Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Fall of Klyph

Once safely within the town, Myrdagyn led the way to the citadel, where Fulkh Marshal's forces had, since his arrival the year before, maintained a feckless blockade of the barred door (but were powerless to interdict communications from the outside world with the citadel via the back wall and postern). The baron Nhyrblas had come and gone at will. And at the present time he was back inside the citadel with strong reinforcements, preparing to sally upon the signal of the emperors when their main assault of Klyph's chief gate should have achieved its purpose. Knowing all of this was about to take place had not altered the young marshal's tactics a jot: he held stubbornly to the siege of the citadel. There was little else he could physically do with his limited troops, but hold the walls with the townspeople and focus on the constant danger that the unconquered citadel posed.





Myrdagyn reported to Fulkh Marshal and was told by him to add whatever help he and his friends might be able to provide. Within the next two days, the imperial army finished closing in around Klyph, completely sealing off all of the main entrances and bringing up covered battering rams while engines of war rained down fire and stones into the town.
 
The main assault was conducted by mercenaries from Antania; hordes of Thugs, seeming almost limitless in their numbers. A formidable company of large trollkind manned the ram and brought it up against the gates and began to pound their way through the ironbound oak beams. A tall assault tower made its way midpoint between the two nearest wall towers, flanked on either side by ladder-bearing thugim. Klyph's defenders answered the alarm and townsmen rushed to defend the walls. Fulkh Marshal's feudal levies stiffened the raw recruits, the peasants from the surrounding countryside sheltering with their families inside the dubious safety of Klyph's stout fortifications.

Sections of the battlements held off the assault on either side of the main thrust. But the most formidable thuggish body, led by Tubby, carried the walls on either side of the assault tower; and through that conduit the attackers streamed, rushing down the stairs to the streets and alleys below.
 


Upon the alarm sounding that the assault was afoot, our heroes, collected in a single body in the main town square opposite the citadel, quickly conversed on a course of action.

The Drulathim went off with Lorinkh, Ahnxst and Khrohm to see to the defense of the main gate. Xoniuqé and Myrdagyn went up a flight of stairs overlooking Fulkh Marshal's siege lines to see how the defense might go when the anticipated sally took place.

 
 

They did not have long to wait. Even as the wall to the right of the main gate was being taken by their foes, the doors to the citadel swung wide and out came a column of heavy spearmen, spreading thickly to the left and right, while crossbow bolts struck over their heads into the mantlet sheltered defenders, the best of Fulkh's feudal troops, mailed spearmen and crossbows.




The attackers from the citadel pressed through the thicket of sharpened stakes and tore into the mantlets behind. These shields were sundered and passed through as baron Nhyrblas's soldiers struck Fulkh Marshal's men across their entire front. They reeled back, many of them felled to the ground by the attack. The killing was almost entirely on the side of the baron, and the dying on the side of the marshal's outnumbered force.


Soon it was broken into small struggling bodies, and dispatched. Seeing the rapidity with which his defense was being destroyed, the young marshal led his battalion of mounted knights into the nearest approaching enemy; the spearmen halted the attack of the knights, killed some and caused Fulkh Marshal to reconsider: he commanded a withdrawal and regrouped. By then, it was obvious that the sharp little battle to keep the citadel's garrison from coming out was lost. Fulkh Marshal turned his horse's nose about and led his knights away through the nearest streets, back toward the main fighting for the town gate.


Behind him the last of his doomed troops went down, save for a very few who picked up their heels and fled in his wake. Out of the citadel gate poured more levies and then a battle of Knights of Chaos, led by Hamartolon. These did not pursue the marshal but instead bent their course to the opposite gate, west of the citadel, which was also being attacked by strong forces. The Knights came up on the rear of the defenders there and soon they were in flight and the gate opened, admitting overwhelming numbers of imperial troops into the town. These made their way, with the Knights at their head, toward the main gate.


Xoniuqé and Myrdagyn had briefly resolved to speak with the marshal and decide what to do next, but upon leaving the stairs and emerging outside, the swiftly lost battle before the citadel was clearly going to overtake them if they did not flee themselves. Shutting the door through which they had emerged and then retreated, they mounted up beside Horgand and Nouvzé and set off up the street that pointed directly to the main gate. Bruno and Myrdagyn and two surviving axmen led the way, screening the wizard.

In front of them a throng of unorganized defenders flowed through the street, entering and emerging from side alleys. The noise ahead was tremendous. The booming on the doors of the main gate suddenly ceased as those portals collapsed. And the opening was packed with troll flesh, wielding weapons of awesome size. This roaring band turned to their left and instantly assailed the nearest defenders: a large, compact formation of mostly townsmen. They withstood the assault rather than run away. And soon the alley was flowing with their blood and gore.


