"They rushed right at me barehanded. All of them were old men and women. There were even a couple of mothers with tens of children under ten years old and all of them were clamoring for me to return their sons, husbands, grandsons and fathers. I really couldn't bear to kill them and could only return without doing anything..." said Lorist when he returned to the tent and explained his early departure.
Everyone looked at each other with confused gazes, not knowing what to make of the situation.
"That's far too shameless of them, milord. In the 30 years I've been a mercenary, I've experienced more than 100 siege battles but I've never heard of anything as atrocious as that. This..." said Hausky as he didn't know how to continue the conversation. He was currently wrapped up in many bandages; the injuries were the ones he sustained during that night when they had to retreat from the walls. At that time, the injured comrade he was carrying got showered with arrows and died while Hausky himself got hit by a couple as well. Had it not been for the fact that the metal armor he was wearing stopped the arrows from penetrating too deeply, he might've been beyond saving.
"The family leaders of the four great families of Wildnorth Town are all cunning old bastards. I suspect that they came up with this method after that one time when I didn't kill the old guy on the walls. The most laughable part is that they treat Wildnorth Town as their own territory and label us as the horrible invaders. That was why the civilians were so willing to give their own lives up to protect their town. Even those old people were willing to die if it meant they could take me with them..." said Lorist as he sighed.
"That's not right, milord. Didn't you say that they were unarmed? How did they plan to die with you?" Patt asked.
Lorist pointed to Patt and said, "Are you really asking that or are you playing dumb? Those old people wanted to hold tight onto me and stop me from moving or dodging so that the three ballistas can fire and obliterate me along with them. The moment I saw the ballistas aimed in my general direction and the old people who were scrambling to hold me down, I understood their ploy. That was why I got down so quickly."
"Milord, even though the defenseless citizens of Wildnorth Town are the family members of traitors and deserve nothing less than death, and that their relatives soldiers died because they resisted us directly, I think that what you did was right. If it were me, I would also be unable to lash out at those defenseless people," Pajik said.
"Then, how would we be able to continue the siege? Should we close one eye just because the scum family leaders are using the elderly, women and children as their shields?" said Paulobins in annoyance. Even though he was merely a squad captain, he was currently serving as a temporary company captain and he had hoped that he would be able to get Lorist's recognition by raking in some achievements during this expedition and be promoted to become a family knight.
"On my way back, I thought of a method we can use. From today onwards, every two hours. I'll go take a stroll on the walls of the town and unsettle the soldiers of the garrison force as well as the civilians up there. You guys can also bring a squad of family soldiers nearby during the night to make some noise. Stand beneath their walls and strike at your drums while screaming that you're going to attack the town or something so that the people up on the walls won't be able to get a good night's sleep. I am pretty sure that within two days, when I get up on the walls again, those civilians will definitely be so soundly asleep that even if you play a drum beside their ears, they wouldn't wake up," Lorist said.
"Haha, I knew that milord will have a way. That method sounds rather good. I will be the first to harass them tonight," said Jim excitedly. He had been pretty lucky during the night of the retreat. After he slid down from the siege ladder, he ran like an agile rabbit and didn't incur any injuries much to the surprise of others.
"Milord, must we attack only from the front wall? Right now, the forces of their garrison are mostly concentrated there. If we attack from the back wall without warning, then surely they would struggle to respond and send reinforcements there in time..." The one who said that was Reidy and he suggested for the location of the attack points to be switched.
Patt smiled happily and said, "Reidy, you little idiot... If we change the point of attack, wouldn't we have to fill up the moat like before? By then, the soldiers of the town would definitely know that we are going to attack from there. When we finish our preparations, they will already be ready to receive us. That's why changing a location is quite a futile exercise..."
"Why do we need to fill out the moat?" said Reidy in a dissatisfied tone.
"How would you be able to cross it if we don't? It is 3 meters wide you know. Can you jump over there in one go?" Patt was thinking to himself of how stupid Reidy had sounded.
"Can't we just lay a few wooden boards on the moat when we attack? That way we can easily cross it," Reidy said.
Stunned, Patt mumbled, "This... um..."
