The city had been under siege for weeks and the whole garrison had been waiting as if on the edge of a knife, knowing of little rest and expecting the inevitable breach of the walls at any moment.
Nolan Brook had been given watch of the southwestern side of the wall, which was better than most of the conscripts had received considering he got some degree of privacy and respite from the tense chaos. He sat in his small quickly assembled wooden shelter atop the wall attempting to put the massive host just beyond as far from his mind as he could, delving into a story about the glory of the old Unitine Empire and its heroic emperor Kain Arcwin.
Even though the man had been dead for more than 300 Eages Nolan had always seen this distant legendary figure as his compass and role model for his ambitions, to always act rightly and honorable within your ability, abandoning cowardice and embracing duty.
Mind you he would often reflect on this whilst working in the mill outside the city he used to apprentice at, somewhat dulling his feeling of importance, but he figured that wasn't so much the point. Kain had never wanted to be Emperor, he had simply wished to do his duty to Unitine, avenge his father and uphold the duties of the order of the Dragoons.
Perhaps, Nolan thought, his time would come and his resolve would be tested and found worthy.
Although this notion was fleeting as he peered outside his shelter, the bitter winter winds biting into him, and could just barely see the mill he had used to work, utterly fortified and occupied by the immense enemy host outside the walls.
He had done these routine checks all through the night, but the contrast of his lofty thoughts mused from his book with the grim reality of his and indeed his entire cities position made anything beyond the prospect of surviving seem utterly futile.
Drained, Nolan slumped back into his shelter, hiding back away the book he had been reading as to not have it remind him further of his predicament, although it had been the last real escape he had, and so now he just sit in silence, Unable to quell the despair within him.
He almost began to get a morbid comfort from simply sitting in silence, it seemed like the emptiness of the cityscape of Smana outstretched before him was his own realm of isolation and tranquility which seemed to wash away the encroaching foreboding, he almost even began to feel his eyelids slowly slide closed as the lack of sleep looked to claim him.
Then in what felt like the most minute fraction of a moment, like a thunderbolt to the soul he was wrest back to life by the resonating low yet sharp cry of a horn.
Nolan looked down beside his book, he had been given a similar instrument that was to be blown whenever the enemy seemed to be moving in to take the plunge, and it seemed that time had come at another section of the wall.
The thrumming sounded like it was resonating from the Northern streets, but then as if to heighten the terror the sound was cut dreadfully and abruptly short. Now Nolan could begin to hear distant screams and cries of pain, through an alleyway overlooking a street he saw a contingent of his comrades rushing towards the commotion, growing louder as the moments rushed along at speed.
Then Nolan realized in a shock as sudden as the horn that had wrested him from slumber that he was still sitting guarding his post, he packed up his rations, his book and horn, and his crude spear and began to run the length of the wall towards the north, thinking only of his duty to overcome the fear that ravage him just below the surface.
As he gained different vantage points on the streets below he could see what seemed like sections of the entire garrison all funneling towards the point that now began to sound like a roaring melee, filled with anguished screams and war cries and the clanging of steel growing closer and louder with his racing feet carrying him almost unwillingly towards the epicenter.
Finally he came across another contingent of soldiers still atop the wall, a small band of Bowmen, some of who were bustling to establish a small defensive palisade out of scraps of wood while the others took what shelter they could in a crumbed tower and occasionally losing a shaft towards the now deafening brawl occurring on the streets just below.
“What’s happening!” Nolan wasn't aware of how loud he had screamed the question but none of the men broke focus from their goals. Nolan moved in close and grabbed one of the men by the shoulder, the man wheeled around dropping what wood he had been propping up and nearly drew his dagger on the man in a panic, “Goodness boy what the hell do you think you’re doing?” the man barked in his face, with Nolan more seeing his mouth construct the words then hearing them himself in the the noise.
“Sir I’ve just come from the Southwest tower watch, what's happening down there?” Nolan managed to retort, seeing the man sheath his dagger back as he quickly assured his comrades atop the mound of crumbled tower to continue firing, he looked down and gave a sharp exhale, clearly as tired as Nolan and surely the whole garrison was. “They breached the north gate, probably an hour ago and had begun fortifying a position in the tailors district, the north gate patrol must have dozed off or something because they entrenched themselves right in the damned city right under our nose, lazy fucking bastards have doomed us all.”
Nolan and the man looked away in discrete shame at this, knowing they had been on the verge of collapse themselves. “At any rate now they’ve poured in through the north gate and were trying to root them out of their position but the Dragons will be coming any moment now, The Prophet knows we don't have the men to spare to bring them down.”
Nolan shuddered, he had seen the great winged beasts from Astrarch at the first attempt by the enemy to break the cities defences, they were large winged creatures that owned the sky and invoked pure dread in the forces below, making strafing runs to snatch up the unlucky soldier caught in there grasp then either devour them or drop them, screaming, from there soaring heights to plummet to their death.
All of this going through his mind Nolan caught a glimpse through the wood and over the parapet, he saw the chaos of the melee and the enemy position.
“I should get down there, they’ll need every man they can spare” Nolan’s heart filled back with his duty and his will hardened as he thought of the men he ate with in the garrison hall fighting alone down on the streets. “No lad stay here, we have some spare missiles and one of our archers took a bolt to the shoulder, you can use his.” Nolan hadn’t even noticed the man slumped in the corner when he had first approached, although the shoulder may have been a optimistic wish for where the bolt had hit him, it looked certainly to have pierced his heart, and unmoving he looked almost surely dead.
“No, i was never trained with the bow at all i would just waste what arrows you have left, i was just a millers apprentice before they came.” The man looked down again, he looked broken, like a trained soldier for the first time realizing the desperation of the situation that all of mankind was in. He looked at Nolan, locking eyes with him, “Alright lad you get moving then, but stay alive down there, we’ll make it through this, all of us.” Nolan figured he sounded like he didn't even believe himself with that statement, but nonetheless he sprung up and raced further down the wall towards the next tower which lead down to the street level, looking back one last time at the group of bowmen atop the tower before his descent.