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.