Brightvale History: The Two Kings - Part Ten
William stared in awe at the castle walls. When Thomas had said that the castle was the very definition of “unassailable”, the Blumaroo had assumed that some exaggeration was involved.
Vienna grinned at his reaction. “My uncle,” she said in a dry voice, “takes his hobbies seriously.”
“Give me thirty men,” the brown Blumaroo said, “and I could hold this castle for years.”
“There are three wells inside,” the Acara said, “and each one goes to a different water source. Each is entirely within the castle, so given an indefinite food supply, you could stay forever.”
“Food is always a problem,” William admitted.
“Less of one than you'd think, considering that there are greenhouses inside the walls. And one of them houses an everlasting apple tree.”
“I take it back,” William said. “Give me thirty men, and I could hold this castle until we all died of old age.”
“Let's hope this doesn't come to that.”
The orange Draik shook his head. “All of the priceless pieces of art in Brightvale castle, and he could care less. Show him a big stone building, and he gets positively giddy.” Darius snorted. “Meridellians.”
William shook his head, his eyes not leaving the castle. “Darius, this is art.” He turned to Vienna. “Is your uncle home? Do you think he'll let me peek at the blueprints?”
“Maybe after the little war we're in, darling.” She patted William's cheek. “Let's go inform my uncle that I just invited two armies to his castle.”
“Vienna!” The Royal Kyrii welcomed his niece in delight as she, William, and Darius entered the castle's main courtyard.
“Uncle Tomar!” Vienna greeted the Kyrii with a hug.
“What brings you here, child?”
“I've come to ask if I can borrow your castle.”
“That depends on what you want it for,” Tomar said, with a cautious look.
“To minimize the amount of damage my brothers can do,” Vienna explained. “I need someplace neutral where soldiers from both sides can escape to and not have to worry about any retribution from my brothers.”
As she explained in further detail, a large grin spread across the Kyrii's face. “Vienna, that's brilliant! You've found a way to stop the war without actually using a single weapon. Of course you can use my castle as a home base.” He paused. “About how many troops should I be expecting?”
“We have no idea,” William admitted. “But I know a lot of them will probably be wounded.”
Tomar nodded. “That would make sense; they've been fighting for two days. We'll have to get the infirmary up and running then...” The Kyrii paused, looking at him. “I'm sorry, who are you?”
“Oh!” Vienna said. “I'm sorry, introductions all around. Uncle, this is William Warwick, Meridell's ambassador to Brightvale. William, this is my uncle Tomar, the Baron of Verms.”
“I see you've brought Darius into this as well,” Tomar said.
“Really,” Darius said. “Is there any way that I couldn't be involved in this? We've got the whole gang. Thomas is trying to reign in Lucca, and Nicolas seems to be egging Milan on.”
“You've got a point,” Tomar admitted. He looked up to the sky. “We don't have a lot of time until your troops are going to start showing up, Vienna. Let's get everything ready.”
If William had been impressed with the outside of the castle, the inside was even more impressive. The castle itself had been built on bedrock, and it extended deep into the stone below, creating a much larger castle than the outside would suggest – and it didn't look small from the outside.
“We can room the wounded in here,” Tomar said, opening a door to a subterranean gallery. “I'm eventually planning on turning this into a greenhouse, but I haven't gotten the soil in yet. The light charm is already in place, and it should hold more than enough cots.” The Kyrii turned a copper lever embedded into the wall, and the whole ceiling began to glow, revealing an immense room carved out of the rock.
“I won't turn the light all the way up,” the Kyrii said. “It's designed for plants, and staring up at the equivalent of the sun for hours on end probably wouldn't be very comfortable. Everyone else can stay in the west wing of my normal barracks. It's empty at the moment, and I think it will be large enough to hold everyone.”
“Tomar?” William asked, feeling more than a little bit awed. “Just what did you have in mind when you built this place?”
“Somewhere the entire government could retreat to in case of total war.”
Thomas looked around the large stone room. “I think you succeeded.”
“That reminds me,” Vienna said. “Uncle, would it be possible to send a messenger to the palace?”
“You wish to bring someone here?”
“Everyone, Uncle. This kingdom needs a working government, and neither Milan or Lucca are doing that at the moment. We can run the kingdom just the same from here, and everyone will be much safer.”
Tomar nodded. “I'll send the word, they can be here by tomorrow morning if we're lucky.”
