The City of Elders fell within days. The Aisorbmii spent that time
well, bringing Rene Ponit to fighting shape as the General Manus iw Elbirt
gathered together his army and the army of Commander Reglan and started
his march for the fortress.
Meanwhile, in the west, someone made a small effort to bring peace to a
The following accounts are taken from historical records.
Episode Twenty-Three – Rene Ponit
The hunter Terid gu Dagda moved through the woods. He was hungry, and
somewhat angry, since the nobles had taken much of his town's harvest to
feed their troops, and other nobles were taking far too long transferring
surplus supply to the town. The way of the world, he thought, but it was
not a fair thing.
He heard a voice in the bushes and he paused, remaining silent. 'What
strange fates have befallen you and I, dear Endam,' the feminine voice
said. He moved closer, peering between leaves and branches. A man was
digging a grave for another man's body; he could not see the woman.
When the grave was dug the man knelt beside the body and held it up
into a sitting position. Terid could see it more clearly. It was old...
weeks old. And the back of the head was missing. Then the digger kissed
the dead face on the lips, and said something softly. Then he reverently
picked up the body and placed it in the grave.
Terid rose to get a better look, but the digger turned around. 'Can the
fathers not allow a woman one peaceful moment to say goodbye?' he said, in
the feminine voice Terid had heard earlier. Then the man said more words,
and a smell of fire began.
The blast, and the heat, hit Terid gu Dagda full in the belly, and his
body flew back through the woods, where he hit his head on a rock, and did
There were less of them now. Not many. The security around the supply
wagons had increased since the Second Fall, so casualties were higher. But
the remains of Paladin Legodatiperi's unit were resolute.
Marshal Senodenilapa bobbed his head over the ridge and saw the wagon
approaching. He turned and squatted in a circle with the second squad.
'Five,' he whispered. Three or four others in the group backed away,
moving to specific positions, and started angling mirrors at pre-defined
angles. Then they used simple sign language to alert the other squads to
ready their bows.
Senodenilapa's own squad drew their swords. Today it was their turn to
charge. 'Now remember, lads. No unnecessary risks. If yer 'as ter pull
back, yer pulls back. Yer more important than them wagons. The more o' yer
comes back from each the raid, the more of us there are next time. So stay
alive, yer got it?' There was a hum of general agreement from the squad;
they'd heard it all before. 'Good. That's all I've got ter say.'
They'd heard that before too. It was Senodenilapa's catch-phrase. He'd
used it all the time he was at Anilomes, and at the Great Meeting before
the War, and every time he spoke since, but he also had a cool head under
pressure and he wielded a sword well.
'First squad ready, Sen,' said Farofasigala, putting away his mirror.
First squad was the Paladin's squad. Paladin Legodatiperi had been a
Defender with the Iron Jamtins, and they all looked up to him, now more
than ever, because he'd kept them alive this far.
They could hear the chatter of riders now, in the pass. The first squad
would make the first move, firing arrows from in front; then the third
squad, harassing them from behind. Then the second squad would charge at
those who fled in their direction, if any.
Arrows flew. A wave, then a second. A third and fourth, as the archers
drew more arrows. A fifth, a sixth, and then Senodenilapa rose and
charged. Now the archers would shoot more carefully, lest they hit their
The second squad charged down the ridge. Careful arrows had killed a
dozen guards in scant seconds, and the survivors drew their swords to
counter attack. The lead guard suddenly stopped and fell with a bolt in
his forehead. The rest charged into the fray.
Senodenilapa slew one across, the second up, the third in the back. A
fourth leapt back from Farofas's sword and caught Senodenilapa with a foul
blow in the ribs.
He screamed, 'Aaaaaargh!' but that was all he had to say.
Squire Benopelicora lay back and looked at the sky, and the way the
Rene mountain range stabbed into it from all sides. The mountains were
huge, serene, peaceful... completely oblivious to the ravages of siege
warfare which was spilling Companies-worth of blood at the first wall.
Rene Ponit, mountain fortress of the east. It was here that the last
war had been ended. It was here that that last war began, a thousand years
ago, hordes of exiles forging their new country of Aisorbma beneath this
mountain when the mad King had proclaimed cold rice pudding-eaters as
It was here that the Aisorbmii had fought and won all their great battles.
The only reason this time might be different was the Sword in the Stone.
The Sword captured by the enemy.
Benopelicora felt himself being lifted and moved to a bed. His heart
wasn't racing as much as earlier, when the Kingdom soldiers in their
really awful uniforms had started climbing the ladders. It was
exhilarating... more so than that last lacrosse match, months ago...
though it lacked the basking in adoration part, sadly... between every
moment of striking, killing an enemy direct or watching him fall off the
ladder into the spears of those bustling around below, there was a
sweet taste of life.
It seemed so sweet now he couldn't feel the ground beneath his feet. He
couldn't feel any part of his right leg, either, since that dagger had
landed in it. He'd heard about wounds like this. He hoped he wouldn't lose
the leg. Next season he was going to need it.
There was a lot of blood, though. The doctor's hands were covered in
it. Someone mentioned the word 'artery', but he didn't know what that
The sky was grey, and the white mountains stabbed into it. Huge
mountains, he decided.
How insignificant we are.
Milosarituva was on wall two when Genokefirica found him. The siege had
paused, since the Kingdom had run out of ladders again and the bodies were
impeding their assault. Soon sorcerors would use their magic to remove the
bodies, and if they could, use some of their more deadly spells to attack
soldiers on the wall. The nobles would take this time to raise morale
among the soldiers, reinforcing their belief that the walls would be
taken. No-one had yet made it, but the Aisorbmii were taking heavy losses
and the Paladins were taking as much rest as was available.
