A Strategic Regret

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Lightswords

A Strategic Regret

Post by Lightswords » Sat Dec 22, 2007 4:24 pm

Sir Termelain was a powerful man. A baronet, a gentry, a lord of land. Having defeated other knights in various jousts back home, as well as put down many peasant rebellions in his land, he had demonstrated himself to be stronger than the petty riff-raff who surrounded him. The events also spoke much of his manner of rulership. When peasants protested and witheld taxes over shortages of food, his solution would be to remind them of their place in a fashion which often reduced the number of living peasants to what their meager supplies could manage.

Obedient to his will was a large banner. Spearmen, further macemen, swordsmen, and archers, along with various squires to serve. The spearmen were useful only for swarming foes, of course. No need to waste resources on armouring them. The bald-headed macemen were more useful for breaking apart enemy units through brute force. The true pride of his units were the swordsmen, permitted large shields and steel armour. These he even bothered remembering their names.

The archers were barely worthy of mention. Mere levies of cowards too weak and afraid to charge against a wall of spears for the glory of their betters. An unfortunate necessity when engaging enemies so dishonourable they would not admit defeat in close-combat. Petty swine.

Most of his grunts wore padded jacks of leather, with maille shoulder-mantles for the macemen. Important that the lowly spearmen and archers never forget their station. Most of what was won in battle would go to his own wealth. Clad in thick, brass-gilded maille, his glory was prominently on display, for glory was what mattered most on the battlefield. Kept secure in the wagons was one treasure for which he had to crush a province with taxes, they had revolted afterwards when the enforced labour left them short of food. They soon remembered their place.

The treasure was the components of a small castle. Built ahead of time, and ready to assemble on site. That would take a week to erect with enough labour. A combination of wood and stone. While the offers of wealth were good, his true incentive for joining the campaign was the knowledge that once the companies had crushed their opposition, there would be a land ripe for his control. All he would need was to set up his fortress and beat the neighbouring settlements into submission.

With velvet drapings over the table in front of him, Sir Termelain sat down in his luxuriant tent. Even on the road, he had the comforts as befitted a man of his station. Bags of some of the best supplies lay stashed towards one end of the tent. Donations from a local farm, given by a family thankful to remain unharmed.

He was also looking to expand his retinue. More fighters were more status and power, and he knew one in the village who would have made an excellent retinue swordsman. Dominant of his lessers and obedient to his betters. Guntar by name, who had claimed a rare beauty, the wife of a farmer gone these past four months, as his prize and fought off all challengers. Part of why Termelain was so eager for this recruit was the commander's share of such a prize.

And Guntar gone! Disappeared! The farmer returned with a spear and armour, and a new comrade, and Guntar was never seen again. What had happened to this farmer in those four months? First news of this was when the farmer and nobleman took the prize, Termelain's prize, to the city. Worse still, the lance stationed at the exit had been destroyed! By two men and an orc!

As if that were not enough, the upstart whelp used the battle to start bringing warriors to his own crest! How dare he? Threatening to drive Termelain away? This was his right! Right by steel and blood and power! These peasants were weak and deserved to suffer for their weakness.

When he heard this, the baronet considered riding towards Shim and burning the farmer's home to the ground and salting his fields. Looking at the disrepair and neglect, that would not be a meaningful revenge. Instead, he knew of others who could make use of such a place.

While the tales were surely exaggerated, there were still twelve corpses and two survivors accounted for, and whoever the victors were, they took no casualties against the fourteen.

There were enough rival warlords as things stood, although these were loosely allies despite the competition. There was the ronin from the east of Tian Xia, with a foreign-sounding name which the baronet hardly cared for, Engero Sarokita. With his usual regard for those unlike himself, Termelain dismissed the name as unworthy of deliberate effort to learn correctly and thought of him as Uglio Sackoshita... a name the ronin would not appreciate had he been familiar enough with the language. Engero was the leader of only a small band of supporting conscripts trained in the use of spears and given lacquered leather armour in the forms of pointed helmets, breastplates and greaves. That one had his own camp prepared in the plains nearby.

