Jest of Highland War A.S. XL
Everything in this account happened just as I have written…well… almost.
It was high noon as I led the Dreiburgen column onto the grounds of Georges Keep with over a 191 horses pulling wagons laden down with grain, meat, tents, weapons and armor, for it was here in the Highland Pass that we would make our stand against raiders that cross our northern deserts. As we made camp within the outer walls of the keep, I took measure of how well the Shire of al-Sahid maintained the keep and the grounds. Suitable to garrison Caid’s finest, for we all know that Caid’s finest fighting men rally to Dreiburgen’s banner.
After the tents were staked, I made a tour of the keep to see who had answered the call to arms. I was happy to learn that both the Skull & Compass and the La Villa a Broka had responded to my request to give aid by anchoring in Lake Evans and making the overland trek. Captain Vincenzo of the Skull & Compass came with much needed supplies and equipment, but he had no troops to pledge. Captain Connor however, not only was able to provide most of his fighting men, but his connections had once again brought Templars to the cause. Unfortunately the need to make the overland march quickly had prevented them from bringing artillery. Connor did inform me that once again Isaac had pledged to be my right hand shieldman. “He is exactly what I need in a bodyguard”, I said. “Loyal?” offered Captain Connor. “Psychotic”, I replied, and ambled back to camp.
As evening came I was able to ascertain how many loyal Dreiburgundian nobles I would have on the field. Among them were Lady Una, Lord Jacques and Lord Hrothbeorht. Once I had a full accounting of my troops, I was able to check in with General Gregory and confer with him as to our total strength. He was pleased to hear that the men I brought would increase our numbers by a full third. We retired that evening comfortable in the knowledge that we would face the enemy with full brigade strength.
When I awoke the next morning, the camp was a buzz with the news that his Majesty the King had arrived to aid us in our defense of al-Sahid, Dreiburgen, and ultimately Caid. Unfortunately this news was not as good as I had hoped. His Majesty had not been able to bring the main body of the Caidan Army due to the fact that there was another attack on Calafia. Rumors of the undead army we faced last spring filled the air. Concerned about morale, I called muster and pointed out that Calafia was more then a two weeks march from al-Sahid ¾ we had more pressing business to tend to here. I then marched them out of the keep and had them form up so that the Fifth Brigade was on our right. From there General Gregory led us down the north slope.
Our scouts had reported that the raider’s column had spread out across the desert, therefore they were unable to get a proper idea of the enemies’ strength. The plan was to take up position forward of the old fortifications on the north slope. The summer had been very hot, leaving many of the watering holes between here and Starkhafn dry. We knew that any army coming out of the desert would be suffering from a shortage of water. If we had the superior numbers this would make our job easier. If they had the greater force then we would be forced into a holding action, keeping them away from any source of water, thus letting desert exposure do some of our work for us. The wells in the old look out towers would be their first opportunity for water and we were not going to let them have it.
As the enemy marched up the pass, Sir Edwards trotted over. “Gregory and I have a plan and all we need is your men to follow my lead.” We swung the Dreiburgen force around to the far left of the Fifth Brigade; the enemy advanced and engaged the Fifth. Sir Edwards yelled, “Follow me!” and we charged around their left flank. There were only a few shieldmen guarding the flank, and with Isaac on my right and Hrothbeorht on my left we chopped them into bloody mince meat. We then turned and moved up the back of their line and unleashed chaos. Most of them had no idea we were there until it was too late. Their line broke, men scattering as we picked them off one by one. Soon all that was left was their commanding officer. Isaac went for him and I yelled “WAIT HE’S WORTH MORE ALI…!” Too late. Isaac had moved in behind him and with a look of delight on his face slit the officer’s throat. “I’m going to have to talk to that boy”, I thought to myself.
