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5.

That the whole orc war started early is a major topic of conversation around Insmoor in late January. People are actually a little worried: not all the shipments of food and ammunition from the rest of Carleu have arrived yet, and this is starting to look like an actual siege, especially in the manors of Varelon and Flagon Lake. By the end of the month, despite raids and skirmishes, the orcs have encamped on the flats south of Insmoor and the high ground overlooking the East Gate. They have a bash at that about an hour before dawn on 29 January, but they’re not especially serious about it. The following forenoon, the idea becomes clear: they’re setting up a small but fortified camp on the road north from Insmoor to Angbor.

Another big push on the east gate comes on the first of February. Trolls break through the town wall north of the gate, and the fighting is pretty awful. Trolls are big and tough and stupidly clever, and they’re also more resistant to spells than orcs or ogres are. Reginald Barnswallow’s teams are there to try and contain the magic attacks that coordinate with the incursion, but then, about midway from midnight to dawn, they wake us up and send us out.

It’s frickin’ cold, except where they’ve set fire to the slum. It’s bloody confusing, and also bloody. I actually get a glimpse of Padric and Zelin and a dozen other archers chasing after some orcs and then halting and firing volley after volley at charging trolls: it’s touch and go there, but the archery is intense enough to keep it from going over to hand to hand fighting. I see one archer get crushed by a rock. Not Padric, and not Zelin.

Lucette and I turn from that sight and immediately find ourselves under attack by sorcerers. No doubt they’re Ipre’s version of the School Team. Well, this round goes to Ipre. I wake up later in the School cafeteria.

“Hey,” says Jan. He’s sitting on my bed, looking especially manly: he’s rolled up the long sleeves of his black robe and under than the white sleeves of his under-robe, and there’s blood on the white sleeves and on his arms. “You had a nice nap.”

“Yes,” I say, trying to sweep the cobwebs out of my head. They’re very sticky. “Quite restful.”

“It was the three-word sleep,” says Lucette, sitting on the other side. “You got lucky. I got turned to stone. That was a rough one. I mean, Stintsing dispelled me, but I still feel kind of, I don’t know,” and she clears her throat, “gravelly.”

“Did we lose anyone?”

“Not that I know of,” she says. “Couple of the city sorcerers got whacked with the death spell. Eww. Right? Gregorio got hit with a five-word hold, they had to go back and get him, Egmont’s super mad at him because he was messing around, showing off. I mean, he’s just an enchanter, I think he wanted to take out a wizard or something and maybe they’d let that count as his mission. Instead, we got back and I guess they noticed he was still there, Egmont went back with Shmoke and found him standing there, he got Held so hard he couldn’t move. He’s lucky he could move his lungs to breathe.”

We shake our heads.

“Hey Daisy,” says another familiar voice. I turn. It’s Zelin. Padric’s with her.

“You know who I didn’t see,” says Padric. “With us archers, I mean.”

My face turns sour. “I will kill you if you say his name.”

“Daisy,” he says, sitting on the bed. Lucette gets up, squeezes my hand and goes off to flirt with someone. Jan raises his eyebrows, gets up and goes off to see about healing someone. Zelin fills a bowl. After a moment, Padric says, “You’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” I say. “You?”

“We escaped harm,” says Zelin. “More than one can say for one’s enemies. Light?”

 

And that’s the rhythm of life in Insmoor for the next several weeks. They attack the East Gate every two or three days, and the South Gate about as often. The North Gates (there are two of these) are closed off; they try a sneak attack there on 15 February and are repulsed with difficulty. The Southwest Gate gets three good whacks over the course of the month; on the eighteenth they actually have a go at the West Gate, the one toward the rest of Carleu. And several times they just attack the walls; twice more they break through in the northeast or the southeast and set fires.

Varelon is besieged all month, as are both Flagon Lake Hold and Marno in the hills. They’re all well enough prepared. Angbor is ravaged—many is the rich farmer skulking behind Lady Julia Shmoke’s walls who will have to spend good money to rebuild the ancestral mansion come spring. It’s good for the building industry.

With almost every attack, there is a magical raid. I get ceased repeatedly and held once; a Stone spell washes off me, somehow, and, because I saved enough energy for kno eur, the jerk who threw it at me gets stoned himself. We lose one sorceress—her name was Jen something—to an orc arrow followed by a blast of the fire spell. The sadness. The stink.

After every battle and every raid, there’s the after party. For the next couple of parties, I’m okay and Pad’s okay and we hang together and go home together and get sweaty together and I wake up with Cudgel dozing atop my farting boyfriend. The next after that, after a particularly nasty fight on the East Gate, Padric is pretty badly hurt and I’m in no mood. But neither is Zelin, so we go back to her place and do the best we can. She doesn’t fart. I’m absolutely serious about this: she does not fart. However, her cat does.

At the next one, Gregorio is feeling pretty good (he didn’t get ceased, for once) and he gets drunk and makes a serious pass at me; Padric beats him up, despite Greggy’s attempts to put him to sleep. I take Pad back to my pad: I’m so proud of him.

But then they attack the South Gate. We get called out; Padric gets wounded again, pretty badly, a through and through sword wound in the side that somehow doesn’t nick his stomach. Meanwhile I get the first four words of the five-word Death spell thrown at me. It’s stopped by a Zelin arrow in the neck of the wizard, who is actually that witch in the black bikini we saw at Vladimir’s. At the after party, Gurth and Lali are particularly angry at each other for some reason. I get super drunk and nearly end up going off with some warrior from Travishome—as if. Instead, Zelin and Jan and Fenric drag me home to my bathtub.

Oh, yes. And the next evening, that warrior from Travishome, who is actually a slob and a jerk, and who used to come all the way to Insmoor for our rugby matches just to yell rude things at our cheerleaders, gets picked off by orc arrows while peeing off the South Gate Tower.

Yeah. It’s the orc war. Interesting stuff like that happens all the time.

 

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