Post by ashenmoon on Oct 18, 2017 20:40:51 GMT
This is the common thread for the Carrana battle. There will be faction-specific threads created for updates. After 3 turns, I will copy the contents of the faction-threads into this thread, so that everything can be enjoyed in context. You can post intros here, too. turn 0: day 1, noon
A WIND ROSE up the mountains of Carrana.
It came from the southwest, hot and heavy. It crashed into the high valleys, sending a hundred reaching fingers up the rocky slopes, across snow yet glistening on the high peaks. The noise and din of marble quarries far below wafted to the ears of two long-bearded mountain-men, tending a flock of goats above the scraggly treeline.
Slowly, they squinted into the sun. It faded behind an ochre miasma blanketing the heavens.
Heavy, desultory raindrops splashed against their foreheads.
“Red,” said one of them, gazing into his palm after wiping his brow.
“Like blood,” agreed the other.
Marconi Escula had a little over two weeks left of his military career. Polano Rovere had barely served even that. Both agreed that they had spent too much time guarding the Vanozza Fastness.
“Stairs. If I have to climb one more set of stairs today…”
“Stairs are nothing. Try long patrol. Try sleeping on rocks for two weeks, out there in the badlands with nothing but your blanket and pistol between you and the Apano. Or Wiche. Or Payee. Spirit-worshiping savages…”
They fell quiet while they gingerly navigated past a crumbled section of the wall they were patrolling. Somewhere far ahead, Vanozza nestled in a valley: the walls extended across the entire mountain range. What remained of the walls, anyway.
“You’d think they’d sic the Inquisitors on the tribes, rid us of the pests,” Marconi continued. “But oh no, it’s the Inner Crusade instead. Purge your own house before cleaning up your neighbour’s mess, I guess.”
Polano spun around.
“Quiet, you! What if someone heard?”
Marconi glanced at the young man, then gestured indistinctly towards their surroundings. An endless landscape of dry, brown hills, broken rock and crazed angles extended to the horizon to either side.
“Who would ever come out here?”
Everything belongs in its proper place. Even if all seems to be desolation or chaos. Especially then.
It was not that spirits were superior to people. Every Malvernian knew he was on equal metaphysical standing with every other living creature. The only true virtue is to be true to the position which you are assigned. If you are born a slave, you remain a slave.
A lot of Malvernians were slaves, General Boriates Douvanes reflected as he watched the dusty slave-legions rattle by. Or there simply were a lot of slaves in the world, of one kind or another.
“It is settled, then,” the Mark concluded. A giant hawk’s head peered down at Boriates from atop tall, lean, black, jewelry-encrusted shoulders. The seraph cocked its head, just so.
“My lord,” Boriates began again, summoning his patience. “We have been on the road for over a month. I understand the Hunter wishes to keep his plans safe. If Republican terrorists can reach into the depths of the Imperial Palace, all are suspect. But, surely you see - we can serve our lord better, if we knew his plans? The entire second and fourth Republican armies are lodged south of Arrento. Their fleet is yet in Miledi. Sabria lies as a virgin to the north: all these targets, my lord, are within our grasp once we are past the mountains.”
Silence stretched. Boriates’ horse struggled up the rough road winding into the mountains.
“My lord, where are we going-”
“It is not yet time,” the Mark replied. “Besides, it does not matter. We have arrived.”
Up ahead, a sprawl of fortifications stretched across their path. The long-awaited first stop on a journey just begun, its destination unknown.
Boriates took a deep breath.
Post by ashenmoon on Nov 5, 2017 15:30:25 GMT
turn 1: day 1, just past noon
“It is not yet time,” the Mark replied.
Denios Troklos casually noted Boriates’ suppressed frustration before taking in the Vanozza Fastness ahead. The man, Denios could tell, was all but bursting to yell at the seraph.
Understandable enough, as the host had been marching for nearly a month through wilderness inhabited only by rocks and wild savages. There were no less than four Generals-of-rank in the force - Boriates, Arbanes and Kolozotis, Nikaioforos; the cream of the Malvernian military - and none of them had an inkling of the Hunter’s plans.
Neither did Denios, technically speaking. But he had his suspicions.
As Boriates had pointed out, the terrorist attack against the Empress and Emperor had shook Malvernian society to its core. At least, that part of its society which recognized that such an attack ought to have been impossible - if not for inside help.
Just what was the Hunter hunting? Why bring the three top generals on an expedition - the Hunter was proud, but not wasteful - plus the one that had been all but incapacitated for a year? Nikaioforos, as far as Denios could determine, had had no opportunity to work treachery.
The others, however...
“... it does not matter,” the Mark was saying. “We have arrived.”
Several unusual things happened swiftly while Constantin Noval was contemplating the flat rectangle of the Albalvo Dam, many miles down-valley. First, the skies turned a lurid red nuance with alarming speed, as strange billowing clouds swept up from the west; soon a muddy rain began to patter against the roof of his little stand.
Second, one of the mountain-men - unkempt and wild-eyed - walked up to the recruitment tent..
Constantin was not sure which was more surprising.
But, of course, the man was uninterested in joining Gustavius’ army. Pestered by a skeletal woman hovering in the near distance behind him, he related what he had heard from an uncle of his, having arrived from across the mountains earlier that morning.
“An army? Crossing the badlands to the east? Heading for Vanozza Fastness?” Constantin repeated.
“Look’t like ‘un,” the man shrugged. “So’s my uncle says, ‘neehow.”
The Vanozza Fastness was built by the Mason, aeons ago. At least the core of the fortress, squeezed into between the mountains in a deep valley. Over the years, the Old Empire, Dominion and Republican additions to the original defences have, like barnacles over a behemoth of the deep, crept across the sheer mountain-sides, spilled out over the valley.
The forward defences - twin arms, resting upon the heights above and stretching east and inwards to almost encircle a region the size of a small city - were, naturally, the first to spot the column of Malvernian soldiers snaking up the winding road. These days, only the north side - the Marble Towers - were manned, as the stairs leading to the south side were in great disrepair.
Alessandro de Cereso, watchman on guard, managed a single, feeble ring of the alarm-bell before a pride of manticores tore his body apart. The sound coincided with a strange rain beginning to fall from skies turned a muddy ochre, and the rest of the company stationed in the Marble Towers did not manage to break through to the bell. They sent runners up the mountain to spread the word instead, and fortified themselves in the depths of the Towers.
So it was that it was Marconi Escula, two weeks from retirement, standing upon the battlements of the Fastness itself, that first saw the Malvernian host spilling into the Inner Valley.
Soon, all the Fastness was ringing with alarms and shouts. The garrison lined the crenellations and looked down as more and more of the Malvernian army appeared.
But, for all their enemy’s numbers, the Republicans felt little fear. The Fastness had never fallen. Few were the fools who had attempted to attack it. Not even in the dawning age of blackpowder and cannons was the Fastness threatened: for who had better artillery than the Republicans defending it? A garrison half their size could hold off an enemy twice as great for weeks.
Then a figure emerged from the midst of the Malvernian host. Silver flashed in the gloom as he put a hunting-horn to his lips and blew...
Somewhere on the walls below him, Marco was screaming. Donato Khalez, colonel of the Fastness, could not make out the words, but the panic in the old man's familiar voice was clear, and contagious. He was about to bark some semblance of order back into his men - for shame, the battle had not yet even begun! - when a strange pressure blocked his ears.
In the span of seconds, the pressure built from surprising to painful. A strange sound climbed into the audible registers.
He noticed the mortar glueing the wall beneath his hand was… drifting away. Like dust. Quicker and quicker, as the sound rose in volume until it was as if he were standing beneath a waterfall.
A drawn-out roar somehow pierced the din and pulled his eyes up: on the other side of the valley, the Marble Towers were sagging, falling apart. Dust billowed into the air, met the low brown clouds above and churned into a chaotic miasma. More rain fell down.
“Jofré!” he shouted, and spun around.
The black robes of the Inquisitor fluttered in the doorway leading to the stairs below, as the garrison’s anti-magic defences fled.
Someone was shouting at him. General Nikoforos of House Argynyx reluctantly lowered his hands from his ears: the noise was still deafening. He looked to his side.
“The honor is all yours,” General Kolozotis spat at his face. “The Hunter wants you to take command of the mop-up operations.”
The man had never forgiven him for a brief dalliance with his wife. Nikoforos looked back at the Fastness.
It was falling apart, brick by brick, towers toppling in clouds of spray, as if the very rock and mortar had turned to sand.
Post by ashenmoon on Nov 5, 2017 15:38:09 GMT
He had come to these mountains precisely because they were desolate. In the far flung corners of the so-called Republic, there were peoples who had yet escaped the Inquisition. The Inquisition had enjoyed a long and prosperous existence across the past few generations, its tentacles suffocating the cities of all love and tradition. Yet in places like the Cattana mountains, simple folk yet believed in the older ways. They might not go so far as to worship Spirits - such would quickly draw the eye of Inquisition upon them.
The Stonefolk did not worship Spirits. But they did not abhor them, either. They accepted their existence and place in the world. Their shaman might even use them, in secret. Unlike the people of the Capital, the Stonefolk simply did not have the motivation to let their children die of illnesses when a Spirit might heal them. It was for that reason that Constantin Noval had made the long trek into the Cattana Mountains, away from his Emperor and the bulk of the Vulgar Army by the northern coasts of the Republic. Constantin Noval had come here to appeal to the ancient folklore of the mountain peoples, to reawaken their ancestral memories. Their memories and Dreams of Empire.
Standing upon a plateau and overlooking the valley beyond, he could see his banners raised. Well, not his banners. The iguana banners of the Palaienid, many now born aloft by over two-thousand of the Stonefolk he had accumulated across the weeks and months of his journey. They had arrived close to another Stonefolk Commune, but as always, it would take many days to rally their elders and convince them of the righteousness of the Imperial Cause.
Such were his thoughts as one of the mountain-men was brought to his attention at the recruitment tent.
“An army? Crossing the badlands to the east? Heading for Vanozza Fastness?” Constantin repeated.
“Look’t like ‘un,” the man shrugged. “So’s my uncle says, ‘neehow.”
The Malvernian Empire had seized Lunium by surprise some years ago, when the Republic had been intent to take it from the Dominion instead. That had been the first hint of a slumbering superpower opening bleary eyes. Then their armies had been ferried across the channel from Malvern, and the pieces on the board began to move towards war.
Yet such movements were eastern deployments. And the board was far bigger than the east.
As Constantin Noval looked out across the iguana banners of the Palaienid, as he pondered the Imperial Cause, he was no longer certain that the symbols and words chosen by his army were going to be unique in the Cattana Mountains. His mission here was to recruit, to grow the Imperial Cause.
But not at the expense of this land being conquered by the Empress of Malvern. However reprehensible the Inquisition in Sabria, the Republicans in these mountains deserved a better fate than slaughter. If he was to put Armant Freic on the throne of Jovinium, it would have to be earned by saving Jovinium.
"The western roads will have Inquisitorial patrols." Constantin grumbled, turning to his right hand man, Acastus. Scarred and battered, Acastus had been a Varantium noble during the Eclipse campaign, fiercely loyal to Radiance. Upon his capture, the Inquisition had tortured and ruined him. It had been Constantin who had broken his chains during the final hours of the Eclipse, and taken him with him as he fled. To Constantin's surprise, Acastus soon became a convert to the cause, and one of his best advisors. Acastus was a long way from home.
"East it is. One Empire's army may meet another." Acastus said through a gap-toothed grin.
"We save Jovinium so as to earn it for our own Emperor."
((Entire army is to head along the eastern road, guided by the Stonefolk Pathfinders, including those messengers who reported the potential invasion))[Map - Republic turn 1]
March of the Reptile
An account of the Imperial assault upon the Mountains of Carrana, by Colonel Donato Khalez
It was inevitable. Their massive preparations and blatant manoeuvring had been going on for years. They had been poised to strike at us from the moment our might was blemished before the walls of Radiance’s twisted lair.
Though we did not know it at the time, the armies of the Empress had put their sights on the Mountains of Carrana. These mountains, my mountains, were protected by some of the oldest and most impregnable strongholds in the known world. As powerful as they were ancient, those strongholds had never been breached. Whether assailed by Dominion steel or unwashed filth the walls had always held.
No force, civilized or otherwise, had ever been able to make it past the walls of the Fastness. This had been true during the reign of the old Empire, it has been true during the years of the Dominion and with the finest cannons at our command how could it not be true in age of our glorious Republic?
Defeat was impossible. Our garrison was invincible and to attack us was madness. That was the creed of the time. This was to us an unbreakable truth. Fastness was eternal. Fastness would always stand.
We never saw it coming.
I have often been asked what was worst that day. To fall, backside first, onto solid ground as our ancient bastion began to crumble? To watch, with shattered heart, as the Marble Towers came crashing down, and know as a fact that neither you nor anyone else could do anything to stop it? Or perhaps the knowledge that in that moment, the entire mountain shield of your homeland had been torn asunder?
All of these paled in comparison to the noise, an ear shattering and nerve breaking sensation echoing across the hills. This unnatural shriek, and the thundering horn signal before it, was the herald of Fastness’ demise. No sooner had it reached our ears before the very fabric of our stronghold began to diminish. The walls began to curve, our towers to bend and before long the very bulwarks on which I stood gave way beneath me.
I can only imagine how it must have looked for those who wished to enter the mountains, as the only obstacle in their path gave way like the snow in the face spring. A hundred millennia of history erased with the passing of a single moment. It was the single greatest tragedy in the history of the Republican Guard, and all of it had happened under my command.
I, Donato Khalez, had lost the Fastness.
This singular fact raged in my mind as I returned to my feet, bruised and hurting from my recent fall. There was no doubt that I would be punished for this, anything else would be unthinkable. But HOW would I be punished? That was the question that scared me the most – would I now be tied to a pyre and set aflame? Condemned as a traitor to lord and land?
Then there was the question of whom or what had caused our defences to falter. What army had the power to reduce stone and rock to molten sand? There had been no use of siege engines, neither cannon nor otherwise, and even such machines of war could not bring about what had happened that day. Not like this. Not this fast.
I did not have time to conclude my thoughts however; as I was fast approached by several elements of my beloved Hunter’s Regiment (K2). Though clearly troubled by the same sickening shrieking sound that was plaguing me, and apparently everyone else, they informed me the imperial attackers were quickly advancing towards our slowly melting battlements.
Since we would soon be left completely exposed, their Captain, an excellent man named Charlos, advised me to sound a full retreat. He suggested that we make our way to the northwest and into the mountains, after which we should seek out the other Guard regiments that he knew were up there. We would then go about the business of alerting the Republic of the Empire’s invasion.
While I saw no fault in Charlos’s suggestion, the Fastness WAS melting away, I completely refused to allow the imperials to claim her corpse. She had defended our borders for centuries, turned back invasions from any imaginable foe. No, the enemy would not have her. Like the Emperors of old she was to be burned, and the enemy would burn with her.
I am unsure whether this sudden lust for vengeance was a genuine display of patriotism, or if I was simply trying to save myself from the flame I feared awaited me. After all; would the inquisition truly burn a man who had made the enemy suffer for doing the impossible? Who had made them pay for every inch of land?
