“What are you doing?” Lady Kait demanded.
With the situation in the outer courtyard resolved, the soldiers instead worked on removing the tellaris from the gateway. The maids seemed more than sufficient enough to clear up the remaining goblins, and by the time they managed to get soldiers to the outer courtyard, the last enemy had been put down for good. All the soldiers could do was stack the bodies and then ignite them, just in case an undead felt like getting back up for a third round.
Once the soldiers secured the yard, Bloodbane neither went to rest nor did he join those who were still searching the castle and making sure everything was clear out. Instead, he had created a rock seat in the middle of the courtyard and began working with magic. He was using mana far more sparingly now, allowing himself to recover some before he used it. Even still, Lady Kait was wondering how he managed to keep from collapsing that moment.
As she found herself directing soldiers, she glanced in Bloodbane’s direction and felt annoyed that Bloodbane was just sitting there. He had a blade in his hands, and he seemed to be moving a whetstone over it, sharpening the blade slowly and methodically. If anyone approached him, they were intercepted by that bossy maid. Even the captains didn’t have the guts to stare her down.
The reason this annoyed Lady Kait so much was that he was the king! His job was much better served rallying the troops and to keep everyone together. Yet, instead, he silently played with his sword. It was true that all of the normal soldiers all reported to Lady Kait. They didn’t even look twice in the king’s direction. A lot of them hadn’t seen him fight, too concerned with their own survival at any given time. The rest merely remembered that he was the king who had fled to his chambers and did nothing as the situation grew increasingly desperate.
It was left to Kait to organize rescue parties and collect all of the remaining survivors after the breach. In the end, she was surprised at the numbers of fighting men remaining. Although the numbers were still coming in, there were still two hundred fighting men that had managed to last through the breach. Some had barricaded themselves into various rooms, protecting what was left of the staff who had failed to escape. Others were hiding, although they would never admit their cowardice.
Either way, this should have been the king’s duty, not hers, so she felt like she had to say something, especially since it was nearly an hour now since the battle. The sun was starting to set, although the flickering lights of burning buildings in the city gave the sky an ominous red glow.
“How long do you think it will be before the enemy makes their next move?” Bloodbane didn’t acknowledge her question but instead asked one of his own.
She frowned but saw no reason she shouldn’t answer him. “Although the undead appear to be stronger at night, we’ve found that this is the period when they’re least active. I don’t know if it’s because the necromancer can’t control them at night, or what. Without using the undead, it is unlikely they’ll risk an attack with just their monsters. We should have until daybreak before they make their next move.”
“I see… then we have until daybreak to attack.” Bloodbane said, picking up the blade and looking at it.
Lady Kait turned to him. She must have misunderstood or misheard what he was saying. There was no way that he could have said what she thought he said.
“What did you say?”
“Tell your men to rest. We’ll be attacking in eight hours, just before the sun rises.” He responded, moving the blade in his hands casually as if testing it out.
“Excuse me… but attacking what?”
“We’ll be aiming for the inner city wall. If I’m right, then that gate is decimated. The only option we’ll have is to use my earth talents to create a new barrier.
“The inner city?” She asked in disbelief. “You want to attack them and take the inner city? That’s impossible! They’ve already flooded the city! The city is lost. We should be using this time to evacuate everyone remaining in the castle.”
“The escape route?” Bloodbane asked calmly.
“Yes, there is a tunnel that leading into the mountain. It’s our last refuge. If they make it to the other side, they’ll be facing the dead sea. There is a timber forest nearby. We build ships, we sail across the sea. That was the plan, or did you forget?”
“No one succeeds sailing across the dead sea. That’s why thy call it the dead sea.” Bloodbane reminded her.
“What other choice do we have? If we’re lucky, we find some island where we can remain for the rest of our days.”
“And then what?”
“What do you mean then what? We survive. Mount Olympus has fallen! There is only survival at this point.”
“The world is at war. Wherever we go, there will be enemies of man. Maybe… we can hook up with the last strongholds of man. I’d rather it be that we became one such stronghold.”
“It’s too late for that.” She sighed. “What you’re asking, it’s impossible.”
“You keep using that word.” Bloodbane frowned. “Two hours ago, would you have said it was impossible to take the outer courtyard?”
“I…” Lady Kait closed her mouth with a click.
He had hit the reality of the situation right on the nose. She truly would have said that retaking the outer courtyard was impossible. Even blocking them in the inner courtyard for more than another hour seemed like a feat greater than climbing a mountain. Yet, Bloodbane had somehow made it happen. Was that why he had recklessly jumped into the outer courtyard? Was it to show them all what could be accomplished?
