Prequel: Brass on the Iron Road
On the ancient dwarf road between Karak Borgo and Campogrotta, Summer 2403
It had been half an hour since the army came to a halt. The days of marching were long, but not too tiring, as the road coursed (in the main) downhill, and although ancient, being dwarf-built it was in good repair. Yet none of this meant a quick pace. You might presume that the dwarves were to blame, and you would be right. But it was not their short legs that caused the delay. It was the engines of war they were hauling. More accurately, it was one engine in particular – the massive ‘Cannon Imperial’ named Granite Breaker.
Being summer it was still light even this late in the day, and just like the last nine evenings the entire army was now stretched out along the road side for the best part of a mile, preparing to camp for the night. Apart from the mounted Brabanzon mercenaries, the order of the companies never changed. Some nights the riders lit their fires at the head of the army, other nights elsewhere, presumably camping on some convenient height nearby from which they could keep an eye out for torch lights and such like. But every other body kept its allotted place in the line. The dwarven flying engine, which could hardly be called a ‘company’, also rested in a different place each night – wherever its pilot thought safely solid enough to re-acquaint it with the ground. The road would be the obvious choice, but then the sleeping engine would block the way should an alarm be sounded.
Most of the army’s baggage was at the rear of the column. The heavily-laden wagons had spent each hour of travel discovering, with rattling clunks, every bit of damage done by Granite Breaker’s passage. Now they were very quiet, lined up in an orderly fashion typical of dwarfs. The horses and oxen had been unlimbered and led away to rest somewhere amongst the trees.
It was by the wagons that Glammerscale Hamgorn the dwarven wizard had met his equally unlikely counterpart from the company of Brabanzon mercenaries marching with the army of Karak Borgo, the red-haired, ‘fallen’ damsel Perrette L’Amy. Immediately upon laying eyes on him she had smiled, as if they were old friends, and approached him confidently. She wore a long dress of red wool, full sleeved but unadorned with lace or embroidery, hoist up a little to reveal an inner petticoat of purple. Her long, bright hair was loose and wild, and she had in her hand a part-extended fan, which she clutched to her side. Glammerscale assumed it must be some fashionable affectation amongst Bretonnian ladies, although from what he had heard she was no lady.
“A fellow magician!” she said. “It’s good to know I’m not the only one here. I’d heard of you, Master Glammerscale, but couldn’t decide whether to believe what I’d been told.”
“I am indeed a rarity,” he said. “Perhaps now that there are two of us my kin will finally accept me for what I am?”
Perrette’s smile grew wider. “I hope they have not been cruel. I too am something of an outcast, although my problem is that my current companions are often a little too willing to accept me.”
Glammerscale pondered this for a moment. Perrette had not travelled to Tilea with Baron Garoy, but in the company of the Brabanzon mercenaries. He had heard them talk of her two evening’s ago. They did not call her witch or wizard, instead sorceress. Nor did they call her a lady, and as their drinking went on they used much more base terms. The young paladin Baron Garov refused to mention her at all. From the way he winced, it appeared he was even reluctant to hear her name merely mentioned.
“The way of magic is not an easy path,” Glammerscale said diplomatically.
Perrette’s smile seemed more genuine. “And some of us find ways to make it even more difficult for ourselves.”
“No, my lady,” he said. “I would not say we sought the difficulties. They came through no fault of our own. I was born a dwarf, and you were born a peasant.”
“Ah, but was I born such, Master Glammerscale? Or did I ruin my reputation and besmirch my noble blood through dishonour and misdeeds?”
“I meant no insult by what I said,” stuttered Glammerscale. “I merely presumed that …well …”
“Worry not, good master dwarf. Had I been born a lady I would happily have cast aside such a tedious life, such an imprisonment. So, whether you are right or wrong, it does not offend me.”
Glammerscale noted she had not actually said whether she was a noblewoman or peasant born. Perhaps such mystery could only improve her reputation as a spell-weaver? To know too much about a person can make them appear mundane, and that does not do for a practitioner of the magical arts.
“What think you of this army?” Perrette asked. “Is it sufficient to the task ahead?”
“It is no easy thing,” said Glammerscale, “to oust an army of brutes from a well-fortified city. Still, I believe we have the tools required.”
“Are we two of those tools?” asked Perrette, a twinkle in her eye.
