Night turned into day, as the whole town of Bhaile was lit by the flames that engulfed the Governor’s Villa. The King’s Guards were desperately trying to put out the fire, but it was a lost cause. Even if the outer walls of the Old Fortress were made out of solid rock, most of the interior was decorated with huge, polished mahogany pillars and sculptures, stating the wealth and royalty of its inhabitants. After all, it was home for the noblest families in Bhaile. Eventually, that exact display of abundance would become its downfall.
Lieutenant Andar rode his horse in front of the main gate of the Villa. He could feel his face burning up from the heat coming from inside. He was one of the few people that argued with the Governor about this weakness of the Fortress years ago. It was after he was appointed as Lieutenant when he was allowed to inspect every corner of the building and devise a security report.
While his ideas about where the guards should be placed and their patrol routes were undisputed, the Governor had little interest in his preventive measures regarding such an event. In his own words, “this place withstood the most fierce of times as it is. It even survived Thromach Dol Fodha’s despicable reign. Nothing can bring this place down if it’s guarded unerringly. And that is exactly how it’s guarded now, thanks to your report. For that, I, the people of Bhaile and the King himself, are all grateful to you, Lieutenant Andar”.
He didn’t feel so proud now, watching the place turn to ashes in front of his eyes. Fortunately, he did manage to convince the Governor to safeguard the Study Chamber. His arguments about the importance of keeping the ancient documents inside safe from any kind of danger convinced Ceannard. He ordered for the Library to be stripped of any unnecessary wood or any other flammable materials. As such, the walls were cleared until there was nothing left other than stone. On top of that, the shelves were three meters apart from each other, so that even if one of them would, for any sort of reason, burst into flames, they wouldn’t be able to spread to the others.
Probably the most genius measure taken was the making of the so-called “water barrier”. It was a 30 centimetres wide, 15 centimetres deep, canal that ran from the top of the sidewalls and through all the length of the floor, passing through the front of the entrance door, effectively cutting the room apart from the outside halls. This meant that no fire would be able to enter, even if the door was open. The barrier would also provide a water source to extinguish any fire that started from the inside.
Lieutenant Andar looked up at the second floor of the Villa and saw just four windows from which no flame could be spotted. That’s where the Great Library was. His design worked and the teachings inside were saved.
He then stopped a guard who was racing towards the building.
-How did this happen?
-We’re not sure, Sir! We can’t get inside yet, the fire is too powerful.
-Where is your captain, officer?
– Right there, next to the Stable, Sir!
-Very well, you may return to your duties!
Andar bound his horse by a lighting pole and went on foot to where the soldier pointed his captain was. The only good thing in this whole mess was that it was still raining heavily and that aided the fight against the fire.
-Captain, Lieutenant Andar here! I want a full report on the situation. What do you know so far?
-Lieutenant, Captain Iarrtas, at your command! I’m glad you’re here, Sir. We don’t know much yet. My men can’t get inside, but we found the guard that was watching the entrance from the Stables dead, with his throat cut. It looks like this was not unintentional. Someone breached the Fortress, Sir!
-What about the Governor, is he safe?
-We don’t know, Sir! We didn’t find him, but we have a witness. An old woman was passing by before the fire started. She said that she heard screams from the Fortress and she saw an old man in a waggon across the building, just sitting there, in the rain. He looked like he was waiting for something or someone.
-Sound the alarm! We’re under attack! Give word to your men that all the gates of the town to be shut. No one gets in or out without my permission. I want patrols on every street and all who are caught outside of their homes be interrogated. Search every building in a five kilometres radius. The main priority is to find Governor Ceannard.
-Yes, Lieutenant, I’ll give the order immediately!
-And get a ladder! You can get into the Fortress through the windows of the Great Library. Tell your men to get up there as fast as they can and to take out all the documents and books they find. We must save those files! I want them brought to the King’s Guard Tower and locked in the vault! Put four sentinels to guard them at all times. I’ll go with them to make sure no one swipes anything. You bring the woman who witnessed the scandal to me. I want to talk to her in person!
-Sir, yes, Sir! I’m on my way, Sir!
Lieutenant Andar watched how Captain Iarrtas rushed to a group of officers to tell them the new orders and how they went on themselves to spread the information to others, and so on. He then went back to his horse and waited for the officers to bring the contents of the Library.
On the other side of the city walls, the waggon was taking distance. The passengers were able to hear the guards from the gate they exited a couple of minutes earlier as they were shouting the order to close it, but it was already too late.