The Siege Looms Heavy (Part One)
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“It is only a matter of time, Sigurrós. They will soon be here, with the animals dead and gone.” In the darkness of the Brightshome’s innermost sanctum, Jaelen adjusted the Foundation necklace resting on his chest. He was having a hard time speaking, yet he forced each word to come out. “They’ll want to take you.”

Sigurrós looked up at Jaelen’s face, her lips pursed. “I know.”

Jaelen tucked his hands deep within his robes. Slowly, he took a step forward. “We aren’t safe here, you know that too. It has been a year and a half since we fended the animals off, the city will…” He sighed. “It will do fine in your absence.”

As soon as the words left his lips, her expression tightened into a glare.

“They’re my people, Jaelen.” Sigurrós said. “The walls will protect us.”

“For Bright’s sake, Sigurrós,” Jaelen replied, irritation seeping into his voice. “The Templars are only still twenty-seven! The Foundation is likely to bring hundreds- no, thousands of men to take you. We have archers, yes, but they are green and will certainly miss more than they will hit.”

Sigurrós closed the small distance between them, looking up into Jaelen’s eyes with an icy stare.
“We’ve discussed this many times before, Jaelen. I have no interest in speaking with you about this again.”

She left him with no opportunity to reply as she stormed off out of the shrine’s sanctum, her purple dress billowing behind her.

Defeated, Jaelen leaned on a nearby marble column, crumpling down to the floor in exasperation.

Saints damn it all. He thought to himself. She refuses to listen.

A voice from one of the sanctum’s dark corners interrupted the cold Septrimbur air.

“The priestess refuses to listen?” Said Grandmaster Melbrecht, limping out of the shadows. Being one of Sigurrós’ chief advisors, he was drawn and tired, frequently complaining about the constant pain he felt from the injuries he had suffered at the Battle of the Horn.

“Yes,” Jaelen sighed. “As always.” He turned his head to look at Melbrecht, regarding him with an exhausted bow of his head. “How is your arm and leg?”

Melbrecht chuckled, the deep timbre of his voice making it echo across the sanctum. “Pained as ever, Brother.” He took a few steps forward, stopping only until he was a few meters away from Jaelen. “Saints above, I never earned this position. It was always me or Galahania, bumping heads as we went up the Templar’s rungs together. She would’ve been well-suited to this advising hogwash, not me.”

He raised his mangled left arm, showing Jaelen his four missing fingers and the noticeably large chunk missing from his palm. “I was just a warrior, a good one, and now not even that.”

Jaelen chuckled. “I never thought you were the type to reminisce, Grandmaster.”

Melbrecht smiled back. “Jackdamn you, Jaelen. I didn’t think myself to be the rambling old man that I am now, either.”

Slowly and painfully, the old Templar lowered himself on his knees, bringing his head level with Jaelen. “I do know this, though,” He said, his grey eyes staring intently into Jaelen’s own, “Sigurrós will never let herself lose a fight- whether it will be a sparring of words with you or a war with the Holy Foundation itself.”

“She has learned so much so quickly, I’ll give her that.”

“That very aspect of her has allowed this city to keep going as it was. She may not know how to defend what she loves, but her heart is always in the right place. Trust her on that.”

Jaelen looked down at his robes. “I will. Thank you, Grandmaster.”
Melbrecht turned to leave. “It’s Melbrecht to you, monk,” he said as he left. “I take it you will be attending the council three days from now?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” Said Melbrecht curtly, as he ascended the steps out of the sanctum.

Jaelen slowly came to his feet and sighed. “Let’s just hope you’re right, old man,” he said to himself.

The sun was well overhead when Jaelen left his room at the Brightshome and hastened to the shrine’s council chamber, donning the plain ceremonial robes of a Brother of the Foundation and a simple tunic underneath.

