The very walls seemed to shake as twenty thousand voices roared guttural war cries aimed at the besieged city. Weapons clashed against shields, armour and the ground causing a steady beat among the harsh shouts.
Only days before had the existence of the huge army even been known to the city. In those few days a desperate struggle had ensued to fortify Onlasar. A deep ditch had been dug skirting the city wall and spikes had been placed within it to impale any foes who fell. Additional battle towers had been constructed taking the number from thirty to fifty. Too many of the defences had been left to fade in the peace.
Commander Nakai inspected his newly assembled army and suppressed a sigh. Around eight thousand men stood before him with what weapons and armour could be provided for them. Every guard in the city had been assigned as sergeants as they were at least trained to fight, even if it was not for a pitched battle like this.
The main bulk of the army was just regular citizens conscripted to defend their city. Every person able to lift a sword and pull a bowstring was enlisted to fight, regardless of age. All boys from the age of thirteen had been given a mass produced sword, a shield, a bow and some meagre armour. Men as old as seventy held their weapons in shaking hands. Women were given the option whether to fight. Most declined but many grabbed their armaments and hastened to their given position.
“So, this is how it all ends, eh Mike,” said one of Nakai’s generals and close friend, Robert Barker. Nakai placed a reassuring hand upon his shoulder before taking his place at the head of the gathering of soldiers.
“Everyone listen up,” roared Nakai. “Today we face a storm unlike any that we have faced in our, or our fathers’ lifetime. Much longer in fact but it is us and us alone who must face it, and face it we will! Our families hide in fear. They cry! Will we let harm befall them?”
A huge thunder of ‘No’s erupted and filled the city, drowning out the chaos of noise beyond the walls for the briefest of seconds. Thousands of warriors, peasants, nobles, merchants and soldiers alike were ordered to occupy the battle towers and archer boxes. All had bows aimed at the barbarians, arrows nocked. The remaining soldiers formed ranks in the streets below with weapons at the ready.
The barbarians stayed out of bow range though. They fully surrounded the city, cutting off all routes in and out. A large gap in their ranks suggested that more were expected. Forukks and men in
foreign armour dotted the barbarian horde as well as several mountain beasts captured and trained for battle. Too few of the defenders were even trained to use the weapons they held. The savages below them were profound at the art of killing.
The citizens of Onlasar did have a few advantages. Every few soldiers had boom-balls strapped somewhere on their bodies to throw into the vast gathering of enemies beyond the walls. Each person had a quiver full of arrows and many boxes held refills if all were exhausted. They also had Commander Mike Nakai, leader of the defending forces and the greatest warrior in Onlasar.
Nakai stood in a battle-tower gazing out at the mass of foes that almost reached the horizon. He had a good tactical mind so he knew the options he had and the outcomes that they would bring. He knew that if the barbarians were smart then they would just stay out of bow range and starve the city. It could take months for the food to run out but it inevitably would. The defenders would die of starvation, turn on each other or try and fight the enemy in a last desperate struggle. All ways led to inevitable death.
Luckily, Nakai also knew a lot about the barbarians. They were impatient brutes who loved nothing better than a good fight. They would not limit their own casualties by waiting, where would the fun be in that? Instead they would throw themselves at the defenders in a savage rage that few could stand against.
He scanned the faces of the men around him. They ranged from terror to grim determination but they all had the haunted look that came from knowing that there was nowhere to run. Men never fought harder than when their backs were to the wall. Not that that helped morale at all.
Nakai remembered his first battle. He had been ambushed by barbarians while travelling with his father. Everything was a heightened blur at the time but he remembered coming to his senses afterward, soaked in blood with corpses all around him and a dying man at the end of his blade. He had been no older than Trey and his friends back then.
A movement at the front of the opposing army drew Nakai’s attention. A lone warrior stepped forwards causing a hush among the warriors behind him. He was a huge man built like a bear, arms like
mighty tree trunks and a chest like a barrel. His head was bald and covered in tattoos designed to make his face look like an Abyss Sprite, an evil manifestation of a fallen Sprite. In one hand he held a monstrous club that would take a normal man all his strength to lift two handed, let alone be able to swing it. Huge slabs of black iron served as his armour.
It was the barbarian leader, Serka. He took another few steps forwards so that he was within range of the defenders bows. Smiling savagely he bellowed out his message. “Are you ready for some fun?”
A single arrow shot out from the wall aimed for Serka’s throat. In a flick of his powerful wrist his club decimated the arrow. His laugh boomed out at the city, almost as loud and powerful as the entire army’s war chants earlier.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he roared as he turned back to his army. “Charge!”
A tidal wave of warriors rushed forwards screaming threats and challenges to the men above them. Arrows erupted from the walls like a giant ripple mowing down the front line of foes. More and more arrows rained down upon the barbarians but their berserker rage kept them running even after their bodies had been pierced by the projectiles.
“Focus your fire on the monsters! The Forukks cannot be allowed to live!” Nakai ordered at the top of his lungs.
From within the mountain range, Nakai noticed a fearsome sight. Catapults and trebuchets were being pulled into view of the city. Arrows would not reach them but the rocks that they fired could level
the entire city. How had the savages achieved so much without being noticed?
A volley of five rocks descended towards Onlasar. A small portion of the wall in the north crumbled at the impact of one of the huge chunks of stone. Two battle towers fell, a building near the centre of the city collapsed and a crater appeared in the main road. Another few volleys like that and there would be no city left to defend.
“Fifth company, bolster the defences to the north! Keep them out of the city at all costs!” the commander shouted to Barker.
“On it, Sir!” Barker responded with a salute. “Men, move out. Double-time to the breech.”
