Though the Old Lords weren’t willing to come out with their armies in ones or twos, they still sent portions of their armies to harass the forward advancement of William and the other lords. They even left behind token forces in their personal castles. They were enough to defend the castles during a siege, and if they were left alone they could cause problems as the southern armies moved deeper into their territories. Thus, they had to be taken over.
William sat in the command tent, waiting. Technically, he wasn’t needed. A sufficient portion of the army could have waited behind and he could have moved on, but then he would just be waiting elsewhere. The real delay was the trebuchets- and their ammunition. “I wish we had cannons.”
“What are cannons?” Jordan asked.
“They’re large tubes that fire heavy balls propelled by the explosion of black powder.”
“Does that work?” Jordan raised an eyebrow. “Black powder isn’t… that powerful.”
William shook his head, “You need very specific mixes of black powder or something similar.”
“So, why haven’t we been trying to figure those out?”
“Because I’d really rather not have cannons in the world. Making it easier for people to kill each other isn’t exactly desirable. Also, there are some problems.” William moved up to the tent flap and opened it. Past the tents holding troops, the castle could be seen, looking like the size of a toy. “It’s very volatile. A single spark could set it off. From here, if they had the right kind of powder, I could set off the stores in the castle over there- if they had it and I could guess where it was.”
“Well…” Jordan frowned, “They have shields to prevent that right? We could magically shield our own powder.”
“I’m saying I could set it off from here through the shield. Magical barriers aren’t absolute. It only takes a single misplaced spark to make explosives from a friend into an enemy.” William frowned, “What’s that?”
It was a rhetorical question, since William was already determining it on his own. It was only a small effort to create a magical lens by gathering light to let him see further. It was even better than using a spyglass… though less practical for long term use.
“Are dragons so common here?” William shook his head.
“Another dragon?” Jordan sounded slightly worried, “Or even the same one… but either way, it’s better not to make dragon angry. I’ll have the men get ready.”
“It’s a different one,” William said confidently, “Lila said the other one was injured, and they don’t recover so quickly. I think this one is a different color as well.”
“I see.” Jordan went to the vice-commander who was near the command tent taking with some of the other officers, “Tell the men to get ready! A dragon is on the horizon.” They turned to look where Jordan pointed, then scrambled to do their duty.
William was there as well and could have given the same order- but it was better to have things go through the chain of command. Jordan’s orders came from him and trickled down to each rank below. Unless it was an emergency, it was best to keep that format. “What is it doing, sir?”
“It seems to be… attacking the castle.” William frowned, “That’s not typical behavior. While I won’t complain about dragons apparently being on our side… I doubt it’s so simple. I need to go find Lorelei.”
Lorelei hadn’t been at the command tent because there was no need. They expected several more days of waiting before the siege machines arrived. Even so, it wasn’t hard to find her. There weren’t many places she could be. It was easy to find her in their tent. “Oh? Back already?” She looked up from the small workbench they had in the corner.
“On business, I’m afraid. I have some questions about dragons.”
“Is the dragon back? They aren’t fond of large movements of people.”
“It’s a different dragon, actually.”
“That’s… strange. Though there could reasonably be a number of them throughout the mountains, it’s surprising that two of them showed up.”
“Maybe the war is just big enough that it’s waking up all of the dragons. That would be…”
“Problematic? We’d rather not fight dragons if we don’t have to. Especially not old ones. Let’s go take a look, shall we?”
The two of them walked out to go look at the dragon. It continued to attack the castle. William considered whether it would be a good time to try to storm the castle or not. The defenders were certainly distracted, but the magical barriers were still active. It would take a lot of work to destroy them- that was what the siege engines were for.
“Damn, I wish we could see it.” Lorelei looked toward the castle, “Hearing a battle isn’t quite the same.”
William nodded, “Well, we could try. Bending light isn’t too hard, you know? We’ll need to move closer if we want to get a sustained image though.”
“As long as we stay outside of bow range… and it would be good to take some troops with us.”
It didn’t take long to gather some troops to go out with them, and they would be within sight of the army the whole time. They moved as close to the castle as felt safe, and William began to chant.
An image formed, like a screen connected to a camera that was floating above the castle. Of course, this was more direct- it was the actual light from there, rerouted to a different relative position. It was hard to do precisely, so there was some distortion, but it gave a pretty good picture anyway. It wasn’t as close as would have been preferred, but the magic had to start outside the bounds of the castles barriers, which extended up into the sky. Though the dragon had broken through them, they would have reformed immediately.
The dragon was killing a number of the gevai inside, but strangely enough it didn’t seem particularly interested in that. Instead, it only killed them when they came near, and seemed more interested in attacking the castle itself- actually clawing at the structures inside. While dragons had been known to destroy buildings, that was usually a case of collateral damage from fire or lightning breathing dragons. Here, there weren’t even any soldiers in the parts they were attacking, and it ignored horses and gevai that it might have been looking for for food. William and Lorelei exchanged glances but had nothing to say. What did it want? They could only watch to find out.