Serapha: Chapter 10

“Do not take it as an insult that you have been defeated and taken prisoner, for with the Christians who come with me, though so few in number, I have conquered greater kingdoms that yours, and have defeated more powerful lords than you, imposing upon them the dominion of the Emperor, whose vassal I am, and who is King of Spain and of the universal world.”

—Francisco Pizarro to the Inca Emperor Atahuallpa on Nov. 16, 1532 after 168 Spanish soldiers with steel weapons and armor defeated 80,000 Incan soldiers armed with clubs


 

Rising above the Ironside Mountains, the sun cast its light into the wide Landsong Gorge where the Gray Mane River flowed. On the shores of the great river and in between the mountainous walls of the gorge stood the city of Ryperia, the capital of the Norester Province of the Dominion. The rising sun chased back the gorge’s shadows and colored the city’s basalt structures a warm orange. Light streamed into the tall windows of the highest building in the city, the governor’s palace. As the light inched its way forward across the marble floors, Governor Grimshaw, an aging man with a heavy brow and beady eyes, sat at the foot of his bed while one of his servants gave him a shave. He had a routine meeting with the road commissioner after breakfast. Dull business, but one must always look presentable.

The servant was finishing up the left half of the governor’s face when the head of the palace guard burst through the bedchamber door. Startled, the servant nicked the governor’s cheek with the razor. But the governor was too surprised by the sudden intrusion to notice the cut.

“What on earth are you doing, Robert?” Grimshaw barked, shaken from his morning stupor.

“Forgive me, Governor,” said the head guard, coming to kneel at his master’s feet. “It’s very urgent.”

“It better be,” Grimshaw warned, perturbed that business had broken into his life before breakfast.

“A multitude of people are coming down the gorge from the east, heading towards the city.”

Grimshaw cocked his head. “You can’t be serious.”

“I saw it myself from the walls. They’re less than a few miles away. They’ll soon be at our gates.”

Grimshaw stood up from his bed and went to look out the window, staring out at nothing. Lathered soap was still on half of his face, but he didn’t think of it. The mundane details of the day had been pushed from his mind.

“How many are there?” he asked.

“It’s hard to say. With each report I get, their numbers grow. But last I heard, they were well over seven thousand.”

“Seven thousand,” Grimshaw repeated to himself. “Who are they? What do they want?”

“We sent runners to find out, but none of them have returned.”

“Sounds serious. Bar the gates. Put all men on the walls. And get my escort ready. I need to see this for myself.”

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