Hours later, Darius and William were perched on the top of the walls, watching for the first signs of the refugee troops. “How many will show up, do you think?” William asked.
“I hope enough to make a difference,” Darius growled. “And I hope for roughly equal amounts from both camps. I talked to dozens of commanders in Milan's camp, and most of them just about cried with joy when I offered them a way out.” The orange Draik shuddered. “Some of the orders Milan gave them will give me nightmares for a long time.”
“Thomas said something about that,” William admitted. “He was pretty vague on the specifics, but something about the men they took prisoner?”
“That sounds like it,” Darius agreed. He pointed at a flicker of light in the trees. “Look, that must be them.”
Once started the trickle of armored and wounded men continued in a steady stream. “I hadn't expected so many,” Darius admitted, as more and more poured in. “At least everyone is being very calm and orderly about this.”
“It's a good thing Tomar has a lot of space,” William said. “This has to be either a full army from one of them, or half from each side.”
“Excuse me,” one of the castle nurses apologized, rushing past.
“I think we're going to be just in the way here,” Darius said, stepping out of her way, and then having to move back to let a castle doctor through. “I'm going to bed, so I can be useful in the morning when I'm actually needed.”
“Help!” a group of newly arriving troops called, carrying someone on an improvised body board made of someone's cloak and two stout sticks. “We need triage here!”
“I think that's definitely my call to exit,” Darius said, retreating.
“You!” a nurse said, pointing to William. “You're not hurt. Come here and help hold him up.” Turning to one of the soldiers who had helped carry the covered body, she asked, “What happened?”
“We found him while we were on our way here. We thought he was dead, but when one of us tripped and stepped on him, he grabbed him. Scared the living tar out of us.” The Draik shook his head. “He's hurt bad, miss.”
She shook her head. “I'll need better light than this. Help me carry him to the infirmary.”
Once in the better light of the infirmary, she winced. “This poor guy looks like he's been through a lot. Better clear out of here, guys, the doctor and I will see what we can do for him. He'll need a lot of work and a lot of luck if he's going to be around for sunrise.”
Heading up out of the lower parts of the castle to the wing, William decided that he'd check in with the infirmary first thing in the morning and see if they needed any extra hands. He doubted that the patient he'd helped with had been the only one that badly hurt. While he didn't doubt that the castle had extensive supplies, he didn't think that the staff had enough hands to treat so many without some sort of help. Hopefully the palace hospital staff would be here soon to help.
Feeling in desperate need of cheering up, he went to see if Vienna was still awake. He found her in the library, staring at a map.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
She looked up and greeted him with a smile. “I'm looking at the roads,” she admitted. “I've been getting regular updates about the troops who have come in, and I think I have an idea.” At William's encouraging nod, she continued, “My uncle has pointed out that many of the troops aren't going to want to be cooped up for as long as this make take, and it doesn't take that many troops to defend the castle. It might take more than your hypothesized thirty men, but not by much.”
“And this is making you look at roads?”
“Several of the troops have said that they've heard about bandits raiding people on the roads, since they know my brothers are too busy fighting themselves to do anything about it. I think tomorrow I'm going to ask for volunteers to go and patrol the main trading roads. I think just having armed troops on the roads will be enough of a deterrent.”
“That will also have the added benefit of making it harder for either Milan or Lucca to press-gang innocent people into their armies,” William added, thinking back to Darius and his misadventure in carpentry.
“Hmm,” she agreed, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.
“Vienna.” William pulled the map off the table and rolled it up. “It's way past midnight, and you've got a big day tomorrow.”
“I know. I should go to bed.” She sighed. “But I can't sleep. If I don't stay busy, I start to fall apart.” She took a quivering breath. “I couldn't bring myself to go to the infirmary; were there very many wounded?”
“Some, but most of the wounds weren't that bad. Cuts, bruises, broken bones.” William thought back to the yellow furred soldier he'd help carry in. Vienna didn't need to hear about him right now.
“That's something at least,” she said.
“Good, you two are still awake.”
William turned to see Tomar standing in the doorway. “My niece is cleverer than I am,” the Royal Kyrii admitted. “One of our refugees had some very important information. Milan's given the order to return to the Palace as soon as he can break his troops away from Lucca. It's a good thing that by the time he gets there, it will be empty.”
To be continued...