Eregar had had serious nightmares before, the kind of nightmares where you wake up in a cold sweat. Dreams where he fell from the top of a mountain into an endless cliff. Battles in which a cruel blow had left him without a hand, an arm, or a leg. Or even lived through the horrible fate of being crushed by charging horses, without the relief afforded by the sweet sleep of death; made into a crippled, forgotten, broken creature, bleeding to death while he crept slowly to his painful, final destination.
But what he now felt was too painful to be a nightmare. It was too much, the throbbing in his head, the perfect storm of crippling pressure in his blood, pain in his bones, screams in his ears. Here and there, the sound of falling stone punctuated the thunder of his internal storm. That, and the voice of Master Danilo.
“Wake up, boy, wake up!”
The squire had not realized that his eyes were closed. He had been convinced he had lost himself in the darkness. He struggled to open his eyes, to try to see his master. But he could do nothing.
A cold object forces open his mouth, thrusting itself between his lips and his teeth. From the cold came a fire that ran down his throat and burned his chest. The ardor spread from there, ran through the squire’s body to his extremities.
Eregar opened his eyes. The motion was slow, a sleepy awakening, to the rhythm of the throbbing of his head, to the sound of the noise that had refused to stay in the dream-world. The squire put his hand to his head, touched the region between his right eye and his ear. He felt a sting, accompanied by the sticky wetness of blood.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it!” The priest told him. Eregar could hardly see. The sun was shining as if it wanted to burn the earth to a crisp. It hurt his eyes.
“Get up, boy!” Danilo pulled him by the arm, helped him up against the stone wall. Eregar, still drunk with pain, focused on a peculiar detail in the situation. How could Danilo, a priest, a healer, lift him, a heavy and muscled warrior, fully decked in plate and chain? What’s more, the priest did it with such ease, as if Eregar had been but a newborn!
Danilo, heedless of his junior’s confusion, had already put a sword in his hands.
“The men from Lohan have destroyed the gate, and most of the wall, but the inner court still belongs to us.” Said the priest, pointing to an area down the wall from them, a region where clouds of dust and debris ruled the air.
Eregar narrowed his eyes in a struggle to see beyond the particles that masked the battle. The war that he had seemed to dream up inside his head a few moments ago was happening inside the fortress, after all. Northern warriors defended stairways and doors, formed human walls between piles of wreckage from the destruction of the gate and the south wall. Southern invaders pushed them, trickling through the gap like waves in the flood season.
And in the center of the battle, in the eye of the storm, the squire saw Adamus. His commander stood tall on the battlefield as if he were a war-god, sword and shield in motion, keeping the flood at bay with long, circular blows.
“The staircase to the north is unimpeded, boy,“ Danilo shouted. “Go help him, hurry!”
Eregar gripped the sword harder, squeezed it until his fingers ached, such was his fear of letting go, and staggered toward the battle.