They ran forward with weapons bared, and we wearily readied ourselves for the attack.  Men who could barely walk hefted heavy shields, drew their blades and stood ready to face the charge.  I raised my blade to offer one last cheering cry to rouse them to battle, and my voice was joined by the groaning of the gates behind us.

            From within the city came our cavalry, as Alexander led a galloping charge out headlong into the midst of the enemy.  His horsemen had the advantage of surprise and of height, as they fought on horseback.  The ring of steel on steel rose over the battlefield as they engaged their foes and dealt death upon them with mighty fury.  I felt tears on my cheeks as I witnessed men from both sides cut down.

            “To the other horses!” I directed those around me.  “Head into the city, and safety, quick as you can!”

            The fatigued men around me mounted up on the horses of the cavalry we had just converted, heading back towards the Outlander city.  Some horses carried two riders, or even a third slumped across the laps of his friends.  I grabbed a horse of my own, but headed in the opposite direction.  Exhausted as I was, I had to go back out there.  I had to save as many lives as possible.

            I went from side to side with my flashing sword, cutting a swath through the men around me, leaving them standing in a daze, and then befriending men that, moments before, they had been trying to kill.  I thanked God for this miraculous weapon that healed instead of hurt, and showed men the error of their ways.  I fought till my arm went numb, and then I changed hands to fight some more.

            Ahead of me I could see Alex in mismatched armour that fit oddly, as it had been scavenged from countless other skirmishes.  He still cut a noble figure however, fighting like a legend against all challengers.  I marvelled at his energy and skill, as he out-duelled everyone around him.  He carved his way through the infantry, which bought my companions time to get to the city, and then he ordered his men to fall back.

            We rushed back the way we had come, leaving hundreds of dead in our wake.  I had tried my best, but I had saved very few from a bloody and useless death.  I caught up a wounded man from my horse at a gallop, and carried him inside with me.  I had to save everyone I could, no matter the risk.  As I handed him down to waiting soldiers, I turned my horse to go back only to see men closing the great gates.

            “NO!”  I bellowed as they clanged shut.  “There are still more out there!”

            “And we have to leave them.”  I heard a voice, familiar and dear to me despite its tired timbre.  I looked down to see my sister Genevieve, and I leapt from my horse to embrace her.

            “Evie!”  I said delightedly.  Her arms closed about me tightly, as if she could hardly believe I was real and wanted to be sure I did not leave her again.

            “Oh, Ethan!”  She said simply, and then she was crying.  I held her as she sobbed, trying to comfort her.

            “You’ve grown a beard.” She smiled once she recovered herself.  Eve touched it tentatively.  “And your hair is so long.”

            “It’s been awhile since I met a barber.”  I shrugged, which brought a quiet laugh out of her.  “How long has it been?”

            “Seven years since you saw Gwen.  Fourteen since the last time I saw you, I think.”  Her eyes were filled with great sadness at the memory of those years.  “I missed you so much!”

            I clutched her tightly, silently returning the same sentiment.  There was no way to express the relief both of us felt, reunited after so many years and so much hardship.  I don’t know if anyone could find the right words to say in a moment so profound.  My little sister had changed so much, and I had missed all of that.  There had been so many struggles for her, and I was not there to protect her.

            When we broke from our embrace I had the chance to get a good look at her.  Genevieve had lines around her eyes, as if she had not slept well in ages, and she was far too thin.  Years of living on the run had made her gaunt, and her hands bore calluses from hard work and battle.  She looked so tired.

            “What took you so long to send aid?” I asked Alex as he approached us, having dismounted from his horse and given orders to his men before walking over to join our little reunion. 

            “We knew that the cavalry was just a minor sortie.  A feint.  We suspected they had even more in reserve.  I had to wait until the infantry was in play to show our hand, once I saw that our men outside the walls were being slaughtered.  I was not about to give up the advantage of surprise.”

            “Surprise?  Those men were mighty surprised to be murdered as they slept!”  I said.  “And the rest, to be abandoned on the field!”

            “What would you have me do, Ethan?”  Alex shouted back.  “Sacrifice the few cavalry men we have in a vain attempt to save the handful who didn’t die in the first few minutes?”

            “There should have been guards on the wall, warning, something!”  I said in response.  “Why wasn’t anyone watching?”

            “We had guards.  They were killed in the night.”  Genevieve said quietly.  “Someone found a way to scale the wall and killed them in silence.”

            “I didn’t know.  I’m sorry.”  I said, rebuked, my righteous anger deflating.  “I saw men dying and thought someone should help.  I didn’t realize you had troubles of your own in here, Alex.  I apologize.”  I held out my hand to him, offering to make peace.

            He shook it with a grin.  “It’s okay.  I’m just glad you’re back.”

            “Me too.”  I smiled, clapping him on the shoulder.  “So how do you plan to win this war?”

            “I think we can just wait them out.  We have supplies, while they were foolish enough to besiege us in winter.  They cannot live off the land.  We can let the weather kill them, and help out with arrows from the walls,” Eve said.

            “I have to question Neal’s tactics.”  Alex said.  “Fighting in the snow, besieging a city without a means of getting in, he’s not planning this well.”

            “Isn’t that a good thing?” Eve asked.

            “No.  It means I wonder what he has up his sleeve.”

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