Romanus Psellos, a human Royal Castle Guardian, and his warriors are assigned the task of guarding a royal jewel in Eudoxia Castle. After the Flood in 758, Eudoxia Castle is besieged by the Dwarves. A tough test awaits both Psellos and his warriors. Eudoxia Omnena, the chief architect of the empire, completed the construction of the castle 149 winters ago. Empress Theodora ordered artefacts as a token of her sovereignty. On this order, a craftsman and dragon trainer Carenthius Stratagus crafted the artefact, and it is called Theodora’s Shield. In Eudoxia Castle, this jewel must be protected.
“We made a vow; we were the Guards of the Royal Shield Tower.”
If you rule for more than half of the known world, and at your borders, you have enemies that you call ruthless, which threaten your empire all the time you must be prepared. When you are the ruler of such an empire, you must always take care of your borders. You must build strong castles and towers that will ensure the security of the border and the empire. If you ensure that the castles are protected by professional warriors, you can always keep your enemies away from your country.
As Empress Theodora did, you must prepare for the political war, too. For this reason, instead of constantly occupying your mind with unrest and war at the borders, you need to place fortified positions to the most trustworthy generals and skilled warriors.
If you live in the period of a ruler who thinks and knows what is going on, you will probably witness the demonstrations of power. Even if you’re lucky, you can go up to higher positions.
I, Romanus Psellos, was one of those lucky people.
On that day, I was protecting a forgotten damn castle in the north of the empire, with my forty two warriors loyal to me.
I’ve overseen security in the North River and along the East River. However, these castles were usually built to suppress rebellions or to better control the community in the conquered region. Ours was built here to protect a mountain range on two sides of the mountain range. I’ve been keeping this castle safe for about twenty winters. There have been attacks several times, they were nothing but a small northern war unit. We haven’t lost.
The castle was solid. She was always up and well protected. Yes, as she. We call it by her architect’s name, Eudoxia.
That’s what we were told before we got to protect this castle. Before I left the Imperial capital, I read a few things about them here. One hundred forty nine winters ago, Eudoxia Omnena, the chief architect of the empire, undertook the construction of the castle. Interestingly, they named it here as Eudoxia Castle. For the first time, I heard of a castle with a woman’s name, or rather a man’s name.
Well, since we’re still here, she did a great job.
Imposing square towers, north of the castle, on both sides of the main door is placed in a line way. The long and wide windows of the towers are guarded by gates for our missiles. The banners are always floated with the effect of the wind, as evidenced by the enormous castle belonging to the land of Empress Theodora.
The large wooden gates on the north side are supported by iron columns. I and the warriors completed this column two winters ago. The gate is thirty meters wide and the walls four hundred seventy three meters long.
The forest beyond the gate of the great castle is also danced with each other in the atmosphere of the castle and hosts many animals and creatures.
It shows that the outward appearance of this structure is quite old.
The surface of the walls was almost reached up; the vines are stretching up like they’re drowning. Due to natural disasters and a few conflicts, it is impossible not to realize that the destroyed parts of the castle have been rebuilt.
As I said, Eudoxia was the architect of this castle. There are a lot of records about Eudoxia. His fame in some sense depended on this castle. That’s why it could be so subtle. But this castle was her first architecture of the army. Previously she built the baths, palaces and temples. It is said that she built a temple in his name with the financing of thousands of gold provided by the great Emperor Heracles. However, this temple was still not found.
Eudoxia’s husband, Carenthius Stratagus, was also renowned as a craftsman. He performed the art of jewellery very well. He especially made many pieces of jewellery for Empress Sophie and Emperor Iovinus’ and their crown. But he is mainly known as the dragon-master. We are protecting one of the jewellery he made.
According to the imperial traditions, the new monarchs send precious jewels to the dangerous areas of the border points of the land. The old one is exhibited at the imperial museum in the capital. If the new rulers behave smart enough to preserve the jewellery they send, they are already guaranteed their sovereignty. When these precious things disappear, the warriors and generals responsible for the protection of the jewel are killed. The ruler is either exiled or replaced by the eldest person in the dynasty. It hasn’t happened yet. All the rulers have kept these jewels until this time.
Carenthius also worked for Empress Theodora in seven different jewels. However, the most important one is being kept in Eudoxia Castle. It’s called Theodora’s Shield, and I can say that it’s as big as an average person, that’s a lot bigger than an ordinary shield.
