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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 84: Kondor 28
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Previous chapter: Chapter 83: Hastings 29
Obviously, Kondor realized, Sowan was some kind of psychic. He had miscalculated; it was not unreasonable to accept that in some worlds there would be people able to control reality with their minds. Clearly Sowan was able to, what did they call it? He was able to levitate. There was nothing magical about it. It was a scientifically explainable psychic ability. It was just unexpected.
Anyway, at the moment Kondor was more interested in the grenade. After all, explosives could certainly turn the tide, and quickly. He asked about them.
"What is a 'grenade'?" was Sowan's answer.
"A grenade," Kondor explained, "is a hand-held explosive device that can be thrown or fired by a foot soldier at an enemy. It's what you used against the skeletons."
"Against them? Oh, no--I used magic. I only needed one of these." And he held out a handful of small red stones, what Kondor guessed must be rubies, although they were not of very good quality even by his estimation.
Oh, well, it wasn't grenades. It was another mental thing--he could make rubies explode in a fiery burst. He preferred to call it magic, probably so he wouldn't be thought a freak or something. It was better than nothing.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I should do something about that ram, and then see how work is progressing on the Vorgo." Without waiting for a response, Sowan walked the wall to the top of the gate, and waited.
The troops had already reached the gate, and had slaughtered such monsters as were still standing at this point. The gate opened, and about forty men all told entered. As the gate closed behind them, Sowan tossed one of his rubies out away from the wall. It landed quite near to the back end of the ram, and the burst of flame was so hot it momentarily blinded Kondor (who of course was seeing heat with his red sensors still), and left almost half the ram charred burning embers consuming itself. Satisfied that it had been rendered useless, Sowan descended to the lawn and entered the chapel. The new soldiers were already resting on the grass, and laughing about their victorious arrival.
But Kondor didn't have time to think about this. Already he could see the enemy charging again. This time there were several ranks, the more human looking ones followed by the ghoulish decayed-looking ones. The ghouls, he thought, want us to waste our fire power against the zombies, so that they can attack us while we're reloading. But he couldn't think of another way to do it. And then he saw two other things which concerned him.
The first concerned him because he knew what it was and what it meant. Behind the ghouls were ranks of skeletal archers. The ghouls were going to scale the wall under cover of missile fire, and there wasn't much that could be done to stop them, especially since the zombies were going to attack the walls first, and might manage to deplete many of the best defenses. All Kondor could do was ready his bow, and think about when it would be appropriate to switch to his guns.
The second thing concerned him because he didn't know what it was or what it meant. He was growing accustomed to the strange blue-and-red glowing world he had created for himself; but now there was a green glow coming from the enemy camp. He couldn't figure out what his green sensors were seeing. Finally he shifted the patch to the other eye, just for a moment.
His newly uncovered eye took several seconds to adjust and focus; but once it did he realized that what he saw was a cold white light. It did not glow in the ultraviolet range, and whatever it was didn't reflect ultraviolet light. It wasn't producing any heat at all; in fact, it almost seemed to absorb heat into itself. It glowed with its own light. His cybereye saw green, because he had tuned the red and blue receptors out of the visible range.
Now he knew how to understand what he saw; but he still didn't know what he was seeing. He put the eye patch back over the natural eye, bringing the advancing troops back into view. They had closed the gap significantly, and it was time to open fire. He decided that his arrows might be better spent on the ghouls, which although farther away and a bit harder to hit were probably the more dangerous enemy. Accordingly he began aiming at the trailing ranks.
The zombies climbed the walls. Many were pushed off with pikes and hooks, some to their destruction, others merely to splat on the ground and try again. Arrows flew into them as if they were pin cushions, but eventually they had enough, and fell to the ground, breaking to bits.
Then the ghouls advanced; and from their ranks they produced ladders, lashed poles with rungs which they placed against the walls. Some of these were knocked down by the hooks and pikes; but a hail of arrows arched over the battlements, and this time several of those leaning out to knock down the ladders were hit. Kondor helped one, stopping him from falling from the wall, and settling him on the walkway. He wanted to help him, to pull out his medicines and save the man's life; at the same time, he knew that those ghouls would be over the wall before he knew it if he didn't help stop them. "I'll be right back," he said. "You rest, and take it easy. You're going to be all right."
He loosed half a dozen arrows at various targets. The castellan was working, too--several ballistae and at least one catapult managed to hit the skeletons, reducing the missile fire drastically. Someone got a pole and knocked over the last of the ladders; but only some of the ladders broke, and more ghouls were coming. Kondor tried to estimate how long it would be.
Someone yelled, "Look out," and he whirled around to see what was happening. The man he had left seated against the wall was standing, with a blank look on his face and a sword in his hand. He was coming for Kondor.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #53: Character Battles. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: