The Caledonians had the high ground. They’d managed to barricade themselves in the town’s center after forcing themselves through the gates with the thrill of the previous battle following them. They looked to have gained control some while ago, and quickly regained the ascendancy in the fight. Volleys of arrows rained down on the ranks of the Azarowans, as they still pursued victory, but without the guidance of their leaders they began to lose out in the combat.
It took some time for Aaren to reach the rest of their force, and there was a sense of familiarity for him in the look and feel of the engagement of the Caledonian forces. When they had burst free from the trees, he and Eamonn had kept running, heading straight for the small town to continue the fight. They had no idea of where Maarten and the others had found themselves, the light and sounds from afar had attracted him. There were fights scattered around the town, Caledonians were cornered and cut down while the others retreated through the large wooden barrier in the center of town.
The barrier was almost four meters tall, giving protection to those behind it, they could take a leaf out of Maarten’s book, further scrutiny, however, showed that the wall, while made from tall tree stumps, were slightly cured with a varnish and covered with a matting of some sort of material, he could count on that material preventing fire from spreading to the neighbouring segments of the wall. It left little in the way of engineering some sort of scheme to break the lines and get themselves through.
Another volley of arrows thudded into the rough pine house Aaren had nestled himself against, he thought over the problem at hand, he watched the constant stream of arrows that blotted out the sky above, they were pinned down in the outskirts of the town, with no real way of getting further up in the numbers that they needed.
Orders were being shouted by the commanders now, urging their men to break through, “Scatter! Scatter the lines, break off and flank”. Aaren watched as some men threw rope grapples over the top, catching and holding firm of the other side and pulled themselves over, he watched in fascination as a dozen men mounted the wall and disappeared. The sound of clashing of weapons echoed as they managed to penetrate the defensive Caledonian lines, but they were pitifully few, and the clashing of swords soon stopped, then the thudding of ax on wood sent the rope grapples falling, coiling up in loose bunches as they landed.
They had nearly two-hundred men left, but without seeing the numbers behind the wall, he had no way of knowing how many they would be facing once they went charging through. For all he knew the enemy could have twice that, and he anticipated that Valon wouldn’t be game to see out the rest of the combat, he’d be on the move away from the fight whilst Aaren and his men were kept busy with the archers. Aaren watched as the archers kept to their constant stream going, there was a slight delay in one of the sets, there was covering single fire on their side for a short while, as the enemy prepared their next volley on the rest of the town. They’d run out of arrows soon he knew, but they had to make an attempt now.
Aaren looked along his line of men, counted perhaps three dozen with him calling to every one of them. “We’re going to wait for their next few volleys” He yelled, each member looked at him, the authority in his words gave them little reason to refuse his words. “We’ll head for the next building along, you archers are to stay and provide covering fire here as we make our way across, once we’re there, archers move up, it’ll be a slow and drawn out process, but hopefully we get close enough that they have to try a different tact, if we’re lucky they come out to meet us head on” he didn’t believe that the enemy would be that foolish, but he had to hope.
A minute passed as they waited, Aaren wanted to pick the precise moment to move, there were sporadic cries of pain along the line as men were hit by arrows, but they were few and far between, at the moment the enemy were concentrating their fire on their other flank, looking to thin out the rest of their men.
Now was the time, he stood and called to his men and as one they were rushing up the streets of the town, Eamonn was immediately up, ready to fire at the first sign of an enemy, he waited, a full cartridge loaded, looking for anyone who had inadvertently exposed themselves. They had another half a dozen crossbows with them, single shot weapons but they were proficient marksmen capable of hitting moving targets, the archers stationed behind cover also provided a good supply as the defenders took evasive action.
Reinforcing their own position and closer to the enemy now, they were beginning to gain a foothold in the battle. Several minutes later and again they were on the move, taking advantage of the reduced focus on them, they were steadily moving closer to the two storied buildings. There was no sign of a countering move as yet, but without the cover from their other flank, they could be found out any time soon. Aaren gestured to a sergeant, currently overlooking the progress of the other flank some fifty meters away from them.
Aaren tried calling out to them, but to no avail, they were pinned down and the rattling of arrows would make it difficult to hear, Aaren would have to try something, he didn’t know what yet but he’d have to try something. Any attempts at moving further ahead was too dangerous, if they did so, they’d leave sides exposed, they needed the added protection of the other team to force the enemy to engage the front. If he were to make that call, he’d be leading a lot of men to their deaths.
“Where did they go?” Maarten had had his men surveying the area for some time now. They, like Aaren and Eamonn, had managed to evade the dangers of the forest. When they’d broken away from the edge of the trees, they’d chanced upon a small group of Caledonians, engaging with them, in the brief exchange, they had suffered few casualties. The dogs were beginning to work against the Caledonians now as they stopped for a rest in the longer grass, vulnerable to quick attacks, as the beasts seemed to be forcing them away from the town.
Maarten took a quick breather, scouting their position for any other survivors, friend or foe at this stage. After the initial surveillance, he’d set up a wider perimeter for his scouts to scan. They’d been gone for a few minutes so far, if they didn’t hear of any sightings soon, he’d be forced to call his men in and return to the rendezvous point back towards the sapphire fields. At no stage did he turn further to the east where the battle continued, the wind blowing away from them meant the sound had no way of carrying to them. He kicked at a rock, swore under his breath, the force had been broken up and separated with no chance of properly driving out the invaders, they would return, of course, to reclaim the castle, but that wasn’t a battle they’d lose. “Blast it all” he uttered.
Maarten was standing only with his supreme commander now, he was overlooking the camp, looking for any sign of a disturbance, he was middle aged and broad in stature, he was a harsh but fair commander, capable of seeing past a soldier’s ideals of duty to the crown and seeing the situation for what it was, he knew Maarten despised letting an enemy escape, but the man was practical enough to recognise that perhaps it was time to move on. “Maybe they found a better route, my lord” he hoped that he was right.
After all, with the bulk of their army waiting at the rendezvous point back at the campsite, they all knew they would return in due course, the chance to strike a major blow against Caledonia though was too good to pass up. They had achieved their goals set for the day, they’d been a part of a resounding victory, the new treaty was soon to be signed after finalizing the negotiations, the last of the diplomats had reportedly made their way to the capital, for that they were lucky, a distress call from the Aylesburian council the leader, what was his name? Maarten asked himself then it came to him, Dunstan was the one, they had lost contact with him for several days, so he gathered together a small group of men to go out and search, it wasn’t long before they had received news of the Caledonian presence, hoping to divert the attention away from the castle, Maarten had allowed his men to be corralled to where the enemy wanted them, and he smiled as he remembered that he had been right to do so.
“If they’re alive, they know where we’ll be and I suppose there is no sense wasting time trying to find out, our presence is still required for the treaty negotiations, it’s better that we see to that first, if we still don’t hear any news, we can send a company out to search for them.”
There was a look of suffering in the king’s eyes as he looked at his commander, but in his heart, it was the right thing to do. He sighed deeply and audibly. “Call them in, we’ll need to get moving if we’re to make it back in time”. Ten minutes later, Maarten was seated upon a horse, slowly moving back towards the sunset, he looked over his shoulder and whispered a silent prayer to his men.