Jest of Spring Potrero A.S. XL

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By Baron Malcolm Alberic

Spring Potrero A.S. XL
Everything in this account happened just as I have written….well… almost…

It was early Thursday morning when I led the Dreiburgen column into Calafia and the Potrero Valley. It was there I met with Baron David of Caithness who advised me of the situation.

He told me that the enemy was two days march from our position and showed me the keep that Calafia used to guard the border. It was built here due to the combination of terrain and access to potable water. Any force coming from the south large enough to be a serious threat would be forced up the valley. The keep was currently undergoing repairs; there were still holes in its outer wall from the siege of last fall, and piles of freshly cut stone lay near by. Here was where we planned to stop the invading forces.

We spent the rest of the day preparing the field for battle, and that evening at the suggestion of Master Quintin Phelan, Dreiburgen made camp behind the pavilions of the Caidan Royal Artillery Corps.

Friday was spent securing camp as more Dreiburgundians continued to arrive. The sun was high when Major Edward the Sinister rode in leading the Fifth Brigade. I showed his lordship the lay of the land, a good place to make camp, and gave him the latest reports on the enemy’s movements.

That evening I surveyed our accommodations. Since we had been forced to bring this operation together with short notice camp was hard and primitive. We only had one brewer, one dancing girl, and three masseuses, giving a new definition to the term roughing it!

The next morning I awoke early, sat down at table, and noted that there were only three types of bread laid out: English muffins, chocolate muffins and bagels with cream cheese. Lord Fearghus was in the kitchen preparing breakfast with the meager supplies that we were able to bring. It consisted of eggs, bacon, fresh fruit and French toast with only a mere seven types of syrup. There was only enough for two helpings of bacon and three helpings of French toast. As I selected a bottle of pomegranate syrup prepared by His Lordship Donal I thought to myself “be strong, this hardship is only temporary”.

After breakfast I put on my armor, took up my lance, mounted my horse, and led my troops to the field. Baron Darius and Lord Jacques joined me. We formed behind the Fifth and prepared to engage the enemy.

The King of Atenveldt had joined us and brought a brigade with him. I guess he was thankful of our help last winter when we helped him fend off an Artemisian invasion. His Caiden majesty seemed concerned for his royal cousin and his men, so he assigned the Fifth Brigade to their ranks.

Everything seemed to be as it should as our line moved forward to engage the enemy in the middle the field, but once the lines collided all sense of reason took flight - there was nothing normal about this engagement! As the battle started our troops seemed to melt before those who opposed us. From my position I could see our casualties mounting and very few enemy soldiers falling. Now I have been in campaigns for over half my life, and never have I seen our own troops fall so fast. Something was wrong!

Before I knew it they had pushed through our lines and were charging me! I jabbed my lance in the throat of the one closest to me but he kept swinging. “What is this?”, I thought as I used my lance to keep him out of reach. Shield men closed in front of me, in the confusion my lance was caught and pulled from my hands. I turned my horse and rode back to the bridge where we reformed the line.

Several men were in retreat, and as they crossed the bridge I blocked their path. “Why do you run?”, I demanded, “What cowardice makes your feet fly?” “It’s the enemy”, one replied looking at me with wide eyes of fear. “They won’t die! There is evil at work here!” “Nonsense”, I exclaimed. “I have seen this kind of thing before. Berserkers worked up on some apothecary’s potion, allowing them to continue some minutes after a fatal blow has been dealt. Now get back in line!”

Or at least that what I thought until it happened. One solider who charged our line had his head taken clean off, but still kept advancing! The gruesome thing swung on our line and two of our men fell. Now at this site of unexplainable evil even the bravest of us were shaken to the core, so I was not surprised to see the Aten line falter and start to break as fear swept the ranks. However I was proud to see that as others were starting to fall back in fear, the Dreiburgen troops as well as the entire Fifth Brigade showed a grim determination to not give up their ground, even starting to advance.

Their shield men charged, and the Fifth Brigade with the nobles of Dreiburgen held their line in spite of heavy losses. I watched in amazement as Lady Adriann backed out of the ranks with a dislocated shoulder. Now most men would have retreated with the wounded but not Adriann. She sought out a tree and whacked herself against it forcing her shoulder back into position, and turned to retake her place at Edwards’ side. Sir William in vain tried to convince her to go with the wounded, but she would have none of it saying “I must return to the field, His Lordship depends upon me to be right by his side.” That was the kind of perseverance it was going to take to defeat this undead enemy, and all of our soldiers were brimming with it. They made me proud!

I turned my attention to the rest of the line; it was starting to buckle. An Atenveldt officer in his panic made a grievous error and ordered pike men to the front of the line! I called to him to point out the foolishness of this order, how this action would only lead to dead pike men, when it happened  something hit me in the head sending me off balance, and I tumbled from my horse. I pulled myself back to my feet using the stirrup and swiftly led my horse behind the ranks and out of range. There I removed my helmet to find a bolt stuck in it. The bolt had managed to pierce the helm just above my head. There was a cut on my head and a patch of hair matted with blood where the head of the bolt had scraped me.

