Fangrim was the first to the base of the tree, and it was a good thing he was. No one else could have reacted as quickly as he did. The moment he stepped into the archway of the gate, there was a sudden whoosh and two sword blades sliced through the air just in front of him. He jumped back instinctively, and the blades passed just inches from his chest. Immediately his sword was drawn, and he faced his new attackers. Two guards faced him, their eyes- what were they?- looked like empty sockets that stared him straight in the face. Anselfer and Seikfreid were at his side now, swords drawn. The trio could see past the two guards who barred the path. On the other side of the gateway they could see Algair and Gregor fighting back-to-back against a dozen or more of the guards.
Fangrim saw his friend in danger and rushed the two guards in front of him, striking blows against both. Seikfreid and Anselfer rushed by to relieve the two Crown soldiers in the courtyard. Fangrim quickly finished off the two guards, who collapsed to the ground without uttering a cry. He followed the others into the courtyard and threw himself into the fray. By now there were more than twenty guards fighting against the company of five. Many lay dead, but as they were killed reinforcements arrived from across the courtyard. Just as the group thought they had gained a numerical advantage, they heard drumbeats and saw an entire company marching across the courtyard in formation. If the enemy column reached them, they would be driven back and overwhelmed.
Everyone fought harder, but there were still too many guards fighting them to break off and flee. Fangrim killed his opponent and instantly raised and blew his horn as loud as he possibly could. It took just an instant, but he barely raised his sword in time to parry a blow from one of the guards. The column of guards stopped and spread out into a long line, four rows deep. Algair looked up and his hope began to fade. If the guards had advanced in a column, they would have only had to fight four or five men at a time. Now that they were in lines, the five warriors would be overwhelmed.
The lines advanced, their soldiers perfectly in step with each other the entire way. How do they maintain perfect formation Algair found himself wondering. He concentrated on fighting again, desperately trying to kill of the few guards remaining before the enemy company arrived. The lines closed on the group swiftly, and the men were just beginning to feel totally lost when the remarkable happened. A volley of arrows from behind Algair cut through the guards' ranks, killing a dozen soldiers. Yet they still kept coming, their formation unbroken, still in step. Another volley smashed into them, and another and another. There were less than twoscore left when they finally reached the five warriors, but by now the five were exhausted and would have been killed had it not been for Anselfer. Raising his staff, he bellowed something and a blinding light erupted from his staff, smashing through the guards and obliterating them all. Once they were all dead, he collapsed to the ground and lay still.
Fangrim lifted the exhausted wizard onto his shoulder and began to jog away. "Come on, more will arrive if we aren't gone in the next few moments."
"It appears your horn has worked, I'd say," said Algair, gesturing in the direction of the woods. A band of Frontier Guard archers was emerging from the forest, motioning for the group to follow. "And it's lucky it did. Without those archers we would all be dead."
The sounds of many drums in the distance reached the group's ears as they fled through the forest and away from the man who called himself the king.