But now was not the time; the next wave was coming and they outnumbered us. Gregory ordered a withdrawal and we pulled back behind an old wall, crumbling with many holes and no longer in possession of a gate. Captain Connor and Lord Damashipositioned their crew at one opening; I took Isaac, Hrothbeorht and the Templars to the one next to them. The Fifth Brigade took the gateway and the holes to my right, and there we held them for a time. Damashi caved in heads, Connor poked out eyes, but it wasn’t enough. We were loosing too many men, and barely holding the raiders back. I turned to General Gregory. “This isn’t working”, I said. “We’re spread too thin”, he replied. “We will have to pull back to the bridge.” I turned back to the men and told them, “We’ll charge the opening to try and knock them back. That ought to give us some breathing room. Then we pull back to the bridge.” William the Templer was to my left and Isaac to my right. I looked at them and asked, “Ready”? They nodded. “Charge!”
We hit their line hard and they fell back, most of them dead. We pushed through the opening in the wall and killed several more. “Now”, I yelled “Pull back!” But not everyone responded; instead several men continued forward. I do not know what was the cause, the excitement of a successful attack, the noise of battle making my commands unheard, or just blind foolishness, but they would not retreat. William, Isaac and myself held the opening for a moment as I tried in vain to call them back ¾ it was a moment too long. The enemy regrouped and came back in force. They slaughtered all of our men on their side of the wall and came at us. We retreated as they poured through the opening.
It was a mad house. They came through as we retreated and our forces were mixed with much confusion, not knowing if the man next to you was friend or foe. Isaac turned to see one enemy soldier calmly walk past him. “Hey”, Isaac called. The soldier turned and Isaac brought his sword down splitting his skull wide open. “Let’s go!” I yelled, retreating for the bridge.
The old bridge was still strewn with debris, which now served as cover for our troops as we regrouped and prepared to repel the invaders. They came in fast and we lost several good men, but we managed to stop them in the middle of the bridge. Pikemen were needed so I moved in and suddenly CLANK! a crossbow bolt glanced off my helm. I heard Damashi’s voice. “The archers are targeting you, Your Excellency! You’d better get out of there!” Another bolt flew past as I moved to the rear. It was then I noticed that Hrothbeorht was lying amongst the wounded with the healers tending to him. A sword tip had lodged inside the wing of his elbow and pierced the crook of his arm. He could no longer hold a sword, and was being readied to be moved back to camp. I took stock of our losses as I looked over our wounded and back to the men at the bridge.
At that moment the enemy made another charge. A man as big as a mountain ran right at Sir Edwards. I saw Lord Brennos lean into Sir Edwards to assist him in bracing for the impact, but the man was too massive. His weapon caught Edward under his chin and lifted him up into the air! I heard Brennos call out, “Major, I don’t recall this maneuver from our practice drills”, as Sir Edward’s belt hooked on his helmet and they were both lifted over backwards. The enemy advanced as Edwards and Brennos untangled themselves. The next thing I knew, Sir Edward was on his back scuttling like a crab away from an advancing pikeman. The Fifth closed in to cover their Major, and Edwards regained his feet.
I looked across the gorge to the enemy. A large portion of their force was retiring to the tower on their side. Then it hit me. The tower! There’s a well in there! In our haste for better cover we had given them water! I rejoined the battle and with renewed determination we pressed the attack. Their front ranks fell as we pushed forward. The battle was turning; they shoved back only to have more of their men fall. The bodies were starting to pile up which worked to our advantage, since they proved to be an obstacle to our enemy. They tried to clear away their fallen comrades, only to have us add more to the pile.
After what seemed like hours we could finally see their ranks were becoming too thin to hold us. We stopped pressing the attack and ordered the troops to back off. The enemy used the lull in the fighting to clear away their dead, which was just what we wanted them to do. No sooner had the bodies left the bridge, when the order to lay on the attack was given. We smashed through them. Those that we did not kill were knocked over the side into the gorge as we ran into the open field on the other side of the bridge. We had successfully taken the bridge; what remained of our enemy retreated, and were bottled up in the tower.
