The archer relinquished his grip on the fletching. Arrows could not reach that far. The enemy had made it. From his position atop the castle's foremost wall, he could see the remainders of this latest charge join with the rest of the horde. There were so many; row upon row of disgusting, brutally armoured men, jeering as they welcomed their fellows to safety, roaring with delight at another relentless charge. Hit and run. Hit and run. They knew all too well the defences could not withstand much more.
Running a hand through his thick hair, the archer let slip a weary sigh. The enemy were too many. It pained him to seem them now, displaying the prisoners they had caught. King's men, brave and honourable, having their dignity ripped away through horrific torture. The Barbarians had done the same thing at the end of every charge. And for what? Pleasure? Possibly. Because they could? Probably. There could be no doubt that some of those noble warriors were people he knew.
Soon I will join them, he thought. As soon as the wall is breached. There is no way we can win this war.
Ayul sat, smothered in his thoughts. Idly twirling a knife between his fingers, he tried to justify the anger he had shown his sister. What had seemed so easy then was now an impossible task.
Not one hour ago, his younger sister had been in the room with him, begging his permission to fight in the war. Ayul had refused. In matters of war, he was general first, brother second, and he would not grant his sister permission to give up her life in this pointless conflict. But Loraine could be as hot headed as any of the King's soldiers, and she had disregarded her brother's refusal as one might a bird flying overhead.
It was not that she couldn't wield a weapon – she could, better than many men, in fact – but this war was pointless. Had the Barbarians not attacked the people of Tyrill, the Tyrillians would have attacked the Barbarians. A disgraceful war fought only over two rulers' greed. He had refused to be a part of such a thing – had done to the King's face – and had commanded his sister do the same, forbidden her to do otherwise.
He recalled a saying of his father, wise words whispered an age ago, before his untimely death: "Speak in rage and your words will miss their mark." Ayul wished he had upheld that statement with his sister. He had spoken in rage, and now she would most likely be out amidst the fighting, among one of many defence parties aiming to repel the attack. All she wanted was to lend her hand to protect the city, like any other.
A knock at the door pulled him from his thoughts. ‘I said no more messages!' he bellowed, turning away from the sound. Three times today he had been begged by the King's messengers to join the fray. There was nothing to be gained from fighting the Barbarians other than further wealth for Tyrill's greedy sovereign. The war was against everything Ayul stood for. The requests disgusted him.
The door opened, and Ayul turned, incensed. Yet framed in the doorway was not the messenger he had expected.