Whatever the case, I presented to him a plan that was to include the following central parts:
I. Rally the entire Fastness Garrison
II. Order the men to quickly sabotage our cannons and locate all available gunpowder barrels.
III. Cover the barrels in oil, place them in groups close to the sabotaged cannons and,
if possible, cover the barrels with flammable cloth.
IV. Link all barrels to each other with lines of oil and gunpowder,
V. Ignite the Fastness’ armoury and gunpowder magazine moments before we depart
VI. Have the Peakstriders (PS) ignite the barrel traps from afar as the enemy makes its way into the fortress and we make our way to the
These tasks would be carried out by our three hardened Mountaineer Companies (M1, M2 and M3) and our two heroic Ranger Squads (R1 and R2). I made it clear that at least a dozen or so oil soaked barrels be saved for future use.
The Peakstriders (PS) were to keep an eye out for any and all enemy commanders, all of whom were to be shot on sight. Since I had heard many tales about the flying monstrosities encountered by our armies during the Eclipse War, I would also instruct the Peakstriders to keep a watchful eye upon the skies. They were to move as far to the North West as possible, without losing their ability to spot and hit potential targets. They were, of course, also to be made aware of the part they had to play in our little disruption act. I could obviously not risk them moving so far out of the way, that they would be unable to hit their designated barrel targets. Losing a fortress was one thing, but ruining my very own scheme? Impossible!
This entire operation was to be protected by the combined might of both Hunter’s Regiment and Highlanders Regiment (K1), the latter of which was led by the stubborn but always reliable Captain Khastor. The two regiments would form a united firing line, using what remained of our ramparts as cover. They were to hold the enemy at bay, but avoid any risk of being overwhelmed. If such a risk became too great, they had orders to fall back and reform.
Our entire force was to gradually retreat northwest as the tasks were completed. As we made our exit the armoury and magazine were, as mentioned, to be blown to pieces. By exposing the enemy to randomly exploding traps, caused by Peakstrider fire, and one final inferno at the end, it was my hope to cause such death and devastation that the imperial army would abandon its plot completely. If nothing else, these vultures would find no meat on which to feast. The Fastness would burn, and so would they.
While his scepticism was clear, and for this I could not blame him, Charlos reluctantly accepted my chosen course of action.
Time was now of the essence, as even though the enemy would still have to scale the mountainside, it would not be long before the first enemy troops had made their way to the top.
As Charlos signalled the rest of Hunter’s Regiment to follow us away from the ruined bulwark, I pulled forth my signal horn. The tune I sounded was known to the Fastness’ entire Garrison;
Assembly! To the courtyard all!
All around me the proud sons of the Republic came running. They were well trained. They knew their duty. Charlos and his regiment had already begun taking tacking up position behind us, and from the North West came Khastor and his Highlanders. Moments later they all had their orders, from the mighty Regiments to the ever crafty Peakstriders.
The plan was in motion. The dice had been cast.
The Empire had come to seize our land.
The Fastness would burn.
And so would they.
Synesius’ face was firmly locked in a sour grimace as he looked over the mountain pass. The cold winds found their way through his garments and he dearly missed the heat of his furnace. He forced himself out of the daydream with a shake of his head and made his way back to his troops.
He did his best to ignore the stares of the soldiers as he passed, cradled in the arms of his servant golem. A cripple has no place on the battlefield!
Their eyes screamed, and Synesius agreed.
“Faster, Maka.” He ushered, and the golem sped up.
Soon he was back in the midst of his creations and felt his misery wash away. Their faces were just as beautiful as the day he had shaped them. No hint of scorn in their eyes, as per his design. He beckoned for one in particular.
“Themis! Where are you, Themis?”
A fair golem with a crown of wings appeared before him, bowing its head in deference. Synesius waved his hand dismissively.
“Now now, there is no need for that. Stand proud, my dear.”
The golem complied and met his gaze.
“Much better. Your beauty is wasted on the dirt.” He grinned. “I have mission for the Steadfasts. One portion of the army will circumvent the fort, and they will need your help to scale the walls. Can you do that for me?” As he spoke, he reached out to caress the golem’s face.
Themis nodded in affirmation and, whether intentional or not, dodged his hand in the same motion. The golem turned to relay the order to their troops and left Synesius staring blankly at his outstretched hand.
[Orders specified on this map
He stood, bow strapped to his back and weapons sheathed at his waist, watching the forward thrust of the army march onward. His white garb was covered, disguised. It would not do to have him stand out on the battlefield. He scratched absentmindedly at his beard, which was starting to speck with grey, calm amidst the coming of the chaos.
Denios Troklos had seen the look of shock on the faces of men as the Fastness crumbled. On soldiers of the Empire and the Republic alike. It is one thing to hear of the power of an Archon, another to behold it. But one was not to take the composed look on Denios’ face as a lack of awe. None respected the power of the Three more than he. It simply did not surprise him. As chief of the Abstinents and Fist of the Voice, he had seen it before.
He did not have his Abstinents with him now. They were elite – far too elite to keep in one place. History spoke of an Abstinent as a one-person army. Take the case of Nebalech III. His empire was not toppled by an army, by an individual. With a single strike, an Abstinent dealt a more decisive blow than had been dealt in scores of battles. And, in that tradition, the Abstinents had been dispersed. Some were on missions by themselves, but many had been assigned to armies. So it was that Denios Troklos had been chosen to join the Hunter’s first strike. No other would be more appropriate to represent the shadowy third of Malvern’s Three. Synesius, in his own way, represented the Scribe. General Nikaioforos, and the others, were of the Hunter.
Not that he was alone. He had a squadron of the Lapsed with him, and of the Malachite Hand. Denios was of the Voice, and so commanded his Choruses. While the companies he led would take care of the more traditional theaters of war, he and his fellows would do as they were trained to. They would be wasted in the thick of battle.
A voice growled from behind him. “This is not your place, Denios.”
He turned to see the approach of Melusene. The panther spirit looked no different from the day they’d first met, decades ago.
“Nor is it mine,” the spirit continued. “You did not call me here after all these years to watch as archers siege a battlement. Whether the fortress is crumbling to dust before our eyes or not makes no difference.”
“We are of one mind, old friend.” Denios said, smiling. “Rest assured, things are in motion.”
He gestured for the panther to follow him. Denios led her to his personal guard. The Lapsed were dressed plainly, as any other soldier would be. Once, they had aspired to the white of an Abstinent, but they had all failed to prove themselves worthy. Most did. There was no true shame in becoming one, only disappointment. It was something Denios saw in the eyes of Paulus. It pained him to see it. He felt nothing but pride for the warrior he had become. The Abstinents prized the Lapsed, no matter their feelings about themselves.
“Paulus!” Denios said, catching the ear of his nephew. “You and your men will follow me, and Melusene, over the walls. Let the soldiers siege the walls; we will destroy them from the inside.” Denios gave his men a look like a professor to his students. “Care to tell me how?”
“The Steadfast,” Paulus said, spying the Golem squadron on the move.
“Quite right. I’m leading some of our forces west. The Golems will bring us right over,” Denios explained “Be brave, boys. Malvern speaks with one Voice.”
[Orders specified on this map
General Nikaioforos watched the fortifications crumble before his eyes, his awe muted by the bedsores he'd gained on the way here, and by the pain on his knee from the bouncing of the wagon wheels underneath him. The ringing in his ears was all too real, at least.
He inclined his head at Kolozotis and spoke: "I thank the Hunter for the honour, as I am sure you thank him for having you guard our backs." He wondered for a bit how it would look if he was betrayed by his fellow generals. Much of his journey up here had been spent in speculation of various ways he could die, and what they would sound like, written in a history book.
Sitting upward, the general watched the battlements continue to fall down. Even as the vanguard was advancing past the first piles of rubble, the fortress up ahead was starting to collapse too. It was a chain effect, like a rout. Every falling tower or fall seemed to convince those next to it that it was best for them too to give up.
This first part would be bloody. They had to prevent the enemy from re-fortifying the bottleneck, and prepare for a counteroffensive when other armies in the region got here. He started giving out his orders to various small flying spirits, in the likeness of sparrows or swallows, who flew off the relay them.
"And tell the damn golem master that we need the ramp, as discussed. Right over there, by the fort. Up out of the valley. The mercenaries will fight in the main breach, and our own men up the ramp", he told a clay bird which flew off to summon the golems which would construct their bypass. Troklos would take control of that offensive, which was all the better.
Nikaioforos had considered writing a book, once. He was literate, and he'd read most of the classics, for the sake of banter in the court, but he wasn't the type to write good prose himself. However, he recalled writing in his abandoned first draft: The first rule of battle; never send your best into the fray first. If your best get beat, no one else will dare to fight. If you are going to win with nothing but your best, then don't bring anyone else with you in the first place.
He still recalled the clumsily worded lesson to a word, sighing in frustration, and watched the mercenaries rush toward the ruined fortress.
At the time that he left the court, aged twenty-nine and already a general, he had not had many friends among his own people. An upstart from a once-great house brought low, and a scoundrel at that, the Malvernians had seen little good in him except his usefulness as a weapon. Those had been the days before the Eclipse, when there was a general fear that the Republic might invade south. Forging of alliances, small conquests, opening of trade routes, the construction of fortresses. For a young man, given up on romance but rededicated to martial pursuits, it had felt like he had found his purpose. And it was in those years that he'd made most of his friends, too. The pyromancer Inni, Prince Sakan of the Jelin, the disgraced cataphract Delon, and even the insane King Hano. Two of Hano's sons served in Nikaioforos' personal guard right now.
Of course, now those days were seen as uneventful for Malvern. Forgettable, even. It wasn't until the Siege of Umdan, six years later, that Nikaioforos had gained reentry to the public awareness for his exploits. The more chaos, the more suffering, the more they seemed to like him. He'd had his share of defeats, a few of them he considered humiliating, but he didn't for a second doubt that he was good at what he did.
The first men were beginning to die, now. Dying for an Empress who wasn't even their ruler. "Don't worry", the general muttered, stone-faced. "Your epitaph will be worth reading."
Post by ashenmoon on Nov 10, 2017 17:41:20 GMT
turn 2: day 1, mid-afternoon
Vanozza Fastness was no more.
For a thousand years the works of the Mason, nestled in the deep valley, had blocked the entrance to the Carrana mountains. In as many heartbeats, the call of the Hunter had dissolved the very mortar of the fortifications. All that was left were precarious, crumbling structures, a great rubble-heap slowly sagging in on itself in clouds of dust. Here and there, towers yet perched upright; elsewhere, the walls were reduced to dunes of sand.
Mercenaries from the fringes of the Empire of Malvern rushed forth to claim dominance over the ruins. Ritually scarred shock troops waded through fine powder and clambered across blocks of stone that had, only minutes before, formed impenetrable defenses.
But rocks were not Vanozza’s only defenders. Just as the Scarred (red H1, H2) reached the tops of the mounds, men of the Republic charged against them from the other side, led by captain Charlos of the Hunter Regiment (yellow K2). Companies of highlanders and mountaineers navigated the strange new landscape with expertise.
The Scarred were pushed back. The Republic reclaimed their ramparts..
Longbowmen from the far south, led by princess Kassai (red A1, A2), unleashed wave after wave of arrows over the heads of the Scarred, as the latter were joined by Saktha exiles (red L). With visibility approaching zero, the battlefield dissolved in chaos, as men moved with the ebb and flow of combat.
An hour passed. A deadly cat-and-mouse game evolved, with companies of Malvern mercenaries reforming under cover, then charging forth under Republican fire to claim the wasting remains of some ancient bastion, only to yield it as indefensible shortly after. Squads of Republican sharpshooters scaled the heights of the valley sides and, through the ever-expanding fog of dust, fired down from unseen vantage points. The Republican defenders noticed, however, that sometimes it was as if the Malvernian troops were impervious to their fire: thus they learned of The Iron Curtain (green IC) - a coterie of arcane mages who strode through the maelstrom of battle untouched.
Another hour passed like it. It seemed the attack had all but stalled, and the defenders dared to push forward...
Then Malvernian forces issued down from the eastern valley-side into the defenders’ flank. A handful of Republican defenders, cut off from their brethren, had long tried to hold off a company of tireless golem-soldiers as they relentlessly worked to gain the east walls and build a ramp for a great concentration of Malvernian soldiers waiting in hiding. When, at last, the golems had cleared the wall and prepared the way, the flood-gates were opened.
The Hammer (green X) and the Second Chorus (purple SC) descended upon Charlos’ men and spilled into the narrow valley which the Fastness had been protecting. Wounded and tired Republicans fell back before the onslaught.
In a matter of moments, the Republicans signalled a hasty retreat.
The Malvernian mercenaries rejoiced as they passed over the blood-soaked ruins. Hundreds, if not thousands, had fallen in the dust-choked maze which was all that remained of Vanozza Fastness.
Ahead, another narrow valley climbed towards another set of walls; the Rear Walls of Vanozza, mostly untouched by the Hunter’s magic but in utter disrepair nonetheless. The Rear Walls loosely guarded the widening rim of the valley: beyond it opened up the Carrana mountains proper. The Malvernians charged towards it...
Then a shot rang out over their heads. Many would, afterwards, claim to have heard the specific shot, even to have seen the sniper’s muzzle flash from the western heights.
A great portion of the buried remains of Vanozza erupted in explosion. A red ball of fire rose in the air, spewing black, acrid smoke and painting the valley as a lurid vision of hell: the bloody and weary men, brown with the swirling miasma of dust they had fought through, streaked with sweat; and above them, the alien ochre of a gloomy sky.
Donato Khalez watched with satisfaction as fire bloomed in the murky darkness of the valley below. The Peakstriders’ aim had been true. It was difficult to tell how much of an effect the explosion had had, however, as visibility was obscured by distance, dust and smoke.
It is only later that he learn that the second mountaineer company had been cut off in the confusion, and had likely been still defending the Fastness when the explosion went off.
For now, however, he exulted in having exacted yet a higher price from his enemy. So far, the plan had gone more or less as intended, although Charlos’ Hunters had taken the brunt of the fighting and a great many casualties.
But now they were all safely out of the valley, exhausted men hunkering down behind the Rear Walls. The Rear Walls were little more than bricks piled along the rim of the valley below, but it seemed the enemy’s momentum had been stalled: he had some time to think through his options.
The Stonefolk Pathfinders led the way up the High Valley and across the mountains. Constantin Noval’s host climbed past the treeline, into a barren world of bare rocks and snow which never melted.
Along the way, they had passed by more of the mountain-folk - men Constantin knew could and would fight to defend their valley, but who were unconvinced of the threat Constantin was increasingly sure of was real.
The Pathfinders reported: if they continued due south, they would in a few hours reach the main road through the mountains. They could, however, head south-east instead: there was a road that led to the western walls through the mountains, and the small garrison that was stationed there.