Nobody present had a clue that there would be an easier way to overcome the moat and were all stunned by Reidy's suggestion.
Lorist clapped his hands and said, "That's right. Reidy, good job coming up with this idea. This way, we will definitely be able to catch them off-guard. And given how their ballistas are positioned to face the front wall, it would definitely take them some time to reorient it. Alright, the next time we launch an attack, we'll mobilize all our troops and finish this in one go."
"Then, do we still have to harass them during the night?" Jim asked.
"Of course we have to. We need to let them think that we're still going to attack from the front so that they will focus their attention and distribution of their forces there. For these two days, we'll bother them nonstop to tire them out and secretly move our forces to the other side. We'll also send a squad to frighten them from the front wall so that they will congregate their forces there in preparation to receive the 'attack' while we launch the true assault from the back wall. I will be the first to go up and kill off the remaining troops who stay behind at the back wall and subsequently destroy the three ballistas on the platform. The key focus of this plan is speed. By the time they get an understanding of the situation, we should already have victory within our grasps."
Lorist effectively combined his and Reidy's plans into a cohesive whole that would be perfect for conquering Wildnorth Town's walls and was met with the unanimous applause from everyone within the tent. Within another two days, the town would be conquered.
On the 12th day of the expedition, the dinner served was more plentiful than usual. Everyone knew that they were going to have a sleepless night that would determine whether they would triumph over Wildnorth Town.
During the past two days, the soldiers of Wildnorth Town had already been tired out severely. Not only were they unable to rest well during the night, they had to deal with Lorist's surprise visits during the day as well. Lorist would occasionally use the same wooden stick method to scale the walls and kill a number of soldiers and escape before the civilians made their way to him, causing the garrison soldiers to be unable to anything about it. They have already seen Lorist's abilities for themselves and understood that there was no way to force this new dominion lord of theirs to leave their walls apart from using human wave tactics after some of them witnessed a few of their Silver ranked fighters getting killed within one exchange with Lorist who seemed so relaxed as if he were merely slaughtering chickens.
Had they not discovered that Lorist wouldn't harm their elderly, womenfolk and children and used them to hold Lorist back, the garrison troops' morale would have crumbled and they might have surrendered after Lorist's continued solo rampages. Nowadays, the four great families of Wildnorth Town could only use the propaganda of protecting their homeland and relatives to motivate their troops. On one hand, they fanned the flames among the civilians to invite them to avenge their loved ones who had died from Lorist's hands. On the other hand, they were hoping that Duke Loggins's forces would arrive as soon as possible to reinforce them.
Even though they understood that the enemy was harassing them on purpose, the garrison force couldn't afford to slacken their defense just in case the attack was real. After only two days, the garrison soldiers were mostly tired out. A few of the leaders noticed that it wasn't faring well and wanted to have a part of the troops take tests rests in shifts, but they were worried that they wouldn't have enough forces to push Lorist back when he attacked again and had no choice but to continue as they had. L
Pajik, Paulobins, the both of you will lead squads to the hill near the town's back wall by circling from behind our camp. Make sure to reach there by ten o'clock at night and ensure that the troops are disciplined and quiet at all times so that the soldiers of the town don't discover us, understand?" said Lorist as he finalized the plan.
"Yes, milord. We understand."
"Jim, are you clear on your role?"
"I am, milord. I will bring the mercenaries to hide the wooden boards and siege ladder in the nearby forest and set it up after you get up the wall so that Pajik and the rest can lead their forces to ascend the wall," Jim replied.
"Reidy, you will be in charge of leading the lightly injured troops to carry out the usual harassment."
"Shadekampf, please watch the main camp. Hausky, tonight's camp patrols will be up to you. Be alert, I'm worried that the people of Wildnorth Town will be forced to desperation and take the initiative to attack us instead."
"Don't worry, milord. Even though I'm all bandaged up, my movements are not affected in the least. I will definitely not spare a single one of them if they come," replied Hausky.
"Good. Tonight, we occupy Wildnorth Town. We..." Before Lorist finished what he had to say, sounds of a horse galloping towards the camp could be heard. The rider stopped his horse and the mount neighed in response.
