They reached the next intersection. “Here begins the test,” the Grand Commander whispered. “We’ll put two soldiers on each side, shields out, and dash across one by one.”
“Grand Commander,” said Sura, “with your permission. Mik and I had an idea last night, and it might be worth trying.”
“It was mostly Sura’s idea,” Mik added, “but we worked out the details together.” He explained what they had in mind.
Firgar chuckled. “Let’s try our try,” he said. “It hurts nothing if it doesn’t work.”
Soldiers lined up before the corner, and Bailar held the torches, as Mik and Sura shed their white cloaks. Away from the entrance, Nightwalk was equally cool in summer and winter. The cloaks were meant to protect them from bruising by the practice weapons, but they did keep their wearers warm. The apprentices waved their staffs, as Bailar had taught them to do in front of folk, and the cloaks drifted from them. Two torches joined the cloaks, and they floated into the intersection together. The apprentices made the torches move back and forth, as people would if they were deciding which way to go.
From their left came: thwock, thwock, the sound of two crossbows, and a practice bolt struck one of the cloaks. Bailar brought the False Dawn, lighting up the corridor, as two soldiers dived into the intersection and loosed their own crossbows. They rolled across, and two more soldiers did the same.
“Five!” one of them shouted. “Now three!” the other added. “No, two!”
“Charge!” Firgar and Narvin whooped a battle-cry and rushed the remaining defenders. Each threw a spear as they charged, then drew their practice swords. One of the spears found its mark, and the victim sat down. Three of the four mock casualties scrambled out of the way, as the last defender standing drew his own practice sword and tried to back away. It was over quickly.
Four of the defenders lined up against the wall. “What’s with him?” one of them asked, gesturing at the last man lying on the floor.
Bailar made his way down the hall, using the wall to keep his balance. He knelt next to the man, who gasped and sat up. “You died in your sleep,” Bailar explained. “I cut your throat.”
“Five to one,” one of the defenders said, shaking his head. “From what I’ve been hearing, that’s the best showing from your side yet.”
“Five to none, actually,” Narvin grinned. “Our mages floated empty cloaks into the intersection for you to shoot at.”
“Hundred Thora is an excellent tactician,” said Firgar, “but Lady Sura descends from the finest tactician in Termag’s history.” He nodded to Sura, approaching with Mik and the rest of the strike.
The defenders looked at each other. “A girl planned that? Is that the Matriarchy girl, then?”
“Aye. She’ll make a fine warrior-mage, the first in centuries.”
“Good work,” the defenders’ leader said. “Perhaps we’ll have another round of this. Both sides can learn from its mistakes and successes.” They lifted torches and shuffled away.
Things get messy from here—get “Lost in Nightwalk” with Sura, Mik, and Bailar and find out just how messy!