Fourth release of the week coming up! There'll be another release tomorrow to make up for yesterday!
The cheers in Pedro resounded through the pass and across the lower lands on both sides of the mountain range. Both attempts by the barbarians to take the walls had failed, with their corpses littered all over the slope. There was an estimated five or six thousand. The casualties sustained by the defending side, on the other hand, was negligible. The first attack only caused ten casualties while a few fools hurt themselves with their own carelessness during the second. They were mostly skin-deep wounds, though. It gave the conscripted soldiers a great boost to their confidence. They thought the barbarians were nothing much and their numbers weren't a cause for concern.
Eidelwoke wasn't too optimistic about the situation, in contrast. In fact, he was fraught with incessant worry. When the soul-chilling horns and drums were played on the plains as the barbarians cried out 'Hujorah', he knew the thing he was most worried about was about to happen. The enemy had already been enraged by their two failed attempts and were going to press the attack through the night. For the soldiers defending the city, the most difficult hurdle was now here
The first wave pushed the shield carts near the walls in short order. Thanks to the light from the burning carts, the guards on the walls could easily see the barbarians were collecting the corpses of their comrades.
"Sir, they' collecting their corpses. Do you think they'll attack again tonight?" asked one of the guards, hope written on his forehead.
"Maybe. I am not too sure about their plans either. They're still far away, we shouldn't fire now. If they're only here to collect the corpses, we'll spare them. But they might be doing so to have an easier time attacking later. We should be careful," said Eidelwoke solemnly.
The skies soon darkened completely and the shield carts looked like silhouettes in the dark connected next to each other. Some of the flaming carts were extinguished. What they were doing behind them was no longer visible. Not only did the shield carts arranged next to each other obscure much of the light, it also blocked the defenders' vision.
"Longbowmen, fire a few fire arrows. Let's see what they're up to," instructed Eidelwoke.
Tens of lights arced across the night sky in a beautiful parabola before they planted themselves in the ground behind the carts. The defenders intended to see what their enemy were up to by relying on the faint illumination the arrows provided.
"They are filling the ditches!" called out a voice.
"The barbarians are going to attack tonight!" Eidelwoke's heart sunk.
With the cover of night, the enemy was much harder to deal with. It definitely wouldn't be as easy as it was during daytime.
"Steel ballistae one through ten, get some oil jars over there. Tie them at the front of the bolts and fire at the shield carts! Longbowmen, loose your fire arrows at the shield carts as well!"
Eidelwoke gave two consecutive orders. Without delay, ten jars filled with flammable oil were tied at the head of bolts before they were fired at the shield carts. While they didn't harm anyone, the jars shattered against their targets and covered them in fuel. The fire arrows soon descended from the skies onto the shield carts and set them alight one after another.
"Very well," Eidelwoke said with satisfaction for his impromptu idea, "Steel ballistae one to ten, continue tying jars to the bolts and firing them at the carts. The rest will fire at the burning carts as illumination. Your targets are the enemies trying to fill the ditches. Longbowmen, continue to rain arrows down on them!"
The soldiers toiling away below had already noticed the fires on their shield carts. As the ones that hurried to put the fires out were taken out, the rest pushed the burning carts away from the ones not yet set alight. The others ignored the rain of arrows by raising their shields over their heads after each volley was fired and continued to fill up the ditches in the intervals at an even greater speed. They were less than a hundred meters from the walls at the moment, but they'd run out of options. All the remaining carts that protected them were burning. The ground below the walls was bright as day with all the fires.
Less than two hours after the first wave retreated, however, another closed in. Each soldier had a sack of mud on his back. Under the carts' protection, they emptied their sacks into the ditches and soon established a way through which they could pass.
All the longbowmen changed from firing arced shots to firing directly at their targets. The ballistae also fired non-stop. However, there were far too many enemies on the slope. In the darkness, the shots weren't that accurate either. No matter how many casualties the barbarians suffered, they kept swarming forward. They filled the ditches and fired back at the men on the walls from the safety of their carts. The guards' casualties started piling up.
One of the ballista operators cried in pain and collapsed, his hand clasping an arrow sticking out of his right eye. After his hands and legs twitched, he stopped moving altogether. The soldier reloading the ballista shouted 'Brother!' before he hatefully pulled the trigger with the ballista aimed at the man responsible for his friend's death.
The walls hissed and clinked as hundreds of arrows bounced off them. Ten laborers busy rescuing the injured were caught in the middle of the volley and collapsed after taking tens of arrows each. Unlike the local defense soldiers who were equipped with good armor, they suffered huge casualties.