While resting, scouts were dispatched to discover if any enemy reinforcement were coming to this party. When I started to regroup the men, I noticed that Damashi was limping and his leg was bloody, or at least bloodier than any of the rest of us. When I asked him how he was doing he showed me a very ugly wound. He told me that he had caved in one soldier’s helmet but in his death throes the soldier’s sword had found an opening in his armor. “When did this happen?” I inquired. “In the open field near the beginning”, he replied. “And you have been fighting with that wound all day?” “I need to give Your Excellency your money’s worth,” he said. I wasn’t sure if he was dedicated or just crazy, so I looked him up and down and said “ Well, have that treated, and tell Captain Connor to have his men fall in. We are almost ready for the next attack.”
I searched out General Gregory to learn of his plans for taking the tower. It was built to be a lookout post in days of old, and was not meant to be a fort as its strong stone structure would suggest. With its large windows and double doorway it was obviously designed to be more of a home for the watchmen. Obviously the best way to take the tower was through the front door. “What we need”, said General Gregory, “is to distract as many of them away from the door as possible. Your Excellency, could your men keep as many as possible busy at the windows?” “No problem”, I assured him.
When the attack began, The Fifth assaulted the doorway and Dreiburgen harassed the windows. I took William, Isaac and a few others to the window on the right and sent the rest to the window on the left. The plan was to have William and Isaac partially block the window and control the size of the opening with their shields while the rest of us poked, stabbed and made a general nuisance of ourselves through the small opening that remained.
It was a good plan and worked well ¾ I just made one mistake. I stepped up to the opening between William and Isaac’s shields to start the harassment and there was a nice, big, fat, juicy swordsman standing inside within range of my pike. I started to lower the point to take the shot when suddenly a man stepped out from behind him! My mind barely had time to register “That’s an arch-THUNK-er”. The arrow penetrated the right side of my grill and the force spun my head around. I hit the ground. Between my helmet being knocked askew and the arrow itself, my vision was greatly obstructed. I could feel my face getting wet and sticky “Not good”, I thought to myself as I rolled over. I was just able to make out the figure of one of our archers moving in to cover me. That was my cue to leave, and I crawled for the back ranks, working my way to where the wounded were being treated. I carefully removed my helmet. The arrow had punched through the faceplate and grazed my right cheek. A wounded soldier watching me commented, “If that was an inch or two to the left you would be dead!” “Yes”, I agreed, “but if it were two inches to the right it would have missed me.”
Having removed the arrow from my helmet, my wound was being treated when one of the scouts reported in. “There is another enemy unit coming up the road, Your Excellency. It will not be long before they arrive here.” This was very bad news, for if we did not clear out the tower soon we would be fighting our enemy from both sides, forcing us to retreat and leaving them with a well of fresh water. I surveyed the battle. William and Isaac were working the window where I had left them. The Fifth were dutifully working the doorway. The enemy inside was not putting up as much of a fight as earlier, but our boys were tiring and not pressing as hard. I looked around at the wounded men being treated. “How many of you are up for another go?” I asked. Several hands were raised. “Good! As soon as the healers are done with your bandages we will make a charge that will finish them.” Soon a sufficient force of bandaged men had assembled; a charge was called and we ran in hitting them so hard that they never had a chance. The tower was ours and a good thing too, for we had just enough time to move the wounded and reform the ranks when the new enemy unit appeared.
Inside the tower we utilized the same tactic as outside. The Fifth took the doorway and the rest of Dreiburgen manned the windows. Isaac and William used their shields to close the window as before. I turned to Mora and told her that they would make a slot for her crossbow, and that if she needed to them to open or close the gap to just give the word.
The assault came. This unit was smaller, but we were tired and the day had cost us many casualties. Most of the raiders focused on the doorway, but just enough of them tried the windows to keep us busy. One pikeman was determined to get William. The man hugged the wall, trying to angle his pike enough to reach him in the corner. But it was in vain. William was tucked so tightly into the corner by the window that the tip kept sliding off him. Another pike forced its way under Isaac’s shield. Isaac managed to trap it, and while its owner tried to free his weapon my pike forced its way into his chest. I managed to take out a total of three men before I noticed that we were having trouble at the doorway. I left Mora to work the window and turned my attention there.
