Chapter Fifty-Seven

June 23, 2012


5th of Haymonth


                That night as I lie in bed, I have a vivid dream.  I find myself in the same room I was in when I spoke with my uncle in similar fashion.  In Uncle's chair, I see a different man.  His hair is a silvery color with flecks of a coppery red running through, and his eyes are gold like a coin.  His horns are slightly longer than mine, but his features are not so sinister as many demons we've encountered.  He offers me a proposal, that when the ratmen breach the walls, he will teleport in, grab me and take me with him, and teleport away to "somewhere safe."  He says that then, he and I will marry, and let Uncle do most of the work, then we will kill Uncle and take over, thus leaving the rule of the island to us.  Of course, I refuse this ludicrous notion, and he warns me that I will do Uncle's bidding before all of this is over, whether I choose to do it willingly or the hard way.  He tells me that he will be watching, and that when the ratmen breach the walls, all I need do is call for help, and he will come to me.  "When the ratmen breach the walls, if I call for any help, it will only be for that of St. Cuthbert," I reply.  He shakes his head, and dismisses me, and I awake safely in my own tent.
                Meanwhile, Gustav enters Ulric and Briggette's room, and awakens them to let them know that someone is here to speak to them and the war council.  Gustav apologizes for the hour--it is four in the morning--and explains that the visitor is a halfling who has scaled the wall to enter the city.  He has leaves and branches sticking out of his hair, and his studded leather armor is caked in mud.  The only thing on him that doesn't appear irreparably dirty is the flat grey steel of his shortsword and his bow.
                "I am Warden Boffin, I come from Baron Voda.  The baron has a force of about 200 infantry, 100 archers, 20 heavy horse and thirty light horse about forty miles from here.  He would like to know if you would like him to bring them here for relief, or if you would like him to send them to the capital, and if so, where you would like to meet him."
                "I'm sorry," Ulric says with maximum courtesy, "but I don't know who are.  You could be a rat thrall, and I'm not about to give you any information."
                The halfling shows a seal from Baron Voda, as well as describes the man's physical appearance and demeanor.  After a bit more discussion, Ulric puts his faith in the halfling, and asks that the Baron send the troops here to assist us against the ratmen.  He tells Ulric how the ratmen are arrayed outside our walls, and asks leave to find and speak with members of his family within the city before he leaves.  He tells us to expect the men in three or four days.
                When I wake up, I find that Briggette and Ulric are not in the tent.  I go out to look for them, and I run into the halfling.
                As I check my purse, he says, "You're the demon gnome lady who rides with Sir Ulric, right?"
                I correct him, and we talk for a bit.  He tells me he grew up in Reghin, and that it gives him a unique perspective.  I ask him what he's been able to see from that unique perspective, and he tells me about his life serving a good lord versus a shitty lord.  He says it speaks highly of us that we not only saved his good lord without accepting any reward, but that we killed the bad lord and have stayed to defend the city, though it is not our city.  He says that he knows why Sir Ulric does this, but not me.  I explain that it is my calling, and he asks me to step into an ally with him.  Once there, he offers me a gift, something that was given to him by his mentor.  It is three crossbow bolts with different colored fletching.  He tells me that the white fletching eliminates magical protections on an enemy, the red will explode in gout of flame, and the black holds death magic, but that it will only work on ratmen or rats. 
                I wander town a bit more, but finding no battle or friends, I return to the tent for more sleep.  I find Ulric and Briggette already back in bed and sleeping, so I retire for the night.
                The next morning, I tell my friends of my two encounters.  Because of the coming forces from behind, the Zurwalds tell me that we will be attacking on the third day, thus closing the ratmen in as we go.
                Around 9am that morning, out of the woods come three light catapults.  They stop about a thousand yards from the walls and begin to set up.  About 20 minutes later, the first projectile is let loose, but it lands about 50 yards short of the wall.  Another 20 minutes pass before another large chunk of wood is hurled at the gatehouse.  This time it connects, but does little damage.  This keeps up for around two and a half hours before a larger catapult wheels out of the tree line and slings a large stone.  It hits the tower where Ulric and Briggette are watching, almost as if the rock were aimed at the knights.  Later, around 7:30 or so that evening, a trebuchet appears on the field and slings an entire tree trunk at the wall.  It makes solid contact, but the wall holds.
                Ulric convenes the war council, and I go to watch the sending stone for our traitor.  The trebuchet continues to fire every thirty minutes or so, at one point sending flaming chunks of log into the courtyard and around the wall. 
