Sunday, March 12, 2017

Kanti Crush

Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy saw the Thugs advancing toward him. He shouted to his men to withdraw to the village square. The spearmen in front of him he rapidly dispatched, whirled his horse about in the narrow road and went around the corner between smoking buildings. The other horsemen under his command also successfully withdrew behind him, where he had turned about and faced back down the street.

The first archers to arrive at the rear of the barracks and tavern building were attacked by Librohn's pack of war hounds. Arrows and swords made short work of three and the last one ran away and leaped the fence yelping.

Tubby arrived at the intersection, saw the formidable array of lances, and passed on to the other side.

He and his men joined with the longbows in trying to set the barracks building afire. This became problematic, as the well in the square provided the defenders an ample supply of water in buckets, which were passed inside to dowse the interior next to the outside wall. No matter how much flaming material was applied to the base of the outside wall, the heat was insufficient to ignite anything within.

The rear door was a very stout affair. Even Tubby could not make headway against it. His men were amused at his feckless efforts and he pushed the closest one in front of the door and said, "Have at it then, if you think it's so easy!" Feeling trepidation at his captain's anger strengthened the Thug's arm and he began to hack sizeable splinters from the door's outer surface. But it was a slog.

Inside, the rebounding "Boom!" of the blows on the door, the damp smoke filling the rooms, and a general sense of panic, sent many villagers fleeing from the building into the square, where they milled in a clamorous mob, interfering with the efforts to fight the brigands' fires placed against the east side of the barracks and tavern.

Meanwhile, the swordsmen, halberdiers and Warrior crossbows had penetrated through the west side of the village, setting more houses alight. The Warriors reached the square and a very brief melee took place against the defenders at the mouth of the street. Darryl (the White Wing) and some archers resisted the Warriors, and largely through his prowess with his longsword, the forward most Warriors were slain and the rest withdrew to the far end of the street. Here they lined up two ranks deep and threw bolts into the square down the length of the smoke-filled space between the houses. A few unlucky peasants were struck down as they milled about.


Darryl dashed forward and into the side alley, from where he intended to emerge and shoot quickly at the Warriors. But after his first two shots he discovered that his quiver was empty! He saw no more bolts whining past the mouth of the alley and took the chance to run back to the square.

But the Warriors had been waiting for him. He was wounded, though not seriously, as he reached the square and slipped around the corner. Cursing under his breath, he bent to the corpse of a felled yeoman and took up his bow and quiver (setting his own war bow over his shoulder: there was no way that these comparatively puny missiles could be shot from such a powerful weapon, so he'd have to make do with this "human" implement instead).

The Warriors had continued to snipe up the street. He waited until the next volley and then raced for the alley again, arriving unscathed. The tiny court behind the houses was choked with smoke. A narrow place, between the backs of two houses, revealed the shouts of a group of the enemy setting the nearest house afire. Already evil flames were licking up the walls and getting under the thatched roof. Darryl quickly loosed three arrows, but without effect, which he blamed on the smoke and the two walls which interfered with the flight path. He reached down for more arrows. Unaccountably, the quiver was empty! Either he hadn't noticed how few arrows it contained or he had somehow lost some in his dash to the alley, while intent on not getting shot.

The houses that formed the constricted courtyard were flaming out of control by then. He had no other choice but to brave the street once more and regain the square. A peasant was cowering in the opening of the alley. Darryl pushed the man out into the street and the two of them dashed for cover. They made it. But the elf took another light wound from a bolt.

The mass of lesser thugs from the forest had gone over the fence and advanced up the northeast street to attack the defenders of the square. These were Librohn, his four swordsmen and Meaghanne. The thugs were no match for the village's leader. And the girl, with the help of a flanking swordsman, also dispatched the first enemy to arrive within sword stroke.

The casualties from this resistance broke the thugs' morale and they withdrew from the fight back down the street between burning buildings, over the fence and into the trees. They were pursued a short distance down the street by Librohn and Meaghanne, who accounted for several more before the thugs got out of reach.

Feudal spearmen had penetrated across the fences, but upon seeing the discomfiture of the thugs, ran off east, where they rallied upon the field of cabbage, radish and rutabaga. By then the buildings at that corner of the village were flaming violently. The reorganized spearmen slowly approached the village again.

The feudal horsemen and Knights that had followed along the south bank of the stream arrived at the entrance to the village, splashed over the ford and entered in single file between the burning houses. Barely able to keep their horses under control, the foremost of their number approach the square and met Dehpudzy. He unhorsed the first man to cross lances, then skewered him where he lay on the ground. Twice more he slew. And the rest of the company of horsed attackers turned and make rapid tracks out of the burning village, back across the ford, and continued to flee.

The squadron of Antania's Knights pulled aside and let these cravens pass, then closed up and took their places, trotting up the main street toward the square. The first houses to be set on fire had by then burned mostly to the ground. There was a great deal of smoke but less fire now. The first Knight to reach the erstwhile marshal, Sir Skoluh'r, went down as surely and quickly as the others.

By then, Tubby and his fellow commander, Gowhan (he commanded the longbows and spearmen), had had a palaver over their options.

Gowhan's archers were out of arrows by then. The barracks and tavern refused to catch on fire, the rear door was most stubborn, the village was almost entirely engulfed in flames or had already succumbed to the same, and the square was obviously very stoutly defended. What was the point of pursuing this attack any more? The message had been sent: Do not rebel against the twin emperors, or this is the fate that will fall upon you. There were other villages along the outskirts of the Kanti forest, which adhered to the younger brothers, Ebrohs and Gerath. Those rebels needed a lesson, like this one. The village of "Kanti" would become a byword. Other villages might surrender when it was known what had occurred here. The emperors' command to "slay every living soul" could be temporized by the situation: every soul which had come into their power was indeed a bleeding or smoldering corpse.

So it was decided to withdraw, regroup, recruit, and move on to the next village that flew the banner of Ebrohs and Gerath. Hearing the horns, the Knights wheeled about in the street and cantered away. Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy let them go. The street before him was choked enough with the bodies of his foes as it was, and out in the open he and his tiny company would stand no chance.

The square was filled with rejoicing and grieving and furious villagers. Many of their menfolk were dead. The whole village was destroyed except for the barracks and inn building, a longhouse and a cottage that fronted the square. Kanti was no more.

Librohn counseled with his men and the remaining menfolk of his mortally wounded village. It was decided to appeal to the Kanti forest elves to help the women and children through to the north territories. Meanwhile, the men would track the brigands and attack them as best they could.

Darryl said that his folk would provide a support for this effort. Their sacred forest had been physically threatened by this attack. The fired buildings could have easily set the trees alight. That affront must not go unpunished. So the Kantim would have their revenge, and send a counter message: do not come near the forest with fire or sword, or you will pay a heavy price.

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 ...)