As I was extracting the bolt from my helm a wounded solider asked me how the battle was going. “Not well”, I sighed, “It’s hard to take down accursed immortals. Only the Royal Artillery seems to be making a dent, since each of their shots is capable of ripping several of the enemy to pieces.” “Well”, he confided, “not all of them are cursed! I took out five before they got me, three went down like normal men but two of them would not stop until they were carved into pieces.” I thanked him, took up a spear and went back in on foot.

The archers had taken to torching their arrows  fire seemed to be more effective on the evil zombies. The Aten line still stood, but it was weak and shaky. It was the Fifth Brigade that was holding, giving the line an anchor. An enemy officer had stepped forward and was taunting the line swinging his pike left and right rocking on his feet as if he was going to strike. Every time he flinched our line flinched. “Enough of this”, cried Major Edward the Sinister, and moved forward to taunt the officer in the same manner. After a minute of this the officer stepped back into line without engaging Major Edward. This seemed to improve morale, until I heard an Atenveldt officer call out “Form a kill pocket!” “What does he think he is doing?” I marveled to myself as I watched the Aten line back up into a pocket.

If I were to write a book on how to get your men killed, I could devote an entire chapter to kill pockets. A kill pocket only works if you can entice the enemy to walk into it. If the enemy holds their line all that is accomplished is that the men on the front corners of the pocket are exposed to certain death, which is exactly what happened in this case. The only time I have seen a pocket do what it is supposed to do was during the campaign of last fall when the crew of the La Villa A Broka feigned a shield wall and pretended to let it collapse, tricking the enemy into the pocket.

I watched in horror as two holes were chewed in the line. If the enemy pushed through we would be flanked! I charged forward to fill one of the gaps and found myself out numbered. I waved my spear in their faces to try and keep them off me. Just then a bolt flew over my shoulder and struck one of them in the face; instantly he fell. “Must not have been a zombie”, I thought to myself. I recognized the fletching on the bolt; it belonged to Mora de Buchanan, although I was not about to turn around and check. I kept my eyes on the enemy pike men and waved my spear right, left, and thrust at the man on the right, if he was a man. Even though I knew I was out of reach, he blocked. Zip! Another of Mora’s bolts shot past my head. He dropped like a stone. I guess he WAS a man. 98 “Third time’s the charm”, I thought. I feigned an attack on another; he countered. “Made you look”, I thought to myself. Whoosh! Yet another of Mora’s bolts flew past, penetrating his armor and burying itself deep in his chest. No effect. Another arrow came in somewhere on my right striking him deep in the upper thigh. Still no effect, he held his position. I lunged at him again. He blocked, Mora fired, this time hitting him right through the eye slots. He did not fall, but he let out a groan, lowered his pike, and staggered off in the wrong direction.

Now I am a firm believer that every man in the Fifth Brigade is worth ten  our only problem is that we were facing far more than ten times our number. Holding the bridge became impossible, and we were forced to fall back into the keep. The gate did not hold long and we found ourselves fighting between the inner and outer walls as we retreated for the inner tower. It was total chaos. I had loss track of Darius and Jacques, and I found myself on the left hand of the King of Atenveldt fighting to keep him alive. The enemy still had an undead advantage and we were losing.

Just then a spear punched though my faceplate and cut my forehead. Blood streamed down my face and into my eyes; I was effectively blind. “I’m useless to you, Your Majesty”, I called out. “Then get yourself out of here!” he commanded. I stumbled for the hole in the outer wall, tossed my spear out, hoisted myself up, rolled out and dropped to the ground. I took off my helmet and wiped the blood from my face, securing my arming cap over the cut to stem the flow. Looking up, I saw that many soldiers were following my example, including most of the Fifth Brigade and the King of Atenveldt.

The enemy had split their forces. The greater portion had already entered the keep while a small force was attacking the Royal Artillery. “We have men trapped in the tower, my lords” Edward Senestre|Edward]] yelled, “Let’s go!” We charged around to the front gate and back inside. It was a mad house; the enemy lined the inner wall and we had to run, hugging the outer wall, through a gantlet of pikes to get to the inner gate. I rounded the corner and slipped on the blood-covered floor. Falling against the wall, I slid down it and landed on a body. I was like unto a turtle turned over upon his shell, and stuck on my back.

It was then that I noticed the body beneath me was moving. Concerned that my falling on him had added to his wounds, I called out, “Are you all right?” “Unhurt by you, if that’s what you mean”, came the response. I had just summoned the energy to roll off of him when another body crashed on top of us, adding to the pile that was quickly forming. This one was most definitely dead and had us pined. It took a few minutes to get the bodies cleared enough to free us. By that time it was obvious that there was no one left alive in the tower, and that there was no retaking the keep. The only thing to do was burn it.

We retreated, how I hate that word, and reformed outside the walls, moving on the forces attacking the C.R.A.C. They were signaled to fire the keep. The engines let fly, and in short order the keep burned brilliantly. A detachment was left at the gates to make sure that no one got out. The rest of us attacked the remaining force.

