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Chapter 12: The Wall

It was bound to happen, but nobody was expecting it. The elves had been so quiet. Even Leon had almost forgotten they were outside the walls. Then one day arrows rained down on the city. It was early morning, the sun barely above the horizon. The cool morning air was the only comfort Leon felt as he ran towards the city wall, gambeson donned and sword on his hip. His eyes kept darting towards the sky, half expecting more arrows to rain down. We got lucky, he thought. If it were much later more people would have died.

By the time he reached the wall Leon was out of breath. He trudged up the stairs of the guard tower and onto the eastern wall. What he saw made his heart thump in his chest. The elves really had surrounded the city. He thought there must be at least three thousand of them. They had large siege towers prepared, and ballistae aimed at the walls. There was a large formation of archers standing at the ready, arrows knocked, waiting to fire.

The archers drew, aiming low. They’re aiming at the sentries, Leon realized. Just as he finished his thought, he heard a shout from the enemy lines. The arrows flew towards them like a swarm of birds. “DOWN!” he screamed as he flung himself onto the ground. Most of the sentries on the wall did the same, those that didn’t were impaled with arrows, some flying backwards off the wall. Most of the arrows bounced off of the crenellations with a sharp clink.

“All right!’’ Leon yelled, “I’ve been put in command of this wall! Everyone needs to crawl into the nearest tower!” Not having the time or purpose to question if Leon was truly in command, the sentries did as he ordered. A chorus of the sharp clink of steel hitting stone was all that could be heard as everyone made their way to the guard towers. One man took an arrow in the knee and screamed. Two of his comrades stood and dragged the man to the tower on the opposite side of their wall segment to where Leon was standing. Luckily, none of them were hit.

Leon wasn’t sure what to do. His forces were separated, they were under heavy enemy fire, and there would be no reinforcements. They wouldn’t last long if they left the tower, so that meant they couldn’t launch a counterattack. Then he had an idea. “You,” he said to the nearest soldier, “what’s your name?”

“Olav,” he replied.

“Olav, are there any crossbows in the armory?” Leon asked.

“Yessir,” Olav replied, “At least I think there are.”

“Good, Good. I want half of you to get as many of them as you can carry, and bolts too,” Leon commanded. The sentries wasted no time in retrieving the crossbows and bolts, and Leon sent them to collect more. After three rounds they had everything that was needed.

“All right, men,” Leon began, “what we’re going to do is shoot them back.” The soldiers looked confused but kept listening. “We’re going to load these crossbows, and crawl out there. We’ll lay down so we’re harder to hit and shoot between the crenellations. Killing them doesn’t matter, we just need to make them shit their pants. If they break fire than you’ll switch to your longbows and pick them off.” Leon grabbed a nearby crossbow and a quiver of bolts and loaded his crossbow. Everyone else was doing the same.

Just before everyone began to move onto the wall, he stopped them. “Olav,” he said, “Not you.” Olav looked confused, but Leon kept speaking, “I want you to get word to the other towers on the east wall and relay my orders and be quick about it!” Olav did as he was told, and the others crawled out onto the battlements. The rain of death still hadn’t stopped. It was almost as if the elves would never run out of arrows. Leon told his men to fire at will, and they didn’t hesitate. He didn’t have the time or patience to instruct their every move.

Shooting his crossbow was almost fun, like a game, except that he could possibly die at any second. He would aim at one elf and watch another one die, whether it was by his bolt or someone else’s he could never tell. Despite the shower of wood and steel they were getting, the elves never stopped their assault. They simply moved further back and aimed higher. The sentries were nearly out of bolts when the fireball appeared. Someone on another segment of the wall, Leon wasn’t sure where, was shooting large balls of fire into the enemy lines. Tents and siege engines began to burn, and the elves broke formation. Gods I love magic, Leon thought. “NOW!” he yelled. He didn’t need to explain. The others saw the same things he did and knew this was their opportunity to cause some real damage. Scores of elves fell to Andeki arrow-fire. It seemed as though the rest of the walls were seeing a similar triumph. They had won, at least for today.


The war room was tense after the battle. This time the jarl only called the generals and Leon. Most of the generals were arguing about how the incident could have been prevented while waiting for the jarl to arrive. That didn’t matter to Leon. It had already happened. What mattered to him was breaking the siege. It was almost as if he was just now realizing that he was trapped. He was a scared animal in a slaughterhouse, and he hated it.