When he arrived, nearly all of the six members of the Council of the Shrines were seated, with only him and the High Priestess herself absent from their seats at the ancient and sacred wooden table.
As he seated himself, Grandmaster Melbrecht silently smiled to himself, amused at the monk’s unusual tardiness. Guildsman Raetor, the leader of the merchants and freemen of the city, stayed sullen in his seat, passively watching Jaelen as he seated himself. Lady Maera, the Councilor of Nobles, and Garvin, the marshal, seemed to whisper into each other’s ears as they watched Jaelen enter, only stopping when the sullen Raetor glared at them from across the table.

Jaelen audibly sighed, leaning back in his seat. Though he’d happily accepted his position as one of Sigurrós’ trusted advisors, the past year and a half had proven that working as a member of the council was never what he was supposed to do. Lady Maera had always seemed to find ways to subtly rebuke him for mistakes. Raetor was half too sullen and often cold to both him and the other council members. Melbrecht was always either annoyingly amiable or forcefully aggressive during discussions. Sigurrós herself- Well, he thought, She’s changed so much.

Over a year and a half of leading the people of Arnven had hardened Sigurrós, taking her farther and farther away from the girl that she was towards the leader she aimed to be- and it did not help that she was always frightening when her fury came upon her.

“Councilors.” The High Priestess said as she entered the decorated chamber, her dark red ecclesiarchal gown casting an air of authority as she took her seat at the head of the table.

All at once, Jaelen and his fellow councilors stood up and bowed.

Sigurrós nodded. “Please, take your seats.”

Straightening up, Jaelen cleared his throat, standing up to declare the problems that needed the council’s attention. “High Pries-“

She raised her hand in a command to halt. “Before we begin this gathering of the Holy Council, I would like to say something before you all.”

Her eyes landed on Jaelen.

“During the month of Agrust last year, our former brothers in the Holy Foundation have… asked for this city to hand me over to the Overwatch Cathedral for proper containment as one of the Expunged.

“When we chose to vote on the matter, all of the members of this council decided to decline.

“This, I regret to say, upset many of the Holy Foundation’s cardinal doctors, who threatened to send an army to the Holy City to forcefully capture me in lieu of performing the act of excommunicata totalis on the population of our city. When we ignored even that ultimatum, we had thought that they would not follow on their threat. They, after all, were still occupied with the ongoing attack of the Chaos Insurgency to the north, as well as the remaining animals to the east.

She breathed in deeply for a moment, and continued. “We thought wrong.”

“Our scouts have spotted an army of three thousand heading to the City of Shrines, led by none other than the Cardinal Doctor Asser Clef.”

"They will be here within two days at the most, a day at the very least."

At her declaration, the council chamber immediately fell still and silent.

Marshal Garvin was the first to react, slowly standing up to regard the high priestess. “But… but they’ve been silent for a year, my lady.” His eyes were wide open and afraid. “Our archers are still yet practicing, and our militia…”

Raetor sprung to his feet next, his expression displeased. “My lady, the guilds are not ready to close the markets and the trading posts. This news would upset our merchants.“

Melbrecht’s voice thundered out, booming across the council room. “My lady, the neophytes are still in the early stages of our training. It will take years before they are ready!“

Lady Maera spoke from her seat, quiet and composed. “The nobles are still reeling from the previous attack, my lady. We cannot afford to call the nobility and their retainers to war.“

“Trade will suffer, we will suffer!“ Raetor said next.

“We will be slaughtered, my lady! Slaughtered!“ Garvin shouted out.

“We are only twenty-seven, and our weapons and armor are woefully little!“ Melbrecht boomed.

“The nobles will not hesitate to show their dissent, I can promise you that.“ Maera said quietly.

On and on they went, and only Jaelen and Sigurrós stood silent, staring at each other from opposite sides of the table.

The pandemonium continued in the council room, going further and further on,

Finally, Jaelen had had enough.

“Silence!” He shouted, getting the attention of the four other councillors and bringing the noise to a stop.