Their line was spread thin and finally broke; we were pushing them back! I still could not find Jacques or Darius and the Fifth was scattered up and down the line. I joined His Lordship Killian and Edward. We noticed that an enemy group was using an old foundation as a fortification. “Attack!”, Edward commanded and we charged, jumping over the first footing wall, taking out the soldiers in front of us. No zombies here. We pushed them back to the far footing wall, where one pike man stood on the wall trying to get a height advantage. I did not see but I think it was Killian that knocked him off the wall. They started to pull back. We jumped over the far wall and pursued. The enemy retreated. We continued our pursuit into the trees until certain they were in full rout and incapable of reforming a battle line.

Bruised, bloody and tired, we ceased the pursuit and retired to assess our casualties and lick our wounds. Sentries were posted and the rest of the surviving troops were dismissed to the camps. Many felt that the hard day had ended in victory. I was not so sure. Back in camp a victory feast was held. It wasn’t much; the meager supplies we had only allowed for a seven-course meal, and we dined only 22 nobles at table. Later that night rumors were spreading throughout the camp that during the battle enemy soldiers were seen eating the flesh of our fallen comrades, but I take no stock in such tales. Other possibilities of a more concrete nature filled my evening’s musings.

The next morning my unvoiced speculations proved fact. The enemy troops that had retreated the evening before had returned, and they had brought friends. I mounted my horse again and rode out to the field. Jacques joined me but Darius was no longer available. We formed behind a slightly smaller Fifth Brigade. No one spoke of it, but we all were wondering how many undead soldiers we would meet on this day.

It turned out that I would not get a chance to find out. The enemy charged to meet us and Jacques ran to back up Sir Malcolm who had moved to the front of the action. Just then the enemy broke through the line on my left. They charged straight at me. Before I knew it they were inside my lance. I felt a sword hit me in the ribs with such force I saw stars. I toppled over and the ground came up and hit me, HARD! Everything went silent for a moment as the stars glistened and the trees spun. The only thing I was aware of was a desperate need to get air into my lungs, and a desire to control the urge lest I inhale a lung full of dirt. I could not tell who it was because he was spinning so much, but someone in a Fifth Brigade tabard leaned over me and asked me if I was all right. I tried to respond, saying “Give me a minute”, but I am not sure if the words made it past my lips. It seemed like hours that I laid there, though probably only seconds; I am not sure how long I stayed upon the ground. Once I had air in my lungs again, I stuck out my right arm and said “Give me a hand.”

I was pulled to my feet and leaned on my lance for support. I looked up to see Captain Ránulfr running towards me. He put my arm over his shoulder and helped me off the field. My entire left side hurt except for my left arm, which was numb. “I should get back out there they need me”, I said to Ránulfr. “Your Excellency, first let us check your injuries”, he replied. In a very few minutes it was determined that I could no longer hold up a spear, let alone walk properly, and it looked as if my horse had gone down with me on the battlefield. Ránulfr removed the armor from my left arm and it went from numb to painful. I was finished, and the captain helped me return to camp where merciful healing hands tended to my wounds.

I was forced to convalesce in camp for the rest of the conflict, relying on reports from the battlefield. As it turned out, the flanking force that flattened me hit the Fifth Brigade hard from behind! Major Edwards reported that he did not even know the enemy was there until he felt a sword blow hit with full force across his shoulder blades. Killian had a similar experience, as a full force shot hit him in the back of the helmet. Both men were knocked to the ground face first stunned and unable to move for a moment.

The enemy moved on leaving them for dead. This was a mistake. After a moment Edward and Killian picked themselves up, rallied what remained of the Fifth and continued the attack. I have no more details of the battle. All I know for sure is that through the perseverance of our troops the enemy pulled back and left the valley. They were not fully defeated.

The King was so impressed with Edwards’s actions in the face of the undead army that he knighted Edward right there upon the battlefield. I deeply regret that being laid up in camp forced me to miss it.

The day seemed to be won but I fear that the conflict is not over. We do not know where the undead army came from or where it went, only that there must be incredible evil behind it. All I know for sure is that the worst of them were referred to as Myrmi -something. I am reasonably confident that no one in Caid is capable of that kind of evil.

That evening I called for Captain Ránulfr to ask him if he knew if my horse was alive or dead, and what had become of him. “I am afraid I have not seen him”, he answered, wiping barbecue sauce from his chin. “Pity”, I replied, “he was a good mount.” “Yea”, responded Ránulfr with a slight burp, “he was good all right.”

The next morning as we were breaking camp, my fears of the previous evening were confirmed. An enemy solider who we believe was acting alone, attacked Baroness Robynne in her carriage. She let out a scream more of anger than of fear as she staggered from the carriage, blood streaming down the side of her face. If it wasn’t for the diligence of her guard and ladies, I fear that we would have lost her.

So, good subjects, we remain with an unknown enemy still at large. We must meet this threat with vigilance. I ask that all granaries stockpile supplies, that every man-at-arms keep his armor and weapons in top condition and his body in fighting form, and that every fighting unit drill together. Only if we do this can I guarantee the safety of Dreiburgen.

Baron Malcolm Alberic