Monday 29 December 2014

Scent: Part 30

Einder's Keep wasn't as grand as Reven was hoping. The stone walls were thick with vines and the keep itself looked to be little more than a large pile of rocks. From a distance it looked as if a wall had been built around a stone hill. A moat about ten paces wide surrounded the wall and a rickety draw bridge was being lowered as Sanya's Company drew near. The 'keep', or hill as Reven would now always think of it, was three stories high. It's windows were tiny slits without glass. As Reven walked across the drawbridge, trailing Ingerham's troops, he caught site of the keep's door, these at least looked impressive. The wide, dark oak, double doors looked as if they could take a battering from a giant. They slowly and soundlessly swung outward from the keep revealing their thickness. A man that looked as old as the domed keep appeared from the gloom inside and greeted Sanya. It looked from where Reven was that they knew each other but he was too far back in the column to hear what was being said. As Reven made his way inside the walls he noticed the guards atop the battlements. They were armed with bows and crossbows and their numbers were few. They all wore a look of relief on their faces as if their saviours had just marched into Einder's Keep.

Under Ingerham's direction Reven helped the troops stow their gear and help set up tents inside the walls. The scouts were preparing to leave to start looking for the raiders. They had walked their horses to the keep to make sure they were fresh enough to commence the search. They left just before nightfall, riding out in all directions from the keep. Goren wasn't with them, he and the other captains had been called to feast in the keep whilst Reven and the regular soldiers remained outside. After eating Reven and Fang made their bed in some hay in one of the stables. The rest of Ingerham's troops had manned the walls and stood near motionless atop them, staring out into the night. With a full belly and a surprisingly warm bed sleep came quickly to Reven and Fang. They snoozed contently believing themselves to be safe behind the walls of Einder's Keep.

Reven was awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of horns being blown from the battlements. The camp around the keep was a hive of activity and he could hear Sanya shouting orders to her troops. Reven was quick to rise and he and Fang made their way through the camp trying to find Captain Ingerham. When he did the Captain was organising his men and outlining the nights events. One of the scouts had returned pierced with arrows. Shortly after leaving the keep he had run straight into the advancing horde of raiders and had been chased by their outriders. Once his warning had been delivered he had died, the last of his strength spent and his duty done. Other scouts had returned since reporting on the disposition of the enemy force. The numbers they imagined were right. Three and a half thousand raiders were bearing down on the keep who's own troops numbered no more than one hundred and forty heads, including those of the keeps guards.

Ingerham's troops rushed to fortify the walls and lined the battlements with arrows, bolts and rocks that could be rained down upon the heads of the attackers. The keeps artisans busied themselves hammering struts over the main door. Goren was happy that the scouts that had not yet returned would regroup outside the walls and wait until their presence was needed so the preparations for the attack continued in earnest. 

As the horde approached Reven took his station on the walls, bow in hand. He had never seen so many men before and the torches held by the advancing army lit up the ground and the raiders. He knew looking out at them that they would not survive this fight. The walls they stood on looked as if they would collapse if they met with a strong wind, they were outnumbered thirty to one and there was no line of retreat. Sanya and her troops would have to make their last stand here. The horde stopped two hundred paces short of the moat and fell silent. From the centre of their line stepped men carrying long pieces of wood which they piled on the ground before laying torches round it. Goren let out an unexpected laugh and slapped Reven on the back. The boy hadn't even heard him approach but turned to look at the madman in wonder, 'What's funny?' he asked. 'Looks like they found their ships' Goren replied pointing to the wood. Reven narrowed his eyes and could now see what Goren was talking about. The wood they had laid in front of their ranks was made up burnt planks and scorched masts. 

The raiders let forth a deafening war cry and beat their swords and axes on their shields as they were whipped into a frenzy by their leaders. The horde advanced as one and rushed toward the keep. Dragging more wood with them as they came, they held their shields high to stave of the missiles that fell from the battlements. The wood they dragged was tossed into the moat and Reven could see that they intended to make bridge to allow them to get their axes within reach of the keep's door. The defenders volleys were taking a toll on the attackers but they had bowmen of their own and were slowly picking off the troops of Sanya's company. Reven loosed arrow after arrow into the thong below him but it wouldn't be enough. The raiders advance was pushing their own men into the moat and they were swimming across and trying to climb the walls of the keep. The din of battle couldn't drown out Captain Ingerham's commanding voice and he bellowed for the bow and crossbowmen to stand down. Reven took a step back and men barged past him with small kegs in their arms. The kegs were breached and sticky black liquid was poured over the battlements into the moat where it floated on top of the water. A generous amount was poured over the ever growing pile of wood the raiders were trying to bridge the moat with and then Sanya stepped to the fore a flaming arrow nocked in her bow. At once Reven understood. The kegs were full of oil and as Sanya's arrow embedded itself in a raiders head, he fell igniting the black liquid and moat with it. The raiders burned, the defenders cheered; the battle for Einder's Keep and their lives had begun.

No comments:

Post a Comment