When the Great Summer is at its peak, Ephyr, the second sun, shines bright in the northern sky day and night and will continue to do so for many years to come. After the main sun sets, trees and rocks leave trembling shadows in its cold light. The night sky has a gray color and only the brightest stars can be seen occasionally. Yet, this nocturnal light still triggers photosynthesis in plants. Luxuriant vegetation, unknown during the Great Winter, covers the mountains and plains. This abundance of plant life triggers in turn great animal migrations from the opposite hemisphere.
On a rocky hill, the Citadel, with its tall and massive stone walls, dominates the landscape. High, in the watchtower, Moriel is inspecting the valley full of enemy troops with a worried look. How many of them came? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand? We only have three thousand people within, half of them women. If we also leave aside the children and the old people, about one thousand men are left. And from them, only about three hundred are real soldiers. The Fortress has enough food supplies for about two months, but can we last for two months in front of such a big army? I heard the Hadar don't take prisoners, but transform all the survivors into slaves. They consider themselves some kind of chosen people and have declared the whole world their rightful possession. Everybody else is supposed to be a servant for them and their false god. And why should this be happening right now? Now, when the whole world is under a much greater threat. Instead of battling to stop the real invasion, we need to fight for our lives in a useless war against these arrogant people. With a sigh, he lifts the head towards the serene sky, as expecting a miraculous help from there. Two long, trembling shapes, can be seen flying beyond the scattered clouds. Another pair of dragons. I envy them for such a great liberty to go wherever they want and live how they like...
Down, in the fields, the enemy is assembling huge catapults. The Citadel is completely surrounded now by their troops and mobile fortifications. Any escape is virtually impossible. Zephyr set long ago, but the light from the secondary sun, Ephyr, brighter than ten moons, makes all the landscape visible with a crystal clarity. The Hadar take their time in preparation of the attack, confident in the soon-coming victory. They intend to throw hundreds of wasp nests inside the Fortress and have their lizard warriors climb the walls on long ladders while the people inside run away from the angry insects.
If only the king could help us in time! Messengers were already sent to the capital a few days ago, in ways so hidden that nobody should have known of their presence before they have arrived in front of the palace. But with such a ruse enemy, you can never be sure about what might happen.
A soldier comes up in the tower. "The war council asks for you" he says.
"We only have two mind whisperers in the Citadel, it will be difficult for them to control all the swarms when the assault begins", says one of the captains. "It might be necessary to gather all our people on a single side of the Fortress. But then, any massive attack would easily break in through the undefended perimeter."
"What about using smoke?" says a priest. "I heard the bladegrass is a good barrier against the wasps."
"The smoke will make life difficult for our archers" replies a knight. "They shall not be capable to spot and repel the enemy in time."
Moriel is only listening. It's still beyond my comprehension how such a distant place can have plants, animals and people almost identical to our world. The humans on this planet are genetically compatible with us. Do we all have the same origin? Shall we ever know the truth? I have only been here for half a year, but already feel like I am a Dorian myself. And, as the king's sworn brother, I am supposed to protect them, because they are now my own people, too.
"We need to attack them first" he says in the end. "The wasp nests have to be destroyed before they are thrown insite the Fortress. What makes the insects more aggressive?"
"The smoke of red basil", replies an old physician.
"If I remember correctly, we do have dried supplies of these plants. We shall take one hundred arrows and wrap their heads in red basil. Then we lit the herbs and attack the nest boxes, filling them with smoke." says Moriel. "We don't know where they keep their nests, so we can't shoot the arrows from here. It's necessary to pay the enemy a visit inside his own camp. The nests themselves need to be burned down, all of them. I shall lead the operation myself."
In the cold light of Ephyr, the fog begins to cover the ground. Taking opportunity of a little forest placed between the Citadel and the enemy lines, a group of warriors is crawling out of a secret gate hidden behind a bush, just outside the walls. Once out of the Fortress, the twenty knights and one priest walk slowly and noiselessly, carrying swords, bows and arrows. The enemy catapults are almost ready to fire, but the nests are still in the wooden carts, at an unknown location, somewhere inside the camp. The incoming Dorians are dressed like the Hadar, they even had their faces darkened with pine oil to avoid drawing unwanted attention. One of them carries a dead fawn on his back and they all look like coming from a reconnaissance and hunting operation. The priest is the only one who speaks Hadarian fluently, so he leads the commando.
