Manfry looked uncertain.
Yathebon drew his service dagger and held it threateningly.
Lytica’s face darkened.
“Do nothing, Brother. We are in the hands of the unknown god.”
Manfry held out his hands, puffing out his chest.
“I do not fear death, as I have made peace with my god.”
Yathebon thrust his dagger home in the folds of Manfry’s robe. The old monk doubled over, then fell away from the blade. Lytica scabbled over to him on his knees, supporting him. Already, he could see the life ebbing from Manfry’s eyes.
“I name you successor, Lytica. May the unknown god preserve you.”
Manfry shuddered. His eyes closed with the slumping of his body.
“I suppose this makes you Abbot now?”
Yathebon still held the blood stained dagger as Lytica looked up with tear filled eyes.
“What; you were willing to kill me a moment before, but not now?”
“We only raise our hands to defend others; never ourselves.”
Wiping the blade on the grass, Yathen put it back in the scabbard.
“That is an interesting philosophy you have. One man could annihilate you all by threatening you individually.”
He walked back to his horse and climbed into the saddle.
“I will give you an hour to open the doors to my army. If not, then we will climb the stairs in force and slaughter every one of you.”
Tugging his reins, he turned his horse for a newly erected tent. Lytica slipped a hand under Manfry’s body and hefted it onto his shoulder and headed back, making the arduous climb back up the stairs. When he neared the entry arch, monks looked down from the wall.
“Is Abbot Manfry dead?” called one of the men.
“He is,” Lytica croaked.
Once inside the courtyard, more monks take hold of the body.
“There is no time to bury him in the field,” said Lytica. “Place his body on Brother Urquor’s table for now. Bar the gates!”
Men from the walls looked at him quizzically.
“The Abbot named me the successor of this order,” he explained.
“Why would he do that?” asked Yendor, a burly middle aged monk with bushy beard.
“I can only assume the time for diplomacy is at an end. A soldier is needed now to lead our defenses. Bar the gates!”
Monks ran to do as he ordered.
“I want rocks, hewn stone; anything heavy on the walls, now. Get the cauldrons from the kitchens up there too. We will boil pitch to deter them. We have less than an hour before the southmen mount the walls.”
“Wait; Brother,” said Yendor. “Why fight an army? We could simply climb down the cliffs and flee.”
“We do not have the option.”
“The option; are you forgetting that we train to fight only in the defense of others? To repel bandits is one thing, but to wantonly kill soldiers, is quite another.”
Lytica gripped his shoulder and stared into his eyes.
“I am not forgetting, Brother. If we do not fight, then the Vindavians get through to the rest of Nusalle. They will slaughter every villager they encounter as they sweep across the country. From there, they could either storm Caliet or head south, which is far more likely. They could then set up defenses behind our army, then crush it as more Vindavians cross the river, rendering Nusalle defenseless. Aye, Brother, I have not forgotten our vow. We fight to defend others; for the lives of an entire nation.”