In the midst of the Carrana Mountains, the deep Itrina valley - its sides pockmarked by marble quarries - is overlooked by the solitary tower of the Vaiparo Citadel. A single, enormous cannon is installed there, constructed on the spot and impossible to remove save by dismantling most of the Citadel itself. Carved runes bleed across its ancient, rusted surface: one of the very few cannons built during the Dominion. To reload it takes three men half a bell. It is a good thing that it does not require aiming, as it is all but impossible to shift out of position.
The commander of the Citadel’s garrison, lieutenant Muzio Doria, watched as a line of small, slim cannons wheeled by on the road below, pulled by muscular horses. Similar runes, neatly etched, snaked over their gleaming surfaces.
“Who was that?” asked his wife, watching with him as the strange entourage disappeared west.
“Au...”Muzio swallowed, mouth still dry from speaking with the man. “Aurelio Manza.”
A High Inquisitor.
It seemed the Republican defenses had finally shattered. General Nikaioforos was following along the Iron Curtain and the mauled remains of the Scarred heavy infantry towards the Rear Walls. when he felt the wave of heat upon his back like the slap of a hand. A loose shower of sand and pebbles, stinging but harmless at this distance, peppered the side of his face as he turned.
Princess Kassai’s archers had been crossing the ruins when the explosion rang out. Men close to the fortress had been thrown to the ground by shifting grounds: it appeared the Hunter’s magics had, in the process of tearing down the walls, also buried an extensive underground portion of the fortress.
Denios Troklos watched from the heights to the west as the black tower of smoke twisted like a devil.
Melusine, who had leaped up the mountain side to his back, joined him in contemplating the scene below. She told him that she had found a path, due north over the mountain, which could take them past the Republican defenses below. Few normal humans would be able to make the crossing, but perhaps Synesius’ golems could assist a company or two in making it over the mountain.
Lucrezia Dreyal was standing in the entourage of the Hunter when the Flock, a handful of spirits in the bodies of birds, returned to make their report. They had lost some of their number to Republican sharp-shooters whose range and precision had exceeded the Flock’s expectations.
Beyond the Rear Walls, they reported, a second and much larger valley, and less steep, valley opened up. The road through the pass continued north through it along its western side, along a lake: the eastern side of the valley was forested.
The Republican forces appeared to making their way north along the road. There appeared to be some two and a half thousand soldiers:
K1: a heavy regiment of rangers,
K2: a lighter regiment, rather damaged,
M1 and M3: heavy companies of rangers,
as well as a number of smaller squads of rangers and snipers. There had also been some defenders stranded in Vanozza, but following the explosion, their fate was uncertain.
Synesius Lascaris was resting in the arms of Makario when the Malachite Hand descended from the west and reported the findings of their mission to him. They had scouted the mountains to the west; there appeared to be no easy approach within the closest few miles - climbing had been necessary in places. But they had made it to the top and found the walls there deserted.
Synesius knew that a cavalry company had been sent east to scout a farther distance: they had not returned yet.
Post by ashenmoon on Nov 10, 2017 17:46:23 GMT
From across the valley Constantin Noval's men assembled into orderly ranks and followed the Pathfinders up into the crags. Would their iguana Palaienid standard be distinguishable from Malvernians flags in the heated pitch of a melee? They stood for very different things indeed. His steed had some trouble with the winding slopes and paths they traversed, ever higher into the Cattana mountains, but he never hesitated. If the rumours were true, every hour might be precious.
The Companions made no complaint atop their steeds either. Two-score men in a variety of attire that signalled they might represent half the world, the Companions had followed Armant Freic since before his declaration as Emperor on the shores of Jovinium. They had come into being before the Vulgar Army itself, in truth, though they had only come to recognise themselves as the Companions fighting on foreign Dominion soil. Acastus counted himself amongst their number, that bearded, long-haired and scarred fellow who Constantin Noval had rescued from Republican captivity. Once a Dominion noble, Acastus was proof of the universal appeal of their cause. He did not lead the Companions, however. Counting themselves as equals in that ragtag band of heroes, champions and dreamers was a former Godslayer escaped from Falor during the Eclipse, a former berserker from Havsgard, a former guerrilla from Samar and an ex-Inquisitor in training, who chose not to turn mad for having Spirits imprisoned in his body. The tattoos on his body, though dormant, betrayed his origins.
They were the cream of Constantin Noval's army, carrying the orange iguana banner of the Pretender Empire. Behind Noval, thousands of leather-clad mountainfolk carrying muskets, rifles and hatchets at their belts told the next chapter in their story. They were the humble downtrodden masses, eager to overthrow the Inquisition and any foreign threat. Giving order to their ranks, the Ember Legion that had come all this way under Constantin's command from the Plutars, where their Pretender held court in exile. The Ember troops were mostly ex-Republican soldiers, and their tabards bore the Imperial iguana. Their ranks would not part, if the Stonefolk ever gave way for lack of training. Not until death.
Theirs was a brotherhood and fellowship that could not be any more unlikely. Yet here they were, marching through crags and crunching eternal frost underfoot, prepared to meet a threat they could only imagine.
At the fork in the road, Constantin Noval pondered. First of all, he doubted that the Malvernians would dare assault the strongest point in the Republican defences head on. And if the Ember Legion did walk straight up to the chief fortress of the Fastness, they were likely to face arrest from the Inquisition.
On the other hand, the Pebblehoof Nomads who had joined up with them some weeks ago would not be able to make their contribution so high in these mountains.
Rallying the Companions to him, Constantin Noval declared his intention.
"Acastus, take the Pebblehoof Nomads into the chief valley, where they will be of use should the Malvernians seek to breach the Vanozza Fastness via that path. I will venture east, should the Enemy make an appearance there. Once we know their intention, we will regroup. If they strike at the main valley, send word, and we will come to your aid."
Acastus smiled through broken teeth, and the Companions noded sagely.
They would be glad to give their steeds a valley to ride, rather than these peaks as ruined as their smiles.
"For the Emperor." Constantin Noval said, and smashed a fist against his breastplate. "We must nothing to chance. Chance no Inquisitorial arrest. But do not engage with the Inquisition. Instead, if it comes down to it, protect the Inquisition. For however misguided and evil they have become, they are men of Jovinium and stand with us against Archonic oppression. Prove to them our good intentions, by standing shoulder to shoulder. That is our creed. We prove our righteousness."
And he was met by cheers. Constantin Noval patted his sword, and veered his steed eastwards. The thousands moved to march with him, while the Companions and Pebblehoof began their descent into the valley.
((Pebblehoof, led by Companions, to ride into the main valley towards chief fortress of Vanozza Fastness, to aid against any Malvernian incursion.
Constantin Noval is to head to the eastern fortress with the Pathfinders and seize command of the garrison.
The bulk of the army is to cautiously continue south, while the Pebblehoof ride ahead boldly.))
Lorenzo di Allegari, Mountaineers
He had been a colonel during the Eclipse campaign, and one of the few to survive and make it back to the Republic. The Inquisition had been hungry for scapegoats, and along with other veterans of poor fortune, Lorenzo di Allegari had been exiled to the Vanozza Fastness to live out the rest of his miserable dies in practical exile.
It was not an ideal retirement. But Lorenzo far preferred the cold to the scorching fire of an Inquisitorial bonfire.
But now it seemed that his retirement was to be cut short by a fire of an altogether different kind. The Empire of Malvern had come in numberless ranks, bearing screaming savages at its forefront garbed in colourful clothes and armour as diverse as the skin of the mercenaries beneath them. With them marched a Demon God, and unlike Radiance, this one did not slumber.
With that in mind, Lorenzo di Allegari spared little time to curse that though he had once been a Colonel himself, he was now taking orders from Colonel Donato Khalez. After all, for Khalez to be a Colonel at the Fastness, it meant that he had likely been somebody more important back in Sabria. Nobody in the Fastness was getting promoted. Thus, when Lorenzo found himself sprayed by Donato's mad spittle in the heat of battle, he took it calmly. As calmly as one could as foreign barbarians stormed the rear walls of the Fastness.
Their only hope lay in word of the invasion spreading... and a hasty retreat. But Colonel Donato Khalez, it seemed, had other ideas.
[R1 scouts are to travel the main valley floor towards the north-western fortress, spreading news of the invasion as they go along. They are to take a dead Malvernian soldier with them as proof. This exercise is to be repeated by R2 scouts, but following walls of the Vanozza Fastness themselves to reach the western garrisons and western Stonefolk village. After rallying these reinforcements with proof of the invasion, they are ordered to rendezvous these forces at Vaiparo Citadel if it is still standing - if not, they are to regroup at the north-western fortress.
K1 regiment is to replace the more tired K2 regiment in defending and holding the wall, while K2 rests. Bodies of fallen Malvernians can be used to reinforce the wall, and K2 is to use volley fire tactics wherever the wall may be compromised.
M1 and M3 are to man the western walls to fire into the valley, near the PS (Peakstrider) snipers. The last barrels of oil can be rolled down into the enemy from there.
If necessary, the army is to retreat into the western mountains of the Fastness (near the Peakstriders), using their... mountaineering skills.
Peakstriders are to focus on disabling the enemy by assassinating their leadership.
Giovanni Ganado of the Inquisitorial Legion
As the Inquisitorial procession passed solemnly by the shadow of the Vaiparo Citadel, Giovanni Ganado found himself slouching over the saddle of his horse, eyes heavy. The occasional spasm jolted him awake - the very same spasms which kept him from being able to sleep at night. Every Inquisitor paid a unique price for having demons trapped in his soul. A shivering gloved hand tightened on horse's reins, while the other brushed frost from eyelashes. Giovanni Ganado feared no demon, save his own personal ones, he sure did hate the fucking cold. A gust of wind knifed him and made him clench his teeth in hatred and pain. Yet pain was the price they all paid to keep Mankind safe.
As they advanced further along the road - a usual patrol across the Cattana valley, a ragged lone rider thundered towards them.
The news he brought banished the cold - even if for a moment - and replaced it with fire in Ganado's veins.
"High Inquisitor Aurelio Manza." the scout reported. "The Hunter is here."
[Aurelio Manza and the Inquisitorial Legion are to make immediate haste to join Colonel Donato Khalez in combat (not waiting for one another to arrive), and guide his troops against enemy magic in battle.
The cannons are to continue down the road until they find a safe, high vantage point, as high as possible, from which they can fire into the Enemy. If the Inquisition finds their cannons threatened, the Inquisitorial Legion is to return to defend them at the merest sign of danger.]
Denios, standing astride a ridge watching the carnage below, was surrounding by representatives of the companies he led. Melusene, the great spirit, was at his side.
“Now that, Melusene, is more our style,” Denios said, smiling. The leopard growled in concurrence. “No reason to waste any time.”
He turned to face his council.
“Melusene has found a way through. Our forces must be split. Conductor!” Denios shouted, and turned to an attentive man in fine dress. This was Duokas, a representative of the Second Chorus. “Give word to the Chorus, and to the Mudmen. Reinforce the fray below, and make sure nobody notices our movements.”
“Yes, lord Troklos,” Duokas nodded, and held a fist to his chest.
Next, Denios turned to the representative of the golems, of the Steadfast. It was a beautiful creature. He appreciated Synesius’ aesthetic taste.
“You proved yourselves at the wall. Now, I have a real challenge for you,” he said, his voice encouraging. “Get us over the mountain. Alive and well.”
He turned next to the strangers, the representatives of Dreyal’s men. He didn’t know them well, but he knew good soldiers when he saw them. And for this mission, he would need the best. He said nothing, but nodded. They understood; they would be joining the Lapsed on the way across. Into, Denios hoped, the heart of the Republic's defense.
(Purple Commander, ML, Ochre TS, Green X, PR, Red S go across the mountain, behind enemy lines ; Ochre MS, MP, Purple SC cover their paths and rejoin the main fray of the battle)*
Synesius looked over the ruins of the fort and scowled. The Hunter’s methods were too rash, though it would be treason to say so. He could only sigh.
After a few moments of deliberation, he motioned and all golems reacted as one, beginning to follow him up the hill. After a moment of forgetfulness he turned to the men of the Malachite Hand who were still awaiting orders.
“Yes, you too. Now come along.” He said in a pale tone of indifference, and continued onwards.
[Take all nearby units and cautiously move forward]
Nikaioforos watched the soldiers die, and willed himself to think of them as pieces on a game board.
He couldn't call off the offensive. Not while the golem ramp was still being built. The meatgrinder had to be fed. As soon as the flank opened up, the enemy fled further back, just as expected. Malvern was making good time. They were well in their chances of making through all these walls before too many reinforcements arrived.
He was about to order for his litter to be brought forward when suddenly one of the towers exploded. Thankfully he was far back enough to not be in any danger himself, but many of their troops had suffered damage. He mumbled a curse at having to wait for the dust to clear before knowing what the situation was. "Why couldn't that damned horn sog up their gunpowder? Would be much more useful than collapsing the towers", he mumbled to himself.
While the dust settled, damage reports started coming in, along with correspondance from the flank team. They were going to continue along the same method sa before.
"I'm going to run out of mercenaries to throw at the walls at this rate", the general mumbled to himself, and turned to another messenger spirit. "Have the longbowmen pepper them for a while, and try to find a weakness in the walls under the cover of arrowfire. The walls MUST have taken at least some damage. No frontal assault until we can be sure it's worth it. And have our excess people start to put together something looking like siege weapons: rams, ladders, towers. Just to make it look like we're going to assault the walls. I'm sure they can find wood in the collapsed fortress to at least put on a show. Do it by the ramp, out of gunshot!"
His blood was starting to pump faster, though he lay down. It was getting hard to stay melancholy. The ticking clock of enemy reinforcements added to the excitement of the situation. That explosion had been a smart card, but he wasn't out of tricks of his own. As his main bird to the mercenary forces took off, he brought in another one:
"Bring in the catapuls and those round ones, up here. If the enemy abandons their fort except for a token force, we can shoot them past the wall to easily open the gate from that side."
[as above, commanding all units yielded to the front approach]
Lucrezia was perfectly willing to leave the command f the men she'd brought to others. She'd been thorough in her briefings, the other commanders were well aware of their capabilities. They were some of the best soldiers coin could conjure. Besides, she was not about to get any closer to the battle than she had to; already the smells of gunpowder, blood and death were much too stifling for her taste, but any further back and she wouldn't be able to relay the Flock's information. Oh yes, those she'd kept as her own. Her prized aviary was not something she would ever let another handle. Who knew what these creatures would divulge if the right questions were asked? The secrets they had seen on the pleasure-streets of Laksh, in the armory quarter of Jambhil, in the counting houses of court and criminal alike. They had such attentive eyes.
Parsing the information, she had it relayed to the other commanders and the Hunter. Best not hide anything; whole truthfulness now -when it didn't much matter- would buy more trust later down the line, trust which she might need to take advantage of if this got as far as she hoped.
She leaned down to brush the mane of her horse, contemplating where to send the birds next. Clearly the Republic could damage them even if by chance, so it was best to have them avoid the main army for the moment. Yet that forest was troubling...if she were the enemy she would place an ambush within. Retreat, draw the enemy within, then attack once far enough. Whether the defenders had enough to pull that off, it should at least be crossed off. So as the raptors landed among her, the spirits within eager to fulfill their next mission, she told them to circle east over the mountains, circling around the army to avoid sharpshooters, and to take a good luck at the forest to rule out potential ambushes. Also best to check the surrounding mountains of that valley for hidden passes or other avenues of escape. In such an environment, guarded by the Republic and remote, the accuracy of Malvern's maps was questionable.
