As the second week of the siege came to an end, the walls of Rondinburg began to crumble under the relentless hammering of the catapults. The situation became increasingly desperate with each passing day. No man gave up courage, but many gave up hope. Even Sir Aldren, though he only increased in valor and strength, would not speak of the fate of the city and had grown solemn and grave.
Often, when the fight was at a stay, he would sit alone in his thoughts and send his squire Destin to walk alone wherever he chose. Destin always wandered in the gardens of the Fairwin palace. Their beauty and order were quieting to his nature. On the 17th day of the siege, Destin was again alone in the gardens. He strolled noiselessly along, plucking fruit from the trees and eating it distractedly while he thought.
By degrees, he came to a part of the gardens that was close to the wall. There was a small pool with an overhanging arbor of willows and a soft bed of short, faded, crimson ground cover. He sat himself down and began to pull carelessly at the turf. Succumbing to weariness from the weight of oppression hanging on his spirit, he lay down on the ground and listened to the soft sound of his beating heart.
His rest was disturbed by a new noise he could not identify which stole into his conscious almost imperceptibly. He sat up and listened intently. The sound was a sporadic scratching which seemed to be coming from the earth itself. “Groundhogs perhaps?” Destin wondered aloud. He noticed now that the sound was not coming from directly beneath him, but further away in the direction of the wall. “No, it is not …” A sudden realization hit him and he bolted to his feet. “Tunnelers!” All the restfulness vanished from him and he sprang with desperate vigor to warn the city.
He had purposed to go first to Sir Aldren, but passing Galther’s shop, he wheeled about and ran through the doorway. The inventor was busily working over certain plans when Destin appeared suddenly before him. Galther started in surprise. “What’s wrong?”
“Tunnelers sir … I … heard them … by the wall … I-“
“Show me the way,” Galther demanded.
As the two sprinted back, they came across a small band of soldiers. “Follow us,” Galther yelled out. “Come with all your speed. Hurry!” Alarmed, the soldiers fell in behind them, sprinting as well as their armor would allow.
The spot was just as Destin had left it, but when he bent over to listen, the scratching sound was noticeably louder. “We have little time,” he said.
“You, hurry,” Galther ordered one of the soldiers. “Run off and find Sir Aldren or any company of soldiers and bring them here as swiftly as you can. The rest of you stay with me.” The soldier instantly left on the mission. “What to do?” Galther muttered to himself and began to pace. He surveyed the location carefully. “Wait now, are there any shovels kept nearby?”
Destin looked curiously at Galther. “Shovels?”
“Don’t question, answer.”
“Well, there is a small shed just over there used by the gardeners. We might check it.”
“Yes, immediately,” replied Galther, as he darted in its direction. Destin ran after him to see what could be his purpose. By the time he had caught up, Galther was already emerging from the shed with five shovels.
“Take one,” Galther said brusquely.
When they returned to the cluster of soldiers, Galther distributed the three remaining shovels, saving one for himself.
“Do you want us to club them with these?” asked one of the soldiers.
“No no, come with me and I will show you; the rest of you, stay here and stay quiet. If the enemy breaks through, hold them back as long as you can.”
Galther directed his four companions with shovels to the banks of a nearby pond. “Now dig with a will,” he commanded, and set the example. In some wonder, the others copied him, and though surprised, they saw his urgency and labored with no regard for fatigue. They had soon dug a small trench and the water began to flow gently over the brink. “Faster,” Galther barked. They worked faster.
One of the soldiers who had been guarding the spot of the tunneling now came over to Galther. “Sir,” he intreated, “The enemy will break through any minute. Can’t you come help us keep guard? We are already too few to keep them at bay if they once break through.”
“Hold them as long as you can. Even if you must fall back, do your best. Can’t you see where the water is going?”
The soldier looked, and the water from the pond was flowing to a depression directly where the tunnel was being dug. A flash of realization lit upon his face. “Ah! I see.”
The water was now flowing steadily down from the pond and the pressure of the stream had begun to do its work at wearing away the banks. Still the men did not stop shoveling but continued, panting and only pressing themselves harder.
After a minute, a shout came from the spot of the tunneling and Destin turned around to see warriors pouring out from the tunnel and the soldiers of Rondinburg cutting them down as best they could. A sizable volume of water had already accumulated above the tunnel before the besiegers had broken through the earth. When they broke through, It drained upon them. Still, the water level was not high enough to stop them. They rushed on and entered into the city.
“Come, hurry!” Galther shouted to the other diggers. “There is a large stone here. We must pry it out.” They instantly came to his aid, but the rock was firmly rooted in the mud and they had great difficulty. By now, those men who were on the wall nearby had joined forces with those already trying to stop the besiegers which crawled out of the ground like ants. Still, they could not stop the flow of invaders and the body of those who had emerged from the tunnel grew. At last the stone which blocked the spillway gave way and the water positively poured through the breach. The force of the torrent washed away the soil before it and leaped like a falling boulder straight into the tunnel of the besiegers.
Those inside began to panic at the rapidly rising waters. Chaos ensued as fear seized each man, all of whom stampeded for the exit. Some escaped. Most were drowned, their bodies buried in a subterranean sea. In what seemed like a flash, the tunnel was completely full.
Those who had made it safely into Rondinburg were now terrified, having seen their comrades fate and realizing that it was now they who were under attack. They lost all order and were steadily cut down. In the midst of the fray, Sir Aldren arrived with a company of one hundred men. He sent them ahead to finish off the remaining besiegers, but he himself went over to Galther. “Galther, what has happened here?” he demanded.
“Well sir, you might say it was a war of shovels. They tried to dig our grave and ended up digging theirs.”
Sir Aldren surveyed the scene for himself to discover the details of Galther’s meaning. “I see,” he said at last. “Galther, you have beat them well. I am wary however. We must search through the whole city until we are satisfied that this is the only tunnel. With each day we grow weaker and the enemy more eager and I …” He turned away.