Last Stand at Rustwatch
Hammurabis had assaulted the seal wall of Rustwatch for days and nights on end. The gigantic chimera hurled its body against the towering plates of metal that protected the Iron Lord’s city with singular destructive purpose. The defenses of the Iron Men met the beast without rest snice its arrival in the city’s outer harbor. The sound of cannon’s blasting from the ramparts of Rustwatch became a constant drone that filled every corner of the city. The artillery of the Iron Men was about the only thing that gave the creature any pause. More than once the heavy shot and shell that the enormous war machines launched from the wall turned Hammurabis back into the deep tides of the Bone Sea. As the siege of the city endured the powerful guns of the Iron Lord’s realm began to lose their effect against the monolithic chimera.
The combined fighting force of the native Iron Men and the Rayward knights who were garrisoned at the city were able to offer only a trivial resistance to Hammurabis. The veteran fighting men and women of two of the Argaian nations with some of the most revered martial history had been reduced to little more than an inconvenience for the marauding creature. Even with the recent arrival of Noah Redmoon and Saria Guideman in the city, the forces of mankind were waging a losing battle. Every day the cracks in the seal wall continued to grow. The metal that separated the people of Rustwatch from a terrible crushing death at the claws and teeth of the greatest chimera that had ever walked the earth was failing.
“The cannons have gone quiet. Could that mean the beast is slain?” Dimona asked to nobody in particular but loud enough for everyone else in the Iron Lord’s galley to hear.
“Nah. No such fortune. They are likely changing out barrels on the ramparts. Since that thing came to out wall the cannon have not ceased firing. We have to change them out less the heat of the barrels set off the powder in the firing chamber prematurely,” Coal said before raising a spoonful of soup to his lips and quietly slurping. “Or maybe we have finally run out of shot. Even round the clock labor at the forge can not keep pace with the rate we are burning through ammunition.”
“I had hoped that my last meal would be something with a little more substance,” lamented Saria as she poured a spoonful of watered down chicken broth back into the modest clay bowl that contained the rest of her dinner. She was the first to voice the disapproval that everyone else gathered at the table was clearly thinking as they all poked and prodded at the merger hunks of vegetables and meat bobbing in the pitiful excuse for a stew.
“I beg your pardon my Lady. Had I know that I would have been hosting the cream of Lighthouse Bay’s aristocracy inside of my walls then I would have instructed my cooks prepare a seven course banquet every night. Why they are a talented lot. Even with my city’s food stores near depleted I would wager they could conjure up a proper feast out of screws, bolts and scrap metal,” responded Coal with a sneer and shake of his head. His grossly sarcastic tone swept over the dinner table like a plume of smoke.
“I meant no offense to the hospitality you have shown Master Redmoon and I. I was simply indulging myself,” Saria responded kindly. She offered the Iron Lord a winning apologetic bat of her brightly painted eyes. After making her amends for the social misstep she let her stare drift from the Iron Lord and come to rest on the delightfully dark features of Noah as he similarly tolerated the merger dinner offering.
Coal looked down as the modest fair in his bowl and frowned. “Bah, you are not wrong. Iron Men are not known for their cooking but this is plain shameful,” Coal said dejectedly as he poured out his bowl on the floor next to his chair. He stood, flexed he shoulders and cracked his knuckles. “We do not have long before the beast comes to take advantage of silenced guns. Best get to that battlements less that thing comes up and lets itself in.”
Dimona stood and left the room with a driven purposeful walk. Coal was not far behind her. Noah was about to leave the room on the heels of the two long lived rivals when he was halted by the wonderful crystal ring of Saria’s voice.
“Noah, would you wait one moment,” Saira said as she stood from her place at the Iron Lord’s table.
“Yes?” Noah responded with a curiously raised eyebrow.
Saria seemed to be lost for words. He face told the story of someone who was desperately searching to find the right way to speak something delicate. “I have something that is bothering me,” she said with a trailing inflection. She slowly moved until she was intimately close to the man from Viros.
“Only one thing, troubling you. I should say that you are at far greater inner peace than anyone else in Rustwatch,” Noah responded with familiar playful tones.
Saria offered the man the makings of a warm smile but her lips quickly faded back into a single troubled line. “We may die here,” she started abruptly. He eyes took on a glassy wounded quality as she continued. “We shall probably die here.”
