If they were to engage in a siege battle, the avenues through which the Experts – namely Jerome or Milton himself – could get involved would be reduced. This meant that their troop losses would inevitably increase.
This was the reason why, if at all possible, they attempted to decisively finish this battle through an open fight on the plains despite their inferiority in numbers. Count Rosscaiz accepted the open battle in kind because he, too, was confident in securing a victory.
But now the circumstances had changed.
After suffering a heavy blow, it was likely that Count Rosscaiz had sealed himself in his castle and would refuse to come out.
If they were to carry out a slow, methodical offensive, it was likely that the Capital would intervene as an arbitrator before the end for dragging out the war too long.
‘That would be troublesome. What should I do? Should I just arrange an armistice agreement before the Capital swoops in and collect some compensation?’
Milton thought about requesting a ceasefire, but he quickly shook his head.
‘No. I’m not doing that.’
Milton did not endure through this county war merely in order to reap some compensation gold. He certainly would not have the nerve to sleep peacefully while conscious of the grudge he had with his nearby neighbor.
Only when the Rosscaiz County’s flag was completely lowered would he be at ease.
‘Who knows how things could’ve been if this didn’t happen? But now that everything’s already set in motion, I can’t leave room for future trouble.’
Milton resolutely issued his command to Jerome.
“We are immediately deploying into the Rosscaiz County with our troops. The siege weapons can be crafted on-site.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Jerome turned to leave when Milton piped up again.
“Oh – and to be sure, carry out an investigation into the archer that shot arrows at my head and see what information you can find.”
“Do you mean that archer?”
“Indeed. He was a man at least 190cm tall with red hair, and used a bow that was disproportionately large even compared to his stature. There’s bound to be a man who knows someone that fits such a unique description.”
“I shall get to it immediately.”
When Jerome left the barracks, Milton once again sank into his bed and lamented.
‘I nearly died for the first time in this world. Who on earth was that guy?’
Although this opponent had put his life in jeopardy, more than loathing or wariness, what most brewed in Milton at this moment was the greedy ambition of somehow recruiting this man. It was an avaricious desire to try and take this talent under his command.
Milton was not self-conscious of it, but this was an indication he had become fit for the seat of a lord.
Milton led his troops and surrounded the Rosscaiz County’s castle without a single gap. Although their castle did not have a moat, the high walls and sturdy gates would make a frontal assault quite difficult nonetheless.
‘We’ll need siege weapons after all.’
After forming the surround formation, Milton ordered the procurement of lumber from the surrounding forests and began the production of siege weapons.
While they prepared for the siege, Milton received information on the fiery-haired mercenary that had inflicted the deep scar that stretched across his temple. There was no need to search far and wide as one of the probationary knights knew of this man.
“If the man was an archer with crimson hair and a gigantic bow, it would be Trike.”
“Trike? Is he well renowned?”
“Yes, he is rather well-known among the mercenaries. The crimson-haired Trike is the leader of a mercenary corps known as the Longbow Company.”
“Oh? He’s a mercenary captain?”
“Yes, I heard his corps boast quite the size. Their company numbers around 200 men, and word has spread that they are all very loyal to their leader.”
“How is he skill-wise?”
“Well… as he is a mercenary whose main weapon is the bow, not much word has spread regarding his combat prowess. He is known to be a good shot, but not much else beyond that.”
“Only a good shot?”
Milton could not believe it. The sheer level of archery that had caused him to be knocked off his horse sent chills down his spine even now. For one who had achieved mastery to such a degree, to only have word spread that he was ‘good’...
‘Archers definitely have a low reputation. So how did he consistently train to reach that level of skill in this world?’
Milton’s desire to get his hands on the crimson-haired archer – no, the man named Trike – grew every moment.
As Milton was in thought, Tommy entered Milton’s tent to inform him.
“My Lord, the construction of the siege weapons which you ordered have completed.”
“Is that so? Let’s have a look then.”
Milton inspected the weapons which were made according to his instructions and nodded with approval.
