Dawn, Day 9
The muted sound of banging hammers echoed through the fog. Artur was past caring. They couldn't interrupt his sleep now; he hadn't slept for two days. None of the six Lumbridgians remaining with him had, either. In some great, cosmic twist of irony, they were all too tired to sleep. The battle for Varrock's northern wall shifted like a great see-saw of death, and the enemy's strength came and went like the tides. There were stretches of wall which could not even be fought over any more, as the bodies had piled up so high, and the defenders been too busy elsewhere to clear them away, that more attackers would die from losing their footing and falling to their deaths than to the crossbows and swords of the defenders.
Two days ago, the invaders had managed to reach the main gate. That was where the greater part of the battle was now being fought. The assault on the walls had provided the distraction needed to build the right momentum to attack the gate, and now, the enemy was applying pressure from below as well as above. Artur looked on as engineers erected spiked barricades and small siege engines. In the fog, the barbican was only a looming shadow, its outline picked out by pathetic torchlight. There was a foul stench in the air that the fog could only barely mask. Artur was past caring about that as well.
The gate itself fell yesterday. After that, it had taken the better part of the afternoon and evening to repulse the enemy, and now, the Varrockians and their allies were trying to shore up the battered defences as best they could.
Artur's muscles ached terribly. It had been a hard fight. The battle for the barbican had taken a bitter toll on the defenders. In peacetime, four wagons could be driven abreast through the wide northern gate of Varrock. Yesterday, close to four thousand soldiers of the kingdom had fought there, against who knew how many wild men and savage greenskins. Even now, Artur could see the torches of the work gangs bobbing through the fog as they carted away the bodies of the slain to be burned. 'What are you looking at?' Marthin asked through a mouthful of food. Burly and scarred, he was sitting on top of an empty crate, going through a ration of beef and beans as though he had a grudge against it.
'Nothing,' Artur replied, turning his head to look at him.
'Nothing is amazing,' Rohn said. Lean and dark-haired, he was picking at his food without as much gusto as Marthin. 'A man in our situation could really take a liking to nothing.' He laughed at his own awful joke. 'The gate, then,' Artur said. 'I was watching the gate.'
'What for?' Rohn grinned. 'Not like it's going anywhere.'
'Can't even see it, anyway,' Marthin said. Artur shrugged.
'Beats watching you eat,' he said, turning around to observe the engineers again. Though it was quiet here, the sounds of battle still rang through the city. For all the desperation and ferocity of the fight for the northern barbican, Artur could not forget that theirs was but one part in the overall scheme of the siege. Wild rumours were flying that the enemy had made it into the walls through the dilapidated southern districts of the city, but Artur didn't pay them much heed. If the city walls had been breached, surely, they would have been recalled to the walls of the Palace. Other rumours went that the enemy was diverting much of their strength northward, to take advantage of the breach that the fall of the northern gate created.
That rumour, Artur was prepared to believe.
'There,' Lechtmann pointed. Artur peered through the arrow slit, unable to see much of the enemy except the glow of their fires in the fog.
'Doesn't look like anything's changed,' he said. The two of them were in the first level of the barbican, looking over the plain outside the city. Well, trying to, at least. The fog was making it impossible to see much.
'They're definitely on the move,' Lechtmann said. 'The camp looks bigger than it did yesterday. That must mean they've been reinforced.'
'Which means they're getting ready to attack again,' Artur said.
'I'd say they'll attack at daybreak,' Lechtmann said.
'You think we'll be ready?'
'No,' Lechtmann said, checking the string of his crossbow. Artur said nothing.
'I'll still fight, though,' Lechtmann said after a moment. 'This is my home. I have to.'