Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Librohn's Liberators

The armed and wounded girl did not remember how she got to the village. The women of the village of "Kanti" tended Meaghanne's injuries and she quickly regained her strength under their care. But the memory of how she had fled the doomed castle was largely a blank.

Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy fled the doomed barony with a price on his head. He too arrived at the village of "Kanti" with a few followers, a handful of men-at-arms and sergeants and a few infantry and archers. This reinforcement was welcomed by the lord of that place, a retired soldier named Librohn.

His village was virtually an open settlement on the edge of the Kanti forest, with a stream that emerged from the trees and protected it on the west and south sides during part of the year, but hardly formed an impediment when the water level dropped in summer and fall. A low wall or fence of wood and piled rocks ran around the outskirts and along between the houses parallel to the edge of the forest. The village square was actually paved, with a well in the northeast corner. On the north, the forest side, of the square there was a real wall of masonry some nine feet in height: the feckless beginning of real fortifications which the impecunious state of Librohn's holding had failed to extend any further. The most substantial building in the village was a two-story combined tavern on the ground level, with rooms above for guests or the village's garrison; this L-shaped stone structure ran along the east side and half of the south side of the square. Houses fronted the rest of the south and the west side. Three streets accessed the square from the south, west and northeast.




The core company that defended the village was companions of Librohn who had followed him into retirement from imperial service. Leader and comrades were half a dozen fully armed swordsmen. Not enough to secure the village, Librohn made do with a rotating militia from its denizens of a dozen or so halberdiers and crossbowmen. The inclusion of Sir Skoluh'r and his troops substantially augmented the number of professional fighters.

A mere fortnight following the erstwhile marshal's arrival and employment, of a morning, the sounds of alarm came from the farm fields that lay outside the walls and beyond the stream: approaching up the dirt roadway came a band of Thugs, and behind them came spearmen and archers. Before all the peasants who had been tending the fields could get across the stream some of them were caught and killed.

By the time the marauders had splashed over the ford to the village and engaged the defenders at the opening in the wall, the inhabitants had been aroused and men poured into the streets and rushed toward the entrance and the perimeter. First on hand to meet the attackers was Librohn's lieutenant, a brave but somewhat rash swordsman named "Sekuhnd". He led a handful of halberdiers. Some peasants joined this small band, while a few crossbows shot from behind the wall flanking the ford with little effect. The clang and thud of weapon strokes began the battle for the village.

Sir Skoluh'r emerged from the tavern into the square where the main mass of defenders was mustering according to prior arrangement. Villagers were also pouring into the square, getting in the way for a time, before their lord ordered them to take shelter inside the stone-walled tavern and barracks. By then, Sir Skoluh'r had gone swiftly to a nearby barn and saddled his warhorse. Entering the street and moving toward the embattled village gate, he took stock of the situation: it did not look good! Many peasants were already down. Thugs, led by a ferocious brute with a blood spattered flail (no less an unworthy than "Tubby" himself), had already pressed into the village to the intersecting streets. Sekuhnd was trading unequal strokes with the Thug chieftain, and finally went down bleeding in the street. Sir Skoluh'r turned his horse about and retraced his way to the village square. There he met most of his mounted men who had individually armed themselves and made their way to the mustering. He took his place at their head and faced from the square down the street toward where the Thugs and spearmen were making slaughter of the villagers. Some of the marauders were already setting buildings afire on the south edge of the village.

Retreating into the square came a lone Elf. His two companions that he had come to the village with the day before, to discuss alliance with Librohn, at his request, had already perished under a hail of marauder arrows. The Elf hero, Dahryl (White Wing), was of much greater prowess, being one of those who had even faced Ghrusoq and the High One of Melinarth's invasions in generations past, but had then retired to his own people where he had remained for the many years since. At the wall, where his two companions in arms had succumbed, he had rapidly dispatched several of the enemy with his enormous war bow. But too many archers had seen him in the alley from where he shot and the incoming deluge of return missiles had forced him to retreat.

As the defense, with Sir Skoluh'r leading the way, pushed out of the square, the White Wing's keen eyes saw movement on the far side of the fields to the east. A large body of infantry was advancing toward the village. Feudal spearmen, more enemies!

Dahryl left the square to loose several arrows at long range. A couple of missiles found their mark and brought down spearmen. The rest saw the lone shooter and hastened their advance. Before the Kanti archer could target anymore, he saw and heard an approaching clot of enemies coming through the trees. More thugs, but of the lesser sort. He saw javelins hefted as they emerged between the trees and reached the wall. The Elf shot down three of them then turned and withdrew swiftly back to the village square.