A guard rushed into the tent all covered up in dust while breathing raggedly. Before he recovered his breath, he saluted and reported, "Re-reporting to milord... Ken-Kenmays Family's 2000 plus force has arrived at the Firmrock Castle today and started their assault. Our forces have sustained huge casualties defending it and Sir Ovidis has asked me to request for reinforcements."
The people in the tent instantly broke into a chatter. Everyone knew that Firmrock Castle was the most important citadel that sealed off the Norton Family dominion from the rest of the Northlands. That is also where Lorist intended to build the main city of the dominion in the future.
Lorist recognized the guard who had came to make the report as he had seen him hanging around Ovidis a number of times and was confident he wasn't an impostor to deliver a false report. "Calm down and speak slowly. Did Ovidis only send you alone?" asked Lorist as he passed a cup over.
The guard received the cup gratefully and drank huge gulps of water before he rubbed his mouth dry and said, "Yes, we are far too short on people. The enemy has launched two attacks that we successfully fended off. About a squad of people were injured or killed in the process and Sir Ovidis could only send me to come as we were too short on men. When I arrived at Maplewoods Bastide, they said that you were still here so I rushed over immediately."
"What's going on? Firmrock Castle should be quite well fortified. Why are the casualties so high? How is Ovidis commanding his troops?" Lorist was very troubled as he thought, don't tell me Ovidis went outside the castle to receive their attack in an open field battle? That can't be, he's not that stupid...
"No, milord. The Kenmays Family forces have two squads of properly trained longbowmen. The 200 or so bows are really too fearsome and they can shoot much further than the ballistas of the castle. We couldn't defend the outer wall at all and most of the casualties came from their longbowmen units. However, not everything is going well for the enemy either as they have failed twice in their attempts to take the inner wall due to the ballistas we have hidden within the turrets on that wall. It is estimated that their casualties are at least double of ours," said the guard, finally reporting a piece of good news.
"Sol!" Lorist smashed his fist onto the table and flipped the cup over. What horrible timing! If the Kenmays didn't attack now, I would've been able to conquer Wildnorth Town! What should I do now?
Lorist paced around within the tent as the rest stared at him and awaited his decision. Even though the occupation of Wildnorth Town was within sight, the urgent call for reinforcements from the messenger had worried all of them.
"I have decided..." said Lorist after he finally made his choice, "...to call off tonight's operation and recall all troops to the Maplewoods Bastide. Paulobins, when we return to the bastide, pick a company of the family troops for deployment. Shadekampf, have Supervisor Spiel ready some carriages when we get back for the troops Paulobins pick to use to travel to Firmrock Castle, alright?"
"Pajik, let the injured soldiers rest when we arrive at the bastide and increase the training of the remaining ones. I will leave the defense of the bastide to you."
"Please be assured that the bastide will be fine with me there," promised Pajik.
"Reidy, pay a visit to the military base and ask Supervisor Kedan to move the laborers back to the Maplewoods Bastide so that they won't get attacked by the forces of Wildnorth Town."
"Yes, milord." Reidy's shoulder was still bandaged. That was the wound he had incurred when he saved a number of family soldiers during the first attempt to take the town.
"Hausky, Jim, I want to give you and your mercenaries a task."
"Milord, please instruct us," said Hausky.
"Go back to Maplewoods Bastide ahead of us and make sure to have someone pay attention to the movements of the Wildnorth Town garrison. If you are confident that you can eliminate the scouts of the town, please do so as often as possible so that the town will be blind to the affairs outside. The reward is similar with the one for the mountain barbarians. Do you think you can do it?"
"Milord, we will definitely give it our best."
"Milord, are we going to leave Wildnorth Town just like that?" Jim asked while seeming a little reluctant.
"Wildnorth Town will remain here and it's not like it will suddenly grow legs and run away, right? When we fend off the troops of the Kenmays Family, we will come back to get rid of them once and for all," Lorist said. "Patt, make your preparations. We will depart straight for Firmrock Castle."
"Milord, can I follow you as well?" Jim asked in a worried tone.
Lorist smiled and said, "Naturally. Jim, do come along with us."