Ribuld puts the Tor to his bed, with the help of the Tor's physician.
Then Joyse and Kragen make battle plans involving the Congery and their respective armies. As the discussion wears on, Geraden's face frequently telegraphs uneasiness. The King asks him why he looks so uncomfortable. Geraden answers that he and Terisa don't know how to use their talents in the upcoming battle, that he feels they should be doing something else somewhere else, but he doesn't know what. King Joyse calmly replies that he and Terisa are the only judges of what they can and cannot do, and that they know their talents for Imagery best and will think of something in good time (to which Master Barsonage agrees). The King soon dismisses everyone to get a few hours' sleep.
The Tor's involvement in the story continues the following morning, as he wakes up after the battle has started and the Congery has unleashed its weapon of two mirrors on the opposite sides of the Esmerel valley that together create and erase a chasm at will.
A couple stone's-throws of distance away, the Tor and Ribuld see the backs of Joyse, Elega, Kragen, Terisa and Geraden being consumed with attention to the Cadwals threatening the Congery. The Cadwals are gathering to invade the rocks where the Masters are translating the chasm. The Tor uses their distraction to get Ribuld to grab two horses for them to ride out into battle. Both have cheerfully determined they will sacrifice themselves to help turn the battle. The Tor momentarily focuses on the battle and on his king's response to it. King Joyse is snapping to Prince Kragen, "Reinforcements. Where in all this rout is Norge? The Masters must be reinforced." Ribuld brings the Tor a bay horse, and the old lord lunges upon it and positions himself properly in the saddle.When the Tor woke up--gasping, as he always did these days at the great, hot pain in his side--the rumble [from Eremis, Gilbur, or Vagel translating a rockslide to fill the Congery's chasm] hadn't started yet. Outside his tent, the valley was strangely quiet. That disconcerted him: he was expecting combat. The relative silence sounded like an omen of disaster, an indication that bloodshed and death had lost their meaning.
Opening his eyes, he saw from the hue of the canvas overhead that day had dawned. He was alone in the tent, except for Ribuld, who dozed against the tentpole with his head nodding on his knees. An experienced veteran, Ribuld could probably sleep on a battlefield, if he were left alone.
Silence outside: only a few shouts from time to time; the mortal sounds of catapult arms against their stops. And a few daring or obvious birds, following their calls among the rocks. The Tor knew all the birds of his Care. He would be able to identify each call, if he listened closely enough. For the sake of his sons, who had grown up in more peaceful times than he had, he had become avid at birding.
But there should have been a battle going on. Strange--
The Congery. Of course. Master Barsonage had promised to translate that crevice somewhere.
Must be quite a sight--clefts in the ground out of nowhere; the fate of Mordant depending on Imagery as well as swords.
"Ribuld," said the old lord, "help me up."
Not loud enough: Ribuld didn't move.
"Ribuld, help me up. I want to see what is happening."
I want to strike a blow for my son and my Care and my King in this war.
Ribuld jerked up his head, blinked the sleep out of his eyes. Alert almost at once, he rose and came to the cot where the Tor sprawled. "My lord," he murmured, "the King says you've got to rest. He commands you to rest."
Speaking softly around his pain, the Tor replied, "Ribuld, you know me. Did you believe I would obey such a command?"
The guard shifted his feet uncomfortably. "I'm supposed to make sure you do."
The Tor managed a thin chuckle. "Then let him execute us both when this war is done. We will share the block with Master Eremis for our terrible crimes. Help me up."
Slowly, a grin tightened Ribuld's scar. "As you say, my lord. Disobeying a King is always a terrible crime. Anybody fool enough to do that deserves what he gets."
Bracing himself on the sides of the cot, Ribuld helped the lord roll into a sitting position.
Agony threatened to burst the Tor's side. He took a moment to absorb the pain; then, hoping he didn't look as pale as he felt, he said, "Some wine first, I think. After that, mail and my sword."
May it please the stars that I am able to strike one blow for my son and my Care and my King.
Ribuld produced a flagon from somewhere. The sound of catapults came again, followed by cries and curses, yells for physicians. May it please the stars-- Some time passed before the Tor realized that he was staring into the flagon without drinking.
Gritting his courage, he swallowed all the wine. Before he could lapse into another stupor, he motioned for his undershirt and mail.
With gruff care, Ribuld helped him to his feet, helped him into his leathers and mail and cloak, helped him belt his ponderous and unusable sword around his girth below the swelling in his side. Several times, the old lord feared that he would lose consciousness and fall; but each time Ribuld supported him until his weakness went away, then continued dressing him as if nothing had happened.
"If I had a daughter," the Tor murmured, "who obeyed me better than the lady Elega obeys her father, I would order her to marry you, Ribuld."
Ribuld laughed shortly. "Be serious, my lord. What would a boozing old wencher like me do with a lord's daughter?"
"Squander her inheritance, of course," retorted the Tor. "That would be the whole point of marrying her to you. To give you that opportunity."
This time Ribuld's laugh was longer; it sounded happier.
"Now," grunted the lord when Ribuld was done with his belt, "let us go out and have a look at the field of valor."
He managed two steps toward the tentflaps before his knees failed.
"My lord," Ribuld murmured repeatedly, "my lord," while the Tor's head filled up with black water and he lost his vision in the dark, "give this up. You need rest. The King told you to rest. You'll kill yourself."
Precisely what I have in mind, friend Ribuld.
"Nonsense." Somehow, the Tor found his voice and used it to lift his mind above the water. "I only want to watch King Joyse justify the trust we have placed in him. I want to watch him bring High King Festten and Master Eremis to the ruin they deserve.
"A horse to sit on. So I can see better. Nothing more."
Ribuld's eyes were red, and his face seemed congested in some way, as if he understood--and couldn't show it. "Yes, my lord," he said through his teeth, "I'd like to watch that myself."
Carefully, he helped the Tor upright again.
Together, they reached the tentflaps and went out into the shadowed morning.
Then by translation, an avalache of rocks pours down from open air to fill the chasm the Congery had created. Such a translation must be from Eremis or Gilbur or Vagel, for their allies the Cadwals move closer to the rapidly-filling chasm like they expected this development. The translated rock avalanche moves smoothly back and forth over most of the canyon, methodically filling up much of it. A third of the chasm is now able to be crossed by the Cadwal cavalry and infantry, so those Cadwals quickly begin charging over the rocky debris. During a vulnerable moment for the forces of Mordant and Alend, when both Norge and Kragen are struggling to rally and organize their soldiers, the Cadwal charge could cause of lot of damage very quickly.
And it is in just that moment that the Tor rushes to give all he can to the defense of his people, his country and his King!