My Ranking Points
W&W Chapter 16 – Siege Time!
Featuring: a callback to K&K chapter 2, Alina underhandedly saying she loves Mikah, and Mikah saying “anything for you”
Every Resistance noble has pulled out of the Council. No one is sure when the siege will come, but everyone agrees that it’ll be much sooner than we planned for. Ever since the lords of Sulster stopped showing up to meetings, Rory has been spending more and more time with Alina and Mikah. If I listen hard enough, I can sometimes hear what they’re saying through the door.
“Almost everything is in place,” Rory says. “We have transport lined up, and the central group of farmers who’ll accompany us. Marisa is trying to recruit some more before the siege, but we’re making sure that word of this doesn’t reach the nobles.” A nervous chuckle. “Mostly with bribes. If you’ve noticed a little dent in the royal coffers, that’s… that’s why.”
“Do what you have to,” Alina says, “but remember, we’re still the ruling body when we’re not in Medias. We can’t be broke.”
“I agree. Which is why I’ve actually drawn up a financial plan for when we get to Taled. I mean, it will have to start with a pretty hefty investment, but—well, most government projects do. And I’m hoping we can build off the businesses Taled already has, though they won’t be as strong as those in the capital. Once the infrastructure is up, then it’s just a matter of… Alina? Are you okay?”
Mikah speaks next, his voice low. “Hey. It’s going to be fine, alright? I know this is overwhelming, but I truly believe everything is going to turn out fine.”
“You lie,” Alina says.
“Of course I do. Doesn’t make it any less true.”
I hear Alina sigh. “Sure. Thanks, Mikah.”
“No problem. Now, tell us about this financial plan of yours, Rory. And try to be a little more encouraging this time.”
“I’m a knight. It’s kind of hard to be encouraging.” A pause. “Okay, okay! Don’t kill me!”
“Mikah, don’t kill him,” Alina says. “Tell us about your plan. We’re going to establish businesses, and then…”
“Well, that’s basically it. A thriving economy, handled correctly, means a thriving ruler. What I’m worried about, though—”
“What did I say?”
Mikah grumbles indistinctly. I hear a scrape and a thump, like he’s pulled a chair out and sat down.
“What I’m worried about,” Rory continues, “is that I had planned to start building in Taled months before the siege. If a new governing body suddenly comes in and starts changing everything, the people of Taled might not like us very much anymore. But if the head nobles of Taled were to start these projects a little while in advance… to put it bluntly, it wouldn’t seem like our fault. Not to mention, a lot of them would already be benefiting from the new businesses, so we could even accelerate the project and they probably wouldn’t be too opposed. However, since Sadianna was revealed, the nobles know we’re onto them. The timeline is much shorter now. We don’t have months. We might not even have weeks. The Resistance could attack today, for all we know.”
“I can’t believe she would do that,” Mikah says. “To reveal our upper hand so quickly? What could she possibly have been thinking?”
“Don’t pin all the blame on Reina. She’s young and heartbroken. When I saw her, she was in pieces.” A pause. “Reina was in love with Lady Sadianna. Imagine if you suddenly found out I had been lying to you for months.”
“I don’t even want to think about that.”
“Exactly. So you can cut Reina a little slack, right?”
A sigh. “Anything for you, Lina.”
“Aww, you two are sweet,” Rory says. “Now can we get back to the issue at hand?”
Alina clears her throat. “Sorry. Carry on, Sir Rory.”
“I’m going to let that go because you’re clearly very flustered right now, but I’d like to state for the record that it’s weird when we’re alone and you call me Sir Rory.”
“Say what you want to say, or this meeting is adjourned.”
“You’re no fun.” A pause. “Okay, fine. I can figure out the new timeline for developing infrastructure,” Rory says. “We have a little time for that, at least. The most important issue to focus on right now is the siege.”
“I trust you,” Alina says. “So, what’s the status of the siege? How long are we prepared to hold out?”
Rory sighs. “I’m not totally sure. With the longer timeline, we would have been able to hold out for quite some time, but now… even if we accelerate the stockpiling process, it likely won’t be enough.”
“Give us an estimate,” Mikah says.
