Monks poured boiling pitch onto the first of the marauders. They managed to staunch more Vindavians with stones and hurled knives.
“Do not disarm yourselves!” Lytica shouted.
“We are almost out of things to throw!” said Yendor.
“Then cast what is left! We will fight those who attempt to rise above the battlements!”
Lytica knew the Vindavians would not attempt to use a ram on the doors. With so narrow an access, it would have been suicide to try. His suspicions were confirmed as he witnessed ladders passed from hand to hand above their heads up the stairs.
He rapidly set an edge to his sword in preparation as the ladders ascended. Yendor leant on the hilt of his morning star in prayer, accompanied by some of the other monks.
“Up!” barked Lytica.
The first of the ladders had reached the top of the stairs, with more on its tail.
“Wait until they climb to the top before you act!” bellowed Lytica. “Kill men, not ladders!”
Heels of climbing devices wedged into the foot of the wall. Lytica took a deep breath as the rungs rose into view and rested on the crenelations. They juddered as the first men set their hands to the rungs and climbed.
Yendor swung his morning star left and right, swatting men and ladders aside. They parted, falling into the waiting hands of their comrades. For the briefest of moments, Lytica felt a twinge of pity for the men struck by the morning star. Like refuse, the southmen discarded their bodies, one screaming onto the slopes.
Another ladder arose in front of Lytica to replace the one swatted aside by Yendor. A swordsman with a demented stare yelled his fury with sword raised. Rather than fence with the soldier, Lytica sidestepped and thrust his blade into the midriff between the rungs. The Vindavian dropped his sword, his expression unchanging, as he clamped his hand over Lytica’s, holding him in place. Yendor ended the threat with a heavy blow from his morning star, knocking the man from his perch.
“That one was a baresark,” said Yendor.
Lytica knew the type; men driven to wild heights of battle fury. He had seen soldiers die at their hands even if they killed them. He hacked down into the side of another climber’s neck and wrenched his sword free. Screaming, the Vindavian fell away, only to be replaced moments later.
The monks fought for hours without respite against an endless rising horde. Then day darkened, turning to night. The entire time, the monks fought on, getting more desperate as the minutes passed. They ran out of pitch, limiting the fires to see the battle on the wall. Fighting became more frenzied. Monks driven by desperation to compensate for their weariness, battled on against a horde able to smell imminent victory.
Heads became more and more frequent on the battlements, an overwhelming tide that threatened to drown the monks. A southman set foot on the ramparts during the melee. Lytica slashed him twice before he could defend himself. With an abrupt elbow, he knocked the all but dead man backwards into the courtyard.