Session One Hundred and Sixty-Five - February 19, 2022

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred and Sixty-Five - February 19, 2022

Postby Matt » Fri Mar 18, 2022 8:17 pm

Larane 12, 733

Orsin Firith, Lord Marshal of Kaldor, ordered the detachment of Lord Ewen Ravinargh's light horse currently serving as the northern tripwire to join the rest of their squadron across the Kald. If they should spot the enemy, half will immediately ride back to the castle to raise the alarum, and the other half shadow the Vikings until they can rejoin the larger force. Lord Firith's own squadron would maintain the northern guard at Setanlin, and, of course, the Lord Marshal himself would lead them.

Lord Ewen could not help, but notice, that for all his talk of supreme command, the Lord Marshal had just put himself on the front lines and left the actual work to his second.

Such is the way of war, Lord Ewen sighed, and got on with the task at hand: deploying the forces of Kaldor to best meet the anticipated attack on Caer Olokand. He studied the order of battle:

Under Lord Ewen Ravinargh, Baron of Ternua:

-Captain Thorp's squadron, 10 light horse (currently in the field)
-Sir Dickon's company: 20 medium foot – two had fallen.
-Thardan lads: 23 medium foot, 1/3 also archers
-Karnas's company: 21 medium foot
-Cupper's company of Ternua: 20 medium foot
-Dermit's company of Ternua yeomen: 20 short bow
-Lord Prehil's guard: 10 medium foot
-Sir Bereden Pawade, Constable of Heru's company: 20 longbowmen
-The Gray Gryphons mercenary company: 13 medium foot
-15 knights and squires, (5 from Ternua, 10 rendering feudal service from Ambarnis at Olokand, plus Sir Daxton)

Under Lord Ewen Ravinargh, Sheriff of Meselyneshire:

-Olokand garrison: one company medium foot (20), one company light foot (20), and one company longbowmen (20),
-Summer Levy: one company medium foot (20), two companies light foot (40), one company shortbowmen (20)

Under Her Grace Chelebin IV, Queen of Kaldor:

-Royal Guard (some not here):three companies medium foot (60), 20 knights
-Forces of Sir Rafe Delwarne, Sheriff of Semethshire: two companies light foot (40), one company shortbowmen (20)

Under the Lord Marshal Orsin Firith, Earl of Osel:

-One company light foot (20), one company shortbowmen (from Oselmarch) (20), one squadron light horse (10), one company medium foot (from Qualdris) (20), 10 knights.

The forces of the Earldom of Balim, under Sir Scina Dariune, were still to arrive. The knights of the Order of the Lady of Dolithar had been tasked with defending the city of Tashal in the Queen's absence.

Ewen ordered his five companies to the west wall. The remaining infantry would man the east wall, facing the river. The Olokand garrison medium foot would take the sector adjoining the prison tower. The archers would be deployed on the towers, the longbowmen on the tall tower and the shortbow companies dispersed among the gate house towers, the southwest tower, and the middle tower, with one held in reserve. The Royal companies would man the keep and south wall. The Olokand light foot were given responsibility for the castle's war engines. They were to see the positioning and range of the catapults and ballistae, and ordered to assemble ammunition, both stone and in the form of pitch and oil to be set fire. An additional company of the Semethshire light foot was also in reserve.

To clarify the chain of command, Ewen appointed Sir Haldare to lead the Royal Forces, Lord Prehil the eastern wall companies, and Sir Baris Ewen's own forces.

The plan, as established by Sir Haldavis's trickery the previous day, was to lure the Vikings in by making them believe the Kaldoric host was weak. Few troops would be posted on the walls, and scarecrows were to be made, pathetic scarecrows, to stand next to the men-at-arms and give an impression of desperation. Only once the Vikings committed their forces will the full strength of the castle garrison be brought into action. The battalion of knights, numbering 25 along with their squires, would conceal themselves on the Ostler's Common until they can charge the Viking forces on the flank. The Royal Knights would guard the Queen.

By the end of the day, it began to rain again. No news came from either of the forward units. Men stood sentry through the night, ready to defend the walls if the enemy should attack by surprise.


Larane 13, 733

The skies opened up, and a cold wind scoured the town. Around midmorning, a sentry reported to Lord Ewen that two riders were approaching from the north. Sprinting to the nearest tower, he saw that one was a trooper of Lord Firith's light horse. Ewen ordered the castle gate opened. When he met the riders, he saw the other was Sir Romlach Ethasiel, son of the baron of Setrew.

