They fell back for the day, staying outside arrow range.  We watched from the ramparts as they camped out in clear view, just waiting.  I guessed that they would attack at dark once again, but wondered what their plan was.  So far as I could tell they had no means of breaching the walls.

            We prepared all day, filling barrels and pots and cauldrons with water, and building unlit fires around them.  When the time was right, we would light the fires to boil the water, and drop it on the enemy if they stormed the walls.  Archers took their positions, while cavalry and infantry tried to get plenty of sleep.  I watched it all from the house they had given to my sister.

            “I never thought we’d end up in a place like this.”  She said, hugging me as I stared out the window.

            “I’m afraid I did.”  I said quietly, staring intently as troops ran by the house carrying supplies or weapons, a flurry of activity moving throughout the fortress-city.  Evie looked up at me expectantly.

            “I just mean that I often dreamed of heroic deeds.”  I said.  “Far-off quests, mighty battles, damsels in distress…”

            “Well, you showed up at the right time to save your sisters.”  She said with a tired grin.  “Come on, hero, you need your sleep.”

            “I’m waiting for Gwen.  I haven’t seen her yet.”  I explained.

            “She’s been in the infirmary all day, helping Zoë with the wounded soldiers.  I don’t think they know that you’re even here.”

            “You didn’t tell them?”

            “I thought maybe you’d like for it to be a surprise.”  Evie said with a smile.

            “Well, now’s our chance to find out.  They’re coming up the street.”  I indicated with a nod of my head.

            “Sit there, in that corner with the rocking chair.  I’ll pretend like it’s an ordinary day, we’ll see if they notice.”  Genevieve said playfully, her eyes lighting up as they did during our childhood games.  She sat down at the table, pretending to peruse maps that she and Alex had left there, while I took my assigned position in a comfortable rocker.

            “Evie, I’m home!”  Gwen called as she came through the door, looking like a younger version of Eve.  Even in these dismal times and this dreary place, her eyes held the sparkle of her childhood and her smile still curved to one side like mine.  She embraced her sister about the shoulders from behind, and I knew she mustered all the enthusiasm she had in order to keep Evie’s spirits up, and that she did it every day.  I marvelled at my baby sister’s bravery.

            “Good to see you, too.”  Eve laughed, hugging back.  “Gwen, we have a visitor.”

            “Oh my God!” Zoë said, coming in behind my baby sister, her eyes wide with happy shock.  “Ethan!”

            Gwen turned in my direction and stopped short, her eyes, identical to mine, going wide.  There was a moment of stunned silence, and then she rushed forward with enthusiastic speed to embrace me wordlessly.  After a long moment of holding my baby sister in my arms for the first time in fourteen years, I pulled back and took a good look at her.

            “How did you know it was me and not the other one?” I asked her with a smile.

            “Because you’re you.”  She shrugged.  “No one could fake your kind eyes.  From what Evie told me, the impostor could only mimic your solitary nature.”

            “Sounds like you’ve given it some thought.” Genevieve suggested from her seat.  Gwendolyn turned towards her.

            “Well, I did spend some time thinking about it once, how I could know who I was dealing with.  But it’s him.”  She grinned, tugging on my beard.  “Though I don’t think I like this.”

            “Maybe I’ll consider a shave…” I began.  At that moment there was a tremendous flash of lightning and a clap of thunder, and in an instant there were sheets of pouring rain filling the world outside our window.

            “What the…?”  Zoë said.  “The sky was clear a moment ago…”

            Soldiers scurried every which way, searching for cover, throwing tarps over carts of weapons, leading in horses from the street towards stables, and generally just getting out of the damp.  I saw little from this vantage point, as the rain was coming down in such a torrent as to block out the view on the other side of the street.

            “I’m going up on the wall, to see if Alex needs any help.”  I said, grabbing my well-worn cloak.  “I’m guessing our friends outside the walls might see this as an opportunity.”

            “I’m coming with you.”  Genevieve said, grabbing a cloak of her own.

            “How strange.”  Gwen said quietly.  “A thunderstorm in the winter.”

            We headed out the door, barely registering her words, and rushed across the already muddy street towards the wall.  Genevieve clambered up the wooden steps leading to the rampart with me close behind.  We reached the top and carefully negotiated along the high ledge, moving past soldiers with ginger steps so as not to knock someone over.  We found Alex by the front gate.

            “ANY NEWS?”  Evie hollered to be heard over the rain and thunder.

            “NOT SO FAR!”  Alexander answered.  “THEY’RE JUST STANDING THERE.”  He gestured, and I could see even in the hammering rainfall that there was a huge mass of manpower below us on the field waiting to end all our lives in one fell swoop.

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