The birds took to the air, flying high and training their magnificent eyes on the ground, Spirits of sight and surveillance, they were only too happy to fulfill a role that let them do what they most desired.
[Green FL circle east around the Republican army, scour the Forest and approach to it for ambushes or other hidden units. note the location (if any) of other mountain passes or roads that offer different routes out of the valley than the Northernmost one]
Post by ashenmoon on Dec 30, 2017 10:22:24 GMT
turn 3: day 1, late afternoon
As smoke from the explosion cleared, the battle entered a new phase. Republican forces - with captain Khastor (yellow K1) in their fore - hunkered down behind the Rear Walls and desperately shored up the crumbling fortifications. The Hunter’s magics had not reached this far - the ruinous state of the Rear Walls were the result of centuries of neglect. No enemy had ever penetrated the central Fastness.
Now Malvernian troops spilled over the remains of those forward defences and filled the valley below Khastor’s regiment. The Malvernians called this next valley the Upper Valley; the Republicans who had made their home in the citadel simply called it “the back yard”.
Jelin longbowmen, faces torn with worry for their princess - injured in the explosion - took up positions on the floor of the Upper Valley and fired volley after volley over the Rear Walls. Republicans fired back, but found to their dismay that - despite their height advantage - the Jelins outranged them. When snipers crept forward with their long-rifles, they found their shots flying wild of their targets - the Iron Curtain covered the Jelins within a protective bubble.
Despite all that, the Jelins’ barrage came to little. The Republicans took cover behind the rocks of their walls and the mountains, and as the Jelins wearied, the initial fury slowed to a desultory patter of missiles. The Republicans suffered, but did not budge, as the rest of the Malvernian army began constructing siege equipment salvaged from the ruined fortress.
Two hours passed with little change. The sun began sinking in the sky towards the high mountains: night came early, in these parts.
Then captain Charlos (yellow K2) sounded the alarm from the Republicans’ flank: a Malvernian company had been spotted to the east - on the north side of mountains so sheer that only the best mountaineers could make the passage.
Charlos rallied the Hunter regiment and charged forth - for all the Republicans’ surprise, he knew they had the numbers - only to crumple to the stony ground, eye pierced by a sniper’s bullet.
The Hunter regiment faltered in shock, then fell back as they beheld The Steadfasts (orange TS) clanking inexorably towards them - metal husks, soulless and tireless golems. More Malvernians appeared out of the mountains - The Hammer, elite shock troops.
The Republicans manning the Rear Walls began to slowly fall back, waiting for the Hunter regiment to rejoin them - but barely had they left their positions at the walls when their eyes widened in disbelief. From across the valley, where Malvernian catapults had been set up, sailed a dozen enormous balls through the air. As those projectiles struck behind and into the Rear Walls, they unfolded
into the armored Demolisher Giants (orange DG), as tall as two men, who immediately tore down what remained of the Walls around them.
The Republican defenders shuddered, then began to run. The Malvernians in the Upper Valley rushed forth.
Then a familiar sound, so far unheard on the battlefield, echoed between the mountains. Cannon fire struck The Steadfasts. Inquisitorial banners waved over the road leading into the mountain pass to the north.
Denios Troklos watched as Steadfasts, struck by what seemed to be little more than pebbles from the initial cannon impact site, simply… fell apart. The first shots had barely touched the Steadfasts, yet two things were immediately clear.
First, that the cannons were ensorcelled - the Inquisitorial magic’s stain was tangible, even without the helpful banners waving in the north, proclaiming the Inquisition had arrived.
Second, that if they were caught out in the open by those cannons, they would all be dead before help could arrive.
General Nikaioforos saw the Demolisher Giants tear open the Rear Walls. The Second and Third Choruses rushed forth into the gap. The few remaining Republican figures that had been visible on the walls had disappeared.
The Jelins and the other tribesmen and mercenaries were weary and had taken a great deal of losses. But, they had borne the brunt of the battle: the Carrana mountains lay open ahead.
About a hundred dusty, weary and bloodied Republican prisoners were led out of the ruins of the Fastness. Synesius Lascaris looked down at them, then studied the mountains around. The famed Carrana marble would, he suspected, make a fine material for his art - but there was none to be found here. Further across the mountains, he knew, the marble quarries threw a checkered pattern on almost every available surface.
The Fuma Riders returned from their scouting mission to the east; Lucrezia took their report. The Hunter and his entourage, while nearby, had ceded command of the battle to mortal hands, and paid little attention to what was going on.
The Fumas had scouted the eastern river-valley and approached the Walls there: they had spotted some Republican defenders - enough that the riders had not tried to cross the walls on their own, but seemingly no great concentration of forces. South of the walls, they had seen no one.
Shortly after, the Flock returned after a more cautious circuit of the north. Lucrezia added their information to her map. There were four passages deeper into the Carrana mountains, only one of which had a proper road - the one due North, the main route through the mountains. North-west, west and northeast led smaller paths into mountain valleys.
The Flock had spotted the Republican forces from before, concentrated at that time behind the Rear Walls and the western side of the Upper Valley’s heights, as well as what had appeared to be one or two thousand men approaching from the North - mostly cavalry.
Donato Khalez joined his men in a hasty retreat. Captain Charlos’ charge to retake the eastern mountains had faltered, for whatever reason - he would have to have a word with the man later - and now, giant monstrosities had taken the Rear Walls.
Constantin Noval had no trouble convincing the ranger garrison in the east to join with him and the Pathfinders. They reported that they had spotted a Malvernian cavalry company scouting the eastern walls a few hours earlier, but nothing else of note had happened.
[Constantin can reshape the ranger unit: 4 pts that can be spent however you want to create a new unit of any kind. Must be done before getting nearby enemies, or unit gets stuck as-is.]
It seemed a far too convenient coincidence to Giovanni, that a full regiment of nomad cavalry would appear out of the mountains just as the Inquisition rushed forth to reinforce the Fastness.
Then again, when the Republican defensive line crumbled before his eyes just as he arrived to lay eyes on them, he figured he would need some more luck before the day was through.
Post by ashenmoon on Dec 30, 2017 10:27:12 GMT
They treaded broken roads which had been forgotten by all save the Stonefolk and their pathfinders. They led Constantin Noval and his entourage past peaks that had been smitten by lightning, past hollowed out forts along the walls of the Vanozza Fastness which had once been proud bastions of the Dominion. Some sections of the walls still bore scars from the era in which the Malvernian Empire had rebelled against Radiance, declaring independence and sovereignity from the Dominion. The bloodiest war in the history of the world, if some scholars were to be believed, when the Palaienid dynasty was transplanted from Falor to Malvern, its ancestral birthplace.
The Vanozza Fastness was primarily the legacy of that war - a war which threatened to repeat itself in another form.
That was why he was here. That was why he had come. It had been more than rumours which had drawn him to the Fastness.
As for the garrison they had come to pay a visit to - it looked as if the roof of the fortress had caved in. A trail of smoke issued from within - betraying that either the roof had collapsed due to a Malvernian attack - or else cold and desperate Republican soldiers were just trying to keep warm. Upon arrival, Constantin Noval found it was the latter. A garrison of a few hundred strong had lit up a great bonfire in the heart of the keep. As Constantin and the pathfinders fanned into the room, the Republicans began to surround them. Constantin had come expecting to find weak exiles, but he soon realised he had happened upon a very particular company of men.
Judging from their uniform beards, armour and cloaks, and the mountain ponies stabled in the courtyard close by, Constantin Noval judged that he had happened upon the Snowbiters. The Snowbiters were the mounted sappers and engineers of the Vanozza Fastness, patroling its length and offering what maintenance they could to it along the way. An unwinnable mission, but one they had grown quite talented at. Their leader, the grey haired Gioacchino, pushed his way to the front.
"Constantin. Most unexpected company." Gioacchino said, spreading arms wide, as more Snowbiters assembled about the newcomers. "So, the Inquisition finally grew tired of you, did it? And you have been exiled here, as well? To take up the long watch?"
Constantin Noval studied Gioacchino's face, searching for hostility. Some years ago they had stood shoulder to shoulder as equals in the capital, both trusted servants of the Senate and its Consul, Harmon Dermeticus. When Harmon had been assassinated, and the Triumvirate seized power, Gioacchino had been exiled to the Fastness to keep him out of trouble. High Inquisitor Gori, the First Citizen Avus Gula and High Admiral Jack Timbale and found a place for Constantin in the new military regime, but Gioacchino had been too close to the Senate. Now, even the Senate was gone, destroyed by the Inquisition. And Gioacchino found himself far from refuge.
"I am here of my own will." Constantin declared, raising his voice so that all the Snowbiters could hear. "I am here to defend our nation, from enemies external. And internal. I am here against the wishes of the Inquisition, who declare me an enemy of the state."
He had their attention. Gioacchino smiled, recognition in his tired eyes. Yes, this was the same Constantin Noval he had known before the Triumvirate, during the days of democracy.
"I no longer serve the First Citizen. The Triumvirate murdered our Consul, destroyed our Senate and led us to destruction and damnation. Now, the Inquisition reigns in our lands, and burns our brothers, fathers and sons at the stake for heresy. I was commander of the First Citizen's bodyguard - I saw up close the damnation wrought upon our land by our own leaders. I have forsaken their cause. I stand now with Armant Freic, who shall rule as our Palaienid Emperor. Against Malvern, against the Dominion. And against the Inquisition. Our numbers grow by the day. Stand with me, Snowbiters. Your exile is finished."
Gioacchino and the Snowbiters thudded rifles against the flagstones of the keep, entertained if not inspired. After silence fell, Gioacchino was the one to break it.
"You chose your side too late, Constantin." he said, gesturing at his troops. "You followed the First Citizen to Falor itself, and failed, abandoning us. It seems to me you have chosen the next winning horse that aspires to overthrow the Republic."
"Republic?" Constantin Noval laughed. "The Republic is dead. Tomas de Campo rules now, Gioacchino."
The hardened Snowbiters seemed to be drawing closer around Constantin and his pathfinders, and Constantin felt as if a noose had been placed around his neck.
"High Inquisitor Aurelio Manza is here on a visit." Gioacchino said through a nasty smile. "I wonder what he would make of the infamous Constantin Noval whipping up sedition in the Fastness?"
Then a horn sounded. Within minutes, a couple of bloodied soldiers were ushered into the keep, their eyes wild.
"The Fastness has fallen." one of them managed, spitting blood. "The Hunter is here."
[Reinforcements, pathfinders and Constantin to make their way towards the battle - and upon finding the battle, assist in the retreat.]
The Inquisitorial patrol had arrived on time - and a thousand fur and leather-clad nomads seemed to have arrived quite conveniently as well. It betrayed foreknowledge - their timing was too perfect indeed.
In the distance, giant golems tore down walls that had stood since time immemorial. Yet in doing so, they had made themselves giant targets as well.
"Blood and light." Giovanni Ganado howled, as the trapped spirits began to seethe under his skin, tattoos burning bright and hot. The desire to match destruction with destruction stiffened his manhood, and the cold winds and anticipation both brought tears to his eyes. At long last. He would feed. He would feast.
Cannons sang their music, runes adjusting themselves upon the metal surfaces. The languages of Hell.
[Cannons to focus on the giants and the golems, offering the Republicans a covered retreat. The Inquisition is to ride out and assist and protect the retreating soldiers. The Pebblehoof Nomads are to do the same, using their pistols, speed and range to break apart the false men of stone and clay while staying out of reach, and covering the retreat.]
March of the Reptile
An account of the Imperial assault upon the Mountains of Carrana, by Colonel Donato Khalez
Part two: Flight
Everything had been going so outstandingly well. First the enemy had been kind enough to spring our devious little trap, suffering rather extensive casualties as a consequence. Then our efforts to delay the enemy proved to be surprisingly successful, if you ignore the fact that we were, and continued to be, hopelessly outnumbered by ugly, smelly and unwashed savages.
When one was slain, ten more appeared. Once they were gone, twenty more. Whether they shot, stabbed or punched it mattered not. More would come and we would slay them, until not a single swamp spawn remained. We could hold our ground until reinforcements arrived. Everything was going so outstandingly well. Until Charlos decided to play the hero. Until Charlos wrecked it all.
He was not supposed to charge blindly at the enemy the way he did, and when his attack finally faltered his men came running back like frightened children. The effect on moral was imminent. All around me my men began to question our chances. How, they asked, could they succeed when an entire elite force had just been routed?
I did what I could but the damage was done; under no circumstance could I make them stand their ground for much longer. Not without reinforcement. As the lines began to break I knew what had to be done. Once more my signal horn echoed across the battlefield. I had issued a quickened retreat.
I will flatly admit that what I did that day was to make official what had already happened. My men were pulling back, and since I could not force the issue I might as well accept it. My bitterness towards Charlos would have been tremendous, had the enemy not decided to toss a number of giant monstrosities into the mix. Against those things we would stand no chance, so in this way our flight had been inevitable.
I am grateful however, that our flight was heralded by the most beautiful sound in the world; the thundering roars of Republic cannon fire. As our enemy began to melt away in the face of this glorious onslaught, I lead my men to the North.
This had been the direction from which the music had come. Covered by cannon fire we would make our escape.We would unite with our thundering brothers and renew our defense of the mountains. The line would be reformed. We would make our stand a second time. I only hoped that whoever was in command of the battery would focus his guns on the still advancing monstrosities.
(The entire army is to move towards the advancing green forces - they will set up a traditional defensive line. They will return fire when fired upon)
Synesius looked at the arriving prisoners and scowled. Earlier he had been surrounded by his creations. Now they were all in the heat of battle, leaving him alone and exposed. Well, all except one. He caught himself stroking his servant’s chest.
“Not now, Maka.” He whispered accusingly. The golem remained still and unblinking, just like before.
With no creations to do his bidding, Synesius begrudgingly ordered Makario to bring him to the Hunter’s host in order to discuss the prisoners. He wanted immediate and unquestioned access at any time. While there might not be any proper material in the vicinity, he wanted to be ready when they struck gold, or marble in this case. Besides, he’d had his servant bring a block of clay from his workshop, in case he needed to send a message by bird.
As he approached, some prisoners turned to spot the source of the lumbering strides. He saw faces light up in fear, disgust, and defiance. However, for just a moment, some of their eyes betrayed a glimpse of reverence. Synesius turned away to hide his smile. Somewhere, deep beneath the republic’s propaganda and the inquisitor’s dogma, the people of Jovinium still felt the true order of being.
The battle so far had gone satisfyingly, but Nikaioforos did not like how things looked now. With the walls gone down, but the enemy thrown back rather than slain, things were about to turn ugly.
"Halt the advance!" He sent the order to his mercenaries. "Hunker down in that wall, and prevent the enemy from retaking it! If you can provoke them into destroying their own fortifications with their cannons, that's all the better! Use what longbows we have, those damn catapults, and any mages that come over, to try to keep them at bay and clear the area around the wall!"
