Having finished putting the flames out, Stephan looked to see that Alfana was in good hands. As he did he assessed the damage. “We’ve caught the fire before it did too much damage to the walls, but the door is burnt and hacked up.
“Matvey, keep an eye out for the goblins as we work. Kuzma, go tell Masha all is safe and then please keep an eye out from above. Call if you see anything move. Stellios, please also go to the tower to keep watch.”
“Next time they come, they’ll expect us to take the same defensive approach,” said Hasan. “We’ll need to change our tactics, lest they change their’s first. I see two options. One, we can charge them. The sortie from the South Yard. Ahh, would that Saeth were here, she would appreciate that has a ring to it! Second, it it might be even more effective, we could plan an ambush. If we could sneak a small force into the ruins of the barn, we can let the goblins come. And when they finally reach the door, we fall on them from behind!”
Maruc re-entered the tower and joined the group. “Well fought! Well fought!” he shook everyone’s hands. “My brave friends the blessings of Halav are on this house!” He leant over to look at the pale Alfana, then smiled at Irina. “Good work my dear.” He returned his attention to the patient and inspected the welt on her head. “Nasty, but you’ll live. There might be a little scarring though. Now lets see, no complaints, I wish to check you all over. We don’t want any unnecessary heroics!”
Maruc carefully assessed everyone. “Well we have been fortunate not to have had more fatalities with such an attack. It is a testament to the work gone into building this fine house and the brave souls that defended it. I say again well done.” A grave light entered his eyes. “We cannot assume we have beaten them off. Even now, they may be calling for reinforcements. We must attempt to do the same, or flee. We cannot stay here forever enduring wave after wave of assaults. We have have at least cast doubt into their hearts and they will think twice before openly attacking us again. We also need to be a full strength so I shall ask Halav’s blessing for Alfana again least should the need arise she can defend herself or flee unaided. But I am at a loss gentlemen. Why after such casualties did they not press their attack? And why did they leave their dead? I have no experience of these foe. But I cannot see what loyalties hold them together if they treat each other so.”
For that matter the smell of smoldering thatch and horse dung brought back unpleasant memories of the raid on the cloister. How he’d struggled for days, starving and thirsty from the wreckage. Who had attacked the peaceful church in its outlying community? Now he thought about it. It wasn’t that far from here. Could it have been goblins? He hadn’t stayed to find out, or for that matter gathered any clues. To be honest, Maruc wasn’t out for vengance. He was out for a cause.
The pale face of Alfana brought him out of his revelry. He meditated a moment and feeling the freshness of the spirit of Halav pass though him he blessed the woman and the light brought colour to her cheeks and a smile touched her lips. “Thank you, bless you.” she breathed.
“Thank not me my dear, I am but the instrument of Blessed Halav.”
Miklos sat on the side of the bed and bit into an apple. He didn’t know how the others seem to survive on fresh air. He was ravenous.
“Nice plan Hasan, but if we are going to launch a sortie. We launch a sortie. An all out attack, and do it before they have a chance to regroup.” He took another bite. “Not that I’m in favour for such an action. We seem to be doing OK here. I count eleven dead in the yard. A handful on the other side of the bridge as we entered. And we have lost two in the initial raid because of surprise. We are well armed and armoured. We have a defensible position and they will loose dozens more in another attack. Soon their weak alliance will show its cracks and the infighting will start. All we need is stoicism and patience.”
He took took a further bite. “That and a good book full of spells!”
“Very well, then,” Hasan looked at the dozen souls surrounding him. “We live and die tonight together in Susikyn. Still, I wish I knew this enemy better. So far, they have been most direct. But why not just burn us out?”
“Aye. We are best off staying here and defending,” Stephan agreed. “There could be many more goblins in the woods. Which means….”, he lowered his voice, “I’ve seen sieges go for years. They all end the same way unless reinforcements arrive. We must get word out for help. That or we will need to escape for surely, this enemy will show no mercy.”
Turning to Pyotr, “Are there any horses left?”
“Nay, brother. All the horses are dead to run off.” Pyotr kept his voice low so as not to disturb his family. “We can not hold out for years, Stephan.”
“No. The sieges I’ve seen that last so long are of large towns and castles. How much food supply do we have?”
“Maybe three weeks if they haven’t raided the outer cellar. We have about a week’s supply here in the tower,” Pyotr looked troubled.
“We have to send for help. And plan some sort of escape. Just to be sure. If it comes to it, we may need to disperse and agree to meet somewhere some days hence. I only say now that we should keep it in mind.”
“Perhaps, if we can just make it to daybreak…” Pyotr’s voice trailed off.
“Come, does anyone want to join me in searching the dead in the courtyard for clues as to why they have chosen us as raid practice? Pyotr you’re not hiding anything they would gladly spend their lives to get hold of?”
“The horses, of course,” replied the clanhead. “But the Viper goblins made off with those hours ago.” Pyotr was clearly puzzled. Like the others, he had expected the goblins to launch another fire attack.
Miklos produced the claw hammer he had previously used to nail the entrance descended to the door of the Hall. He spent a few minutes prying the nails out and knocked some of the remains of the solid oak door from its frame, until there was enough of an opening to venture out. He gingerly listened to the pile of smoking bodies and poked it with the end of his staff hoping that none where still alive.
Feldard grabbed at him and he almost jumped out of his skin. “What are you doing!” he stormed, “Idiot human, you’ll get us all killed! They could be alive! Tricky damn goblins!” he spat. “Are you brainless? They could be all over us any second and you want to go for a stroll? You deserve everything you get halfwit.”
Miklos said nothing. There was nothing he could say. The dwarf was right of course, but he was damned if he was going to admit it to him. Secretly, he was quite pleased to have him there while he finished the job. Satisfied they where dead, he crossed the yard to approach the five corpses pinned to the floor with arrows—they had been victims of his first sleep incantation and a deadly volley.
While Miklos scavenged the bodies, Feldard kept pace with the mage, his crossbow loaded and at the ready keeping watch over the courtyard and beyond. He avoided Feldard’s gaze. Which to be frank was quiet easy, Miklos being a good foot & an half taller. Miklos did not notice the dwarf retrieving what few bolts and arrows were salvagable from the goblin bodies.
Sheathing his sword, Stephan examined the entrance to consider how best to block the entrance for the next goblin attack. He kept an eye on the surroundings to ensure no goblins attempted pot shots.
“Feldard,” said Stephan, noticing the dwarf’s scavenging. “We may not have bolts for your crossbow, but we have some spare shortbows and arrows in the armoury.”
“Look out!” cried the boy, his high-pitched voice carrying loudly on the still night air.
From the northern edge of the forest, slingstones arced through the air toward the three defenders in the yard.