Chapter 14: Traps
The sky was red as the sun rose from within the dark gray clouds, its rays passing through the narrow gaps of the wall's embrasures. It was a hot morning and the birds were singing in the trees around the city and between the buildings of Dras Leona. People were slowly waking up and going about the marketplace and the soldiers were patrolling the walls and streets of the city as they prepared to welcome the new day.
Roran Stronghammer was standing on the tallest tower of the city, looking at the city below, the orange roofs and stone houses, and the smoke coming out of the chimneys of some of the buildings. He was sitting there, trying to devise the best strategy to defend the city from the eventual assault by the much larger army of King Orrin's men.
By his estimates, the city had only a few days to prepare and as a result, all the soldiers needed to work as hard as possible. For this reason, he had decided to fortify all the roads inside the city by blocking all major roads leading to the governor's palace with wood and rubble, a tactic that had served him very well in the siege of Carvahall, in the previous war by the Razac. The soldiers had been working from the previous day and had managed to block most of the roads. This would prevent the soldiers of King Orrin to easily gallop and march down the roads and conquer the governor's palace, and would increase the losses they would take to do so, in case they managed to breach the walls.
Furthermore, he had barricaded the gates of the city with as much rubble, objects and rocks that he could find. For this, they had destroyed some of the old unused houses that had not been repaired from the war against Galbatorix. This would make it hard for the battering ram of King Orrin's army to open the gates. While the soldiers were destroying the old buildings, a plan had occurred to him. He had seen an old building which was almost a ruin, ready to fall and he had thought that with the correct timing and spell, the building could fall upon the soldiers of King Orrin, crushing them underneath.
He had also ordered many pots of boiling oil to be prepared in order to be poured upon the soldiers of King Orrin who would try to open the gates, increasing the losses of King Orrin's army as the longer they stayed out of the city, the longer they would be sitting ducks for the defender's arrows. Moreover, he had chosen two buildings inside the city, one big building that used to be the town hall, which was built where the old tower of Hellgrind used to be. Now the building was used to store the food reserves of the city. The second one was a old granary which after the war against Galbatorix, had been used to store swords. and other military weapons. These two buildings would provide the basis for the defense of the city, and would be the two most protected buildings for the city.
All armies had a weakness when disrupting the supply lines and that was exactly what Roran would try to do. He had ordered the soldiers to burn the fields outside the city, which would make it harder for the soldiers camped outside the city to feed themselves. It could also lead to desertion from the enemy ranks as the soldiers would suffer from hunger and disease two factors that destroyed the morale of the soldiers.
Finally as a last resort, he had marked the area around the city, so that the catapults and arrows coming from the defenders of the city would be more effective and deadly, without unnecessarily wasting ammunition. He also had the men dig giant pits in the ground which they filled with spears and other sharp objects so that they would instantly kill, whoever was unfortunate enough to fall in them. These pits were then covered with leaves, making them impossible to spot as the whole ground was covered with the dead leaves of the trees. This would make the approach to the city almost impossible. It was not a perfect plan but it would have to do, he thought to himself.
Alarik and Martland were standing next to him, waiting for his orders. Roran thought he was lucky to have such loyal good men under his command. He let a sigh escape him, as he turned away from the walls and walked towards the gate that led outside the city walls. A little work in the field would ease his mind from the thoughts and anxiety and would let him think more clearly he thought.
To the surprise of his soldiers, he grabbed a shovel from the ground and started digging one of the holes in the ground that would be used as a trap. The soldiers looked on with an amazed look at their new commander, as they were not used to a commander that worked along with his soldiers. They watched at their leader, inspired. The men around him strove to help him, as they too grabbed shovels and dug along with him, happy that their general was helping them in their task. Roran smiled at his soldiers, as he gave them the example, working hard, digging and sweating and laughing at jokes that the soldiers said to lighten the atmosphere.
The work reminded Roran of the time when he was a simple farmer, working on the fields with his father and his brother Eragon. Back when he was much younger and peaceful, before all the wars started.
The hours passed as they dug outside the city or prepared the city for the attack and the men grew tired until finally, Roran ordered them to stop and cover the traps with leaves, so that they could not be seen. It would not do to overexert themselves and then not be able to fight the enemy. The men withdrew, inside the city with order. The men waited silently, as the hours of the night passed slowly one ofter the other, unable to sleep wether because they feared an attack or because of the anxiety that they had for what would come.
