The Last Stand (The Eleven Years War: Book One)

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Chapter Forty-Six

Eza walked along the castle wall that night, accompanied by one of the castle guards. The fog that rolled across the city was thick that night, so much that she couldn’t even see what was at the bottom of the wall. The lights from inside the city were obscured by the fog, turning them into twisting, swirling shades of orange and yellow. She would have stopped to watch the city, marveling in how beautiful it was, if she wasn’t so tense. The city was surrounded by Giskens, and any second, now, they would be trying to breach walls that hadn’t failed in nearly a thousand years. The odds were good that they would just end up trying to survive a siege, but they weren’t good enough to keep her off edge.

“You haven’t been stationed here for very long, have you?” Eza asked the soldier who was accompanying her. He was shivering uncontrollably under his thick, fur-lined coat, and even in the dim light from the large braziers that lined the walls, she could see that his cheeks were a bright red from the cold. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was an unusually cold night for Caitha in the summer, she probably would have dismissed him for some delicate child. He nodded

“You were born on the south coast, weren’t you?” she asked. He nodded as he rubbed his forearms with glove-covered hands.

“I-is it that obvious, m-ma’am?” he asked.

“I’ve never seen a kid shiver so bad with weather that was barely chilly,” Eza said. Then again, she hardly noticed cold weather, even though she hadn’t been in Kurzh for nearly ten years.

Eza stopped and looked out into the swirling darkness outside the city. “Get yourself to a fire and warm up, kid; I can handle this until you’re up to it.” The soldier gave her a confused look.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I mean, it’s kind of creepy up here at night; are you sure you’re okay with being alone?” Eza nodded. Normally, she probably would’ve said something that would probably sting a little, but she didn’t; she knew that the kid was just trying to be chivalrous. After all, women didn’t come up to the wall all that often, and if they did, it was because their boyfriends were giving them a “tour”.

“I’ll be just fine,” she said. “Just go get warm, alright? We can’t have men trying to guard the city when they can’t hold a sword right because they can’t stop shivering.” The soldier nodded and began to slink away, leaving Eza alone on the wall.

Everything was pretty quiet on the wall, quiet enough that it got to be a little eerie. She could see why the soldier didn’t want to leave her alone on the wall; five years ago, she probably would have asked him to come back. However, like cold weather, Eza found that she didn’t mind silence that much. It was just another thing she’d gotten used to. Rather than focus on how quiet everything was, even with the quiet breeze blowing in her ears, she focused on the blurred tree line below her, watching to see if any Giskens came from the woods to attack.

One minute ticked by, then two, then three. She couldn’t see anything come out of the tree line, and the only thing that so much as moved below her was the fog.

After around five minutes, though, she did see something: a glowing, orange light, right below the wall. It looked like someone had just started a fire…

The light shot up at her.

Eza cursed and stepped back, just in time to avoid getting hit with a ball of fire. It seemed that the Giskens had some pyromancers with them.

She began running along the wall to a guard tower, where she’d just sent the soldier. Since when did the Giskens have mages in their army? It looked like just another intelligence hole that they didn’t know needed to be patched until it was too late. “Sound the alarm!”

Some of the guards poked their heads out of the tower, confused.

“Wha-“

“Sound the alarm, damn it!” she yelled. She was starting to get angry, now; what was with soldiers and questioning orders? If the men in the guard tower had been one of her men, the alarm would’ve already been sounded. “The Giskens are attacking!”

There was a loud clack in front of her, and a ladder appeared on the wall. When Eza tried to heave it off, another ball of fire came towards her head, but like the last one, she managed to avoid it.

Once the soldiers saw the fire, what was happening to them finally seemed to get to them. They began rushing to their stations, yelling and ringing the tower’s bells.

Just as they did, the first Gisken came up the wall. He threw flames at Eza, but she ducked, pulling her cloak tighter around herself. Once she reached him, she hit him against the side of his head with her staff, hard.

There was a loud, ugly crack, and the soldier fell from the ladder and to the ground. Eza doubted that he managed to feel it, though; the way his body went lip after she’d hit him told her that she may have managed to kill him with just that blow.

