March 5 at 2:00 PM
Photo courtesy of Gareth Weeks
Icy beads trickled down the hunter's spine as he approached the northern outskirts of Vissorouy. "A dozen, perhaps more," he whispered to himself, taking note of the clatter of boots across cobblestone. Powerless to confront the shadows skulking him, Lawson pressed on, the echo of heels close and steady.
As he turned the corner, the hillside came into view. Hundreds of volunteers combed the golden brush, depositing weeds and scrub into tall piles. A man in a dark cloak caught his eye, every patch of flesh concealed despite the sweltering heat. "Laurent?"
The vampire peered over his shoulder, brown hollows gleaming. "Lawson, what are you doing here?"
"I went to the estate house to speak with your father, but he was not there. How is your progress?"
"Another hour and this section will be clear," he replied.
"Were you able to acquire a purchase of rocks or other sediment?" Lawson asked.
"A mixture of shells and rocks is on its way; sand will fill in the rest."
"That will work well." The hunter considered the small field leading up to the slope. "In addition, this would be an ideal spot for towers."
"Watch towers?" Laurent continued uprooting brush.
"Water towers," Lawson replied. He slipped a lens from his pocket, and gazed over the hill. As he stepped forward, a tree slammed down behind him.
A group of men a short distance away snickered. Wiping the smirks from their faces, they picked up their tools, and continued pruning the trunk from the soil.
"So this is what you call shoring up the town's defenses? Raking leaves?" came a voice from behind.
"Lord Vangley?" Lawson turned.
A violet robe covering him from head to toe, Lord Vangley spoke through a small parcel of mesh. "What other fool would be out here watching his son clear weeds? Come, I must have a word with you." He ambled towards a nearby tent.
Lawson nodded to Laurent, and stepped under the cool tarp, gnats swarming his moist face.
"Counsel, I fear you are too cautious in your approach. You should be mounting cannons atop towers, not water," said Vangley.
"My lord, safety must be the first consideration; afterwards, we can forge new layers to allay further concerns."
The elder was unmoved. "There isn't time to build the perfect defense, Lawson. Most likely Enura will attack shortly after your meeting. Wrap up your preparations by sunfall; we strike tonight."
"My lord, do not do this. We could still reach an accord."
"Attack is imminent; even you cannot deny this," said Vangley.
Lawson lowered his head. "No sir, I cannot."
"Talmot and Essinger are pulling field culverins from my personal cache. Help move them into position."
"My lord, the edge of the forest is two miles away. Cannons are only effective if the brambles are upon us," said Lawson.
Vangley crossed his arms. "Then what do you suggest?"
"Fire remains our greatest asset, but if we cannot tame her, none of this matters." The hunter stepped forward. "Please sir, I need more time."
"There isn't more time!"
Lawson rubbed the back of his neck and paced. "Then we must lure the brambles into town, and burn down the corresponding district. The culverins will be used to coax them into place."
"Set fire to our own town?" Lord Vangley balked.
"I will let you decide which part of town is expendable, and we will call a town hall to lay out the plan," said Lawson.
"If that is what it takes to ensure Vissorouy's survival, so be it."