He wished he could pace. His back ached from sitting up for this long, with no back rest in his litter. As much as he longed to throw his legs over the edge of the cushions just to feel his feet on the ground, but knew that was foolish.
The scouting report from his light cavalry came back. He sent them a new order: "Advance toward the front, and await further orders."
They were a distraction for now. The main cause of concern lay up ahead. Mass artillery had been the bane of the Dominion during the Eclipse campaign. As tempted as he was to order a mass charge before more enemy reinforcements could arrive, Malvern's army was in no shape for that.
For now they'd need to bear the brunt of it and look for an opening.
"Lord Hunter", he starterd his next message, which was to be sent south. "I humbly beg of you for the use of some of our reserves to consolidate our gains so far and to try to eliminate the enemy artillery." He paused briefly, and then continued: "Please command the rest of the Scarred King's forces forth to man the walls and relieve our mercenaries, and send the rest of our Fuma mercenary cavalry forth."
While he waited for the Hunter's response to the request, he prepared his commands for the Fuma. He needed them to chase off those infantry by the wall. If he could prevent them from joining up with the artillery, that would be very useful indeed. Every sniper that died was a triumph to them. He'd add in the Fuma skirmishers to this force, too, and bolster it up.
Denios barked an order of retreat, and the Steadfasts reversed at once. It was almost uncanny how quickly. Many would not have noticed the difference, but Denios paid attention to details. Even the most highly trained men would have had to process the orders. Not the Steadfasts. Their reaction time was inhuman, for they were inhuman. In the best of ways, Denios thought. When his forces had taken safe shelter up on the rocks, he turned to his men.
“Steadfasts, fall back. Retrace our path and return to your master,” Denios If he knows not already, tell him of the cannonfire. Tell him it is the Inquistion. I think he will understand, yes?”
The golems nodded in unison.
“Dependable as always,” the Abstinent said, and then turned to Melusene. “You know, of course, that we must go onward.”
“Of course. We’ve come this far,” Melusene nodded her head.
“Lead us around east,” he ordered, and then turned to his men. “We didn’t come all this way to hunker down behind hunks of slate, did we? If Malvern is to advance, we need to stop the Inquisitions cannons from behind. Let’s move.”
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 3, 2018 20:36:17 GMT
turn 4: day 1, nightfall
~The main action had moved onto the plain to the north, ringed by mountains and bordered by a lake to the west and forested heights to the east. Though few among those present knew it, the Mason had once intended to build a city on the site, to support the Fastness ahead - but the civil war with Malvern of the Old Empire had moved on, and the region had lost its strategic importance. Sharp-eyed archaeologists might have noted the unusual flatness of the terrain - as if a great portion of a valley floor had been levelled. The Republican defenders of the Fastness simply referred to it as “the Plain”, and grew their own crops in scattered fields there. Now cannon fire speared through the air, reaching towards the lumpy remains of the Rear Walls. Malvernian mercenaries took refuge behind the walls they had just conquered and watched as Colonel Donato Khalez signalled a halt to the forward Republican forces’ westward retreat. In the space granted to him by the Malvernians’ pause and the threat of the cannons - firing wildly at the very extent of their range - he turned his force around north - to rendezvous with the arriving Republican and Inquisitorial reinforcements. Too late, tribal Fuma riders issued forth from the Malvernian masses - but the Republican forces were already reunited, and soon consolidated a battle line across the entire plain. The cavalry retreated from the bristling defenses, back down the Upper Valley. The overcast skies dissipated just in time for the sun’s final rays to paint the eastern peaks pink. The first stars glinted in the firmament above. Night fell.
~With the Steadfasts clambering back into the cliffs behind him, Denios Troklos led the remains of his force east, along the heights and in cover as far as possible. Their path climbed out of the Plain and out of sight of the Republican force. When he judged it safe to do so, Troklos led his troops out of cover, striking towards the northern heights. And just as he did so, two Republican companies materialized out of the eastern pass. The mounted Snowbiters (SB), Republican garrison-engineers under captain Gioacchino, darted forth, joined by the Stonefolk Pathfinder mountaineers (PF). After all, they outnumbered the Malvernians two to one. Certainly, they could spot the great, black, sleek hulk of the panther Melusine (ML), and that the Malvernian company - The Hammer (X) - was well-equipped. But barely had their charge begun, before it began to falter. Sniper fire peppered with uncanny precision into their lines: the Precision (PR) earned their name. As the Snowbiters got closer, more missiles streaked into their midst as The Hammer unslung their crossbows. With several score dead in as many seconds, and the potency of their enemy hinted at, the Republicans fell back to the mountain pass. Troklos led his force into the northern heights. Warily, they came to a vantage point: with the setting sun in his eyes, he looked west and down to where the Republican host filled the Plain. In the gathering gloom, he could spot even more reinforcements arriving from the northern pass.
~Constantin Noval took heart in his newfound allies and rediscovered friend. They made good speed into a high mountain pass, then began to descend the western side. One of the Pathfinders - a man of extraordinary hearing - claimed to hear cannon fire from afar, though Constantin heard only the whine of the wind and birds greeting from scraggly trees the onset of evening. But as they rounded another cliff and a wider valley opened out before them - the direct route to the Fastness - they found their path blocked by a small Malvernian force: a company and some squads. The mounted Snowbiters (SB), Republican garrison-engineers under captain Gioacchino, darted forth, joined by the Stonefolk Pathfinder mountaineers (PF). After all, they outnumbered the Malvernians two to one. Certainly, they could spot the great, black, sleek hulk of the panther Melusine (ML), and that the Malvernian company - The Hammer (X) - was well-equipped. But they had the numbers, and from here the sounds of cannon-fire made it clear that battle was ongoing further west. But barely had their charge begun, before it began to falter. Sniper fire peppered with uncanny precision into their lines: the Precision (PR) earned their name. As the Snowbiters got closer, more missiles streaked into their midst as The Hammer unslung their crossbows. With several score dead in as many seconds, and the potency of their enemy hinted at, the Republicans fell back to the mountain pass. Frustrated, Giaocchino led them on an alternative route north-west which, after several hours, took them to the main road through the mountains. Constantin could see the iguana banners waving further down the road in the gathering gloom.
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 3, 2018 20:41:31 GMT
<Forward Strike Team>
Denios and his men moved slowly through the mountains, both to keep quiet and to keep safe. The sky was overcast still; the moon would not light their way. That they were so trained is the only reason they could make any time at all in the conditions, but there was a limit to what training could do to the human eye.
The Lapsed were at the fore of the group, making sure the path ahead was advisable. The Hammer and Precision were skilled warriors and not exactly clumsy, but stealth was not their specialty. Melusene, on the other hand, was plenty stealthy, but too vulnerable to inquisition powers to put alone at the fore. The task thus fell to the Lapsed. They took to it without complaint; their bravery put pride in Denios’ heart. He would have joined them himself, ordinarily, but given his position of command he remained towards the back, with Dreyal’s mercenaries.
The Abstinent and his troops paused behind a cluster of rocks, waiting for the Lapsed to report back. Melusene, ill at ease with waiting when an ambush was not involved, paced on the far reached of the group. Next to Denios stood a man of the Hammer. He was balding, with a silver beard and a weary face. It was the weariness of a life at war, Denios could tell, and nothing to do with their night trek through the dusty peaks.
“You look right at home,” Denios said, chuckling softly. “Its not a common man who is comfortable in the cold mountain night.”
“Seen plenty worse days in my time,” the man grumbled, shrugging. His voice resembled the broken stones beneath their feet. “From what I’ve heard of you, I imagine this isn’t so unfamiliar to you either.”
“Yes, this does remind me of days gone by,” Denios sighed, and looked up, lost in nostalgia. He recalled breaking the lines of Sali force sieging Eukos. That had been much worse than this; he had been alone. And then there was Lunium; a very complicated time that had been. Carrana was comparatively straightforward, though it had quickly proven to be a bit of a moving target. But an Abstinent was not brought to a simple battle.
Osric sighed himself. “This one time, the boys an’ me, we were hired to take out this bunch in Kendon. Nasty pieces of work, drug runners. Mortash, nectar, oldtyme, bludsnuff, the works,” Osric talked at a deliberate pace “We were a smaller group back then. They got hunkers up in this mansion, up in the mountains. Great visibility, highground, supplies, the works. We didn’t have the numbers for a siege, or the patience, so you know what we did?” He grinned. “We lit the forest. Smoked them out. They were armed to the teeth, but all they were were a bunch of crooks. Weak. All the supplies in the world won’t save you if you don’t have the spine that it takes to fight when ash is stinging at your eyes and smoke is choking you.”
“Boldly done,” Denios said, nodding.
“Osric,” the man said, gesturing to himself. He extended a hand.
“Denios Troklos,” He said, shaking the soldier’s hand. “Name like that, you’ve come a long ways from home,”
“Home’s a flexible notion.”
“Not to all,” Denios replied. “But if that’s what it takes to have you on Malvern’s side, I can’t complain.”
At that moment, whispers spread among the soldiers. The Lapsed had returned. Denios greeted one of their number. She told him that there was a path down the mountains, to a vantage point that could provide them with the vantage to get a better sense of the Inquisition’s movements and positions. If they were lucky, they might even be able to strike, instill chaos within their ranks. And if they were unlucky… well, Denios mused, like he and Osric had said: They’d made their way out of worse places.
The day had ended. Nikaioforos considered it a lukewarm success.
"At the very least, we can strike a doorstop here, and wait for reinforcements. The enemy will bleed themselves out and waste all their cannon balls trying to retake the gap", he mused to Princess Kassai as she strode out of his tent. After retiring from the intense fighting, she'd bathed and had a change of clothes, for which he'd gracefully provided her the privacy while he remained where he had been all day. Though her body language was mostly her normal cocky self, there was a look to her eyes. The look of eyes which had seen too many men die. Nikaioforos had had that look once, just about thirty years ago, he knew. And maybe more times since then, without his knowing. "It's not exactly the crushing victory we hoped for, though."
With a slight sigh, she sat on the edge of his cot. "Let's talk something else, yes?" She asked, more than a bit disrespectful to his station with her behavior. After a delay, she added: "...my lord."
"Fair enough", he yielded, toying with the slightly frayed edge of his blanket. "When did-"
He was interrupted by the sound of footsteps rushing uphill toward them. Thinking that it was an urgent messenger, he sat up and turned. But instead it was another Jelin. A girl slightly younger than Kassai, stick thin and wearing civilian clothes. Mercenaries came with families, servants and camp followers.
The princess stood up and spread her arms. The girl jumped at her, and the two embraced, before locking lips. Nikaioforos worked his jaw slowly and furrowed his brow. The two of them exchanged some quick words in their native language, and then Kassai turned to the general. "Excuse me, my lord. This is Uisa, who has the honor to be my wife until I return home." The girl smiled and curtsied clumsily.
When Kassai had served under her uncle years ago, her relative had sometimes said confusing things of her. He supposed that this explained it, then. "I am pleased to meet you", he said and gave the girl a polite nod. "Should I be calling you 'prince' then, Kassai?"
"Oh... no, please don't. Not in your language. Warrior is a male, but..." She trailed off, to find the correct words for it. "To my people, I am a man until I give up the bow. Then me and Uisa will find husbands. For now, she'll look after my tent and my clothes." She gave a slight grin and held the girl closer.
Nikaioforos suppressed a sigh. Mercenaries were a strange bunch. Men who were only paid for their strength in arms and did not need to adhere to any strict social roles could always dance around custom and decency. Common men dressed as nobles, or taking grandiose names. Wives in every town they came around to, or queerer things still.
In this case, the Jelin princess seemed intent on being flagrant with this strange practise, and it wasn't like he could tell her off for it. He didn't care too much himself, but he knew the rumours it would start among the other high command when they heard about him entertaining the 'princess and her floozy'.
"Fair enough, Princess. Please tell your people that the Empress appreciates their efforts today. I can make no promises that tomorrow will be any easier, but they can take pride in knowing that they helped take down these walls which have never fallen down before", Nikaioforos indicated formally. After a few more exchanges the two women left. As he watched them walk off, leaning to whisper in each other's ears in an intimate way, he gave a weary sigh and said: "I hope you find your husbands."
[Man the walls with dummies and rest for the night. Keep up a formidable night watch. Once it gets pitch dark, send the skirmish cavalry Red C in small groups to patrol the No Man's Land in case of enemy assaults.]
The return of the Steadfasts was a sight for sore eyes. Tired eyes, too, Synesius realised as he failed to stifle a yawn. Night had fallen, and though he was no stranger to late hours, Synesius knew he would have to rest soon.
Though the master of clay needed to sleep, his creations did not. He had gifted them a life without the flaws of the body. And so he proudly gave them their overnight orders before retiring to his tent.
He quickly drifted into sleep, safe in the knowledge that Makario would stand by him all night as usual.
[TS are to work on making a path as shown on this map. DG will help out with heavy lifting as necessary.]
As night fell, Constantin found "the Plain" a dark ocean lit by pinpricks of light. He rode catching up to the iguana banners of his Ember Legions, finding that they had set up camp mere minutes away from Inquisitorial lines. Calling for Acastus to be sent to him, the sentries soon returned with a score of the Companions, their eyes haunted.
"The Vanozza Fastness is fallen." Acastus breathed. This was his first foray into the Cattana mountains, but he had spent months hearing about the Fastness. Constantin was sure that more than shocked, Acastus would be disappointed that he never got to see one of the wonders of the world with his own eyes. No, it was Constantin Noval who was truly shocked.
"How is it possible?" Constantin asked, bringing his horse around to trot past the Companions. They averted his gaze, even as Constantin's eyes drifted back to the Inquisitorial flags visible by firelight in the distance.
"The Hunter is here." a woman's feline voice brought Constantin's attention around. One of the riders was no Companion, but one of the Binders - Aurelia dala Vachio, the niece of Paolina Caccini. He had met her in the Dominion, during the glory days of the Vulgar Army. "There were spells woven into the Fastness, secret spells that only an Archon could trigger - should the walls have ever fallen into Malvernian hands. Somehow, the Malvernian Archons learned of and deciphered these impossible runes."
"Not so impossible." Constantin grunted, then fixed his gaze on Acastus. The Companion knew what was coming. "And what brings you to lead our army into the waiting mouth of the Inquisition, Acastus?"
"You said it yourself, commander." Acastus straightened himself. "We save Jovinium first, and thereby earn it for our Emperor."
"Then let us hope that High Inquisitor Aurelio Manza agrees that we have a common enemy."
In the no-man's land between the Republican and Monarchist camps, Constantin Noval, Acastus, Aurelia dala Vachio and the Companions waited.
The darkness yawned, and from its confines, past fluttering banners rode the Inquisiton. Their steeds were uniform black, their coats red, violet and gold, depending on their function in their mad cult. Some wore caps, others went with their hair combed back freely and exposed. All of them, however, bore intricate webs of tattoos across most of their exposed flesh. Some even had tattoos on their faces. To study those tattoos too closely was to invite the sense of being watched by something invisble and menacing. Something angry.
