Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day Two-Twenty-Seven: Rhinoplasted

Part of me - okay, MOST of me - had prayed that we would come home to no siege. Celine would be wrong about her intel, all my fears about Driscol horribly overstretched, and, hopefully, the count would be dead. Or on vacation. Or never have existed. That last one woulda been PEACHY.

But no. No, the castle is sure as hell under siege. I've never seen it in a rougher shape.

We spotted the first signs of an army at sunup. I already knew we were on familiar territory from all the rolling hills, and it didn't take long to notice a lot of flattened, torn-up grass. I'd initially argued that it could be the Matriarch's trail from when we'd set out. Or the harsh footsteps of a stamped of buffalo. ANYTHING but armed men.

Then we spotted a platoon of foot soldiers. And another. Aaaaaand five or six more, accompanied by battering rams, and catapults, and a couple trebuchets… mounted troops… bowmen… pikemen… and, leading each column of villains, a standard bearer with a flag, decorated with a stylized tree.

Driscol's family crest. Bugger.

The army wasn't idle. As we rushed up on their rear the soldiers were firing their siege weapons, pelting the shit out of the walls in the distance with a horrifying number of rocky projectiles. Boulders, some flaming and some not, blanketed the sky and nearly blotted out our view of our home.

War. The Baron said King Jeffrey would be going to war… but I don't think he figured it would happen like this.

The Matriarch's kinda hard to miss, and moments after we crested one of the hills a bunch of soldiers spotted us. Their siege weapons are too cumbersome to turn around in a hurry, so the enemy bowmen took up an assault posture and began to pepper us with arrows. When those didn't work - not a single one managed to get through Libby's repair job - they switched to fire arrows. We managed to skirt their right flank before any of them hit the Matriarch, and flew towards the secret entrance.

We weren't idle inside the Matriarch, of course. Queen Daena wanted to focus on her driving, and she handed off control of most of the cannons to Princess Celine (quite a lot of trust in one's daughter) and Libby. They manned the entire left side of the Matriarch, broadsiding the enemy columns with cannonballs. Enemy troops fell out of formation and scattered.

(I didn't help them. I couldn't. Cannons count as weapons. The pullstrings kept sliding out of my grip. Stupid digital deficiency.)

Eve didn't bother with the cannons. The moment we came within range of the castle she leaped off the top of the Matriarch, tumbling into the grass and charging the enemy lines. I lost sight of her after that, though I did hear a loooooot of screaming. I'm not worried. She'll be fine, even if she is horribly outnumbered.

Queen Daena tore across the plains, skirting the edge of the moat and zipping beyond to find the castle's secret entrance. We'd all discussed the possibility of troops waiting for us, 'cause Driscol could fill 'em in on the castle's secrets…

… and, sure enough, we found a squad of thirty-odd soldiers facing off against the castle's rhino, chained to the secret entrance and straining hard to break free. It had two spears in its hide, but the old boy looked just as tough as ever - and, for once, it was most definitely pissed. Guess Driscol never knew that it likes wheatgrass; probably coulda avoided a lot of trouble getting through.

Celine's proven an excellent shot with the Matriarch's cannons, and she used the soldier's surprise at our appearance to fire a cannonball into their ranks. It EXPLODED high against one of the stone walls of the entrance, shattering the long chain that kept the rhino penned. Suddenly let loose, it charged through its foes and took down at least ten soldiers. The rest died as the Matriarch's underbelly spikes ripped them to pieces.

Leaving the rhino behind, we entered Castle Bonvoyage at top speed. Queen Daena normally goes through the secret entrance at a snail's pace, but she refused to slow down this time - and the roof paid the price. Dirt and rocks bounced off the sides of the clamshell as the land over our heads threatened to cave in. It didn't, not in any substantial way, though I nearly got nailed in the face by a chunk of limestone that tore through the roof of the Matriarch. Thank the gods for years of honed reflexes.

And, er, quick eyes on my wife's part. And perhaps a diving tackle. I wanted to make myself sound awesome. So much for that, eh, diary?

A platoon of our own soldiers was waiting when we emerged from the secret entrance, and every one of 'em had to dive out of the way as the Matriarch hurtled out of the tunnel. It landed rather harshly, wiping out the back end of a house (not mine, that's important) and bouncing off an apartment building. We're lucky Queen Daena knows how to use the brakes.

