Steel and Sorrow: Rise of the Mercenary king-Chapter 72: Reaching the city(2)

If audio player doesn't work, press Reset or reload the page.

Chapter 72: Reaching the city(2)

As the moments stretched into minutes, tension began to mount among the small group gathered at the city gates. "He is taking quite the long time," Asag muttered, his voice barely audible, almost like a whisper carried on the wind.

Egil, seemingly disinterested in the proceedings, absentmindedly shifted his attention to his horse, his thoughts wandering away from the conversation at hand. "Maybe we've caught him at a bad time. Should we return later?" he suggested idly, his tone lacking conviction.

"Do you think it will come to a siege?" Asag inquired to Alpheo , his voice betraying a hint of concern, the walls hardly seemed to lessen the fright .

Alpheo nodded in response, his expression serious "Yes, I do. This is the only obstacle preventing the prince of Oizen from laying siege to Yarzat. It's almost certain that they will come.We will probably face hell in the upcoming weeks "

Pondering the situation further, Asag voiced his thoughts aloud. "Still...what took them to start a campaign two months before winter. They'll find little food to forage, and will be completely reliant on supplies from home..."

"It's hardly a concern for them," Alpheo replied with a knowing smile, his eyes scanning the horizon beyond the city walls. "Beyond the city lies land controlled by the principality of Oizen. They won't have to worry about interference with their supply routes, they will find their food untouched each time they open each cart."

"But why?"

His smile widened "Take a guess. We have some time to spare before the guard's commander blesses us with his presence.This is for all of you, small question: why do you think the prince decided to start a campaign so early?"

Egil scratched his head in contemplation, his brow furrowed with thought. "Maybe he has an informer inside," he suggested, his voice tinged with uncertainty. "Someone reassuring him that the gate will open during the night, or that a tower will turn a blind eye as the ladders come forth?"

Alpheo nodded, acknowledging the possibility. "That could be a reason," he agreed, his tone thoughtful. "Many great cities have fallen from within, manipulated by traitors and spies. But it's not quite convincing as the sole explanation."

Shrugging, Egil admitted defeat. "I'm out of ideas."

Alpheo turned to the others, inviting their input. "Anyone else?"

Jarza, ever the pragmatist, offered his perspective. "Maybe he hopes to seize the city while the prince has fewer forces to contest him," he suggested, his tone speculative.

Alpheo considered the possibility, his smile widening as he encouraged further discussion. "It could be... Come on, anyone else?"

Laedio, never one to shy away from voicing his thoughts, chimed in. "He wants to take advantage of Arkwalatt's weakness," he proposed.

"Hit the nail! This spring, our employer suffered a devastating defeat, and some cities surrendered to the enemy upon learning of the loss. The prince is at odds with the nobles, save for a select few, and his private cavalry is likely ill-trained and ill-equipped, given the losses suffered on the battlefield. In short, he's in a precarious situation.

The prince of Oizen sees an opportunity to press the blade while his prey is already bleeding. Who knows what the future holds as winter passes? Perhaps he aims to secure alliances through marriage, or fears that delaying the attack will allow the nobles to rally their forces against him. Why give them time to recover when he can strike while they're vulnerable, cutting down as much resistance as possible?A butchery starts only when the prey has bled enough" Alpheo said with a smile

"There is something that does not align with this idea of yours," Jarza remarked, his tone contemplative.

Alpheo listened intently, acknowledging Jarza's point with a slight tilt of his head.

"If the prince was truly in such a dire situation," Jarza continued, "wouldn't it be in his best interest to buy time? Why then plan a campaign?"

Alpheo's smile broadened as he recognized Jarza's line of thinking, his smile was like that of a parents amused by the fact that his child finally learnt something . He gestured Jarza to come closer. "Let me share a little secret with you."

Intrigued, Jarza and the others approached, eager to hear Alpheo's insight.

"The prince never intended for it to be an offensive campaign," Alpheo revealed, his voice tinged with amusement. "He already knew he would be attacked, so he sent out waves of recruitment. His people would flock to join the army at the mere notion of having the opportunity to pillage. And in the same way they recruited us with the promise of raiding enemy lands.Quite clever isn't it "

Alpheo chuckled at the cunning deception. "They waved the carrot and gave us the stick. We were made fools of," he admitted, a mixture of amusement and admiration coloring his tone. It surprised him that he had fallen for such a scheme, but he was equally impressed by the prince's cunning.

Finally the heavy gates of the city finally creaked open. With a groan of strained hinges, they yielded to the steady pressure of the pulleys and chains, revealing a narrow passage leading into the heart of Aracina.

From within the city walls emerged a lone figure on horseback, his silhouette outlined against the fading light. Behind him, three men followed closely, their expressions stern and watchful. The leader rode with purpose, his posture erect and his gaze fixed ahead.

His neck-long black hair hung loose around his shoulders, tousled by the wind that swept through the open passage. His visage was rough, weathered by years spent under the sun and wind, with lines etched around his eyes and mouth that spoke of a life lived hard and earnestly.

Bushy eyebrows arched over sharp eyes, giving him a perpetually quizzical expression, as if he were forever pondering some unseen puzzle. His full beard, much like his hair, was untamed and unruly, adding to his rugged countenance.

"About time," Alpheo remarked as he urged his horse forward, holding the royal decree aloft. "With whom do I have the honor of speaking?"

The man, his rough visage weathered by the sun and wind, scrutinized Alpheo from head to toe before responding, "I am Captain Fahil, head of the city's defense in Aracina."

Not anymore, Alpheo thought as he stretched his neck, a faint smirk playing at the corners of his lips. "My name is Captain Alpheo, leader of the mercenary company before you, and by royal decree, the new head of defense for the city of Aracina. Pleased to make your acquaintance today."

Captain Fahil's eyes widened momentarily before he reached out to snatch the parchment from Alpheo's outstretched hand.

"It's all yours," Alpheo quipped with a smirk.

The men surrounding Fahil began to murmur, their expressions shifting from curiosity to confusion, then to disbelief and, for some, anger.

"Giving my position to a lowly mercenary and a youngster?" Fahil spat out each word like venom''This is madness at its greatest extent !''

Alpheo met Fahil's gaze with a steady stare, unfazed by the captain's hostility. "Yes, you've got the gist of it. But you forgot to mention that I lead 600 men, while you barely command 100. So, yes, from now on, you shall step down, if not by the words of your price, by might alone . Don't worry; it won't last long. At the end of the war, you'll regain your comfortable position. For now, follow me. We have much to discuss about the city's defense and its current state.Most of them are critics by the way "He said with a cheeky smile

With that, Alpheo spurred his horse forward, not bothering to wait for Fahil's response.

R𝑒ad latest chapt𝒆rs at f(r)eew𝒆 Only