Their leader soon became aparent, trotting forward and twisting his horse around at the last moment, to come within arm's reach of Constantin. It took all of Constantin's willpower not to draw his pistol. These were the men he had always learned to dread, the subjects of childhood stories. In Sabria, children were told spooky stories of Spirits coming to kidnap you at night. In the provinces, it was the Inquisitors who were far more terrifying. The fire-haired Inquisitor wore a little black fez atop his head, his golden robes overflowing across his steed.
"I am Magister Giovanni Ganado." the Inquisitor did not extend a hand. His nostrils flared. "I recognise you, Constantin Noval. I had heard the rumours of your presence in these mountains. Not all these heathen Stonefolk are as disloyal as you suspect."
"I am here to fight, yes." Constantin said, raising his voice. If not for the Companions at his back, he was not so sure he would have been able to hold his ground against the demon gaze of Ganado. "But I do not intend to fight you, not today. Not if the Hunter is here, and the Fastness fallen."
Like a villain out of a fable, Giovanni Ganado threw his head back and laughed.
"You will get no absolution for your SINS by switching sides yet again, Constantin!" His spit reached the head of Constantin's horse, though it did not flinch. "You are DAMNED."
"I am not here to ask forgiveness, pater. I am here to save you." Constantin's lips curved into a smile, though that smile never reached his eyes. "The Malvernians are flanking us. I encountered a company of men in the eastern mountains. Their jaws will snap shut around us."
"They will find our flesh too poisonous to swallow." Ganado leaned forward, evil eyes twinkling. "The garrison of this mountain has enjoyed some short rest. They will now do their duty and die for the Republic. The Hunteer will choke, yes."
"We must fall back to the Vaiparo Citadel." Constantin snapped, short and simple. "The weapon there-"
"The weapon there will still function if the Hunter escapes our assault." Ganado flourished a gloved hand, and turned his horse towards his Inquisitors. "We will slaughter and burn the Enemy, Constantin. And then we will come for you. But if your men stand their ground and fight, I promise you this. We will spare the worthy. You, however, you will take back to Sabria in chains. The First Citizen would be flattered to see his old friend again, of that I am sure."
"Be that as it may. My men are at your command. If you intend a night raid, my riders will ride with you."
This seemed to surprise Giovanni. He hummed, and then began to trot away, peering over his shoulder and flipping his cloak as he did so.
"Just because your life is at an end does not mean we need be unpleasant, all of us. High Inquisitor Aurelio Manza would dine with you, once the Malvernians are driven back to their bog."
When the Inquisitors had slunk back to their half of the camp, Constantin Noval turned to Acastus. And nodded.
[[M1 and M3, led by Colonel Donato Khalez himself, are to stealthily climb the mountains on either side of the Fastness, by the easiest routes, so as to flank the Malvernians who have set up camp in the Central Fastness. The Peakstriders are to accompany them.
This action is to be accompanied by the Inquisitorial Cannons drawing slightly closer and continuously firing into the Central Fastness as they go - both to keep the Enemy distracted and to inflict as much damage on them as possible.
Once the Mountaineers are in place - in a position to fire into the valley from either side, K1 and K2 are to join with the Inquisitorial Legion and are to enter the fray with the intention of butchering the Enemy in their camps, setting fire to supplies and inflicting maximum devastation. The Republican forces' Commando specialisation will hopefully kick in for this mountaineering and night action. The Pebblehoof Nomads, the Companions and Aurelio Manza are to make a devastating charge into the Enemy in the Central Fastness as well, combining anti-magic with gunpowder and horses' hooves.
Meanwhile, the Snowbiters are to lay mines in the mouth of the mountain pass just east of their current location, and are then to join the rest of the Ember army and Stonefolk in setting up a defensive camp for the night behind the Inquisitorial cannons, guarding the mouths of the mountain passes around them, and they are to rest. They will oversee and ensure the camps are established in a defensible fashion.
The Stonefolk Pathfinders, along with Constantin Noval, will venture out to stealthily track Melusene and the Enemy spotted in the east, without engaging, with intention to return to camp before morning.]]
March of the Reptile
An account of the Imperial assault upon the Mountains of Carrana, by Colonel Donato Khalez
Part three: Bloodbath
Shock, sorrow and hatred. This sickening tirade of venomous thoughts was all I felt upon learning of Charlos's death. His passing left a lingering wound within my heart, for I had known him for many years. He was a true man of the mountains, born and raised by a family of kindhearted shepherds. Though most of his life had been spent in service to the military, he had never forgotten the calm and simpleness of his rural childhood. This was evident in the way he spoke. This was evident in his sense of humor. This was evident in the way he loved his wife and son.
I had wanted to punish him for breaking ranks, a lashing or two to prove the point, but now need for discipline had given way to a cry for vengeance. This time the goat-fucking bastards had gone too far. His life was not theirs to take, not theirs to even threaten. The Fastness Garrison had lost one of its greatest sons, and for his fate we would make them bleed.
The moonless night and the thundering onslaught of Republic cannons would be our cover. We would walk in the shadows, faces covered and bayonets fixed, coming at them like the specter of death onto a dying man. We had guarded those mountains for years. We knew every every inch and every rock. Though years of practice we had learnt to walk those grounds in utter silence. They would not see us coming. They would know only fear.
Our Mountaineers would stalk the mountains of ruined Fastness, their orders to secure unchallenged command of the high ground. From there they would dominate the valley below, unleashing volley upon volley of musket fire onto our hapless foes. Like the thundering cannons these brave men would aid our cover through death and carnage.
The Highlanders and the Hunters, now both under my direct command, would sneak silently through the pass under the cover of darkness. The night would hide our movement, while the continued barrage of cannon fire rained down upon the enemy ranks. We would strike in silence, unseen and unheard. We would be like the deathless fiends of ancient legend. We would slit their throats. We would pierce their hearts. We would make them fear the night once more. By stealth and steady hand, the enemy force would be made to break and flee.
It was time for butcher's work.
For the Republic!
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 20, 2018 15:07:10 GMT
turn 5: day 1, midnight
As the last light of day winked out, the armies settled in for the night. Lucrezia Dreyal, along with most of the Malvern leadership, received summons to the Hunter’s pavilion.
For all the martial and raw air of his Aspect, the Hunter’s pavilion was a piece of decadence transported here into the midst of wilderness. Its main chamber was large enough to house a hundred men comfortably, and the walls were adorned by mounted heads of exotic animals, and hung with heavy furs and the heraldry of vanquished enemies.
“The Hunter commends our loyal friends: General Nikaioforos of House Argynyx, and his many allies he has brought to our cause; Master Lascaris, and the trustworthy servants he bends to the will of Empire; Lucrezia Dreyal and the generosity of Dreyal Bank and its agents; and our erstwhile Fist, Master Troklos, who could not join us tonight.”
The Mark paused.
Silence stretched, as the many who had gone without mention glanced warily towards the throne-like seat in which the Hunter himself sat ensconced with a far-away gaze, only occasionally piercing through the assembled crowd. More than a few dark looks passed Lucrezia’s way - the Malvernians were a proud nation, and it was a little-held secret that much of this expedition was enabled by Plutarian funds and foreign mercenaries.
“For all their heroic action on this day, however, our master has noted two things which cast a shadow on our mission. One: that our enemy has been reinforced, not by other garrisons of the mountain, but by forces whose presence so close nearby can only be called… fortuitous. The enemy we now face equal us in numbers.”
“And the second?” general Boriates prompted after another pause.
“Someone has been passing messages to the enemy. General-”
“Fuck the design!” growled a voice from Lucrezia’s side. Startled, she stumbled back - and just in time, as a blurred commotion burst by her. Fallen to the ground, she looked up to see the Hunter, holding General Arbanes by the throat above the ground.
“House Arbanes,” the Hunter intoned. “Daughter married to the beloved nephew of dishonorable Irbis.”
“Fuck the... lizard traitor… Syagrene...”
“And so you fell so low as to assist the Inquisition. To attack Our house, with Inquisitor-magic and gunpowder fire.”
“... man… equal…”
“Who was working with you? Who sent the messages?”
“... fuuh... uuhh...”
A low crack was audible in the deathly quiet room. Toxic-colored froth spilled from Arbanes’ mouth. The Hunter let go, and the man crumpled to the ground, spasming. The Hunter looked down, frowning. It was over quickly.
It was not long after that Nikaioforos, on his way back to his headquarters closer to the Rear Walls, heard the sounds of battle, swiftly followed by the trumpeted alarm.
It was dark - what little light the moon and stars shed through the thin cloud cover, Nikaioforos was blinded to by the torches and camp fires of the army. Hurrying forward, he grew little wiser from his aides at the headquarters. The cannon fire had continued throughout the darkness, crashing against the Rear Walls, often wildly off target. Cavalry scouts had been sent out in a discrete trickle, but barely had they sent out before they came galloping back. On the heels of their warning followed swiftly a Republican attack of unknown dimensions - for all that they knew, the entire Republican army. Almost as soon as they reached them, they had retaken the Rear Walls.
Someone cried out a warning over the din of chaos and confusion:
“Cavalry! There is a cavalry charge coming!”
He would need to deal with that. Their front was already fallen: it was time to minimize the damage - and maybe make the enemy pay for their boldness.
Synesius was once more preparing for sleep, watched over by Makario, when one of the Steadfasts came bounding into his camp. It did not speak using its voice, but even spirit-voices require the listeners to be in the vicinity.
There are enemies in the mountains, retaking the heights.
There were really two Republican camps, Denios Troklos swiftly discerned. The southern one was the host they had been battling earlier in the day. The northern camp, encircling the cannons - which kept firing, even when it plainly had gotten too dark to see what they were hitting - consisted of the host which arrived in full by nightfall.
Both camps were beehives of activity long after dark - much as he would expect of an army at a battlefield. It was only slowly that he began to spot the undercurrents of movement, which left behind a camp seemingly settling down but in fact siphoning off into the darkness, and came to appreciate that much of their enemy was well-trained in subterfuge.
“They are going to attack,” Paulus whispered, an instant after Denios had drawn the same conclusion.
Troklos swallowed a curse. There existed magics to facilitate distance communication - sending birds and such with messages - but they had none here.
“Send a runner. Warn our camp.”
“It will be too late,” Paulus replied, but ordered one of his Lapsed away anyway.
Troklos looked back down the enemy camp. There were fewer of them down there, as more and more of them disappeared in the darkness of no-man’s-land. But several companies, a regiment or two, remained and surrounded the enemy cannon.
Another of Paulus’ Lapsed returned a while later with a scouting report: an enemy force, about a company strong, seemed to be searching the mountains. For them, he had to assume.
The mountaineers followed Donato expertly as they ascended the cliffs surrounding what had once been their home. He led about half the force into the western range - the others went east. While they avoided the steepest inclines, in places, they had to climb. But the men knew this area as the back of their hands.
Which made it all the more disconcerting when they found strangers ahead - enemy soldiers toiling along the paths behind the Walls, seemingly searching for a path down to the Plain from the side.
Donato and his men watched from the shadows, counting their opponents, taking their measure. Time passed. By now, the men on the eastern flank would be in position. The attack was waiting for Donato’s signal.
From what they could tell, the enemy about equalled them in numbers. But they were not ordinary men - for some of them were giants, twice as tall as any man; and something was off about the rest, a stiffness and synchronization to their movement. At last, Donato recognized them as the golems - The Steadfasts - that had made a surprise appearance on the Plain’s eastern flank earlier in the day. The force that had seen Charlos slain.
“We have the element of surprise. We have the night, our friend. We have our allies, waiting for us. And we have the mountains - our brother. Attack!”
For all that, the engagement swiftly turned into a bloody, protracted affair: the golems were tireless, and little affected by the nightly confusion which would have engulfed any mortal enemy.
Giovanni Ganado saw the flash in the western mountains. In deathly silence, he sensed the Inquisitorial Legion and garrison regiments rush forward. The cannons, having fired in the dark until now - an unceasing barrage that, hopefully, had struck close enough to the Rear Walls to discourage the enemy from venturing forth - went quiet.
Scattered gunfire. Horses whinnying. Men shouted, and then the noise of battle erupted like flowers in springtime from the darkness before him. Soon, the Republicans’ torches on the Rear Walls were silhouetted by dark figures. Then those figures were past the Walls.
The Rear Walls were retaken. Ganado looked to his side. The shadowy mass of Aurelio Manza nodded its head.
The cavalry swept forth.
With the sounds of battle wafting distantly through the night, Constantin Noval listened to the Pathfinders’ hushed conference. They had come upon the enemy’s spoor, that much seemed certain - but in the darkness and mostly rocky terrain, just where to continue the search was unclear.
He turned around and scanned the jagged geometry of the hillside, the giant boulders, the black nest of a copse of low trees below them on the slope. Everywhere he looked, he felt as if unseen eyes were watching. A nagging feeling told him that there certainly were hunters and prey out in the night - and that he and the Pathfinders belonged to the second category.
The Pathfinders had come to a decision. They continued further into the heights.
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 20, 2018 15:12:54 GMT
Continuing further into the heights, feeling the oppression of unseen but all-seeing eyes upon him, Constantin shared tired words of caution with the chieftain of the pathfinders. Few needed to be said for an understanding to be reached. They ascended the heights, in search of caves, which could shelter them until first light - upon which they could gain their bearings, and report back to Acastus and the rest about where the Malvernians were presumably headed. They could not risk being caught in the open a second time.
Men burned inside of their tents, screaming only briefly before the heat and smoke ruined their lungs. Trapped beneath skeins of flaming cloth and the ruin of their brethren, the Imperialists of Malvern found their foreign adventures at an end. Wading through the carnage, the Inquisition made itself known to the Empire at long last. This engagement was not the first between the two powers, but oh, there had never before been one quite like this. Waltzing in a thin line across the valley, the Inquisition moved like a weight upon the world, bending it around their passage. The Spirits trapped within them howled for death, but received none. It was others who died, squeezed by the magics they so foolishly thought to wield as their own.
Those who did not burn were gutted by bayonets in the dark, the cream of the elite of Republican commandos and mountaineers striding across ground they knew like the back of their hands.
Ganado spied a Malvernian commander, hopping through the chaos struggling to put on a pair of pants. He tripped over himself before scrambling back on his palms to get away from the Inquisitor. Ganado reached down and lifted the man into the air with the strength of the damned. He squeezed. The man kicked in the air, eyes bulging - but Ganado did not let him die. He tossed the man to the earth behind him, and signalled to two Republicans.
"Take him to camp. We will make a pyre of him at sunrise, for all the Empire to see."
Swinging back to the bachanal, Giovanni Ganado exalted apocalypse.
By sunrise, they would all be gone. The Republic, back to their own camp. The Malvernians, gone to Hell.
[Cannons to do what they can, especially in case of flanking attempts by the Enemy]
March of the Reptile
An account of the Imperial assault upon the Mountains of Carrana, by Colonel Donato Khalez
Part four: And off the sides they go...
What was done that night on the mountainside was bold, extremely bold. My critics would say I should never have made the call to attack those things directly, no matter how dark the night or how large my number of men. Those monsters, or machines, were not like mortal men. They dwarfed us in both size, strength and endurance. What they did not have however, was speed and agility. These were critical flaws when engaged with a force such as mine, and I would seem them exploited to maximum effect.