The girl Meaghanne was there standing with her drawn sword beside Librohn and two of his swordsmen. A few angry women refused to enter the tavern and barracks building and milled about the square awaiting the arrival of their tormentors.

The bulk of marauder archers had moved around the smoldering and burning houses to face the backside of the tavern and barracks. Thugs were over the wall and massing to move into the street toward the square.

On the west side of the village, Warrior crossbows and a band of halberd armed marauders had forded the stream and crossed the undefended outer wall and fences. They were joined by swordsmen who had also come from the forest side. These troops fired the first houses that they came to. On the east of the village, Knights of Chaos arrived on the field, sent by Antania to reinforce the twin emperors in their war against the "rebels". Feudal cavalry and crossbows came near on the west side, the cavalry moving along the opposite side of the stream from the village, intent on entering by the gateway.
 
The mounted defenders with Sir Skoluh'r met the first Thugs and spearmen and killed them, driving the others back to the intersection. The heroic Dehpudzy turned right and his men divided right and left, beating spearmen back. The horses crushed the fallen. Sekuhnd, lying unconscious all the while, was unlucky and perished under this additional "attack". Further up the street, Tubby and the bulk of his men had dispatched all defenders in sight and were retracing their steps toward the intersection. The mounted men-at-arms could be seen and the Thugs moved eagerly toward the melee.

One of Dehpudzy's men who had turned left was assailed three to one by spearmen, but so stoutly did this man-at-arms resist the attack that he actually drove two of his assailants back into a fiercely burning house where they were immolated.

At this point, the defenders could see Warrior crossbows approaching, single file from the west, avoiding the out of control fires on the north side of the street. Longbow arrows and crossbow bolts flickered through the smoke. Defenders went down! They withdrew back around the corner out of sight. The attackers were entering the village in overwhelming strength!

All of the villagers, except a few militant women who stood by their men folk, had taken shelter in the stout tavern and barracks building. The defenders who remained were moving to defend the buildings that surrounded the square. Sir Skoluh'r and his troops were extended down the main street, buying a few more moments of precious time to organize the defense of the square.

The way was actually open to the erstwhile marshal and his men-at-arms and sergeants: if he gave the command, they could escape this closing deathtrap. But he thought that this would be a very unchivalrous act. And he dismissed it from his mind ...
 
 
(To be continued ...)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Breakout

Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy, when he learned of the demise of his lady the empress and her infant son, the heir to the barony, decided that the evil designs of the twin emperors, Ghorkil and Rahkard, would hardly ignore his part in their rise to power. Although his resistance had aided them in their fratricide, Dehpudzy held no doubts that his rebellion against the house of Korydohn had branded him a "rebel". And already it was known that those so-labeled were being ruthlessly destroyed.

But he had little time to prepare for a siege. And while he was away securing more provisions and reinforcements, an army sent by the twins invested the baronial castle.

Within a fortnight, the garrison was out of provender and left with the choice of surrender or starvation. The former choice was moot, as it was obvious from the plumes of smoke in the distance and the bodies of hapless peasants outside the walls that genocide was the order of the day: all living were to be butchered as a lesson to surrounding towns and castles, that anyone who had resisted imperial authority would suffer a like fate.

While Sir Skoluh'r fretted how he might possibly bring aid to his garrison and the common people of the barony cowering inside, the deputy (bearing the marshal's arms, as ordered by Dehpudzy himself, to lend visible encouragement to the demoralized inhabitants) determined on the latter course: the two castle gates were thrown open and the garrison emerged, arranging themselves as best they could to guard the peasants. Everyone made a break for the forests not far away.


Of course, the besiegers, when they saw this sally, seized their weapons and arrayed themselves. Battle was soon joined on both sides of the castle.

To the west, the more open side, lay the bulk of the imperial army, composed of feudal spearmen, crossbows and a battalion of mostly feudal cavalry. A company of Knights of Chaos, sent by Antania, and a few score heavily armed mercenaries, stiffened the feudal mounted men-at-arms. And there was a unit of several hundreds of Warrior crossbowmen stationed in the midst of the feudal infantry. These troops were the best in the polyglot imperial army the emperor twins had sent to destroy the barony.

On the east side of the castle lay the open village not far beyond the gate. Some hapless villagers were seen daily in the street, appearing to go about their normal business. This was rightly interpreted by the deputy as a ploy to get the castle to surrender, belying the columns of smoke rising over the trees and the previously mentioned bodies of peasants scattered about. To the north of the village were feudal yeomen archers and spearmen. To the south stood a large band of thugs, of the scrappier sort.

