Episode 7 Chapter 20

Scanning the tree line through binoculars, Theodore saw the creatures gathering. He counted two dozen, but there could be more. Hardly an army, but enough to do some damage. There were a few ghasts, but most were fairies. Their faces were sneering and anxious. Theodore recognized Curdie the goblin and Fern the crone among them.

Watchmen sharpened their swords and loaded crossbows around him inside the manor’s upper floor. With luck, there would be no battle, but preparations were made just the same. Theodore was lent a sword and armor from the battered leftovers of whatever was at hand. A scratched iron cuirass with too-big chainmail and mismatched leather greaves and gloves. It made him look ridiculous, but it would serve.

He moved to another window to spy and caught a glimpse of Beira behind the trees. She was giving an impassioned speech. The scene was too far away to hear, but he could infer the tone. Beira stomped back and forth across the meadow, whipping her tail and throwing her head back with dramatic flourish. Whatever she was saying, it was loud.

“How is the evacuation going?” Theodore said, handing off the binoculars.

Lieutenant Fritz looked harried, like he was still thinking about a long nap he planned to have but would no longer get to take. “We’ve got everyone out and on the way to the city walls.” He fingered the hilt of his sheathed sword. “You think they’ll back off now that we’re onto her plan?”

Theodore shook his head. “It doesn’t look that way.” There was no way Beira was oblivious to the evacuation. Perhaps a real battle was what she was after all along. “If I can’t talk her down, then we’ll have to fight.”

“We don’t have enough men for this!” Fritz said. “Why’d this have to happen when most of the Watch is tied up babysitting the Fairy Circle? It’s going to take hours for the other knight orders to gear up and help us!”

“Lieutenant!” One of the scouts called, still kneeling at the window and keeping watch. “Something’s happening!”

They didn’t need binoculars to see it. Beira came galloping out from the forest, her followers marching after her. She climbed to the top of a hillock and pointed her horn at the village.

“What’s it doing?” Fritz said.

There was a glint of light off her horn. Thick, gray clouds began to form and gather around its point. A wind picked up, growing in speed and rattling the window shutters. Theodore could not believe how fast the clouds were gathering around Beira’s horn, growing so wide and long that her forces could no longer be seen. All at once, the clouds raced forward riding on howling winds. Hunks of hail the size of cannon balls crashed through the walls and windows. Lightning stabbed at the buildings, and a typhoon swirled around them. In only a few moments, the storm engulfed the whole village and blotted out the sky.

“Shit!” Fritz shouted as icy wind blasted through the window. Theodore struggled to keep his balance as frost crept along the walls and floor.

Everyone pulled back, retreating down the stairs to the first floor where the knights who weren’t caught outside were arming themselves. Swords were hooked to belts, helmets strapped, and armor fastened. The storm raged, shaking the walls around them. A barrel was cracked open, filled to bursting with calcified magic shards. The mages scooped the ammunition into holsters, then each snapped the brittle stones in their hands to ready their first spells.

“I told you I want to try talking first!” Theodore said as Fritz shoved a sword into his hands. “There’s a chance we don’t have to fight!”

“Yeah! That worked SO WELL back at the Fount,” Fritz said, sarcastic. “This is a Code Fang! A full blown wicked assault on civilian land! Either help us, or stay out of the way!”

Theodore’s breath could be seen in the now freezing air. He wanted to say something to stop the fighting, but the Lieutenant was right. The attack was already underway. Beira was not going to listen.

“Alright patrol!” The lieutenant’s voice cracked as he addressed the men and women under his command. His aloof tone replaced with panicked leadership. “We’ve only counted 26 of them! Which is… We can handle this! It’s fine! Stick close to your assigned wizards! Keep your swords charged! Silver and iron! We just got to hold out until back up arrives, alright?! Show them why you don’t mess with Laien!”

A cheer went up through the room. The combat mages channeled their spells and threw up translucent pink barriers around their squads. Theodore tried to keep pace as he followed his team out the door and into the raging weather. The spell protected them from the wind and ice, and let them charge out into the manor yard, boots crunching on new fallen snow, as fairies and ghasts tore through the village knocking over carts and smashing windows.

“Kill them!” Someone shouted. Theodore wasn’t sure if it was a knight or a creature. Both sides collided. Claws raked along the ground and tails whipped. Gnomes danced around sword swipes, and a fury pounced on a man to tear at his face with beak and dagger. A magic crossbow bolt zipped through the air to impale the fury, pinning her to the ground screaming. Shining silver swords hacked a werewolf limb from limb, but not before he tore a woman’s head from her shoulders.

After first blood, the forces pulled apart. A rain of crossbow bolts sent the creatures darting behind cover. There, they threw rocks and taunted. Someone gave chase, jumping out of their wizard’s bubble, only to get grabbed from behind and as he rounded the corner.

“Stay in formation!” Fritz yelled over the wind. “Don’t let them draw you out!”

Shield up, one of the soldiers moved to the center of the battlefield. The fury was there, still screaming as blood pooled on the ground. He slit her throat and there was quiet. Theodore’s stomach turned. He looked out to the hillock, at Beira absorbed in concentration conjuring the storm around them. He tightened his grip on his sword. She was the reason this was happening. The Tall Man said he needed to kill her to stop this.

“We need to go after the unicorn!” Theodore said. “She’s distracted with her spell!”

“I don’t care!” Fritz said. The archers worked to reload their enchanted crossbows. “We’re got enough trouble right here! I want everyone to turtle up until our back up gets here!”

“We have a chance to take out their leader!!”

“You’re not in charge here, ‘Deputy!’ We’re not coming after you if you want to make a suicide run!”

Growling, Theodore swung around and pushed his shoulder through the membrane of the barrier. The cold was sharp needles pricking his skin through his armor. A troll crashed out from behind a cottage and tried to grab him. Theodore jumped back and brought his long sword down on the troll’s reaching arm. It chopped deep but did not sever it. The troll howled in pain as Theodore pulled the blade free and ran. Racing against the gale in his face, Theodore tried not to think of the blood racing down the troll’s arm. He tried not to think about sutures or gangrene or whether he’d fractured the bone. He locked his eyes on Beira, his teeth grit, and dashed as fast as he could with hot tears streaming down his face.

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