Chapter 18: Battle of Dras Leona
The sun was just beginning to rise, as Roran woke up. He looked at the army of King Orrin, still outside of the city for the beginning of the third week and he groaned. The ground between the army and the city was covered with corpses, arrows protruding from some of the bodies. He saw where the traps he had laid on the ground had caused devastation to the enemy ranks as the soldiers had fallen into the dark pits to meet their doom. The traps made it almost impossible to cross uninjured. Boiled oil was still burning on part of the destroyed battering ram. The walls of the city had been battered and ruined, every day, at some points weakening to a dangerous level. Destroyed siege towers lay on some parts of the walls, but their bridges had been burnt so the enemy could not enter the city. His eyes turned to the soldiers on his side, all bruised and battered. The dead had been burnt to stop the spread of disease in the city and smoke from the burning buildings and bodies entered Roran's lungs making him cough. Scavenger birds were circling the battlefield, feeding on the corpses of the dead. The sleeping soldiers were unmoving, tired from the constant fighting. The city could not last much longer.
Roran tried to walk but a large gash on his leg prevented his movements to a minimum level. He was battered and bruised in many parts of his body. His eyes fell on his shield, that was full of scratches from the countless weapons that had hit it. He lifted his hammer from the ground and put it on his belt, ready to be used. His armor was full of dried blood, and on his body, there was dirt. He saw his men, who had fought bravely for two whole weeks trying to stop King Orrin from taking the city. They had managed to hold him off through lots of tough battles and he was proud of them all. The soldiers looked at Roran with awe and respect and treated him as one of their own, almost as their father, and strived to fulfill his commands. In the past weeks, he had learned that the dwarves and elves were moving towards Illeria as fast as possible. The elves had already arrived near Gilead and the dwarves had just left the Beor Mountains. They would need at least another week to get to Illeria. On his left, he saw Martland Redbeard. The one handed general had a grim look on his face as he twisted his long white beard with his fingers in a constant motion as he was thinking. He used to be Roran's first commander, and now in a twist of fate, Roran was Martland's commander. During the weeks fighting together in the city the two men had become close friends. On Roran's right, Alarik the Olympic champion stood, his huge muscular body covered with dirt and blood. His arms were full of scratches from the countless weapons that had tried to cripple him. He had gained a large wound on his left arm, from his shoulder to his elbow that needed to be healed in order to prevent infection but he still stood proud, on his general's side, silent as he watched the army below.
A loud horn rang from inside the city, signalling the beginning of yet another day, yet another attack. Roran looked as the enemy soldiers ran towards the walls of the city, to try and enter it, through the use of stairs. What posed the greatest threat were two giant battering rams that moved towards the city to replace the still burning destroyed one. The wood was wet to make it more difficult for a fire to burn the battering ram and there were archers protecting it from all sides so that Roran's men could not attack and capture it. Roran ordered the archers on the walls to fire a volley and then another but then an answering wave of arrows came from under the wall, killing a few of his men as the rest of the arrows bounced harmlessly on the wall. Roran ran and pushed a man climbing the stairs to the walls and tried to throw the stairs down but the stairs were secured with hooks on the wall. One of the stairs fell on the army below, screams of terror and pain being heard. The situation would be grim if they didn't manage to stop the soldiers from climbing on the walls. The ground trembled as one of the trebuchets hit the weak wall with a large boulder of rock. Small pebbles flew in the sky from the impact, killing a few men and injuring others. Roran smashed his hammer on the head of a soldier and then he hit another on the back with his hammer. A loud sound could be heard as the battering rams started hitting the already weakened gate. Roran and his soldiers fought as hard as they could for several hours, not giving any ground or sign of giving up.
Suddenly with a cracking sound, the gate to the city broke and opened. Roran shouted for his men to follow him to defend the city. He ran to the gate as fast as he could, his men following him as best they could. The enemy had entered the city and there was no point defending the walls anymore. A large rock landed right next to him, and then another fell on the wall. Part of the weakened wall collapsed to the ground, bringing down with it a few of his men and some of the enemies that were still on it.
"To me!" Roran shouted as loud as he could and his men formed a thick line preventing the Surdans from entering further into the city.
Still, the tide of the men entering the city was too strong to stop, and Roran and his men were losing ground every minute that passed. Roran attacked a group of five men followed by two of his men. He used all his weight to hit the back of one of the soldiers with his hammer, making him scream in pain as he sidestepped to prevent one of the enemies from stabbing him in the gut. With a circular motion, he hit the hand of the man who had tried to stab him breaking the bones, and then with another move he hit the man on the chin, the sick crack making him wince. Other soldiers replaced the ones who he had killed and Roran saw that the Surdans were now inside the city at equal numbers with his men. He stepped backwards, as he avoided a spear and then he lifted his shield to prevent an arrow from hitting him on the chest. If they continued this way, the Surdans would have the city very soon. One of the magicians shouted a word and one of the ancient buildings he had marked blew up in tiny pieces. Large pieces of rock fell on the Surdan soldiers, and parts of the wall covered them, as others were burned from the blast. Roran lifted his shield to stop the wave of fire and pebbles from hitting him and he was thrown on the floor, a few meters away from the blast. He was right that the confusion the blast had brought, was enough to stop the advance of the Surdans, but he had not expected the blast to be so big. A little bit of the disorientation had also affected his men.