“If I had to guess… two weeks. Maybe three.”
The silence that follows is grim. Two weeks may seem like a long time, but against some of the most powerful houses in Veritaria, it’s practically nothing.
“Does this mean we have to evacuate sooner?” Alina asks.
“Probably. We likely can’t afford to draw fire for as long as we had planned, even if it would deplete the Resistance’s resources. Our best chance is to get out after just a few days. Once the Resistance breaks into the castle and realizes we’re gone, they’ll stop the attack and carry on relatively peacefully, minimizing damages. They are nobles, after all. They might be against us, but they still follow the Knight’s Code.”
I’m interrupted from listening by a ragged-looking young man running down the hallway. I draw my sword, but he stops before getting anywhere close to me, gasping for breath. As his breaths slow down, I lower my sword again, until he finally says:
“Is the queen in there?”
“Who are you?” I demand. “How did you get into the castle?”
“Fallow Antiasi. I’m not a friend of Mari—of Lady Marisa. Someone else gave me a royal pass—please, I need to speak with the queen—”
I block his path as he tries to push past me. Despite being a foot shorter than the man, I’m confident I could knock him out in a few seconds, even without using my powers.
He finally stops struggling. “Fine,” he says. “Tell her—ask her to come out here. Please. I’m not begging you. It’s not urgent.”
The way Fallow says urgent makes me stop. I nod slowly, then back up, not taking my eyes off him, and knock on the door.
“Your Majesty? There’s someone here to see you. He says it’s urgent.”
A second later, Mikah opens the door a crack. “Who is it?”
Fallow immediately drops into a ceremonial bow, on one knee with his head bowed. Mikah looks taken aback. “Lina?” he calls, and Alina appears in the doorway.
“You may rise,” she says. “What’s going on?”
“Marisa told me not to come straight here if I saw anything… you won’t want to see this. There’s no crowd gathered around already.”
“So, that means you… I don’t have time for this. Arden?”
“Mari told him to come here if he saw anything,” I translate. “You’ll want to see it. There’s already a crowd gathered around whatever it is.”
“Thank you. Gathered around what?”
“I couldn’t see. I recognized all the standards. The main ones are Rogue houses, that’s for sure, but other than that, I don’t know.”
“He couldn’t see very clearly. He only recognized some of the standards. The leaders seemed to be Resistance houses, but he doesn’t know about the others.”
A faint aura is starting to appear around Alina—she’s drawing on her magic to boost her energy, although I can’t tell whether it’s conscious or not. “Tell me what’s happening out there.”
“The Resistance marches out of Medias,” Fallow says. “I don’t think they have siege weapons. They’re heading away from Castle Veritas.”
Alina, Mikah, and Rory don’t need me to translate that one.
Mikah puts a warning hand on Alina’s shoulder. “Lina—”
“I could take them all out,” she says. “I’ve done it before. We could avoid all the fighting—”
“Yes, you have done it before. And you almost died. And then I actually did die. And I lost my magic. And we don’t have a witch to bring me back to life this time, so I’d like to avoid dying again.”
“Then we deploy a small group of mages. I can wait until we’ve defeated about half of them, then wipe out the rest. Or better yet—divert groups of them, pick them off.” She turns to Rory. “It’s like you said. We have to minimize damages.”
“And the way we’re going to do that is by following the plan we’ve spent months perfecting,” Rory says. “Deploy the troops, stay safe in the castle for a few days, then escape.”
“But if I could just—”
Mikah places his hands on Alina’s shoulders, bending down slightly to look into her eyes. She pauses.
“If I lost you, my life would be over,” he says.
Alina gapes at him for a second, before finally nodding.
Mikah turns to Fallow. “Thank you. Do you know the procedure for the evacuating civilians?” Fallow shakes his head. “Then find Marisa and explain the situation. She’ll know what to do.”
Fallow takes off down the hallway, with Rory following. Alina and Mikah share a look. “Arden, go find the others,” Alina tells me. “I’ll be in the council room.”
I nod quickly, already trying to remember where the rest of the group might be. As I hurry away, I hear Mikah shout:
“BRING OUT THE TREBUCHETS!”