The Centurion Cycle: Book Four ~ The Road to the Future

Chapter Eighteen: Attack

It was during the second month of the siege that the Confederacy began its real assault on the city. Men carrying large planks of wood rushed forward to build bridges over the moat surrounding the walls while their archers sent volleys against the Centurions watching from above. Still, even as the sky was nearly blocked out by missiles, the Centurions were able to send out volleys of their own, killing many of the archers and the men building the bridges. In the end, however, the enemy's sheer numbers allowed them to place seven bridges over the eight-foot deep moat.

Next, siege towers, thirty foot high structures on wheels, moved slowly up to the walls of the city. The Centurions sent hundreds of oil lit arrows at the towers, but each of them was covered by thick animal hides, soaked to the point of having turned green. With dozens of men pushing the towers from behind, they were unreachable for attack.

It took almost an hour for the towers to reach the moat. While the towers were moving, the Confederacy sent their arrows against the walls to keep the Centurions down. When the towers reached within twenty feet of the city walls the arrows stopped so as not to hit their own men. That was the moment the Centurions had been waiting for. All along the two-mile wall, thousands of Centurions appeared out of hiding. Dropping

boulders off the walls, they blocked the paths of the towers. Four of the towers were stopped this way as the rocks jammed up against their wheels.

Only eight towers successfully made it to the walls, their drawbridges dropping over the parapets. Another siege tower almost made it, just a five-foot gap between the tower and the wall, a boulder stuck in its wheels.

With eight towers against the walls, the Confederacy troops that had been pushing them from behind began climbing them and pouring onto the parapet to meet the long spears and crossbows of the Centurion warriors. Less than a dozen Confederate soldiers ever set foot on the stone walls, as the Centurions quickly overwhelmed them. When the Centurions pinned the attackers in their siege towers, they sent in men carrying heavy barrels of oil. Inside the towers, the Centurions cracked the barrels open and poured the fuel down over the dry wooden interiors. After dropping a torch, each tower burst into flames, black smoke billowing out from its top like a chimney.

During all this fighting, the Confederate generals were not idle. Under the clouds of smoke, more bridges were built and additional towers sent toward the walls. With the Centurions busy fighting on the walls, the boulders blocking the other towers were soon removed. Where there had been eight towers against the walls there were soon twelve, sending hundreds of men to the walls.

In the midst of the chaos of battle, a wagon lead by six horses raced toward the city's gates. It almost reached it before Centurion archers from the gate towers shot the horses down. Still, the heavy battering ram in the back of the wagon was now within a few yards of the gate with Confederate troops nearby. Soon the iron shod ram was beating against the heavy gate, the wood cracking. Arrows, hot oil, and boulders rained down on the men manning the ram but as one fell it seemed two more would take his place.

Three times the Centurions killed enough of the attackers to force the ram to be left unmanned, surrounded by the dead. Each time, however, the Confederate troops surged forward and took up beating against the gates again. As Sirrus watched his men's progress, things were not happening fast enough. Already eighteen thousand men were involved in the attack, mostly from the weaker kingdoms. Neither Huron nor Tal Sith was willing to risk their best men until victory was assured.

Turning to one of his messengers, Sirrus sent orders that the archers were to start firing again, even though the arrows would hit more of his own men than the Centurions on the walls. The commander in charge of the archers knew this and sent the messenger back for clarification. Sirrus did clarify his orders… he had the commander killed, sending a lieutenant to replace him. Yes, many of the Confederacy's own men would die but, then again, the arrows would stop the Centurions from harassing the men trying to break down the city gate. Sirrus was certain that the death rate for his men would drop

once the city walls were breached and the Centurions crammed into the palace. He was so sure, he could already imagine receiving his reward.

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With his men engaged with thousands of Confederacy troops, the last thing Marcus had expected was to see the rain of arrows darken the sky again, killing friend and foe alike. This time the Centurions, engaged in combat with the enemy, could not duck and hide behind the stone parapets of the city's walls. With wave after wave of arrows falling on the city, the total number of people standing quickly dropped. Seeing that the city's gates were now buckling, Marcus ordered the gate guards to start moving the large stone blocks in front of it. It had become clear, however, that nothing he could do would prevent the enemy from breaking through.

"I do not understand how this commander thinks!" Marcus shouted with disgust. What sort of general would sacrifice his men in such a reckless manner?

"You have to admit, however, it is effective," Varrus groaned.

"Killing thousands of your own men to kill hundreds of ours?"

"With the numbers they have they can afford this blood sacrifice. You have to remember; we are not fighting against a Centurion… moral standards do not apply."

"Well, if I ever get my hands on this leader I will see he is turned into a pin cushion…" Marcus had hoped to hold the enemy back for weeks before retreating behind the palace walls. It was due to their sheer numbers, and total disregard for their own lives, that the Confederacy was overwhelming his Centurions.

Seeing that holding the walls was a hopeless cause, Marcus ordered his men to retreat. The first to fall back were the archers, a few of whom would be left in the city to act as snipers, looking for any chance to take out an important officer and lower morale. Once the archers were in position, Marcus began to call back the infantry using the few cavalry he had kept in the city to hold the city streets. The last to be called back were the gate guards. The city gate was now halfway blocked by stone. Even if the gate fell, it would have to be ripped out before men could pass through it.

After all his men were safe, Marcus called in all his commanders to receive the casualty reports. Of the twenty thousand men who had been guarding the walls, three thousand had been killed and eight thousand were wounded… Not as bad as Marcus had feared. With the Centurion talent for quick healing those eight thousand would soon be ready for battle once more.

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"Where were your men?" the general from Forstine demanded, bursting into Sirrus' command tent.

Not for the first time, the Count wished he could place a locked door to the entryway. "My men were occupied elsewhere."

"On some grand field of battle, no less," the general said with scorn.

"They were serving their purpose… just as your men served theirs. Thanks to them we took the city in a day."

"But your archers… how could you have given the order. Hundreds of my soldiers died."

"Hundreds you say… my count is over a thousand." Sirrus smirked as he made his way to a chest, opening it to show it full of silver coins. "Tell me… do you value your men's lives so much that you would have been willing to trade yours for one of theirs?"

"No… that would be foolish. You do not cut of the head to save the tail."

"Of course… how silly of me. How about ten men for your life… a hundred, maybe a thousand? Is any number of your soldiers worth giving up your own life for?"

"…" The general remained silent.

"How about this… I give you ten of these pretty silver coins for every man who was killed in battle today? That is ten months' wages," Sirrus said as he took up a fist full of coins only to let them slip from his fingers.

The general's anger was suddenly replaced with greed. "That would be quite a sum…"

"I think this chest would cover your loss," Sirrus replied as he slammed the chest closed with a foot. Behind that chest were half a dozen others, just waiting to be claimed by other mourners.


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