Many crossing points leading to the Hadar camp are not guarded properly. The enemy is so confident in its success that he only watches the main entrances. Casually, the group walks onto the other side. Nobody pays any attention to them. The people split and walk around until one spots the nest carts. A discreet signal gathers them back together as they approach the target. A small fire burns nearby and they start a bigger one next to it, preparing to roast the fawn. The arrow bags are taken off discretely and lain close, ready to be used when needed. Moriel observes a huge tent in front, perhaps belonging to a high-ranked officer. Pretending to go to toilet, he takes some kindling and a flint in his hand, igniting discretely the canvas when passing by. The flames begin to eat from the fabric and transform immediately into a blaze, but he takes a few more steps ahead. Behind, the tent has become a huge torch. Using one of the few words he can say in Hadarian, the commander starts shouting "Fire! Fire!" and runs back towards his men.
"We are attacked by the Dorians!" shouts the priest. "Watch out, they are dressed just like us!"
Giddy people are coming from all sides, running around in circles and bumping into each other, some awaken from their slumber, some drunk, some armed, all still confused about what is going on. But the Dorians are ready. Two Hadar soldiers are slain instantly by Moriel' people while he strikes down a third. Utterly confused, the Hadar start fighting each other while the knights shot their burning arrows towards the nest carts.
"The Dorians are retreating to the Fortress!" shouts the priest again. "Don't let them escape, chase the enemy!" And all the knights run out of the camp as fast as they can, followed by numerous Hadar troops. Some of the invaders realize the truth now and start attacking Moriel' group, but it's already too late. As the Hadar are nearing the Fortress walls, the archers from the towers are shooting them down while protecting the Dorian fighters. Overwhelmed and suffering heavy losses, the invaders have to retreat quickly back to their camp. And right at this moment the hell breaks loose over there, with the furious wasps stinging everybody in their range.
Meanwhile, behind the stone defenses, the Dorians prepare their own catapults. Taking opportunity of the higher ground and a longer range, they start sending burning arrows into the camp of Hadar, seeding more death and panic everywhere.
Next morning, the enemy moves further away from the Fortress, but the siege line remains unbroken. Hundreds of them must have died from the wasp stings during the previous night. Out in the open, in front of the Citadel gate and defying the invaders' strength, Moriel observes their maneuvers and continues to wait for a sign from his king. Suddenly, climbing down from one of the trees nearby, a brown squirrel approaches him. It has a scared look while looking at the man, but a power stronger than its will makes the animal come closer.
"Mo-mo-mo-Moriel?" the creature says with a tiny voice full of fear. It talks in Eso language, the only tongue that people, birds and animals can speak in this world.
"Yes, I am Moriel" answers the man in the same tongue.
The squirrel will now say the message, as imprinted in its brain under hypnosis by the sender: "The Hadar killed all the Rota birds. We sent a human messenger, but he could not cross the camp and used this squirrel to deliver our words. Your request for help was received. The king troops are only one day of march from here. Ten thousand Dera troops and two thousand knights are coming by boat along the Arion River. They shall attack the South West area of the enemy camp tomorrow at noon. Be ready to synchronize your maneuvers accordingly."
The animal is quiet now and some of its fear has faded away.
"Come with me" says Moriel, "I shall give you a reward - all the food you can eat. You can also stay in our Fortress for as long as you want. Don't be afraid."
Still reluctant, the squirrel continues to stare at the man but changes its mind soon after and jumps on his shoulder. The gates open and the commander disappears behind the walls.
Zephyr has set again behind the snowy peaks, leaving this part of the world wrapped only in the soothing light of Ephyr. The circular camp of the Hadar can still be seen embracing the Fortress hill like an iron ring. High, in the watchtower, Moriel is inspecting the valley full of enemy troops. This time, however, his face has a look of confidence. Soon... Very soon, we can start preparing for the real war.