“Casualties?” Leon hadn’t noticed Sigurd walk into the room.

“Thirty-seven, my Jarl,” One of the generals replied. It was a surprisingly low number.

“Thank the gods,” Sigurd said, “It wasn’t near as bad as it could have been.”

Sigurd and his generals discussed their ideas on how to break the siege long into the night, Leon occasionally giving his own opinions. Most of the generals wanted to sally out of the city and attack the elves directly. It wasn’t an awful idea. Those fireballs hit them hard, and the sentries report that the elves were trying to make repairs. The would be caught off guard, and it could work. Even so, Sigurd dismissed the idea. His concern was what could go wrong if their plan went wrong. It was a sensible concern in Leon’s mind. If they were unsuccessful in the attack the enemy could easily get into the city.

After several hours of debate, Leon said “I have an idea.” Sigurd quieted the others so he could speak. “We let them in.” This caused an outrage.

“Are you mad!?” one of the generals asked.

“I heard that you’re friends with one of the elves,” General Sigmund said. This quieted the clamor almost immediately. Leon could already tell what they were thinking. They all seemed to be screaming TRAITOR at him, though none of them were speaking. “You’re not denying it,” Sigmund said, a smug grin of triumph on his face.

“You didn’t let me finish,” Leon said. “We construct a kill box at the north and south gates. Then we sabotage the gates and let the elves in.”

“That idea…Leon are you trying to kill us?” Sigurd asked.

“No, my Jarl, but you won’t let us go out and we can’t just sit here with our thumbs up our asses! We need to act, so I say we let them in on our own terms.” The others seemed to soften up to his idea. They were realizing that he was on their side.

“What makes you think they’d take the bait?” Sigmund asked. Leon couldn’t understand why Sigmund hated him so much, but he was grateful that he was given the chance to explain his reasoning.

“Why would they attack now?” Leon asked them. “They aren’t exactly in a hurry now, are they? And attacking a city’s walls is dangerous and costly. If time isn’t of the essence most armies will just starve their opponent into surrender.” Several generals were nodding at this. “This means that they need to take the city, and fast. They won’t wait for a surrender anymore; they’re going to force it. That means we can draw them in with ease.”

“We can’t hold them at the gates, Leon. There are too many of them.” Sigurd made was right, but Leon had a way around this.

“There are shelters in place for a reason. We bring the people to these shelters so they’re not in harm’s way. We have soldiers patrolling the city for when the kill boxes break. When they do the city will be in chaos, but at least there will be significantly less elves to deal with.” He was gaining support; he could see it in the general’s faces. Sigurd knew he had been beaten.

“Fine, Leon, we’ll go with your idea. Tierllund, have your men stationed at the northern gate, Sigmund in the south. Harold and Torbin you’re on sentry. The rest of you will be patrolling.” Leon breathed a sigh of relief. There was a chance. A chance that he could finally leave this place.

“Tierllund and Sigmund you have one week to build your fortifications. We have do this before they can muster up for another attack,” Sigurd continued. “You’re dismissed,” he told them, “And Leon.” Leon Looked at the jarl expectantly. “You have a wedding to attend in the morning.”

“Wedding? I thought that wasn’t for another week.” Sigurd just shrugged and walked away.


Submitted: May 06, 2021

© Copyright 2023 Erebus. All rights reserved.


Add Your Comments:



Wow this was a long chapter, sorry about that. I get really into it when writing about battles.

Thu, May 6th, 2021 9:05pm


I like the amount of detail that you put into it. You don't distract from what's happening with excessive detail.

As a reader, I don't quite understand Leon's motivation. We're told that he wants to leave mercenary life, but he doesn't really actively take steps towards that. He seems to let things happen to him. One example is when Mia approaches him and offers him a drink out of nowhere. He immediately trusts her, but I would expect him to be at least a little suspicious of her motivations. Moreover, when new characters are introduced, we don't see much about their personality. In the flashback, the elf's introduction feels bland to me.

It also takes about half-way through for us to feel any stakes or suspense for Leon. In a shorter story like this, I would expect to see that sooner.

I do like the world you've imagined and could see this becoming a really good story!

Hope this comment helps, and keep it up!

Wed, May 12th, 2021 11:17pm

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