“Well done. Make sure the carpenters who toiled away are rewarded for their work – and feed the soldiers so that they are well and full.”
“Will it be alright even though we are running a little low on supplies?”
“It’ll be fine; because that castle will be falling within the day.”
Milton’s expression was one of legitimate confidence.
“Milton Forrest… you scoundrel, do you really think this will be the end of me?”
Count Rosscaiz had not given up just yet after losing the battle at the plains and finding himself in this crisis. He had lost a considerable amount of his military strength, but he still had his ways to win.
The Rosscaiz County fortress was sturdy and had plenty of supplies.
If he were to send a man to the Capital while defending this position, the war could be suspended with the aid of some political lobbying. He decided to protect the fort’s walls tooth and nail; assuming the strategy that Milton most feared.
Count Rosscaiz had absolutely no intention of opening the castle gates and had even prepared a barricade behind the gates lest they were destroyed, so the enemy would still face challenges when entering. Not only that, but he deployed a healthy number of troops to the ramparts so that they could respond adequately if the enemy managed to climb over with hooks, thus covering the full range of risks.
“Come if you want. We’ll knock you all down from the ramparts.”
Could this be said to be the last hurrah of someone backed into a corner?
Fiery malice lingered in Count Rosscaiz’s eyes. However, Count Rosscaiz’s resolve became naught as Milton did not carry out any offensive after forming the surround. His forces merely sustained the formation, without so much as a single provoking arrow fired.
Count Rosscaiz needed to drag out the siege, so the battle was seemingly tipping in his favor. Yet that was precisely why he became all the more restless.
“What’s going on? What on earth is that bastard planning?”
Having been dealt a severe blow once already, Count Rosscaiz became increasingly anxious. His worries grew as the attack which he had steeled himself for did not come.
“What is he thinking?”
At his concerned remark, Count Rosscaiz’s advisor reassured him.
“It is more than possible that they are also staying their hand as they cannot see a different means of attack.”
“Are they trying to isolate and starve us? No, he’s not that stupid.”
The Rosscaiz County’s castle had stockpiled ample drinking water and food to last a year at the least; and Milton did not seem foolish enough to not consider that the Capital would intervene if the war stretched on.
“If anything, could they be sending a man first to the Capital to lobby their case while they keep surrounding us?”
Out of all the possible scenarios, this seemed the most plausible. Yet Count Rosscaiz was yet to be fully convinced.
‘I may be jumping to conclusions, but it seems up until now that these scoundrels wanted to hurry the war along and bring it to a close. So would they really suddenly assume a long-term strategy?’
Count Rosscaiz’s fighting spirit shrunk bit by bit, while his uncertainty and restlessness grew to fill him. Just as his anxiety reached fever pitch…
“My Count, the enemy is mobilizing.”
Milton’s forces finally made their move.
Count Rosscaiz carefully surveyed the enemy from the ramparts.
“I don’t see any ballistae or catapults.”
“Yes – instead they’ve brought some sort of cart we have not seen before. It is hidden with a tent cover, but judging from the size it is likely a battering ram.”
“They want to bring down the castle gates? Hmph… fine. Come as you may.”
Their castle gates were incredibly sturdy – and since their castle did not have a moat, the gates were built to withstand that much more pressure. On top of that, a thick barricade was constructed behind the gate. Even if they were to successfully destroy the first set of gates, breaking through would ultimately not be an easy task.
Count Rosscaiz thundered at his soldiers.
“Watch! The enemy does not have a single siege weapon in their possession. They have neither a ballista or catapult. There is nothing quite as absurd as their bravado in trying to scale our walls with their laughable equipment.”
Count Rosscaiz let his troops know of their advantageous position. He tried to best raise his forces’ morale after their lopsided defeat in the last battle by emphasizing the enemy’s weaknesses – but there were no lies here nonetheless.
“I suppose it’s true that they don’t have any siege weapons.”
“Expert they may be, but surely even they can’t climb these walls, can they?”