It was Glammerscale’s turn to smile. “I would say, my lady, that were we allowed, we could add a better edge to those tools. The walls of Campogrotta will need some considerable chipping to breach. Anyone who can distract the foe whilst the work is done will be welcome.”
“You say ‘Were we allowed’, master dwarf. Why so? Are we not invited to this dance?”
“You might well need your dancing shoes, but I am afraid it is unlikely I shall attend. King Jaldeog has other things in mind for me, and all his thanes are in agreement.”
Perrette frowned. “I did not know this. Whither are you bound?”
“I shall not be far away. I am to be sent to watch for any relief that might approach. It seems my eyes, despite my need for these glasses, are considered more valuable than any magic I might conjure.”
Glammerscale doubted his explanation had convinced the damsel, as anyone who knew anything about dwarfs knew of their distrust of wizards. He would be ordered off with the scouts, yes, but the real reason was superstition. The thanes and their warriors did not want him bringing bad luck to the army on the day of battle. As Thane Narhak had put it, his presence upon the field of battle would be disruptive to the cause.
Perrette watched him for a moment. Then her smile returned. “There is no dishonour in that, for the art of war requires such watchfulness.”
“I did not think those you travelled with cared much for honour,” said Glammerscale.
“The Brabanzon! Oh, they care not a jot for it,” she said with a chuckle. “They came with one thing in mind. Well, lots of things in truth, and most of them shiny in some way or another. And such is their desire for plunder that they will fight as well as any knight seeking renown.”
“What does Baron Garoy make of them?”
“He acts as if he is lord over them, though all know he is not. I saw him only half an hour ago inspecting the brigand archers in the van.”
“Lord or not, does he not command them in the field?” asked Glammerscale. “That was the agreement.”
“Oh, they play their part well enough. The archers I saw had already put up their huts and lit their fires before he arrived, yet still they formed into a body before him.
He made a comment or two to the sergeants there, to which they mumbled some sort of answer. I’m sure each and every Brabanzon once served some knight or another. They understand what is expected of them.
“By their agreed contract they are to obey his orders in battle, and by Bretonnian custom they are required to bow to him. But they are mercenaries, and as such consider their contract more binding than custom.”
“He is not their paymaster,” said Glammerscale.
“He is not,” agreed Perrette. “He who pays is the true authority. Until the payment is completed.”
“Or perhaps another party offers better payment?”
Perrette laughed. “Normally so, but here and now, in these mountains, who else is there to pay them?”
“Well, they do expect more, by way of plunder. They told me so themselves.”
“Aye,” said the damsel. “And as I said, that expectation will ensure they fight. Not as well as dwarfs, I’m sure.”
Glammerscale decided he liked this woman. He enjoyed her honesty, and the fact that when she did flatter she made it so obviously a game.
“And what do you think of the baron?” he asked.
“Would you have me slander a knight?”
“The truth would serve me better now, whether good or ill.”
“He had his companion with him when I saw him this eve, a standard-bearer carrying his emblem. The tête de cerf blanc – the white stag’s head – upon a field of red and white. He has the standard with him always.”
“The white stag,” mused Glammerscale, “that can never be captured.”
“The forever chase! You know the stories!” said Perrette, surprised.
“I have read Berthelot’s tales. Book learning is like breathing to me,” said Glammerscale. He was hardly ever without a book about his person. He now knew that Perrette had to be of noble birth, for how could a peasant know of such things? “A strange emblem for a paladin pursuing the rule of Ravola, for then his chase does end.”
“Are we to presume the baron chose wisely?” asked the damsel.
“The baron is young, as are all his companions.”
“And wisdom comes with age?”
“To some degree,” laughed Glammerscale. “I wonder what the baron thinks of the Brabanzon?”
“You are kind not to ask what he thinks of me,” she said. “He cannot be happy with the army he has been given. But it is what it is, and beggars can’t be choosers. As long as they prove useful to his ambitions he will tolerate them. I think he has some diplomacy in him, for he feigned not to notice the brigand archers who declined to assemble before him, instead remaining by the fire to drink.”
“Perhaps the cooking of supper required their attentions?”
“You have some diplomacy in you too, Master Glammerscale. And I thought dwarfs were plain-spoken to a fault.”
Glammerscale laughed again. “I have many faults, ask any dwarf. Being a wizard overshadows all the rest, so most are barely noticed.”
Perette fell silent and studied him for a moment or two, which made him a little uncomfortable.
