Jest of Highland War A.S. XXXIX

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By Baron Malcolm Alberic

The Fall of War Part 1.
Highland A.S. XXXIX
Everything in this account happened just as I have told it (well…. almost...)

The fall campaign started with hostile forces approaching Dreiburgen’s northern border through al-Sahid. Determined to stop them before they could harm al-Sahid and resolved to allow no hostile troops to enter Dreiburgen, I sent word to His Majesty, Sir Brand of Lancaster, asking for extra soldiers with which to guarantee victory. His messenger returned with grim news; there was trouble in Calafia, and the King was diverting most of the Caidian army to the south. Only the Fifth Brigade could be spared to defend the desert pass.

Now I believe the Fifth is the finest brigade in Caid, however I was concerned that we had no idea of the strength and size the enemy’s army might take. I had already put out the call for every available man-at-arms loyal to Dreiburgen to rally to my banner, but I was uncertain as to whether this cry would reach the ear of enough warriors.

Therefore, I sent a rider with a message to the New Port at the mouth of the Saint Ann, hoping he would find the La Villa A Broka in the harbor. The message requested the privateers to sail their ship up the Saint Ann and drop anchor in Lake Evans. There they could easily secure wagons to take the overland route and muster at Georges Keep high in the pass. If they could do this I would pay handsomely in coin and full rum rations. I felt that Captain Connor would be inclined to oblige my request, since his ship consistently commissions the Dreiburgen Armory to provide weapons, artillery and equipment. My rider returned reporting that the captain had indeed agreed as I had expected, and that as he road from the harbor he had seen with his own eyes the La Villa A Broka raising her anchor and making sail.

It was late afternoon when I arrived with the Dreiburgen column at Georges Keep to find the Fifth already garrisoned. I sought out Major Edward the Sinister, for I wished to know the status of his men and his assessment of the enemy. He informed me that his scouts had reported a split in the enemy’s force – a part of their troops was camped at an old lookout tower on the north side of the pass, the rest were more then a full day’s march away. Edward did not believe that the advanced guard was aware of our presence in the main keep. Since we were still waiting for more men to arrive, the plan was to attack in the morning instead of waiting for the enemy to come to us. Fires would be kept low and the signal tower’s windows curtained as to not give us away.

Later that evening the wagons from the La Villa A Broka started arriving. I was pleased to see that not only had they sent troops, but they had also hauled up her aft castle guns and some 18lb brass field cannons; apparently these are stored in the ship’s hold for land campaigns. Damashi of Tora, the quartermaster, had more good news -- en route to the pass a band of Templars had crossed their path, and these warriors of God had seemed rather curious as to why sea men were making their way so far inland with artillery. Damashi seized such an opportunity, describing our campaign in vivid prose, and thus securing their swords to our service. I reveled in the good news of more fighting men.

The next morning we formed up and marched from the keep, hoping that the element of surprise was still with us. As we approached an open field we saw the enemy causally marching right for us; as we stepped into the open they scrambled, hastily forming a shield wall to defend themselves. We had caught them completely off guard.

Edward the Sinister called a charge! We hit their line hard, making it impossible for them to hold their ground. Their line split as they attempted to flank us but our strength was too great. Edward commanded our flank to turn and meet the attack. The Fifth scattered the flankers and Mora’s archers ruthlessly picked them off. Meanwhile, I was at the other end of the line with my mixed unit consisting of Dreiburgen nobles, Templars, and privateers from the La Villa a Broka. In front the Templars were engaging the enemy and keeping them off me; to my right Captain Connor’s crew was bashing the opposing line to pieces with reckless abandon smiling as they went. (I must admit it is good to see people enjoying their work.) Assuredly, the enemy line folded and those that remained after witnessing such heavy losses turned and speedily retreated towards the old lookout tower with the Dreiburgen Irregulars hot on their heels.

