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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 27

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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“MY FEET ARE FREEZING,” Jarco said as he stumbled

into her again.

“You should have put your clothes back in the

tunnel like the rest of us,” Brianna told him.

“I wanted to be able to see them when we came

back,” Jarco explained.

“And now you’re wearing a sheet,” Caitlin

teased. “Good plan.” The invisibility potion hadn’t

worn off the jester yet, so the sheet seemed to be

hovering around by itself. “You look like a ghost

floating down the hallway.”

“I can’t believe someone took my clothes,” Jarco


“It was a servant’s quarters,” Brianna said. “You

leave clothes there to be cleaned and mended.”

“I didn’t think servants would still be working

after their king got dethroned,” Jarco defended.

“Who sits the throne rarely affects the life of a

washerwoman,” the king said.

“Be thankful you have your sword,” Caitlin

added. “You will have a greater need for it than

your silks.” The faint smell of smoke stole Caitlin’s

attention from Jarco’s problems. “Do you smell

something burning?” she asked Jarco.

“Yes. Do you think they’re burning the castle?”

Jarco returned.

“I would say they’re trying to burn their way

through the doors your father sealed,” Lord Tywell


“Those fools,” Brianna put in. “The doors are

centuries old and so are the rafters. They will burn

like paper and bring the whole castle down around


“Good,” Unglar said. “Let Gyger be king of the


“Let’s hurry and get out of here, lest we become

part of his realm,” Jarco joked.

The group picked up the pace. Movement

through the tunnels was still slow going. Only the

half-elves of the party were able to move at regular

speed. Unglar had the most problems. Between his

size and the huge ax he carried, Caitlin wondered if

he would make it past some of the smaller parts.

“Here it is,” the king announced.

Caitlin and Brianna exchanged puzzled looks.

There was no entrance in the wall before their father,

and the girls were sure they knew all the secrets of

the tunnels. The king touched a finger to each of the

three symbols engraved on the wall. One of his sigils

lit to match each one. After the third sigil began to

flare, the stone of the wall simply faded away.

“We didn’t even think you knew about the tunnels,”

Caitlin told him.

“I spent my childhood playing in them, just like

the two of you,” the king said.

The inside of this tunnel was well lit. Magic

torches lined the wall, illuminating the hallway with

their light-blue flames. Caitlin was glad the humans

would be able to see again. It would greatly improve

their travels.

As soon as the party entered the tunnel, the

stonewall reappeared behind them. Caitlin placed

her hand against the stone. No trace of an opening

could be found. She wondered just how much she

and her sister didn’t know about the castle.

The hallway bled into an open chamber filled

with various items. One rack held a collection of

swords; another had pieces of armor in different

sizes. There were food stores, fresh clothing and

gold. Everything was well tended. The swords and

armor were free of rust. The clothes were clean and

pressed. This was cleverer than she thought her father

was capable.

“When did you do all of this?” Caitlin asked.

“I have it done every week,” he replied. “You

didn’t think you got that trait from your mother, did


“Was it mom’s idea?” Brianna teased.

“She may have mentioned it,” the king admitted.

Caitlin was in her forties when her mother

passed. Her mother was human and lacked the gift

of extended life Elvin blood gave to the rest of the

family. Even as hard as her mother’s death was on

her and her sister, she knew it was worse on her fa-

ther. Iris, her mother, was the love of the king’s life.

It had been over forty years since her death, and her

father had yet to think about taking another wife.

“May I use some of the clothing?” Jarco asked

her father.

“Of course,” he answered.

The invisibility was leaving Jarco. The spell

wore off the rest of the party long before it had the

jester. Her father said it was because of a crystal in

the hilt of the jester’s sword. It was meant to extend

the life of magic, and apparently worked quite well.

The outline of his body was just now coming into


The Jester Knight slid on a pair of riding pants

and discarded the sheet. Then he found a shirt to

match and a pair of boots. It was strange seeing the

jester wear something other than the colors of motley.

“Oh, much better,” Jarco said. He stood up and

inspected his new boots. “A little lacking in color,

but much warmer for my feet.”

“Where does this passageway come out?”

Brianna asked.

“Under the east tower,” the king answered.

“But there is a rock cliff on that side of the castle,”

objected Caitlin. “We would have to have

wings to get around that way.”

“There’s a way,” her father soothed. “Gather

what we need and follow me.”

“Best for us to head for the free cities. We won’t

be able to siege the castle,” Conta said gravely.