“I sense an etheric heat about you,” he said, partly to alleviate the discomfort, but moreso out of curiosity. “Will you be conjuring fire in the assault?”
“Aye, I like to play with fire. We’ll come to know the smell of burning ogre before the fight is over. I can’t imagine it’ll be pleasant.”
“I should think the brimstone stench of the powder will overwhelm all other smells. The scouts have said that every stretch of wall and every tower teems with cannon muzzles, and Granite Breaker will burn tons of the stuff.”
“I shall take great care to throw my fires at the foe, and not to allow even a spark to stray amongst our engines,” Perrette declared. “In truth, having seen the great gun I wonder whether anything I will do will even be noticed by any upon either side!”
“She is indeed a beast!” said Glammerscale with a grin. “Her roar will surely be louder than that of any dragon, and her hunger for powder will make that which feeds an entire battery of ordinary guns seem like a mere appetiser.”
Perrette seemed confused. “You have never seen the gun fire?”
“No. She is very ancient. So old I think there are barely any even amongst dwarfs who have seen her give fire. Do not let her age make you doubt her efficaciousness, however. Cannons are simple constructions, and it is the quality of the cast that counts. She was made of the best brass, by the best gunsmiths, and will be fed a diet of gourmet powder. She is inscribed with powerful, protective runes. I doubt their will be much left of Campogrotta when she finally gets so hot as to risk shivering.”
He had had a chance to inspect the cannon imperial closely two evenings ago, in the company of no less than the army’s general, Narhak, Thane of Dravaz. She had been heavily guarded, as were the wagons of budge barrels that would provide her sustenance. The thane had waxed lyrical about her, telling of a great uncle who swore he had seen her take the top of a mountain off.
She was cast in the form of a dragon and mounted on a carriage so heavy that it alone, if rolled down a hill against a castle wall, could possibly bring it down. The brass had long since tarnished to make her blueish in hue. None had thought to polish her, however, for in the old stories of her destructions she had been blue and proud of it, and no-one wanted to offend her.
She required a regiment of draught animals to haul her, several of which were still nearby as she rested, being the last to have been unhitched.
The animals were needed fore and aft of her on the road, in differing proportions according to the chief engineer’s judgement. When going down hill more were needed behind than in front. When the animals were changed, she was held in place by huge wedges, the four of which needed a wagon to themselves. Most of her powder was carried with that of the other guns, but at least one wagon was usually nearby too.
Thane Narhak had said a powder wagon was kept close to reassure her. Considering he had just claimed she had once beheaded a mountain, Glammerscale had the measure of the thane’s flights of fancy. After half an hour in her close company, the wizard had decided that his absence from the battle would be of very little consequence with the likes of her blasting at the foe. A field gun was to an ogre as a handgun was to a dwarf, but Granite Breaker was to an ogre as a sledge hammer was to a mouse.
Her Imperial Majesty was not going to Campogrotta to knock down ogres, however. She had to bring down the walls. Glammerscale had seen those walls himself, and to his knowledge only the mighty walls of Remas were bigger. He had passed the city in the evening, far enough away to avoid being spotted. The gate had ragged banners atop, bearing an image of red mountains – presumably one of Razger’s emblems and not that of the Wizard Lord Niccolo.
It had been under a darkening sky, which combined with Glammerscale’s purblind eyes, meant that although he could make out what must be brutes patrolling the battlements …
… he had not discerned what exactly were the weapons they were carrying. It was Thane Narhak who had told him what the scouts had seen – cannon barrels carried like handguns.. Not that there was a smattering of such weapons, but that every ogre upon the walls had one.
Glammerscale did not doubt Granite Breaker would fell Campogrotta’s fortifications. It would take time, however, and he wondered what the serried ranks of cannon barrels might do to those who assaulted the walls or clambered over the rubble during that delay.
“I am sure you are right, master dwarf” said Perrette. “The gun will prove our greatest friend. And I am glad you will be watching the road, for it would be a sad thing indeed for Razger Boulderguts to disturb her while she is so busy.”