“My lords, my lady,” He said. “We cannot afford to turn on each other at this crucial time. Asser Clef himself will be knocking down our gates in a matter of days. Every time we are disunited, we weaken the very fabric of this city, and we risk letting it fall once again to enemy hands.”

He looked back at Sigurrós, standing silently opposite him. “Please,” he said, awkwardly, “trust in the high priestess.”

His piece said, he sat back down.

Sigurrós’ face remained stony and serious. “Our efforts to create the walls surrounding the city have been in preparation for this very day.”

She turned to Garvin. “The same could be said for the unceasing training for our militia and archers,”

Then to Melbrecht, “…the selection of new neophytes,”

Then to Raetor, “…the efforts to secure supplies for a siege,”

Then to Maera, “…the unceasing services to the nobility,”

And finally, to Jaelen himself. “…or the services of our Doctors and brothers to the people of the Holy City.”

Her grey-green eyes grew steely and hard. “We have known that this day was coming from the moment we refused to give me up to the people of the Foundation. Though the alienation of our people from the Overwatch Cathedral upsets us even now…”

She sighed. “We cannot afford to lean on anyone but ourselves.”

Instantly, the near-indomitable nineteen year old leader of the city seemed weary and exhausted. “You have all been chosen as my councilors because you yourselves know what is best for the city, and will do all that you can to save it. The crisis of faith that we all seem to be going through now in the face of the current problem is something that we have all been weathering on our own, and I only ask that you do the same for the harder path ahead.”

“We will not falter, my most trusted councilors. I know that enough.”

She forced herself to stand up straighter, regarding each of her councilors for a few moments.

“You all will have much to do to prepare. This council is adjourned.”

Sigurrós couldn’t sleep that night.

In truth, she couldn’t sleep during the nights of the past few days, with her mind constantly dwelling on the walls or the concerns of her people.

With the forces of the Foundation now so close, she had made it a habit to stare out the window of the Brightshome’s modest library- sometimes praying to Bright or the Saints, other times contemplating her fate in the days to come.

That’s how Jaelen found her as she looked out the great window- thinking, contemplating.

“You couldn’t sleep?” Jaelen said, as he held a lantern in his good hand.

Sigurrós smiled weakly. “Yes. I haven’t been for these past few nights.”

Jaelen put down the lantern carefully on a nearby table and sat on the windowsill opposite from her.
He sighed. “I haven’t been, either.”

She looked at him. “Are you scared?” She asked.

“Yes. You?”

Sigurrós hugged her knees and kept them close to her chest. “Yes.”

A long silence came.

Sigurrós broke it. “Do you know the reason why I offered to lead this city, Jaelen?”


Her voice became nothing more than a whisper. “I never wanted the power, I never wanted the station. It was just… guilt.”

She raised her head to look at Jaelen, his eyes meeting hers as she spoke again.

“This city… the only reason why people died when they did was because of me… because of Seth.

“I slaughtered those Doctors and those brothers without remorse, burnt down two of this city’s shrines and left the people in… in fear.”

Jaelen spoke. “I… I thought you were better after killing Seth?”

Sigurrós chuckled ironically. “Seth… Seth was my father, Jaelen. I never wanted to kill him… not after what he told me.”

“I wanted to make this city better for him. For me. For everyone that we’ve killed and all the death we’ve caused.”

She breathed in deeply. “What I do everyday is so that I can keep everyone safe, so that no one ever dies because of me ever again. Everything- the walls, the leadership, the shrines- they were all so that I could feel better.”

“Nothing has made me feel better after everything that’s happened, Jaelen.”

“The notion that more people will die so I could live- it… it terrifies me.”

“It’s a debt I can never repay. A sin I could never amend.”

I’m just scared that in a few days, so many people will die.

The tears came without her realizing, and never stopped.

Her voice shook. “I… I don’t think I can do this, Jaelen. I’m too young. I can’t-”

Jaelen embraced her without a word, letting her cry on his shoulder as he held her close.