Lord Ewen was amazed. When the ruse of Sir Haldavis's “prisoner exchange” was suggested, no one expected the Vikings to respond in good faith. If he had anticipated seeing anything of Sir Romlach again, he had figured it would be in pieces. But here the man was, in poor shape, but alive and whole.

“Ewen Ravinargh!” exclaimed Romlach as he dismounted. “I wasn't expecting to see you here!”

“Sir Romlach, we are so pleased to have you back with us. Come in.”

“I will do just that. I must see the King!”

Lord Ewen realized that Sir Romlach must have seen the Elendsa banner flying above the castle and made certain conclusions from badly outdated information.

“Sir Romlach, this castle is held by Her Grace Chelebin IV. You have much to catch up on.”

Sir Romlach blinked. “So it would seem! Chelebin IV? So Cheselyne Hosath finally got it, did she?”

“You will remember Her Grace better as Serli Ubael.”
Sir Romlach stood quite still for several moments, then said “You're right, I do have a lot to catch up on. That was a deep dive into the well.”

“Sir Romlach, I myself am currently Sheriff of Meselyneshire. You are welcome to the castle. Would you like to get caught up, or see the Queen directly?”

“I think I should see the Queen, and then catch up.”

“Very good. Sir Haldare, would you make inquires of Her Grace if she is available?” After Sir Haldare left, Lord Ewen said “Sir Romlach, have you eaten?”

“I would be grateful for some pork. I have had very little real food for months now. Since Huxley—can't remember when that was.”

They retired to the Great Hall. When the food appeared, Sir Romlach fell on it with alacrity. He made a pitiful figure, having obviously not bathed in months, and clad like one of the enemy in a Viking helm, complete with shield and even axe.

Sir Haldare returned. “Begging your pardon, milord. Her Grace will not countenance a meeting with Sir Romlach. Sir Romlach knows the reason why.”

Lord Ewen was baffled, but Sir Romlach evidently was not. “Well, it was worth a shot,” he said with a wry grimace.

Making a mental note to investigate why the Queen refused to see the returned prisoner, Lord Ewen spoke up. “Sir Romlach, to acquaint you with the present circumstances, you should know that the Lord Marshal, Lord Orsin Firith, in chief in command here.”

“I know. I met up with him, but we didn't talk very much.”

“In absence, I am serving as second in command. I suggest we must make do, and I will debrief you.”

“That makes sense. It's been a long time, from the tournament lists outside these walls.”

“Yes, indeed. We both rode honorably.”

“Before we begin, I suppose I should tell you what I was going to tell the Queen. I escaped. Not sure how. For these past weeks, I was locked in my own room at Setrew castle—although they didn't leave me anything except the bed. Once a day they would feed me some sort of pottage, and empty the slop bucket. That was the only contact I had. Then, two days ago, I heard the key in the lock. No one came in. When I tried the door, I found it unlocked. I ventured out. There were sounds coming from the Great Hall, sounds of a fight—and a pretty one-sided fight, too. Whatever it was, it was over by the time I got there. The hall was filled with dead Vikings. Twenty, maybe thirty. It looked like they fell on each other. Nobody left alive! I picked up a shield, helm and axe, and walked right out. Nobody said so much as 'yurk' to me. I kept walking. Everything outside was fine. Vikings going on about their business, and the peasant captives. I was tempted to free some, but that seemed a bad idea, so I just kept going. And down I came! When I got as far as Setanlin, I was surrounded by horsemen, Orsin Firith's men. I told them a bit of the tale, but I said I would only tell the rest to the king. That's why Firith laughed, now that I think about it. He sent one of his riders to escort me here. I don't know what caused the Vikings to have their falling out, or who left my door unlocked. It was pretty vicious. Those weren't fisticuffs. They were out for blood. But only inside the castle.”

“You saw no sign of victors, only the dead and vanquished?”

“That's correct. And no indication outside that anyone knew it had taken place.”

A bizarre story. Lord Ewen was puzzled. But there were important questions to be asked first. “When you departed Setrew, did you see any preparations underway for Vikings to march, whether south or elsewhere?”

“No I didn't.”

“Did you notice any war boats?”

“Yes, ten or eleven.”

“Eleven matches our latest intelligence. An extraordinary tale.” He took his own slab of pork. “You are fortunate. We feared you had been killed. “

“Well, you don't kill a baron's son. Speaking of which, where is my father?”



“My understanding is your father went to Gardiren.”

“Ah, I see.”

“I have not heard anything regarding him or his troops since then. We assume he reported the events at Setrew to milord the Earl of Neph.”

