The Siege of Farrenroc
Short Story for the Myth: Journeyman Kickstarter.
Roderick Blackstone, First Knight of the Farrenroc Militia, pulled his cloak close as he stood, one foot resting on the edge of the battlements, and looked out over the battlefield. For weeks, Farrenroc had been under siege. Situated where it was, The Rock held the key to the Four Kingdoms, the last bastion of civilization before the bleak wilds. They’d pushed back everything the Darkness threw at them. As they always did, though the cost was ever high.
This morning, with the latest skirmish seemingly ended, he felt old. He shifted his weight to the other leg, the one that hadn’t been crushed beneath a Mucker he’d felled more than thirty years ago. The stiffness served as a reminder that there were always consequences, even if the battle went your way. It was a lesson that had served him well.
Though he was feeling his age more lately, he knew it was nothing to the age of the stones beneath his feet. The city’s written history went back more than a millennium, but recorded no time before the walls. They were constantly being assessed, repaired, built upon. He always felt as if the walls of the city were a living thing, ancient and protecting. His charge, his ally, his friend.
This one had been rougher than usual. It was rare that more than one faction came together against the city, but this time his forces had beaten back not only scores of Grubbers and their ilk, but teeming masses of Crawlers. The enemy couldn’t hope to get into the city of course, but he wasn’t about to let them dawdle on Farrenroc’s doorstep either. Not on his watch.
He took a long drink from the warm soup one of the runners had brought up to the battlements. The victory had been decisive, but as dawn rose, a new problem was revealed. In front of the treeline, just outside of the range of the archers, sat a cloud of fog. As the sun reflected off of it, he was reminded of the sharp, cold air that preceded snowfall, of ice crackling across a lake, and felt almost as if he could feel the chill from here.
It was clear the fog was no natural phenomenon, not sitting that perfectly, never drifting. Blackstone didn’t care for magic, preferring the certainty of his axe, but he wasn’t above using it. He’d sent for the Alchemists and the Weavers, tasking them with removing the cloud. He’d pay later for his discourtesy in summoning their leaders to the wall, no doubt, but for now, he had a job to do and needed them to help him do it. He wasn’t about to lose his view from the wall when he knew the enemy was just biding their time.
The Weavers sent word they were trying a solution and it must have worked as the cloud began to dissipate. As it did a horrendous roar echoed off the sky. At the sound, his ancient hind brain screamed at him to flee, prey before a predator. Instead he kept it in check, as he would any panicking soldier under his command, and assessed this new foe.
He’d heard tales, of course, but had never seen a beast such as this. The dragon (for what else could it be) was big, easily three times as high at the shoulder as the soldiers it followed, broader than the city gates. It sauntered forward, almost feline in its movements. The gray-blue tones of its armored ridges reflected the sunlight. Monstrous, to be sure, but with relief he noted at least it didn’t have wings like some of its brethren. And if it couldn’t fly, it couldn’t get over the walls.
Though the dragon drew his attention, he didn’t fail to notice the well-armored troops accompanying it, nor the clusters of razorfiendlings surrounding it. The armored foes were new, and he didn’t recognize their standard. He wondered how it was the fiendlings weren’t tearing them apart. In his experience, those things didn’t play well with others.
He shouted orders to the militia manning the walls and sent a runner to pass down orders to the ground troops. As one, the creature and the enemy troops began marching toward the city. As soon as he judged they were in range, he ordered the archers to open fire. The armor piercing arrows did their work on many of the foes, armored men and fiendlings alike, but the beast just shrugged them off. The few that managed to stick seemed to not even grab its attention.
His troops had made a dent in the enemy, for certain, but they did not stop the creature from reaching the gates. It roared, its hot breath condensing in the aura of cold that seemed to surround it, and he watched as unnatural ice climbed the walls of Farrenroc. Now that it was directly below him, he could see hoarfrost and ice crystals shifted and cracked as it moved, only to reform seconds later in an ever hardening sheen until it moved again.
The beast lowered its scaled head and rammed the gate. Blackstone fought to keep his balance as the walls themselves shook. He shouted orders for the archers to light their arrows and for the alchemists to load the ballistae. If ice were this thing’s province, then maybe they could choke it with fire.
In living memory nothing had breached the walls of Farrenroc, and he meant to keep it that way.
Copyright 2015 J.L. Allan