The battle for Caitha had begun.


“Everybody, get up!” The sound of Mathis’ voice ringing outside her room snatched Elise from her sleep that night. He banged on each door as he passed, making sure that nobody was still asleep. “Make sure you’ve got your weapons on you and ready, then get yourselves down to the mess hall for assignments!”

Elise sat up in her bed and began to rub the sleep from her eyes. What did he mean, get your weapons? The only reason he’d say that was if they were going into a combat zone…

She ripped the covers off of her and started to dress as fast as she could. The Giskens were here.

Once she was dressed and had her bow and quiver on her, Elise left her room and ran to the mess hall.

To her surprise, she was one of the first people to get to the mess hall. Including her and Mathis, there were only ten people in there when she arrived.

“Commander Mathis, what’s going on?” one of the recruits, a skinny, teenaged girl asked. She looked terrified, just as she should be; they were told by one of the injured soldiers that the Giskens weren’t showing mercy to field medics, anymore.

“I’ve just gotten word from the wall that the Giskens have begun their attack on the city,” Mathis said. “They’re already requesting doctors, so things aren’t looking so good, right now.” They began looking around at each other, shocked. They’d all known for a while that this day would come, but now that it was actually there… well, it was pretty hard to take in.

“Where do you want us, sir?” the doctor that said that was an older man, one of the higher-ranking members of the medical core. His face was emotionless and stony, as if this wasn’t such a big deal. She guessed that it didn’t seem that strange to him, going into a combat zone; someone had told her that he was a doctor in Kurzh, when they’d tried to send relief troops to General Mitrius ten years ago, and he had the knife scars to prove it.

“I need you guys to set up towards the southern wall,” Mathis said. “From what I was told, that’s the only portion of the wall they’ve attacked.” The group nodded, and the small group left, heading for the southern wall to find a place to set up their field hospital.

Already, the city was in chaos. People were beginning to run for the castle, hoping that they’d be able to find some shelter from the Gisken invaders, soldiers were rushing to the wall to defend the city, still trying to do up their pants, some people opened up their cellars and ushered their family inside with the hopes that they would be safe in there, while others simply stood in the doorways of their homes, unsure of what was going on; there was no way that all the chaos was helping with the fear that had started to reign in the city.

After pushing through the crowds, they reached a building that the head doctor thought would be a good place to set up a makeshift hospital. It was a tavern, with a large bar with a few barrels of ale behind it and around ten wooden tables that would serve as operation tables for any injured soldiers that needed surgery, while the ale would serve as a pain killer until the runners assigned to them came back with cocca leaves and a few cots. When they opened the cellar to see if there was more alcohol, they found the small family who owned it: an older man, his wife, and their sons, all of whom were huddled in the corner, waiting for the storm that was battle to pass over.

The first patients began to stream in a few minutes after they arrived at the tavern. To Elise’s surprise, many of the injuries that came in weren’t sword related: many of them came in with burns, crushed limbs, and even what looked to be frostbite, even though it was the middle of summer.

“What’s going on over there?” the head doctor asked one of the lesser-injured soldiers. He had a burn that went all the way up his arm, but it wasn’t serious; luckily for him, someone had drenched him in water a few seconds after he caught his sleeve on fire.

“Those Gisken bastards have an entire regiment just for mages,” the soldier said bitterly as one of the doctors lathered honey on his burns. Unlike many of his comrades, he didn’t seem to have what Mathis had dubbed battle fatigue, the strange condition that made the men wander around with that glazed over look in their eyes; this one just looked like he wanted to get back out there and kill the Giskens. “They sent those guys to kill us all before this whole thing really gets started.”

Elise began looking at the injuries with new eyes after that. It terrified her, knowing that there were thousands of trained Gisken mages coming over the wall. She knew for a fact that Eza was stationed on the city wall, right about where these soldiers were coming from: she’d come to get some cocca leaves and a few other medical supplies before she went out to her post.

If these grown men were coming in nearly dead, what chance did she – a teenaged girl armed only with a wooden staff – have?


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