Far worse was Skippy the manscorpion who had decided to lurk within the local woods. A long, chitinous body of a man extending from the front of a giant scorpion. Instead of pincers, the fingers on each humanoid hand could lock together to form similar serrated claws. Serving Skippy were less than twenty, but a far from pleasant few. Armoured trolls, bat-winged harpies, as well as gnarled and twisted beings which could arguably be called satyrs.

And now this crusading hero? Who had gathered a handful of men-at-arms and thought to challenge these three powers. Could anyone possibly be so stupid?

Or did he know something which Termelain did not?
Last edited by Lightswords on Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Lightswords

Re: A Strategic Regret

Post by Lightswords » Sun Dec 23, 2007 9:44 pm

"Damn them!" thundered Sir Termelain. He knew that free blades had joined this new warlord, but was far from pleased to learn who. Sigvard had travelled to Marn! Yet another potential swordsman lost due to this meddling interloper! So far, Sigvard had shown the arrogance to refuse due to his rotten sister, a woman who thought she could speak among men. In fact, when Termelain ordered a punishment on the foolish wench, Sigvard had every intention of fighting. Still, Termelain held hope of winning that one over and showing him how a civilised man expects a woman to behave.

The Dark One as well. The demon from the Kingdom of Night. Termelain had every expectation for him to join with Skippy. Well, mused the baronet, at least that one is out of my sight. Eerie and fearsome, utterly devoid of emotion and possessing a strange grace which promised death to any challengers. Sir Termelain did not like him one bit.

"None have returned?" A demand made plaintively to a swordsman. Were all of them successfully recruited? Would he really have to content with all these? Most of the names were veteran fighters.

"The fools are still gone, Your Grace." answered the swordsman, with their usual contempt for all things not-them.

"Rahh!" snarled out Termelain. Even in his open fury, he formed a basic plan. "We need to put word out with the others. Make them believe he is their enemy. Cut him off from new support." Keep him weak. Weak and easily crushed. Soon the fool would return, and be pitifully under-strengthed when he did.

"I will do as Your Grace commands." grovelled the swordsman, bowing from both knees before rising to leave.

Mostly the swordsman feared the woods. Arranging a meeting with all the other leaders would mean finding Skippy and his Reavers of Flesh. Freakish goat-men nearing seven feet tall, bearing spiked morning stars or massive axes which could split a shield in two, which were not the worst thing about them. No, that honour was reserved for their pipes. Made of hollowed bone, they were said to be brought at feasts when the Reavers would feast on live humans, and when those pipes were played they would recreate the haunted screaming of those victims. Once and only once, the swordsman had heard those horrific pipes. Once and only once when Termelain had arranged a meeting to establish himself as the dominant power among the mercenary bands. Those pipes were used to introduce Skippy.

The swordsman still shuddered at the memory. Then Skippy introduced the musicians by name. Daisy, Poppy, Daffodil, Buttercup and Blossom. Yet more cause to shudder.

Termelain called for the meeting. This was important for asserting his dominance.
Last edited by Lightswords on Thu Feb 14, 2008 3:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lightswords

Re: A Strategic Regret

Post by Lightswords » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:05 am

Now this assembly of leaders is complete. There were those who did not attend, but they were people of no importance. Non-entities. So unimportant in fact that great effort must be made to snub them.

Gilded Termelain, gleaming in highly polished steel plates supported by brass-coated maille, with a surcoat divided into four quarters - two opposing corners were gules red to show military might and power, the others were tawny orange to show ambition, while the emblazoned in the middle was a purple cushion as a mark of authority. Standing behind him were a row of swordsman in unadorned padded surcoats of the same colours, each with maille or scale on their limbs and body and great helms resembling an upturned bucket with slits for eyes, along with steel-link mantles over the shoulders. A few of them wore more substansial body protection, as well as steel guards strapped to the knees and elbows. Behind the swordsmen were the macemen, each wearing maille mantles and leather coats bearing studs, which a seasoned fighter would know where the signs of brigandine. The spearmen and archers were unsightly lessers who he would not display.

