- Chapter Four -
"Welcome to Legford, Sir!"
— Rickon, watch out! - shouted Sir Bernar, and then he struck with his axe. Because of this „slight” hit, the Blackraeven soldier fell backwards in a huge arc.
Meanwhile, Sir Tristan has found a man in the person of an experienced raeven knight. The heavy swords spewed sparks as they parried his opponent's slashes with tremendous force. Tristan found it a little difficult to see his opponent through the blood in his eyes from a small cut to the forehead. He wiped it away and sprang into the next attack, which landed a good blow to the other knight's breastplate. He staggered, but did not give up, no doubt the blackraeven knight was tough, he lunged at Sir Tristan. The lion knight dodged the fatal stab to the head just in time. He immediately blocked his opponent's next attack and threw his entire body up, sending the Raven Knight crashing to the ground. By this time, the other Legford soldiers in the main square had arrived and immediately threw themselves at the downed enemy, then tied him tightly.
— Is that all you know, you bastard? You're not a lion, you're a cowardly dog! What a great glory to win, after six men jumping on me!
However, Tristan didn’t pay any attention to his rampaging enemy, something troubled him.
— There are only two of them, the news talked about five men, where are the other three? Take off their helmets!
Soon the faces of Sam and Sir Cassian appeared. The former was still hanging his head in a swoon.
— I can recognise him, Sir Cassian is one of the best men of the raevens, but the other I have no idea who he is, I think he's just a squire. But the real trouble is, I don't see Godwin anywhere! We were on alert for a knight and a fool squire? What is this, a joke?
The Legfordians were baffled. They had captured the intruding foe, yet Lord Godwin seemed to be slipping through their fingers.
— Alert the troops in the area immediately! Godwin must still be close - Tristan ordered, and he mounted his horse and rode out of the castle.
To understand what exactly happened here, let's jump back in time to the day before when the queen called her commanders together for a meeting.
There was a heated debate among the commanders as what is the best way to deal with the approaching attack. Some suggested that the defences should be reinforced immediately and a patrol sent out to the area around Brickenwood Forest. The queen agreed, and was about to give the order when Sir Tristan request to speak. He is the commander of the castle guards and he is known for his successes on the battlefield.
— I do not agree. If we have a military parade now, Godwin will notice. He's no fool, he'll know we're waiting and turn back immediately. The only reason why he is trusts in this crazy plan, because he thinks he can suprise us. It would be dangerous indeed if Peregrin hadn't warned the queen. In case Godwin turns back, he will devise another trick, which we may not know about, and then he will gain the advantage.
— So what do you suggest, Sir Tristan? - Madelyn asked.
— Let them in!
There was great commotion and murmuring among the other commanders. "Is this normal?" they asked. An older knight could not contain himself:
— This is ridiculous, would you risk the queen's life? This is treason!
— Calm yourself, Sir Randall. I'm sure Tristan's plan is not over yet. Continue please. - the queen has cooled the mood.
— Thank you. Of course, the queen's guard will be doubled or quadrupled as necessary. However, we will not change the patrols around the castle and near the wilderness, so that they will not notice any changes. And the main square will be filled with soldiers dressed as villagers. When they show up, we'll strike! Godwin and his knights are dangerous foes, but they won't stand a chance against overwhelming odds within the castle walls. Once we've captured Godwin, there's no need to fear future attacks.
— I hear what you're saying, Sir Tristan, but I still think it's a huge risk. What if our information is wrong, what if there are more than five of them? To let the enemy behind our walls... Dangerous. - Sir Colin's argument got many nodding.
— I'll take the risk! - Madelyn replied firmly - But we'll increase the guard at the castle and send disguised soldiers out into the countryside! I insist! Let's put an end to this once and for all!
A tense silence fell over the room. There were scowls at Tristan, but the queen made her decision.
The first lights of the sunrise illuminated the plateau of Legford Castle. The landscape was perfectly still, the silence broken only by the occasional dawn song of birds. It was in the cool, damp weather when Lord Godwin's group arrived at Legford.
The chariot was left in the Brickenwood forest, it would be too conspicuous to be seen. They watched the landscape from the cover of bushes and trees. There was a palpable tension in the air, though unspoken, everyone asked the legitimate question, "Are you sure this is a good idea?".
— One thing what is suspicious. We got up to the plateau too easily. - whispered Cassian.
— Yes, I've been thinking about that. We'll change the plan a bit. Two men go out to check the supposedly hidden entrance! Cassian! Sam! You get the task.
— "Yes, my lord!" - said the knight confidently.
Sam was still trying to process hearing his own name, then he blurted it out:
— Yes, my lord! - he feared.
— Remember, no heroics, no private actions, no daggers to draw! Just find out how far you can go without a problem and come back. Is that clear?
They nodded. Thomlin saw Sam gathering his things pale, patted his back reassuringly, worried for his friend. The two raevens took a deep breath, then slunk off into the trees.
The walls of Legford loomed ominously above them. Slowly, deliberately, they crept forward. Suddenly Sam spoke:
— It's a big pile of stones, isn't it? Hehe… - he whispered, forcing a grin on his face. Meanwhile, he also felt that the statement made no sense, but at least it wasn't funny.
Cassian rolled his eyes, but sensing how upset his squire was, he acknowledged Sam's big comment with the a same forced smile. They crawled around on the dew-damp ground for another half hour before Cassian motioned, "Stop!"
— Here we are!
— Well, the map says the entrance should be here.
— But there's nothing but rocks.
— You're a genius, Samy boy, do you think we should be looking for a traditional door that says, "Come this way if you want to kidnap the queen"? Obviously it's one of the rocks that needs to be moved. But I can't imagine how.
Sam tried to move closer to the rock wall, but slipped in the mud and head it off. Cassian said nothing, just looked up at the sky and buried his face in his palms.
— Hey, Cassian, come here!
— What? Are you bleeding?
— No! I mean, yes, but that's not the point. It felt really weird when I hit it, like it was vibrating. Look, the toe of my boot fits underneath.
— We found it! Well done, Samy boy!
They groped around the bottom of the rock until they found a ledge. They leaned against the lift and, unbelievable, the rock moved. They wanted to scream from the effort, but that wouldn't have helped the sneaking, so they just hissed and cursed through clenched teeth. They managed to move it enough that they could crawl through the gap in crawl.
Once in the cave, they lit the torch they had brought with them. They found themselves in a fully furnished cave with the Guardians' crest on the wall. So this is their work after all. They looked back at the entrance and it was clear why they had a chance to move the stone. It was all carved out from the inside. All that was left of the solid rock was a shell a few centimetres thick, which was attached a spring-loaded structure of steel plates. The system adds enough extra power to the human effort to make it move. In the old days it must have been possible to turn it even more, but after so many years it is a miracle that it has opened up so much. A stairway started up from the cave.
— It must lead up to the castle! - Sam said.
They made their way up to a trapdoor. Cassian was about to open it, but Sam pulled him back.
— Excuse me, sir, but Lord Godwin said not to take any risk! I think this is the point where we should turn back. We've found both the entrance and the exit. It's getting dangerous from here.
How do we know how far we've come if we don't check it out? There might be another part of the cave beyond.
Cassian opened the lid ajar. It was immediately clear that it opened to the open air, but where exactly was not. He crawled up even higher. By then it was clear they were in the main square of the castle. He was about to climb back down the ladder when suddenly the trapdoor swung open and strong hands pulled him to the surface.
Sir Tristan stood before him and greeted him mockingly:
— Welcome to Legford, Sir!
Cassian took up his sword.
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