“I can’t.” She whimpered.

No more words were said that night- but both of them slept better than they had for days.

The army arrived at daybreak.

It was humungous for an army- five hundred Omega Guard footmen, two hundred knights from the Orders of Kondraki and Light, five trebuchets, a hundred artillerymen, seven hundred men-at-arms, and one thousand and five hundred D-Caste.

At their head was a tall man in resplendent silver armor, wearing the sigil of Saint Alto and the legendary helmet of his son, Saint Ardam. He sat astride a handsome warhorse, armored with light chainmail and carrying the weapons of its rider.

This was Doctor Cardinal Asser Clef, the legendary war-doctor of the North Crusade and hero of a thousand battles.

“To the pious residents of the Holy City of Arnven,” He began, his deep voice booming and reaching the top of the grey stone walls. “I come for your witch, and have brought three thousand faithful servants of Bright to aid me in my mission.”

“We know of your hardships in the last year and a half, and have come to relieve all of you from the tyranny of the magical heretic known to you as Sigurrós.”

His voice turned cold. “We will give you a day to deliberate amongst yourselves- though we do not want to destroy the beautiful City of Shrines, we must do our solemn duty to Bright. After daybreak on the morrow, if you do not hand over the tyrant witch to us, we shall start using our siege weapons and fire rocks into the city.”

“This I swear, on my holy blood and honor as a Clef.”

From the top of the wall, the councilors of the city could only watch helplessly on as the armored Cardinal slowly walked to the lines of his army, and began giving the orders to set up camp outside the walls.

Sigurrós joined them within moments, dressed in full battlegarb.

“Councilors,” she said as she looked intently at the army camped right outside her walls, “Bar the gates, ready the archers and the militia, and tell everyone of what has happened.”

She turned to them. “We’re being sieged.”

All around the city, life soon began to come to a stop.

In the Agathan Quarter, Raetor announced the news to the guildsmen, freemen, and merchants of the city, telling them to make ready for the hard days ahead. This was met with sullen acceptance, with only a few murmuring in discontent.

In the Spirit Quarter, Lady Maera bid the nobles to gather in front of the Brightshome, addressing them regarding the situation at hand. This was met with outrage by many, who went back to their manors questioning the orders of the High Priestess and the councilors.

In the River Quarter and the Altostown, Jaelen called for calm and order, reassuring the peasants of the city that while the days to come will be hard, their cooperation would go a great way to ensuring their safety. This was met with general agreement and acceptance, much to his relief.

Garvin, meanwhile, began giving out the orders for the fletchers and the smiths to create more arrows, weapons, and armor for the war to come. Soon after, he called the militia and archers to man the walls, assigning units on shifts for the various parts of the day and night.

High Priestess Sigurrós herself spent much of the day preparing the grey stone walls for the assault to come, reinforcing the solid structure with enchantments to keep them strong.

By the end of the day, the entire city began to adjust to a life under siege- for better or worse.

Dawn broke over the second day of the siege, and the trebuchets were making ready to loose.
Sigurrós and her five councilors watched from the top of the wall as large stones were loaded onto the trebuchets by crews of artillerymen, taken from a nearby quarry the day before. Beside them, a group of exhausted D-Castes pulled a large cart carrying a peculiarly crimson metal beside the siege weapons, putting a small piece each into the sling with the large rocks.

“Are you ready?” Jaelen asked Sigurrós, who was beginning the gestures and incantations of an advanced protection spell.

The tired priestess smiled. “I’m damned if I’m not.”

Raetor nodded at the direction of the loaded cart. “I wonder what that metal is for. Kindling?”

Melbrecht crossed his arms. “I have never seen anything like it before. Might be Lightsfire.”

“Isn’t Lightsfire blue?” Garvin noted. “And even if it were Lightsfire, the priestess herself should be able to repel it.”