Unseen by the garrison, concealed within the village houses, was a formidable band of heavily armed Thugs, pumped on potent drug-laced liquor and awaiting their chances. Their commander was none other than "Tubby", one of the leaders of the legendary raid on the town in the Kylburian Themes the previous year. As one of Antania's mercenary commanders, he was serving the twin emperors at the behest of his Mistress the Witch.

From the east gate came the cavalry in column, riding into the village. Behind them emerged half of the peasants who had been sheltering in the castle. And on either flank of these frightened people were arrayed a body of archers to the south and foot soldiers armed with two-handed weapons to the north.

From the west gate a unit of billmen, flanked by archers, screened the rest of the peasants. The left wing of archers exchanged shot with the feudal crossbows and routed them. Scorning these cravens, the Warrior crossbows moved up to take their place.

The feudal cavalry charged the archers and billmen, contacting all the billmen and most of the archers to their left. They broke in rout and were massacred! The peasants skedaddled for the trees. The archers not struck by the feudal cavalry exchanged long range shooting with the Warrior crossbows and were shot down by them.





The feudal spearmen had been the most tardy to get ready to face the emerging castle denizens. But once arrayed, they formed a column and moved toward the forest, angling to attempt to cut off the fleeing peasants.

On the village side, the cavalry suddenly found themselves in combat with emerging Thugs in the street. The rest of the Thugs caught and slew as many of the exposed villagers as they could. A couple of hundred villagers managed to escape to the trees to the southeast.



Most of the defending archers were killed by charging thugs, despite inflicting significant casualties that nevertheless failed to stop the charge. The more heavily armed garrison infantry advanced to engage the far more numerous yeomen and spearmen coming rapidly down on them from the north.

When the archers broke in rout this panicked the cavalry and soon the street was a confusion of turning horses as the knights and sergeants tried to escape the "deathtrap". At the same instant, the Thugs also panicked because of the casualties that the cavalry had been inflicting on them. It took a awhile before "Tubby" could rally them (actually, that was his perception; in fact they rallied of their own accord).

Tubby himself slew the deputy.

By the time the Thugs sorted themselves out, the fleeing garrison and peasants had escaped contact, skirted the battle where the doomed infantry were mobbed by superior numbers, and ran around toward the trees to the northeast. The main body of cavalry survived, along with all the peasants.


The westward fleeing peasants also gained the trees to the northwest, just ahead of their pursuers, who gave up the chase. The last piece of fighting was between a few archers and the Warrior crossbows, who easily shot down the greatly outnumbered and unarmored archers.

Well, not quite the last bit of fighting. A single combatant remained still in the village. This was a young woman named Meaghanne, who had armed herself and mustered with the infantry that emerged from the east gate. But she had encountered a pair of Thugs, and, with a garrison swordsman briefly at her side, had traded blows with them. Just as her opponent unaccountably turned to flee, she heard a ruckus in the street to her rear, and turned just in time to fend off the spear of a well-advanced thug, of that band which was destroying the archers and beginning to attack the fleeing cavalry. The woman desperately sought to dispatch her opponent so that she too could flee this deathtrap. But he was stubborn, or her attack feckless. In any case, she was detained. More enemies entered the village from the north, feudal spearmen led by a man-at-arms on foot. Meaghanne was surrounded! In an instant she was down and lost consciousness. All of her enemies passed over her motionless body, assuming her slain, except for one thug who hastily thrust his short spear into her armor several more times before also joining in the pursuit of the fleeing garrison and peasants.
 


But by sheer good fortune, none of her numerous wounds were fatal. She regained her senses slowly. Painfully she dragged herself to the nearest doorway of a shack and hid inside. As darkness fell, the sound of returning troops alerted the young woman of her peril. She was still trying to seclude herself when the door swung wide and a pair of mercenary archers saw her. At once they attacked the almost helpless warrioress. She was wounded again before managing to tangle one man with a piece of furniture while hacking and thrusting at the other until he was backed into the alley and fell to the ground. He fumbled at her as she staggered past, and was slow to regain his feet. She went around the corner of the next house and into the street, and ran face to face with yet another mercenary. This man, too, she succeeded in knocking to the ground. He must have already been drunk for he was slower yet regaining his feet. By then, Meaghanne had turned down an alley and lost herself in the gathering gloom. She was fortunate to meet with no further encounters and gained the shelter of the trees. Her wounds were serious and in a nightmare of exhaustion, pain and interminable hours of darkness, she slowly made her way from that place ...