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Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off: Fae - The Realm of Twilight by Graham Austin-King

Fae - The Realm of Twilight by Graham Austin-King

This is an excerpt provided by the author for the Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off Competition

Another hail of rocks struck the palisade and men fell screaming to the ground. Rhenkin turned to look for Larson before he remembered the man was overseeing the evacuation.

“Sergeant!” he shouted at a man further along the walkway.

“Sir,” the man snapped off a salute. Rhenkin fought back irrational laughter, a parade ground salute in the middle of a hail of rocks and burning pitch. It all seemed so ridiculous somehow.

“Find me a corporal, man,” Rhenkin barked.

The man scurried down the steps into the village as Rhenkin glowered over the walls.

“Orders, Sir?” The lieutenant was a fresh-faced man with immaculate uniform.

“Bloody Droos man, what are you? Twelve?” Rhenkin swore. “Never mind that,” he raised a hand as the man sputtered and started to protest.”We’re going to lose this wall soon. I want archers on every roof that will hold them, with ropes in position to let them down.”

The man nodded smartly and began to turn away.

“I’m not finished yet!” Rhenkin snapped. “No heroics. I want every archer off the roofs, and back within the inner walls before they are truly threatened.”

The lieutenant snapped another salute off, and hurried to the steps.

“And tell Larson to get back over here!” Rhenkin shouted after him.

“Where did they find the stone?” He grumbled to himself as he waited.

The wait was a short one, and Rhenkin watched the dark-haired man run up the steps towards him, ducking involuntarily as the wall shook as more stones struck it.

“Report,” Rhenkin said, as soon as the man was close enough to hear.

“The satyr and six carts are away. The villagers are close to panic though, Sir. We’ll need to allow a general withdrawal soon or we’ll have a riot on our hands.”

Rhenkin nodded. “Open the gates and let them go. I didn’t want the gates opened until those bastards started to advance, but I don’t think they’re going to until these walls are breached.”

Larson looked out over the walls. The Bjornmen hadn’t really moved since they’d driven the defenders back, preferring to use their siege engines, but now they were drawing close. “I doubt they can have much left in the way of stone, Sir.” He shrugged.

As if in response the distant trebuchets leapt forward, lofting a barrage of firepots towards the walls. Rhenkin threw himself flat down on the platform, barely aware of echoing the screamed order to get down. The pots struck and a wave of heat passed over him, scorching despite his prone position. The flames soared high as the stench of burning pitch filled the air.

He dragged himself to his feet and staggered back from the heat, one arm over his face to ward off the flame. The entire section of palisade was engulfed in flame. Had he been just ten feet farther along the wall, he would be joining the men that had fallen screaming to the earth.

Dimly he heard Larson call for water, and for bucket chains, but he knew it was futile. The logs closest to him were already steaming in the heat. A day’s dousing with water almost undone in moments. Another section of the wall exploded into flame, the Bjornmen had found the range now.

“Larson, get those back gates open,” he ordered as he staggered towards the steps. One last glance over the walls showed a massive, wheeled ram being brought through the enemy lines.

He grabbed a corporal as he reached the bottom of the steps. “Get some men and dump out those earth carts against the front gates. I’ll be damned if we’re going to make this easy for them. Get them braced with the beams first though.”

As Rhenkin made his way to the gates that would soon seal the inner palisade, he saw his men moving smoothly into position. Fully a third of the front wall was engulfed in flames, it wouldn’t be long now.

The Bjornmen were already surging forward by the time he’d made it onto the walls of the inner palisade. The outer wall was almost completely abandoned as men moved into new positions. A glance behind him showed the rear gates to the village throw wide as a stream of carts and villagers fled along the road.

The gates were braced with thick timber beams and then the ground in front was piled high with earth, dumped from the carts and shovelled up against the gates themselves. Immediately behind this rows of archers stood, launching volley after volley over the walls. The need for any kind of accuracy was gone as the Bjornmen charged the gates, the archers couldn’t help but hit something.

From where Rhenkin was standing he could see the arrows were having little effect. The Bjornmen were in a tight formation with shields interlocked. Men were falling, but not nearly enough to make a difference.

The gates shook as the ram was brought into play, and the sound of the impact resounded around the village. Smaller catapults were wheeled into position and logs began to fly over the walls. Rhenkin couldn’t see the result but the screams of pain seemed testament enough.

As he watched, a figure appeared on the outer wall close to the gates. He was some distance away, but wasn’t in uniform, and was too fat to be one of Rhenkin’s men. He ran low, trying to make as small a target of himself as possible for the crossbow bolts that flew past. The man ran through the clouds of smoke carrying something under one arm. The ram crashed into the gates again and the figure stumbled, dropping to one knee before throwing the object over the wall onto the ram. He tossed something down after it and then the ram was engulfed in bright flames which billowed up towards the sky.

Rhenkin grabbed a nervous soldier. “Find out who that is,” he ordered, pointing at the wall.

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