Meanwhile, down the stairs from the wall came Tubby, shouting his high pitched battle cry as he launched himself into the sturdy Lorinkh, waiting at the bottom.

The Thug captain's rush was turned into a retreat as the Drulath hero backed him up the steps. A chance swing of the Thug's flail dinned on Lorinkh's helm. A trickle of blood leaked out from beneath the rim and into his beard. Enraged, the veteran of countless quests and escapades summoned the strength of his full wrath and carved into Tubby's body with his famous sword Lichbane. Tubby staggered and fell upon the steps behind, but managed to get to his feet and try to retreat. But a second equally might stroke of Lichbane toppled the Thug captain from the stairs to the alley below. There, as the battle for Klyph continued to its victorious (almost foregone) conclusion, the formidable captain, his luck run out, bled out and perished.

Xoniuqé, Myrdagyn and company arrived in the confusion that was pouring into the town square. The main gate was obviously impossible to get through. But the two side streets were yet free of enemies. Leading the way, the wizard went to the left and was followed up by Fulkh Marshal and his battalion, along with a polyglot company of townsmen on ponies making their bid for freedom from the deathtrap. Thugs began to outflank them through alleys to their right, but Myrdagyn and Horgand and the axmen filled the mouths of these avenues of attack and prevented the thugs from reaching the withdrawing horsemen. Bruno trotted on ahead of his master, the pair of war dogs straining on the leashes in his knotted fists. The street was free of enemies. Only scurrying townspeople could be seen fleetingly as they sought concealment from the oncoming column and the attackers pressing up behind. The fighting withdrawal of Myrdagyn, Horgand, the Drulathim and the others piled up corpses in the alleys, and streets, impeding the movement and ardor of their enemies, who allowed a space to form between them. Many flitted off to either hand to pillage the nearest houses.



The trollkind were most contrary, as is their nature. And yet their thuggish commander did manage to bring them into the street and press toward the fleeing defenders. So swift was the fighting withdrawal of the defenders, and so tempting and distracting were the helpless houses all around them, that soon the pursuit lost all direction and impetus. As the rape of Klyph began in earnest, the last of her defenders quietly made their escape from the scene

The Wizard and marshal came to where the street ended at a postern gate. Passing through this egress, the party emerged single file into the open and found the way virtually clear: their enemies posted to watch this door had almost all gone off to climb the conquered battlements or enter by the burst main gate; leaving the way of escape that our heroes now discovered.

(to be continued …)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bear'ly There

In Klyph, the baron Nhyrblas, holed up in the citadel, still resists Fulkh Marshal, who controls the town itself. But with the advent of the Brothers War, the townspeople are divided. The bulk of them side with Fulkh, who declares for Ebrohs and Gerath. The remainder are openly for the dominant town party, but secretly side with the baron, who favors the twins.

Antania's troops begin to be seen outside the walls of Klyph, securing the approaches to the town ahead of an army led by Ghorkil and Rahkard, which is coming to take Klyph by main force. The garrison of the town citadel is reinforced as well by Antania's troops. This is accomplished because the outer wall of the citadel cannot be covered by the marshal's forces while the open countryside is controlled by the more numerous enemy. Thus, Fulkh Marshal's faction is steadily failing. Yet he holds onto his siege of the citadel, stubbornly insisting that its reduction is the only choice they have if Klyph is to be saved.

Into this worsening situation, our heroes return from their battle with Ghrusoq at Melinarth, out of resources, wounded and exhausted. As they near the town, a band of refugees is seen moving toward the mountains, away from the beleaguered city. Among them, Sehlinah recognizes faces from her village. The band includes very few able-bodied men and is virtually defenseless. Feeling a great concern for their welfare, the girl openly declares her desire to see them safely into the north. Auhxalys is torn in her feelings, but Xoniuqé wants his village woman out of the dangers that are certain to follow and tells her to keep company with her young friend. The wizard, Mehlkohr, intent to resume unfinished business of his own, now that he is free of the prison at Melinarth, bids his rescuers farewell at this point too and also joins himself, for the time being, to the company fleeing Klyph.

The reduced party of Xoniuqé and Myrdagyn continues toward the city, skirting the edge of woodlands and keeping out of sight as much as possible.

