araminta, along with the crown princess and their attendant ladies and courtiers, watched from the top of the south tower as dawn spread over the besieged capital of the kingdom of adriatica, revealing the barbarian army in all its ragged ferocity.
the barbarians surrounded the city on three sides, the north, east and west. to the south lay the river, that led to the ocean, and the kingdoms attendant on the atlantean empire.
the crown princess cast a glance back at the empty river. "still no sign of the atlantean navy or army! ah! this day may be a most baleful one!" murmurs among the attendants broke out behind her.
but araminta kept her gaze straight ahead, to the north gate, where ferdirondo had amassed the bulk of his army, in anticipation of the rebels' main thrust occurring there.
"fear not!" cried araminta, and the wind carried her words across the awakening city, "ferdirondo will deal with them, with or without the emperor!"
a half hearted cheer went up behind her. suddenly, the barbarians, who had been making a hideous racket all night long, fell silent.
"perhaps they are leaving?" enquired one of the youngest of the crown princess's ladies. "and will not attack after all?"
"no," replied araminta, "they are only praying to their devilish gods for success. ha, ha! little do they know what lord ferdirondo has in store for them." shielding her eyes from the sun, she looked toward the east wall, over which the barbarian banners could be seen flapping in the wind. "dogs!" she cried, "barbarian dogs! do your worst!"
as if waiting for her words, the barbarians attacked on all three sides with a hellish roar. bloodthirsty screams rent the air, and cascades of flaming arrows and cannonballs flew over the walls into the city. soon all was confusion.
as expected, the most furious thrust came at the north gate, where the rebels threw their ladders against the wall and sent their first waves of swordsmen and axemen up them. but ferdirondo himself stood at the top of the wall, cutting them down as rapidly as they sprung up.
emboldened by his example, his officers and men attempted to do as much all along the three walls. but as the morning wore on, the sheer numbers of the barbarians, along with the archery and artillery barrages, began to take its toll on their gallant efforts.
with ferdirondo in the thick of battle, leading by example, it fell to the venerable duke of w--------, to direct ferdirondo's own artillery, and to attempt to reinforce those parts of the walls where the barbarians made breaches.
everywhere was ferdirondo, wherever the action was fiercest, cutting down the rebels and lustily cheering his men on. but as the sun rose in the sky, more and more of the barbarians made their way past the walls and into the city streets in search of pillage. soon the piteous cries of the marauders victims began to float through the air.
on the south tower, anxious murmurings of distress began to spring up, until silenced by the crown princess. "courage!" she cried, "courage! lord ferdirondo has matters well in hand!" but she herself could not refrain from looking back at the river. the winds had died down, and the river was now as empty and placid as a lake.
closer and closer came the shouts of the invaders, the wailing cries of the citizens, and smoke. a major breach had appeared on the west wall, and the barbarians poured through it, only a few hundred yards from the south wall.
"this is madness!" cried araminta. "madness! we can not just stand here and watch!" and she started toward the stairs.
the crown princess wrung her hands. "no, araminta, it is you who are mad. what can we do? we have no weapons. we must wait - wait for lord ferdirondo, or the duke of w--------."
"bah! it will be easy enough to pick up a weapon from the fallen in this melee."
"no, araminta, no. stay! we need your courage here!"
"i am sorry, princess. you have treated me well, but i am a princess myself, and i am not your subject. i will do as i please, and what i please is to join the battle."