DISCIPLE continues...


(Kate and her teacher, Elect Parselev, have set up an emergency infirmary just inside the city gates. The enemy army has laid siege outside.)

The sketch of the plan was to sortie from the city gate in two parties. One would turn westward and destroy the half-built trebuchets as far as the West Tower. The other would turn eastward to attack one trebuchet, and would draw the enemy’s attention away from the westbound party so they’d be certain to destroy all three along the western wall. To be sure they had Arcea’s eye, Kiefan would lead the eastbound sortie.

He came, late, with all the Prince’s Guard and another four squads of knights as well. Half were to be escorts for the westbound sortie, the rest his own. The prince’s banner, the squad banners and the armsmen’s as well took some sorting and there was the allocating of a wagon’s worth of oil casks to be done.

Our infirmary had been ready at noon. The sun was off its peak now and we’d taken up a card game on my surgery table. Now we left off; one of the Ters began singing and we all joined in. It was a good thing to do, giving the men another benediction for their courage.

I watched the knights, scanning until I found the grey dapple whose knight wore a double linen-bandage tail on his helm. Will trailed behind him on foot, securing extra shields behind some of the riders. There was no shortage of squires, Anders had said, but Will had trouble saying no when asked to help.

Soon enough, they were assembled and un-barring the gates. Strength-Blessed men made quick work of it; the portcullis was half up when they pulled the inner doors open, and they began drawing the bars on the outer door before it was fully lifted.

At the head of the formation, as the outer gates cracked open, Kiefan brandished his sword and spurred his warhorse up on hind legs. The men cheered to answer him, swords raised. A swoop of the blade around and up, catching the sun, and they roared again. The door opened, out onto the Spanne and the foulburg, as their voices chanted in the rhythm set by Kiefan’s sword. His warhorse spun around and plunged toward the enemy.

My voice trembled to a stop and I clenched my hands together. Both of them out there, charging into the enemy’s teeth… my stomach turned over, knotted itself.

“They’re in the Father’s hands,” Parselev announced, gesturing for us to see to our work. “Soon they’ll be in ours.”

That proved true. Half a company, fifty armsmen, stayed to block the gate, but left a gap for our ambulances to come and go. Men trickled back to us, some with arrows, some gashed by swords. I was to be a surgeon, today, with Ther Adalslav to assist me and Krepkin’s apprentice Meinrad to manage triage. I extracted an arrow from deep in a man’s liver. With care, I stitched each of the holes left in the layered coils of a man’s stabbed gut. Adalslav helped me work the shattered, jutting ends of a thigh bone back into the flesh and held them in alignment as I spun enough kir to keep the knight from the Shepherd’s shadow.

“Charm-hand.” I reached out and a hand touched mine, gave me kir. “Who’s next?”

“They’re cut off. The gate.” Ther Adalslav pointed. I had been so focused on the bone-setting charm that I hadn’t heard the roaring and crashing.

Giants, I thought at first, for they loomed over the armsmen by head and shoulders. They wore lamellar armor and helms crested with great tufts of red hair; they stabbed down at the armsmen with heavy spears longer than our men’s. It was when one reared to lash with his hooves that I knew they were centaurs.

The armsmen made a shield-wall against them, bristling with blades, and the archers above could not miss. But those heavy spears smashed through shields, piercing the wall, and the arrows peppered into their lamellar mattered nothing. The one that did fall took an arrow in his helm’s eye-slit, a hard shot even for hawk-eyed archers.

The monsters surged forward, through the gate, pushed from behind by their brothers. Smashing over our armsmen, shields against shields. Trampling. Breaking through. Charging.

“Elect!” My voice tore free. He looked up from his patient’s guts. “Meinrad!”

Meinrad had seen them too; he whistled to the ambulance driver who’d been about to head up to the hospital and the man twisted, pulling the horses to a stop.

“Behind the wagon!” Parselev ordered, pointing. I felt kir arc to him, from some far distance, and he poured it into his patient. Ter Biya picked the man up and hauled him away. Patients who could, struggled to their feet, reaching for their swords. I threw a glance back and saw centaurs pouring through the break in the armsmen’s formation.

An armsman with a bandaged thigh struggled on his cot. I grabbed his hand and pulled, got him to his feet. He drew his sword and charged the oncoming enemy with a yell. I turned in watching him go, and —

Hooves. Roaring. Shouting. The noise struck my ears, set my heart racing, and the din faded as fear seized me. Centaurs charged across Sinnmach Square, dripping spears high, their lamellar tunics and blankets spattered with blood, in a wedge pointed straight at our infirmary. They cut through the handful of wounded men in their way. Pounded straight at the Elect standing between them and us helpless disciples.

Disciple, Part I and Part II available now -- Part III on sale September 1st!

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