The wall was breached at the gate, but still flanked by strong ramparts crowded with Ermanarikis’ warriors. They rained spears and axes down at the elves below, who struggled up the hillside. They were encumbered by their heavy armour and having to hold their shields over their heads, and the steep hillside proved a formidable, exhausting obstacle.
Inside, Ermanarikis had arranged his soldiers in three shield walls, in a semicircular formation around the breached gate. The shield walls’ flanks were anchored by buildings or the walls, and the men in front had dropped their spears to keep shortswords at the ready. They held their shields in front of them, rattling them agains their neighbours’ to make sure it was a solid wall. They overlapped to ensure enemies would have to thrust through two layers of wood. The men behind them held their shields overhead to ward off stray arrows, and held their spears at the ready to jab at foes over their front row comrades’ shoulders.
Due to their position on the hill, direct fire from enemy bowmen was not possible. This meant the elven infantry would have to make their assault unsupported. The Order men were tough and disciplined warriors, and would prove exceedingly hard to break. Ermanarikis himself was in the first row of the middle shield wall, eyeing the elves over the iron-rimmed edge of his shield. The enemy was breathing heavily and moving sluggishly by the time they made it to the top, but the sight of their foe seemed to fill them with new energy as they waved their swords in the air and charged. The lord watched the foe who would come to his blade. It was a slender-looking man, with a stolen helmet and mail shirt and several javelins embedded in a shield that still bore the bloodied device of the Redar levies. The man came at him, shouting and cursing.
The Order warriors braced.
With a huge crash and a jarring impact Ermanarikis could feel moving up his arm, they impacted the wall. He jabbed out with his shortsword under the shield’s rim, looking to gauge the enemy’s thigh or groin. Over his shoulder, a spear jabbed at the foe’s collar. It proved to be just the distraction needed for Ermanarikis’ sword, seaching for the rim of the mail skirt, to slip under and carve deeply into his foe’s leg. He was shouting at the enemy, calling them despicable leaf-eaters, prey of the Garden, the shit of cattle, and all sorts of insults.
The elf screamed and fell, and, keeping his shield raised, Ermanarikis stomped on his other leg to hear it snap with a sickening sound. Another elf pressed up to him, clearly struggling to not lose his footing on the wounded man’s belly, and he was rewarded with a spear thrust to the next that spilt his life blood all over his leather coat and made him fall on top of the wounded elf, choking.
All around him, the Order warriors fought. Men searched with their knives for gaps in the enemy’s armour. They jabbed at groins, legs, ankles, while the spears stabbed overhead at faces and necks and collarbones. An Order warriors flicked his knife at an unhelmeted elf’s face, tearing his cheek open, before headbutting him in the face. Another slammed his foe with the shield’s boss and, while the enemy was dazed from the blow, cut his neck open. Five elves fell for every warrior that was cut down. At a whistle’s sound, the shield wall, which had been slowly pushed back by the flow of enemies, halted.
At the back of the formation, a drum started pounding. Its heavy, rhythmic beats of doom, doom, doom, filled the air despite the screaming, clanging of steel, and cursing that was everywhere around.
When it beat for the fourth time, the Order formation, as one, heaved and pushed, spears and knives reaching out, hungry for elven flesh. Many slammed home, but many more glanced off mail or breastplates or shields taken from the fallen of Redar. It mattered not. Soon, the drum had beat four times again, and the men heaved once more.
They were the warriors of Sagonos, trained, disciplined, and eager, and they had practiced the shield wall a thousand times.
Ermanarikis knew, and his men knew too, that his foes would only come at them to die.