“That makes sense. Are they here?”

“Well, I must tell you that the Earl of Neph and a body of troops, including knights of the Baron of Yeged, did march west, but they were ambushed near Baseta and driven back. We have not heard any word of milord the Earl of Neph since then. I assume he retreated back to Gardiren. The baron and his men were found by myself. They had survived, and are now at Baseta, which has not fallen.”

Sir Romlach shook his head. “Meden never was much of a soldier. Sure as Londel was just a creampuff, so I'm not surprised.”

“They did not fare well. We are happy to have such as yourself added to our number, for we are expecting the enemy will make one final attempt at Olokand.”

“If you can find me a sword, I'd be happy to help.”

“Let's get you some clothing and a bath first.”

“Yeah, and if you can send a chambermaid to assist with the bath, that'd be nice!”

“I'll have them draw straws for the privilege,” Lord Ewen said with a grin.

Sir Romlach was shown to his bath. Lord Ewen instructed Goreg to see that the knight was properly equipped and given a fresh horse, a task to which the squire promptly addressed himself.

Lord Ewen withdrew to his chambers to think over Sir Romlach's tale. Nothing made sense. Could this be a ruse, like Sir Haldavis's trick the previous day? Yet it was hard to see how the Vikings might benefit. Had Torvald's return ignited a leadership struggle? If so, was he victim or victor of the Great Hall melee?

After mulling the story over, attempting to get one clear fact to grasp amid the chaos, Ewen decided to attempt to clairvoy Torvald Ironhead.

Going into a trance...reaching out with his mind...putting himself in the enemy's eyes ...

Only to find a blank, unending void.

Lord Ewen cleared his vision. There was one thing of which he could be sure. Torvald Ironhead was no more.


That evening, Lord Ewen enjoyed once more the newly friendly affections of his lady wife. In the aftermath, he inquired as to what was the history between the Queen and Sir Romlach.

“Oh, that. Her Grace was, as were many, at the Royal Chelebin Tournament of 729. Sir Romlach celebrated in great style, drunkenly walked into Serli's tent, and attempted to woo her. She refused. He then attempted to assault her. Her brother heard her cries and rescued her—had to be restrained from killing the man, in fact. Since the crime had not gotten very far, there were no further consequences. But Serli has not forgotten, not one bit.”

“That was rather ungallant of Sir Romlach. Has he no sisters of his own, to inspire him to greater chivalry?”

“He does at that. Two sisters. Neither married—one joined the Church of Larani and one the Church of Peoni.”

The train of thought went around Lord Ewen's refreshed mind. “Have you heard from your sister lately?”

“Who, Camissa? Certainly not.”

“I have to wonder if there are any strains in her marriage, being wed to a man both the brother of the Queen and yet a loyalist of Vemion.”

“Karsin was indeed loyal to my father—but not so loyal that he would side with him against the Queen.”

The desultory gossip continues until they both fall asleep, the sound of continuing rain beating on the castle roof.


Larane 14th, 733

A rider came from Firith's post, reporting no sightings there and asking how the situation is across the river. Ewen sent a reply stating that was all was quiet on the eastern front, and included a report of Sir Romlach's tale. Toward the end of the day, the rain finally ended.


Larane 15th, 733

Lord Ewen once again dispatched Qorsad scouting up the Kald, over a chorus of draconic whining.

All right, I'll do it. But you have to get me a nice dog.

Agreed.
He turned to his squire. “Goreg, go find a stray dog.”

The amphitere then launched aloft. A few hours later, it returned.

Did you get a dog?

Yes. My squire found a puppy. It's in Sir Baris's quarters, as Lady Thilisa will not abide by the killing of dogs. Now what did you see?

Do I not get the puppy?

We’ll see if we can get it for you. Sir Baris’s squire saw it and wanted to play with it. Um, then Lady Thilisa heard about it somehow. It’s in ‘protective custody’ but I’ll have Squire Goreg mount a ‘rescue.’ Now, where are the Vikings?

They must be off on a raid or something.

Oh?

There aren't as many Vikings, and only five boats.

That is good information. Are there half as many Vikings as before?

Qorsad hissed. Math is hard. I guess it's about half.

Did you see any raiding parties while you were flying up the river?

No. Spotted that man with the horses, though.

Captain Thorp?

No, the other one, the one with one eye.

Yes. Very good, Qorsad. You may have your puppy as soon as we can get it.


Ewen was very intrigued by the new intelligence. Could the Vikings have marched in force on Baseta? To check, he again used his clairvoyance, this time to see through the eyes of the Baron of Yeged.

