Two days after his meeting with the healer, early in the morning, Railon finally received a message requesting his presence at the king’s bedside. He, thanking his fortunes that he was still able to do so, rose from his own bed as quickly as he could and then followed the messenger to the hospital.
As Railon entered the King’s chamber, Torlan called out “So you have returned, my young brother? There is no need to tell you what this is about, as I sent for you myself.”
“If you sent for me yourself, you are probably aware of your condition, and know that I come to ask for your permission to take on the role of Ruler in your name.”
“Why, exactly? I would urge you not to believe all that the healers tell you. I am rather suspicious of the drugged sleep they put me in every day. Who knows who could be scheming behind my back, or just as possible, slip a knife into it? Their talk of being bedridden for weeks, or months, or even the rest of my life, is foolishness which they have repeated to me several times already, in the hope that I would begin to believe them. No, I am healing, and I will be up sooner than these schemers will admit.”
“If that is true, I will be glad to hear it. But in the meantime, you must put all your trust behind the Gairbairns, in whom your own lack of faith reduced to you to the state which you are now enduring.”
Suddenly, before Torlan could reply, a cry ripped through the building. “The Prince Railon! The Prince Railon! I must find the Prince Railon!” Railon sprang up from his chair the second he heard his name called, not even stopping for a farewell to the King.
Reaching the messenger, Railon demanded “What is wrong? The enemy has not breached the walls?”
The man replied “It is true. There must be traitors in the city. I was there and I saw. The King ordered that a broken section of wall be rebuilt several days before the enemy arrived. The builders on duty never did follow the order, and now the enemy has discovered the passage.”
“Then we must not linger here. How long have they been coming through?”
“They have been attempting for several minutes, but have not actually made their way in yet by virtue of the alertness of the guards. As yet, only three men can charge the gap side by side.”
“But they will be working to bring down that part of the wall, and they outnumber us.”
“Only two men must hold the passage. Others will line up on the walls. We must go and see the position for ourselves, though.”
At this, Railon and the messenger left the hospital to return to the scene of battle. Railon hardly noticed the crowds of people running in every direction, so intent was he on reaching the combat. He could hear the clash of the fight long before he reached the origin of the sound. As he ran toward the sound, he only thanked his fortune that he had decided to don his armor before meeting his brother.
When he reached the battle, he stopped as a sentry ran to him. “Are you Prince Railon?”
“I am. Can you tell me the state of the battle?”
“The count is fifteen enemies killed, while six of our own have gone down.”
“Not quite three to one. It is bad for us in any case. I will hold the pass myself. You men must search for a barricade which will hold.”
“But you are the Prince! We can not lose you!”
“That is my own decision! Now go for the barricade!” Having said this, Railon continued on to the actual gap in the wall. Speaking to the defenders during a respite between attacks, he took up a position in the center of the breach.
“You Naiberns! Are you men, or are you simply cowards and dogs the like of which must be whipped back to your kennels! Come and face a man! A man who happens to be the heir to the throne of the desert you have decided to claim as your own! Come and face a man!”
A moment later, Railon heard a cry from the wall-top which he had been expecting before this moment. “My lord! Archers! They will shoot you down!”
Hoisting his shield, Railon shouted in answer “Archers? I saw no archers! I have seen their force myself!”
“Mayhap you have not seen all of their force! At five hundred yards they have twenty arrows trained upon you!”
“Five hundred yards? Folly! No man could ever hit a mark at more than a hundred paces!” As Railon said this, several arrows fell short in front of him. “As I thought! No man can hit me where they stand! If any move closer, you men on the walls can take them out from your position!”
Steadying himself, Railon challenged the Naiberns again. ”Come and face a man! Talimarion!”
The Naiberns did not hold themselves back any longer. Several of them broke ranks and charged toward Railon, holding their shields above their heads. Still, ten of them were brought down by well-aimed projectiles from the walls.
Only three survived to face the Prince in the breech. Railon took a blow on his shield, while swinging at the legs of one man. Reversing course, he brought his blade up in a semi-circle, cleaving at the man on the right of the center. He blocked the thrust of another on his blade as the man fell dead. Against only two opponents, Railon felt that he had more room to maneuver. He ducked one blade as he parried the other. Thrusting out with his shield, he pushed one man back a step or two, which allowed him to swing at the other. When the man parried his thrust, he put his full weight behind his shield, shoving his opponent hard so that he fell to the ground. As he finished that man, Railon felt the last man’s blade glance off of his armor. Turning, Railon raised his blade and brought it crashing down on his enemy’s helm. The blade cleaved the helm, and the man fell dead at his feet.
At this point, Railon leaned on his sword to catch his breath before another set of enemies reached his position. Then he saw that more opponents were coming toward him, running hard with swords raised. Taking a deep breath, Railon raised his own sword in preparation for the coming battle.
