Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy fled the doomed barony with a price on his head. He too arrived at the village of "Kanti" with a few followers, a handful of men-at-arms and sergeants and a few infantry and archers. This reinforcement was welcomed by the lord of that place, a retired soldier named Librohn.
His village was virtually an open settlement on the edge of the Kanti forest, with a stream that emerged from the trees and protected it on the west and south sides during part of the year, but hardly formed an impediment when the water level dropped in summer and fall. A low wall or fence of wood and piled rocks ran around the outskirts and along between the houses parallel to the edge of the forest. The village square was actually paved, with a well in the northeast corner. On the north, the forest side, of the square there was a real wall of masonry some nine feet in height: the feckless beginning of real fortifications which the impecunious state of Librohn's holding had failed to extend any further. The most substantial building in the village was a two-story combined tavern on the ground level, with rooms above for guests or the village's garrison; this L-shaped stone structure ran along the east side and half of the south side of the square. Houses fronted the rest of the south and the west side. Three streets accessed the square from the south, west and northeast.
The core company that defended the village was companions of Librohn who had followed him into retirement from imperial service. Leader and comrades were half a dozen fully armed swordsmen. Not enough to secure the village, Librohn made do with a rotating militia from its denizens of a dozen or so halberdiers and crossbowmen. The inclusion of Sir Skoluh'r and his troops substantially augmented the number of professional fighters.
A mere fortnight following the erstwhile marshal's arrival and employment, of a morning, the sounds of alarm came from the farm fields that lay outside the walls and beyond the stream: approaching up the dirt roadway came a band of Thugs, and behind them came spearmen and archers. Before all the peasants who had been tending the fields could get across the stream some of them were caught and killed.
By the time the marauders had splashed over the ford to the village and engaged the defenders at the opening in the wall, the inhabitants had been aroused and men poured into the streets and rushed toward the entrance and the perimeter. First on hand to meet the attackers was Librohn's lieutenant, a brave but somewhat rash swordsman named "Sekuhnd". He led a handful of halberdiers. Some peasants joined this small band, while a few crossbows shot from behind the wall flanking the ford with little effect. The clang and thud of weapon strokes began the battle for the village.
Sir Skoluh'r emerged from the tavern into the square where the main mass of defenders was mustering according to prior arrangement. Villagers were also pouring into the square, getting in the way for a time, before their lord ordered them to take shelter inside the stone-walled tavern and barracks. By then, Sir Skoluh'r had gone swiftly to a nearby barn and saddled his warhorse. Entering the street and moving toward the embattled village gate, he took stock of the situation: it did not look good! Many peasants were already down. Thugs, led by a ferocious brute with a blood spattered flail (no less an unworthy than "Tubby" himself), had already pressed into the village to the intersecting streets. Sekuhnd was trading unequal strokes with the Thug chieftain, and finally went down bleeding in the street. Sir Skoluh'r turned his horse about and retraced his way to the village square. There he met most of his mounted men who had individually armed themselves and made their way to the mustering. He took his place at their head and faced from the square down the street toward where the Thugs and spearmen were making slaughter of the villagers. Some of the marauders were already setting buildings afire on the south edge of the village.
Retreating into the square came a lone Elf. His two companions that he had come to the village with the day before, to discuss alliance with Librohn, at his request, had already perished under a hail of marauder arrows. The Elf hero, Dahryl (White Wing), was of much greater prowess, being one of those who had even faced Ghrusoq and the High One of Melinarth's invasions in generations past, but had then retired to his own people where he had remained for the many years since. At the wall, where his two companions in arms had succumbed, he had rapidly dispatched several of the enemy with his enormous war bow. But too many archers had seen him in the alley from where he shot and the incoming deluge of return missiles had forced him to retreat.
As the defense, with Sir Skoluh'r leading the way, pushed out of the square, the White Wing's keen eyes saw movement on the far side of the fields to the east. A large body of infantry was advancing toward the village. Feudal spearmen, more enemies!
Dahryl left the square to loose several arrows at long range. A couple of missiles found their mark and brought down spearmen. The rest saw the lone shooter and hastened their advance. Before the Kanti archer could target anymore, he saw and heard an approaching clot of enemies coming through the trees. More thugs, but of the lesser sort. He saw javelins hefted as they emerged between the trees and reached the wall. The Elf shot down three of them then turned and withdrew swiftly back to the village square.
The girl Meaghanne was there standing with her drawn sword beside Librohn and two of his swordsmen. A few angry women refused to enter the tavern and barracks building and milled about the square awaiting the arrival of their tormentors.
The bulk of marauder archers had moved around the smoldering and burning houses to face the backside of the tavern and barracks. Thugs were over the wall and massing to move into the street toward the square.
On the west side of the village, Warrior crossbows and a band of halberd armed marauders had forded the stream and crossed the undefended outer wall and fences. They were joined by swordsmen who had also come from the forest side. These troops fired the first houses that they came to. On the east of the village, Knights of Chaos arrived on the field, sent by Antania to reinforce the twin emperors in their war against the "rebels". Feudal cavalry and crossbows came near on the west side, the cavalry moving along the opposite side of the stream from the village, intent on entering by the gateway.
The mounted defenders with Sir Skoluh'r met the first Thugs and spearmen and killed them, driving the others back to the intersection. The heroic Dehpudzy turned right and his men divided right and left, beating spearmen back. The horses crushed the fallen. Sekuhnd, lying unconscious all the while, was unlucky and perished under this additional "attack". Further up the street, Tubby and the bulk of his men had dispatched all defenders in sight and were retracing their steps toward the intersection. The mounted men-at-arms could be seen and the Thugs moved eagerly toward the melee.
One of Dehpudzy's men who had turned left was assailed three to one by spearmen, but so stoutly did this man-at-arms resist the attack that he actually drove two of his assailants back into a fiercely burning house where they were immolated.
At this point, the defenders could see Warrior crossbows approaching, single file from the west, avoiding the out of control fires on the north side of the street. Longbow arrows and crossbow bolts flickered through the smoke. Defenders went down! They withdrew back around the corner out of sight. The attackers were entering the village in overwhelming strength!
All of the villagers, except a few militant women who stood by their men folk, had taken shelter in the stout tavern and barracks building. The defenders who remained were moving to defend the buildings that surrounded the square. Sir Skoluh'r and his troops were extended down the main street, buying a few more moments of precious time to organize the defense of the square.
The way was actually open to the erstwhile marshal and his men-at-arms and sergeants: if he gave the command, they could escape this closing deathtrap. But he thought that this would be a very unchivalrous act. And he dismissed it from his mind ...
(To be continued ...)