Sunday, June 11, 2017

Librohn the Liberator

At the imperial court in Lyn Seprhl, the twin emperors, Ghorkil and Rahkard, learned of the insurgents' successes in surprising and defeating various imperial forces sent to punish and subdue the towns and villages between the Seprhl river and Kanti forest. Blame was sought for the defeats. But rather than point to Antania's commanders, the twins lashed out at their own subjects. A couple of dupes lost their heads (to join the lengthening row of rotting skulls decorating the walls over the city gates). More troops were raised to deal with this Librohn and his chief lieutenant, Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy. The price on both their heads was raised.

A full battalion of Knights was provided as the core to this reorganized and reinforced army. It was not to divide up, but rather to descend upon each village en masse. If Librohn refused to offer battle, the pressure was to increase with each utterly destroyed rebel town and holding. The people would see the futility of supporting Gerath and Ebrohs.

A large part of the reconstituted imperial army was comprised of feudal troops, a mixed bag of heavy cavalry and spearmen, light mounted "serjants" with javelins and bowmen of the militia. Sword and spear and longbowmen were recruited to replace the heavy losses suffered by those troops in the earlier ambuscades. The Knight Commander, Hamartolon, was placed at the head of this enlarged army. And the Thug captain, "Tubby" received a new unit of Thugs out of the Masterless Quarter.

Discipline was lacking among this polyglot army. The feudal contingents were, of course, banded together; but the general feeling amongst their ranks was that it was beneath themselves to fight alongside such scum as these troops provided by the sorceress Antania. In addition to this general malaise of discontent, the feudal contingents were possessed by distrust of each other, because back home their border holdings did not exactly get along: their own petty lords had been, for some time, aggrandizing themselves at each other's expense during the breakdown of law and order occasioned by the civil wars. Although Ghorkil and Rahkard imposed a rough and immediate control over their subjects, the recently unrestrained bellicosity of the feudal lords had sown lasting discord. It was a divided host that the twin emperors had sent to deal with the insurgency in the north.

But Librohn was not reluctant to engage in pitched battle, as it turned out. The first village that the imperial army descended upon was saved by the appearance in their rear of a sizeable army of insurgents and an almost equal number of elves. This prodigy of unexpected support by the denizens of the Kanti forest was too much of a danger to Hamartolon and Tubby's army: it would have to be dealt with before the village could be attacked. So it was decided to turn about and form for battle on the outskirts of the village.

The defenders approached. And Hamartolon gave the signal for a general advance to meet them.

On the imperial right wing were the longbows in a line with the spear and sword. The center was composed of the Knights and Thugs. A small wood separated these from the feudal contingents of the left wing: heavy spearmen with militia archers on their flanks, and the extreme left end of the army being the heavy and light cavalry. These last mentioned troops started at speed to outflank Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy and his combined battle of men-at-arms and serjants. The erstwhile marshal at first pulled his horsemen in behind the elves, but then decided to meet his foes boldly, and turned back, forming his column into a line.

In the center of Librohn's army stood the largest body of elves, commanded by Dahryl the White Wing. They began to pepper the approaching Thugs and Knights at long range. On the left of these moved Librohn and the warrioress Meaghanne with his company of swordsmen. The left wing of the insurgents faced the imperial mercenaries with a similar sized force of longbowmen and infantry bearing mixed two-handed weapons.

As the centers closed, the elven arrow storm penetrated the plate armor of Tubby's men. His own person was battered by the incoming shafts but thus far he had not received a wound. But his men were not so blessed with luck: all down the line Thugs roared and screamed in pain and dropped like ten pins. Their bodies were not up to the deadly hail of Kanti arrows! (One-hit-apiece Thugs don't pose much of a resistance: the die roll to see if their drug and alcohol-laced bodies were primed for the fray failed!) Their "high" had passed sometime before the battle; the timing was off; perhaps the lack of discipline, combined with over-confidence, had allowed too early imbibing; in any case, these Thugs were garbage and promptly routed, carrying Tubby off with them. The flanking Knights could not have cared less to see their lowly comrades quit the battle. But the enveloping line of feudal troops were impressed by the disaster and promptly deserted the attack. Elven arrows had already decimated the ranks of militia bowmen, who had scarcely gotten in range and loosed a single volley before their remaining numbers were in full rout.



Dehpudzy kept his men under control and pursued for a limited distance, to assure himself that these craven horsemen were in fact quitting the field for good. He delivered up command of his battle to underlings. Then he detached himself and turned toward the center to see if his prowess could be more beneficial to the cause if he faced the center of their enemies. But the battle was already as good as over.

What the erstwhile marshal saw was this:

Elves and Librohn's men were finishing off the last of the Thugs. Librohn, Meaghanne and Dahryl pursued Tubby, wounding him several times, but he skedaddled successfully and escaped (managing to lightly wound the girl in the bargain; she had then fallen back and let the other two heroes do the pursuing). Hamartolon had met swords and axes (who had rushed him before his battle could charge), killed some and then withdrawn from combat. At that moment the men of the village had sallied across the fields toward the rear of the imperial center and right wing.

