Fuck, I missed one.
The shout from the windows made the men that were previously trying to be as small as possible stand up and fight. I could only assume that it was an either important member of House Frey, or another influential figure.
Unfortunately, I prioritised the archers first. In hindsight there was only 2 archers that really responded to the call to action and they were no threat. My men are way too far for a rushed shot to accurately hit them, and my archers have the high ground so they would have the advantage in ranged engagement.
If I had shot the windows first then I would have taken out the other figure in the window before firing again at the archers. There were 2 figures that were poking their heads from the 1st floor windows, and I couldn’t tell who was the priority target that just shouted. Between the distance and the light from the room creating shadows on their face, it was impossible to determine who shouted. Though I got one of them I don’t know if it was the important one or not.
If I am lucky, he will poke his head out another window, so I will keep my eye out, but it is unlikely. Just then I get a message from Brutus, signalling that he is finished with his task. A few dozen men noticed that I was the greatest threat with my accurate sniping, and were circling the courtyard under the cover of the surrounding buildings.
Their goal was to apparently enter my tower through the door at the base. The cover let them approach without me being able to fire on them. Not unless I used qi bolts to penetrate the cover, but that wouldn’t be very cost effective. Using limited energy to take out a few from a few dozen is a waste. Instead I sent Brutus to deal with them since I had no real need for him at the moment.
When he finished with them, I called him back to guard the gate again where he can rest. As I look to the West of the courtyard, I can see a need for Brutus soon. Approaching was 2 carriages pulled by a pair of horses each. Escorting the carriages were about 30 of my soldiers. They brought them to the centre of the gate and stopped. Now the gate was effectively blocked. This was part of my plan to destroy the last of the enemies options.
When the last of my soldiers entered the keep, after threatening them, I first set them to defensive positions. The archers were assigned to strip the dead soldiers for their bows and quivers, while a dozen men were placed on either of the staircases to prevent anyone reaching the walkway.
A few groups of the Frey soldiers, about 50 in total, recovered when Brutus fell back to rest. They saw that my soldiers were entering the keep and sought to prevent us digging in. I targeted the men in front, though not to kill. Instead of aiming for the head or chest, I aimed for the stomach and the testicles. Not only were these less armoured due to the need for flexibility, but they also had another effect. Excruciating wounds that would incapacitate the soldier, and demoralize those following. It worked quite well.
After shooting 6 and leaving them to writhe, the rest of the soldier were split. The front half continued the charge, either not seeing their injured fellows, or not caring. The other half saw the flowing blood and heard the screams, slowing till they reached their injured companions. Some decided to help their friends, others beat a hasty retreat. And some just hesitated in the middle unsure if they should continue or retreat.
The ones that were still attacking were no longer a threat, or at least not high enough, so I didn’t fire on them. Instead I focused on the second group, specifically the ones helping their friends. Call me heartless, but not only was this group slower due to helping their injured companions, but by shooting them it was a 2 for the price of one. I killed the helpers, but I also stopped the injured getting back to the keep and receiving medical attention.
As a mercy, I didn’t injure the helpers. Partly out of respect for trying to save their comrades, but also because there was no need. The ones that hesitated fled once I continued with my onslaught, and none of the other groups around the courtyard were attacking. The ones already injured were enough of a warning so I just killed the helpers in a single shot to the heart or the head.
The group that tried to retake the gate were met with a quick defeat. Though my men hadn’t had the time to ready the archers, they were already up the stairs and had the high ground. Faced with greater numbers and with the territorial advantage, the Frey were whittled away by my men. The few survivors tried to run away, but by this point my archers were ready.
Due to being not the best shots, and using unfamiliar weapons, they missed most of the vitals even from a short distance. Another volley eliminated most of the rest and the one that almost escaped was shot by me.
Since then it has been our complete advantage. With no-one willing to lead the charge, and any archers dealt with by me, the few left were just hiding on the other side of the courtyard. It was due to my habit of shooting the archers as soon as they appeared that caused me to forget priorities for a moment when the commander shouted from the window.
I know that this wouldn’t continue for long. All the men that have fled from this fight have retreated to the main building. Without the numbers I could not pursue. And without applying additional pressure the enemy will soon get their second wind and recover. It will only take a single competent leader to gather the 2 hundred or so inside the keep and make a counter attack.
The real danger will be if the Frey gather their forces to attack me instead of Robb. When being attacked from 2 sides, the smart thing is to eliminate the smaller force first so that you can then focus on the larger one. Though it gets complicated when one side is defending and the other is attacking.
