May it please your lordship I present my report of my doings, since you ordered me to harry the fleeing foes. I followed them slaying all as we went till my horses were all blown and it was too dark to see. On the way we burnt two near deserted villages. In the dark we camped where we were to rest the steeds. At roll call before dawn I had Hunbred, Palle, Gnarlstif and twenty-two riders. With us were the Dabbrics Ali Badweh and Turbahn, with nine riders, a total of thirty-seven all told. We knew that there were fled Lawics in the area as we had heard them moving in the dark. When the sun rose we saw the River Undomeel ahead with the border village of Catena beside it. Around us lay several spinneys and clumps of bushes. I split our force into four polks to search the area but with a view to taking the village if possible. As I expected, there were refugees hiding in the clumps of greenery and some of these ambushed Ali Badweh’s polk. Unfortunately they killed Ali himself and his men fled to the westwards. Other bands were encountered including a Merchant’s who attempted to seek the shelter of the village. These we caught and slew. The village was palisaded with a high round stone tower. From this heavy springald darts came occasionally. I ordered most of my men to dismount and began to investigate the village. The palisades were not manned and when we gained access via the firing appetures it was evident that the inhabitants had all fled into the high tower. I sent a squad with axes to hew open the door to the tower. They were driven back by a shower of stones thrown from high up the tower. Whilst this was in progress more fugitives attacked our horse-holders from a nearby spinney. I myself assisted in driving them back into their refuge. The survivors from the attack on the tower informed me that the door was too tough for mere axes to breach it. I ordered that timber be found to make a ram of suitable size to be used on the steps up to the door. Meanwhile some of my bowmen exchanged fire with the tower from our side of the palisade. All this time we had been getting glimpses of vessels proceeding southwards down the river. I did consider sending men to fire at them but being short of arrows deemed it more important to take the village. All morning Wizard Gnarlstif had been trying when possible to call up his dragon but without success. However the Dabbrics under Turbahn returned and took three prisoners before coming to assist in the attack. Then a large ship drew up at the quay beside the tower and when my ram party went forward, fire and magic came from it. I ordered my men to leave the ram and attack the ship. At that moment Sprigensharn, Gnarlstif’s dragon appeared and he sent it to attack the ships on the river. Alas, as soon as he neared them an unlucky shot from the springalds in the tower sent him splashing into the river! Also it became evident that the villagers had been escaping from windows at the back of the tower, into the vessels on the river. There was a hard melee whilst we tried to take the vessel against the quay. They had the advantage of height but even so we killed two for everyone we lost ourselves, until we were blinded by magic. Then perforce we were driven back and only one Dabbric was still with me! I went to re-organise my men who remained holding the horses and at the palisade. Then a shout went up, smoke was coming from the tall tower, the enemy had fired it themselves! They escaped in their ships whilst we took possession of the village. Burning within the tower was the mechanism for hauling up a heavy chain to block the river. It seemed wise for us to raise this chain to block the way of any enemy vessels. So using our horses and rope we have raised it again and I stay camped here awaiting your further orders.
Our losses were the dragon, Palle and nine of my own riders plus Ali and two Dabbrics. I estimate around double that of the enemy were killed, plus the three prisoners taken by Turbahn.
* * *
I came with the forces of Borolon to Chogard five moons ago. Count Torpid commanded us and I accompanied his wife Countess Mildred. Finding a Prudellan temple in the city I offered my services, which were willingly accepted. With the gathering Lawic Host nearby, there were an unusually large number of weddings and other ceremonies. But overall the merrymaking hung the threat of violent war. There had been campaigning in Timpania for many years but now Hagoth had set his great masses in motion and we of the Lawic lands had to do likewise. The enemy was forming around Dyrhast and our leaders intended to fight him if he crossed the border. Many were the councils of the Lords and many the plans made and then dropped. Too many were the Lords, each thinking overmuch of his own importance. Then there were many disputes betwixt the races from so many lands and those not least between the human men and the haughty elves! However word came that the enemy was about to march, so our forces in the city hurried off to join the host. With them went Countess Mildred and many other ladies hoping to see their husband’s exploits in battle! The Arch-Sacrada of the Temple went with two others to assist the army with magic, leaving me to officiate in their absence. It was very noticeable that the city was now peopled almost entirely by women! Virtually all the men capable of carrying a weapon had been drafted into the army and apparently this was the case in all the nearby provinces.