“Even with the Peasant Army, we don’t have the


“We have gold enough to hire mercenaries from

the free cities,” Caitlin reminded as she tossed a

satchel of gold coin over her shoulder. “And the ork

will cut off their supplies.”

“And from the looks of things, Darious just

burned the king’s gardens trying to open the doors,

so they will be in need of supplies,” Brianna added.

When they made it to the exit, the group realized

the truth in Brianna’s deductions. Gray and

black smoke inundated the horizon, while red

flames shot from every window. The gardens would

not be the only thing burned by Darious’ folly. The

whole east wing of the castle looked to be ablaze.

“I hope someone helped Trayvis,” Jarco said,

gazing at the fire.

“Why do you care about that traitor?” Conta


“He was the only one who treated me like a person

when I was still a jester,” Jarco said bluntly.

The courtyard was filled with gray smoke from

the raging fires. In front of them stood the twentyfoot

stonewall. And on the other side was a rock cliff

with a two hundred foot drop. Her father had led

them into a dead end.

Caitlin’s mind began to work. She knew the

front gate would be too well protected. The walls

would be lined with archers who had orders to kill

on sight. Going back the way they came would put

them in the middle of an inferno. There was no way

over the wall, and even if there were, only a straight

drop off a cliff waited on the other side. What could

father have been thinking?

An arrow hit the wall a few feet from her head.

Through the swirling smoke, she could see the outlines

of two archers on the wall. Brianna grabbed the

king at the same time as Caitlin. Together they

pulled him behind them. Neither girl was afraid to

take a shaft for their father.

As one of the men drew his bow to loose another

arrow, Brianna began to chuckle. At first, Caitlin

thought her sister had lost her mind. Then she

saw the shape behind the two men. A long black tail

swished back and forth in the air as the figure descended

on its target. Puffer’s claws dug into the

archer’s arm, causing him to drop his bow. His shaft

flew off somewhere into the smoky mist. The shoulder

dragon continued his flight and landed on

Brianna’s back.

Unglar took his bow from his back and fired two

arrows at the men. One knight fell to the ground in

time. The other, however, caught the missile in the

center of his chest. The impact knocked him off his

perch and into the chasm behind the wall. His

screams could be heard throughout the courtyard.

The alarm began to sound before the last man could

even get to his feet.

“We will make a stand here,” Caitlin said. “Unglar,

keep firing on the archers. Don’t let them get

position on the wall.”

“Darious has over two hundred men in the castle,”

objected Conta.

“Bet we make it one hundred before we’re

done,” Brianna bragged, pulling her sword.

“I think we’ll do better than that,” Jarco added,

pulling his own sword.

There was a confidence Caitlin never heard before

in his voice. His eye filled with determination,

but the jester’s body remained at ease, waiting for

the right moment. She looked at her sister, puzzled

by the sudden change.

“I will tell you later,” Brianna told her with a


“I didn’t lead us here to die,” her father scolded.

“Follow me.”

Unglar loosed another arrow at the last archer. It

caught the man in his shoulder. He dropped back to

the ground and took cover behind a raised part of

the wall. Caitlin kept watch on the archer to make

sure he didn’t attack again.

The king walked over to the fountain in the

middle of the yard. He chanted something in Elvish.

Caitlin and Brianna had tutors for the language, but

neither excelled in the subject. They saw no point in

learning a tongue long dead to the world.

“Give it a push, Unglar,” her father commanded.

The half-ork did as the king asked. The fountain

moved away to reveal another tunnel. This one was

lit with the same ever-burning torches as the first.

Winding stairs went down the corridor as far as she

could see. The party hurried inside and Unglar

pulled the fountain back over the opening. It

cracked loudly as it locked in place.

“Wonder if Darious will try and burn that out of

the way,” Jarco joked.

Caitlin ignored the jest. Her home was burning.

And another king would rule what didn’t go up

with the flames. The thought of King Gyger ruling

Kings Overlook was overwhelming. The faces of all

the half-breed refugees who fled Karal flooded her

mind. They ran for their lives only to have death

chase them. She failed her father, her king and the

people of her land. Tears stung her eyes.

Brianna came to a stop in front of her. She

turned to face Caitlin. Teardrops dripped down her

face. The two sisters embraced each other. She comforted

Brianna like she did when they were children.

For a brief moment, Caitlin was the big sister again.

“Please, Caitlin,” Brianna sobbed. “Make them

pay for this.”

“I will,” Caitlin replied without hesitation. With

no army it would be a tough promise to keep, but

Caitlin never broke a promise.





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