The Final Gambit
By: Terry D. Scheerer
There was a heavy thump against the door and then it was pushed open. Reginald, the captain of the castle guard stood framed in the doorway, dressed in well worn chain mail and armor, his dented helmet cradled beneath his left arm. "They come, my lord," he announced softly and with some sadness.
Earl Richford looked up from eating what was possibly the last meal that he would partake of in peace for some time. He asked with similar sorrow, "Everything is prepared?"
"Aye, my lord. As well as can be, under the circumstances." Richford sighed. "Then our fate rests in the hands of the gods."
Reginald merely nodded as the Earl rose and placed his own helmet securely on his head. Richford picked up his sword belt and buckled it around his waist, then he too nodded, indicating that he was ready. The captain stood aside as the Earl moved into the corridor and the two warriors headed toward the castle battlements, ready for whatever might come at them.
Eyeing the preparations, Richford nodded his approval as he viewed the huge cauldron that hung above and to one side of the castle gate. A fire was burning beneath the cauldron, heating the oil inside, which could then be poured out and carried in stone runnels to drop onto anyone attempting to storm the gate. Bowmen with quivers full of arrows and soldiers with spears stood before the merlons, ready to send their deadly missiles at the approaching foe. Piles of heavy stones were stacked every few feet along the wall for easy access--to be hurled down at any of the enemy who came close to or attempted to climb the outside walls.
Satisfied with what he saw, Richford looked out over the wall and was quietly dismayed at what he beheld. In the distance, a long line of horses, men and wagons were slowly approaching the castle.
Reginald echoed the Earl's feelings by saying softly, "There be so many of them."
"Aye," Richford said. "This may truly be the end of our way of life, as we have come to know it."
"We still have a chance, my lord. Ye must not give up hope."
The Earl gave his comrade a grim smile and clapped him on the shoulder. "We shall not be taken without a good fight, my friend." He turned back to the approaching horde and said, "Prepare the archers."
Reginald nodded and pointed to a soldier who stood near a series of poles mounted above the gate. At the captain's signal, the man pulled on a rope and a flag was hauled up one of the poles, the pennant snapping sharply in the breeze. It showed a green bow with arrow on a white field and as the flag reached the apex of the pole, archers moved up to the crenels and nocked arrow to bowstring.
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