I began this Journal on the advice of the venerable Kass Andrah, Sacrados of Agakrist. He had been cast out of the Great Council for his ‘negative views’ and was too old to fight. He came to me, “Sacrada, we face a great doom. Those fools in the Council have marched our men out to their deaths! I have read the oracles and they are red with blood! The wheel of time is turning and we of the Law will be crushed by it. Soon Gard, Thal, Moran, Yent and even the elf kingdoms beyond shall fall. It is only if you Easterners from beyond the Cleve can build up your strength, that Hagoth can be stopped. Our doom is imminent and I beg you prepare to leave down the river to carry the tale of our failing. I shall stay to die, advising the Patriaca Maeve to the end but you must gather such ladies and followers as you may and sail back to your homelands.”
This plea I took to heart, as I knew Kass Andrah as a sincere and holy man. Thus I begin my Journal:
Restday, 21st of the Ninth Moon
I held the morning service in the temple. There were only three old men in the congregation, all the rest being women. At the end I asked if any were interested in travelling to Borolon by ship. Six gave me their names. In the afternoon I made enquiries with the Port Master as to what vessels could be available. Of those there, some had no crews as they had gone of to join the host.
Startday 22nd of the Ninth Moon
I heard a report that battle with the evil ones had been joined near the border. I ensured that the three Borolon Lymphads had crews and were being well supplied with food.
Near Dusk the Countess Mildred returned with the Borolon ladies. All very distraught as the entire Borolon force has been wiped out yesterday. They had been sent to attack a large body of stone trolls and were assaulted from behind by five fire breathing dragons! When the battle had moved to the north-east, the Countess went to seek if any had survived on the field. There were none and the bodies were so burnt that few could even be recognised! The ladies then had to gallop away, as they were threatened by some enemy light cavalry. In fact they then rode on in easy stages all the long way back to Chogard. Word was that the battle was still continuing. However Countess Mildred approved of my actions and declared that the Borolon ladies and any others who wished should sail south.
Workday 23rd of the Ninth Moon
Countess Mildred sold all the Borolon horses that she still had. Those with the soldiers were all dead or captured. Easterner women widowed in other contingents came to the Temple of Prudella seeking passages east. We managed to hire two cogs and two yawls to add to our flotilla. All the Borolon ladies and women moved aboard the three lymphads. Word was that the men from Bara and Stetia had suffered many casualties and the Regalian elves had lost one of their princes. Most of our vessels were now near filled with women and Countess Mildred decided that we should sail off through the night. She picked the most warlike women to come onto the Melania, which would head the flotilla.
Woeday 24th of the Ninth Moon
Our flotilla glided downriver using only the current in single file. The wind was from the East but the ships Captain’s advised against using it in the darkness, for fear of striking underwater mud banks. Sometimes we could hear voices crying out from the banks but durst not investigate. With the approach of dawn we could see a light way ahead. Captain Lyley said he thought it should be the small port of Catena but that there should be two lights, one either side of the river!
“Perhaps the foul ones have taken it and only the light on the East bank remains?” Worried Lady Gail.
“But I think it must be on the Westward bank, unless the river is turning here?” declared Countess Mildred. But then that light flickered out! We crept on prey to doubts and fears. Two fast elf skyfs seemed unconcerned as they overtook us soon followed by a hanoe. In it I glimpsed the notorious Elf Princess Voluptia. The breeze from the East was chill but she was as scandalously scantily clad as was her custom!
“Shall we stop and have breakfast when it is dawn?” suggested Lady Harriet.
“No. If the Captain thinks it is wise, we should use the wind to go as fast as we may, once it is light enough to see properly. If the host was defeated, who knows how far the enemy have got. There is no sense in stopping!”
“Yes milady it will soon be light enough to raise the sail. Ahoy Fabiola! We are going to raise our sail!” Called out Captain Lyley.
The red ship behind us shouted to acknowledge and then passed the message to the Eadburgh, the third in line. The sky was lightening and soon we could make out the distant Thingol’s Peak many, many myles away.
Ahead plainly showed the tall tower and port of Catena but away to our right was a body of horsemen. At a spinney on the river bank stood a clump of women calling to the elves to rescue them. The two skyfs ignored them, speeding onwards but the hanoe took two aboard. Seeing the half dozen left Countess Mildred called back to the Fabiola to collect them. “We had best remain uncluttered as the guardian of the flotilla!” she explained.
