"Who are you? Why are you attacking the city? Do you want a war with the Union?" yelled a high-pitched voice.

Lorist laughed heartily.

"Who says this is the Union's territory? I only know this as Frederika, the capital of the Krissen Empire's Bodolger province! House Norton has come to reclaim this land for the empire! The entire city is surrounded, there is no escape, you foul dogs! If you want to save your dog lives, you will drop your weapons and surrender now!"

Everyone immediately felt something was off.  What gave a single man the courage to yell such obscenities when facing an entire regiment of heavily armored men alone, in the middle of their lands at their headquarters, no less? A small commotion broke out in the enemy formation, but it quickly subsided when what must be their commander shouted furiously.

"Who, then, are you?" the same high-pitched voice enquired.

"I am the duke of The Northlands, the head of House Norton, Norton Lorist."

Another commotion.

"He must be insane! Is he going against the entire city on his own?" one voice murmured.

"Even blademasters have to run against such odds!" another chimed in.

"Does he think his title is enough to scare us?" a third asked.

"Howling Bastards!  Attack! First Company to the wall! Second Company, sweep the neighbourhood! Third and Fourth Company, reinforce First and Second! Fifth Company, forward!" the commander's orders came.

Bastard, did you think I wouldn't notice those men on the wall?  You've shown your hand. They aren't enough to be from a full-scale assault. This must be a lead party to open the gates for the main assault. The fact that you're standing here, alone, means your men must still be trying to open the gate and you're here to buy them time… I'll take back the walls first then slaughter you from above! thought he.

The men acted immediately. The formation split into three neat groups.  One headed for the wall, the other vanished between the buildings. The third formed a thick wall of spear and shield and advanced on Lorist slowly, each step shaking the ground.

"Let nothing stop your advance!  Wipe them from our city!" the same, shrill voice yelled.

As they closed the last couple of meters between them and Lorist, the clash on the wall began. Luckily for Lorist's men, they met the enemy as they came to the wall up the stairs, so they didn't have to face their set formation. Instead they fought them in a loose conglomerate of a line. Even so, this was not a fight his men could win easily. The enemy had the better armor, and the greater numbers. The armor, however, was both a blessing and a curse in this instance.  Fighting on the steps was not easy when one's helmet and breastplate kept one from seeing the steps at one's feet. A single misstep sent the hunks of metal hurtling to the ground several meters below, or opened them to a fatal strike from their more nimble enemies.

It was Wessia's mistake to send only close-quarters units to retake the walls. Archers could have massacred the Nortons as they fought on the steps. Lorist would have had no way to counter them.  His men had neither shield nor bow. Josk was the only one who could strike back. Since he was not occupied with enemy archers, his strikes also reigned down on the turtles ascending the stairs.

The enemy was already wavering, and, at this moment, their own ballistae in the towers, fired on them. Their morale could not take it. They shivered like children in cold wind. Their steps slowed and their footing failed them, but they did not retreat. The steps were wide enough for two men to walk side-by-side. Two of the bulky spearmen could not fit side-by-side, but one could hold the front and a second strike around him.  They abandoned this tactic when the ballista started firing, opting to hug the wall single file instead.

The towers were never meant to fire on the city itself. They were positioned to fire outwards, away from the city, and to cover the tops of the walls. They could only barely catch the outer edges of the stairs. They also had to avoid hitting their own troops, so they were only a threat to the men walking recklessly close to the edge of the stairs.

The ballista at the very top of the towers, however, could fire into the city. The buildings made it difficult to see the enemy, though, and they could only catch them in a few spots. The enemy responded by pulling the doors off the buildings and using them to block up the spots so the enemy could not see them easily. Even if the ballista simply shot through the gaps, most of the bolts' energy was sapped and it didn't pose much of a threat to the men on the other side.

"Attack!" shouted the commander as he thrust his pike at Lorist, a lazy smile on his face. Like a peacock flaunting its plumage, near a hundred pikes struck at Lorist. There was only one way to move, backwards.

He took two steps back at the last moment, leaving the spears to eat the air milllimeters from him.

Damnit… if only mine was a little longer, thought all men.

Their miss did not discourage them though. The withdrew their pikes, stepped forward, and repeated. So what if their opponents withdrew? They could just keep going until they were cornered. Neither this insane duke nor his pitiful barricades could stop them.