"All of you have answered my summons." Sir Termelain began, "And in doing so have accepted my authority as the strongest here-"

Piercing screams of dozens interrupted him, as Skippy casually gestured for one of his musicians to raise those accursed pipes to goat-lips. As far as could be told on that empty face with skin the red of dark brick, Skippy wore an amused half-smile, black chitin stinger draped mildly over his shoulder.

Engero settled for a mask to obscure his features, making few comments. One of his men served as a translater, an ashiguru who better understood the barbarian tongues than did his master - sparing him from linguistic mishaps. Four-mirror armour covered Engero's torso, consisting of octagonal bright metal plates on the front and back, with two similar although smaller plates under his arms at the side. For the head was a bowl-like iron helm from which descended a demon-mask. A mixture of bronze scales and brightly lacquered leather covered the rest of him, in garish rainbow-like colours which made the armour itself difficult to judge.

"We were gathered for a reason." stated Engero, shutting down the jostling for position and steering the conversation as to why all this was important to him.

"Yes!" barked Sir Termelain, siezing control of the discussions. "There are traitors among us!" A gloved hand stroked his long beard as he paused for effect.

One man with bushy beard and wearing a crudely formed iron breastplate made a salty snarl. "Ar? Traitors to who?" Nurban asked, not recognising the mercenaries as a single formalised body.

"All of us!" boomed the baronet. "Who of us has not lost at the hands of this interloper? Him and that farmer and that orc! And now more warriors, who should be fighting under our banners, seek him out to join him. This fool intends to raise an army and drive us out!"

One woman snorted derisively from horseback. She wore a long loose silk shirt under a brown tunic and a coat of lacquered leather strips, accompanied by a leather helmet trimmed with dog fur. Heelless leather boots covered thick-felt socks, and bore iron plates resembling fish scales. A scimitar was worn at her hip and a dagger was strapped to her left forearm. She carried a thick recurved horse-bow and two savage lances on her mount. "An army of what? Ten?" Requiring that warriors spend three days pitching tents and treating the locals with respect made joining unnoticed nearly impossible.

"Damn you woman! Those ten were seasoned fighters, and he can easily raise support from the city! He may get ideas of coming back and picking us off one by one!"

One mild voice protested. "Sir, you should really try to refrain from using such language. There may be tots about." The voice was Skippy.

In the silence that followed, Engero mentally pieced the foreign language together. "When he returns, we destroy him at once. We face just another barbarian."

The horsewoman, Gantei, shrugged. "I fear not the Westerner. We have no equal in battle. My entire life, as with any of my kind, has been, is and will be a series of military lessons from my first horse ride to my last. We do not fight for honour, we fight to win. We do not brag about what we intend to do, we just do it." Even with such a claim about her people, she felt the need to declare it to all.

Lightswords

Re: A Strategic Regret

Post by Lightswords » Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:10 pm

Behind the mercenaries camped in the plains was a tent town, a sizeable group viewed by officers all over the world with a distaste bordering on active hatred. Many services were provided by this group, including sutlery, laundery, cookery, but mostly appealing to the tawdry side of life. Drug mongers and other ilk known throughout many societies as being at best tacky and worst criminal - those who saw the chance for profit in bringing the chance for mercenaries to enthusiastically indulge in the rude pleasures which life could offer.

What many found was outright slavery. Instead of paying, the Free Companies and hired swords preferred to exploit that they were all travelling many miles through lawless lands.