Previous stories featuring Glammerscale include “A Weakening of the Faith” in Part 1 of the campaign (https://bigsmallworlds.com/2017/07/03/first-blog-post/) and “A Blessed Army” in Part 5 (https://bigsmallworlds.com/2017/07/15/tilea-campaign-part-5/)
Assault on Campogrotta – The Battle, Part One
The brute defenders upon the city walls had watched for the two hours it took to drag the mighty cannon Granite Breaker into position. They themselves had guns, cannon-barrels no less, which they wielded the way a man might a handgun, but they knew that the enemy was too far away for their shots to have any real effect. So they bided their time, unafraid, for why would brutes fear the antics of the little folk?
The attackers – the dwarfs of Karak Borgo, the paladin Baron Garoy and the Bretonnian Brabanzon mercenary company – had arranged their lines before Granite Breaker was hauled up, ready in full force to thwart any attempted sally from the walls to capture or disable her.
The dwarfs themselves stood closest to the great gun, forming the assaulting army’s left wing. Thane Narhak, their commander [i](Game note: A lord level character)[/i], and the army standard bearer led the warriors. To his right were the Longbeards commanded by Thane Thakolim and accompanied by the Runesmith Rakrik Bronzeborn, then next in line were the Trollslayers. On Narhak’s right were the Thunderers, forming the far flank of the army, each of them itching to moved up to within range of the walls.
The other missile troops stood behind the main regiments, as their weapons could shoot much further than the Thunderers’ handguns. A regiment of Quarrellers scrutinised the walls from the rear of the Trollslayers, and behind them was a pair of bolt throwers and another of gunpowder pieces. Granite Breaker rested directly behind Thane Narhak and his warriors, who were bracing themselves for the passage of some very large round-shots over their heads. The flying machine fluttered around the army’s flank, its pilot looking beyond the walls to take the measure of the city’s towers – if he was to fly over the walls and into the streets he would need to give the towers a wide berth, otherwise his machine’s spinning wings would shatter.
On the army’s right were the Brabanzon. Captain Lodar ‘the Wolf’ and his ensign Jean de la Salle led the company’s largest regiment, the spearmen, nearest to the centre of the line, and out to their right were the two large bodies of archers and the smaller company of veteran men-at-arms. Their small gun, which they called ‘the Piece’, like unto a flea compared to the dwarfs’ cannon imperial, had been placed directly in front of the trebuchet all the better to perform its usual role as a guard for the larger engine.
Baron Garoy and his brightly liveried retinue of young knights rode on the far right of the line, to a man wondering what their role in such a fight could be. It seemed to them, despite their hopes, that the enemy had no intention of leaving the walls to sally forth, a reluctance which mirrored their own stubborn reluctance to dismount to fight on foot and climb the ladders.
Considering the fact that Razger Boulderguts had marched the fighting army of Campogrotta out upon his grand raid, the garrison soldiers on the walls were surprisingly numerous, as was the number of leadbelchers amongst them. The southern-most tower was packed with the cannon wielding brutes, as was the next tower to the north, while the wall in between them was guarded by a small body of Ironguts (the latter being part of the city’s standing force).
The gate was held by a large company of ogres and a slaughtermaster, while several Maneaters (being the city’s chief ‘constables’) occupied the tower by its side, each sporting a brace of handguns which they could tote like pistols.
The long, northerly stretch of the city’s eastern wall was manned by an even larger company of a dozen ogres, and further half a dozen leadbelchers.
The garrison commander, a Slaughtermaster known as Lord Wurgrut (although the title was an affectation and the rest was only part of the name he professed) had climbed to the very top of the tallest tower in the city’s eastern ward from where he could survey not only the full extent of the eastern walls but also the enemy in its entirety.
As the dwarfs employed the crane to heft a weighty roundshot to Granite Breaker’s muzzle, where they could then tip it in, the Slaughtermaster Wurgrut looked down on the leadbelchers in the corner tower …
… and the Ironguts on the wall adjacent.
He decided that they were not best placed to serve in the defence of the city. The wall was where the enemy might gain ingress, which was why the Ironguts where there, but the leadbelchers could hold it just as well, and would have just as good a view of the enemy from the wall as from their tower. So he bellowed orders down, sending the Ironguts along the street behind the wall as a reserve ready to defend wherever any pressure might be felt, while the cannon wielders on the tower were to shift themselves over to the wall.
