Myrdagyn reported to Fulkh Marshal and was told by him to add whatever help he and his friends might be able to provide. Within the next two days, the imperial army finished closing in around Klyph, completely sealing off all of the main entrances and bringing up covered battering rams while engines of war rained down fire and stones into the town.
Sections of the battlements held off the assault on either side of the main thrust. But the most formidable thuggish body, led by Tubby, carried the walls on either side of the assault tower; and through that conduit the attackers streamed, rushing down the stairs to the streets and alleys below.
Upon the alarm sounding that the assault was afoot, our heroes, collected in a single body in the main town square opposite the citadel, quickly conversed on a course of action.
The Drulathim went off with Lorinkh, Ahnxst and Khrohm to see to the defense of the main gate. Xoniuqé and Myrdagyn went up a flight of stairs overlooking Fulkh Marshal's siege lines to see how the defense might go when the anticipated sally took place.
They did not have long to wait. Even as the wall to the right of the main gate was being taken by their foes, the doors to the citadel swung wide and out came a column of heavy spearmen, spreading thickly to the left and right, while crossbow bolts struck over their heads into the mantlet sheltered defenders, the best of Fulkh's feudal troops, mailed spearmen and crossbows.
The attackers from the citadel pressed through the thicket of sharpened stakes and tore into the mantlets behind. These shields were sundered and passed through as baron Nhyrblas's soldiers struck Fulkh Marshal's men across their entire front. They reeled back, many of them felled to the ground by the attack. The killing was almost entirely on the side of the baron, and the dying on the side of the marshal's outnumbered force.
Soon it was broken into small struggling bodies, and dispatched. Seeing the rapidity with which his defense was being destroyed, the young marshal led his battalion of mounted knights into the nearest approaching enemy; the spearmen halted the attack of the knights, killed some and caused Fulkh Marshal to reconsider: he commanded a withdrawal and regrouped. By then, it was obvious that the sharp little battle to keep the citadel's garrison from coming out was lost. Fulkh Marshal turned his horse's nose about and led his knights away through the nearest streets, back toward the main fighting for the town gate.
Behind him the last of his doomed troops went down, save for a very few who picked up their heels and fled in his wake. Out of the citadel gate poured more levies and then a battle of Knights of Chaos, led by Hamartolon. These did not pursue the marshal but instead bent their course to the opposite gate, west of the citadel, which was also being attacked by strong forces. The Knights came up on the rear of the defenders there and soon they were in flight and the gate opened, admitting overwhelming numbers of imperial troops into the town. These made their way, with the Knights at their head, toward the main gate.
Xoniuqé and Myrdagyn had briefly resolved to speak with the marshal and decide what to do next, but upon leaving the stairs and emerging outside, the swiftly lost battle before the citadel was clearly going to overtake them if they did not flee themselves. Shutting the door through which they had emerged and then retreated, they mounted up beside Horgand and Nouvzé and set off up the street that pointed directly to the main gate. Bruno and Myrdagyn and two surviving axmen led the way, screening the wizard.
In front of them a throng of unorganized defenders flowed through the street, entering and emerging from side alleys. The noise ahead was tremendous. The booming on the doors of the main gate suddenly ceased as those portals collapsed. And the opening was packed with troll flesh, wielding weapons of awesome size. This roaring band turned to their left and instantly assailed the nearest defenders: a large, compact formation of mostly townsmen. They withstood the assault rather than run away. And soon the alley was flowing with their blood and gore.
Meanwhile, down the stairs from the wall came Tubby, shouting his high pitched battle cry as he launched himself into the sturdy Lorinkh, waiting at the bottom.
The Thug captain's rush was turned into a retreat as the Drulath hero backed him up the steps. A chance swing of the Thug's flail dinned on Lorinkh's helm. A trickle of blood leaked out from beneath the rim and into his beard. Enraged, the veteran of countless quests and escapades summoned the strength of his full wrath and carved into Tubby's body with his famous sword Lichbane. Tubby staggered and fell upon the steps behind, but managed to get to his feet and try to retreat. But a second equally might stroke of Lichbane toppled the Thug captain from the stairs to the alley below. There, as the battle for Klyph continued to its victorious (almost foregone) conclusion, the formidable captain, his luck run out, bled out and perished.
Xoniuqé, Myrdagyn and company arrived in the confusion that was pouring into the town square. The main gate was obviously impossible to get through. But the two side streets were yet free of enemies. Leading the way, the wizard went to the left and was followed up by Fulkh Marshal and his battalion, along with a polyglot company of townsmen on ponies making their bid for freedom from the deathtrap. Thugs began to outflank them through alleys to their right, but Myrdagyn and Horgand and the axmen filled the mouths of these avenues of attack and prevented the thugs from reaching the withdrawing horsemen. Bruno trotted on ahead of his master, the pair of war dogs straining on the leashes in his knotted fists. The street was free of enemies. Only scurrying townspeople could be seen fleetingly as they sought concealment from the oncoming column and the attackers pressing up behind. The fighting withdrawal of Myrdagyn, Horgand, the Drulathim and the others piled up corpses in the alleys, and streets, impeding the movement and ardor of their enemies, who allowed a space to form between them. Many flitted off to either hand to pillage the nearest houses.
The trollkind were most contrary, as is their nature. And yet their thuggish commander did manage to bring them into the street and press toward the fleeing defenders. So swift was the fighting withdrawal of the defenders, and so tempting and distracting were the helpless houses all around them, that soon the pursuit lost all direction and impetus. As the rape of Klyph began in earnest, the last of her defenders quietly made their escape from the scene
The Wizard and marshal came to where the street ended at a postern gate. Passing through this egress, the party emerged single file into the open and found the way virtually clear: their enemies posted to watch this door had almost all gone off to climb the conquered battlements or enter by the burst main gate; leaving the way of escape that our heroes now discovered.
(to be continued …)