The key was to avoid to melee at any cost, for our weapons could not pierce their armored hide. Yes, the behemoths were strong, but they were also stupid. Whenever a volley hit its mark, the slow walking titans would move towards its point of origin. When struck from the right, then right they went. When shot from the left, to the left they would go. For all their might these things were as predictable as a senator's son in a bawdy house. When stuck on a mountain with a bunch of slow, heavy and dimwitted tin cans, it is not hard to imagine what we sought to do; we would lure them to the edge, with calculated and concentrated volley fire, and send them bouncing down towards their doom.
The mountain edges close to the fastness had always been frail and unstable. They were firm enough to hold a man, a horse or maybe a slightly loaded cart. Those behemoths however, would make them break like seasoned bread. Their weight and clumsiness would do the rest. Concentrated fire, avoidance of melee and the boldest ploy since the Eclipse Campaign. That was the rule of the night.
The remaining imperial soldiers, already reeling and bleeding from our onslaught, were of no concern to us. We would keep killing them, volley barrage upon volley barrage, until every last one of them was dead. They were pinned down, their cries of agony like music to the ear. They would not survive this, none of them would.
Once this engagement was done, and we had reached the enemy encampment in the pass, the Fastness Garrison knew what to do; slaughter everything... burn everything.
Break their back and shatter their spirit
The butcher's work continued...
Nikaioforos woke with a start. "Huh? What?" He asked, his dreams of childhood mixing with reality for a few moments. He was in his tent, and there was bedlam outside. "No... no no", he mumbled. "Help!"
If his assistants could hear him, they were too busy with whatever was going on to respond, so he swung his legs off the bed and gingerly stood up, trembling and unbalanced. He grabbed a cane and started toward the exit, almost slipping at one point. When he finally made it to the chilly outside air, he quickly realised what was going on.
"MESSENGERS!" He bellowed at the top of his lungs. "RIDERS! CLOTHES!" His assistants soon came rushing in and, muttering apologises, ran into the tent to fetch his clothes. Soon messenger spirits joined him as well. He tried to dig the tip of his cane onto the ground so it wouldn't slip when he entrusted more and more of his body weight onto it.
"Any pikes we have, put them at front. Other units back them up, and spread to the sides to prevent any flanking! Get our riders and try to slip past them, to encircle! Now! Now! Now!" He growled at the birds, which took off. He didn't have time to figure out which was going to which unit. Someone threw a robe onto his back to keep him warm, and a chair was placed behind him, so he could mercifully sit down.
"Whoever's in command over there, I hope you're proud for this", he mumbled bitterly as his bodyguard were assembling and forming a protective perimeter around his tent, just in case.
<Forward Strike Team>
“An enemy force, about a company strong, seems to be searching the mountains,” one of the Lapsed, a woman with a shaved head, reported, bowing.
For us. Denios thought to himself. He chuckled as he heard the news of the Republic’s search party. Melusene began to purr. And Paulus let out an exasperated sigh. They were huddled behind another identical rock outcropping. Denios wondered if they would be more easily differentiated in daylight. Based on what he’d seen of Carrana before nightfall, he doubted it.
“Liadne, yes?” Denios said the woman, “You’ve done well.” He nodded at her, and she took her cue to leave.
He turned to Paulus, who had furrowed his brow in evident distemper. Behind his stood Osric of the Hammer, a woman named Keats from the Precision unit, and Melusene. Osric and Keats were blank-faced.
“Are you always so jovial at the sound of impending doom?” His nephew asked.
“It’s perfect,” Denios explained. “This is as vulnerable as those cannons are going to get. The bulk of their forces have gone to attack ours; what remains is comparatively a token force.”
“Comparatively.” Paulus deadpanned. Denios might have taken offense at such a manner from a stranger, but he know that Paulus and his compatriots were loyal and brave. This was not a coward’s sardonic attempts to save their own hide, but the casual talk natural between family.
“There’s no good in being dour in the face of battle,” Denios responded. “Why, Paulus my boy, don’t you see? If they’ve sent a force into the mountains to find us, that means they’ve subdivided even further. Time to strike while the iron is hot.”
“Even still, we don’t have the numbers for an outright battle.” Osric chimed in. “He’s not wrong about that.”
“Thank you,” Paulus said over his shoulder at the mercenary.
“Of course not. But we never set out for that, did we? Not quite. We’ll move quickly. Do what damage we can without unnecessary sacrifice. We shall see how confident the Republic’s march remains when their camp is in flames.”
(Purple commander, ML, Green X, PR: Avoid the enemy’s search company and take advantage of their emptying camp, harassing the enemy regiment at the cannons and setting fire to the camp if possible.
Do as much damage as can be done but avoid turning the attack into a suicide mission.)
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 20, 2018 15:16:08 GMT
turn 6: day 2, dawn
Dawn’s early rays threaded through peaks in the east, tracing shadows over long lines of tired men and scattered warbands roaming the Plain. Gunfire rattled unevenly, piercing through hoarse cries and battle-shouts.
Republican forces, climbing out of the Upper Valley, emerged back onto the Plain - many stumbling with weariness and clutching wounds. A strange mood prevailed among them: a core of triumph slowly yielding to panic.
Malvernian cavalry soon gained the Plain behind them - and, beyond the horse companies rushing forth to harry the retreating Republicans, was heard the steady rhythm of infantry marching in orderly formation.
The night had been long, and confusing. It was not until well into the day that the generals of the opposing armies could form a coherent picture of what had transpired.
Some hours after midnight, the fresh regiment of Scarred (H3) who had held the Rear Walls and so formed the front lines of the Malvernian camp, spotted gunfire in the darkness of the Plain. With the Republican main camp visible in the distance, lit by small yet seemingly settled pools of light, it was first believed that this was simply a small skirmish between enemy scouts and the Malvernian cavalry sent forth to patrol the no-man’s-land.
This view was shattered when the cavalry - who had in fact stumbled across the better portion of the entire Republican Hunter regiment (K2) creeping through the darkness - came rushing back into camp in disarray. Almost the instant before the enemy appeared in the light shed by torches set in the Rear Wall, the cannon fire - which had been relentless throughout the night - ceased.
The sudden silence was immediately broken as the Hunter regiment rushed forth, firing swift volleys and taking the eastern portion of the Rear Walls. Soon, they gained the heights on that side of the Upper Valley, and began firing into the confused concentration of troops where the Scarred and cavalry companies were still trying to bring clarity into the situation. They would have wreaked untold damage then, had not the Iron Curtain cadre of mages been present - and the storm of bullets became instead a light pattering.
At the same time, the Highlander regiment (K1) pushed back the defenders on the western arm of the Walls, and descended into the sleepy camps of Malvern’s forward units. While elements of the Highlanders soon became embroiled in chaotic melees with Scarred units, as well as an alert pike company carrying ensorcelled armour (MP), the rest of the Highlanders descended upon the camps of Malvernian tribal allies.
In the centre, the Inquisitorial Legion appeared at the lip of the valley just as the Scarred defenders had reformed: for a while, the Republican advance was halted as heavily armed tribesmen rushed forth to hold the walls. Then the Legion fell back - opening the way for several hundred cavalry to charge through.
Although split in two, the Scarred would go on to fight to their very last in bloody melees flowing across their burning camp, doggedly holding their positions and keeping the Republican cavalry charge from ever gaining momentum. Through their sacrifice, disaster was averted.
Although the Highlander regiment ravaged the east portion of the camp, and the Inquisitorial Legion - under Giovanno Ganado - burned all they could reach in the centre, their reach ultimately never extended very deeply into the Malvernian camp. With the massed Republican cavalry never managing to reform their ranks and launch an unhindered charge, they instead swarmed this way and that, seeking opportunity without finding it. As the attack wore on, it became clear that the main instruments of the charge - the Highlander and Hunter regiments - were as much a hindrance as use as many, too exhausted to continue the fight, began to stumble back to their camp.
With the time bought by the Scarred, and the shelter provided by the Iron Curtain, plus the distance afforded by the depth of their camp, General Nikaioforos’ headquarters - although retreating several times from Ganado’s approach - had time to form a core of defenses. First the Third Chorus, then more and more joined the force, and Malvernian cavalry reformed behind them.
With the first rays of sunlight reaching the highest peaks in the west, and the tide turning against them - spearheaded by Malvernian Fuma riders charging forth - the Republicans sounded retreat. Although the attack had been spectacular, and several Malvernian units had been completely wiped out, the urgency with which they now had to leave soon sent trickles of fear down the Republicans’ backs. Seeing a pillar of black smoke rising from their own camp did little to steady their hearts.
Up in the western mountain, Donato Khalez and two companies of his mountaineers had engaged Malvernian golems not long after midnight. Over several hours of nerve-wracking fighting, the mountaineers managed to bring down the Iron Giants, one by one - many falling to their ruin after being lured to the edge of a great precipice.
When, finally, the last Golems were either dead or retreated, the mountaineers proceeded to descend from the heights, following the ruined remains of the fortified staircases that connected to the Vanozza Fastness.
There, positioned in between the two halves of the Malvernian host and ready to strike the back of Nikaioforos’ slowly forming defensive line, they would have been able to do great damage, and undo much of the gathering cohesion among the Malvernian defenders. But, for the third time this night, the Malvernian army was lucky: the Triune Riders camped nearby, almost alone in the wreck of the Fastness.
While Donato’s men managed to set fire to several of the great catapults the Malvernians had stationed there, they were defenseless against the Triune Riders’ sparkling magics, and when the Triunes were joined by Scarred heavies and a Finger of the Malachite Hand, the mountaineers retreated up the paths they had just descended, taking many casualties before finally breaking free.
The Republican cannons had fired throughout the night from the centre of their camp: when the main attack began, they were finally quiet. For a while. As the Republican troops engaged the Malvernians on and then behind the Rear Walls, the cannons were rolled forward and began firing blindly deeper into the Upper Valley.
While this did not have any great effect on the battle as it developed there, it did leave the cannons in a position between the main camp and the force ahead. Although escorted by a large troop movement - a full regiment and several smaller companies - from the safety of darkness, hidden eyes perceived an opportunity.
First, soldiers of the Stonefolk commune took a sudden and shocking series of volleys fired into their midst. The Hammer outranged the Stonefolks easily and, under withering fire, the Stonefolks charged out of position to engage the enemy.
Next, a company of Ember Pike found a great, sleek black shape storming through their relaxed formation like a hurricane. Melusine, the giant panther, tossed men like toys, left and right, and had all but routed the Republican company before a group of binding-tattooed Ember Priests arrived. Chanting their grating voices, their spell was awarded a yelp of pain and the disappearance of the black phantom back into the night.
In the opening thus created, a group of elite soldiers - the Malvernian Lapsed - seized the opportunity. The night was briefly lit by a great explosion - the gunpowder stores of several batteries of cannons turned against themselves, and leaving ruined wrecks where shining metal cylinders had stood before.
As swiftly as they had come, the Malvernian attackers fell back - with most of the Republican camp charging after them.
They had taken a beating, Nikaiofaros knew. But it could have been much worse, and now he could feel the tide of battle turning in his favour. If they pushed now, with fresh troops against the Republicans’ worn-out ones…
“Where the hell is Kassai?” he asked, not for the first time. All the rest of his command was accounted for by now.
At the same instant, a Jelin girl rushed into his headquarters - Uisa, he realized, Kassai’s… wife. The girl had been crying.
“They took her! The Inquisitor men… they took her!”
Troklos saw the grins, felt the easy confidence of the men around him as they dodged out of reach from the sluggish Republicans. Casting a glance back, he paused for a while: he could see what seemed to be the entire Republican army, strung out in two loose clusters. One, centered around their camp and cannons - most of them chasing after him - and the other, emerging from the Upper Valley.
Judging from their condition and direction of travel, he was fairly certain he could rejoin the Malvernian host. Then again, with the success of the night raid, perhaps it would be wiser to continue to operate behind enemy lines and tearing into their flanks whenever opportunity arose...
Constantin Noval and his men emerged from the forest in time to see the Republican camp in uproar, most of them pursuing a small Malvernian force towards the east - that same force, he realized, he had been chasing after during the night.
Further south, towards the Upper Valley, he could see the attacking force spilling out onto the Plain. Even from this distance, their exhaustion was easy to see.
Entering the mostly-abandoned main camp, messengers were grateful to find a senior commander to report to. Donato’s rangers reported the imminent arrival of reinforcements, from the north as well as from the west - companies of Rangers and others who had marched throughout the night. Although weary, they were eager to join the fight.
((in the north, barely visible, reinforcements that can be re-formed as the team wishes: R01, R08 equal 5 pts. in the west, R02, R06 also 5 pts))
They had accomplished much, Giovanno Ganado knew, in the burning core of his heart. Thousands of enemies had been slaughtered. And yet, the stench of fear he smelled belonged to Republicans. Many had begun running, fearing the approach of the enemy cavalry from behind.
A muffled scream made him look down.
Bound and stumbling behind his horse was the Malvernian officer they had captured. As the sky had brightened, however, he had perceived that it was a woman, dressed in the clothes of a man.
“Princess Kassai of the Jelins,” he mused, “and close confidante of General Nikaioforos, as I understand it… what am I to do with you?”
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 20, 2018 15:20:29 GMT
Smoke and blood, and the piercing cries of guns and men woke the dawn.
Retreating from their bacchanal of murder, the Republican mountaineers staggered across the plains, back towards their camp. The Malvernian Empire gave chase - but were confronted by Constantin Noval's own cavalry units, covering the retreat of Republicans who had been their enemies the previous night. It was almost comical how a common enemy could so closely unite former rivals, to the point that they would die for one another.
The Republican camp billowed smoke as well, as some of the cannons had fallen to saboteurs. Those cannons which had escaped the attack now fired incessantly at the Malvernians, providing yet further cover to the retreating Republicans.
Constantin Noval rode down into camp, where he found that orders were already underway for the army to march westwards as soon as the retreating Republicans had returned safely behind friendly lines. They were heading for the Vaiparo Citadel, home of the god-killing gun. Having been put into place after the Malvernian secession from the Dominion, and having been tucked away in the mountains, it was not unlikely that the Malvernians would fall for the trap. They no doubt knew the gun existed, but unless they had extensively scouted the Vastness beforehand, they would have no idea they were marching into the maw of the god-killing gun. At least, that was their best bet. The gun had been put into place for just this contingency, though many had doubted it would ever see use.
[[Following Donato's orders, the Ember Legions will protect the Republican cannons and provide cover for the retreating mountaineers and Inquisitors, and will then join them on a defensive, close-knit retreat towards the Vaiparo Citadel and its cover. Cannons and cavalry are to cover any retreat.]]
~Giovanni Ganado of the Inquisitorial Legion
As they retreated across the planes, drunk on pain and enslaved Spirits, the Inquisition relished the hours ahead. It was not truly a retreat, Giovanni mused. It was a trap. The Malvernians would follow them, yes, but they would follow them into Hell.