Nakai contemplated their options. They could not leave the siege weapons intact or they would destroy the city within the day. No archer could get an arrow anywhere near them and the city’s own catapults would hit the mountains unless they got very lucky. A squad of men could not assault them as an army stood between them and all exits from the city were blocked.
More and more rocks fell from the skies reducing parts of the city to rubble. Barbarians fell like leaves from a tree in autumn but it made little difference. Various savages darted through the horde, sharp shooting any visible archers with their crude crossbows.
Flame exploded from the battle tower that neighboured Nakai’s own. As Nakai struggled to his feet his gaze followed a trail of smoke from the wrecked tower to the hands of a strange barbarian standing a few rows away from the front line.
“Great,” muttered Nakai. “They outnumber us, have siege weapons and a sorcerer.” No Nimula had been used openly for centuries after it was outlawed on pain of death by the first order of the Neotites when they had tried to seize control of Farava. Healers were still allowed to practise basic Nimula but even that knowledge was fading. Yet here was a man who could wield it and was helping to destroy the last great city in the land.
“What are we to do, sir?” asked a young woman, Nakai’s lieutenant, Suzy Fireblood.
Nakai had found her living on the streets back when he was only a sergeant. The first time he had seen her was when she was in the middle of a fight with a group of snobby nobles’ kids who had thought they could pick on her. She had made them all run off with their tails between their legs. After they had rounded a corner she collapsed from her injuries and near starvation.
Nakai had given her some of his food rations and offered her a job as a soldier in his regiment where she would receive food and shelter. She accepted and had risen through the ranks along with Nakai.
She looked more than a little worried. She was looking at the sorcerer too. He was easy to pick out because of his green beard and golden robes. Nakai’s mind was racing through ideas that could help but nothing took form into a plausible plan. He watched the men and women around him, knowing that their lives were in his hands.
A terrible explosion threw flames and shrapnel into the air in a large dome. To Nakai’s surprise it was in the enemy’s forces and not in his own. He watched closely and saw one of his sergeants, a violent, battle hungry man by the name of Logar, fill a rucksack with boomballs, soak it in oil, then with a mighty swing of his arm he threw it into the air.
As it arced back down towards the enemy he grabbed a crossbow with a flaming arrow from a man by his side and shot. The arrow flew true and hit the bag, igniting it and the fuses on the boom-balls. As it neared the ground it exploded, killing every man within a ten foot radius. Many more were slaughtered by the jagged metal shrapnel. This gave Nakai a brilliant idea. He turned to face Suzy Fireblood.
“Tell the catapult crew to put several boom-balls in a bag and soak it in oil. Have them launch it toward the enemy siege weapons.”
“Aye, sir,” replied the lieutenant as she rushed down the tower’s ladders.
We just need to live long enough for the enemy siege weapons to be destroyed and we might just stand a chance, thought Nakai. Even as that thought passed through his mind more rocks rained upon the city.
The barbarians had now reached the wall and were bringing ladders to the front. Despite the ladder crew being shot at by every archer, many still managed to raise their ladder to the wall. Men clambered up them like spiders. Within a minute the battlements were swarmed with ruffians.
A soldier ran up to one of the ladders that had risen last and attempted to push it off the wall before the warriors reached the top. As his hand grasped the wood, purple flames roared into existence, consuming the man’s whole body within seconds yet doing nothing to the wood. Nimula had been used to help defend the ladders. All that remained of the man was ash and the smell of burnt flesh. More warriors pulled themselves up and charged towards the city’s troops.
The defenders dropped their bows and drew their swords. Nakai did the same. He leapt from his tower onto the battlement above the main gate, cleaving a barbarian’s head in half as he landed. Blood spurted onto his face but he did not have the time to wipe it off. He ducked under a blow aimed at his head by a muscular man with a spiked mace and stabbed at his gut. Nakai’s blade protruded from the man’s back causing him to spasm briefly then fall to the floor. The commander had just begun to fight with a swordsman when all eyes on the battlefield and in the city were drawn to the mountains.
An explosion of monstrous proportion shook the mountain closest to the enemy siege weapons causing a landslide to swallow them and their crews. Every defender cheered at the change in fortunes. The enemy was far from defeated yet though.
The fighting continued more fiercely than ever. More and more ladders were raised as few defenders continued to shoot out at the seething mass of foes beneath them. Most were fighting for their lives, locked in a deadly melee to defend the battlements and repel the enemy.
The wall beneath Nakai’s feet started to shake slightly. He knew this feeling. The gates were opening. He kicked the barbarian he was currently fighting off the wall to fall to his doom and vaulted onto the stairs leading from the battlement.
The gate was free of men and the device that opened the gate was left untouched. The only other place where the gate could be opened was inside the castle. That meant that there was a traitor in the same place as the Lord, the women and the children.
Nakai had to warn them but first he needed to close the gate or at least get some soldiers to stop the barbarians flowing into the city. He could not leave to find anyone though or it would be too late to stop them as already barbarians were entering through the gate.
Just as it looked like he would have to choose to either stop the barbarians walking through the city’s front doors or warning the Lord of a traitor in the castle, his lieutenant tapped him on the shoulder. With her were ten men with grim faces.
“We’ll handle these guys while you go and do whatever it is that is causing you trouble,” she said with a smile.
“The whole barbarian army will be coming through here. You and ten men can’t do more than delay them for a few minutes at the most. Your odds of surviving are a million to one,” pointed out the concerned commander.
“When has that ever stopped me before?” answered the woman with a laugh. “More men will come as soon as news gets out. We won’t be alone for long.”
Nakai smiled back at her then sprinted off in the direction of the castle as fast as his feet would carry him.