The second wave of invaders rushed across the bridge like a pack of wolves hungry for the stag. They were met by bristling spears, but the invaders were skilled and fierce and they managed to close with the defenders. The shield wall of the men of Rondinburg was shaken, but it held firm. With each attacker that fell, a new warrior took his place. The corpses began to pile on both sides. The wave of invaders was like the huge waves of the sea which crash against a firm wall. That wall, if it is not strengthened, will most certainly fall beneath the relentless thundering of the waves. And so with each passing moment, with each thrust of the spear, the line of the men of Rondinburg was weakened. Most of the standing defenders were wounded, but they could not leave their post for lack of numbers.
At this moment of trouble, Galther, the servant of the Thane of Dorth arrived at the line of defenders with his jars of fire. His coming was timely, for the line of defenders had now broken and each man fought hand to hand. A few of the jars of fire were thrown into the enemy mass and this caused them to give way, but they did not succumb to terror as they had before. Instead, they began to knock the jars to the side as they came through the air, so that they did not land on the tower, but fell to the ground and did no harm. The pause in the fight however, gave Sir Aldren a chance to rally his men. They reformed their ranks, and though thinned in numbers, were again strong.
Galther, seeing that his jars were cast aside and did no harm to the tower, took a handful of men and had them cast the jars at the tower from the sides. The hides which covered the tower easily caught flame despite their dampness, but those in the tower reacted quickly and cut out the flaming portions before they spread. This however created openings through which the jars could be cast into the interior of the tower. The besiegers guarded these openings with their lives and would not let any of the jars through. Many of those who guarded the openings were shot down with arrows, but new men immediately replaced them.
In the thick of this conflict, Sir Aldren, his left shoulder soaked with blood, withdrew behind the line of battle and shouted, “Destin! Destin, where are you?” His squire emerged from the ranks to meet him. “Destin, our numbers are too weak to hold back the enemy for much longer. You must bring us reinforcements.”
“But sir,” his squire objected, “The enemy is scaling our walls with ladders on every side. All the men are already employed.”
“”Our need is urgent,” Sir Aldren insisted. “Gather as many as you can.” Destin nodded and ran away with the upmost speed.
Sir Aldren returned to the fight, and his presence was needed. His men were weary and had given ground so far that many of the enemy were firmly planted on the wall. The besiegers had redoubled their vigor and came on with heedless fury. Despite the defenders’ upmost skill and courage, they were forced to give way foot by foot until they had almost no room left to fight.
At this critical moment, a soldier managed to hurl one of the fire jars into the siege tower. Alarm spread throughout the tower and the besiegers slackened their assault. The defenders pressed forward and regained some of their ground. Inside the tower, the soldiers of Galldenborough were in a frenzy to put out the fire. Men chopped out flaming pieces of wood and threw them out of the tower. They tried suffocating the flames with their shields, but the fire was persistent and would not easily be put out. In the enemy’s panic, they slackened their guard at the openings and a second jar came in and burst into flame. The besiegers could no longer throw their full fury into the attack, but had to expend half of their energy in fighting the fire.
As the power of the besiegers weakened, the strength of the resisters grew. Destin arrived at the perfect moment with twenty men from other parts of the wall. With new fervor, the warriors of Rondinburg quickened to the fight and their weapons flashed like lightning bolts in the furry of their charge. The soldiers of Galldenborough fell before them like cattle, frightened by the defenders’ astounding vigor and unerring maneuver of weaponry.
The men of Rondinburg not only regained their lost ground, but pushed the enemy back to the confines of the boarding ramp. From there they pressed them, now retreating steadily before their onslaught, all the way to the very tower itself. Still the defenders’ fearful onrush knew no rest. They fought the enemy entirely off the top level of the tower and pursued them to the one below. Though the warriors of Galldenborough made every attempt to regain their advantage, they could not and were forced yet again to retire a level. On this level, the fire burned, and the besiegers had not managed to put it out. With fire beside them and raging foes before them, the soldiers of Galldenborough fled wholesale from the death swinging men of Rondinburg. The levels below them gave way to the panic and stampeded in one horrific flight from the tower, leaving it empty of all but the men of Rondinburg.
“Be quick men!” shouted Sir Aldren. “The enemy will not leave us forever. Fan this fire into a rage. Heap it with whatever fuel you can find.” The men obeyed. They fanned the flames with their shields and heaped the wooden shafts of their enemies’ abandoned weapons upon them. Soon, the heat from the fire was too intense to continue the work. “Back to our walls,” Sir Aldren commanded. The defenders regained their fortifications and saw to their satisfaction huge flames billowing from the sides of the tower rising up in voracious devastation.
“The battle is not yet over,” cried Sir Aldren. “Let a few stay here, but the rest of you rush to aid your comrades on the other parts of the walls.” The fighting was furious even where the defenders were only faced with ladders instead of a siege tower. The reinforcements now released throughout the walls were of the upmost need. Scarcely could the defenders have held out for a half an hour more without them. Now however, with renewed strength, they defied the besiegers advance with staunch unyielding force and stymied each of their onslaughts as soon as they began.
When the flames of the burning siege tower rose to heaven, the besiegers on all parts of the wall saw it and cried out in rage and distress. They realized that their attempt had been defeated and that there was no longer any need for diversionary attacks. With smoldering indignation, the Earl called them back from the attack and let them rest for the day.
That evening, Sir Aldren happened to meet Sestin walking about the streets of the city. “Sestin” he hailed, “Have you finished your investigation?”
“Nearly,” Sestin replied, and he sighed deeply. “It is not hopeful. As far as food and water, we could hold out for two years, maybe more. It is our numbers that trouble me. Many men have fallen today, and if the rates continue, by the third week of the siege, I doubt even our stoutest courage will be able to withhold the enemy from pouring over our walls. Our arrows are running out and parts of our walls have begun to break under the fire of the catapults. They will crumble into breeches before our five weeks have ended. I am afraid that even the bravest of men must finally succumb to numbers.”
“Do not forget Sestin, the great deed of that ancient warrior, Albestial, how he slew four hundred men before the he was cut down.”
“He was positioned in a narrow defile and could only be attacked from the front by one man at a time. No Aldren, I have not forgotten Albestail, but even Albestail would fall were he here. We will hold off as long as we can. We will never give in. But we cannot hold off forever.”
Sir Aldren clutched his sword grimly and did not reply.