Now at last satisfied with the disposition of the forces at his command, he thought he might start the fight with a bang. Pausing a moment to recall the strange words of the necessary incantation, then allowing the winds of magic to infuse his bulky frame with potency, he called upon a comet to crash from the heavens. For the briefest of moments he gave himself up to elation, for he could see the comet’s bulk in his mind’s eye. Then, as if he had awakened suddenly from a dream, the comet was gone, snatched from reality the very moment it began to manifest by the dwarfen Runemaster, who employed a talisman to break the power of the spell.
Just as Wurgrut began scouring the enemy lines to spy out who might have been responsible for the thwarting of his spell, the enemy began to move. They advanced almost as one, although out on the right the Bretonnian mercenaries struggled to match the naturally slower pace of the dwarfs and came on a little faster.
The ‘fallen’ damsel Perrette l’Amy attempted to throw a flurry of fireballs at the walls …
… but the enemy’s second in command, a Slaughtermaster like their general, managed to sap the winds she was employing and her efforts came to nought. The ogre magician could do nothing to prevent the firing of the cannons, however, and all three muzzles were sighted upon the long, northern wall.
The trebuchet crew, whose first shot had merely bounced from the wall, could only look on with envy as all three roundshots smashed into the stone to leave visible cracks and dents. The wall’s defenders, the largest company of bulls in the garrison, peered uncertainly over the crenulations or picked at the cracks that extended up even as far as the parapet and, deciding they would rather defend the fallen ruins than become buried within them, they backed off the wall to take up position behind it.
They were not the only ones scrutinising the damage. Baron Garoy, riding his mighty destrier and clad in his heavy battle armour, his shield bearing the image of a white stag’s head and his helm bearing antlers in his livery of gules and argent, had lifted his visor to get a better look. What he saw gave him hope that he and his knightly retinue might be contributing to the fight a lot sooner than he had thought.
The dwarfen crossbows launched a packet of bolts to sting the Maneaters in the tower by the gate, while the Brabanzo longbowmen’s arrows merely clattered and rattled on the wall being vacated by the bulls. The dwarfen thunderers could contribute nothing to this sharp-tipped hailstorm, however, for they were too busy moving forwards just to get into range of the walls.
(End of turn one.)
ASSAULT ON CAMPOGROTTA – THE BATTLE, PART TWO
(Turns 2 to 4)
Watching from his high vantage point, Lord Wurgrut saw the dwarfen thunderers were preparing to fire a salvo at the walls, and so summoned an ice shard blizzard to assail them. His second-in-command, following Wurgrut’s lead, also attempted to inflict them with a curse called braingobbler, but he failed to contort the winds of magic sufficiently. Meanwhile, having spied the damsel Perrette, her red dress and hair marking her out very clearly amongst the dirty yellow and green liveried Brabanzon spearmen, the Maneaters in the tower near the gate decided to snipe at her. At first both she and the men around her wondered what the zipping sound was, until one bullet pinged very loudly off the rounded helm of the soldiers and then another cut a gash through her arm. She stumbled, but the man next to her caught her before she fell. Thanking him, she laughed. When he looked at her in puzzlement, she pointed to his surcoat and apologised for the spotted stain of her own blood. He then grinned, and said, “Do not worry yourself, madame, for my clothes are used to being bloodied and the stain on your own dress can barely be seen.”
Moments later a roaring wave of thunderous flashes ran along the wall top as the leadbelchers gave fire. Seven dwarfen thunderers fell, as well as a Brabanzon spearman. The dwarfs barely flinched, however, instead gritting their teeth and continuing to prepare their pieces.
The rest of the assaulting army continued their advance, with the flying machine zipping over their heads, its pilot considering where exactly he could drop his grenade.
After saying ‘Excuse me’ to the fellow who had helped her to remain on her feet, Perrette held forth her hand to present her ruby ring to the walls, and with a brief word of command conjured a ball of fire to burst against the parapet holding her attackers. Not satisfied with merely singing them, she immediately summoned another fireball to follow and this time one of the leadbelchers fell screaming from the tower, his large flask of powder exploding even before he hit the ground. The men with her gave a cheer, to which she, despite the pain from her wound, replied with a curtsy!
As the sound of the cheer died, it was replaced by another, and although the choir behind the sound was rather smaller, they were no less elated. The Brabanzon’s trebuchet had landed a stone on the damaged wall, and in so doing pierced the first hole to go right through it. Its crew whooped their delight, then shouted across to the dwarfs to get a move on and ‘finish the job off’. Granite Breaker was not quite ready to fire, and so one of the smaller pieces obliged. The ball hit just below where the stone had pierced and for a moment it looked like all it had achieved was to create a second hole, but then a bulge appeared in the stone between the holes, and, moments later – and without need of further ironshot – the wall came tumbling down.
