Cydel had turned his attention to slinging his new arrows at the back of the army now that their commander had made it under the safety of the stone wall. After dispatching two more soldiers, Cydel felt chills run down his spine. His arms suddenly felt like iron and he momentarily lost his footing. He dropped to a knee, doing a quick check on his status. Everything seemed intact – the gorillas hadn’t gotten to him. His mother’s warning rang clear in his head. The gem took from him, not an outside source. Cydel smacked himself on the forehead, forgetting that if it took from him, too many arrows would lead to exhaustion.
At that moment the wall shook and Cydel stumbled again. He frantically glanced around after hearing a large animal cry out. An elephant? It must have run right into one of the spikes. Ouch, he thought as he stood, taking off to backup his sister in the courtyard.
On the last step, he tripped but was able to recover before faceplanting in the dirt. He turned his attention to the gate and noticed the captain batting away arrows as he went through where one of Francesca’s spikes had been. Cydel grimaced when he caught glimpse of one of the Lurians impaled on a spike. The Lurian commander approached and once close enough, Francesca stepped to meet him. She had turned her gem embedded hilt into a long-handled hammer. Cydel wanted to call out to Francesca. He wasn’t sure how the hammer would handle a sword capable of knocking away arrows.
His caution was unfounded as Francesca flipped the hilt of her weapon, revealing a curved blade on the other side of the elongated handle. She knelt into a ready position, one hand on the hilt and the other further up the earthen pole. His sister lay in wait for the approaching man. As he came from under the shadows of the wall’s arch, Cydel noticed his familiar looks. The man strode forward with a grim look on his face, almost a snarl of reluctance. His hair seemed to be buzzed short so it didn’t poke out from under his helmet. His familiarity nagged at Cydel.
Francesca didn’t hesitate as the commander sliced his sword toward her, deflecting his attack to the side. The two engaged and the battlefield went silent, except for the thud of the man’s sword hitting the earth of his sister’s polearm. She must have forced the commander to come and meet her head on by blocking the only path in.
After a few exchanges, the man had backed up. He briefly looked back to his soldiers that had frozen, causing them to immediately resume work on clearing the path of spikes. Turning his full attention to Francesca now, he pulled off his helmet, wiping the sweat, rain, and grime from his forehead. He replaced his helmet and brought his sword into a ready position. In a flash, he was upon Francesca. She was forced to retreat, barely able to block his swipes and jabs. A powerful overhand swipe knocked her to the ground. The commander looked down at her and turned, waving his troops through. They had managed to break one additional spike but it was still cramped as they funneled in.
Cydel looked from his sister to the frozen Ikalgan defenders that stood behind her. Despite feeling like he wanted to sleep for ten days straight, he summoned an arrow and shot it, slicing through air to pin a Lurian to the wooden wall, waking the defenders from their stupor. They ran to meet the invaders and preventing them from getting a foothold. Cydel dragged his feet and kneeled next to Francesca.
“That’s Christian.” She stood and brushed the mud from her uniform. Cydel gave her a blank look. “Ace’s son.” She was right. His face was almost identical, and the buzzed hair was blond, a rarity in the kingdom. He briefly shook his head at his lack of perception and calmly knocked an arrow, shooting down an approaching Lurian.