Though my side is undoubtedly the smaller force, mine has shown with our actions that I have no intention to push the attack, while Robb is trying to push forwards from the bridge. With all the pressure on that side I am hoping that they will focus only the bare minimum force to keep us contained while the rest of the army is sent to fight Robb.
Though this sounds like i am abandoning my job to draw attention, it is not. Right now, I and Brutus are exhausted and my men aren’t in the best shape from staying awake all day and night and fighting for the past hour. If I push forwards then not only will we be outnumbered, we will be boxed in. Unlike before where we held the advantage of positioning and location, the main keep is their defensive position.
I will be forced to go inside and give up my main strength of ranged combat, while Brutus will be restricted by the close quarters. This exposes our greatest fighting capability to the enemy. I also don’t know what the inside of the keep is like so I have no idea where to go to avoid dead ends and choke points. They may even exit through a side door and flank us from behind. Hell, they could just ignore us and flee from the Twins.
That leads me to the current plan. After scanning the courtyard, I spotted where the stables should have been. Signalling Rodrik, I told him to take 40 men to the west of the courtyard where the stables were and perform 2 tasks.
The first he seems to have accomplished. When the carriages are placed in front of the gates, the horses are freed and the carriages pushed together completely. There is now only a small gap between the carriages and the walls for a few men to travel in order to exit the keep. Noticing that there were fewer than I sent, and the stables were still the same I got concerned. I bend down and call to Rodrik that was leading the group.
“Rodrik! Where are the rest of your men? Also why have you not set fire to the stables?” I ask. I sent 40 men and only 30 returned. These men were uninjured and lacked bloody clothes, so it was unlikely that they met resistance.
“I left Jarr and some of the men to set the horses free. When they finished they would light the stables and they would be set loose. I thought that not only would the free horses cause havoc when they run wild, but it means Lord Stark won’t lose the horses in the fire when he takes the Twins.” Rodrik explains.
I consider his points for a moment, then answer him with a frown. “Alright I will forgive you this time since you made a good judgement. But if you disobey an order like that again then I will punish you according to military law.” I warn him.
The idea with the horses was a good one. When I told them to set fire to the stables I just wanted to divide their attention again. It would also remove the enemies ability to travel by horseback. This means that if we are overrun we can still retreat and escape.
Between the lack of horses and me and Brutus holding the rear, any pursuers on foot will quickly fall behind. As for cavalry, I intended to make that an impossibility.
“Break the axels. Those carriages are going to stay where they are unless Robb orders them moved.” I tell the men on the ground. With axes they swing at the wheels of the carriages. After a few swings they break and the carriages fall to the ground in a heap. Now it would take several dozen men to remove the obstacle and clear the gate, and that’s not the worst of it.
When Jarr sets fire to the stables and the horses scatter, the enemy will be unable to mount a proper cavalry resistance. Even if they could catch and subdue the horses, the collapsed carriage will stop them leaving the keep without spending a lot of time. I plan to set the carriage on fire as we leave to put the final nail in the coffin. This will destroy any chase or escape attempt by the enemy.
While they are collapsing the carriage, I head into my tower and climb down to the walk way. The tower might be a better strategic point to defend from, but reassuring the men will be a better task now that we have a break. Besides, it is more than likely we will have to abandon this position.
From the sounds of battle from the east becoming louder, we are coming to the conclusion of the fighting. By now Robb must have taken the Eastern Twin and is now trying to take the West Twin. The defences are a lot weaker on Robb’s side than mine, so it is only a matter of time till he is successful.
The Frey have 3 choices left to them now. The first is good for me but bad for Robb. If they divert all their forces to try and stop Robb then they could still provide stiff resistance. Robb will eventually triumph, but the casualties will be greater for the rest of the army. I will have to decide whether to attack from this side and give up my defensive position. If I do then I estimate half my men, if not more will die.
The second is the best for both me and Robb. The Frey will divide their forces to attack me and hold back Robb. I will have the advantage of position and will win if they send less than 500 men. Nearly no casualties if they underestimate me and send 200 or 300. At the same time the pressure on Robb will decrease and he will be able to take the keep even faster.
The third is the smart choice, which is abandon the keep. If the Frey pull back all but a token force to slow down Robb, then they can break through our side and escape.
I call to Rodrik. “Rodrik, organise our dead and wounded, then send them out of the keep with a ten man escort. The rendezvous point is where we left the raft.” Our victories so far didn’t come without cost. The initial charge when we were setting up on the wall left 2 dead and 4 wounded. Only one of the wounded was slashed across the eyes and is considered serious, the others are incapacitated but will recover with cleaning the wounds and rest.
