Rays of golden light shone through the cracks left by the hastily-constructed planked walls of the siege tower, skewering motes of dust and illuminating them like miniatures suns as they wafted over the shining plate-armoured figures. The dust descended, settling on the steel surfaces of their steel harnesses before being sent trailing off into the air from the sudden movements of the knights as they checked and re-checked one another's plate, ensuring that the strapping was sturdy and the shaped steel properly affixed. Then, they turned their attention to their own weapons - two handed warhammers and poleaxes, vicious swords with cruelly pointed tips for working their way between the gaps in plate, blunt weapons little more than ornate cudgels held alongside hefty shields of sheet-reinforced wood, painted in the ever-so-familiar livery of Rolf Aldred's free company. A snarling bear, lean, angry, with a blade clenched between its sharp fangs, painted in blood-red and set against a checkered backdrop. Were these men true knights, they would have each borne their own heraldry. But these men were knights only by the flimsiest definition of the title. First and foremost, they were soldiers. Mercenaries. Rough and ready. Brutal and debaucherous. There were few ideals they held to be lower than chivalry, though they retained their own sense of practical honour. Aldred was glad to lead them into battle - ten of them, by his reckoning, would be worth twice as many poncy landed knights, for all their training and expensive equipment. For what other reason would they be the king's spearhead? The entire siege tower lurched as the oversized wheels at its base began to roll forwards, driven from behind by the steadfast labour of dozens of soldiers, each shielded by another man. A shout went up from the walls of the castle, followed by the ever-so-familiar CRACK-twang of crossbow bolts being shot, followed again by steady volleys of pattering coming from teams of longbowmen. There was clattering as armoured footsteps ran across the stone of the castle walls. On the outside, the day had turned hellish as ignited, oil-soaked arrows pelted in a constant stream at the siege tower's intimidating bulk. The contraption would have been wreathed in an inferno were it not for the soaked animal pelts adorning it, stifling the incoming barrage before it could burn through. Rather than a massive wreath of flame, the siege tower began to emanate a thin, mist-like smoke, lending it an ethereal appearance that rather unnerved the defenders. A bolt from a particularly powerful siege crossbow punched into the tower's exterior, stapling the soaked skins further in place. The razor-sharp, armour piercing tip gleamed as it jutted towards Caldor, second-in-command of the company and Aldred's most trusted friend. He reached towards it, gripping the bolt in his armoured gauntlet, and wrenching it through the hole it had made. He examined it closely. "Dipped in animal faeces, by the look of it. Cheeky cunts." Another soldier muttered. "Fucking peasants". The siege tower went over a ferocious bump, such that Aldred thought the whole thing might go keeling over onto its side. But it regained traction, and continued to heave onwards. Muffled screams sounded from somewhere down behind - likely from where the terrifyingly effective siege crossbows had punched clean through the shields used to protect the labourers, skewering forearms and scratching flesh. Those men hit would require the attention of a barber-medic and her heated steel if they didn't wish to succumb to infection. For days, now, the defenders had been coating their projectiles in substances most foul. Not an unusual practice in war, but fresh to this particular conflict, a conflict that so far had been characterised by two combatant sides who wished to push the narrative that theirs was the side of the angels. Apparently, that had gone out the window in this particular fight. The word was, the liege of the castle itself had ordered these tactics. He would pay, Aldred swore. Then, the siege tower stopped dead. They were at the wall. "The ramp is going down, lads! Kill plenty fer' old Charles, won't ye!" The unseen voice was gruff, reassuring the men-at-arms waiting to be the first to the fight. Aldred called back up. "Don't worry, old man. When we catch the traitor, we'll hog-tie him and drop him at your feet". The men chanted in approval. Aldred's sentiments were popular among his men. He was a born leader - he knew how to motivate men. How to get the best out of them, and how to put them to work in a capacity they'd excel. He never asked them to do anything he would not do twice-over. He was the epitome of knighthood, in that respect. It was a shame he failed miserably in all others. But it was that self-sacrificial sentiment that saw him standing there now, clad in gleaming plate, his massive longsword in his gauntleted fist, his trademark blood-red scarf wrapped around his gorget. The ramp lowered, exposing the soldiers to the wrath of the men they had been tasked with killing. Immediately, Aldred felt a projectile that would have skewered his heart violently glance off his breastplate, striking with enough force to produce a spark. He sprinted forward, bellowing death at the top of his lungs. His men followed him onto the wall of enemy spears.