Lady Kait shook her head. Even if he had shown an amazing feat, they had still barely managed to survive. It had come extremely close, and it was pure luck that they were even still breathing. She still thought that the best course of action would be to join everyone who escaped the city. Her group had been the final guard, holding off the enemy for a few precious hours. That was no longer required. They could get everyone out, collapse the tunnels behind them, and then meet up with the rest.
“And what about those still out there?” Bloodbane asked. “Not just the ones in the inner city, or the outer city, but those out in the countryside too. How many made it through that tunnel? 5,000? 10,000? There are likely still 100,000 of our brothers out there, waiting to be saved and fighting for their lives.”
This was the capital city of this country, but there were other cities. While the undead swept the countryside and burning farms could be seen daily, there were probably some that held out. These would be the cities, villages, and communities that they didn’t find advantageous to attack. However, once their main focus, the capital, was gone, there was nothing that would keep the enemy from flooding over the countryside and wiping out humanity wherever they were found.
“That would be…” Lady Kait just managed to stop herself before she said that word again, and instead sighed and gave him a hard look. “Do you truly think it is possible to retake the inner city? Do you think we can route out the army?”
“The main advantage we have is that they underestimated us. They think we will be easy meat. They will learn that lesson. If you wish to know if we will succeed, I cannot give you that. However, I will work toward victory until I am dead. Anyone who wants to run may run. However, anyone who stays must follow my orders. I won’t have it any other way.” With that Bloodbane finally looked back at her, thrusting out the sword by the hilt toward her.
“What is this?” She asked, staring down at the sword.
“Give this to anyone you feel can use it,” Bloodbane instructed.
She took the blade, and then glanced at the sword. Her eyes widened and she gasped.
“This sword… it’s elite quality. This must have been made by a master blacksmith. Was this on one of the undead knights? Did they take it from one of ours? No, this looks like something custom-made…”
Lady Kait was admiring the balance and quality immensely. It wasn’t much worse than her blade. It would go to at least a commander. The only criticism she could find was that it was too heavy for her tastes. She preferred a lighter blade that allowed her to move freely. She did know a stronger captain would make use of it though.
“I made it,” Bloodbane responded, reaching down and grabbing a sword lying on the ground.
He waved over it, and a white liquid mist began to form around the sword. It looked like it was being affected by acid. It slowly grew large pockmarks, and the color of the sword began to grow an ugly brown color. After a few more moments, it looked as brittle as rusted farm equipment. He dropped it to the ground, causing it to shatter. In his other hand, a bluish metal formed into a ball fell into his hand. Lady Kait’s mouth fell open.
“You… can even do this?”
“Even the cheap goblin iron, I can pull the good material out of it.” Bloodbane declared. “Then, I can reform it into a decent blade. It takes six or seven swords per each of ours, but the goblins are plentiful. As for making a weapon, I understand balance and what makes an effective weapon. Everything else comes from him. He read… I mean I read books on blacksmithing theory. It’s sufficient when you don’t have to worry about temperature, molding, or tempering.”
Bloodbane was finding that the more he accessed those memories, the more he started to merge with them and make them his. He felt that there would become a time where he had mastery of everything the former King Bloodbane knew. That left him wondering if, in the end, he’d even be the same person he was when he was a gladiator. He didn’t think so. He could already feel like his personality was changing slightly under the influence of the old Bloodbane.
One such change was explaining things. He was always a man of few words. However, the previous Bloodbane could be quite the chatterbox. As a result, he ended up saying far more to Lady Kait, and even taking some of her advice, than he ever would before. Although his memories only contained Lady Kait’s disdain, he also felt like he could trust this woman and even depend on her. For a man who fought to survive on his own, it was an odd feeling being able to depend on others.
Lady Kait shook her head, finally coming out of her daze over hearing this elite weapon that might take a blacksmith a week to make had been forged by the king in less than an hour. Giving the sword one more look, she tried to push it back his way.
“You keep it. I’ve seen you use a weapon. You will need one.”
Bloodbane gave a wry laugh as he started to suck the material out of another crappy weapon. “The weapon is flawed. If I use it, it will break fairly quickly. A skilled soldier who isn’t as hard on weapons as me might make better use of it. However, don’t worry about me. I intend to make a weapon that is sufficient for battle. This was merely a test run. I believe that I can make them more efficient and faster. After I get more comfortable doing this, I will start working on my weapons.”
Lady Kait’s eyes widened as she realized what he was saying. This elite weapon that had met her approval was just a flawed first attempt! That meant that the next weapons he created would only be increasingly powerful. She didn’t know how she should react to such a revelation. He was a one-man blacksmith, capable of providing for an entire military!
No, she had to calm down. Even if he managed to speed himself up to twice that speed, the best he’d be able to make is 10 swords a day. This was taking into account mana drain. She reckoned five hours a day was the best he could do. If this was a time of peace, he might be able to eventually outfit an army, but this was war. Just giving every man here an elite sword from the current soldiers would take 20 days. They didn’t even have one day before the armies outside would make their next move.