Maera laughed quietly pointing to the sling of a trebuchet as men loaded more of the crimson metal unto it. “There are many kinds of substances in the Holy Foundation’s arsenal. There is the mysterious Scrantonum- though that’s been gone for a century. There is the explosive Saintsflame- dreadfully expensive, I’m told. There is the deadly Mongersand- but I’ve heard that it can only be mined far to the west.”

Melbrecht turned to the noblewoman beside him. “What exactly is your point, Lady Maera?”

Maera took a sip from her wine glass and continued. “My point, Grandmaster, is that we have no idea what ancient weapons the Foundation has at their disposal. They will almost certainly be rare and hard to come by- though it is not much of a stretch of the imagination to think that our lady priestess would pose as much of a threat to the Church as the most serious incursions of the Serpent’s Hand.”

In front of the wall, a tall man walked to face the councilors, a small smile spreading across his face.

“Tyrants of Arnven,” he began. ”With your refusal to surrender the witch Sigurrós, we have been driven to do the thing we loathe most.”

“At my order, these faithful brothers of the Holy Foundation will loose rocks unto the city, killing many. Do you have no answer to our threat? Do you have no concern for the people of your city?”

Hearing this, Sigurrós began to shake as she made her incantations, her speech lilting and stuttering as a large green dome began to form over the city walls.

Jaelen kept his eyes on her as the Cardinal made his speech. “Sigurrós…” he said.

“I am fine, Jaelen.” She replied in between incantations.

Asser put his hand to his ear, mockingly gesturing as if he was willing to listen.

Then he put his hand down, turning to the trebuchets behind him as he raised his other arm in a held signal.

“Ready,” He shouted.

Sigurrós finally finished her incantation, solidifying the transparent dome on top of the walls with a light green surge of energy.

The councilors on either side of her began to brace, anticipating the first volley of the siege weapons.
The Doctor Cardinal swung his hand down. “LOOSE!

At his command, the four trebuchets assembled outside were cut and loosed, sending the large boulders flying through the air towards the walls and the dome.

Only Maera noticed the pulsing that accompanied each rock, forcing a long-forgotten memory to the surface of her mind.

“Oh Saints, no.” she whispered.

The first rock crashed through the dome with a sickening crunch, punching through it almost effortlessly. A crimson explosion accompanied its breach of the transparent dome- the only other indication of what the deadly crimson metal truly was.

Instantly, the dome began to weaken, the green energy that made it slowly growing fainter and fainter.

Sigurrós suddenly felt her knees buckle under her as her mind began to falter and weaken- yet she stretched her arms out in front of her, maintaining the magical dome with what willpower she had left.
As what was left of the first boulder penetrated the dome, its pieces crashed into the homes of the Altostown, killing a dozen people.

The second and third boulders crashed through the dome at once with a large crash, breaking into tiny pieces as the same crimson explosion lit up the air around the dome. Those pieces, like the first, crashed into the interior of the city, destroying many more houses and buildings within the River Quarter and Spirit Quarter.

Then, the fourth and final boulder made its entry, destroying what was left of the dome and connecting with the Shrine of St. Alto, ruining its beautiful marble columns and causing it to collapse under its own weight.

Sigurrós fell to the ground as it did, her body seizing and shaking as her councilors gathered around her.

Maera could only watch in horror as the name of the substance came to her mind.

“Bright’s mercy, they never sa…” She said, taking a step back. “How did they get ahold of Scrantonum?”

On and on the siege went, going for eleven days and ten nights.
On and on the city burnt, tightening the noose around the city.
On and on Sigurrós slept, her fever burning hot as she rested within the Brightshome.

Ever since that second day of the siege, her councilors ruled the city in her stead, calming the population as their homes burned and their Shrines were destroyed.

After eleven days of constant siege and bombardment, the people of Arnven were broken, scared, and on the verge of full-out mutiny.

The Altostown and the River Quarter had stayed silent, for the most part- thanks to the efforts of Garvin and Melbrecht.