These men, having seen the first battle Railon had fought, came at him with a combined strategy. As the men on the left and right sides swung their swords at Railon’s sides, the one in the center swung straight down at his helm. In defense, Railon blocked one side-swipe with his shield, while taking the other on his sword. As he did this, he leaned over so far backwards that the man aiming for his head lost his own balance, nearly chopping off his own leg. Before he could recover, Railon swung himself forward once more, so far that he was able to drive his head into his opponent’s chest. As that man staggered back, Railon disarmed the one on his right and finished him. But at that moment, both of his remaining opponents swung hard at his shield, driving a shock through his arm that forced him to drop it. Taking his sword in both hands, Railon then unleashed a flurry of blows which succeeded in driving his opponents off their balance. One actually fell outside of the walls, and was quickly finished by projectiles from the guards. As he fought the last man, Railon could see more men running up to the attack. He quickly began battering down the man’s guard, which he was forced to drop under the rain of blows. At that moment, Railon took one mighty chop at the man’s neck. As the corpse fell behind him, Railon turned and ran back inside the walls, exhausted by his stand.
“Where is that barricade? We can not hold the gap with men for a longer time than this! They have one hundred yards!” Moments later, Railon saw several men come running toward the gap in the wall, carrying several doors and spars with which to prop them up. “Hope for your life that you made them fit! You must wedge them in now! Walls! How many are still coming?”
“It is hard to count, but I can say as many as twenty, my lord!”
“You have heard! There are twenty men coming at this barricade right now! Quickly, for your lives!”
The men had heard his shouts. Only moments after that last cry, three doors were wedged into the space Railon had vacated. There were six stout spars supporting them and five men putting all their weight on each spar to prevent it from giving an inch. There followed a moment of tense silence during which it was impossible for Railon even to hear the man beside him breathing. He guessed that he was holding his breath himself, and let it out. In that instant, he heard a tremendous thud against the doors wedged into the breech.
Nobody moved. No man even tried to breathe. Then, again, there came the same loud thud. When nothing came of it, the men began to breathe once more.
“It will hold! Men must hurry to bring stones which we can stack against these valiant doors! Then we will be safe! Double the guards on that stretch and tell them to fire at all comers. The wall is not yet ready for a concentrated assault!”
Seriously exhausted by all of the action he had been through in the recent minutes, Railon pulled off his helm and slumped against the wall, protected from the heat by the overhanging catwalk which the sentries used. As he sat there mopping his brow, a man who had gone in search of a barricade came and sat beside him. Turning his face toward Railon, the man said “You fought like a hero. Because of you, the ranks will not lose heart.”
Railon turned to reply and found himself staring into the face of the smith who had outfitted him in a rank uniform. “My good man, I only did what was necessary, unless you would rather be forced into slave labor by the men outside our walls. I am only worried because I fear that the reinforcements from Trepalenmar may come too late. They are due to arrive within days, but they will be massacred by the force waiting outside. Another thing. The sentries must remain awake, for if they all drop off like the others that I found, the enemy will burn the barricade and make their way in under cover of night. I must return to the King now. Watch yourself.”
“Rest easy about the sentries. The men shall keep a good watch.”
At this, Railon rose and prepared to return to the King. Replacing his helm upon his head, he replied “I have traveled far. I hold to my opinion that the stoutest hearts to be found anywhere can be found within the walls of this great city, and they will not fail us now.” Turning, Railon went upon his way to return to the King and bring him the news. Along the way, he noticed that nearly everyone who saw him greeted him with shouts of “Hail the savior!”
“Well,” he thought to himself “If they call me that just for standing against six men, they will think quite a bit more of me if I have a part in driving off the Naiberns. I do not want to be crowned over Torlan if he is still alive.”
With this thought in his head, he continued on his way. When he reached the hospital, he was admitted at once, as the king was awake once more. As he entered the room, Torlan looked up from the bed and asked “How does it go?”
“It goes well.” Railon replied, sitting once more in the chair he had left, removing his helm, and leaning his shield against the wall. Smoothing his long brown hair, he continued “The men are doing well. They have held the breach long enough to stop it up once more. Vigilance is required, though, as there is no time for real repairs while enemies remain outside.”
“And what part did you play in the defense of the wall? They needed you for something, desperately.”
This question caught Railon by surprise. “Me? Oh, I did not actually do anything. The men wanted a presence of the throne. That was all.”
“That may be. But it does not explain why you have unsheathed your sword.”
It was not until then that Railon remembered that he was still holding his sword. Feeling nervous under his brother’s withering stare, he said “Actually, I did fight for a short time, but I was not in any great danger.”
“That is good, because I remember telling the Prince of the Gairbairns to keep out of danger, for fear that there would be no heirs left.”
A moment later, another messenger ran into the room, yelling “My lord! My lord! Have you heard…?” He trailed off when he noticed that Railon was already in the room.
“Go on, my good man.” Railon said, although he was actually worried at what the man would say.
“Prince Railon saved us all! He held the breach alone against six men!”
When the man had said his piece and left, Railon reassured Torlan “It was not all that it sounded. It runs in our blood. Think of yourself.”
“I see your point, and you must go now. I wish to sleep. Return to me in the morning.”
Replacing his helm upon his head, and his shield upon his arm, once more, Railon made his way out without a word, shutting the door quietly.