According to rumours, Carenthius began the production of this shield before the Empress’ coronation.
The shield was hammered by the green flame of Zembir, which was trained by Carenthius and his favourite jade dragon. In the centre of the Shield there is a painting of Empress Theodora, and underneath Zembir’s figure painted on it. The gigantic jade eyes appear hidden in the skull of the creature. This gives him a threatening appearance. His two horns above his head seem like his crown. His nose is pointed, and he has two thin, curved holes as if he were breathing flame over the shield.
The value? Unpredictable.
If you are protecting something that cannot even be priceless, there should be fear inside of you. Our enemies beyond the walls know that such a value is protected here.
Today, when I thought for the second time, I realized that it was very easy to get this jewel. There was an army of enemies prepared to besiege us, and I was watching them with my fellow warriors while I’m standing on the wall. But this time there were not the barbarians from the north. There are dwarves as strong as steel.
Why are they fighting us? That’s the thing that we didn’t even know. Have they got the jewels from all the other border castles, and this is the last of them, the one we are protecting? We were so far away from the capital.
As far as the dwarves are concerned, their skills in the sieges are well-known in the whole world.
They’re fond of jewels. They are also good warriors. They fight in their armies’ side by side with their men and women. Now, hundreds of them were camped and prepared to besiege. We? We were only forty-two loyal warriors.
I believed we could keep them for a while, but we couldn’t keep them for too long.
I sent a messenger to the capital, but I didn’t have any hope of reaching it in time. Even if the messenger had reached the capital, I didn’t think the empress’s army would make it here.
Eudoxia Castle — 14th Day of the Siege, After the Flood 758
The weather got cold, but these dwarves were still working there. According to the reports from one of my warriors who watched in the west of the wall, there were various creatures with them; a bull-headed and human-bodied creature about three meters tall. They are a minotaur. What kind of a deal could the dwarves have with the minotaur? I should have seen this with my own eyes.
I went to the west wing, there were indeed dozens of minotaur.
Each of them, with their swords almost on their height, was slicing the trees.
I tried so hard not to show my fear in the face of what I saw. Fortunately, the warrior who was next to me was focused on the minotaur. The symbol of the flags, which were placed in certain areas in their camp, was the same as their own. A bull’s head, but it wasn’t like an ordinary bull’s head. They had red eyes and long beards, too.
I left the walls and went to my room so as not to spend too much time watching them here.
Eudoxia Castle — 28th Day of the Siege, After the Flood 758
We’ve been under siege for twenty-eight days, and there’s still no report from the messenger or the imperial army.
We couldn’t protect that castle with forty-two warriors. We could have stalled them for a while, but we would not defend this castle with forty-two people.
I thought about how to protect the castle with so few warriors and made some plans.
Since they were far enough away from us, we would secretly plan the plan from this night.
First, we made a fortification twenty meters away from the wall. The stakes we were going to put here would stall them for a while. Behind it, we dug a trench five meters deep and ten meters wide. We used the available resources to place it in this trench. We have previously staked from the tree trunks that we cut for the firewood and placed it on the base of the ditch. We now use our resources according to these extra defence plans.
Eudoxia Castle — The Clash Has Begun, After the Flood 758
The dwarves attacked Eudoxia Castle this morning. The sound from the trumpets was intimidating. It could be heard with violence as if they were going to destroy us and bury us in the snow.
The horn sounds were interrupted after a minute. It was replaced by the sounds of the minotaur and the war cries of the dwarves and their maces, swords.
Then we heard the siege weapons releasing the rocks. The impact of the rocks bumping into the walls was so intense like an earthquake.
We stood for about half an hour. However, these attacks have been severe since we predicted. The rocks sent from the siege weapons did not breach our walls much. Whatever Eudoxia did, in half an hour, about seventy rocks hit the walls intensely. At least I counted seventy of the sounds the rocks hit the walls. These rocks just opened a few breaches. But they were not at the reach of the dwarves or minotaur.
The walls wouldn’t last anymore. We should’ve done something right now.
Eudoxia Castle — The Breach on the Walls, After the Flood 758
Hours have passed. The dwarves demolished the west walls and breached in with the minotaur. We weren’t on the walls because the trenches worked. The siege towers couldn’t get close to the walls. So, they made bridges with tree trunks they gathered on the ditch.
