On that same morning in the city of Gaimaron, the people were aroused by the shouts of the sentries on the walls. The soldier who had brought the warning on the previous day was roused out of his cot by shouts of “The enemy approaches! Man the towers!”
Jumping up and donning his armor, the messenger ran out of his quarters, grabbed a spear from a rack standing in the pathway, and mounted the steps to the top of the walls, in a space of five minutes. When he had reached his station on the wall, he looked out and saw that he had not been far off the mark in his estimation of the opposing numbers. The advancing force spread out for one mile in every direction, even without counting the endless trains of supply wagons following the soldiers.
The messenger turned to the sentry standing beside him and said “Could I convince you that an entire country is mobilized against us?”
The other man, who was staring hard at the advancing force, replied “Yes, you could.” in a small voice.
“Well then, have hope, because I do not believe the truth of that statement.”
The wall guards stood in silence for several minutes after that, watching the enemy’s methodical advance. But after ten minutes, the messenger started up and shouted “I must run to the king! I advised him to charge, but I grossly underestimated the force! He will kill himself!” Dropping the spear, he careened down the steps with all possible speed. Pushing his way through the growing crowd of soldiers, he dashed into the castle at top speed, found that it was completely empty, and then continued to run until he reached the front gate. There he saw the king and all of his cavalry, in full armor and advancing toward the gate. Hurrying to the front line, he shouted out “Stop, My Lord, and listen to me! I was mistaken! This is no advance guard! It is the main force! You will die after only a minute!”
“Now hear me!” Torlan thundered in reply “Are you prepared to swear that you saw no archers?
“Then I am resolved to go. But If I fall, continue to fight to the last man so that my line may continue to hold the throne.” Torlan paused for a moment, staring hard at the messenger. “Before I go to my death, though, I would know why a simple man-at-arms takes such a personal interest in his lord’s fate.”
“If you please, Sire, I am your younger brother.”
“Anybody who is bold enough may say that, but can you prove it to me?”
“Yes, I can. Here is the deed which I have carried with me since our father gave it to me when I left.” Reaching into his bag, the soldier extracted a piece of parchment which he had retied carefully after opening.
Torlan took the parchment, opened it, read the contents, and then shouted out for all to hear “It is true! He is the Prince Railon! And as such, he is the next heir to the throne, so long as he survives this battle! All must heed his commands!” Dropping his voice, Torlan added to Railon “You should have told me at an earlier time. I do not back away from my resolutions. I may rest easy now, knowing that so long as you live, there will still be a true king on the throne of the Gairbairns.”
“At the least, permit me to send some spearmen out alongside you, for you must admit that you don’t believe that all of those men walked the whole way.”
“If you can find twenty men willing to come within twenty minutes, I will wait, but you must hurry, for the time is ripe to strike their camp.”
At these words, Railon left the gateway with all speed. As he went, he met several armed men, each of whom he stopped to make his request. Every man heeded his words when they discovered that he was the prince and that they were supposed to protect the king. When Railon reached the wall, he passed the word along, and the required number of men immediately left for the gate. This done, Railon resumed his post in order to watch the ensuing battle, as he was not to risk his life on the ground until Torlan fell.
He did not wait long. Five minutes after he regained his post, the gates swung open wide and the cavalry of Gaimaron thundered across the drawbridge, flanked by the twenty suicidally brave and loyal spearmen. As the banner of their house was unfurled by the wind, Railon heard Torlan, sitting astride his armored charger, and who had yet to lower his visor, shouting “Gairbairns to the flag! Whosoever shall return alive, without having first charged deep, shall be a coward! Whosoever goes that far, and still returns alive, is worthy of the highest honor short of the throne! And now, let us prove what we are made of! Talimarion!” with this final cry, Torlan lowered his visor and set his steed to galloping the final two hundred yards.
The one hundred cavalrymen spread out behind the king, with a spearman running alongside between every five horses.
From the top of the wall, Railon could see that there were some stragglers in the farthest ranks of the enemy, but for the most part the huge force arrayed against them was lined up and ready for battle. Railon could now see what Torlan had meant; a few minutes earlier, the cavalry charge would have been a complete surprise, but the time he had been given to find spearmen had cost them that chance. Only seconds from the time when Torlan had shouted his battle cry, he collided with the front ranks of the vast Naibernese force sent against him.
Sweeping aside two footmen with two swings of his blade, he reared his horse up, and took a strike on the light armor he had ordered to be fit there. Coming down, he gave his horse some slack and charged forward, clearing a path with the iron horn fitted onto the horse’s mask. By this time, the rest of his small force had reached the battle. And there was chaos all the way along the front line.