"Attack!" Roran shouted lifting himself and running to the enemy soldiers, who were blinded by the large cloud of dust on the air, preventing them from seeing properly.
Roran's men attacked with him but soon, the Surdans had recovered from the shock and advanced again, this time more desperately. Roran fought hard with his men but they kept losing ground as the tide of the Surdan soldiers did not stop. Roran didn't like retreating but there was no other option. It was either that or breaking and then it would be very hard to contain his soldiers and even to remain alive. He ordered his men to do so and slowly they went further in the centre of the city, being pushed by the soldiers of Surda.
Another blast was heard and another old building was ruined but this time it was slightly less effective as the Surdans had been prepared for the eventuality. Still, a few of the Surdan men were killed and covered by giant boulders and sharp pieces of wood stabbed and injured many of the soldiers. A sharp piece of wood hit Roran's shield, and Roran was glad for the protection. He had gained many new injuries in the battle, with the largest one on his chest as a sword had managed to cut his armor and make a large surface wound. Around him death and destruction was everywhere.
He saw Alarik, a mountain of strength, moving his large mace and killing a man with a mighty blow. He spotted Martland a few meters away, fighting a man. He threw a dagger on an approaching soldier as he shouted.
"Sir! Go and defend the two buildings! I will cover you!" Martland shouted.
Roran agreed and ordered part of the men to come with him. About a thousand of the closest men came with him as they ran in the streets of the city towards one of the two buildings he had marked, as the two most important strategic positions of the city.
Martland saw Roran retreating and continued fighting. He wore a shield on his shoulder, where he had lost an arm. Suddenly he saw a few men dressed in the most rich armor he had ever seen. They were fighting the men around them with grace, as if they were born to be warriors. In the middle of the group he saw a man wearing a richly decorated armor. In his arm, he carried a magnificent sword and he moved with an air of determination. His face had an expression of anger and disgust and his eyes were shifting in the battlefield looking for targets. Their eyes met and an evil smile appeared on King Orrin's face. Martland tried to clear the way, a great anger for the way King Orrin had treated Queen Nasuada filling him and guiding his movements. He swiftly killed a soldier blocking his way and then one of King Orrin's bodyguards attacked him. Martland blocked the sword with his shield and with a precise slash he cut the man on his arm. The man charged enraged but Martland moved aside and with a quick motion he stabbed the man in the stomach and then cut the man's neck. He looked around as the other bodyguards were engaged in other personal battles and then he focused on his target, King Orrin. He charged the king but King Orrin merely stepped aside avoiding the blow.
"It is good to see you Martland. Queen Nasuada sends her regards." King Orrin said with a sneer.
Martland refused to answer and with a circular movement tried to attack but King Orrin's sword was there to meet him.
"You have grown slow with old age." King Orrin mocked and Martland attacked again enraged. King Orrin blocked the sword and attacked, aiming for his neck. Martland barely had time to block the blow.
"You have grown pompous and arrogant, and you will pay for what you've done." Martland answered.
"I tire of this game. It is time for you to die." King Orrin replied and with a fast move he tried to hit Martland on the leg.
Martland, had no time to react and he fell on the ground. As King Orrin came closer for the kill, Martland grabbed some dirt and threw it on King Orrin's face. King Orrin screamed and Martland lift himself up before he could recover.
"For an evil king, you fight too honorably!." Martland said with a smile and a short laugh.
King Orrin attacked him, furious for being mocked and Martland knew he could not win this fight. He blocked three blows but the fourth one was so strong he lost the grip on his sword as he stumbled on a dead body. Before he could land or protect himself King Orrin stabbed him in the heart. Martland looked at King Orrin and then at the battle around him. Blood filled his mouth as a terrible pain was in his chest. A last breath escaped his mouth and the last thing he saw before everything turned black was King Orrin's enraged face.
It was just after noon and the sun would soon begin to fall as Roran and his men defended the city from the Surdans. Roran had learned from soldiers that the men he had left, Martland among them had broken and that Martland was dead. The loss shocked him as he had expected him to survive. They had been close in the past months and his loss angered him. Reports from the messengers were arriving every second as more and more of the units scattered across the city needed reinforcements. The Surdans were now attacking the two last defensive structures of the city, the two points where Roran had put most of his men as the rest of the city slowly fell to Surdan hands. They had fought in the city all day, from house to house, from door to door, from alley to alley.
