But he had little time to prepare for a siege. And while he was away securing more provisions and reinforcements, an army sent by the twins invested the baronial castle.
Within a fortnight, the garrison was out of provender and left with the choice of surrender or starvation. The former choice was moot, as it was obvious from the plumes of smoke in the distance and the bodies of hapless peasants outside the walls that genocide was the order of the day: all living were to be butchered as a lesson to surrounding towns and castles, that anyone who had resisted imperial authority would suffer a like fate.
While Sir Skoluh'r fretted how he might possibly bring aid to his garrison and the common people of the barony cowering inside, the deputy (bearing the marshal's arms, as ordered by Dehpudzy himself, to lend visible encouragement to the demoralized inhabitants) determined on the latter course: the two castle gates were thrown open and the garrison emerged, arranging themselves as best they could to guard the peasants. Everyone made a break for the forests not far away.
Of course, the besiegers, when they saw this sally, seized their weapons and arrayed themselves. Battle was soon joined on both sides of the castle.
To the west, the more open side, lay the bulk of the imperial army, composed of feudal spearmen, crossbows and a battalion of mostly feudal cavalry. A company of Knights of Chaos, sent by Antania, and a few score heavily armed mercenaries, stiffened the feudal mounted men-at-arms. And there was a unit of several hundreds of Warrior crossbowmen stationed in the midst of the feudal infantry. These troops were the best in the polyglot imperial army the emperor twins had sent to destroy the barony.
On the east side of the castle lay the open village not far beyond the gate. Some hapless villagers were seen daily in the street, appearing to go about their normal business. This was rightly interpreted by the deputy as a ploy to get the castle to surrender, belying the columns of smoke rising over the trees and the previously mentioned bodies of peasants scattered about. To the north of the village were feudal yeomen archers and spearmen. To the south stood a large band of thugs, of the scrappier sort.
Unseen by the garrison, concealed within the village houses, was a formidable band of heavily armed Thugs, pumped on potent drug-laced liquor and awaiting their chances. Their commander was none other than "Tubby", one of the leaders of the legendary raid on the town in the Kylburian Themes the previous year. As one of Antania's mercenary commanders, he was serving the twin emperors at the behest of his Mistress the Witch.
From the east gate came the cavalry in column, riding into the village. Behind them emerged half of the peasants who had been sheltering in the castle. And on either flank of these frightened people were arrayed a body of archers to the south and foot soldiers armed with two-handed weapons to the north.
From the west gate a unit of billmen, flanked by archers, screened the rest of the peasants. The left wing of archers exchanged shot with the feudal crossbows and routed them. Scorning these cravens, the Warrior crossbows moved up to take their place.
The feudal cavalry charged the archers and billmen, contacting all the billmen and most of the archers to their left. They broke in rout and were massacred! The peasants skedaddled for the trees. The archers not struck by the feudal cavalry exchanged long range shooting with the Warrior crossbows and were shot down by them.
The feudal spearmen had been the most tardy to get ready to face the emerging castle denizens. But once arrayed, they formed a column and moved toward the forest, angling to attempt to cut off the fleeing peasants.
On the village side, the cavalry suddenly found themselves in combat with emerging Thugs in the street. The rest of the Thugs caught and slew as many of the exposed villagers as they could. A couple of hundred villagers managed to escape to the trees to the southeast.
Most of the defending archers were killed by charging thugs, despite inflicting significant casualties that nevertheless failed to stop the charge. The more heavily armed garrison infantry advanced to engage the far more numerous yeomen and spearmen coming rapidly down on them from the north.
When the archers broke in rout this panicked the cavalry and soon the street was a confusion of turning horses as the knights and sergeants tried to escape the "deathtrap". At the same instant, the Thugs also panicked because of the casualties that the cavalry had been inflicting on them. It took a awhile before "Tubby" could rally them (actually, that was his perception; in fact they rallied of their own accord).
Tubby himself slew the deputy.
By the time the Thugs sorted themselves out, the fleeing garrison and peasants had escaped contact, skirted the battle where the doomed infantry were mobbed by superior numbers, and ran around toward the trees to the northeast. The main body of cavalry survived, along with all the peasants.
The westward fleeing peasants also gained the trees to the northwest, just ahead of their pursuers, who gave up the chase. The last piece of fighting was between a few archers and the Warrior crossbows, who easily shot down the greatly outnumbered and unarmored archers.
Well, not quite the last bit of fighting. A single combatant remained still in the village. This was a young woman named Meaghanne, who had armed herself and mustered with the infantry that emerged from the east gate. But she had encountered a pair of Thugs, and, with a garrison swordsman briefly at her side, had traded blows with them. Just as her opponent unaccountably turned to flee, she heard a ruckus in the street to her rear, and turned just in time to fend off the spear of a well-advanced thug, of that band which was destroying the archers and beginning to attack the fleeing cavalry. The woman desperately sought to dispatch her opponent so that she too could flee this deathtrap. But he was stubborn, or her attack feckless. In any case, she was detained. More enemies entered the village from the north, feudal spearmen led by a man-at-arms on foot. Meaghanne was surrounded! In an instant she was down and lost consciousness. All of her enemies passed over her motionless body, assuming her slain, except for one thug who hastily thrust his short spear into her armor several more times before also joining in the pursuit of the fleeing garrison and peasants.
But by sheer good fortune, none of her numerous wounds were fatal. She regained her senses slowly. Painfully she dragged herself to the nearest doorway of a shack and hid inside. As darkness fell, the sound of returning troops alerted the young woman of her peril. She was still trying to seclude herself when the door swung wide and a pair of mercenary archers saw her. At once they attacked the almost helpless warrioress. She was wounded again before managing to tangle one man with a piece of furniture while hacking and thrusting at the other until he was backed into the alley and fell to the ground. He fumbled at her as she staggered past, and was slow to regain his feet. She went around the corner of the next house and into the street, and ran face to face with yet another mercenary. This man, too, she succeeded in knocking to the ground. He must have already been drunk for he was slower yet regaining his feet. By then, Meaghanne had turned down an alley and lost herself in the gathering gloom. She was fortunate to meet with no further encounters and gained the shelter of the trees. Her wounds were serious and in a nightmare of exhaustion, pain and interminable hours of darkness, she slowly made her way from that place ...