Hamartolon commanded a general withdrawal from the doomed battlefield: his cavalry turned about and charged through the loose ranks of peasants (who did their best to scatter out of the way), successfully abandoning the battle without a single casualty. The imperial right wing turned from a thus far successful fight against Librohn's infantry (the imperial longbows had been shooting down Librohn's archers), and double-timed off the battlefield to the east.

Librohn and his men and elven allies were victorious. But the imperial army had escaped largely intact, so swiftly had they fled the ignominious encounter.

Upon learning of this degrading defeat, the twin emperors arrested the "usual suspects" (as usual, a feudal petty lord or two and a score or so of unfortunates who were decimated as an example), and the walls of Lyn Seprhl provided a feast for the crows.

The imperial army was reorganized and strengthened. Meanwhile, "Librohn the Liberator" found himself the center of a recruitment of volunteers as a steady stream of heartened men joined him. The elves mostly bade him farewell and returned to their forest realm. But Dahryl remained with his kinsmen to bolster the cause of his friends. From north of the Esgroth mountains, the brothers of the twins, Ebrohs and Gerath, sent what troops they could spare to reinforce this timely resistance, unlooked for by themselves. They had feared an overwhelming attack from Ghorkil and Rahkard, before a proper defense of the passes could be organized. Having this "Librohn the Liberator" rise up unlooked for had benefitted the revolution (or "rebellion", depending on which side you adhered to, as always). In the interim, Ebrohs and Gerath were given the time that they needed to recruit and organize formidable opposition to the seizing of power by their older twin brothers ...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Librohn the Insurgent

Gathering what able bodied men Librohn's trashed village could provide, and joining his force to that of the elves led by the White Wing, the combined army set out on the trail of the imperial "brute squad"; for that is how the twin emperors were using their armies since the break with their two younger brothers in rebellion (or resistance, depending on which side you adhere to).

A couple of days after leaving Kanti, the elf scouts brought word that the imperials had divided their forces, the better to more quickly discipline villages loyal to Gerath and Ebrohs. Now was Librohn's opportunity. He agreed that their whole force would descend on the nearest village which had been attacked by the imperial troops.

The village will remain nameless in this chronicle. What counts is that the "brute squad" entered the place and cowed any potential defense before it could be organized. The best that the men of the village could do was hide some weapons as quickly as possible and suffer the fate of their women and children who were severally debased to provide a lesson in obedience. Then the brute squad entered the houses of their victims to spend the night in further revelry and besotted sleep.

Waiting in the nearby trees, Librohn and his people ground their teeth with frustration, as they saw the open fires in the burning fields and heard the distant, sporadic cries of those victimized by the lusts of the brute squad. This outrage must be suffered, in order to place the imperial troops in their power, by allowing them to fully degrade in discipline as they threw caution to the wind and indulged in rapine.

In the wee hours just before dawn, Librohn gave the word to advance silently and attack. Spare no enemy that comes into their clutches. As soon as the slaughter of the reavers is completed, everyone is to disperse as quickly as possible into the Kanti forest, where the elves will direct all successful patriots to a designated meeting place.

The avengers advance in the pre-dawn darkness over the blackened, smoldering fields toward the houses. Confident in their belief that no resistance is afoot, the imperial troops have left no sentries about the perimeter.

But troops moving in the extreme quiet of pre-dawn do make noise, no matter how quietly they attempt to approach.

The emperors' men, in the barn ahead of Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy and his company, include a squad of Antania's Knights, they wake up and alert the other men billeted there. Thugs growl and grumble and are slow to stir and clumsy to arm up!

In the house nearest to the bridge in this perspective, the commander of the spearmen, swordsmen and archers, Gowhan, is sound asleep, sharing space with a spearman. The shutters are thrown wide and even the door is slightly ajar to let in the night air, dispersing the fetid atmosphere of the violated cottage. There are no other inhabitants by this point: either dead or fled to other houses, or even hiding down by the stream.

A large mixed Elven force of spear, sword and bow closes on the part of the village on the other side of the deep stream, which, south of the bridge, is only to be crossed by swimming. The Elves decide to use the bridge: the archers pass through the gate and over the outer fence, while the sword enter the village from the west and the spear parallel the stream and clamber over the bridge.

Meaghanne is with the archers. While the forces combined in the Kanti forest, she and an Elf bowman had met and fallen for each other. She is at his side.

The pair of them turn aside to test the door of the outbuilding; it is fastened from inside. The warrioress beats on the door with her two-handed sword. Suddenly it is ripped open and an arrow punctures her armor, wounding her sharply yet slightly beneath. Furiously she presses into the doorway and engages a covering swordsman. Their weapons clash. Her sword breaks! She is driven back outside. Her elf boyfriend steps in and cuts down the swordsman. She picks up the sword and the two of them finish off the imperial archer.

Librohn and his men approach up the road from the west.