He lifted his tired hands to block a blow from a sword with his shield and then he hit the man on the jaw with his hammer. He saw men approaching and among them a tall strong man with dark hair and eyes, his skin covered with scratches from the battle as he moved his battleaxe chopping the people who were in front of him as he moved towards Roran and his men. The man looked at Roran and their eyes met for a few seconds before they recognized each other. Roran knew the man was called Malik and that he was King Orrin's best fighter and right hand man, his advisor to all matters.
Malik approached Roran, a smile on his lips. Roran looked at him with anger as he lifted his shield and gripped his hammer with all his strength, preparing for the attack. The two men met and they immediately exchanged blows that would have killed any man in an instant. A loud crash could be heard as the ax of Malik hit Roran's shield and a thud came from Roran's hammer Malik managed to block Roran's blow. Roran shouted and with a curse he kicked Malik on the leg as he avoided another blow that would have chopped off his head. Malik groaned in pain but remained standing as Roran made a circular move that aimed for his head but he changed it at the last moment hitting Malik on the elbow, crushing the bone. Malik screamed in rage and made a thrust with his ax. Roran stepped back to avoid it but stumbled on a dead body and the ax made a large scratch wound on his left arm and leg. Roran rolled on the ground to avoid a further blow and lifted himself from the ground quickly facing his opponent.
"Is that the best you can do Stronghammer?" Malik teased despite the pain emanating from his elbow.
He avoided a spear thrown at him from somewhere and used his ax to injure a man who came too close where the two men were fighting. Taking advantage of the situation and the temporary distraction Roran charged forward and with a yell he rammed his shield on Malik, making him fall. It was an unexpected move and that was exactly his plan. Malik fell on the ground and Roran hit him on the shoulder with his hammer before jumping to avoid the ax that was coming towards him. He immediately attacked again and hit Malik another time on his left side this time, weakening his grip on the shield. Roran felt a punch on his face and stomach as he used his weight to pin the ax down on the ground and he responded with a punch of his own. The two men struggled on the ground for several seconds, neither being able to gain an advantage over another.
Malik reached for a small dagger he had and he aimed for Roran's throat but Roran saw it and grabbed his arm, stopping it. He slowly turned the sharp edge of the dagger towards Malik as he twisted his hand and hit him on the elbow and shoulder making him scream in agony.
A large explosion from a building sent them both flying in the air, ending their struggle. Roran slammed on the ground with speed and for a few seconds was disorientated. He knew he had to move for Malik could be coming towards him. However, everything was spinning around him. He felt as if he was drunk in a festival, his legs unresponsive to the commands he gave to them.
Then he saw him. Malik was lying on the ground, heavily injured. From the explosion he had slammed on a wall of a building, and he had a wound on his stomach. His armor was battered and broken by the countless wooden pieces and rocks that had hit it from the explosion. Roran tried to reach him but the Surdan soldiers prevented him, knowing that their commander was in no shape to fight.
Roran stepped backwards, towards his men who had been scattered and shouted for them to regroup. The soldiers responded. He had lost a lot of ground as he was fighting Malik and the strongold had almost been taken by Surdan men. The fight was hopeless and it would be best to retreat and live to fight another day he thought. He ordered for the command to retreat to be heard and they slowly headed towards the exit of the city. He helped his men to fight off the soldiers that chased them as they exited the walls of the city, abandoning it to its fate. Before the last soldiers of Roran exited the city, a large group of soldiers under Horst's command appeared, the second group from the city. The men exited the city as a group of archers threw volley after volley preventing the Surdan men from chasing them. A magician lifted a fog in the air that prevented the Surdans from seeing them.
The city of Dras Leona had fallen as he had expected but the Surdans had many losses while taking the city and it would take some time for them to recover. Roran looked one last time to the city as the proud flag of the white dragon holding the red rose, the flag of the empire, was replaced by the Surdan flag on top of the tallest tower, signalling the fall of the city.
King Orrin looked at the flag being replaced on top of the tower. It was a pleasant sight to see, as another city was conquered by the force of his army. He smiled at his men, opening a bottle of wine as he drank to the victory. He looked at the destruction of the beautiful city and an anger filled him. The other races refused to understand that the land was his and that it fell to his natural rule. His ancestors had ruled over this very land so many years ago and that made it rightfully his. There was no time for celebration. He had lost a long time in this siege, more time than he would have liked. Roran had proven a dangerous foe, costing him many dead soldiers and precious time. Time that he did not have. He would have to rest the army a few days to secure the city but then they would march on Illeria as fast as possible. He looked at the fleeing soldiers one last time, wishing there was a way to kill them but then he sighed. They would have to wait for another day.