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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 93: Kondor 31
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By the time Kondor awoke, all the reinforcements they might expect had arrived. It was a small force compared to the army facing them beyond the walls, but there was a lot of skill and courage in it.
But fatigue was beginning to take a toll. Those men who had just arrived did so after a long march, and were little able to take positions on the wall; those who had been fighting had been doing so for a very long time. Talwin's persuasive abilities were remarkable--men Kondor thought would have dropped over long before fought like fresh troops. But not all of them did, and although there were more men on the walls, they were less able to defend them.
It seemed to Kondor that it was time to go on the offensive. He went to see the castellan.
"With your permission," he began, "I'd like to take my weapons and make an attack on their camp."
"It's too risky," the castellan answered. "You couldn't survive. Besides, I can't spare the manpower."
"I'm not asking that anyone go with me. They can't kill me, and they can't have my body. All they can do is hurt me, which I can bear, and drive me from this world."
"I can't afford to give up even you. What do you hope to gain by going against their strongest troops single handed?"
"I don't know what I will gain. Maybe I'll take out enough of their commanders that they'll have to fall back and regroup. Maybe I'll learn something I can bring back to you. Maybe I'll make them realize that they're up against a tough and determined adversary. Maybe I'll make a difference. And on the other hand, maybe I'm just tired of this battle, and want it over one way or another."
At that moment Sowan arrived, and the castellan stepped aside to talk to him. Then he returned.
"All right," he said, "I'll let you go. Dimtri has stopped the Vorgo, and believes he can reverse it. He has taught the others how to use it. This is what you are to do. We want to take the Vorgo into the midst of their camp and use it against them, but we do not want to lose it to them. You will lead a group of our best soldiers directly to the camp; Dimtri, Sowan, Talwin, and their apprentices will be with you. Once there, you are to protect them and at all costs the Vorgo. Kill as many as you can. Dimtri will use the Vorgo to unmake the creatures; if he falls, Sowan and then Talwin and then the apprentices will take over. If all of them die, you bring the Vorgo back to the castle, and we will fight those that remain without its aid. But do not allow yourself to lose so many men that you cannot protect the Vorgo and bring it back to the castle; if that becomes the danger, bring it back immediately. Our lives are in your hands."
He turned, and as he walked away, he added, "I will organize those who are to go. Get yourself ready and go to the corral."
Kondor debated what to take. He was particularly uncertain about his medical kit. It could be an unnecessary burden, and it was doubtful he would have the opportunity to actually use it out there; but it wasn't going to do anyone any good back here. It did contain a laser scalpel and a plastic one, but he would be dead long before he considered using anything like a scalpel to attack. In the end he decided to put it in his room with his personal gear, and focused on having weapons.
He did take the blaster from his duffel, and tucked it into his belt.
As he stepped into the corral, someone handed him a large mace. He thought to hand it back, but there were a lot more enemies than he had bullets, and it might be worthwhile to have a weapon of resort when all else failed. It had a strap suitable for slinging over a shoulder, so he shoved his left arm through it, and joined the men. There were thirty soldiers, all armed with swords, some also carrying crossbows. The five mystics were also present, with one of the younger ones carrying the ball. It's a ridiculous mission, Kondor thought, fighting our way out into the midst of these killers so that we can protect some frail old men while they pronounce some mumbo-jumbo; but he'd asked for the opportunity to go to the camp and kill these things, and he got it.
As the gate opened, he saw the devastation of the battlefield before him. The crushed and dismembered bodies of the foe lay thick around the walls and the gate; the charred remains of two battering rams lay over the smoldering forms of some. His mind went back to the graveyard, and the fear he felt there. Once more into the breach, he thought--and wasn't that Shakespeare or something? There were better places to be than here, but he wasn't in any of them.
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 #57: Multiverse Variety. 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: