Chapter 35: The Quiet Before the Storm
The air is hot, still,
and yet clear. The waves break at
the shore. The storm comes.
~ Miyara Miwa
The night has been long and quiet. Dawn is not far away, and that is when the orcs will strike, I am certain. Nevertheless, we could not trust them to leave us alone all night, so we broke into groups to prepare for the coming battle. In pairs, the warriors among us took watches where we simply checked on the guards at the towers and at the gate, watched the orcs on the ground, and made plans for the morning's defense. To my surprise, Ravena immediately began studying the crystal of air, with Caramela's aid.
Worried about snotlings raining into the courtyard from the catapults below, we asked Scar if we could put together a troupe of archers and oil and burn the catapults. Scar said there simply were not enough arrows to accomplish anything. It amazes me that everyone knew an army has been coming for some fifty years, and yet no preparations of any kind have been made beyond what Yazeran himself built.
Scar had placed a guard on each tower. The other four guards were at the gate, which they had complete confidence in. The orcs had doused all their fires, and we could see nothing in the inky black. Hosei periodically threw down a handful of lighted pebbles, enough so we could see they were still there. I suspect they got more sleep than we did, as they know the plans for the morning.
Sometime during the night, Kyosuke went into Yazeran's tomb. This time, he was properly respectful and was not attacked by Yazeran's faithful guardian. He said he had humbly asked Yazeran's aid, since neither monks nor even the guards were prepared for the event he had prophesied. He received no answer, but the White Faerie did.
He saw the orcs pouring through the portcullis. So through the White Faerie, Yazeran told us that there would be an attack on the gate, and also that the portcullis would not hold them outside.
Kyosuke briefly spoke with Hosei, saying that though they cannot get through the gate without a traitor opening it for them, with magic, the traitor does need to be a willing one. They determined that by cutting a rope with an axe left there for that purpose, no one would be able to open the gate. Of course, with magic, one does not necessarily have to open a gate. But we could not defend against that anyway.
I spent most of the evening, even when not on watch, keeping an eye on things. I sent Ravena and Caramela into the murder room, above the gate. It also looked out on the bridge, so I hoped the two of them and their crystals could perhaps wreak some havoc on the orcs before they even entered Iri. Also, that was a very safe place for them to be. Res Li also stayed with them. Ravena made some progress with her crystal, but not without some difficulties: she managed to call up a great wind and broke four of the six barrels of oil meant for boiling and pouring on the orcs below.
Kyosuke, with his uncanny ability to see in complete darkness, kept a watch on the orcs below, and he told me there was a thin line moving towards the bridge. I spread the word: the orcs will come through the gate, but we can at least be ready for them when they come. Hosei lit up an arrow and had one of the guards shoot it out onto the bridge, and they renewed the light when necessary, to keep watch on what the orcs were doing.
The cook did at least put together breakfast for us. Not long ago, Kyosuke saw that the orcs had gathered on the other side of the bridge, just outside of the small light Hosei provided. They had no heavy equipment, no battering rams. The place is well-constructed: once through the gate, they will have to file through a narrow tunnel that will only fit two at a time. So, a fairly small group can defend against that tunnel for quite some time.
Hosei borrowed the magic book from Ravena, who was concentrating on her crystal, and showed it to me, asking if the symbols were perhaps Nipponese writing. They were not: I had never seen anything like them. He showed them to our researching monk, who went into the library to hunt them down, if possible. Hosei went into the murder room with Res Li, Ravena, and Caramela.
Kyosuke, Jeisan, the White Dwarf, Scar, and four guardsmen readied themselves at the tunnel, waiting for the orcs. I remain at the top, with the other guards, moving from tower to tower, checking on those in the murder room.
The sky has just begun lightening, and the guards have yelled up that things are beginning. I will return to finish this tale when our battle is over, if I can.