The clamshell popped open and we all climbed out, eager to find someone in charge. It didn't take long for that someone to find us instead: The Baron barrelled across the bailey grounds as soon as we hit the flagstones. Guess somebody on the wall had told 'im we were coming.

"Dragomir!" he shouted, a chubby mixture of relief and extreme stress painting his face. "And Princess Celine! And Queen Daena! My gods, welcome home! We were afraid we'd lost you!"

"Guess I ain't important enough to count," Libby snorted.

"Yes, yes, and you, Mrs. the Guard," The Baron assured her. "Apologies. Things are hectic. Please, right this way. I will be back out to tend to you shortly, your majesty!"

"See that you do!" Queen Daena commanded from her tree, peering around the bailey. Several attendants rushed up to see to her needs.

Celine joined her mother, pausing only a moment to say "Goodbye, Mud. It was a lot of fun." She winked and danced away, apparently unfazed by the pounding of rocks from the skies. Guess she knows how to deal with a siege by now, what with Castle Bonvoyage's track record and all.

The Baron led Libby and I into the castle, making for the throne room. What we found was a stark departure from the norm: usually a straight, empty aisle surrounded by eager, fearful subjects, Jeffrey's room was now filled with crowded tables and injured soldiers. Doctors attended to a thousand wounds, clearly understaffed and trying hard not to show it. They could not have petitioned for more help, either, as their king was nowhere to be seen.

The Baron ushered us to a table, commanded an orderly to bring us something to eat, and told us the situation. Two hours before sunrise, Bernard the Guard had spotted columns of troops marching in from the west. After reporting in he and Captain Cedric had quickly noticed similar columns converging from all other sides of the castle, heading for the barbican. The siege began shortly after that, though none of the enemy soldiers had yet dared to assault the castle on foot.

And that wasn't all. Once all of our troops had gotten into position on the walls to fend off the invaders, a smaller, more focused force of foes had taken over the western bailey from within the castle. They'd set up barriers to blockade the area, and since then had been slowly inching closer to the main fort. The Baron suspects that they're Driscol's people, planted inside the castle well before the siege. He also suspected that Driscol had anticipated a much quicker victory on their part.

They hadn't gotten that victory, for a very important reason. One that might keep the castle in one piece. I'll talk about that tomorrow, though.

Once he was done discussing the situation The Baron debriefed us on what had happened in Bottomless. He was very glad to hear that Eve had made it out in one piece (and the rest of us, of course), but concerned that Driscol had hired mercenary companies rather than soldiers from another kingdom.

"Why?" I asked, curious despite my exhaustion. (It's still tiring even if you don't help in a fight.)

"Because mercenaries are much better fighters," he replied. "If a mercenary is still alive, it's because they're extremely tough. They're also fiendishly expensive to hire in these numbers, so… where's Driscol getting all the money?"

Nobody had an answer. I'm sure it had something to do with all his wheeling-and-dealing a few months ago, but I dunno if we'll ever get a straight answer.

There's so much more to discuss, diary, but I'm tired. I need to keep watch on the ramparts tonight, as we're a little shorthanded. Still some soldiers and guards stranded in Bottomless, remember? Yeesh.

This is a disaster. So much worse than the goblin fiasco. Are we gonna live through this? And should I hide in the rat guinea pig farms again?

I think I've used up my bravery stockpile for the year,

Dragomir the Guard


  1. I'm gonna take a wild guess that Barrel has been keeping the interior soldiers at bay!...or abunch of traps set by Logan...OR Dragomir's brother and a Militia!...OR MAYBE! A Guinea Pig riding Rat who wields a magical sword of untold power!!!

  2. You know what, I am not abandoning the theory that driscol might be the "good guy" in all of this.

    He tries to stop eve and an obviously evil hole...
    And the the baron could have had a rat in there because he was casting spells on them to stop them. And the whole mutual friends thing an act...

    Although, yea that is not at all likely.

  3. Note that the only thing he did against the hole is trying to off the king, he could very well be trying to get it for himself...

    I am also on the "eve is learning to talk for herself rather then just being possesses all the time" camp.

    Unless something big happens to change her she is unlikely to stomp out demons or whatever in the hole rather then to help them (what with probably being possessed by one).

    1. I like your thinking. The Baron could've just as easily betrayed The Rats. He may have Driscol enthralled to do his bidding.