“Sound the alarm,” Aaron said. Portia ran to where she had left Rhinseth. She swung herself into the saddle, and Rhinseth took off.