The soldiers next to him were nervous - any why shouldn't they be? They'd never had to face a situation like this before. Some were still hauling baulks of timber to reinforce the fort's main gate. The walls were short enough that Arpad could have reached down to help.
Arpad was determined to help. They were good people. The night before the officers had arranged a hearty meal to improve morale, but the cold morning air seemed to have leached all the bravado out of them. Arpad was made of sterner stuff. He'd been in dire situations before. He'd walked away from all of them, but sometimes in defeat. There'd be no holding back if he wanted to save the previous night's drinking companions.
The thief, Zsuzsa, was watching the same horizon from a different section of wall. Arpad had met her once before, and she'd disappeared with a small fortune of his. Arpad didn't bear a grudge. A good sword and a sturdy shield were more important to him than gold or jewels. He knew she could handle herself at least as well as he could. She'd claimed to be just passing through, but passing through to where? She must have realised, as he had, that the invasion was coming and come here to help hold it back.
Every spring the thaw came. Every year an army would descend from goblin lands as soon as the mountain pass was clear. Every invasion was met by an army here at Fort Briggs. The stronghold provided a safe place to take the wounded and a vantage point for archers while the main battle happened on open ground. There was no army this year. When the the thaw finally came after the Year of No Summer the rivers had burst their banks, washed away bridges and turned roads in quagmires. The human armies, already depleted following the poor harvest, could not make it to the Fort in time. The goblin horde, however, was likely to be the largest ever seen after being pent up behind the mountains for over a year. If the Fort couldn't hold the pass, the farmlands were undefended.
Down in the ward, the young ex-cleric, Sandor, was putting the final touches to his improvised field hospital. Arpad found him young and nervous, but anyone who got thrown out of holy orders for answering back was all right in his book.
Along the valley, Arpad spotted the other veteran, Wiola, waving frantically. She was an archer, and a bloody good one from what he'd seen. He didn't understand her journey or vision quest or whatever she called it, but the steel he'd seen in her eyes when he'd explained the situation here had told him she could be relied on. From her position next to the rock traps the soldiers had prepared, she had seen the advancing army.
Arpad watched the rabble appear around a rocky outcropping. Hundreds, no, thousands of goblins screeching their anger. Good news, then. Plenty for everyone.