A graduate student finds that he is the central character in a struggle between Good and Evil on a world that never existed in a time that never was. Somehow he is a historical figure in a parallel world, shaping events that never took place...
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David Compton, author
Running feet and shouts pounded through his sleep. He sat up, only half awake. His bunk-mates were pulling on clothes, calling to each other urgently. Some were running outside, only half dressed. Lamps were being hastily lit.
"Wha...what's going on?"
"Goblins!" shouted a burly man: the blacksmith. "We's bein' attacked. Come on boy, get a move on! Everyone to the wall!" He ran out heavily. Jaan-Mikael fumbled into his clothes and followed, still lacing up his shirt.
He stepped out of the bunkhouse into a scene of wild confusion. People were running everywhere, shouting. Torches and lanterns bobbed and waved in the darkness. Most of the men carried weapons of some sort, mostly makeshift: scythes, pitchforks, flails. Here and there were swords and knives. Several of the men wore some sort of leather breastplate and a sort of chain mail that covered their heads and necks. Those must be the household troops, Jaan-Mikael realized. Others carried quivers and bows. English longbows, for God's sake. Jaan-Mikael felt as if he were in the middle of a movie. Many seemed to be milling around in confusion.
"The south wall!" Lord Cabot's voice carried over the din. His bulk was easy to pick out, even the in flickering light and the running forms. "The south wall, lads!"
Like a flock of starlings in flight, the crowd wheeled and turned. Jaan-Mikael was jostled from several directions and swept along. He stumbled after them. Two men ran by, trundling what looked to be a small catapult. What was he supposed to do? Throw rocks? What the hell had he gotten himself into?
The south wall was packed two or three deep with shouting, gesticulating figures. Torches had been jammed between the stones. Cabot was already there. "Let the archers through, damn your eyes! Let the archers through!"
Jaan-Mikael looked around, trying to make some sense out of what appeared to be near chaos. Raven was suddenly beside him. She carried some sort of leather strap in one hand and a roll of bandages in the other.
"Goblins?" he asked. He had to shout to make himself heard.
She nodded and put her mouth close to his ear. "They raid us once or twice a year. For food, mostly. But it's queer." She appeared puzzled.
"Usually they don't come until fall, until the harvest is in and the flocks gathered."
Jaan-Mikael heard bowstrings hum, almost lost in the cries of those at the wall. Someone, running by, hit him in the shoulder, swinging him halfway around.
"God o' mercy! There's thousands of them!"
Now he could hear other shouts: guttural noises, more like barks.
"To yer left, Geoff! Watch out!"
Tym stumbled by, waving a hoe and cursing.
Someone-or something-yelped and snarled. Others yelled in answer. Smoke stung his eyes.
Jaan-Mikael turned to Raven. "What am I supposed to do?" But she was no longer there.
There was a great roar from the wall and the defenders fell back a bit, pressed by the weight of numbers from the other side. Several fell and didn't rise again. There were cries of pain. A torch was knocked loose and fell to the ground, still burning. Jaan-Mikael felt utterly helpless.
Somebody shoved him from behind. "For the love o' God, man, get up there! Here, use this." A sword was thrust into his hand.
"What?" Jaan-Mikael spun, but the man was already gone, running to the wall. "I don't know how to use this!"
But he did.