Ken Clemmens yawned. Night watch was even more boring than day watch. He didn’t have someone else to talk to, and there was nothing to look at. One could only stare at the stars so much. Even if there had been enough light to see clearly, there wasn’t much else to look at besides tents, a fortress, and mud. There weren’t even any demons to see, except a few on the walls, looking out. It had been more than a week since the reinforcements arrived, but they hadn’t done anything yet. They were too afraid, and just cowered inside the walls like the rest.
Ken thought they should have taken the keep weeks ago, before the reinforcements had arrived, but his superiors hadn’t decided to do that. Now it was almost hopeless, so they would have to wait around and starve them out. Thus they would be in for many long boring nights and days.
Then Ken thought he saw something, and heard movement. He immediately looked around. Was it a squirrel? Some kind of night bird? Anything at all to relieve the boredom was good. As long as it wasn’t a snake… He couldn’t be sure where it had moved to, if it was even anything. His eyes and ears could be playing tricks on him, or maybe it was the next soldier coming in for his watch? No, it wasn’t time yet. Still, there was nothing for demons to hide behind. He looked for any silhouettes or shadows, but nobody was approaching. If only there were more light…
Then, Ken got what he wanted. Small bits of fire stood out distinctly against the darkness. At first he wasn’t sure what was happening, but then the fire grew larger. No, that wasn’t right, it was moving closer. “Enemy attack!” Ken shouted, trying to wake people up even before the arrows arrived. Indeed, some people were already shuffling awake by the time the arrow hit the camp.
What followed was chaos. Ken ran around trying to wake people up… people scrambled around trying to pick up weapons and put out fires. More waves of arrows came, and a few soldiers ran out into the darkness, against orders. Ken pulled an arrow off of a tent before it had time to light it on fire, the stomped it with his boot. Around him he saw others doing the same. Some tents were placed too closely, and when one caught on fire it quickly spread. Ken saw various leaders commanding, and people started shoving over tents, trying to slow the spread of the fire.
The spread of the fire was quickly abated, but Ken had to wonder why the wizards weren’t helping. Surely they could put out the fire more quickly… but upon looking toward the rear of the camp, he saw why. There were a few barely controlled infernos in the supply areas, and the wizard were quite busy with those. They were all conjuring water as quickly as they could, until one of them had the bright idea to raise the dirt over onto the supplies. This quickly doused the fires… though the remaining supplies would be somewhat dirty. Ken supposed that was better than burnt to a crisp.
As they dealt with the fires, the soldiers formed up as well as they could, to be ready for an attack… but by that point nothing further came. The demons had already retreated back into their fort. It was another few hours work of dealing with smouldering tents and finding usable bedrolls before the camp returned to a state of rest, though with some trepidation.
In the morning Ken saw the damage wasn’t as bad as it had seemed the night before. At least, more than ten in a dozen tents were still in reasonably good shape, and most of the supplies were at least passable. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any spare tents or bedrolls, so those that burned were gone. Some resourceful soldiers made use of half-burned tents to lie on so they wouldn’t be directly on the muddy ground. Not many had died or been injured- only a few unlucky souls and those who had run off alone into the darkness to attack the demons.
William surveyed the enemy camp. He was glad to be able to afford a spyglass, such as it was. He could see soldiers still dealing with the aftermath of the attack, walking around picking through burnt tents. Not as many had burned as he would have liked, and the supplies were plentiful enough that he didn’t think they would have to pack up and leave.
For the price he had paid, William found it a good trade. It had only cost him arrows, and some special pitch and rags. He didn’t have an infinite supply of such things, but he wasn’t going to be short on arrows from a few shots per archer. As for casualties… his side hadn’t had any, unless he counted the soldier who twisted an ankle stepping in a pothole in the dark. A little bit of healing magic set him on the path to recovery with no problems.
William wondered if he should have had his whole army involved in the night attack. Lightly armored and unprepared enemies were much easier to kill… but in a desperate state they would fight back more viciously. It would be best for William if he could just make them pack up and leave with little to no losses on his part. Alternatively, if he could provoke them into making an attack on the fort, they would have a significant advantage.
William didn’t think it was the best fortress in the world, but it was quite serviceable. Unlike the rebuilt border fort in his life as Archmage, the walls were high enough that making earthen ramparts with magic to reach the top would be a nigh impossible task, especially considering the lesser amount of magic users among humans. The foundations were deep enough to prevent wizards from crumbling the walls from beneath unless they let them stand nearby and work… but they would be well within bowshot at that point. William was certain the army would have less wizards than he had archers, at 3 companies of three gross each. For that matter, they would almost certainly have less wizards than his single company of trained mages. William wasn’t sure whether they actually qualified for the title of mage… but their capabilities in combat were quite adequate for only a few years of training.
As it started to rain, William saw how there was so much mud. The earth around wasn’t sandy soil, but more like clay, and it held water very well. He wondered if the fort should have a moat… but decided that having a large amount of stagnant water sitting around was just asking for trouble. There were insects much worse than mosquitos that carried even more unpleasant diseases. That would explain why there wasn’t already a moat, besides possible incompetence. Still William thought they could keep the water pure… after all, they didn’t lack mana in the air or people to make use of it.