As they come within sight of the city they see that the north side is the least covered by besieging troops. Only a postern gate is on this wall. Myrdagyn had arranged a signal by which they will be recognized by Fulkh Marshal's garrison, in the event of their party's return. So they bend their way toward that postern gate.

A hamlet is between them and the postern. It is garrisoned. On a hill between the woods and the hamlet is a forward outpost, where four men surround a small fire, throwing dice more than keeping watch (that is a watch fire, not a die being "thrown", despite all appearances). As the returning heroes move carefully along the edge of the trees, they spy, and are spied by, a patrol of cavalry. The horses splash across the stream.





As the cavalry approach to investigate these unknown people, they are witness to a sudden dramatic confrontation which could not be better timed to impress the scouts with the formidable quality of Myrdagyn's band. A bear had been scratching its back against a tree, when the sudden arrival of the party surprised it. The dogs set up a din and strained on the leashes in Bruno's fists. Nouvzé's horse bolted away from the ursine menace which advanced roaring across the open ground. Wheeling his horse, Lorinkh whipped up his crossbow and loosed a bolt which missed. His sword was out instantly, the crossbow cast aside. The bear rose up on its hind legs and swayed over horse and Drulath. But with a lightning quick backhand stroke "Lich Bane" struck off its head.

Xoniuqé told the others to form a fighting line and wait. The horses were skittish after the encounter with the bear, to say the least. Everyone dismounted except the wizard, who stayed slightly to the rear, observing the approaching patrol over the heads of the lined up warriors. He quietly told Bruno to be ready to loose the hounds on his command (but in the event this proved unnecessary).

With his dripping sword Lorinkh took his place beside Myrdagyn. The Drulathim legionaries formed on the left end with Khrohm, and the two surviving axmen took the right with Horgand and Nouvzé. Weapons were held at the ready. Lorinkh casually cleaned the bear's gore off his blade as the patrol walked toward them.






The officer leading the cavalry patrol pulled his men up and the two lines faced each other. The officer wanted to know who they were.

Xoniuqé spoke for the party:

"We are returning travelers. Our business is our own. But all you need to know is that we are going into that besieged town yonder. You can have all your eggs in one basket. Just let us pass."

The officer had no intention of confronting these formidable and more numerous people. But he was also not going to let their presence go unannounced. The wizard deduced these intentions. Weaving a web of casual good will around the minds of the scouts, he said: "We are of no importance. What can a dozen men do in Klyph? We mean no one any harm. Continue your patrol and we will go our way."

The officer led his men back across the stream and they pursued their interrupted patrol down the road.

Meanwhile, Ahnxst caught up with the rest of the party, having fallen behind to attend to his horse or some such delay.

Myrdagyn directed everyone along the base of the hill. As they came even with the edge of the woods they were spied by the lookouts on the hilltop, who called out to them but did not move to make contact. Rather they abandoned their post and hastened down off the hill to the hamlet, alerting its garrison of spearmen and archers.



The heroes watched over their left shoulders as they slowly passed the hamlet, observing how the troops there formed up in a long line of spearmen and bowmen intermixed. Suddenly this formation ran at them! It was obvious that they intended to bring themselves within range of their arrows and javelins. Rather than allow this, Myrdagyn and Lorinkh turned the whole party to the left and charged.


Lorinkh had the bear's head fastened to the breast strap of his horse. The blood had scarcely dried, the eyes still blazed insanely and the mouth with its fangs gaped open. He loosed a bloodcurdling scream as he closed with Nouvzé and Horgand on either hand. Ahnxst, who had dismounted and was bringing up the rear, saw the infantry in front of his uncle, and those nearby, turn at once and rout away. The Drulath hero made short work of them.

Horgand faced two enemies, his son likewise. Both were successful in the slaying.

The commander of the hamlet garrison with a spearman turned about to meet the youthful Drulath. Ahnxst was pressed back for a moment, until Lorinkh engaged the spearman. In the next instant both uncle and nephew each took down his man.

Along the little battle line the spearmen and bowmen hurled a largely feckless shot. Myrdagyn was wounded by a javelin but pressed his man back and finally slew him. The Drulathim legionaries utterly destroyed in an instant those facing them. In almost no time at all the enemy band was broken, slain and run off.






The way to the postern gate was open and they finished the distance quickly. Myrdagyn's signal rewarded them with a way inside and before any other enemy troops could prevent them, they were admitted.

From the battlements, Myrdagyn gazed upon an encircling arc of tents, pavilions and siege lines. He looked at the wizard.

"From the frying pan into the fire."

"We did that already," said Xoniuqé. "From the fire into the belly of the beast."