The Baron was in the Great Hall of Baseta Castle, roistering with his minstrels. No danger apparent. Far from being in any danger, everyone in Baseta appeared to be having a rollicking good time. Someone should pay them a visit.


Larane 15, 733

Lord Ewen ordered a patrol, to range out to Baseta and check the state of things across the river at Halperin. Sir Haldavis was put in command, accompanied by Sir Baris, Squire Goreg, Sir Daxton, and Sir Welcris. A message was dispatched to Lord Orsin to inform him of the expedition.

The party left mid-morning. Despite the still-muddy roads, they soon reached Halperin, across the river from the Viking camp. There were now only six warboats, close to Qorsad's report.

The enemy spotted the patrol, and there was much excitement. The knights waved and rode on.

At Baseta, the patrol found two of the Baron of Yeged's knights, Sir Koper and Sir Nashal, performing the oddly lowly duty of gate guard.

“Hail in the name of Kaldor!” said Goreg.

“Why, it's Lord Ewen's squire! Greetings! What news from Olokand?”

“Not much. The Vikings hold Setrew yet, but nothing else.”

“I'm sure they'll be glad to hear that in the castle. Tell them we want to be relieved!”

In the Great Hall, they were met by the constable, Eres Terenath, and the Baron of Yeged.

“I am Sir Haldavis Legith, envoy from the Sheriff of Meselyneshire. Olokand holds fast. We seek news.”

The constable looked at the envoy, who grinned. “We are very pleased to hear Olokand holds. We ourselves have not been invested, and are pleased about that. Yesterday—or was it the day before?--the day before, under cover of night, several Viking longboats rowed upstream on the Kald.”

“This comports with that we witnessed at Setrew. There are only six boats there now. How were the boats you saw loaded?”

“They were filled with men and animals.”

“We wonder whether there may have been some divisions among the Vikings, and if some may be claiming their loot and returning.”

“I couldn't say. It's possible. We have seen them row upstream before, but never with animals, just returning with animals. When they were raiding.”

“We have sufficient forces at Olokand that I don't believe they won't go further than where they are now, and so I think they're taking what they can. It's a long portage back to Lorkin with a herd of livestock, but perhaps these were provisions for along the way.”

“There's not much in the way of booty. But it did look like there were some women with them.”

“Booty indeed. How do you stand for provisions?”

“Since many of the manors have been wrecked, we still have far too many mouths to feed. Provisions are holding now, but not into next month. For morale, I turn to the Baron.”

Yeged smiled. “We've been playing concerts every night.”

“It's unusual to see knights standing guard.”

The two noblemen exchanged another look. “Milord Baron suggested, and I agreed, that the key points be well guarded.”

“Two knights, however valiant, are still a token.”

“Sir Haldavis,” said Yeged. “My knights are not only excellent musicians, they are excellent swordsmen!”

“Have you received any word from milord the Earl of Neph?”

Yeged chuckled. “I have not seen milord the Earl of Neph in many a day, nor have I heard from him or anyone else. Except for you folks, it's like Baseta has been forgotten, even by the Vikings.”

“We have not forgotten. We gather our strength, and seek only information to decide what to do next. We are most pleased Baseta remains unmolested. Can you spare a rider to alert us if you see any further river traffic?”

“We can! Now that you know were here.” The constable looked very satisfied.

“Now we're pulling it together,” said Yeged. “I think it's time for a song! Summon my minstrels!”

Sir Haldavis and his crew enjoyed an evening of music and mutton.


Larane 16, 733

The party set out on the return to Olokand, stopping by Captain Thorp's base in the ruins of Dyselon to get word from him.

As they progressed down the road, it began to rain. Hardly a strange thing, in a Harnic summer. But the wind rose, and rose more, grew into a great gale. Gouts of thunder began, the heavens screaming at the tiny men beneath. The party struggled to control their horses, to urge them towards the safety of home, until a very thunderbolt struck near Cekiya. The Little Adder was fine, somehow, but Sir Haldavis and Goreg found themselves deafened for a time.

The deafness was just beginning to lift as the knight made his report to Lord Ewen.

“No one brings booty on a raid,” Ewen observed.

“Indeed, milord. Baseta keep seemed remarkably carefree.”

“The gods look after fools and children, I suppose. I congratulate you on your initiative.”

“The gods did throw a little scare into me on the way home.”

“Is that why you are speaking so loudly?”

“Between that and the musical performance of the Baron of Yeged, milord.”

