The bells were ringing in Basileus, signaling the start of a curfew Eamus had put in place. He could not yet hear the war drums, but he could certainly feel them in the reverberations deep within their chest. A deep horn sounded far off in the distance, sounding almost like the baying of some deranged animal.
The legions of Bazragah were at the gates.
Eamus stood on the edge of the battlements closest to the very edge of the citadel, a position from which he could see clearly the sheer size of the army that was bearing down on them. From the nebulous mass of soldiers he saw a lone rider gallop forth, a standard with the sigil of Emperor Shalmanisar visibly clutched in his right hand. The enemy was sending over an emissary.
It took the rider over an hour to get within earshot of the citadel. Upon getting close enough to ensure that people would hear him, he called out, “I am come on behalf of Emperor Shalmanisar and General Yomadan. The General serves as ambassador for our Noble Emperor. He would entreat with the Lord Tiberius of this Citadel, in the hopes that we may preclude any unnecessary violence.”
Eamus stared the emissary down, but his were the only eyes on him. Everyone else had turned to look at Eamus as soon as the emissary had finished speaking. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to see Enoch.
“What are you going to do?” asked Enoch. “You can’t send him out there alone, and accompanying him would make him look weak.”
“Shalmanisar did not accompany his force,” said Eamus, “He sent Yomadan instead. I think it would be fair if our Lord Phoenix sent an ambassador of his own.”
“Yomadan knows you, Eamus,” said Enoch. “Just bear that in mind. Any tricks you are thinking of playing, chances are he has already thought of them.”
“I am counting on it,” said Eamus. “I want him to think that he has predicted all of my moves. I will be taking a company of a dozen men. I trust you to select them for me. Send your best, Yomadan will be doing the same. I want his men to see our best, I want them to know that they are in for a fight.”
“Very well,” said Enoch, leaving to organize Eamus’ company. Alone once again, Eamus was silent for a few moments before calling out, “I am Eamus, chief advisor to our Lord Phoenix. I will be his envoy during this meeting. Tell Yomadan to meet me halfway between his force and mine. I will be leaving in an hour.”
The emissary bowed and made haste back to the encampment. Eamus looked around and saw that the men were tense. They were on edge, eager for some kind of resolution to the constant state of anticlimax. These men had never seen a war before. It was only the oldest among them that had seen battle, and even they had never been involved in something nearly this serious.
Once the company was assembled, Eamus embarked. It was a short ride, only half an hour long, to the meeting place. Eamus arrived to see that Yomadan was already there.
“Yomadan,” said Eamus, “good to see you again, although I wish the circumstances were slightly different.”
Yomadan looked Eamus up and down and said, “I bring a force of thousands to your gates with no warning, Eamus, and you still manage to appear completely unmoved. I wonder, are you putting on a show for your men or are you truly as mad as I’ve always thought you were?”
“I would bet on the latter, old friend,” said Eamus, settling onto one of the chairs that had been placed to either side of a roughly hewn wooden table.
“Eamus, I have known you since I was a boy,” said Yomadan, “so I am not going to mince words. Hand over the armor and we will leave you be. That is all we want.”
Eamus fingered the imperfections in the wooden table in thoughtful silence. “You brought legions my gates,” he said after a long silence, “Legions. All for a breastplate? Is armor in short supply back in Bazragah?”
Yomadan slammed his hang onto the table. “I am not going to play your blasted games, Eamus,” he growled. “The armor is enchanted, you know this. For years now your citadel has thrived from the sale of medicines that only you seemed to be able to create, medicines derived from herbs and roots you found in your forest. Let me guess, the moment you found the armor from the forest the soil lost its potency, did it not? The moment the armor was removed, your medicines stopped working.”
Eamus leaned forward and said, “You could have bought it from us. You could have traded it for something of value.
Rüg help me, you could have sent a force half as large as this one and it would have been enough but no, you send the largest army this side of the world has seen in over a century. I doubt Bazragah sent a force this large during its war with Dianos! That tells me something. It tells me that you are desperate. Why do you want it so badly?”
Yomadan arose. “Our reasons for wanting for the armor is irrelevant here,” he said, “any desperation you seem to sense is moot. The fact of the matter is that we are here with a force you cannot hope to repel. We are going to get the armor one way or another. You have until dawn tomorrow, Eamus. Think it over. Either you hand the armor over at dawn, or at first light our attack begins.”