Railon stood watching grimly as the battle unfolded. When Torlan reached the fifth rank of the opposing force, though, Railon could hold back no longer, and yelled aloud in a futile attempt to make his brother come back. But, as Torlan could not hear him over the clash of battle, he resumed his silence. Ten minutes later, the numbers of the enemy finally gained a firm hold on the overwhelming advantage which they should have had during the entire battle, and the horsemen, who had been well protected thus far by the flanking spearmen along with their own skill, began to fall.
At this Railon decided on the safety of the soldiers, regardless of what Torlan wanted. He turned, and staring down at the mass of people below, yelled out “Pass the word! Blow the gate-horns!”
Soon, he heard the astonishingly loud and deep sounds of the two horns placed near the gate, which were blown to announce the opening and closing of the main gates. Railon began to feel more hopeful at the sight that the sound of the horns had an immediate effect on those Gairbairns who were still alive, a group which included king Torlan. The remaining soldiers turned their horses and charged for the gateway, with a large group of enemies hot on their heels.
The remaining spearmen turned and began to backpedal toward the gates with all possible speed. The slow speed of their movement gave Torlan time to fight his way out and gallop toward the gates of the city. As if that had been the original plan, (though there had not been anything planned) the spearmen turned again and ran hard for the gates as soon as the king had passed by.
The last man squeezed through the gates with barely inches to spare before he would have been crushed between them. As soon as the gates were barred, the portcullis was dropped, an action which rendered the gates nearly invulnerable to ramming.
When the gates were shut, Railon immediately left the wall and ran to the gate to meet Torlan returning. On arrival, he grabbed the horse’s bridle and looked up at the king sitting astride it. “I am very relieved, brother, that you decided not to get yourself killed today, although there will be several other opportunities for that.” The king removed his helmet, shook his long hair out of his eyes, and replied “I may die, but I may not die in battle as I wish to. I have been badly injured.”
“Then why are you so calm! Anybody would be badly injured if they had been surrounded as you had! In fact, most anybody would have died! For your own sake, go find the healers, along with the rest of your force!”
By your request, I will do so. I was still able to hold up long enough to test you to find whether you really cared.” With that, Torlan trotted off through the street, smiling widely.
Railon stood at his position for several minutes before returning to the wall-top. When he reached his position on the wall, he saw that the band of enemy soldiers who had chased the cavalry back to the castle had stopped in front of the main gate, and were sitting in a circle around a patch of ground which held a tall stack of brush, which one man was busy trying to light.
“That can not succeed. Spears away at the gate!” Railon exclaimed, hefting his own weapon and sighting down its length. When he saw that the other sentries were ready, he let fly. Their aims were true, and all of the soldiers in front of the gate were cut down or injured.
Ready once more, Railon shouted “Clear the gates!” Immediately, the portcullis was raised and the gates swung open to allow the clearing crew to remove the debris and bodies to one side, and swiftly reenter the city, closing and locking the gates once more.
Confident that another attack on the city would take some time to organize, Railon left his post to discover how Torlan was faring. He soon found the king lying comfortably in the large building not far from the castle which was commonly called the Hospital. In reply to Railon’s question, Torlan replied loudly
“It is the truth I tell you when I say that the armor I had fitted for Longtrack saved both of our lives several times in that battle; although I am afraid he came off worse, having lost the end of his tail by way of an ill-timed swing from a sword. As for me, I am well enough to survive, but my armor sustained considerable damage. I consider myself lucky to have gotten out of that with nothing but aches and bruises.”
“That is entirely too true, brother, but what shall you do for your horse? Surely you must understand how important a tail is to a horse’s sense of honor?”
“Truly, I did not know that horses had a sense of honor, but if they do, then Longtrack’s is clearly evident.” After a short period of complete silence, Torlan concluded “But that is a small matter, for the other horses’ tails will serve him just as well, though it will look strange.”
A short time later, Railon left the hospital and returned to his post on the wall. Looking out at the opposing force, he saw that there was very little movement going on in the camp. Turning to a sentry standing next to him, he inquired why.
“Only one reason for it, Sir; they thought they would arrive at night and take us by surprise. Seeing as they couldn’t do that, they’ve been overwhelmed by heat that we are accustomed to.”
“That is good. Now we can watch in shifts so as to be alert when they try to attack tonight. Get some sleep.” Railon replied, stepping away from his post. “If I am wanted, I shall be in the castle.”
Going straight to the castle, Railon gave his true name to the gate-wardens and searched all over the castle until he discovered the bedchamber he had used before leaving on his adventures. Removing his armor, he stretched out on the bed and was soon asleep.