Grimold groaned, his back clicking as he straightened up from looking at something on a low shelf. He walked around, sandals scuffing on the stone cobbles of the munitions chamber, peering at crates, bales, pots and bundles, then scratching figures on a parchment list with a quill pen.
The munitions chamber was large, occupying nearly the whole third floor of the Western Tower, but then it needed to be large enough to contain the munitions for an entire division of the archduke’s army – the very pride of Noetica.
A raven sat on top of one of the piles of crates, its head cocked to one side so it could watch Grimold out of one of its gleaming black eyes. It cawed and flapped its wings as the old man shuffled closer, fluttered away to a windowsill when he shooed the corvid away.
It had taken three weeks just to cover one quadrant of the chamber, and the hoary old adjutant had a lot of work ahead of him yet. All very well to delegate the work to younger men than he, but then what if they made a mistake? This work was crucial; damned if he was going to risk his division face ruin because of one item they didn’t have, one alchemical ingredient that had gone to rot or have a blunt weapon due to missing one sharpening stone…
No. This latest endeavour was too important; the whole kingdom depended on its success. It was absolutely essential that the Abatement did not reach this land, and for that purpose, the Shrouded City itself must be taken and all portals sealed against the arrival of the phenomenon.
Oh, many had questioned whether or not it could travel through the portals, but why take that chance? Better to be safe than sorry; yes there would be casualties, yes some civilisations in other lands may fall, yes the trade from the Shrouded City had brought Noetica much trade and made it a power to be reckoned with, but the risk was simply too great. The kingdom must survive.
Presently the mighty oak of the main door creaked as it was opened, and a soldier marched in, armour clinking as he made his way to the quadrant where Grimold was working. He reached the adjutant and halted, stamping his boot and saluting the senior officer.
“Sir! The General requests your immediate presence in the war room.”
“What for? I’m busy dammit…now I’ve lost count!”
“Sir! The General is going to meet with the generals of the other towers sir. He has summoned all of his adjutants. The Archduke himself wants to know when all of the divisions will be ready to mobilise.”
“Never at this bloody rate” the old man muttered under his breath.
“Beg your pardon sir?” the soldier asked.
“Nothing. Come on then, lets go, can’t keep the General waiting. Ooh, me bloody back…”
The pair walked as briskly as Grimold’s elderly legs would allow, the raven watching them intently. After the door had closed, the bird took one last look around the chamber, then glided out of the window.