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Chapter 12: In a Rush

 
"The pitch! We have pitch to set them on fire!" Marin thought suddenly, wanting to slap herself. Risking a look to her surroundings she frowned, she was alone here so she could not leave her post.

"I need someone to cover me!" she yelled, hoping someone appeared so she could get help to bring the barrels to the towers. She would need to use the entrance of the tower, the shaft was too small to lift them

Marin's cries fall on deaf ears as the other soldiers on the parapets have their hands full with the gnolls that have already made it to the top. Down below, the gnolls who had fallen when she kicked down the ladder are reassembling for another go, this time with archer support.

Alelip limps his way over to the battle, ducking and weaving around the melee. Fortunately for him, the gnolls at the top are occupied enough with their struggles that they don't get a chance to strike at him. Wyndshof is sneaking peeks over the crenelations and cursing to himself, but smiles very tightly when his second-in-command shows up. "Good to have you back, Al--suggestions?" he quips as he turns to give the archers an order. "Concentrate fire on their archers! We have to give our men the chance to topple the ladders without turning into pincushions!" At about the same time, one of the other soldiers drags the injured Pete out of the fight, and fixes the healer with an inquiring eye.

Ken and Leo reach the gatehouse just as another set of BOOMs echoes through the confined space. The heavy bar is set against the back of the door, but it's starting to show some cracking. There are places where the wooden door is splintered and weakening as well. There's not a lot immediately at hand to add to the bracing; in the nearby storerooms, there are some crates and casks, and then there's the wooden pen that holds the horses in the courtyard.

Rives sprints to the paddock as soon as he sets foot in the court. The horses look a bit spooked but have not yet panicked, and they seem glad of a familiar presence as the young stable boy slips over the gate. Naturally, none of them are ready to ride; saddles and makeshift bridles are tucked away in the nearest unclaimed storage room.

Rives gently pats the horses as he hurries to the nearby store room and starts pulling out the saddles and reins, such that they are. He begins with, the herd leader, Strider. Strider would be the most likely to be able to break out through the gnolls without panicking. And if Strider did it the other would follow. He would rider Strider. He wasn't sure if anyone else would want to ride with him, but he began to saddle up the other horses just in case. First Moonlight, then Midnight, then Domino, and finally Bear and Whiskey.

What foolishness, he thinks as he goes about his work. But at least he would be able to save the the horses... or die trying.

Grimacing when nobody heard her, she just pulled another arrow, aimed and fired, cursing loudly when the arrow was lost

"We need a respite to bring the pitch up here!" she thought frantically


Kenjin looked about but there was nothing to brace the door with, not so much as a pole or bracket. "Our luck be damned! he muttered. With nothing to lose at this point he went for the storeroom and began to open everything, looking for anything that could be used (flammable liquids or oils for instance) to keep the Gnolls at bay when finally they breached the gates. While doing so, he called to Leo, "Leo, go to the horse pens. See if you can loosen some of the rails up to use as braces for the door. We need to buy more time for the others!"

Alelip quickly surveys the scene, composing himself before reporting, "Yes, I do. The storage cavern underneath the keep leads away towards an exit, that comes out near a waterfall about a mile from here. If..." he pauses for a second as the battering ram strikes the door again, causing the keep to reverberate for a moment, "If the gnolls are able to get inside the keep, given the numbers we are facing I suggest we make a quick retreat down the shaft, through the waterfall, and then double back to the main camp."

He pauses for a second, and then adds, "We would do better to sound the alarm and retreat than all die here and the gnolls continue unimpeded towards the main camp."

Rives has three of the horses saddled up when Leo shows up, wrenching parts of the paddock free and hauling the long split rails over to the gate. He drops them unceremoniously in the stone archway and rushes back to the paddock to get more. Ken looks at the wood, considering his options, mulling over the storeroom contents. The only things remotely flammable were a half-barrel of lamp oil, a small cask of brandy--the low-quality sort that's better for cleaning wounds than for drinking--and a large pile of torches that would typically be set in iron rings around the watchtower to give light at night.