The collapsing masonry poured out fore and aft of the wall, burying two of the bulls behind. There was no time to dig them out. If they weren’t already dead they would soon be. (Game Note: The reason the player had moved the ogres off the wall as it had showed signs of becoming weakened was that according to the modified 6th Ed WFB siege rules higher strength wounds are inflicted received by a unit on a collapsing wall than by a unit standing next to the collapse. Nevertheless, we did not expect 2 ogres to perish from the 2D6 str 3 hits they now received.)
Unsurprisingly a great cheer went up along the line at the sight of the breached defences. Granite Breakers’ chief gunner gave these events a little thought and came to the conclusion that the wall had fallen so quickly due mostly to his own gun’s contribution, but that his shot had been aimed slightly out and failed to deliver maximum force, which is why the other machines’ efforts had been required for completion of the task. This did not satisfy him at all. The cannon imperial had already been shifted to aim at another wall – thus the delay in its second firing – so now, using a two-handed mallet, he knocked out one of the four large iron wedges at the breech to lift its muzzle a little and thus alter the flight of the next path. He had measured everything previously with his sight and level, involving much effort in the placing of the instruments on top of the behemoth and the application of considerable mathematical expertise. Now, however, having gained the practical experience of witnessing a shot in action, he had a better feel for the work. Besides, his dissatisfaction had turned into impatience, and he wanted to prove the cannon imperial’s true worth.
Clambering up the steps he grabbed the pike-length linstock and reached it forwards …
… then with considerable trepidation, lowered the burning end of the match-cord towards the line of crushed powder leading to the touch-hole. Just like the previous time, there was a delay as the powder flashed and the burn thrust its way down through the deep hole to the massive charge packed in the belly of the beast. This gave the engineer just time enough to spin about and descend two of the steps before the mighty boom. He hit the ground almost exactly as before, but did not attempt to climb to his feet immediately, instead turned his head to get a quick look at the walls before the smoke of the blast obscured the view.
A second wall was down …
… felled with one blast.
Now he was satisfied.
(Game Note: The siege cannon rules were lifted from our standard Tilean campaign army list, being itself a version of the Warhammer Empire Forum ‘Treachery and Greed’ campaign Mercenary Companies army list with added elements from the later ‘Empire of Wolves’ list. Neither myself nor my players had written these lists, although I had added some extra elements, like Morrite Priests and such like, to adapt it to our game world. The siege cannon is listed as 160 pts, 72” range 2D6 Str 10 wounds, 5 crew which cannot be moved – other than turned 90 degrees or less – after initial placement. It all seemed neatly to fit the model I had obtained and painted for the dwarfs.)
The cheering renewed before even having died away, now growing even louder than before. The third cannon chipped at the tower, and although the bolt throwers could not perfect their aim against such a concealed foe, the crossbow dwarfs killed one of the Maneaters.
What had seemed an almost impossible challenge to the attackers was now beginning to look like a distinct possibility – they could win this battle.
The assaulting army was drawing near, and the defences were breached in not one but two places.
(End of Turn 2)
The Ironguts now raced up towards the breaches while a second body of ogres reformed behind the ruins of the wall they had once occupied. The two Slaughtermasters, despite knowing they needed their magic to bite, failed to conjure anything that could harm, or even simply slow down, the foe.
(Game Note – Cast:Dispel dice = 6:6. The Brabanzon spearmen passed their panic text due to a successful casting of Braingobbler)
The Maneaters, having spotted who was responsible for their mate’s demise, blasted everything they had at the maiden Perrette, but such was their fury that it ruined their aim! The three companies of leadbelchers spread their efforts more widely, killing three Brabanzon spearmen, two dwarven thunderers and damaging the flying machine.
None of this was sufficient to dishearten the assaulting army, and so on it came.
Damaged, but still able to fly, the dwarven flying machine now crossed over the walls, dropping its bomb as it passed to bloody the bulls below. Turning abruptly, it came to a halt atop one of the city’s inner towers, where the pilot leaned and twisted all ways to assess the damage received.
Perrette had just as little luck as the Slaughtermasters with her own attempts to summon up magical harm, her concentration being jarred both by her wound and the cacophony of noise, what with cannons booming and walls collapsing close by.