I send them back first because if it is the first 2 options, I won’t need them or the escort I am sending with them. But if the enemy pushes with all their forces to try and get out, then I need to retreat and they will only slow us down.
They will leave first while I and Brutus delay the first of the pursuers. Once my troops are clear of the gate, I will throw a torch onto the carriages and set them on fire. The enemy will be delayed with putting out the flames while I ride Brutus and escape the keep.
With luck, Robb will have beaten the remaining defenders before the flames are put out, and he will capture the fleeing troops. If not, and they get out, then I will be back to work again. Once my men retreat to a safe distance, and I have recovered some strength, I will track the escapees.
They won’t be able to get horses past the carriages even if they put out the fires, so they will be travelling by foot. By riding Brutus like a horse I will have the undeniable advantage in speed and range. Then i would just keep whittling away until I either run out of arrows or they scatter.
A divided force on the run will pose no threat to the northern army. They will either be hunted down and killed, or they will surrender of their own volition.
As the men are sent away, I look back to the other side of the courtyard where the stables are. Though they are quite far away, if Jarr had done his job it should be visible. It is really hard to overlook a huge building going up in flames in the dark of night.
I was just starting to wonder if something had gone wrong, when I receive my answer. The doors to the stables are opened and a swarm of men riding horses erupt from the building. They are all armoured and carrying swords in their hands as they ride towards us.
I am suddenly reminded of another option the Frey could have taken, though it is one that I am now considering. Surrender.
What looks to be hundreds of cavalry have just erupted from the stables, and not the average militia we have dealt with till now. From their equipment, riding skill and formation they are obviously an elite and well-disciplined unit.
The way the first 100 erupted at that sort of speed and that the rest are following in a slower stream means they had a run up before they started. At their current rate the first group will reach me in about 60 seconds, with the rest of the cavalry fast on their heels. This is the worst situation.
My men won’t have time to exit through the gates before they reach us. When they do, we will be too busy fighting to retreat and they will slaughtered.
I can count over 400 already with more streaming from the stables every second. If we stay and fight, we can use the walls and stairs to force them from the horses and fight us like before, but it is ultimately hopeless.
The speed they are travelling at, and the fact they got me by surprise, will leave me only a few shots, while my other archers will not even get a volley before we are attacked. At that time Brutus will lose his previous effectiveness.
With the added weight, momentum and speed granted from horseback they are much more dangerous to Brutus in the open courtyard. Where before he could dart in and out from 3 dozen infantry, now he would be surrounded and harassed by a dozen cavalry.
Fighting on the stairs won’t be better, and may even be worse. These stairs and walkway aren’t built for bear like beasts and Brutus isn’t used to this sort of footing. Without his manoeuvrability it will be the same as fighting in the courtyard.
So our 2 greatest fighters are now restricted and my company has lost a quarter of it’s strength after Jarr and his group have clearly died. As they get closer and closer my men are starting to panic. They are shouting at each other and asking questions. Few can keep calm when faced with a charging horde.
Suddenly, they all start to look to me. I can see the question in their eyes. ‘What do we do?’.
I have crossed the Green Fork, like a trout that has returned to the river. I command a beast that can smash heavy gates and armoured men like you would a grape. I alone have slaughtered more men than this entire company. I challenged the crown alone and survived. If anyone can get them through this, it is me.
I feel their gazes on me, their confidence, and it bolsters me. I draw my bow and aim towards the cavalry. My courage is at it’s highest and I feel as if I can do anything.
My bow is drawn to its full length and is ready to fire, my gaze locked on the lead horseman... and my common sense from a lifetime on the battlefield returns to me, snuffing the fires of impulsiveness like a bucket of water.
‘Fuck’. I release the arrow and drop my bow. Without even seeing where it lands, I send a qi signal to Brutus and snatch the lit torch from the man beside me.
“Men! I am sorry. This is where we part ways. I hope you all know that the sacrifice you men have given today has helped save the lives of countless of your fellow countrymen. You should be proud.” I address the men I lead to their deaths. I then throw the torch over the wall and onto the carriage.
At this point Brutus has just landed on the carriage and jumps over it just before the torch hits the hay we placed there earlier to speed up the burning. Once he has passed, I turn and run to the opposite side of the walkway and jump. From a height of 20-metres I fall, qi reinforcing us both as I land solidly on a furry back.
Brutus’s knees bend as he absorbs the force of my fall, then sprints away down the river, the stunned looks from my abandoned troop ignored.