Circling around from the north, Dahryl the White Wing and his company cross the outer fence and approach the houses. The first door that they try opens. A groggy Thug is soon dispatched before he can arm himself. The Elves pass between the houses and gather in the street. Doors are tried. Most are locked. They are stout and must be broken in by main force.
Inside they meet resistance. The "brute squad" is ready. But they are outclassed. A handful of Elves are wounded out of the fight. But another Thug and several infantry are dispatched.

Librohn and his men enter the west section of the village and test doors, finding each one closed up tight. They begin the noisy labor of bashing them in.

Elves try other doors, finding two houses unoccupied. A third is quickly breached and the Elves pour inside, dispatching the imperial troops. One Elf is lost.
The Elven archers cross the bridge to the east side. Gowhan is awake by now and with his spearman they shut the door and wait in something close to panic. Elves try the door. It cannot be locked and the two men press on it with bodily strength, successfully keeping it closed.
Then arrows thump into the door and walls inside! Archers have gone around to the back and are shooting through the open windows.
Gowhan and the spearman yank the door open and rush into the street. Archers are waiting for them! The spearman is pinned to the swinging door and Gowhan drops and rolls. He gets to his feet but is surrounded, knocked down, gets up again and barely manages to surrender instead of being butchered.

Librohn and his swordsmen break into the middle house on the south side of the street. After a stiff little fight they kill all four infantry found inside, half of whom were in an unarmed and seriously bleary condition.
The nearest house on the south side has its door broken in by a billman, who meets Tubby and in the next instant is crushed to the ground. The Thug commander steps aside and the two archers with him shoot through the open door, bringing down an Elf swordsman and another billman. The rest scatter for cover up the street and down the alley between the empty house and the barn. The Thug refuses to come out to the taunts of his enemies (a moment of unusual "intelligence" on Tubby's part).
 Librohn and his men exit the house and go around to the rear of it, collecting Meaghanne and her boyfriend; he joins his own people and the girl goes with the erstwhile "mayor" of Kanti. They proceed through the backyards and come to the last fence. Cavalry are approaching in the pre-dawn gloom. They don't look friendly, and why would they be expected to be?
As they form column and enter a trot, drawing near, it is plain that this is a returning patrol of Knights from Antania. At their head is a formidable fighter named Hamartolon. He commands his men to charge the Elf spearmen now massed and facing the cavalry in the street. The swordsmen pack the alley. The horses enter the street, but unaccountably, the Knights take fright and pull up short in the face of fell Elvish eyes and glinting spear points! The charge is lost!

Hamartolon gives the command to withdraw and reface for another charge. As his horsemen complete the maneuver, Tubby seizes on this unlooked for boon of intervention. He leads his three comrades outside into the street, where they face the spearmen as they close on them. The swordsmen move out around the north end of the barn, outflanking the melee in the street.
Hamartolon's column is suddenly rushed by Librohn, Meaghanne and the swordsmen. The leading Knight to Hamartolon's right is unhorsed. He leads his column forward, but before they can reach charge speed, they fetch up against the rear of Tubby's little knot of embattled troops, who could not get out of the way!
The Knights are led by their commander to the left to meet the attacking swordsmen. Tubby's fleeing archers are shot down by Librohn's longbowmen. The swordsman to Tubby's right is skewered on an Elven spear. The inebriated Thug is surrounded by spears and swords.
The Knights are unhorsed and killed, all but one, who breaks out. And, Hamartolon, who through sudden prodigies of horsemanship practically vaults his horse over the swordsmen and escapes. On his way out, he fastens a brawny fist on the bear fur pelt of the fleeing Thug and carries him off, face down and roaring, feet beating the air.

Meanwhile, "back at the barn" on the east side of the stream. Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy and his men have forced the door open, only to be met by Knights and Thugs, backed by a sizeable group of mixed infantry. Altogether, over half a score of men had been using the barn as their billet for the night. Now it is their trap.
Two Knights on horse burst out of the doorway, to be surrounded by infantry and unhorsed. One Knight is dispatched where he struggles to rise from the welter of his mount's destruction. The second Knight fights on until overpowered and killed.
Dehpudzy is about to enter this little melee when he sees a number of imperial troops issue from the long house at his rear, and the facing houses as well. Archers shoot! He roars and moves his horse to attack. The archers bolt, only to be faced by the White Wing and his men, fresh from their execution of the villager's reavers. Surrounded on all sides, the imperial bowmen and infantry are done to death, save a single archer who escapes over the fence and into the gloom.
An axman penetrates the barn doorway after a retreating mounted Knight. But as he enters he is cut down by flanking Thugs. The rest of Dehpudzy's men withdraw out of range and ring the barn entrance. Fire is brought and the barn soon is blazing fiercely. Not a man escapes alive.
The village is done for. Seizing what hidden weapons they had, the menfolk and their families follow their avengers into the dawn and enter the forest not far off.

Now that the twin emperors know of the insurgency, they put more troops into the campaign of suppression. The whole borderland south of the mountains must be subjected, their younger brothers' adherents eradicated.
Librohn's force has grown, and grows larger still as he moves from village to village, saving as many people as they can, and ambushing the "brute squads" as opportunity and luck allow.