Aton sat on one of the castle walls, looking out over the city of Grendhill. The wall beneath him, with its decorative impressions of large blocks sticking out an inch or two, was centuries old, having been built during the same time as several other defensive structures in Grendhill. The square surrounding the Thallenrose was another example. These were built in the early days of Grendhill, begun within a few years after Unification, as the kingdom gained identity as well as a need for a comprehensive defense system. Aton absentmindedly reviewed the defensive strategy in his mind, waiting for evening to come.
Invaders may attempt to enter from without the walls surrounding the city. The walls were twelve feet high at their lowest point—modest compared to other city walls, but deemed sufficient for Grendhill’s needs. They were duly patrolled and equipped with weaponry, though visitors were generally given the benefit of the doubt at the gate. After all, Grendhill hadn’t seen a direct attack in many years…
Hostile forces may attempt to control the water supply. Grendhill had redirected a stream to flow through the city, and maintained several large cisterns full of water at any given time. However, and despite the stream being buried for several miles upstream to prevent others from exploiting it, the water supply remained something of a vulnerability. The stream was drawn off of a major river though, and it was deemed infeasible for invaders to be able to poison the entire river sufficiently to be an unavoidable threat to Grendhill’s stream.
Enemies may originally appear as friends. Anyone could decide to turn against the throne at any time, it was true. Yet, there were safeguards in place. His father’s advisors included some of his most trusted acquaintances, some from childhood, and strict dogma was in place for evaluating any visitors as well as staff not counted within Domido Farella’s inner circle. Furthermore, visitors—foreign and local—were given quarters on the west side of the castle, opposite the royal chambers, and with the Guards’ offices in between. The royal chambers were also well above ground level, so almost nothing could reach them from the outside, short of flight. And always, there were archers within sight of the royal chambers’ balconies. Anything that might try to scale the walls would find scant enough purchase as hand- and footholds that even the worst archers would have ample time to remove them before they reached their goal.
Invaders may attempt to arrive by the Thallenrose. Aton and his siblings had practiced defending against that possibility today. The platform acted as a doorway to dozens of other worlds, and was the most carefully defended chink in Grendhill’s armor. If the Thallenrose was thought of as a doorway that could only fit a small number of people at a time, the doorway also had another side. The important difference is that this door had many other sides to it. It was not possible to post guards on every alternate other side to the door. For one, that would be a significant addition the number of guards Grendhill required, beside the added commerce-interrupting traffic that changing that many guards would create. And perhaps more significantly, Grendhill could not post guards in that many other lands and kingdoms without expecting to host as many foreign guards at the Thallenrose. No, foreigners guarded themselves against entry, not exit, and Grendhill had to be content with doing the same.
Cross-world invaders do not care what time of day it is in Grendhill. Just a reminder that the square surrounding the Thallenrose could not suffer from relaxed guard at any time of day. Different worlds had different day lengths, different Turn lengths. True, the square was less active at night, allowing fewer guards at night because it was easier to watch, but it had to be watched nonetheless. Invaders may arrive at midnight in summer, having just left their launch point early in the morning in mid spring, as refreshed as can be and with eyes needing no adjustment to the dark.
Grendhill must be ready.
Royal arms are always on duty. Unbreakable and flawlessly sharp weapons were handed off from relieved guards to their replacements, with some constantly on site at key locations, at gates, at the Thallenrose, outside the royal chambers. Others stayed with key indivuals. Captain Bailen carried one. Still others were assigned to training, so the Guard could be accustomed to how the legendary arms felt in one’s hands. But the majority were assigned to particular posts, always ready to fight when needed. This was also a reminder to Aton that he did not have a weapon of his own.
The Farella house is always on duty. This was less literal. It was a reminder to keep up with training, to stay in touch with the Guard and possible threats present, to be ready to jump into the defense of Grendhill at any moment.
Aton felt another sting. He could never be as ready as his siblings without his own Instrument in his hands. He made do with his twin dao, but he knew it would never be the same as his brothers and sisters, as his father and his family experienced with their Royal Arms. Tomorrow he would take part in the ceremonial Departure with his siblings, a symbolic short quest to retrieve their weapons, and immediately return home. His siblings would stay behind and spend two weeks each in isolation, becoming familiar with their own personal tools of defense. Aton would return home.
Why did it have to happen now, anyway? Some fifteen and half Turns, just to stick with the traditional Year calendar? Some great-grandfather of his wanted his children to go when they turned seventeen Years old. Silly. Why not just wait until the sixteenth Turn?
Aton looked up from his sullen reverie and saw Valkyr walking herself home for dinner, uncomfortable-looking guards not following her as she passed them and told them to stay where they were. Did she still have flour on her clothing? Mother wouldn’t be happy if she saw that. At least brush it off before leaving the baker’s shop, Aton thought ruefully.