One of the soldiers quickly noticed where the barbarian longbowmen were gathered. They were standing behind a flaming shield cart. A dozen ballistae fired in that direction.
Yet another group of barbarians pushed more than ten shield carts up the slope swiftly.
"Have the ballistae and longbowmen pay attention to the barbarian archers. Suppress them!" Eidelwoke just gave an order that he would soon come to regret deeply.
Pedro's walls were six meters tall and their gate was reinforced with a layer of iron, with another huge portcullis behind. What could the barbarians do even if they managed to reach the entrance? It would take them far longer to breach the gates with the weapons they wielded, so Eidelwoke decided to target the barbarian archers instead as they were the only ones who posed a threat at the moment.
He didn't expect that the barbarians who rushed over to be so agile and swift. They rushed to the foot of the walls and drew out many long ladders from behind their carts and laid them against the walls. Some of them even used grappling hooks to ascend the walls by flinging them between the crenels of the wall. Others thrust battleforce-infused spears into the walls to use as makeshift ladders.
"The barbarians have scaled the walls!"
Eidelwoke was startled by the cry. When he turned back, he saw a number of barbarians on the walls flinging their weapons against the defenders as they roared unintelligibly.
Not far away, another barbarian made it onto the wall. With but the cold glint of a blade, the ballista operator who was taking aim had his head lopped off. His neck fountained blood as he collapsed. Before the three soldiers next to him could react, they were taken out as well.
Filled with rage, Eidelwoke drew his sword and rushed forward. The moment the barbarian saw Eidelwoke's blade which didn't have a blade glow, he let his guard down and thought the man a mere guard. He swung his shortsword up to parry as he thrust the dagger in his right at Eidelwoke's throat.
Before he could react, Eidelwoke's longsword shimmered the moment it clashed with the barbarian's sword. The man could only look at the shimmer as it cut through his sword, his shoulder, and the rest of his body on its way to his abdomen.
Kicking away the bisected corpse, Eidelwoke followed up with a strike that sent another barbarian just about to scale the walls back down.
He got some jars and smashed them against a nearby ladder. He held a torch against the two legs. His breathing only resumed once he saw the flames chase the other barbarians down the ladder.
"Have the close combat forces come to the walls immediately. Have the reserves armed with pikes and stand by as well."
It was too bad the order was given too late. More and more barbarians made their way up the walls with every passing moment. The five-man ballista teams couldn't deal with the savage assault. Many ballistae stopped firing and the number of barbarians beneath the walls increased as well.
Eidelwoke realized his mistake. He had allocated most of the space on the two-meter-wide walls to the steel ballistae, longbowmen, and laborers to supply more ammunition. So, he wasn't able to station any close combat forces on the walls. He had thought the enemy couldn't get up the walls in the first place, so he allowed the pikemen and other foot soldiers to rest in their barracks. Who knew the barbarians would actually scale the walls so quickly?
"Retreat! Retreat to the towers and shut the gates. We'll keep firing at them from there!" yelled he when he noticed the number of barbarians on the walls increasing.
After Pedro was renovated into a defensive citadel, its structure was thus: the towers extended outwards from the city's walls and were two meters taller. On both sides of the central tower, walls about a hundred meters long stood. Both ends were fitted with towers again which served two functions: to go up and down the walls and to keep situations like the current one from becoming worse. Even if they lost the walls, they could still hold the towers so the city behind the walls wouldn't be compromised.
Eidelwoke grabbed a soldier nearby.
"Cinque, go assemble 50 steel ballistae on the second wall! Fire at the enemies on this wall, quick!"
The second inner wall was two meters higher than the outer and was roughly 50 meters away. It was the final line of defense for the citadel, besides the keep. The citadel would only truly fall if the second wall and the keep were conquered.
Cinque knew how urgent the situation was and left hastily without hesitation.
"You guys should follow," ordered Eidelwoke the longbowmen on the top of the towers.
They had already tried their best; none had fired less than 40 arrows. But the enemy was far too numerous. They attacked before the longbowmen were even allowed to rest and recuperate. During the time the steel ballistae suppressed the barbarian archers, some of the barbarians scaled the walls and they lost up to a hundred men.