Their eyes swelled in terror and their pupils shrunk. Lorist moved forward with the pikes as they retracted. He held onto a spear-tip and let it pull him forward like he were a feather stuck to it. They reacted too late. Lorist was slaughtering his way through their ranks the moment after they noticed him. They cried like a chorus, wailing in despair at their fate.

Their pikes, so powerful at range, were useless once he was in their ranks. They could do nothing but watch him fell them like ripe wheat. Those not yet dead when they noticed what was happening dropped everything and ran. Some peaked over their shoulders to find the devil walking towards them on a road of corpses.

The men at the rear glared at their fleeing comrades, then charged forward, through their compatriots. They had only one thought on their minds.

"Kill him!"

The front infantry snapped out of it. They died of shame and their furious corpses charged back into the fray.

"To hell with you!" shouted the first to reach Lorist and was promptly beheaded.

Countless others charged forward to replace him. Lorist withdrew another two steps to avoid the mass of spears, only to find another mass ready to meet him. This disorganized mass was actually more challenging than an organized, orderly formation. He could deal with it using his slaughter domain, but he wished to reserve it for the blademaster.

Battle burst out behind him. Worridge and his men had finally met the enemy that had moved through the houses. Lorist flung corpses at his pursuers as he retreated and slaughtered his way through the enemy behind him.

Josk joined again with three arrows, clearing a portion of the steps. The steps were littered with arrowed corpses, as were the streets. He'd fired hundreds of arrows since the fight began. His shoulders were beginning to ache and his shots waver. He had maybe another hundred decent shots in him, after that he would be of no use.

Had the enemy been wearing any lighter armour, he could just hand things down to his men, but that was not the case. The enemy's armor may even be comparable to House Norton's. Even his infused arrows could only do real damage if he hit thin or exposed areas. Two of his silver-ranked men were already worn out. Only his arrows posed a threat to the enemies now.

His greatest worry was that their new tactics on the steps left the Norton men dying quite frequently.  They could not hold on for long at this rate.

Wessia's heavy forces were mainly mercenaries. They were quite adept at single combat.  Lorist's men were a match for their opponents man to man, but they were severely outnumbered. Even if they killed two for every one of their own they lost, their enemy would still have men to spare. Josk was the primary inflictor of losses, so the enemy wanted to get to him and kill him as quickly as possible.

The streets were paved in corpses, friend and foe alike. Lorist's bloody figure could be seen on the walls as he fought his way up the stairs. The men on the ground had been pushed back to the last few barricades in front of the wall, their numbers dwindling.

Things weren't deteriorating quite as quickly as they appeared, however.  Every moment the Nortons held out, one or two men joined them on the wall from outside. About six-hundred Tigersoar reinforcements had joined them by now. This angered Josk, rather than pleasing him, however. Tigersoar's cavarly troops had no business in such a static fight, Firmrock's men were what they needed. Rather than forces that could turn the tide, or at least stem it until the gates opened, they were just more bodies for the roads. Josk cursed incessantly as he shouted down the wall for Tigersoar to let Firmrock go first.

The heavy-armored soldiers on the left stone step roared loudly as tens of them gathered into a frantic, united charge. The guards were overwhelmed and their casualties soared once more. A good number of them were sent tumbling down by suicidal enemy soldiers that hugged them tight as they pushed. Fortunately, the guards on the walls rushed in to reinforce them. The two sides clashed on the fourth level of the steps that was nearest to the walls.

Josk could no longer spare any attention to the steps on the right side. The green longbow thrummed ten times in succession, sending the seven charging heavy pike infantrymen off the stone steps, successfully stabilizing the situation. Just as he was about to breathe a sigh of relief, a sword flashed brightly like lightning at the fourth level of the stone steps all of a sudden. The seven guards fighting desperately at the stone steps fell from it.

Terror struck Josk.

A blademaster!

Wessia didn't mobilize their blademaster against Lorist and instead had him take the walls back. It was no wonder those tens of heavy-armored soldiers charged. It was so that they could protect the blademaster while he made his way up.

The blademaster that made his way up the walls was a sinister-looking middle-aged man clad in the same black armor as the heavy pike infantrymen. He wore no helmet and his face was still covered with a streak of blood of the guards he killed, making him look all the more savage. The moment he got on the walls, a flash from his sword saw tens of guards falling. Josk's way was blocked by the guards and by the time they fell, the blademaster was within five meters of Josk.

It's over... Josk's limbs were stone cold.

The blademaster was too close, his arrows were no threat now. They were also on the walls and Josk couldn't escape on horseback as he would on land.