The enemy escaped after leaving some sixty corpses behind. They managed to cause the defenders eleven casualties, three among whom were dead. That was the end of the probing attack. What Claude and the others found weird was how the enemy didn't launch a second wave of attacks.
Claude looked at the enemy camp in the distance and noticed some dust in the air. Soldiers were hauling one felled tree after another, seemingly constructing some kind of siege weapon.
Skri looked at the messy shield carts outside the castle and asked, "Do we leave the carts there like that?"
Dyavid responded, "Sir, I had two soldiers go to the moat from the side entrance to sprinkle them with some oil. We can light them for illumination to prevent a sneak attack."
It was a rather good idea. The night was an opportunity to be exploited. The cover of darkness could hide the attackers. Sneaking up and attacking the enemy was a common siege tactic in this age. However, 1st Ranger Tribe was defending a castle with six-metre-tall walls, not flat strongholds out in the wilderness. The real problem the enemy was faced with was how to scale the walls.
Lighting the shield carts at night would prevent the enemy from sneaking to the foot of the walls to use gunpowder to blow a hole in them. However, apart from the iron double doors and the smaller portcullis two metres away with bars as thick as an infant's arm, there was another iron gate beyond the main doors in the gatehouse. Even if the enemy managed to blast through the doors, they would be inside the gatehouse and be exposed to the defenders' attacks.
The enemy wouldn't be trying to break through the main doors, since Count Krilaus was in the enemy camp. There was no way he would advise the enemy to attack the doors. Even though they seemed weak, it was actually a trap. Breaking through them only meant exposing themselves to attack.
"Well done," Skri praised with a nod, before he turned to the corpses laid on the ground. "Why did they stop attacking? They didn't even come to collect the corpses."
The clansman of 2nd Clan, Captain Hamocklin, replied, "Sir, it seems that the enemy won't be continuing their attack. Their probing attack caused them such heavy casualties and didn't even get us to use our cannons. That should be enough for them to realise we won't be so easily dealt with. If I were in the attacking side, I wouldn't let my troops approach the castle before the siege equipment is constructed to prevent unnecessary casualties."
While Hamocklin didn't perform well in the ambush of the mounted scouts and lost nearly a band of men, causing Claude to think him an unadaptable log, he had joined the army for more than ten years. Climbing to the rank of captain wasn't easy, and he was familiar with siege techniques, and countermeasures against them.
Not long after, a band of enemies approached with white flags and a few supply carts to collect the corpses. They moved the corpses onto the carriages and retreated with one corpse-filled cart after another. The soldiers on the walls watched the whole thing, but fired at the feet of the enemies when they approached to retrieve the shield carts to warn them to not take them back.
Around six in the evening, the defenders lit the four shield carts near the front with fire arrows. The carts illuminated a large area and crackled from time to time. They left the other four for midnight to replace the burnt-out ones.
Claude stayed up late that night and got a blanket before lying down on the ground after he was certain the enemy didn't intend to attack. He was shaken awake some two hours later by a patrolling soldier as he instructed. He had to be up by five in the morning no matter what as that was the time when the soldiers on night duty were the most tired. It was also a favourite time slot to mount sneak attacks.
It was the 11th month and the weather got rather cold. The skies were still quite dark. Even the four burning shield carts only illuminated a radius of six metres. Claude took a deep breath of fresh air and rubbed his face awake. He came to the top of the wooden door and perked his ears to listen for any movement.
There was no sound but the wind's, the crackling carts, and the occasional teeth-grinding of the sleeping troops. The enemy wouldn't be launching a sneak attack that day, since the skies would turn bright not long after and the soldiers could easily see any movement from the walls.
The enemy still didn't show signs of attacking during the morning. Skri decided to send a message to frontline command by carrier eagle to inform them of their predicament. He wondered why they didn't send him a letter during the past two days. Perhaps something had changed.
Carrier eagles were specialties of Aueras. It was said to have a history of a few millennia. In the early days, the magi picked out countless birds to send quick messages. After lots of comparing, they decided on a kind of mountain eagle native to the east of the continent. Fast forward ten generations of breeding and they ended up with the breed known as carrier eagles that sent letters with startling accuracy. When Aueras was founded, it surprisingly obtained one such manual on how to train carrier eagles. Ever since then, the method was one of the highest classified secrets of the kingdom.
Yet, the carrier eagle that was about to set off didn't look right. It didn't puff its chest out with the fervent desire to fly and instead remained in the cage with its head down like a sick bird. It didn't appear to want to go out at all. The signallers didn't discover any abnormalities and thought that perhaps it changed due to the weather getting colder.
