To Halt an Army

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 38

The meals at the tables of the Royal Hall had been abandoned after the news of the incoming army had been announced. The collection of nobles and landowners had pushed their way into a rabble upon the stairs leading up to the throne.

“I have eight well-trained men who can fight.” One minister offered, his hand fighting in the air to bid for attention.

“Send them to the southern barracks.” Danus nodded and waived at the older man. The scribe beside him frantically marked down tallies. Manek sat slumped in his throne, investigating the stains of grease from his fingertips.

Shiloh stood confidently, his arms folded behind his back, a part of the line of guards assembled to prevent the court from further encroaching upon the throne. The gathering of blue-bloods, familiar with the idea of sending others off to fight for the empire, had gone pale at the mention of a conflict on their doorsteps.

“The Harbor Guard are prepared to offer up their service for the Empire, my lord!” The officer spoke up, dressed down in his flashy uniform. “Fifteen men in total!”

Danus nodded at the scribe. “Have them at the barracks as soon as possible.”

Zethurus looked across the crowd stoically. Shiloh turned his head slightly towards him, his ear turned away from the barking of the rabble. “Do you think any of these men will offer any resistance against the Xiandolans?”

The mage breathed loudly out his nose. “What do you think? They will be living shields, just enough for the battlemages to pierce the ranks with their power.”

Outside, the loud pounding of hooves on pavement cut through the cacophony of the hall. The tall doors creaked open, allowing the bright late morning light to flood in across the floor. Shiloh broke his posture to shield his eyes from the glare. The lowly group of men entered, led by an individual in armor that had been, at one point, neatly fashioned.
Danus stepped down the long treads and pushed through the loose line of guards and the group of befuddled patrons. “Silvus, tell me that is you.”

The Captain marched up the middle of the hall, his shoulders downtrodden and face turned down. “My Lord, you must forgive me.” He said, taking a knee as Danus reached him.

“I order you to stand.” The bearded man grabbed at his shoulder.

Silvus rose back to his feet, but his gaze remained locked to the set of shoes before him. “I have failed the Empire.”

“Whatever you may have come up against, we of the Empire of Tulefore are preparing to overcome.” Danus declared.

Shiloh exited the formation, pushing alongside the long table to the far end of the hall. “Silvus, you must tell us of the front. Has the settlement already fallen? How did you manage to escape the clutches of the Xiandolans?”

Danus stretched his arm out to block Shiloh from proceeding. “We will not belittle the good fortune of seeing those who we thought lost return home.”

“Your daughter, my lord!” Shiloh stressed. “Where is Kiaren?”

Silvus tilted his head up just enough to look into the bearded man’s eyes. Behind him, the silent group of others who had come with waited solemnly. “We do not know how any of the others fared, but under the orders of Lady Kiaren, those who could… they fled with me out through the tunnels inside of the mountain. There was no stopping the Xiandolans.”

Manek grunted loudly, his seat upon the throne barely able to look over the crowd. “So it is the fault of the Order for crippling us, leaving our people to fight these freakish powers without the aid of magic to fight back. Let it be know that our use of force this day will be justified.”

Silvus glanced at the Emperor and back to Danus, swallowing hard. “Is what he says true?” He whispered.

“The magi with whom you served overseas are at the ready to no fight Xiandol.” Danus nodded.

“You fool!” Silvus called out, pushing past Danus. “It was the Order to whom we fled! They are versed in these freakish powers of which speak, and furthermore, they are poised at this moment to defend us from it! I understand the Empire’s lust to fight, but how many more of our people should die before you understand that these are not powers that can taken lightly!”

Danus shoved Silvus, pushing him by the shoulder to hold him back. The men and women who had gathered in the hall slowly retreated to the sides of the carpet to avoid the vocal rampage. “Silvus, we may take care of ourselves.”

“You have been addled by the Order and that woman.” Manek grunted, slamming his fist upon the arm of the throne. His breath became strained as he shifted uncomfortably back and forth.

“I cannot support these actions any more than you, sir.” Shiloh reported to Silvus.

“Danus, my brother, leave this fool so that you may concentrate on having our men prepared to set out.” Manek ordered. “Zethurus shall lead our regiment of battlemages behind them.”

Silvus glared up at the throne before turning his back on the court. “You’ll find the order at Lyeys Ridge.” He murmured back to Danus. “They will not receive you pleasently.”

“No doubt.” The bearded man nodded slowly as the Captain slowly exited, the distraught group of others looking on.

Manek’s wheezing slowed, allowing him to continue preaching. “The Order has forced us to back down from what would be our victory once before, and the cowardice of one rattled man will not dissuade us. Unless there are others who have men to offer up to our forces, then we shall adjourn this meeting and allow things to proceed.”

Danus made eye contact with the Emperor from across the room, nodding slowly as the lack of replies from the patrons signaled the end of the meeting.

“Mr. Shiloh, Zethurus, with me.” Danus ordered.

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