She nodded and put the sword up, but she was a bit calmer now. “Making weapons is all good, but a sword isn’t going to change the direction of this battle. If you truly do wish to retake the outer city, it’s going to take something new.”
Bloodbane didn’t respond, continuing to extract more metal from the swords. She left it at that. As she walked away, Bloodbane glanced in her direction.
“Something new…” He muttered to himself, seemingly lost in thought.
Lady Kait also had a lot to think about. Bloodbane might be different after the shock of this attack, but she wouldn’t believe he was a completely different man. He needed time to realize that they were defeated. She decided to give him time as she focused on giving out orders to barricade, restrict, and secure the castle. She also started allowing men to take breaks in preparation for Bloodbane’s plan.
Even now, she didn’t agree with his bravado. It was the desperate desires of a man who had already lost everything. That was what she thought. Yet, at the same time, she couldn’t bring herself to order her men to flee through the tunnels. She was inclined to see this through to the end.
Lady Kait slowly let leak out the idea of going on the offensive tomorrow, all while suggesting that this would be the last chance for anyone who wanted to flee to escape. Likely, those that felt this was a lost cause would slip away in the night. Many men would fight to the death in daylight when under cover of night they’d happily slink away. She didn’t want cowards who were only fighting because there was someone there watching. These were the first to flee when the situation became desperate. She was fine with losing them, as long as they were willing to live with running the rest of their lives.
She hoped that Bloodbane would come to his senses before morning, but she also prepared. Whether they ran or stayed, they’d need energy, and so giving her men time to rest and security was the best she could do.
As for Bloodbane, he remained on his stool, creating weapons. Whenever a weapon was created, one of the maids came and took it and delivered it to the army. Those who were handed such magnificent weapons felt a surge of hope. Perhaps, with a blade like that, they might just be able to cut through their enemies and reclaim the city. Bloodbane didn’t know or care about the moral effect his weapons were having on his army. He was focused instead on perfecting his craft, as well as determining what he would need to change the tides of war.
As he thought, the sky grew dark and it even began to drizzle. Even though Bloodbane didn’t move, the maids around him immediately began working vehemently. Even though they were savage warriors now, Andromeda still had them serving the king as they would any other day. They erected a tent over him, keeping the sun off him. They put torches around him, giving him light. They brought him all of the collected steel they could find that wasn’t in the hands of a soldier. His work had become a focal point for the entire castle.
His continuing steady production of blades kept everyone else continuing to work as well, even if they had already reached a point of exhaustion. Only those that were specifically ordered by Lady Kait took their time to rest. Everyone else told themselves that if Bloodbane could keep on working, then so could they. Those that had followed Bloodbane up to this point, those under Lieutenant Greeves and Sargent Joss, watched him with the most attention.
None of them thought that they would have made it this far. They were eager to figure out what miracle Bloodbane would come up with next. Bloodbane was trying to deliver such a miracle, but every time he considered it, he came to only one conclusion. He had to introduce firearms. The previous Bloodbane was vehemently against such a thing. However, the new Bloodbane was willing to do whatever it took. In the fact of the human race dying out, what did it matter if monsters and undead faced the brutality of a bullet? The biggest issue that Bloodbane had was being able to implement such a plan. Creating bullets alone would be a long, difficult process.
“Andromeda.” He spoke out suddenly.
“Master.” She appeared instantly, falling to her knees as if she might prostrate right there. “Anything you need.”
“I need to find if there is anyone else who has abilities like my Earth magic. It seems Lady Kait also has an ability…”
“Yes, Lady Kait’s magic is Sun-based. She is vulnerable at night, but in the sun, she can use the sunlight to generate attacks, repair damage, and so-on.” Andromeda freely gave such information.
“Then, get me a list of anyone else who has such an ability.”
“Yes, Master!” She stood up and barked some orders, and several of the maids scattered.
An hour later, it was roughly around midnight and after working for three hours nonstop he had already created ten swords, breaking the speed Lady Kait had predicted. Rather than two an hour, he was confident he could get to the point of making one every ten minutes eventually. Andromeda gave him a list of every magic-user among the two hundred men. There were only four with abilities. It appeared that such magic only appeared one in a hundred normally. This was doubled because it was more common for those with the ability to survive over those who did not.
“Master, is there anything else?” Andromeda asked. “You should rest. I can help you with that. You can use me however you want to work of all of your stress.”
“That will be it.” Bloodbane stood up, ignoring the extremely suggestive tone of her voice, as well as how she kneeled in a way that showed her cleavage to him.
Bloodbane was focused on the list though. It was time he made his own weapon.