Chapter Forty-five: The Siege of Valerian’s Redoubt
Valerian had not expected Gigne to attack soon and he was right. they spent the next hour waiting for nothing. It was too early. They were too fresh. It would have been a mistake. After the first hour, Valerian allowed his squad to grab some seats and relax a little.
Sieges were waiting games on both ends. The siege or attacking party tried to starve out or cut off the sieged or defending party. They would attack sporadically or constantly, aiming to breach their opponents’ defences. The bad thing about holing yourself up? If someone made it in, you had nowhere to run. On the other hand, the sieged aimed to wait the attack out. So long as their defences were strong enough and their supplies plentiful enough, they could live free and unconcerned. Morale would be their only problem.
The upcoming siege had very limited options. Valerian’s defences were makeshift at best. The siege party was also limited on time. They couldn’t rely on the first tactic. Whether they liked it or not, they would have to brave Squad Two’s defences. Squad Two did not also have the kind of fortification that enemies would crash against in futility. Their circumstances were very bad. They were hiding behind walls of dirt and ice hoping to outlast a squad that had fire attributed cultivators make up a third of their roster.
They had little choice in the matter. Valerian and Tamara were the only ones with spells that suited the purpose. Alenwaa’s protective benedictions were targeted at people, not objects. It was a hole they had not foreseen or thought to fix. It didn’t matter, they had a plan. One that had to work!
It was many hours later that their detection grid got its first hits. It let out several low sounding bell chimes to everyone keyed into it. The entire squad sat up straight.
“How many are there?” Valerian asked his scryers.
“Three”, Petilia answered. “The closest is a hundred and forty metres away from the eastern wall. The others are headed for the north and south walls respectively and are at distances comparable to the first.”
At this point, Alenwaa also spoke up. “I’ve succeeded in reading one of the signatures. It’s Magnus!”
Valerian nodded calmly. That made sense. Magnus was an apprentice array master. With him here, it was practically a guarantee that arrays would be employed in their fortifications in some fashion. Sending him to scope them out was a good move.
“I’m having a lot of trouble with the second signature. It is masked quite thoroughly. I’m going to skip to the third quickly and come back to it”, Alenwaa added.
“You do that”, Valerian acknowledged.
This detection was one of their trumps. With Pugio’s help, Valerian had recorded the essence signatures of every single of member the Platoon. With the right array and setup, he could tell exactly where they were, what they were doing, their physical conditions and essence levels. However, that would take a lot of time and resources not to mention free reign of whatever area he was going to set the array in. Right now, he had settled for a tracking array with a radius of three hundred metres around the redoubt.
Knowing exactly who and where their opponents were was going to be a great help in this battle. For one thing, there was no need to stand or peek over the walls and make easy targets of themselves. It would also make coordinating attacks and defences much easier. At first, he was only going to do Squad One but then he figured why not record the others as well.
“Are the traps still concealed and operational?” he asked Petilia.
“Yes!” she answered. “Magnus’s path did not take him close to them. However, the one Alen marked as the second did pause next to one for a moment. It is still intact and concealed but I cannot be sure he did not notice it.”
“It was discovered”, Valerian stated simply. Best not underestimate the enemy. Besides, this was clearly a scouting mission. they would not proclaim their presence by disarming their traps.
“Alen,” he broached. “The signatures?”
“I’m coming!” the other grunted. “Whoever the second one is, he’s good. I still can’t tell who it is. The array barely registers his presence. The third is Thurston by the way!”
“Keep an eye on them. We need to know everything they are doing.
A few minutes later
“They are leaving”, Alenwaa informed his squad leader.
“No, wait”, he suddenly exclaimed. “Something is happening. Number two’s essence signature is getting stronger.”
No sooner had he spoken those words than a massive explosion rocked the north wall. The attack failed to breach the wall but before they could celebrate, another strike came at them, this time, at the eastern wall. It was a pinpoint strike with high penetrative power that was only stopped because of the hardened ice crystals that covered their walls. Again, number two’s position appeared to jump about the map display with him appearing beyond the southern wall. The attack was different yet again.
It was relatively soft impact followed by what appeared to be a wave of fire. This wave of flame was so high and intense that nearly flowed over the top of the wall after crashing into it causing James who was stationed in front of it, to back away in fright.
“I’ve got a match for the essence signature now”, Alenwaa revealed. “It is…”
“Reign!” Valerian interjected.
It couldn’t be anyone else. Gigne’s number two was the only one he could think of with the skills and temperament to orchestrate what just happened. The stealth, speed, the ranged strikes and the fiery attacks. Everything smacked of him.
“Should we send a few shots of our own at him”, Cybele asked, having been waiting for an opportunity to match up against the fellow bow user.
“Don’t bother”, Valerian mumbled. “He’s already got what he came for and is probably halfway back to his base right now.”
“What did he get?”
“Information on our defences, what else?” Tamara stated. She had her hands on the most affected wall, channelling her essence into it and repairing its ice layer.
“He was clearly probing our battlements”, she elaborated. “The result: he knows that penetrative attacks will be ineffective and explosive ones their best bet at bringing our walls down. He also made sure to test the ease with which he could melt our ice.”
“They should be coming up with an attack plan right about now”, she added turning to Valerian for confirmation.
“Good!” Berengar exclaimed. “That means they’ll attack soon, I’m getting tired of waiting.”
