Mud and Iron

Chapter 17 Part 1

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“When first I heard the short Fae referred to as the sidhe, I thought it was the height of foolishness, that there could be no worse thought to plant in the minds of our men than that our enemy were the dark spirits of the woods, the tricksters and makers of foul deals from every story we told our children.

“But compared to what the Queen’s army calls them, what they believe about the Fae? I’m glad to name them sidhe.”

-Sir Hagan Henney, private journal

 

“Well, would you look at that?” said Bat, resting a hand against the tent pole he’d just lashed into place. “I think I can see the place from here.”

Commander Musa had called the end of the day’s march in the mid afternoon, ordering our army to make camp at the top of a high, broad hill, dotted here and there with scraggly pine trees. The ground was more rocky than it had seemed, making finding a spot for Sir Hagan’s tent difficult, and we’d spent most of the day marching in a continuously sprinkling gray mist that limited our visibility and soaked us as well as a downpour might, so I’d spent the day with my eyes on the ground in front of me. The afternoon sun had burned the mist away, though, and as I stepped up next to Bat and looked off down the far slope I discovered that, from where we were standing, you could see for miles.

The slope of the hill descended to a wide plain that seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon, a flat expanse of yellow-green broken only by a scattering of what seemed from here to be thin threads, cutting straight lines and gentle curves across the plain; the dusty brown of roads, the darker gray-brown of stone fences, the deeper green of hedges, the glittering, winding thread of a river snaking lazily across the landscape. I almost thought I could make out a thin sliver of ocean, just at the line of the horizon, though it might have been a trick of the light.

And, off to our left somewhat, far to the west and a little south, I saw what Bat was talking about. I could see the thick tan band of a city’s sandstone walls, topped here and there with dark, peaked roofs. Tiled with slate, maybe, I thought to myself. The sieging army surrounded the walls, extending out almost twice as wide as the city itself, and while I couldn’t make out any details from here, I could see the smoke of their fires, rising up to cover the city in a thin haze.

I squinted, raising a hand to shield my eyes from the sun. “Hey, Bat?”

“Yeah, Griff?” Most of the time, his use of my new nickname was accompanied by an ironic smirk, but I heard no trace of a smile in his voice.

I rubbed my eyes and looked out at the city again. “Is it just me, or do there seem to be a lot more of them than there are of us?”

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