The horsemen split into four groups and spread out across the land. One group was involved in a fight beside some bushes so we guessed that they were chaotic invaders. Ahead we saw that there was a chain raised across the river impeding the two skyfs who halted at the quay. Shortly the elves paddled across to the East bank and disembarking, carried their vessels round the tower at the far end of the chain. Princess Voluptia also halted at the quay and we heard her call out.
“Excuse me Sir custom’s officer but we are Princess Voluptia daughter of King Pinical of Regalia. I am politely requesting that you immediately drop your chain, so we and our menie may pass on our Lawful business?”
A voice replied from within the tower, “First I must record what you are carrying in your vessel?”
“We have ourself, my two ladies in waiting, three guards and our personal effects. You have to realise that as High Priestess of Floria we have to be in Regalis for the blooming of the Hibiscus Flowers! We should be most disappointed if we needed to use our powers to make your chain rust through, as this would be slower than your dropping it!”
“You have only reported six persons yet I can see eight! Moreover we are under threat and your guards would make a great addition to our strength?”
Then our Lymphad came behind the hanoe and Countess Mildred called out.
“I am Countess Mildred of Borolon and ask that you drop your chain so that my vessels may pass southwards? I can see that you are under threat and am prepared to assist you with those I have aboard this lymphad, if you will let the rest pass through? They are all filled with refugees, mostly widows of those that have perished, like my husband, with the Lawic host. I greatly fear the appearance of any of the fire-breathing dragons of the enemy. An they come we are like to be destroyed!”
“Oh those other two are only humans we had rescued, We had forgot them.” Said the Princess Voluptia.
“I will order the raising of the chain ladies. Meanwhile I have a battle to fight!” And we saw missile flying to and fro from the tower into enemies coming through the village. Some came with axes to hack at the Tower door at the top of some wooden steps. When some fell to the stones being cast out of the tower they retired. We could see the various bodies of horsemen gathering and dismounting to the west of the village.
“They will be massing for another attack!” commented Captain Lyley.
“Then we will moor next to the tower ready to support it!” declared Countess Mildred, “Portmaster Sir, do you wish us to evacuate your people?”
“It will be madness for them to come out of the door!” whined Lady Gail.
“If you get vessels behind the tower we will lower down our people from the windows.” Called out the voice from the tower. “Hopefully we can use our guard boat too!”
This was a sizeable yellow vessel moored at the north end of the quay. Behind us the Fabiola, having picked up the six refugees, had become stuck on a mudbank against the shore. They were unable to break free until the yawl Anne gave its assistance.
Meanwhile the enemy had improvised a ram and came into the village once more. Worse a dragon was now seen flying in from the north-west! I saw the yawl Anne expose more sail so as to get past the Melania making it the first to be exposed to the dragon’s flame! But then I had to concentrate on the enemies then assailing us. Finding that we in the Melania were supporting the tower they decided to drop their ram and concentrate on attacking us! The elfess Robyn and the crossbow woman Dawse fired on them whilst I sought to dispense terror with my powers. I saw it not but the Engineer Hoplon from inside the tower, hit the dragon with a heavy springald dart and it fell into the river to be seen no more! Hoplon said that it was to be his last shot so it was as well that it sped so well! The fight for the waist of our lymphad was desperate, for we had women facing trained warriors! Then soldiers from the tower joined in but still things went ill for us. Captain Lyley, Lady Henrietta with a sword and Countess Mildred herself with an ancient falchion, threw themselves forward to hold the bulwark. Alas both were slain but just as the ship was like to be taken Sir Earnest Worrior, Constable of Catena joined in. He had a magic lantern which dazzled the enemy enough for us to get the better of them. They fled back to the palisades and we were free to sail onwards. I found that we had the six oared guard boat for company packed with refugees from Catena. Looking back I saw flames showing on the roof of the tower. Sir Earnest said that her had fired it so as to deny the supplies stored there to the enemy.
Our losses had been heavy. Countess Mildred, Lady Henrietta, Robyn, Damson, and two sailors all dead! From Catena Sergeant Sympol, Shovel, three militiamen and two women had also been slain, twelve in all. However sixty-nine of our original company plus twelve picked up from the riverbank and all the Catena survivors were now got away to safety!
Sir Earnest said that from the tower he had seen other parties of refugees fighting the horsemen. A merchant’s train had tried to reach the village but all had been cut down! He reckoned that between us we must have accounted for a good dozen of the enemy plus the dragon. He intends to go to the Gwidior Fortress which is the only place like to stand now the host is destroyed. I told him of Kass Andrah’s prediction but he said that he was a Yent knight and if necessary he would fall fighting for it!
* * *
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