A charge came, and one very large warrior broke through our line with two or three of his friends behind him. “Oh no you don’t”, I growled, as I placed my pike in his belly and shoved with all my might. Not only did I drive my pike deep into his gut, but I also managed to push him and his friends all the way back out the door. Peering out the threshold, we could see that they were preparing for another charge, so we set up a little surprise for them. Many of the men fell back to the walls, leaving the doorway poorly guarded. When the charge hit the first ranks broke through. We could see the look of victory on their faces as they charged into the room, but that look quickly changed to one of horror as they found themselves totally surrounded by a brigade of angry soldiers. We closed in and hacked them to pieces. When the remaining enemy ranks witnessed the carnage through the doorway their morale was lost and they routed. Streaming out of the tower, we reformed ranks and gave chase.
After a short distance the road entered a narrow canyon with high walls on each side. Here the enemy regrouped in one last desperate act to stop us. It was in vain, for we had the numbers, the guts, the determination, and the will to win. When we engaged their line they fell like wheat before the scythe. By the end of the fight I found myself in the front of the line with only one enemy soldier remaining. He was a short man in Roman armor and I surveyed him thinking, “Only one left, this should be easy.”
Ahh, was I wrong! I attacked him and he came back with the fury of a mad hornet’s nest. He blocked and attacked with such force and speed that it looked and felt like I was fighting Kali with her ten hands. Two swordsmen quickly came to my assistance, and still we could not hold him ¾ in the end it took four of us to finally finish him off. With no more to fight we regrouped our men and marched them back to the keep. More scouts were dispatched and a watch was stationed at the towers. We had been victorious, and in his gratitude His Majesty Dietrich held court, awarding Lady Mora with the Crescent Sword for her skill with her bow, and Lord Garry and Lady Denise with Dolphins for making arrangements with merchants and their supplies.
Back in camp spirits ran high from the day’s victory, and a sumptuous feast was held. In the keep a makeshift tavern had been put up with dancing, drinking and gambling. Unfortunately I was slightly ill and weary from battle, and thus was not able to join fully in the revelry. I did however manage my duties to my men by making rounds of the camp to share a little of their merriment and help their morale before turning in.
The next morning I awoke to the sounds and smells of our most excellent baronial cooks preparing breakfast. I poured myself some tea, sat down at the table and took stock of camp. Our foot men were setting the tables and everything seemed as it should. I noticed that Lord Viridovix was sleeping comfortably under his furs in the dining gallery and Jacques’ tent was pitched under the baronial ropes. As I finished breakfast I noticed Sir Edward crossing the grounds. He rang the bell and bellowed for muster. Then he strode over to the Dreiburgen camp. “Trouble?” I asked. “Not yet, but I want the men ready”, he replied. We continued to talk as I strapped on my armor, but it wasn’t long before one of our scouts road in, reporting that more of the enemy column had been sighted.
I grabbed my pike, Lord Fearhgus fetched my helmet and we made haste to the bell to sound the alert! I was glad that our enemy was not yet close, for the men, weary from battle, were slow to muster and our numbers were fewer. Damashi’s wounds proved to severe to allow him to return to the field, and Hrothbeorht still could not hold a sword. Fortunately, I was joined by Lady Una and Lord Jacques. Armed with the information provided by our scouts, we marched the men down the hill into the canyons. We found ourselves traversing a narrow road with the canyon wall reaching high above us on our right and a cliff with a long and fatal drop to the canyon floor on our left.