The Agathan Quarter grew more discontented by the day, as the merchants lost their profits and livelihoods with each volley of the trebuchets outside. Raetor did his best to reimburse the angered merchants and guildsmen with his own funds, though his treasury was running lower and lower by the day.

It was the Spirit Quarter that posed the greatest threat to the integrity of the city- the obligations that Maera had imposed on the nobles and their retainers had been met at first with begrudging acceptance, yet as the days went on and their servants on the walls were killed or injured, the nobles of the city began to grow more and more angry by the day. Aside from a few heated conversations however, all outward dissent was quelled by Lady Maera, who promised the nobles that the siege would end soon.

In eleven days, what needed to be done was clear to the council- they needed the High Priestess back, for better or worse.

Jaelen stayed by his Lady’s bedside for the past eleven days, watching for any sign of her coming to consciousness. While the other councilors came and went as their duties called to them, Jaelen himself had kept by Sigurrós’ side, praying day and night for her recovery.

“Praying to Lord Bright will not do much, you know,” said Melbrecht as he limped into the Lady’s room on the eleventh night. “With the siege going as it is, it will not be long now before Asser and his ilk stream into the city and take her for themselves.”

“Saints damn it all, Melbrecht.” Jaelen said, his eyes red and puffed as he turned to look at the Grandmaster. “She lives, her fever is breaking- it… it will not be long now.”

Melbrecht banged his hand on the wooden door behind him, causing the noise to echo across the chamber. “I never took you for a fool, Jaelen! Do you honestly believe that?!’’

Jaelen gritted his teeth. “Yes.”

The Grandmaster leaned in close to the monk, bringing his face almost level with him. “It has been eleven Brightdamned days, monk! She will never wake up- or if she does, it will not be in time before Asser-accursed-Clef breaks into the city and kills us all!”

Jaelen’s expression hardened as he glared at Melbrecht. “Be careful with your words, Grandmaster.” He said, his voice low and growling. “You are perilously close to treason.”

The Templar’s fist crashed into his face, sending him to the ground.

“Saints, you really are a fool.” Melbrecht said, limping over to the crumpled form of the monk. “You dare name me traitor, monk? I became Grandmaster for her! I led my brothers to death for her! I kept the peasants in the Altostown down for her! Among the councilors of this Brightforsaken city, I am the most committed- not Raetor, not Garvin, not Maera,”

Melbrecht took him by the scuff of his robes with his good hand and drew him up to the air. “And- not- even- bloody- YOU!” He brought his head crashing down to Jaelen’s face as he said each word, punctuating every syllable with the clashing of his head against the monk’s.

Jaelen slumped to the ground, his nose broken and bleeding, grunting with the pain.

Melbrecht stood over the defeated body of the monk, his breaths deep and panting.

“Saints, Melbrecht-“ A familiar voice said behind him. “What have you done?”

Behind him, High Priestess Sigurrós rose from her bed, her eyes wide with horror.

“M-my Lady…” The Grandmaster began, his anger gone in an instant, turning his head to the High Priestess. “I didn’t mean to-“

Sigurrós leapt from her bed and knelt down to put Jaelen’s head on her lap, making gestures in the air as she began to cast a spell.

“I didn’t mean to-“ Melbrecht began again.

“Save it, Grandmaster.” Sigurrós’ cold reply came, catching the Grandmaster off guard. “What has happened in the city so far?”

“T-the city is on the verge of open revolt, Lady. The Altostown and River Quarter are c-currently quiet, so is the Agathan, but the Spirit Quarter…“

“By Bright…” Sigurrós exclaimed as she finished casting her spell, leaving Jaelen unconscious as he began to heal.

“A-a-about Brother Jaelen…”

“How bad was the siege when I was asleep?” Sigurrós said.