When the breaches were opened, they attacked, and we turned to the breach. We’ve built a shield wall along the demolished area.
The minotaur ran from the front and we collided with them first. Our shield wall worked. We managed to keep them for a while.
With the right timings, from the left to the right, we lowered the shield wall and responded with our swords. That’s how we killed 4 minotaurs. But there was more in the back, pulling back the dead to their side and paving the way. After we killed the sixth, we heard a scream. It was a war cry. He was coming from behind the minotaur and he was almost pushing the voices in our region.
“A’er, Garteus! Gorud’da!”
There were gaps in the shield wall, and I tried to see what was going on. There was a long and severe minotaur from the other minotaur. With a war cry, he ran to where we were. After about four meters, he jumped. He lowered his warhammer to the location of Pegarius, Cyril and Mercurius.
It was so intense that their shields smashed and crushed them. The warriors behind us also withdrew their lifeless bodies.
Vincentius, Opilio and Quintus took their place.
The minotaur with the warhammer took a step back and the hammer swung again. He didn’t hurt this time. Because Quintus thrust his spear to the right of the belly of the minotaur. The minotaur was thrown back with pain. Then Quintus once again stabbed his spear. This time his throat was the target. Their creature met with sudden death where he stands. Two minotaurs stumbled upon his body, then they kissed the ground. So, it was easy for us to kill them. Although the number of minotaurs decreased, the salvos of the dwarves from the crossbows were raining on us. Several of them pierced the shields, and three of my warriors fell on the ground.
After a very short time, the dwarfs joined the minotaur. The war began to blow down hammers, axes and swords.
When we realized that we couldn’t take it anymore, I gave my warriors a retreat order. Thus, we are positioned in a large guard tower forty-five meters away behind the walls.
6 of our friends had been lost at the breach.
We closed the doors after we pulled back into the tower. We supported the doors as much as we could. We have supported the door with many items including chairs, tables and chests.
Eudoxia Castle — The Royal Shield Tower, After the Flood 758
We waited for about half an hour. There was no news of support troops yet.
How do we understand? We could hear the voices of the minotaur.
The gates of the tower were made of steel. There were also traps in many places. Especially the traps around the jewel room would be fatal for someone unaware of them. We were also expecting jewellery in the room.
There were many torches in the room and each one was hitting on the shield. Therefore, the light blazing from the shield was intensely green. Even if it was dim, there was light.
We were lucky to have the room to take us all.
Eudoxia Castle — Jewellery Room, After the Flood 758
While waiting in the jewellery room, the warriors began to talk about how the empress left us.
“If she doesn’t care about us, why not come for the shield?”
The jewel was so precious to Empress Theodora. We heard outside voices as we continued to argue about a few warriors.
“Kaza’den adzu’r. Iz kanz, Theodora!”
I heard about Theodora. At least I understood Theodora from this voice. Did they come? Or were they trying to mislead us?
After this very loud voice of a dwarf man, a female voice was heard.
“Don’t let them get away! Kill them all!”
This was Empress Theodora!
I knew her voice. She had arrived! We rushed through the gates…
When we opened the gates, we saw the empress’s face. She was looking at us on the Phoenix she called Sun. Her face was so beautiful. Her crown shining like her phoenix. Her eyes black like coal, and her tanned skin was stunning. Her armour was very harmonious to his proportionate body. We just stood there for a while.
We felt the wind when the Phoenix stretched back and screamed into the sky. It was a different scream, not like a cry, but rather a unique sound.
Theodora’s beauty was enchanted when we hear it and come to ourselves, behind her, there were a hundred elite imperial guards. Some stood still at the doorway, while others stood still behind the Empress.
“Thank you for your loyalty to me,” Theodora said.
Although she was an aristocrat or even an empress, she had lost nothing of her kindness. This land could never see a ruler like her.
“Empress Theodora!” We said excitedly and greeted with respect.
Theodora’s Shield and Eudoxia Castle were once again safe.
I, Romanus Psellos, now became the chief advisor of the Empress.
If you live in a period of such a ruler, you can secure positions not because of flattery, but because of your success.
When I saw the expression on my warriors’ faces, I realized that I had made the right choice by involving them in my group. Their friendship, bravery and loyalty were extraordinary. That’s what made us strong!
We made a vow; we were the Guards of the Royal Shield Tower.