Later that evening, Rhocas returned to their camp for the first time in several days, nodding at all of those around him. He still wore his battered and dirty armour, and on the outside had not changed at all, but Rhy wondered if the nascent firemage stood with a straighter back, and a stronger gleam in his eye.
“Oh, so you can finally get back to work?” Locsyn twirled one end of his moustache in his hand while he spoke.
“I’m to be one of the secondary mages on this side of the walls, in case a breakout attempt happens. Hopefully, it means I don’t have to do much in that regard. I’m better with a sword than with fire, still.”
“If you can do anything with fire, it should cause a fair bit of panic. Just make sure to keep that armour on you if you do, because waving fire around is an invitation to end up looking like a pin cushion stuffed full of arrows.”
“Thanks, that’s really making me feel happy with this new role.”
“Well, if you’re smart, you can be so far at the back the arrows can’t reach you. That makes it a lot safer.”
Rhocas shook his head at the comments, and the banter continued on into the night, one of the squad taking watch duty for each stretch, while the others spoke around the fire. The next morning saw them wake tired from the night before, and to the mists and fogs of a grey and wet sunrise. The damp collected on everything, and with no breath of wind to stir the blanket away, it appeared ready to sit on the camp all day long. Rhyfelwyr sighed, and ordered the men forward into a picket line near the walls of the city, but still out of bow shot. The mist damped sound enough that if the Lianese troops sought to sally forth from their city, there would be little warning, and so better that his squad be across the mouth of their gate.
The day passed cramped and uncomfortable, and when night fell and the fog began to lift, the squad returned to their fire damp and grumpy, only to be met by orders that stated the attack was to come the next day, near dawn. Hearing that, Rhyfelwyr ordered the entire squad to sleep, and did not bother to set watches for the night. They would need all of their strength on the morrow, and it was unlikely the enemy would sortie at night. A hearty meal in their bellies, the soldiers lay down to bed, although some had trouble sleeping. It was to be a momentous morning for all of them.
The next morning, before the sun had arisen, Glanhaol Fflamboethi assembled facing the north gate of Horaim, silently slipping from their beds to form in a great mass. Formed into a long column, orders had come that they were to charge the gate as soon as it was destroyed. Rhy hoped they could catch the Lianese forces before morning woke them, but as he looked out over the field of battle and towards the distant walls, still shrouded in night, he shook his head. Today, he had a bad feeling.
A great burning noise filled the air, and a massive ball of fire lifted from the front ranks of the Veryan army and slammed into the north gate and surrounding wall, shattering them into rubble. A roar thundered out, and the column surged forward, quickly building pace to a run. Rhyfelwyr and his squad had been designated to go capture warehouses, along with many other squads in the army. The food situation was desperate enough that capturing those supplies could change the outcome of the campaign, and so Rhy gritted his teeth and raised his shield high above his head, warding off the arrows he felt sure to come. Around him, Gwyth and Locsyn and Taflen kept time, while Llof had disappeared. That didn’t surprise Rhy at all; it meant Llof had been close to the walls when the explosion opened the gates, and was causing havoc inside Horaim.
Glanhaol Fflamboethi crossed the open ground to the north gate with no shower of arrows or waiting defenders in their way, and as the column passed into the city, it began to fracture into many smaller commands, each heading towards their set targets. It was but a few moments later that the sounds of fighting erupted all around, and archers appeared on rooftops and leaning out of windows as Lianese soldiers burst from their places of concealment to strike the Veryan troops in their flanks. Momentarily bewildered, the Veryan forces found their footing and fought back with a vengeance, blades clashing against shield and short spear.
Rhyfelwyr found himself fighting alongside Gwyth and and Locsyn, the three of them broad enough to block a small alley, using their mass and their skill to carve into the Lianese troops, each sword thrust a quick stabbing motion made to kill or maim. Gwyth was less graceful, using his brute strength to batter the foes in front of him with his shield, before slamming his sword point through their armour. Taflen had taken station at their backs, and his sword flickered over the shield wall whenever an opening appeared, oft taking a foe in the neck, leaving them writing and bloody on the ground.
An arrow sped down out of the sky and slammed into Gwyth’s arm, causing him to curse and look upwards. Archers had taken station on the roof above them, and were picking their spots to fire down into the Veryan squad. Rhyfelwyr glanced at Gwyth’s wound and then upwards, and sighed, for he could not use his shield to protect both his front and his top, and so he hoped that the archers would be of little skill. Waving with his sword, Rhy called for the others to step back, slowly disengaging from the Lianese forces in order to make a break away from the archers. Staying alive was more important than killing these few soldiers.
Locsyn screamed, and Taflen looked over to see that a javelin had been thrust through his shield and the army holding it, locking the two together and leaving it almost useless. Diving forward, he brought his shield up in time to stop the counter-thrust coming over Locsyn’s useless defences, and was able to flick his sword out in a low cut, hamstringing his opponent. Stepping in front of Locsyn, the historian placed his shield so that it might cover both of them as best as possible, and began to step backwards, Locsyn taking Taflen’s former place at the back of the shield wall, his sword stabbing over the defences, but without much strength behind it, for his wound was grievous and incapacitating.