William found himself admiring the truly massive castle in front of him. Its walls were a dozen yards high and filled with arrow slits- and archers. The castle itself sat on top of a mountain, with only one viable path laden with gatehouses with more defenders. The castle itself could hold an entire army- indeed it held several.
“What are your recommendations, commander?” William turned to Jordan.
“Here? We siege until they starve to death or try a sortie. Attacking is foolish.”
William shook his head sadly, “It’s not really a glorious way to end a war.”
“You care about glory now?”
“I don’t… but most of the other lords do. How long do you think they can hold out?”
“If they didn’t have all of their armies… as long as any food could still be edible. With armies, though, I doubt they have more than enough for a month or two.”
Lila joined the conversation, “I’d say the same… if they don’t have any food storage below the castle. However, the wards extend throughout the whole mountaintop, and deep down into the earth.”
William raised an eyebrow, “Were you trying to destroy the mountain?”
“Were you thinking I wouldn’t try that?”
“Fair point.” William shook his head, “Though with magical formations that big, they’ll have to run out of energy at some point.”
Lorelei cleared her throat, “Will they? I’m not so sure about that. Look at the castle more.”
William looked again, wondering what he had missed. He only saw the same thing- a large, dreary, almost impossible to breach castle. “Ah,” William nodded, “I see. They’ll recharge from the sun… but that’s not enough is it?” The castle absorbed some light- making it appear somewhat dreary- but there was only a limited amount of energy that could be gained from the sun.
“Not nearly enough. That likely wouldn’t even maintain a state of readiness for all of these magical wards, especially considering it has almost no use at night. However, the mountain is enough to provide power.”
William looked around at the mountain again. While there was some tendency for mana to gather around high structures, it wasn’t significant enough to provide enough power to sustain through long attacks- the mana would still have to come from somewhere. He didn’t see a river or stream flowing to provide kinetic energy. What other types of power could a mountain provide? “Is it a volcano?”
“What’s a volcano?” Jordan asked. While Jordan was highly intelligent, Jordan hadn’t grown up with much book learning- and there was little enough information about volcanoes to be had. There weren’t many on the whole continent, or at least none that had been active in a very long time.
“Volcanoes are fire mountains,” Lila replied.
“Fire mountains are real?” Jordan frowned, “How much like the legends are they? Can they really explode with enough fire to destroy an entire country?”
Lorelei shook her head, “No. Well, not any reasonable sized country… usually. They’re full of molten rock and such.”
William started on a quick cutout sketch of a volcano, “Melted rock from deeper in the ground builds up- it’s what probably formed the mountain in the first place. Pressure builds up as more rock flows in, then it explodes out. They likely did something to prevent the volcano from erupting or this castle wouldn’t have remained here long. Unless the volcano is extinct…”
Lorelei shook her head, “I determined it was a volcano because there were still geysers nearby. There should still be sufficient heat, at least if they dug down.”
“What are these?” Jordan pointed at the sketch William was drawing.
“Oh, those are little magma tubes. Volcanoes don’t always explode from the top.”
“Could the magical formations shoot fire out the side of the mountain at us?” Jordan looked around nervously.
William shook his head, “They don’t seem to have that type of effect, besides what’s on the castle they mostly prevent magic from affecting the terrain. Besides, most of the tubes will be empty.”
“Empty? Do they leave behind little tunnels going throughout the mountain?”
“Yeah, though some of them could be bigger…” William looked at Jordan whose eyes had lit up in excitement.
“Large enough to hold people? Do you think they could lead to the castle from below?”
“Well… maybe. If the magma is near the surface traveling through the tunnels would be dangerous, but if it’s deeper it would explain how they buried wards throughout the whole mountain… and using the tunnels would be easier than digging.”
“In that case…” Jordan’s expression turned serious, “I would like to send men to search for tunnels, seeing if they can serve as a means to enter the castle. They might also be used by the enemy for storage or escape routes…”
“Of course. I’ll leave it up to you to organize, commander.”
Even with the power of several armies, combing over a whole mountain would take time. Groups were soon organized to search the whole mountain, piece by piece, but the results from the first few days were disappointing. There were some small tunnels, but not large enough for men to even crawl through. As they started to search further away from the peak, the chance of the tunnels being of use for entering the castle would go down, since the tunnel would have to reach further.
While there was a road that led to the base of the peak and up to the castle, the rest of the mountain was not so forgiving. The soldiers had to deal with difficult terrain not suitable for horses or sometimes even walking, and there were even some magical beasts. Combined with trying to avoid being obvious as to what they were doing, progress was slow.
After a month, a few promising tunnels had been found but not all of them were fully explored. Meanwhile, the defenders in the castle maintained their positions, regularly replacing the guards in new shifts. They did not appear especially strained or tired, so it was likely they weren’t yet running low on rations.
William was slightly disappointed that no dragons had shown up yet, but he hadn’t been relying on them to attack the castle. Still, he wondered why, since the wards were clearly on- as their stopping of the barrages of trebuchet fire proved.