Such was the case with those who now stayed with Gantei. Among her tribespeople, the keeping of slaves was a mark of honour. In fact, what she needed to become a recognised captain was to acquire a high enough total of kills, slaves, and horses. With these, she could gather new warriors to join her and become a clan leader in her own right.

The robbery of the locals pleased her; it was what they deserved. Digging into the soil and growing plants to harvest them was an attack on nature, and angered the spirits. Cooking like the farmers did was beheading the power of the flames and insulting to the spirits. These 'civilised' ways were disrespectful to everyone and everything, and she would make the villagers pay for their impudence.

For some reason, none of this behaviour offended her from Termelain. Granted she did not like the man, he was a rival, but he was powerful and thus could get away with such things. For all her bravado and bluster, she was more offended by the acts of the unarmed and defenceless than by the acts of trained and armoured fighters.

All of Termelain's men were silent here, none daring to speak for their lord. Station was ultimate here. None would be forgiven for interfering with their lord's glory. So finally, the baronet cast a level glance at Gantei before dismissing her. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, this upstart traitor could bring trouble for us. He has already declared us his enemies for taking what's rightfully ours!" Apparently, rightful ownership was gained through theft for Sir Termelain. "We did not come here to be trapped in long battle against the city army."

For a moment Gantei was going to mock Termelain for fearing them, but thought better of it since the baronet had far more troops than she.

Nurband of the Free Companies was the most openly mercenary of them all, and thus, the least shy about admitting the true danger posed by the enemy. "What do we know of this guy?"

Sir Termelain stepped forward, intending to answer the question purely to reinforce his assumed role of leader. "One of his servants was Rosemary's farmer." The words 'servant' and 'farmer' were deliberately misleading, as was the suggestion of there being more than one. "His men killed fifteen before they fled." Again, implying greater numbers. Admitting there were only three would announce the simple maths to all present - five slain for each one, and the numbers had since grown. "He is naive as well. He claims to be fighting for the peasants, for the weak." What nobleman would consider debasing himself by fighting on behalf of his lessers? The lowly existed to serve their betters, not the other way around.

With a new tone to his voice, Skippy made his contribution, drawing upon hidden knowledge. "He is called the Shining One. An angel visited him not three days previous."

Instantly, Termelain scoffed. "Foolishness! An angel is no lord! A weak, worthless spirit which caters to other weaklings." As far as he cared, an angel was a messenger or singer. Anything less than destructive would not be acknowledged as a warrior.

"Regardless." Skippy commented, unperturbed, "This will aid him in raising support. Others will be impressed. We should cooperate in his downfall."

At this, Nurband was intrigued. "You offer contract?"

Yet again, Termelain answered to claim authority. "Bring me his armour. Serve me well."

"Pay me well." retorted Nurband. "Do we have a contract?"

For a moment, Termelain considered. He did not wish to deal as equals. "If you serve me well." There was a reason he wanted this to be a joint venture, it was to be his joint venture, under his command. "On his return to drive us away from the village, I want us ready to crush him. You will command your own forces." By agreeing to that they were agreeing to his leadership, they let him allow them command of their own troops. This was the start he was after.

Once again, Engero added his part. "One condition. We share the command. Plan together." Making a bid for leadership with the smaller force would be foolish, but Engero would not submit to an inferior Westerner.

This frustrated the baronet, although he came to a realisation. "Done." By agreeing to it, he had claimed the power. "Not the woman or the beast."

"You dare-" sputtered Gantei. "Arrogant oaf!"

Skippy simply scuttled forward, stinger waving in the air. "My minions will follow the orders I give, and no others. If you want them, you bring me in."

"Silence, wench!" Termelain shouted. "I will not ask permission in how to conduct battle." As far as the baronet was concerned, anyone other than a hereditery land-owner was unsuitable for command.

"Then I will have no part in your foolishness." replied Gantei, with steel.

Thus the high command was formed.

Lightswords

Re: A Strategic Regret

Post by Lightswords » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:05 am

Before returning to her own camp, Gantei found a visitor seeking her out. In her usual trusting, friendly manner, she nocked an arrow and levelled her bow towards him.

