From the top of the single tower that stood in the ancient, ruinous castle-keep of Tauria, Magistrate Pellin stared to the south. In the dim light of the setting sun, vanishing now behind the distant mountains, he could see the smoke rising from across the river, from the city of Yel Arai. Only thirteen miles away, that small distance and the thin band of water were all that separated Tauria from the armies of the Great King, now that Arai had fallen.
The dark-skinned human at Pellin’s side grunted. “Magistrate, we must send word to Amara.”
“Yes, of course,” the magistrate murmured. His tongue licked around the scales at the edge of his mouth. He was nervous, verging on terrified, but he hoped the human was not so familiar with dragonborn as to notice. Why had someone in the Great Kingdom started the army in motion again? Who had taken that step, since all accounts agreed the Great King was not in command any longer? “Has your mount had time to recover?”
“You would send me back? Magistrate, I question the choice. If the army comes—.”
“If the army comes, Specialist, one human more or less, no matter how proficient, won’t matter much. I have a scant dozen watchmen under my command, a monastery that can perhaps furnish a single prayerful warrior, one half-trained wizard who came here because there was no competition for his skills, and farmers with pitchforks. There is no way that I can slow down the Great King’s host, if it comes. But you might be of use elsewhere.”
The human grunted again. He was a large fellow, with massive arms used to pulling the huge bow that Pellin had seen among his gear. A bow that he would greatly like to press into service, but Amara couldn’t afford such a pointless loss.
“As you say, then, Magistrate.” The human bowed low and departed down the worn stairs.
Magistrate Pellin watched as the glow of the sun faded, and the glow of fire became more evident. They were burning Yel Arai. Either they meant to come quickly, or the matter had gotten far out of hand. If the latter, perhaps he had time to contrive some method of, if not victory, at least delay.
He had not, after all, mentioned all his resources. There were, if he could convince himself he dared use them, and if they would consent to be used, the newcomers….