“Yes, probably,” Noah echoed with the bravado dissipating from his voice. “But I swear that I will end that thing before my time is done or at the very least give it a wound that will reminded it of the Redmoon name forever. If we die it will not be in vain. It will mean something,” he said as he pulled one of his black riding gloves from his hand and touched Saria’s finger tips with bare skin.
Saria recoiled at Noah’s touch as her face flushed with a deep red hue. “It is not that which bothers me. I can accept dying for the sake of good people.”
“Then what is it that troubles you?” Noah asked with a tilt of his head.
Saira was trembling slightly as she battled with the thing that consumed he mind and spirit. She and Noah stood close as they had done so many times before. The air between them was charged like the sky before it was split by a bolt of lightning. Saria shut her eyes tightly, clasped Noah’s face between her hands, held him steady as she overcame her trepidation and kissed him deeply. Saria and Noah held one another in a lover’s embrace until they threatened to consume each other with the pent up desire that each of them had carried for so long. Saria was finally able to break away from Noah. “I would have hated to die without ever knowing what it was like to kiss you,” she said with a smile.
“And now you can die happy?” Noah said with a smile that matched delighted expression of the outstanding woman in front of him.
“No. Not in the slightest. I rather enjoyed kissing you. I think I should like to do more of it before I take my last breath,” Saria responded with a sinful yearning reflected in her sparkling eyes. “Much more of it…” she lustfully continued to herself with a trailing silken soft voice.
“Then I suppose we best win the day,” Noah said as he held out a hand for Saria to take.
Hand in hand Noah and Saria raced to take their place on the battlements of Rustwatch. They rejoined Coal and Dimona, overlooking the harbor below the city’s watchtowers just as the cannons restarted their blasting. The renewed volleys from the Rustwatch artillery came, not a moment too late. Hammurabis could be seen barreling through the waves towards the damaged seal wall. The guns mounted on the towers struck true and countless cannon balls smashed into the rampaging chimera. To the dismay of all, the firepower of the Iron Men was not enough to stop the beast this time.
Hammurabis struck the seal wall like a tidal wave. The whole of the Iron Lord’s city shook under the monumental power that the chimera had brought to bear. Many men were knock from the ramparts and fell over the side of the seal wall to their doom in the Bone Sea far below. The four Argaian heroes were also taken off their feet by the blow to the wall and sent sparwling on the metal deck of the watchtower where they had gathered.
The world seemed to stop for a moment after the chimera crashed into the city’s seal wall. For the first time since the thing had reared its vile head in the waters of Rustwatch’s harbor things seemed still and calm. The moment of peace was short lived and quickly fell into terror as screaming and panicked delirium filled the air over the great city. The seal wall had been breached. One of the large cracks in the wall had ripped asunder and now there was nothing between the people of Rustwatch and Hammurabis.
“This is it,” grunted Coal as he looked at the wretched beast starting to slither out of the water and onto the streets of his dominion. “Iron Men to the breach. Beat this filthy mongrel back into the sea!” he shouted as he pulled a heavy two-handed sword from the sheath across his back. The Iron Lord made for the opening in the wall with Dimona, Noah and Saria following in his footsteps.
“What magic is that,” Dimona gasped as she and the tree others approached the hole in the wall.
On either side of the breach ice had begun for form. A rapidly growing sheet of freezing crystals rushed into to fill the void and prevent Hammurabis from working its way into the city. The chimera roared and yowled as its body was met with intense frostburn from the wintry barrier. The thing was forced to abandon its drive into Rustwatch as withdraw once more into the water outside of the city.
“That is not the doing of me or mine,” Coal said with a puzzled look. He and Dimona looked in unison at Noah and Saria.
“That is not my handiwork,” Noah said as he nodded at the impenetrable sheet of ice that had mended the seal wall.
“Nor is it mine,” Saria mused. “But would suspect that is has something to do with that ship,” she said while pointing over the ramparts.
The four heroes looked out over the water at a vessel that had just come into view on the tide. The icy crown of Frostdale was prominently displayed on the ships mainsail.
“I feel the blood of one like us drawing near,” said Noah with soft foreboding in his voice.