Aurelio Manza and his entourage led the way - apocalyptic horsemen breaking the very dawn - moving like the shadows left behind by clouds across the earth. When an explosion came from camp, Manza himself could be seen throwing his head back and screeching in a multitude of tortured voices - a man well and truly possessed. Glorious.
But the pulse of magic that emanated from camp, that scent, came not from the cannons destroyed. No, it was the aura of the perpetrator which attracted the Inquisitors. Some great Spirit had led the attack, and used its might to inflict harm upon them.
The prize was too tempting for Aurelio Manza and the most damned of his kin to ignore. The High Inquisitor and his beautifully insane elite thundered forward, in search of the Spirit who had wronged them. Desperate to consume it.
By the time the sun rose, Nikaioforos' knee felt like a throbbing, swollen melon. He knew it hadn't grown that much bigger from all the standing, walking, mounting up and down, and occasionally ducking at enemy fire, but this was too much for him.
When Uisa came in, she found him seated with a poultice over his leg, drinking from a goblet of hippocras laced with medicinal herbs. He couldn't take too many medicines lest he cloud his judgement, but at least the battle had stabilised to the point that he could sit down without having to immediately stand up five minutes later due to some new development.
"They won't kill her", he said to the sable woman immediately, sounding as sure as he was. "She is valuable for ransom. And they won't torture her for knowledge. An idiot knows that mercenaries aren't informed about our grand plans or future strategems." His harsh assurances seemed to be little consolation to her, though. Uisa was no warrior; though used to seeing battle, she was still merely in charge of their company's logistics, not someone who was usually this close to fighting. She stood mere two paces away from Nikaioforos, but for all he could step forward to lay a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, she might as well have been in Falor. Even the thought he standing up made his knee ache. "Stay strong. That's what she would tell you to do if she was here", he added in a somewhat softer tone. It was a cliché, the most basic thing you told to a soldier who'd lost their comrades, but that was merely because it was almost always true.
"What are we to do?" The girl asked. "We've lost so many..." Her view of the battle was warped by the news of losses coming in from the Jelin. The Republic had no doubt inflicted more casualties than they'd sustained throughout the night, but sometimes there was more to war than head count.
Nikaioforos gave a slight smile as he called for another messenger bird and spoke to it: "Lord Hunter, I humbly request the use of our cataphracts to pursue the enemy." As the bird flew out, he turned to face Uisa, rubbing his tired eyes as he did. As a boy, he'd remarked how his grandfather seemed to barely need five hours of sleep each night. He wished he was that old already, just for that single beneift.
"Uisa, there are three principles to all combat. Not just war, but fistfights, duels, raids... any form of violent conflict between individuals or groups. These were laid out by Loedius of Myrnium in his famous treatise centuries ago. I'm not a bookish man, but this isn't my first injury I've been recovering over, so I took the time to read it years ago. The first of the Three Principles is To Exert Minimum Force Needed. To throw all your power behind an attack, whether it be a punch, a sword slice, or a charge in a battlefield, will mean that if you fail to destroy your foe, you will be caught astray. Whoever in the Republic planned this attack broke that rule. Their initial charge was effective, but they've overextended. If we were to call off fighting right now, they would come out on top. But a battle isn't over until one side gives up." Nikaioforos felt a strength inside. A fire he hadn't felt since his injury. "Not only will they be forced to retreat from our counteroffensive, and suffer losses while they flee - who knows, we might recapture Kassai - but they've also violated the Third Principle; To Find An Optimal Range of Engagement and Favour It. We are going to capture their cannons."
He ordered the pursuit. The infantry would make a beeline at the enemy cannons, while the cavalry would protect their flanks and prevent scattered enemy units from clumping up aroud the artillery. If this worked, the Republic was doomed.
In its short history so far, the Republic had never been on the winning side of a battle involving the imperial cataphracts. Of course, that mostly had to do with the lack of battles between it and Malvern, but if this strategem paid out, Nikaioforos had half a mind to commission a song about how the infidel can never prevail against a charge of Malvern's elite.
Kassai groaned as she came to. She was immediately aware of the wound on her side. She vaguely remembered the enemy rushing over her. Her mouth tasted of dirt and blood, but so far she was alive. That was a good start. She was being hauled on top of a saddle, hog-tied like a goat about to be butchered. She fought off panic, and instead focused on taking in her surroundings. The men around her were strangers, and she couldn't see their banners in the dark, and from the angle she was set. She'd barely had time to burst out of her tent before they'd taken her, but based on the fact that she was being kept alive, they knew who she was. Maybe they'd seen the tribal device before her tent.
"Where are we going?" She asked in a hoarse voice, and spat onto the ground. "Who is in charge?"
[Also recruit a 3-point slinger company from our reserves. Send them to our west to harrass the enemy mountaineers, with the help of Mike's fliers, with the aim or preventing those baddies from causing any more trouble.
Request Lord Hunter to move our reserves into the middle valley so I may have access to them easier if I need more. Dev's leftover units can stick with them for now. MH can also stay with the reserves, but bring up TR to my main offensive.]
Post by ashenmoon on Jan 20, 2018 15:22:18 GMT
turn 7: day 2, hour after sunrise
An hour has passed after the sun rose over the Plain. Death hovers in the hazy air above the mountains of Carrana, cawing his many-throated glee from black-winged vantage.
The Republican raiding force - victorious, confident - headed north across the plain, towards the pillar of smoke marking their cannons’ position and reinforcements. But close though it seemed, it would prove just too far away.
Malvernian cavalry (C1, C2, C3) charged into their backs. Republican cavalry - the Pebblehoof nomads - rode forth to screen the retreat: but their mounts, as weary as their riders but without their masters’ urgency, were too slow. The Malvernian charge struck full force, and the Hunters (K2) had to turn and fight. Their swagger soon was replaced by shock, then panic - made worse by the realization that the High Inquisitor, Aurelius Manza, had left them behind. Giovanni Ganado and the Inquisitorial Legion yet remained, disbelieving the sudden reversal in fortunes.
At the western passage out of the Plain, a new knot of Republican forces coalesced. Donato Khalez and his mountaineers, returning from their battle with the golems in the night, met up with Captain Zophia and her Republican garrison from further west along the Wall. For a moment, it seemed they would charge into the bloody and confused melee engulfing their compatriots… but they turned north, towards the Republican camp.
The Inquisitorial Legion fought rabidly, surrounded first by Malvernian cavalry, and then facing a fresh wave of infantry - the Three Choruses. They cursed their enemies to the bitter end: and then, with their last breaths, cursed the Monarchist traitors - the Pebblehoofs, who escaped east while they yet could. The Hunters regiment, trapped as the Inquisitors, fought no less desperately - but when they could see hopelessness of their situation, they surrendered and were led down the Rear Valley.
Of the main Republican raiding force, only the Highlander regiment (K1) made their escape to the western force, fighting off cavalry and suffering a steady hail of slingshots from the rested Goma Slingers (A3).
On the eastern flank, a company of Fuma cavalry (C2) charged after the retreating Republican Pebblehoofs; soon they found themselves embroiled in a swirling, loose melee with Stonefolk mountainmen (S2) returning from having given chase to Melusine and the Malvernian raiding force. Galloping this way and that across the plain, forming and shattering knots of resistance, the Fuma were stalled and in turn stalled their opponents, until light Saktha warriors (La) and the Third Chorus arrived to shore up a loose, wary battle-line.
All this time the cannon had fired but a few, high shots, unable to strike the enemy without going through friendly lines: but now, as the Malvernian Choruses and cavalry charged forth against the Ember Hawks (EH1, EH2) that guarded the artillery, they fired unhindered. Many died, and they diverted west - taking cover by contesting Donatos’ western force’s attempt to rejoin their allies. Soon, Donato’s force found themselves assailed on two fronts - from the east and from the south, and with slingers threatening the third front - and only by a personal, and desperate, counter-attack did Donato stabilize his line: many of his close companions fell then.
But in the gap of the Malvernian line left by the Choruses’ diverted attack, a new company revealed itself: two hundred heavy cataphracts (C4) in gleaming armour, scions of Malvernian nobility. Blowing trumpets of silver, they thundered across the field in a sudden charge, they smashing aside the stunned Hawks - pushing them into pikemen rushing forth from behind, confusing the Republicans’ lines, and inflicting great casualties.
And now - this all had happened so swiftly, so suddenly had the Republicans been cast from their expectations of victory and an easy retreat - the Triune Riders followed in the cataphracts’ tracks and almost casually captured several batteries of cannons (IC2). The other cannons escaped their grasp - pulled by powerful horses and on rattling great wheels, the cannoneers escaped west and behind Donato’s force.
The Triunes looked north: there Constantin Noval’s Monarchist banner flew over a swiftly approaching formation, fresh and organized. In the west, Donato’s force struggled to defend itself. In the east, beyond a loose, wavering no-man’s-land, a full Republican regiment was approaching.
All hung in balance as the tide, once again, began to turn...
General Nikaioforos listened to the messenger the Triune Riders had sent, describing the situation on the plain. His attendants carried him slowly up the Rear Valley, so that he could soon witness the action for himself. But it was difficult to focus on the tactics at hand, when all the Jelins about him were howling their throats out.
The messenger was none other than Princess Kazzai, somewhat bruised, but returned from her stint as Giovanno Ganado’s prisoner - and with the man’s head in a burlap sack.
Uisa could not cease praising Nikaioforos.
Aurelius Manza was close to his prey. He had only his own, closest men with him, and a squad of snipers they had found along the way. The prey was numerous, but oh, so infested with demons - their stench sweet like rot on the air.
But they were not toothless, this prey. A group of them (PR) carried magicked firearms, ensorcelling the mechanism of firing while leaving the projectile itself untouched. He could almost admire their wit: this would allow them to bypass magical defenses, yet strike with magical precision. Quite beyond the challenge presented by a full company of clearly elite soldiers, that single squad of enemy snipers could put a sudden stop to any attempt to get close to his prey.
Post by ashenmoon on Feb 1, 2018 15:50:33 GMT
The throbbing pain on Nikaioforos' knee turned his smile into a wince. "Princess! I was already drawing up estimates for the size of your ransom." He quietly requested his servants for more water to be boiled for the heated bladder on his propped-up leg before turning back to her. "Stay here. You have suffered enough in this battle."
A new batch of reports came in. The general turned to his left and instructed a servant to update the board laid in there. It was a map of this region, drawn onto parchment, and game pieces were scattered here and there, their placements based on the newest intel Malvern had on the proceedings. Kassai walked over to take a look at the situation as well. She was not as much a strategy person as he, but he could tell she wanted to learn.
"It's all over very soon", the cripple muttered distractedly. They'd caught half the cannons. He turned to a sparrow perched to the other side of his chair. "The Malachite Hand is to ride forth, past the gates, and then manoeuvre west, around our slingers, and try to capture the rest of the enemy artillery as it flees from the battle. Lucrezia's fliers are to help along, but afterward they must fly north to scout for any more approaching enemy forces." The bird took to flight.
"Are you throwing it all in?" Kassai asked, her finger stroking the piece which indicated the depleted Jelin archers resting beside this command post.
"Never. Never go all in", Nikaioforos grunted in frustration, but then softened his tone: "Our army is very lopsided, though. If we hadn't lost so much of our infantry, I would draw back, destroying their artillery, and form a defensive line. But we work with what we have." He sighed and turned to another messenger bird. "I will have to deploy what we have left, in any case. Send forth the rest of the Saktha, and the Sabolna archers. Have all our archers move some distance past the gates, and cover any retreat we might do. The Jelin should focus their fire on those musketmen to the northeast [S1]. The Sabolna are strictly to fire if enemies move in their inferior range, and not to go running after anyone." The Sabolna used simpler, weaker bows than their Jelin cousins, and would not have the same strength. "The Saktha should follow toward where the cataphracts are now, to meet that fresh enemy force. Send my personal sappers forward to construct fortifications at the gates, in case we need to retreat back past them, and the Demolisher Giants to guard that breach!" This bird took off as well.
"This looks like an all in, general, even if you are working on the possibility of a retreat", Cassai said as her wife began to bandage her. Her tone irritated the general, but he restrained from snapping at her.
Instead, he closed his eyes and tried to visualise as many of the possible ways this could backfire. What if the enemy had yet more mountaineers stashed somewhere? What if they came from behind? What about the traitor? His stomach turned in nausea at the thoughts. "Water", he mumbled, and soon a servant was pouring him chilled water to calm his guts. As he drank it, he turned back to Kassai and the game board. "It all depends on Troklos. I've set up this flank for him. He had better take it."
He turned to the rest of the birds waiting to fly. "This is my order to our forces at the front. They are to give ground if needed, and not to spread too far from each other in their fighting. If things look tough, start pulling back toward camp in an orderly manner. The Iron Curtain must be kept safe. The Triune Riders are to slow down the advance of this fresh enemy force to buy time for reinforcements."
As the flock took off, Nikaioforos tensed a little bit and winced once more from the pain on his knee just from the feeling of the tensing muscles. He cursed under his breath.
The Jelin were already taking off, northward. Princess Cassai watched them go, clearly wanting to leave alongside them. Uisa broke her look with a kiss. Nikaioforos averted his eyes.
For Uisa, just having the princess back was enough of a triumph. Her day saved. But for him, only victory in this battle would suffice. That was all he wanted.
It had all gone so disastrously wrong - somehow. One minute the Republican army had been entrenched behind barricades, erected by the Snowbiters, safely in camp, protected by cannons. The next minute, the army found itself back at the Fastness, split into three different forces, blitzed by Malvernian forces, with numberless casualties.
As what remained of the Republic's rearguard marched towards the battlefield, Constantin found himself in charge of men who did not even consider themselves his superior. Yet they accepted his instruction regardless, such was the chaos.
He would never have thought he would find himself ready to die for men and women loyal to the Inquisiton. Yet, the threat of a common enemy ever did unite people behind a cause when in all other situations they would be enemies.
Raising a sword in the air and holding firing a pistol from the other, Constantin led his men into the fray, cutting between the two flanks of the Republic's divided forces. He would pick particularly on whichever Malvernian side was more at risk, so as to reunite two out of the three splintered forces, before attempting to free the third. Then they would make their hasty retreat to the Vaiparo Citadel.
As they moved forward, they caught sight of Aurelio Manza's banners in the hills behind them, and it became clear that they were being flanked by saboteurs. The very same saboteurs, no doubt, who Constantin had tracked through the night.
He passed instruction on to his ranks - in case the saboteurs tried to hit them in the rear, they would fall upon them and concentrate all their firepower to eliminate them. Exhausted as they surely would be, any attempts to attack the Republic in the rear had to be turned into a pincer movement and a death sentence. His Binders took particular note of those instructions.
Either way, there was bloody work ahead. To death, or perhaps to life, they marched.[[Try to win a decisive victory and commence the retreat to Vaiparo Citadel before the rest of the Malvernian forces arrive. Strike hard and fast. Cover flanks.]]
Aurelio Manza is to follow and harass the saboteurs, trying to slow them down, using mounted mobility and snipers to inflict damage without taking any serious risks. The main aim will be to keep the saboteurs busy so they do not stirke the Republic in the rear. Anti-magic aura and sniper range to come into play.]]