Marin's arrow sails harmlessly over the head of one of the gnolls, embedding itself to the fletching in the soft ground.

The lieutenant calmly takes in Alelip's advice, pausing only to glance over the wall and confirm the situation. "Agreed, we aren't going to be able to hold out five on one for much longer. If the gnolls can spare a hundred for this watch tower, there must be thousands in the area." He looks at the fight and starts loosening his sword arm. "So, your little expedition found a secret way out. I guess the old rumors are true. Regardless, we need a distraction to buy time for the retreat. Otherwise the gnolls will see what we're up to and be right on our heels. Something brilliant..." Wyndshof cuts off his own thought and bellows, "ARYN! Kick down that ladder!" while pointing his sword at the most recently erected scaling device.

Alelip nods his head in agreement, and says, "Yes, a distraction would be helpful in getting away, but it is a sizable drop down to the store room... if worse came to worse we could torch the ladder and kill whatever gnolls survive the jump or fire."

Alelip thinks for a second, then says, "I suppose we could send a detachment of men and charge when they manage to get through the door..." he trails off for a second, recognizing that it would be a sure form of suicide for those men crazy enough to volunteer for such a task. "Perhaps an explosion or fire? Something that would keep them away long enough for us to escape?"

Alelip looks around as he says this, taking stock of his company as he does so. Marin and Cademon fighting the climbing gnolls, Ken and Leo bracing the gate... where did Rives go? Knowing the former page only slightly, he could only guess that he was either hiding... or tending to the horses, trying to keep them calm.

Suddenly, Alelip exclaims, "Horses!"

Kenjin had only one thought on his mind at that moment...delay the Gnolls. The ones that scaled the walls could be held at bay, contained based on superior numbers alone. If they were to rbeak in this door, however, their flood would consume every defender of this keep.

Using the boards brought to him by Leo, he immediately began shoring up the heavy door. It was a stalling tactic, nothing more, but it would buy him precious minutes which he would need. Next, he took the heavy rum barrels and pushed them against the door. Whether they were knocked over or not made little difference for next he poured the oil on the ground all over the entryway to include the big barrels. Finally, as an added measure, he found as much straw and hay as he could from the stables and casted that over the area covering the oil completely. Satisfied with his work he went about lighting a torch and then, with axe and shield in hand, waited. With a glance over his shoulder he spotted Alelip and called out, "Whatever the plan is make it fast. This door will not hold much longer."

And then, to Leo. "Back to back my brother. If we fall here, today, we do it together."

When Marin saw the gnolls climbing again and saw herself the lone defender of this part, fear started creeping over her heart and she clutched her bow harder to fighting, but looking at the horde she knew she was fighting a lost battler. Looking at the yard, she saw what Leo and Ken were doing her fear got stronger as she understood.

"We're going to trap ourselves here. We're going to die here, defending our post, " she thought with grim resignation as some tears started to fall. "Will we be forgotten, as the soldiers of the crypt? Will anyone bring news to our families in Eisenberg?"

As she silently wept for whoever was going to fall today, she saw Leo and Ken get back to back, and her desesperation overcame her fear. She remembered the teachings of her brother

"Death is not the end, and should ne be feared. If you fear, you can't think straight and you can't see. Fear blinds you and in those moments is when the eyes of your soul must be clear" the words resonated in her head and she shook it, clearing her tears with a dirty hand. Drawing her lasts reserves of strenght, she ran downstairs to the pair

"Ken, Leo!" she yelled when she was near "The Pitch! There're barrels of pitch in the cave" she said gasping for breath "If we manage to bring it here we can use it as fuel, so the fire lives longer!"

Running again, she went to the refactory, looking for Betsy

"Betsy! We need you help!" she called, her foice high for the adrenaline and the desesperation




 

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