For decades the cities of Pons and Sulci have been at war. Now, a Pons spy has shown up in Sulci. What they discover will change the whole continent forever.
(Part I of a series)
The rain felt like it was piercing their skin, like many small bullets. The downpour was so thick that it was difficult to see. It was not night, but the sky was black. The clouds would eat your soul if you left it unattended. Alexander Lanstar stood at the base of the Sulci wall, awaiting his orders. He was only fourteen, but he had decided his career path a year ago. He would join the army, like his brother and father before him. There was no other option, not as far as he was concerned. His older brother Henry was the person in charge of Sulci’s army. Alexander could see Henry on top of the wall shouting orders. It was difficult to hear him through the rain. Alexander followed the men in front of him. Even though he was younger than most of them, he was already a whole head taller than them all. An easy target once he got onto the wall… but he did not want to think about that.
Quickly they climbed the white stone stairs. Along the top of the wall was a metal ledge. It was tall enough for most of the men to stand behind and be protected. Alexander hated how tall he was. Maybe he could kneel and use one of the holes in the wall instead of standing up. He was pushed and shoved into line, forced into a spot which was unfortunately nowhere near a hole. Alexander peered over the ledge cautiously. Thousands of lights were below them. The rain continued to pound, but he could hear the chants of the army below him. His heart nearly flew out of his chest.
He ducked down and looked back at the city of Sulci. The people had hid long ago. They expected these attacks. Pons came to try to conquer them at least once a year. It was Alexander’s first attack where he had to participate in the defense. Usually Pons would shoot at them for a while, Sulci would retaliate, and eventually Pons gave up. But they always came back. Each attack seemed more calculated. Eventually they would succeed, unless Sulci evolved with them. Eventually it would happen… Alexander hoped today was not the day for Pons to win.
Henry was walking toward them, bent low to avoid any arrows. So far, Pons had not yet started to attack. They were just standing there, chanting. Henry picked out a young man next to Alexander and told him to leave the wall. “Why?” the young man shouted.
“You are needed for a special mission,” Henry explained calmly. Alexander watched him. Henry never looked afraid. If Alexander was older, they could be twins – they both had dark hair, bright hazel eyes, and a large body build. Of course Henry was much older, much stronger, and much more experienced than Alexander was. Alexander wondered if he ever felt afraid.
“I’m not volunteering for anything,” the young man replied.
“It’s not an option. You were chosen by Thesle.”
“No, his son.” The governor of Sulci had three children – a son named Oliver, who was a few years older than Alexander, and two daughters named Diana and Cynthia, who were closer in age to Alexander. Oliver was rising quite quickly through the army ranks. Apparently there was something special in store for him.
“I’m still not going.”
“Would you rather be hanged as a traitor?” The young man stopped, obviously afraid, and shook his head. “Then get moving.” The young man left. Henry moved on, ignoring his younger brother. Alexander would have liked to think that he would have volunteered for some special mission. He would like to think that… but he was probably lying to himself. The chanting continued. It would not be long now. A sharp crack of lightening lit up the sky. Alexander resolved that he would not look until he was told to.
The command came down the line – ready your weapons. Alexander had a bow and several arrows. Sulci had guns, but they would become useless in the rain, especially to someone who barely knew how to operate one. So, instead, he got a bow. He knew it was not the best option, but hopefully the attack would soon be over. Meanwhile the chanting continued outside of the wall. Alexander felt his hands shaking as he tried to ready his bow.
A particularly violent lightening strike hit, and then it was silent. The rain had lessened a bit. The chanting had stopped. Alexander could hear his heart beating. He expected the attack to start, but then he realized that Pons was waiting to be provoked. It was all a game to them now. Eventually someone did provoke them. Alexander was not looking, so he could not see who it was or even where it had come from, but suddenly the chanting started again. And then men began to fall off of the wall, arrows pierced through their bodies.
Alexander wanted to fight them. He should be fighting them. It was his duty, after all. But he was frozen. No matter how much he scolded himself, his muscles would not move. Men kept falling around him. He was not sure if this was how severe the casualties always were, or if it just looked that way to him.
A different noise caught his attention. It sounded like a girl shouting. Alexander looked, and, indeed, down the wall he saw one of the governor’s daughters, Diana. How did she get up here? Diana was arguing with Henry. He wanted to know what was going on, but he was still frozen.
The sun began to shine again. Alexander thought it might be a good sign. Maybe Pons would stop when the rain stopped. His eyes flicked up to where Diana and his brother were, just in time to see an arrow slice through his brother’s neck.
Alexander wanted to scream. Instead he just stood there while his brother fell backward. He knew there was nothing he could do. There was no way to survive a shot like that. For the first time, he stood up to look over the ledge. His eyes followed the path that the arrow must have taken. At the end of the path he saw a young boy, someone definitely younger than him. He was right in the front of the Pons army, expertly shooting people on the wall. Alexander had never seen a person from Pons before. The boy was still small, but he had an evil look about him. Dark hair, dark eyes, maybe also dark skin, it was difficult to tell in the dim light. A bolt of lightening struck the wall directly, sending Alexander tumbling backward. His head hit the stone beneath him. He remembered seeing his bow fall to the ground below him, and then everything went dark.