An old covered bridge leads to the tower -- it was there the enemy thought to hold us off, taking advantage of the cover the old bridge afforded them. Indeed, they held us there for a long time. The bridge was falling apart and so covered with debris that there were only two places wide enough to cross in a single file. Conditions were cramped and the enemy resolve was renewed. The fighting went in waves. We pushed, they pushed, back and forth. I was beginning to wonder how long this test of wills would endure.

Then, as we pulled back to allow our exhausted men on the front line to retire to the rear, the enemy made a bold charge forward! Our two men in the front fell, and two of theirs charged through. They headed straight for Viridovix who was forward of the main line and in the open. Visions from Darkwell crossed my eyes – “There he goes again”, I thought to myself. I watched as one man ran past him and turned to engage him. While Viridovix turned to face this man, the other charged him from behind. With one blow Viridovix dropped the first man in front of him and whipped his sword over his shoulder to block the attack from the second man. This action caused his cloak to flip over his helmet blinding him, and with his sight still blocked he swung his sword full circle and beheaded the second! With this action our men charged forward with a renewed fervor, forcing the enemy to retreat to the safety of the lookout tower.

Now this tower had two doors. Edward ordered the Fifth to attack at the first and sent the crew of the La Villa A Broka to the second. While the Fifth held the first door the privateers and the rest of Dreiburgen pressed the second. With Captain Connor on my left, his Quartermaster to my right, and the Templars in front, we forced our way through making short work of our enemies. We entered the room and flanked the force defending the first door. I will never forget the wide-eyed look from the first man I engaged as I shoved my pike in his face grill. They were so focused on the Fifth they had no idea we had entered the room! Their formation broke and they scattered in confusion. The Fifth entered and with our overwhelming numbers we slaughtered them to the last.

As we started the task of securing the area, a report came to Edward that a small force was hold up in a cave. I joined him as he took a unit to dig them out, but as we moved in they panicked and charged right through us. One of them hit me so hard I almost did a backwards somersault. They ran into the brush and we never saw them again. Night was falling and our scouts reported the remaining enemy forces were pitching camp farther down the north slope, so we retired to the keep. With the guns from La Villa A Broka in the battlements, we deemed the fort secure enough to allow the troops to revel in the day’s victory and the night was filled with feasting and song!

The next morning Edward rang the watch bell very early calling all the troops to arm up. We marched our formations down the hill to the enemy camp expecting another full day of battle, but as we approached the camp we found it empty! Apparently they had fled in the night. I dismissed Connor’s privateers, telling them to return to the keep and guard it should the enemy have merely circled around us. We would continue to scour the hillside looking for any trace of hostile forces. With the pass riddled with caves I figured it would be a long day.

We did find a small group secure in a sizable cave. We had to dig them out - this was the toughest battle of the campaign as they were well fortified and gave as good as they got! One archer was determined to score a shot on me, and with cramped spaces and the dead and wounded piling up, I found myself at one moment trapped and unable to move. Edward was calling in earnest for pikes to the front and I could not get to him. “Throw me your pike!”, he yelled. I tossed it to him. “You’ll need this”, he said, and tossed back his boar spear. He moved in as I worked to free myself from the corpses. Edward took out several of the enemy before a sword blow smashed his amour leaving his arm immobile. Having extracted myself I came to his aid; “Switch back”, he said, handing me my pike and again we exchanged weapons. I moved to the front as he moved to the rear to pry open his armor and free up his arm. With that kind of resolve we cleaned out all the remaining forces. Once again the day was ours and our victory was total!

Now you may think that this is the end of my tale but I am not halfway through. We packed up the wagons and left Georges Keep in the care of Ladyship Teka Turmanov and the good subjects of al-Sahid, eager to return to our own lands for rest and repairs. However no sooner had I had returned to the heart of Dreiburgen when a messenger from the King came bearing bad news. The trouble in Calafia was larger than anyone had realized. Although the fighting had gone well, it turned out that only a part of the enemy’s force had engaged His Majesty’s troops. The main army had moved a day’s march around the end of the Caidan line and now they were headed straight for Dreiburgen!

Baron Malcolm Alberic /I\/I\/I\

to be continued: The Fall of war part II