Chapter 36: Battle, Phase One
With the winds of war,
I sway as the willow does,
in the dance of death.
~ Miyara Miwa
I carefully placed my scrolls in my room for safe-keeping, and Ash and I joined the guard on one of the towers, looking down over the army camped far below. At daybreak, a reverberating growl from the orcs signalled their movment. At the same time, a heavy mist formed around us, and I could not see more than a foot away. I immediately dropped to the floor, and told the guard and Ash to do the same, so we would not inadvertantly step over the edge. I began crawling towards the ladder down.
I heard an eerie moan, low and not any human sound. The moan went lower and became something I felt rather than heard. The floor beneath me trembled, then swayed, then the tower collapsed completely.
We extricated ourselves from the rubble, battered and bruised but still alive. The mist had cleared, so we could see again. Parts of the murder room had also collapsed with portions of the outer wall, but I could see Ravena, Caramela, and Res Li making their way over. Hosei was fine, they reported, but was trapped beneath rubble and could not move for now. Before I could move in that direction to help him out, I heard a couple of guards from another tower yell for help. I called the other two guards to follow me and ran up to the tower, but only Ash followed.
At the top, I found six grappling hooks with very long hooks and chains for the first ten or so feet down, then ropes dangling to the ground. Goblins were beginning to swarm up them. There were another six dangling from the balcony. I yelled for Caramela and Ravena to come up, and Ash and I tried to pry up one to throw it back down. It was far too heavy even for both of us together, and we could not budge it. Ravena and Caramela had not appeared, so I ran back down for them and Res Li. Caramela began heating up the bottom link, so as to set fire to the rope, and Ravena managed to produce a blast of wind, which she directed at the goblins, sweeping them off the ropes. She swept that wind between both groups of rope, granting us some precious extra time. Ash and I started hauling up ropes one at a time to cut them down while they were empty enough to lift.
Caramela, seeing that heating links one by one was going to take far too much time, summoned up a huge ball of fire and incinerated the further set of ropes. A group of goblins had already made it up, and I sent Ash and some of the guards to take care of them. Ravena continued her blast of wind while I cut the rest of the ropes, one by one.
When I had finished, no other grappling hooks had appeared. Orcs were not boiling up the stairs yet. I sent a quick prayer for Kyosuke and his fellows down below, and then turned to see how Ash was faring. I hoped snotlings would not start falling from the skies just yet.
I could not see Ash, but I could hear sounds of fighting, and I saw one goblin in the courtyard. I told Ravena and Caramela to stay there and watch for more attacks, and to yell if anything happened. Then I ran down to the courtyard, towards the goblin, and two more that had appeared out of nowhere. They obligingly all attacked me, rather than making me chase them down one by one.
As I fought, goblins one-by-one vaulted over Ash's head, who was holding a group at bay on a staircase, and came at me instead. One-by-one, I sliced them to ribbons, as Ash felled them at the stairs, then came to help me with the last two.
They had landed several blows on me and Ash both, and we were both somewhat the worse for wear. Before we could catch our breath, we heard screams from Ravena and Caramela. The second round was beginning.