We arrived at a point where the road forked at an opening in the canyon wall, and as we rounded the corner we came face to face with an enemy patrol. They caught us by surprise and we lost a number of men, but we held them there on the shelf road. Our archers leaned out over that treacherous drop to try and get a better shot as we held the line. It was then that one of their men, desperate to break our line, charged. He crashed through the front rank taking out two of our shieldmen and continued on, straight at me! In an instant he was inside the point of my pike rendering it useless. OH NO YOU DON’T! I shouted, as I leaned into his charge. CRASH ¾ there we were grill to grill, eye to eye, screaming in each other’s faces. Thinking quickly, I had jammed the butt of my pike into the ground, using it and the energy of his charge to pivot him around and shove him over the cliff. It worked, the only problem was that in pushing him I overbalanced; he hooked onto me and we both went over the edge.
I managed to jam my gauntlet into a crack in the rocks and arrest my fall. Hanging onto the edge face down I watched my adversary’s body shatter on the rocks below. I heard Jacques’ voice. “I guess his Excellency stopped that charge.” The road above was too crowded, making it impossible to climb back up. I was forced to hang there until the battle moved. How long I dangled there I do not know, but when I finally was able to climb back up all that was left was their commander. Gregory and Edwards moved in to try to take him alive, but he put up such a fight they were forced to kill him.
More raiders still lurked in the canyons, so after securing the wounded we continued our march. We found more at the bottom of a canyon. There was a dry creek bed between us, lined on both sides with large boulders. Before we engaged, Gregory came over and asked me if I could take my men straight in across the creek bed and keep as much of their line as possible occupied. He was planning to take the Fifth around their left flank.
With William on my right and Una on my left we charged. Jumping over the first line of boulders, we made our stand behind the second. For some time we held them fast, killing many until armor damage and injuries forced Una and myself to retreat, leaving William to hold the line. I observed the battle while hastily repairing my armor and receiving bandages. The plan was working; the Dreiburgen line was holding and the Fifth was successfully flanking the enemy.
I caught sight of Viridovix just as one of the enemy soldiers jumped him. Viridovix dropped him, but not before he received a severe blow to the arm. The injured limb went limp. He now was in the unconformable position of being a one-armed spearman. Another enemy swordsman, upon seeing this, decided that Viridovix would be an easy kill and charged after him. Viridovix ran into the open, circled around, circled back, charged, retreated, until the swordsman was so exhausted that Viridovix just walked up and stabbed him in the throat. Poor guy couldn’t even take a one-armed spearman.
By the time my emergency armor repairs were done the fight was over. Remaining wounds were dressed, armor was quickly fixed, and we continued the search for enemy troops.
Our next encounters were not as favorable. During the long search we allowed our units to spread out too far, and in a series of attacks several of them were massacred. After tightening our ranks we were all spoiling for revenge. We tracked down the last group and found them holed up in an old stone building. There appeared to be two ways in, the front door and a breech where a section of the wall had collapsed. By this point there were not a lot of us left, so Dreiburgen and the Fifth took the breech and the rest took the door.
We moved in for the assault. I circled around to the left to help cover the attack when THUNK! “DAMN! They have archers”, I yelled, as I felt an arrow pierce my tasset and dig its way into my hip. My leg collapsed and I fell to the ground. I was quickly dragged away before the archers could finish the job. Now, in my years of campaigning I have received wounds of much greater severity, however for me this day was done. As I was prepared to return to camp I watched as our men forced their way into that stone structure. That was it, the day was won!
Our men, battered and tired, returned to the keep victorious, so despite our losses that evening was filled with celebration. After my wounds were bound I managed to make another round of the camp. I paid Captain Connor for the use of his men and supplies, gave a bonus to the men of the Fifth Brigade, and gave largesse to all the nobles of Dreiburgen that rendered their aid. That night we sat down to a wonderful feast of chicken, soups and cakes, all washed down with some of the finest wine in the kingdom.
Now ends this jest in merriment and good companionship. But I must tell you the fight goes not well in Calafia, and if they fail the attackers will most assuredly move north towards Dreiburgen. In addition, ships flying the Caidan flag have been fired upon or lost to unknown vessels working off our coastline. So ready yourselves. Our smiths are working night and day making armor, repairing ships, weaving rope, and preparing artillery.
Baron Malcolm Alberic