“We all appreciate you suffering for the evening. I am pleased to hear they are not beset. Thank you for your report. I appreciate its clarity, as opposed to Cekiya, who is always cryptic.”

“Happy to serve as the backup to your dragonette.”


Larane 17,733

The tempest continues through the night. By dawn conditions have eased, enough for Ewen to dispatch a rider to Orsin Firith informing him of Haldavis's news.

Sometime after midday, the sentries cried notice of a force to the south. The last of the Kaldoric forces, under Sir Scina Dariune, had finally arrived. The force brought five more companies: two of medium foot, two of light foot, and one shortbow, plus twenty knights and squires, about one hundred and forty men in all. This was the earldom of Balim on the march.

Ewen was glad to see them, but knew that the castle, already stuffed to the rafters, was about to get yet more crowded.

Sir Scina met Ewen in the Council Chamber.

“Lord Ewen, my father sends his regards.” Scina's voice was a hiss, the result of the throat wound he had suffered in the tournament the year previous.

“I an honored to hear that your noble father sends his greetings. We welcome you warmly, you are much appreciated and welcome—in spite of the conditions.”

“It's necessary. Where is the Lord Marshal?”

“The Lord Marshal is out scouting, in a forward position, as he opted to do. He is on the road between here and Setrew, our trip wire.”

“You astonish me, sir!”

“You know the Lord Marshal. You shouldn't be too astonished. He is used to taking an active hand.”

“I cannot say I know him all that well. As opposed to his son, Sir Prehil, here present. Who is this other fellow?”

“May I present Sir Haldavis Legith, milord. I believe you know his family.”

“Legith? Any relation to Aeomund?”

“Sir, he is my cousin,” said Haldavis.

“How unfortunate for you,” Scina hissed. “I am happy to say he has been left behind in Tashal, to guard it against, in my opinion, a nonexistent threat. In any event, I hope you are nothing like him!” Under his breath, Scina continued “I hate that guy!”

“I believe my family is already of that opinion.”

Ewen interrupted. “Sir Haldavis comes highly recommended.”

“Then I shall, too,” Scina said. “I seek only to prove myself worthy in all matters, milord.”

“Let us never think otherwise. Lord Sheriff, it has been a long and muddy march. If you'll excuse me...”

“I'm sure you want to give your regards to the Queen.”

“I presume there will be a meal in the evening. I will present myself to Her Grace at that time.”

“Excellent. Let us know if the amenities are lacking. We shall do what we can.”

Scina sniffed. “I do smell a great deal of pig.” Then he departed.

Ewen leaned back in his chair. “Sir Haldavis, does the Lord Marshal always act as he is doing now?”

“Oh yes, milord, as long as I've known him. He wants to be out front.”


That evening at dinner, Lord Ewen filled in Scina Dariune as to the situation. Knowing that Scina might be in his father's confidence, he asked what was going on in Vemionshire.

Scina grinned. “That you and Vemion don't get along is the worst kept secret in the kingdom. But when I say his threat to Tashal is nonexistent, that's only half of it. He's not marching on Tashal, at least not yet. But the Vikings, too, the idea they could sail down the Kald, is equally ridiculous. They don't have the numbers. The whole city would rise up against them.”

“They're not going anywhere near Tashal,” Ewen replied. “Not after I set them on their heels.”

Scina lifted his tankard. “I'm man enough to say I didn't think you had it in you, but you did.”

“That's all right, Lord Scina. People don't underestimate me twice.”

“Certainly not the Vikings!”

“What is your take on the situation, now that you're rested, refreshed, and brought up to speed?”

“I'm sure if my father were here, he would have unraveled the whole thing by now, but I'll take a stab at it. I think those Vikings had a falling out after you killed their leader. He was probably able to keep them all together with his goal, but once he was dead, his goal was buried with him. They couldn't agree, and they split into two or more groups. Didn't you say thirteen boats, then eleven, two still missing, and then six! I think they split and left in factions. Now they're heading back to Lorkin. It's the ones that are still here that are the problem. I don't think they plan to go away at all.”

“Some might want to stay at Setrew and winter there.”

“Here's the thing: nobody knows what side Neph is going to take if Vemion tries to carve out the eastern piece of the kingdom. Given that threat, a young and untried monarch may accept as fait accompli the Vikings keeping Setrew in exchange for stopping their depredations. Of course, that'd be a fool's bargain. They'll only stop until they're strong again. That's what I think.”

“I say we must retake Setrew,” said Ewen.

“I think we might have the numbers to do it,” Scina declared, and pulled at his ale.
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Matt
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