“We’ve prepared copiously in the event the gates break down as well.”
More hopeful voices began appearing from amidst the soldiers, breaking through their air of worry. Count Rosscaiz went further with a commanding voice brimming with confidence.
“For every enemy that draws near, give each and every one of them a healthy serving of arrows. Victory will be ours!”
The knights and troops stationed all around the ramparts renewed their morale. Count Rosscaiz’s thunderous voice was not only heard by his troops but by their enemy, Milton.
“Impressive. He raised his troops’ morale with good reasoning.”
Milton had thought they would be quite downtrodden after their last defeat, but he did not anticipate that there was still enough hurrah left to be stirred up in their forces and boost their morale. But no matter how much their morale was raised, Milton was confident about this siege.
“I’ll show you a peek of a new age of warfare.”
Milton muttered under his breath and commanded his vassals.
“We will begin as planned. All troops, attack.”
At Milton’s order, the troops roared and began to advance slowly.
A rain of enemy arrows came pouring from atop the castle walls. However, they were rendered nearly ineffective by a humungous shield that the footmen had prepared in advance. They were tower shields that had been distributed by Milton while they established their surround formation, which now nullified the arrows with their enormous size that completely protected the men’s bodies with ease.
“Keep firing! Arrows are enough.”
“Do not concern yourselves with their shields. Castle walls cannot be knocked down with a shield.”
Yet the Rosscaiz County commanders urged on the soldiers, and the shower of arrows continued.
“Gah! My arm!”
As the intensity of the arrow volleys increased, casualties began appearing among the infantry.
“Layer the shields tightly!”
“Archers, begin attacking once you’ve entered firing range. Keep the enemy in check!”
Tommy and Rick, the veteran knights of House Forrest, took the initiative and commanded the troops. As the archers began their counterattack, the intensity of the arrows raining down upon them from the ramparts decreased slightly.
Without missing a beat, two wagons advanced forward.
“We must stick it right up against their walls!”
“Keep pushing! Push!”
The Forrest soldiers desperately pushed the wagons to the base of the castle walls. Count Rosscaiz inwardly ridiculed their efforts.
“Do you think we would just sit here and watch while you smash our gates with your rams?”
Count Rosscaiz was prepared to pour oil on the rams if they drew near the gates and light them on fire. But at that moment…
“My Lord, they are not stationing the rams at our gates but somewhere else along our walls.”
Count Rosscaiz frowned. He had intended to light them on fire the moment they stepped foot outside the castle gates. But who would have thought they would take the rams not to the gates, but to another location?
“What trickery is this?”
Were they planning to bring down the walls with the rams?
Knocking down the ramparts would take all day. Would they really try such a childish thing knowing full well that the defenders wouldn’t leave them alone?
‘They haven’t done a single thing without an ulterior motive up until now…’
With an eerie feeling, Count Rosscaiz issued an order to his knights.
“Pour the oil and fire the flaming arrows at once. Set those unsightly rams alight at once!”
The moment Count Rosscaiz issued his command…
With a loud barking of orders, the cover placed over the wagons was lifted.
What was revealed was something that they had never seen before.
“What is that?”
“It’s my first time seeing it.”
The enormous wagon was loaded with some kind of ladder.
The ladder was held in place with thick ropes, and at first glance, the contraption was like a ladder had been fastened vertically onto a merchant’s caravan.
Count Rosscaiz was astonished.
“A ladder? Surely they’re not…”
Though the Count did not know precisely, one could intuitively deduce the purpose of this machine. But by the time he realized, it was already too late.
“Cut the ropes!”
At the knight’s orders, the ropes that tied the ladder to the wagon were cut. And as they did so…
As the tightly round ropes were cut loose, the end of the ladder landed squarely on top of the rampart.
“This… how does a ladder, this easily…?”
The soldiers defending the walls were shocked speechless.
And Milton, who watched the situation unfold from afar, smiled and murmured to himself.
“You’ve never seen anything like this, have you? Now, this is what you call an escalade.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter