Sunday, April 30, 2017

Librohn the Insurgent

Gathering what able bodied men his 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, Darryl 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.

 
Afterword:
 
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.




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 douse 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.