"It's me!" called out Nurband, "I want to speak to you."

"Idiots who play at war! Not accept a horse archer as an equal?" This was the true bone of contention between Gantei and Termelain, each fighter found the other's methods and practices to be silly. For the baronet, a bow was a cowards weapon, of little use and value. For Gantei, this was someone who fought for his ego rather than any serious purpose.

"That's why I'm here!" announced Nurband, still riding steadily closer.

"I will hear you." Gantei acquiesed.

Glad for the progress, Nurband spread his palms as he spoke, twitching them with his points. "I have come to include you in our command."

"What? Can't Termelain grovel to me himself?"

"No. He doesn't know I'm here. He'd never admit that you can fight, or that your method of war may be better than his own."

"And you do?" queried the nomad, "So why do you charge into battle like a madman?"

Nurband sighed. "I fight in shield walls because that is where my strengths lie. Doesn't mean archers aren't useful."

Rather than concede anything with a reply, Gantei snorted. "So why are you loyal to him if you admit he's a fool?"

"Because he commands over a hundred men, and will be an ally in the battle I'm being payed for. And because it's in my interests to fight." Above all, Nurband was a mercenary. A free blade, bound only to the pay on offer.

"Oh?" An eyebrow raised on the nomad's face.

"Did you not wonder why we met at his camp? He wanted us to see his forces."

"And what did you see?" Already Gantei was starting to appreciate this more reasonable captain.

"A force over a hundred. Nearly half spears, the rest divided between archers, maces and swordsmen, the last two groups armoured."

Interesting. This Nurband had been making notes during the meeting, looking for any useful information. "So what's in this for you?"

"Spears and arrows for my men, shields too. Termelain keeps his own fletchers and poleturners in his camp, he offered me use of them." A fair number of the camp followers had been pressed into service by Termelain, and a few other mercenaries had got the idea of taking outright slaves. So far, only Termelain had the manpower from his troops to make use of them in a truly organised fashion. Understandably, many of the camp followers dealt in crafting supplies and goods for the mercenaries, a resource Termelain made sure to sieze for himself. "Besides, this Shining One can be trouble for me as well. Best to take him out before he bothers us further."

"You think we should go after him?"

Nurband grimaced. "Marching onto the city will force trouble with the Guard. We will have to wait until he comes out. But I do think we should band together on this. The guy sounds more dangerous than Termelain admits. If he has won the attention of higher powers that must mean something."

Gantei merely looked thoughtful, following his reasoning. "So what do you want from me, landwalker?" Her name for a footman, someone who travelled too much by their own feet and not many horses.

"You and your horse archers in the fight."

"I'll not fight for that lout Termelain!" If nothing else, he had blatantly proved he did not know how to make use of her talents.

"I'm not even asking for command, Gantei. We work together in the battle and share the plunder."

Those browny lips curved upwards into a fierce smile. "Sounds good... so why else are you helping Termelain?"

Armour made a soft chink as Nurband shrugged, metal-splinted arm pieces against iron breastplate. "He's my ally in the next fight. More allies keeps the odds in my favour." Bargains, trades, deals, were how Nurband worked. He was as much businessman as warrior. In fact, like most other captains of Free Companies, Nurband was skinflint with regard to equipping his soldiers. This was a tradition, a very pragmatic tradition; less than half of the soldiers he started a season with would live to see the winter frost.

While happy to spend his winters gathering new recruits to replace those lost in the year's battle, Nurband wanted to preserve his troops this time for the fight he was being paid for. Horse archers would be a welcome addition. His own forces consisted of several bowmen, mostly infantry in leather and helm and buckler and short sword, and finally a small cavalry of relative veterans who survived long enough to gain better arms and armour. Hopefully Gantei's aid would spare him the need to commit his own troops to the battle ahead.

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