Skri handed the silver tube to the signaller, who tied it to the claw of the eagle in a practised manner. After feeding it a strip of fresh beef, he swung the bird into the air. Yet, it didn't fly high up in the skies like it was supposed to and instead flew far into the distance in a hurry.
The ones on the wall watched with a look of confusion. They didn't know what was wrong with that eagle. At that moment, a soldier cried out in surprise, "Look! Grassland goldeagles!"
Everyone turned to look and noticed the two other eagles circling around in the air. They seemed a few times larger than the carrier eagle. The signaller snapped out of it and cried, "Oh, no! My carrier eagle!"
One of the grassland goldeagles seemed to stop in mid-air before spreading its wings and flying down with startling speed towards the carrier eagle.
A few soldiers raised their muskets and fired, but soon stopped. They weren't in range and couldn't hit those two goldeagles at all. Now, everyone on the walls understood why the carrier eagle wasn't willing to go out of its cage. It had detected the presence of its natural predator.
The falling goldeagle rose into the air with startling speed. It didn't manage to capture its prey during the first dive. By then, the other goldeagle made a quick dive as well. The two of them began to hunt the carrier eagle.
Mazik looked at the pursuing goldeagles troubledly. "Where did they come from? Why didn't we notice them before?"
Skri sighed. "I now understand why I didn't receive any communication from Squirrel Village and frontline command. With those two goldeagles here, we can forget about contacting the rest."
The two goldeagles should've killed the carrier eagle already. But oddly, they didn't feast on the carrier eagle right away and one of them carried the dead eagle to the enemy camp along with its partner before slowly descending. Needless to say, they were the pets of some noble in the enemy camp. They used them to stop the Auerans from contacting the rest.
"Sir, what did you write in the letter?" Hamocklin asked in a hurry. Seeing that the captain was still unaware of the implications, he pointed to the direction of the enemy camp.
Skri finally realised it. He had written to inform frontline command of their situation. But now, the letter doubtlessly fell into enemy hands. Hamocklin was worried Skri had included crucial intel about the castle which the enemy could use to attack them.
"It's nothing. I only described the forces of our enemy and expressed confidence that we can hold out for at least three months. I made a request for reinforcements so that we can wipe out the enemy together." There wasn't anything that the enemy could use against them.
It shouldn't be any problem. Perhaps, the enemy would give up if they found out they could last three months. It was already the 11th month and three months later stretched into the 2nd month, the coldest time of winter. It was one thing within the castle, but it would be torture outside in the wilderness. It was doubtful that the pampered nobles would be able to fight during the cold season.
"Let's think about how we can kill those two beasts. Otherwise, we can't relay anything to the top brass," Skri said, eyeing the two goldeagles that set flight once more in the distance. Though they had more than ten other carrier eagles remaining, with those two goldeagles in the air, they wouldn't be able to send any out. The carrier eagles might even refuse to spread their wings and fall straight into the ground.
"We won't be able to deal with those beasts. They've been trained to not approach our castle. The firing range of our muskets isn't enough. There's no way for us to take them out unless we can lure them close," Hamocklin said.
"What do the nobles keep goldeagles for?" Claude asked.
Captain Kurdwak chimed in, "Well, for starters, there's prestige. They also use them for hunting. The nomadic tribes of the grasslands have a custom of rearing goldeagles to help with their hunts. Grassland goldeagles are far more useful than hunting dogs on the wide plains. They can hunt wild hares, otters and other agile and small critters. It's rumored that Duke Canas has a really large goldeagle that can even lift sheep around 100 catties in weight up into the air."
Claude snapped his fingers. "Since the nobles use them for hunting, I have a way to lure them."
"What way?" Skri asked. He held seething hate for the goldeagles that circled in the air.
"When I was young, I often hunted in the mountains and read many novels on hunting as well. One of the novels described a hunter that put a fishing net on the ground and scattered fish and shrimp all over it to hunt large birds. After the birds come down to peck at the food, the hunter would strike a large gong and the startled birds would panic and often entangle their claws into the nets. The hunter was easily able to catch a lot of these birds alive.
"I recall we took two fishing nets with us on our way back from Castle Landes, right? I wanted to use them to fish at the river cove. We could use them to trap those two birds. Naturally, I don't intend to just lay the net on the ground. Those eagles would definitely not come into the castle."
Claude pointed at the balcony of the keep. "I recall that the balcony up there is huge. We can hang the net up in the air. Don't we also have another hundred or so sheep in the garden? We can put a few lambs on the balcony below the net. If the two goldeagles don't see people around, only sheep, they wouldn't be able to suppress their instincts to hunt the lambs. At least, they'll be occupied there for a while, long enough for our troops to shoot at them."