A short blond man came running towards Roran, barely managing to stop in front of him. Roran grabbed his hammer, thinking it was an attack. The man stopped and tried to catch his breath.
"Easy there lad! Tell me what is going on?" Roran said calmly, after recovering from the surprise.
"Sir! The scouts have returned! They have seen King Orrin's army a few miles ahead, just outside the city!" The man said when he regained his breath.
This was the news he had been dreading. Roran thanked the man and turned towards the gate of the city as his bodyguards followed him, trying to keep pace with their general. Roran quickly ran towards the front gate of the city. He ran in front of buildings and the soldiers looked at him, knowing that something was not right.
A few moments passed without him being able to see anything. Suddenly, Roran watched as the army of King Orrin slowly appeared from the horizon, like a wild beast ready to corner its prey. Line after line of soldiers appeared in the horizon until they covered the whole area in front of the walls of the city. The soldiers inside the city spread the news and they went to their positions, watching the progress of the enemy army. Two whole hours passed until King Orrin's army stopped moving. Meanwhile, the soldiers under Roran's command went to their positions, ready for a sudden attack. The army stopped moving with a command, and a lone figure approached the city sitting upon a fast brown horse, holding a white flag of negotiations high above his head. Archers aimed at him from every murder hole in the walls, waiting for a command from Roran. The man stopped a few meters from the wall.
"My king Orrin, King of Surda and Rightful king of the empire, descendant of the kings of old, demands the surrender of the city to correct the injustice that was committed when the city fell under the rule of Queen Nasuada. My ruler is merciful so he is willing to keep a blind eye at the treason that the people within this city have done by refusing to obey to his wise rule. The soldiers within will join the ranks of his army and no citizens will be harmed upon exit from the city. These are his terms!" he proclaimed reading from a piece of parchment with a loud voice so everyone could hear his words.
"High Queen Nasuada, Queen of the empire, Lady Nightstalker, is the rightful ruler of the Empire as decreed from the treaties signed by every ruler of all the races, including King Orrin. She was unjustfully imprisoned by King Orrin during the sudden attack on Belatonna, in a time of peace, no less and during the Olympic games. Is this how your king honors his word? The moment we step out, your king will kill each and every one of us. The people in this city gave me, Roran Stronghammer, command of the army, and we would rather fight to the last man than surrender to such a king." Roran answered, instantly with no hesitation.
"Nasuada is a prisoner of my Ruler and nothing more. At any given moment, he can order her execution. The war is over. My Ruler urges you to reconsider and think of the countless lives you will save from accepting his terms" the messenger answered with a louder voice than before.
The soldiers looked at him, their eyes on him as he considered the offer. His next words would determine the course of the war, for if the city fell before the Empire was ready and the humans and dwarves and elves had amassed in Illeria, then everything would be lost and it would be almost impossible to prevent King Orrin to capture Illeria, the capital of the empire. He would have to be careful of what he said. For a moment, he let himself consider the option of surrendering. It was true that his decision would save many lives of soldiers. It was true that the war would claim countless lives and would add to the burden of the land, but was King Orrin really the ruler the people wanted to be their king? The answer came to him almost immediately.
"Your ruler is a truce breaker, he is dishonest and a backstabber and it would be foolish of us to accept the terms he offers. He is no better than King Galbatorix. There is only one true ruler in the land and we will not stop fighting until she is in her rightful place, or avenged." Roran answered loudly.
He had hoped to provoke king Orrin to an attack, and to inspire confidence to his soldiers by showing that he was not afraid of the larger army that was camped outside their city.
The messenger looked at Roran with a stunned expression, clearly he had expected the city to surrender. Their eyes met for a few more moments, with a look of hatred on the messenger's face, and then the messenger turned his horse away from the city and towards the army of king Orrin that was waiting outside.
Roran let a sigh of relief. He had done well as a leader of the army. He prayed to whatever God existed that he had made the right decision by rejecting the proposal of the messanger and that the city could last the storm that was coming with the help of the defensive preparations he had made. He had to call for a meeting with his high ranking officers so that they could better discuss the defense of the city and the possible ways of attack that King Orrin could use. It always helped to be prepared in situations like these. The citizens were safely on their way to Illirea and he had done his best to secure the city. He only hoped it was enough.