It was a black day under a sky full of fire when the Wolf Queen came to the city of Avara. Her armies marched unstoppable through the fields and the dales, bringing fire and rapine and slaughter with them, and smoke boiled up on all sides of the walled city like a hundred funeral pyres. The defenders could smell the burning flesh of men and beasts, and they saw the masses of prisoners driven with whips ahead of the armies to be put to raising their siegeworks.
Actaon was no knight on that day, and he stood on the walls with many men who had fled to the city with family and all they could bear to take refuge behind ancient stone fortifications. When he and his mother and children passed through the gate, the walls looked so thick and heavy he did not fear that anything would breach them, but he had not yet seen the might of the Wolf Queen’s army. Now he looked on her battalions of steel covering the earth and saw the siege towers moving like giants along the roads, dragged by ragged bands of slaves, and he knew that the fist of the queen could indeed sunder the city.
And so when they called forth for every able man to take up arms in defense of the city, Actaon left his children with his mother huddled in a crowded house with a hundred other fearful refugees, and went to to the walls. He was older than the fearful young men, and it had been many years since he lifted a sword. Yet there were no swords to be had, only stacks of hastily-made spears with the heads still black from the forging.