Currently, the part where the battle was most heated was at the four towers on the walls. Each tower only had six openings for arrows facing the city walls, so only six arrows could be fired at a time and that was not the least problematic for the barbarians, who were filled with frenzy and excitement for conquering the outer walls. They ignored the projectiles fired from the towers completely and attempted to use the shields and weapons in their hands to bash down at the towers' metal doors. Under the constant abuse, a large hole had been made in the metal door at the foot of the tower. Quickly, four to five pikes poked out from the hole with lightning speed, piercing the barbarians in the chest.
Within the tower, the dozen heavy-armored pikemen stood in a semicircle with their pikes pointed at the entrance, thrusting and taking their enemies' lives when they caught sight of them. But from time to time, the dying barbarians would unleash their final attack and cause the pikemen great harm. The injured would soon be replaced by the other pikemen behind, though.
Corpses soon piled up at the towers' entrances, almost sealing it completely. However, the number of barbarians that made it up to the wall only increased. They pushed their dead tribesmen off the walls and rushed into the tower when the opening was widened before they turned into corpses themselves that were similarly flung off the walls.
There could never be enough soldiers to go about. Each heavy-armored pikeman regiment only numbered five hundred, so each of the four towers were only stationed with a little more than a hundred. As more and more pikemen were injured or killed, they were soon replaced by the sword-and-shield soldiers. However, they suffered even heavier casualties. Though they managed to hold on for a little longer, they were quickly pushed to their limits. Eidelwoke had no choice but to order the reserve soldiers into the fray.
Even the reserve soldiers were mostly laborers, they didn't receive even an ounce of training, nor were they properly armed. The most they could do was to push back at the enemy with their pikes. Their numbers diminished even faster than the two units before; approximately five or six of them died before one barbarian soldier could be killed. This time around, the corpses that piled up once more were those of the reserve soldiers.
When the dead or injured were dragged away to be replaced, some of the reserve soldiers crumbled and ran all over the place in panic after discarding their weapons. Eidelwoke could do naught but form an enforcement unit with the 60-odd remaining sword-and-shield soldiers to get rid of near a hundred deserters on the spot. Only after their heads were lopped off and mounted on the pikes was the situation back under control.
Just as the reserve soldiers were being sent to the meat grinder that was the four towers, the steel ballistae and longbowmen were finally in position at the second wall. They soon dealt a huge blow to the barbarians who thought that the city was finally within their grasp. There were no shield carts to protect them on the outer walls of the city, and the skewered barbarians soon fell from the walls like leaves from a tree.
The walls were filled with so many corpses that there was almost no space left for walking around. The amount of blood gathered there pooled up to one's ankles. Ballista bolts and feathered arrows decorated the corpses all over. From a distance, it looked like there was a small neat forest growing on the walls. The depressing horn tune of retreat could be heard as the barbarians at the slope began their retreat. The drums that seemed to have rumbled throughout the night had already quieted down and the bloodshot-eyed Eidelwoke who was covered in blood stood up with much difficulty by holding onto the railings of the walls. He looked down at the slope and only saw the silhouettes of a few retreating grassland barbarians who carried longbows.
The enemy finally retreated and Eidelwoke finally let out a breath of relief for having defended Pedro. However, the pain from his injury made him moan uncontrollably. He had got that when he was fighting off a dozen of barbarian warriors with ten-odd other local defense soldiers. The casualties they suffered were intense and Eidelwoke himself got hurt by three sword strikes and one axe strike. Fortunately, those hits weren't fatal and he was still able to command the troops to defend the castle after wrapping his wounds up.
"Sir, reinforcements! Reinforcements are here!" cried Cinque who was in command of the second wall. He rushed to the wall and held onto the wobbling Eidelwoke and said, "They're flying Lord Freiyar's banner! The legion commander has finally made it!"
Eidelwoke suddenly felt the urge to laugh when he recalled a joke that was passed around in the household forces about how reinforcements only ever arrived after the battle was over. But before he could say anything, he blacked out and lost consciousness.
EDITOR'S NOTE 1: Fire arrows? Yeah, those are completely bogus. They'd be extinguished the moment they were loosed, and if you made them big enough to actually stay lit, they'd be too heavy for bows to fire at anything even resembling a range. Also, even if the small ones work, the arrows would be so front-heavy, they'd be completely unstable and fly all over the place, and likely just plonk down on the ground long before they get even near their target.
EDITOR'S NOTE 2: Similar thing with the fuel jars on the bolts. The bolts would be so front heavy they'd just plonk down on the ground. Also, considering the strength and integrity of the kinds of jars likely to be used here given the time period, the bolts would likely just rip the neck off when they're shot and the rest of the jar, containing the liquid, would just fall down from the walls.