Paladin Genokefirica was the Iron Jamtin Captain. He was the one who'd
told everyone else about the deaths of their coach and their winger at the
last match. Since the siege started he'd been the one to tell them about
all the other deaths.
This time he hadn't said anything, but Milosarituva knew. 'That's
seven,' he said.
'I wasn't countin',' said Genokefirica. 'But it's too many, no matter
how many it is.'
Milosarituva heard the stress in the Captain's voice and realised then
just how much their lives had changed, from players to paladins. Gen
seemed suddenly old. The Striker's shoulders slumped, failing to
alleviate the tension he felt. 'The walls are holdin',' he offered.
'Great why didn't we 'ave these walls at No Man's Land? Or th' City of
Elders? Might've been useful.'
The two men stood quietly for a while. Cool winds blew across them from
'When are yer next fightin' on't wall?' Milosarituva asked.
'I'm standin' on't wall next charge,' Gen said. 'Got me sword blessed
by one of the priests a bit ago. Might do a bit more damage. Doubt it'll
be as powerful as Setovarinesa's, though.'
'I think he's sittin' the next one out. Don't blame 'im. 'E's fought
every fight goin' since we got 'ere.' Milosarituva considered for a
moment. 'I think I'll ask ter borrow 'is sword, an' join yer on the
'I'd like that. Defence needs a bit more team spirit.'
'Oh, in that case I'll ask some of the ladies ter start a cheerleadin'
squad.' Milosarituva smiled wanly, and he could see humour in Gen's eyes
even if his face didn't show it. Damn, he looked older.
He left the wall, leaving Gen to watch the world go by, and marched
along the wall to the tower, where Minister Setovarinesa could usually be
found watching the Kingdom forces.
'Benopelicora died today,' the Striker said.
'Him and two hundred others,' said the tired Minister. 'I think there's
somewhere over four thousand dead in the last month or two. And no rice
pudding to cheer them on their way, either.'
Milosarituva sighed. 'I wasn't countin',' he said. 'I just came ter ask
– I heard yer were sittin' the next fight out. May I use yer sword?'
'Yer heard wrong,' said the Minister. 'I'm fightin' the next one, and
the one after that. Have to be seen fightin', Milosar. Raises morale.
That's what the noble's 'aven't worked out. They're all fine an' dandy
makin' speeches about how the fortress will fall, but they don't lead.
They just pat 'em on the head, tell 'em ev'rythin's goin' ter be all
right, then point 'em at the wall an' sit back. Men need ter be
led, fer cryin' out loud.'
'Best keep quiet about that,' said the Striker. 'Don't want 'em ter
hear yer, they might try it. But as fer you... Setovar, yer only human.
Gen an' I are goin' ter lead the next one. Come to think of it, I'm hopin'
there's a couple of Fireballs down there, wantin' a rematch, so's I can
tell 'em what for with the sharp end of a good sword. Get some rest, man,
an' lend me yer sword.'
'Best not,' said Setovarinesa. 'I think it's only lucky fer me.'
Milosarituva was about to argue the point further when there was a cheer
in the west. Both men exited the tower and took the rope ladders down to
wall one, where they looked out at the enemy.
Several men were carrying the Sword in the Stone towards wall one,
moving to a point well in sight of the defenders but well out of range of
any attack. The besiegers began to move back to the fortress, the earlier
bodies teleported somewhere else.
Someone yelled attack, and fresh ladders started to rise towards the
walls. Ropes were quickly tied around the tops, and then pulled sideways
as men began to reach the top, but the attackers were picking secure sites
for their ladders now and the intended cascade of Kingdom soldiers didn't
occur. Instead they proceeded to fight.
Setovarinesa weaved his sword in glittering arcs, slaying several, and
he pulled Milosarituva back to point out an activity behind the Kingdom
'They're trying to pull the Sword from the Stone,' he said.
A fresh wave of Kingdom men dressed in blue started over the wall and
the two moved straight in. Setovarinesa seemed tireless in battle, and men
just fell before him.
Milosarituva wished the Minister hadn't shown him the nobles' tactic,
because it was working. If the Kingdom succeeded in pulling the Sword from
the Stone... times were truly dark. Perhaps that's what the prophecy
intended, he thought.
The middle of a siege was never the place for such complacent thought.
The fear would kill you before the enemy would.
But in one distracted moment they arrived at the same time. He collapsed into
the dirt and blood and said 'That's eight,' before he died.
Rabit de Turson bowed in proper time, spoke slowly and calmly, in every
way befitting the position of messenger. He hoped the detail that he
wasn't a messenger would be overlooked, and that he could get on with a
more pleasant business of carrying a message or two home.
When he had finished the Lord General Manus iw Elbirt summed up the
situation. 'There is a lack of food in the Kingdom, because of food
supplies being sent here. And so, after several peasants tried poaching
rather than starvation, and have been found dead... there is a
'Yes, lord general,' said Rabit. At the General's look he knew he had
made a mistake: interrupting.
'I don't recognise you,' said the General, slowly. 'But at the moment,
I think we can relax discipline. Get a sword. Join the warriors at the
ladders. I think you'll do us more good there.'
Rabit began to protest, but the General drew his sword. 'Go,' he
Rabit moved away, without bowing, and then the General moved swiftly
towards him and cut him down. 'Definitely not one of mine, and such a
waste, too,' said the General. He moved out of Rabit's sight, back to his
'The peasants are revolting.'
Rabit was no loss to the Kingdom army, being among other things a
dissenter and a coward. The loss of another Iron Jamtin, however, was
another blow to Aisorbmii morale. The first wall did not fall that day,
but it would not stay held forever.
In the west, the revolt began, and so strife begin in Kingdom
territories. Violence spread. As has been noted, people have rarely
learned that violence is not the answer.
The King and Queen responded in their own way, as we will explore next