Lightning, fire, and torches lit the night casting an eerie glow to the evening sky. Screeches and groans rent the stillness. Battle cries echoed around the fortress as walls crumbled. Swords meet metal shields and breastplates. The metallic smell of blood mingled with the odor of the fetid moat water and the rancid smell of burning tar from the fire pits set up around the outside bailey. Men secured chains to the caldrons, hoisting them up the curtain walls to the murder holes, which allowed the boiling hot liquids to be poured on unsuspecting enemies below.
“I’m not sure how much longer we can protect this castle,” Greer shouted over the din from the fighting below.
She dodged a wall as it collapsed. Racking coughs from the mortar and dust overwhelmed her. As the air cleared, she observed the king’s men tipping heated tar over a parapet, sheeting ogres and men attempting to scale the wall. For every man they felled, ten others appeared to take their place.
Greer assessed the damage about the courtyard as she flew closer to Treasa. Magic and valor didn’t appear to be enough against a legion of this scale. Even with the assistance of the other ten faeries, it looked as if this fight was lost. Greer observed the chaos below as enemy troops stormed the outer walls on all four ramparts. Everywhere she glanced, armor clad men crawled over barriers. Early in the fight they realized that at least half of the enemies were apparitions. Lord Guthrie wanted to confuse and discourage those brave soldiers inside the castle walls. A man would run up to fight an enemy just to have it evaporate, while a live enemy took advantage of his confusion and run the soldier through. Orcs were enormous brutes with hides like rhinoceros, heads resembling wild hogs; they had the fighting will of a lion and the brain of slug. Many of them joined with the enemies to fight against the castle’s inhabitants.
They endured an unending rain of arrows. It wasn’t a matter of how well outfitted the enemy appeared, but the strength of the black magic at work. The enemy easily carved through r each defensive magic barrier they erected. Treasa dodged another flaming arrow hissing by her head. At least it was getting easier to spot them now that the sun had begun to set.
“Greer, behind you.”
Heeding the warning, Greer angled a hasty down-stroke with her lengthy black wings for a rapid descent dodging several arrows that flew past her, humming like a swarm of irate bees. “You’re getting slow, my friend. I fear you need a nap.” Treasa winged past to cover another wall.
“Mind your mouth or I may not warn you next time one comes close.” Greer blasted a shower of rock, which would have harmed the king’s soldiers below.
The castles guardians weakened as the assault continued. The time had come to change tactics.
“Treasa, I’ll take the center and east while you defend the back corner to the south. Be careful and withdraw if the skirmish becomes markedly worse. I plan to mind merge with the others and try an all-out white magic attack. We must push the enemy back to give our men below a break. Remember, our main objective is to safely escape with Alivia if all looks lost.”
Greer spared but a moment to assure herself that Treasa comprehended the nature of the plan. Treasa was an intense warrior not taken willingly to retreat.
Greer flew high above the castle so as not to be a target; then hovering in the air, closed her eyes and completed her connection with the fairies. Each responded, which assured her that they had not lost any of their team in the scrimmage. A few of them were stationed within, to guard the castle’s occupants, but the majority was outside fighting alongside the king’s soldiers. Within moments, the air quivered with the energy of the fairies preparing for the assault. Each had an area of the wall to strike. At Greer’s command, the energy would explode all around the fortress, knocking all combatants away from the perimeter without harming those within the walls.
Greer returned to her position, nodding at Treasa that all was ready.
Lightning detonated the sky, thick blue bolts attracted to the enemy’s metal armor. Explosions rent the air as the powerful bolts blasted the unlucky lightning rods who wore that armor. Forked lightning struck the woods about the castle, raining fire and debris upon those seeking refuge.
Boulder-sized hail crushed the enemy. Volleys of ice pelted those scaling the walls with ladders, splintering the wood and, dropping bodies to the hard-packed ground or into the moat about the other walls. The men lay in heaps, one body stacked upon the other.
Waves of fire from the back section of the castle walls rolled over the enemy as a tide washes a beach clean. For every man that died, it appeared that five more took his place. Orcs, shapeshifters, warlocks, and men fought back with a power that could only come from strong black magic. The smell of burnt flesh and hair hung heavily in the wind crossing the castle walls
Greer attempted to eliminate the menace of troops, scaling the eastern wall just above the stables. She halted out of reach of the enemy arrows. Her black cape flapped under the current from her wings while hovering in midair. With a wave of her hand, she fabricated an image in the night sky of a large blue dragon with scales that reflected the waning light. A roar emanated from the beast as the wind from its wings blew men across the ground like leaves in autumn.
Greer’s expertise lay in dragons, whether real or concocted magically. This particular apparition materialized in front of the soldiers struggling to scale the curtain fortification. Another wave from her hand produced genuine fireballs from the dragon’s mouth, spewing forth, scorching all those unfortunate to have not escaped in retreat.
Treasa secured her position at the south tower. “Playing with your make-believe pets again I noticed.”
Greer observed Treasa blast cannon balls into dust with lightning bolts as the enemy endeavored to destroy one of the corner towers.
“Better than that kindling you use.”
“I’d match my lightning bolts to your giant lizards any day.”
“Get out of my head, brat. I’m busy here.” Greer prepared another dragon blast to keep the enemy in check.
Reaching behind her wings, Treasa extracted another arrow loaded with lightning spells, swiftly drawing back the hemp string taut, letting it fly from her longbow. The bolt lit up the sky as it rained charges onto those below. Each rock or enemy that the charges touched burned to ash beneath the electrical onslaught. The defense of the illumination blinded those that remained, making it near impossible to pinpoint where exactly to shoot back.
Treasa wore dark leather not cloth, and preferred pants to dresses, allowing her to blend into the night. She took no chances of her locks interfering with her archery. Carefully braided auburn hair encased tightly with a leather strap lay securely tucked under the yew-bark quiver that held her arrows.
With Treasa guarding the back partition, Greer flew closer to the center wall in hopes of observing where the next threat would land.
As she touched down atop the open gorge tower to inspect the outer grounds and rest her weary wings, a heavy jolt from behind knocked her to the floor. Something or someone lying across her back pinned her face down onto the cold stones. Before she was able to counter the slam, a large cannon ball exploded the tower wall. An onslaught of rock bombarded their bodies. A deep-throated groan emanated from the bulk above her as the person took the majority of the blows. Before the dust settled, the weight hastily lifted from her. Promptly rolling to the side, Greer jumped to her feet and took a defensive stance, but confronted nothing but air. Lifting swiftly into the night sky, she searched but found no telltale signs of who had attacked her, or if she was being honest, actually saved her life. Wrapping her arms about her, she felt an unexpected chill in the air. She wasn’t entirely sure the chill occurred from the drop in temperatures at sunset or from a premonition that there were unknowns within the castle walls.