To his left, the catapult made a thunk and filled the air with spinning stones. They plonked down on the turtle like hail, and caromed harmlessly aside. The wildling archers were still loosing arrows from behind their mantlets. One thudded into the face of a straw man, and Pyp said, “Four for Watt of Long Lake! We have a tie! “ The next shaft whistled past his own ear, however. “Fie!” he shouted down. “I’m not in the tourney!”
“The hides won’t burn,” Jon said, as much to himself as to the others. Their only hope was to try and crush the turtle when it reached the Wall. For that, they needed boulders. No matter how stoutly built the turtle was, a huge chunk of rock crashing straight down on top of it from seven hundred feet was bound to do some damage. “Grenn, Owen, Kegs, it’s time.”
Alongside the warming shed a dozen stout oaken barrels were lined up in a row. They were full of crushed rock; the gravel that the black brothers customarily spread on the footpaths to give themselves better footing atop the Wall. Yesterday, after he’d seen the free folk covering the turtle with sheepskins, Jon told Grerm to pour water into the barrels, as much as they would take. The water would seep down through the crushed stone, and overnight the whole thing would freeze solid. It was the nearest thing to a boulder they were going to get.
“Why do we need to freeze it?” Grerm had asked him. “Why don’t we just roll the barrels off the way they are?”
Jon answered, “If they crash against the Wall on the way down they’ll burst, and loose gravel will spray everywhere. We don’t want to rain pebbles on the whoresons.”
He put his shoulder to the one barrel with Grenn, while Kegs and Owen were wrestling with another. Together they rocked it back and forth to break the grip of the ice that had formed around its bottom. “The bugger weighs a ton,” said Grenn.
“Tip it over and roll it,” Jon said. “Careful, if it rolls over your foot you’ll end up like Spare Boot.”
Once the barrel was on its side, Jon grabbed a torch and waved it above the surface of the Wall, back and forth, just enough to melt the ice a little. The thin film of water helped the barrel roll more easily. Too easily, in fact; they almost lost it. But finally, with four of them pooling their efforts, they rolled their boulder to the edge and stood it up again.
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