“Not just yet,” Valerian told him.
He was right. The first attack came before dawn. It was so early that not even the most dutiful cockerel would have opened his eyes yet let alone crow. It was fast, it was loud and it was furious. Numerous explosions of different sizes and intensity assailed the walls on every side. The attackers seemed to want to shred the entire fortification to bits. Clumps of frozen earth were blasted off the wall as the booms rang out and the flashes of light and flame lit up the gloom.
The members of Squad two, having slumped due to inactivity quickly leapt up and to their stations. Some, James, John and few others had already drawn their weapons and were rushing towards the sites of the explosions.
“Calm down!” Drusilla yelled as she grabbed John to stop him. “They are trying to divide us!”
The tactic was one she had read on. Attacking sporadically and at different locations caused the enemy to divide his forces to shore up and defend them. Once you had confirmation or even estimated that that had happened, you could break through one of those points with a superior force since your opponent had already divided her forces and would thus be unable to muster a strong enough counter-offensive to push you back.
“Dru is right”, Alenwaa said, crunching the numbers. “They have two men facing each side of the wall with the exception of the North which has six.”
Valerian smiled. It was a confident predatory look that unnerved even his squadmates. The strategy they were using worked both ways. They might have a large force in one location waiting to strike but they’d already committed the sin of dividing their forces. There was only one way to show them the error of their ways.
“Prepare yourselves!” Valerian yelled over the din. “Remember the drills. We will be going with scenario twelve!”
Spinning around, he barked individual orders. “Alenwaa, you know your role. Leave detection to Petilia and focus on coordinating our people.”
“Petilia! You need to keep a steady update stream to my talisman. You should know how important this is. Without it, we could wind up lost, surrounded or killed” he stressed to the girl.
“Tamara!” he shouted to the girl with her palms on the wall. “It’s your wall! Do not let it come down.”
“Drusilla! Laura! You are our artillery.”
“Raphael! You are back bank!”
“Berengar, you are with Raphael!”
“James! John! Cybele! Pugio! Ready yourselves for deployment!”
As he spoke, he rushed into the, as yet, unused hut, leaving behind these parting words.
“Stay safe everyone! We’ll win this!”
Planting a glyph on the floor, Valerian did not even wait for the illusion to even finish fading before leaping into the tunnel it concealed. The four he’d called to him did so as well with Pugio cackling the whole time.
Thurston and his partner lurked in the bushes, making sure to change their positions often so their opponents couldn’t pin them down. He was the one responsible for attacking the redoubt whilst his partner kept a watch out. Reciting the words to his chant, he thrust his palm forward and sent another [Fireball] to crash against the icy wall in the distance. It would be the last thing he’d do before he found himself waking up in the stadium in a cold sweat unsure of how he got there.
Thurston’s partner watched as the baselards used in Valerian’s [Heartseeking Bolts] slid out of his partner’s corpse. he reached for his pouch scrambling to grab a communications talisman but before he could do anything a silent arrow opened a hole in his forehead.
“Nice shot!” Valerian complimented Cybele.
“I should be the one telling you that”, she said, eyeing the baselards flying back to her squad leader.
Petilia’s voice interrupted whatever she was going to add when she told them, “One of the two-man teams is headed your way. Careful, they are well cloaked. I can’t get a proper read on them.”
Immediately, Pugio shrouded himself in darkness, disappearing from view. Cybele eliminated all traces of herself with the wind before vanishing up a tree. Valerian was not to be left out. He quickly weaved an illusion around himself and the other two. Their actions were completed just in time because just a few seconds later, Gigne rushed into the area.
“I know you are there, Steelborn”, he called out. “I must admit though. Quasar had you pegged down to the last nail.”
After walking a few metres away from James and John, Valerian used a skill, throwing his voice of multiple surfaces in the vicinity.
“Good for him! I’ll be sure to congratulate him on it when next we meet.”
Gigne laughed good-naturedly. “Be sure to congratulate him for coming up with the plan that caused your loss as well. He predicted your movements to a ‘T’!”
“Oh!” Valerian exclaimed slowly, creeping closer to the bushy-haired tellurian.
“Oh, yes!” his foe confirmed. “You see, it was he who said that sitting pretty in a fort doesn’t suit you. First chance you get, you’ll leap into the trenches to fight it out. Once we had that kind of special knowledge, we could set up plans to take advantage of it. It’s what let us trap you so well. It’s not the only special knowledge we have on you. Funny, everyone knows about or at least suspects mine. No one even whispers about yours.
By this time, Valerian was only a few metres from Gignes left side. he expected the others to have cornered Gigne’s partner by now.
“I’m afraid I do not know what you are talking about”, he said to keep the conversation flowing.
“I was surprised when I was told exactly what dwelt in the depths of your consciousness, Valerian!” he yelled causing Valerian to pause his steps.
” You know, phantasms, if trained and used by someone who knows what he is doing, can make a person capable of many things. Things other people can only dream of”, he began wistfully.
“Things like seeing through illusions!” he suddenly yelled, spinning around and slamming a vicious, flaming punch right into Valerian’s face.
Valerian hadn’t expected it and so was unprepared to dodge. The burning right smashed right into his face, breaking his nose and launching him through two of the trees behind him, snapping them into pieces.
“Too bad yours is feral!” Gigne ended with a smile.