“Any thoughts, Your Highness?”
Edward did not respond. He just stared beyond the parapet, his feet rooted to the floor. Somehow, he still did not feel safe.
“How high is it?” Byron asked instead, his face, as usual, showed more fascination than fear.
“Ah! About thirty feet, Your Highness,” Captain Reiner replied, grinning.
“It is not much taller than that of Torden, then. The Wall of Lumiere is twice as tall, is it not?”
“Yes, it is, Your Highness. However, Ostra already has enough natural fortification towards three sides, and as you already know, Torden suffers from other constraints.”
Byron leaned over the parapet, much to his cousin’s chagrin. Taking a deep breath, he spat towards the ground, and observed it slowly falling through the air, and glittering under the noon sun.
“Sheesh, Byron!” Ed exclaimed, appalled at this display of audacity. “Stop it right now.”
“Now, now, let us not fight just yet,” Reiner interjected. “Although that is partly why we came up here.”
Upon hearing this, Edward froze completely, his eyes now fixed on the captain’s mouth.
“That is not what I meant,” Reiner clarified as he continued, suppressing a chortles. “His Majesty wishes to test your military acumen, and has charged me to conduct a little test. The premise is simple—Prince Byron is to lay siege to the City of Ostra, and Prince Edward is to defend. You both get to choose two hundred of Arrkaya’s finest warriors for your campaign. Observe the city, and the land around it, and tell me your strategy.”
“Why do I have to defend?” Edward protested shakily.
“It was His Majesty’s will,” was Reiner’s response, his raised nose and his shut eyes seemed to accentuate his already equine features.
“What time of the day?” Byron asked, his blue eyes glinting with enthusiasm. “And how is the weather? How many—”
“An invader would have to consider all possibilities, and come up with the best solution.”
Byron fell quiet. He had realised that since neither of the two had ever been here before, Ostra was an extremely fair location. It was not unlike King Edward to set such tests for them, but this one had definitely surpassed the rest. He could also understand that their appointed roles were actually the opposite of what their fathers had chosen, during the war.
Within minutes, his mind had come up with a few solutions, but he knew they were not the best. Ostra had, after all, been an integral part of Arrkaya, ever since its very inception. It had borne Heiligesian offence at its peak, and had never fallen. In comparison, even Torden seemed weak. Even from a distance, the fortification around the city seemed quite strong, with one gate towards the west, and other towards the east. He observed the locations, as plan begun to take form.
Surprisingly, it was Ed who answered first. Captain Reiner quickly led him out of earshot, before asking him to proceed. Gently running a hand through his short, golden hair, Ed began.
“Firstly, it is fair to assume that the enemy would depend on catapults, to break into the city, and later into the castle. Therefore, engaging from the fortification is not a great idea. Instead, I would command the soldiers atop the fort wall to just drop the portcullis, and hide inside houses along the way towards the centre of the city. Breaking through the gateway would take a few minutes, which would allow the civilians to escape into the castle. Then, the Castle Gate can be shut.
“The only threat that remains is the catapults. It is widely known that normal soldiers cannot operate catapults; one would require special training to operate them. And these men would be towards the end of an invading force. They can be handled by the soldiers hiding inside the houses. This way, we minimise our losses, and weaken the enemy, till the reinforcements can arrive.”
Reiner acknowledged with a gentle nod. He could not quite show it yet, but he was thoroughly impressed. Although the answer was far from perfect, while also being rather vaguely worded, it was better than he had expected from a young prince who had had no real experience. He expectantly turned towards Byron, who stood deep in thought.
“This city is rather small,” Byron finally remarked. “And the East Gate is somewhat closer to the Castle. Is that why the Castle Gate is towards the south?”
“That is a very astute observation, Your Highness.”
“That fact can hurt us… See, since the city has two gates, the force of the defence can never completely focus on one side. It just cannot happen. On the other hand, once the invader has entered the city, the Castle Gate becomes the singular focus of the offence. In such a situation, catapults will become vital.”
Byron continued to speak for what seemed like half an hour. By the end, Edward had begrudgingly accepted defeat, silently muttering something about vengeance, while Byron continued jeering. Reiner, on the other hand, had been left completely speechless. His mind was filled with concern for his city. Never before had anybody broken through their defences, even in theory.
It is almost strange how similar they both are to their fathers, he noted, under his breath. The Shield and the Spear of Arrkaya remain strong… Our future is in safe hands.
“Lunch has been served. We were waiting.”
Reiner’s thoughts were interrupted by the voice of a boy speaking to the two princes. He could not help but wonder who the kid was. Somehow, he had not noticed him in the entourage, the day before. His entire face being obscured, by the shaggy, red hair and the oversized scarf, did not help either. And yet, he spoke to the royalty as if he was one of them.
Reiner moved towards them, having made up his mind to teach the brat some manners, when a sudden breeze moved the hair off his face. He felt a chill down his spine, as he caught a glimpse of the large scar on his cheek. In that instant, their eyes met. Those cold, grey eyes… Somehow, they left him frozen.
Who is this kid?
- His name and appearance is inspired by a popular anime character.
- The name Gyldene translates to golden, a reference to their golden hair.
- His name and appearance are partly inspired from the romantic poet Lord Byron, with the hair being a major exception.
- Byron is ambidextrous by birth.
Image credits: Rinmaru Games