                Around the end of the second hour, a scraggly looking man comes to the dog statue and pulls out a stone of his own.  He quietly speaks into the stone, pulls out a piece paper, shoves it in the dog's mouth, and puts the stone in the dog's mouth.  He waits a moment, then pulls the stone back out, leaving the paper in the statue's maw.  I wait thirty minutes or so, and I go to the statue to retrieve the paper.  Once there, I find there is no paper in the dog's mouth.  I search in some of the common areas for an hour or so before returning to our camp and reporting what I've found thus far to Ulric.
                That night, as we are sleeping, a large crash sounds outside the tent.  Rushing out, we see a stone as large as a big man's chest lying between two tents.  Having lived through several sieges before, Ulric and I simply shrug and go back to sleep.  Briggette, however, prays for a couple of hours before finally falling into a fitful sleep.
                The next morning, just as the sun is rising, around 5:30am, Gustav sticks his head in the tent, "Sir, they have siege towers."
                "Fine.  Good.  Let them come."  Ulric dresses and heads out to ride amongst the men and boost the dropping morale.  Then, he and Briggette climb the tower by the gatehouse to take stock of the situation.  The ratmen have two siege towers and one large rolling A-frame construction with a strange turtle-head protrusion on the front.  Ulric gets a report that our tunnels out are about two hours from completion, but our listeners have heard a tunnel coming directly toward the west side of the wall.  Ulric sends counter-miners, Finn and 50 men to meet them in the tunnel.
                Around 10:30, the siege towers and the strange A-frame ram begin to move toward the wall, and the bombardment begins in earnest.  We get the pots of oil and water buring on the top of the wall, and we shoot flaming arrows into the patches of pitch we've previously laid on the field.  Brianna, Boian and I go through one of our tunnels to come up behind them in the woods.  As before, we will take out targets of opportunity.
                Ulric readies the heavy cavalry to charge.  They will make directly for one of the towers, while other knights on foot will make their way through our tunnels to come out and charge the ratmen from behind.
                As we break the surface on the tunnel, Boian lifts me up and I climb out to get the lay of the land.  About fifty yards afield, I see a group of fifty or sixty ratmen gathered inside the edge of the woods.  I tell my companions what I see, and they join me on the surface.
                Back on the field, the cavalry charges the field.  As they come up behind the tower, they see twenty-five ratmen in formation behind it.  They line up and charge toward the group, just as the creatures turn in their direction and fire a volley of arrows.  Our men continue the charge through the throng, and take out several in the process.  They continue to fight and thin the numbers, when suddenly a dark shadow covers their area of the field.  On looking up, Ulric sees that it is a rain of five or six hundred arrows.  Briggette looks over to a moving wall made of tower shields closing in on their location.  The shields appear to be held by rotting corpses. 
                She charges toward the wall of corpses, raises her holy symbol and screams a rebuke in St. Cuthbert's name.  Beams of light fly forth from her symbol, each snaking its way into the chest of one of the zombies.  Nine of them are instantly turned to dust at her command. 
                Next, we see Sir Connor ride up to one of the remaining ends of the line of zombies.  He yells out a word we've never heard, and these masses of black energy come out of the chest of each of them and fly into his.  The zombies collapse, and the bodies look as any normal dead body would.
                Briggette moves to the other end of the line where the remaining zombies carry on with their task.  Once again, she raises her symbol and the beams of light burst forth to disintegrate nine more of the vile beasts.  She continues to move along the line, turning zombies at each stop. 
                About that time, I am able to see about a hundred ratmen riding giant rats who were behind the line of zombies charging toward our line.
                Ulric and Sir Sebastian actually run into the siege tower where two ten foot tall ratmen turn and attack.  They fight for a moment, then Ulric turns to Sebastian, "It's time to get out of here."  As Sebastian turns to leave, Ulric tosses a vial or two of Alchemist's fire around the bottom edges of the tower, then hastily exits himself.
                The other siege engine has been lit afire as well, but is still moving slowly toward the wall.  The ram is stopped in its progress.
                Ulric calls out to the field that we need to focus fire on the other siege tower, and the men from up into a wedge and head that way.  Behind that tower, there are two albino ratmen, one of whom is female.  She points at Ulric, and a magical bolt appears in his chest, striking true.  Ulric and the other mounted men charge at this group.  After a heated battle, they are able to eradicate all the ratmen and orcs on this tower and pull it to the ground.