“Very bad, my Lady. The Shrine of St. Alto has collapsed, and so has many of the buildings of the Altostown. The Brightshome itself has suffered from the bombardment, but the Shrine of St. Rights and the Rivershrine remain unscathed.”

Sigurrós sighed, gritting her teeth as she came to her feet.

“Call the Templars and the neophytes, Grandmaster.” She said. “Fetch Marshal Garvin as well- tell him to bring half of the horses and half of the militia.”

Melbrecht took a step forward, shocked at what the High Priestess had just said. “But my lady, what of the Scrantonum?”

Sigurrós began to put on her light mail armor, placing her black robes over the chains. “Short of throwing it at me, they will almost certainly be starved of ways to bring me down from the air.”

“The air? You intend to fly, my Lady?”

“Of course I intend to fly.” She placed her mail hood over her head, turning to the Grandmaster to give her answer. “You, Garvin, the Templars, and the militia will provide the distraction as you sally out from the west gate. Then, I will come in from the sky, destroying every tent I come upon until I destroy the one where Asser Clef resides in.”

Her steely glare met Melbrecht as she turned to leave. “We will discuss your assault of Brother Jaelen later. For now-“

We break this Brightforsaken siege.

Marshal Garvin sat astride his horse beside Grandmaster Melbrecht as the gates rumbled open, revealing the torchlit figures of the tents of the Foundation’s army in the distance. In one hand he held the reins of horse, in the other, a seven foot long spear.

To his right, he could see the figure of the High Priestess, perched on the weakened grey stone walls. He could feel her eyes on him even from here, and he nervously swallowed as he raised his spear into the air, signalling the start of the attack.

“For the city! For the shrines! CHARGE!” Garvin shouted, spurring his horse to a running gallop as he lowered his spear and led the fifty horsemen of the militia behind him towards the unprepared guards of the Foundation army.

Behind him, Grandmaster Melbrecht followed along with his two hundred Templars and neophytes, running out of the west gate towards the distant camp. Armed with halberds, spears, and shields, their armor sparkled in the nighttime light as they bellowed out their warcry.

Sigurrós watched from the wall as the small force of two hundred and fifty bore down on the sleeping camp of the invaders. Smiling to herself, she muttered an incantation and began to fly, summoning fire with her fingers as she bore down towards the hundreds of tents in the distance.

When she let loose the inferno from her fingers, those who stood in her way had no chance to escape.
She set fire to three tents, then five, then ten. Men who hadn’t been awoken by the chaos were burned alive while they slept, screaming as they ran from their tents as scorching columns of fire.
The air was filled with the screams of panic and the smell of burnt flesh as the forces of the City of Shrines surprised their attackers in the night.

“My lord! Awaken, my lord, please!” said a voice next to his ear.

Asser Clef opened his eyes to see his aide, a Doctor named Aelin, beside him.
“What is it, Aelin?” He said, his voice cold and uncompromising.

Aelin gulped nervously before continuing. “It’s the defenders, Cardinal. The heretics.”

Asser got up from his bed and took a step towards Aelin. “What about them?”

Then, he noticed the smell of burning cloth and flesh in the air, as well as the panicked screams of the dying.

Aelin stuttered nervously as he replied. “I-it’s the witch and her militia. They suddenly attacked us in the night and-“

Asser interrupted him with a slap, sending him to the grassy ground.

He pursed his lips. “Then what did I post guards for, Aelin?” He turned to the rack beside him, and began putting on his armor, piece by piece.

Aelin stayed on the ground, terrified. “I-I’m so sorry, Lord… I truly am. They were on horseback, and the Templars, they-”

“No matter now, Aelin.” Asser replied, donning his chest plate. “Tell the men in the camps to ring the bells. Deliver our message to our friend within the city-”

He took his sword from the weapon rack, taking it from its leather sheath and exposing the dark crimson Scrantonum blade.

He smiled slightly to himself, admiring the bastard witch-sword of Saint Agatha.

“We’ll kill the witch and her ilk tonight.”

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