The walls of Herbergja were sturdy. Built by Dwarven masons in ages past and reinforced by engineers from Fontaine. As the trebuchets began launching their projectiles, the walls held against strike after strike. For weeks, boulders flew through the air from the besieging stone throwers, smashing against the fortifications. The precision was not always exact. At times, they fell short, landing in the moat or even further back. Some flew too far, crashing into the city beyond the walls to destroy roofs and houses, even causing death. Yet most hit their target.
At night, working by torchlight, the defenders repaired as best they could. Stone was hewn into smaller pieces and carried away, replaced by new pieces. This work carried its own risk. One night, the southerners made their way through the dark to send a barrage of arrows against the walls under repair, killing several masons. After that night, the defenders shot fire arrows onto the ground, allowing them to watch out for other sneak attacks.
Regardless, repairing was slower work than destroying. Even as the defenders expended their dwindling stores of stone, they had to watch as their fortifications crumbled faster than they could restore them. Three weeks after the siege began, the south-western wall was breached.
As the stonework collapsed, leaving a large gap, the mercenaries stood ready. They hastened forward, pushing great wicker screens ahead of them to defend against the arrows raining down from the towers. With them, they carried floating bridges, rolls of timber tied together, which they threw into the moat. With that last obstacle out of the way, they stormed into the city.
They were greeted by a host of spearmen. Approaching the walls under a hail of arrows and crossing the floating bridge left the mercenaries disorganised, in contrast with the disciplined Order soldiers awaiting them. Again and again, the attackers threw themselves against the garrison, but they simply could not break the shield wall. All the while, the stones broken over the weeks had been saved, and now the defenders pelted the southerners with them, throwing them from the walls. Every helmet struck this way caved in, leaving more bodies to fill the path and hinder progress.
As several hundred lay dead, the mercenaries admitted defeat. The horn blew, signalling to retreat. Victorious for now, the garrison rejoiced, harassing the enemy with arrows while possible. The first skirmish had been won, decisively, and the defenders breathed a sigh of relief.
Safely within his own defensive structures, the prince watched the retreat. "It is too easy for them to defend," he muttered. "They know where we will strike. They have had all this time to prepare for incursion."
"What do you wish done, sidi?" asked Adherbal by his side.
Saif exhaled. "We need a feint."
Two days later, on the morning, the southerners made another attack. They charged against the breach, using screens as before to guard against arrows. Unlike the first time, they did not rush; on the contrary, they seemed to move almost at a slow pace. Meanwhile, defenders gathered to repel the assault as before.
Once there had been ample time for the garrison to send reinforcements towards the gap, there appeared another force, hitherto hiding behind the camp defences. They hurried forward on horses to close the distance between palisade and moat; behind them came several thousand footmen in quick march.
Their goal was not the breach, but the southwestern gate and its drawbridge. They carried not only floating rafts, but also storm ladders with them, bent on a surprise assault to seize the entry point and end the siege.
While the handful of archers on the towers did their best to impede the assault, the southerners launched the timber bridges into the water. The ladders went up, striking against the wall. Shields on their back, the mercenaries climbed, defying projectiles from the defenders to scale the fortifications.
At last, they reached the top and crossed the stonework. As they leapt onto the wall, they stood face to face with all the knights still in Herbergja. Excelling in close combat and with all the advantages on their side, the Mearcians slaughtered every southerner that reached the top. The marshal, who had guessed the feint, directed the fight from atop the gatehouse and watched with satisfaction as the mercenaries broke into a rout once again.
Saif slowly exhaled through his nose, watching across the distance where his soldiers retreated. "I suppose that would have been too easy."
By his side, his aide cautiously spoke. "Your command, sidi?"
Running his hand across his face, the prince spent a moment in contemplation. "When may we expect our ships to return?"
"They should arrive with provisions within the week, if the wind is favourable."
"So be it. We must take the city from the sea."
"Very well, sidi."
"Any news from the islands?"
"They still fight, according to our latest intelligence. We need not fear their fleet will interfere before our ships return," Adherbal explained. "Though there is another matter."
"What is it?"
The aide hesitated. "A messenger arrived earlier today. I did not wish to bring you the news until the battle had been decided."
"Hurry on and tell me," Saif declared with an irritated look.
"Our allies in Adalrik have been defeated."
The prince stared at him. "You mean their assault upon the city failed?"
Adherbal swallowed. "More than that. Their army is in flight. The siege is lifted."
Saif gave a despondent look across the open field towards the city, filled with his retreating soldiers. "Are you saying that all the armies of Adalmearc are marching against us?"
"Not all, sidi. Some pursue the Godking's forces as they flee. But certainly we must expect reinforcements to be sent against us."
"How old is this intelligence?"
"Difficult to say, sidi, the details were sparse. More than a week old. But it would take any army weeks to march from Middanhal to here," Adherbal replied.
"They may travel down the river at great speed," Sidi pointed out. "Very well. If we are to make no assaults for the time being, that leaves the men free to fortify our camp towards the east. Otherwise, pray that our ships arrive first."
"It shall be done, sidi."
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Bio: Indie writer with various projects, currently focused on writing Firebrand. See my other fictions on this profile or my website for my previously completed projects.