17 March, Havva Ley; Free Lands
"It would be in your best interest to lay down your arms and surrendered!" Cael yelled from the front of his ranks of men. He and five hundred men stood assembled in ranks in front of the fort at Havva Ley.
Men of the Free Lands stood at posts behind the simple palisade. Havva Ley was little more than some central buildings, ringed by earthen works and a wall consisting of outward facing wooden spikes. Cael doubted that a fourth of his force would fit in such a small area.
"We all prefer our freedom! Crawl back to Delian and find someone else to bully!" A voice called out from the front. "Havva Ley has earned its freedom, and no one can take it away from us!"
"Do you think you can stand against us, traitors?"
"Cael, it would take a spine to take this place, and that is something you lack."
Cael's face turned flinty. "Baelin! You're the biggest traitor of them all. After all you taught about faith and loyalty, you betrayed your home, your faith, and your honor! Havva Ley is where I will end your life!"
"So be it, Cael. You will depart this place in shame, heading to either home or hell." Baelin raised his arm, and Cael knew that the parley was over.
"Shields!" Cael screamed as Baelin's arm fell. A volley of arrows leapt into the air. Cael dropped to a knee and lofted his targe to protect himself. The arrows fell like rain, wetting men with blood.
As Baelin's men nocked again, Cael called his archers to volley. From the rear of his formation, shafts flew, forcing Free Men under shields and behind cover. Cael took advantage of the pause and raked his two swords free.
"Charge the wall!" he shouted, rousing his front lines.
He took off at a dead run, screaming from the back of his throat with two hundred other men. Behind the spikes, Baelin whirled, momentarily distracted from directing his archers, and called for soldiers to man the walls. Both sides traded volleys, one catching Cael's targe on the edge and knocking him off balance a mere handful of feet from the walls. He crashed to the ground, rolling a stop as his men continued to charge around him. He sat up and made to his feet as the attackers crashed into the fort and its defenders. Defenders killed and died to keep Cael's men on the other side of the barricade. The tide pushed, but Free Men stood their ground. Baelin rallied his troops and they began pushing Cael's men back. He raised an arm, signaling more men to advance from his reserves. Not waiting for them, he advanced, pushing through his men to reach the melee.
"Baelin!" He shouted, spotting the older man across the chaotic field. "Come and fight me, coward!"
Baelin glanced up, angling his path slightly to head towards Cael, and began to slay a path through the men that separated them. Cael stabbed and slashed, clearing an area for the duel. The fighting died down around them as Baelin entered the clearing. He drew a short sword from one of his soldier's waist as he passed, and tucked the weapon in his belt.
"Are you ready to die, Baelin?" Cael taunted, loosely gripping his swords as he caught his breath.
"Which Cael showed up today?" Baelin frowned, studying Cael intently as if looking for something. "You don't appear to be Firian, so you must be Droch."
Fire leapt in Cael's eyes "I really wish you wouldn't call me that."
"I don't think you can stop me, Drochcael," Baelin responded.
"I can kill you!" Cael screamed, lunging forward, slashing at Baelin's head.
17 March, Abdun: Raelit
"More pitch!" Lane called, dipping an arrow into the last of the burning tar.
Peeking over the makeshift battlement, he waited until his area was clear of airborne projectiles and popped up for a shot.
Adding fire to arrows doesn't pay off as well as one would think. The speed of a traveling arrow will often put the fire out long before it reaches a target, and drawing a burning shaft in your bow can do some serious damage if you're not careful, but lit arrows are a terror weapon with no equal. Men and horses panic at the sight of fire, breaking ranks and throwing organized formations into chaos to avoid them. It was for that advantage that Lane risked using burning pitch.
His arrow leapt from his bow and crossed nearly two hundred yards in seconds, ending its flight still ablaze in the neck of an unfortunate officer. The man stood there for a moment, as if unable to believe his life was at an end. As he fell backwards his wool shirt and hair burst into flames. Lane ducked behind cover, as men shying back from the grisly sight. Pressing his back against the wall, he breathed in deep. His mind imagined the smell of burning hair and flesh that must be wafting over the ranks outside the walls. Somehow he could hear, despite the din and noise of battle, someone uttering a prayer. Only after his mouth stopped moving did he realize it was himself.
Abdun was holding rather well, despite the odds. His seventy-odd men held back a vastly superior force with sheer guts. They were riding a wave of luck- the garrisons arrived early, but without war machines. An all out attack had been ordered, and beaten back by Lane's men. After the initial victory by the defenders, a siege had been laid as a group had been dispatched to retrieve the war machine that would now be needed. The mistake of a quick attack had actually given Lane a gift of a few free days of relative peace.