Chapter 48: At the Gates

“Good. What about the bodies in the tenth?” Halvard asked and pointed at the map, several nails darted into it on the various tunnels with cordons in them.

“Most of them cleared, but we still need to clear the fifth, first and the twelfth. Oh, and the first,” Tor replied. His beard and hair were disheveled along with the rest of the death walkers in the room. Halvard had had the large desk which used to take up most of the wall moved to the middle of the room and ordered several bunks to be made along each of the walls. Several of them were already filled with exhausted dwarfs.

“I want the fifth cleared next. How long till you’re relieved, Tor?” Halvard asked. “Another two hours.”
“Take my bunk.”
“I can last another two hours” Tor tried to argue.

“You might, but I can’t take another two hours looking at your ugly face. Go on, get some sleep.”

Without another word Tor slumped into the bunk and felt asleep face down on the rough blankets. Halvard sat silently in the middle of the room and looked at the map with a proud smile on his face. With the few men at his command they had already cleared some of the bodies from the cordons and arranged for any bodies inside to be left respectfully lined in the streets. True to his word, the Har Fleinn had provided him with everything he needed. With a few men, enough carts and a few ponies the bodies had been take outside the city and buried in the mass graves. Halvard wished that they had time to bury them one by one with their names on a headstone, but he knew it would not be possible. There were far too many bodies. He was just grateful that the dead were the only serious problem he had had to deal with that day. The rest of the garrison had been completely preocupied by angry mobs which had tried to break their way into the palace several times that morning. Halvard could not blame them. They were scared and angry. In many ways, he thought, crowds are like dogs. All of them just a few empty meals away from becoming wolves.

“Halvard.” Githa stumbled into the room, too tired to keep her eyes open. “The twelfth’s been cleared, I told Rúni to go home. The man couldn’t stand upright anymore.”

“Good.” Halvard nodded and pointed at one of the spare bunks. “Bunk, now.”

“Thank you!” Rúni sighed and slumped heavily into the bunk. “Oh, the Har Fleinn wants to see you at the gate.”

Halvard sighed, nodded and checked the map one last time before he walked out of the room. He was careful to close the door quietly behind him, although he doubted he needed to. He was willing to bet he could have led an entire farmyard of animals into the room along with several young children and his men would have still slept though it.

As he walked to the gates he looked up as several squads ran past him, all of them in heavy battle armour and in formation. He heard a loud sound in the distance. A small shiver ran though him involuntarily, the high pitch was similar to that of a fox’s yelp. The sound had always made him think of a woman screaming. He reached the gate and saw the Har Fleinn walk towards him. The mad gate was closed and rows of soldiers stood behind him. There was an air of panic everywhere.

“Halvard, do you pray?” “What? No, not often, why?”

With no reply, the Har Fleinn walked up to the top of the steps with him and let the sight of the mountain side opposite the mad gate speak for itself.

Every single tree on the mountainside was on fire. The smoke had already reached the mag gate. The noise was even worse. The bellow of hundreds of horns was enough to make the mountain side shake.

“I think you should get into the habit,” the Har Fleinn joked dryly. “Looks like Vǫrn was right.”

Halvard gulped and took a deep breath.
“I hope that’s not now how you pray, because if it is, we’re screwed.”