While Baron Garoy took the chance to break away from the line and make better speed towards the breaches …
… the attacking army shot everything it had at the walls. Granite Breaker caused the tower by the gate to collapse partially, while one of the smaller cannons wounded the slaughtermaster upon it, as well as one of the Maneaters with him, bringing down the parapet to boot. This sudden removal of the stone hiding the maneaters gave several others an unexpected opportunity, and although the bolt throwers both missed, the dwarven crossbows killed another of the veteran brutes. The third cannon could only shake the tower once more, while the trebuchet landed a stone upon the bulls nearby, bloodying one of them. The crew of the Brabanzon’s little piece joined their fellows’ efforts, yet only managed to bury their shot into the ground before the walls.
The largest of the bull regiments now argued whether they should sally out or not, in the end simply standing their ground out of an inability to decide. Behind them Wurgrut was not so hesitant and tore down the towers stairs to run out onto the street.
The enemy were getting so close to the walls that he had decided he needed to be where he could get to grips with them. While he ran he conjured chain lightning, killing a trollslayer but failing to reach any other units. From the street he threw a magical blizzard of ice shards up at the flying machine, once again damaging it.
While one company of leadbelchers now brought down two of the knights riding with the young baron, the other two companies both aimed at the dwarven thunderers, killing nine of them. The remaining pair made a sorry sight indeed, but they did not run.
Perhaps because there was so much in front to distract them, the ogres entirely failed to notice they had left the northern wall open to the enemy’s possession, and so it was that the Brabanzon brigands, a company of skirmishing archers, threw up some ladders and occupied it.
(Game Note: Embarrassingly the ogre player, Jamie, had failed to take account of the wall to the side, and until now had not thought it was accessible to attack!)
While they did so Baron Garoy led a charge across the rubble into the leadbelchers …
… and the trollslayers charged into the bulls.
The mounted knights struck hard at the brutes, killing one and wounding another seriously, which disheartened to foe so much that they turned to flee away. They did not get far before lance points thrust deep into their backs to kill the rest of them. Such was their urge to have at the foe, however, that two knights fell in the act of simply crossing the rubble, their steeds’ legs broken.
The trollslayers fought not one jot less bravely than the Bretonnian chivalry and took down two of the ogres as well as wounding a third. Moments later, however, they were all dead, beaten to a pulp or crushed under foot by foes standing more than thrice their height!
While these vicious struggles were fought, Perrette poured out every fire spell she could muster, burning the bulls at the gate but failing to kill any of them. Between them the dwarven Quarrellers and one of the bolt throwers killed the last of the Maneaters, leaving the Slaughtermaster alone. For a moment he glared at the foe with hatred, then realised he had to decide quickly what to do now. He was not quick enough, however, for the Brabanzon’s two wrs machines hit the already badly damaged tower, shaking it visibly, then, as one of the smaller dwarfen cannons misfired, the other punched so hard that at last the tower fell.
The Slaughtermaster came tumbling down with it, somehow staying above the rubble to avoid any real injury, while one of the trollslayers fightingnearby was killed, just before a bull could do it! Close by, Granite breaker punched a visible hole in the wall by the gate, but as yet nothing big enough to assault through.
Campogrotta’s defences were being torn to pieces!
(End of turn 4)
Game note: Siege games are 7 turns long, and as mentioned in the previous campaign battle report, victory conditions are all about how many sections of the defences are held by each side at the end of turn 7. As GM I had, at the start of the game, agreed with the players that as well as the wall, tower and gate sections I had identified and numbered at the start of the game, I would count one or more units roaming freely inside of the city as one controlled section, and in the event of a draw, if an assaulting unit had passed over a section which remained unoccupied by any defenders I would also count that as a controlled section. All this meant, despite appearances, that victory was still ‘very much up for grabs’.
Assault on Campogrotta – The Battle, Part 3
(Turns 5 – 7)
While the Ironguts moved down the street in pursuit of the Bretonnian knights and Wurgrut’s lieutenant moved to occupy one of the city’s inner towers …
… Wurgrut himself went to join the bulls defending the breach nearest to the gate.
Neither slaughtermaster could conjure anything from the winds of magic to trouble the enemy, but a hail of lead-belcher shot finally destroyed the dwarven flying machine, which tumbled down into the street with a crunch.
The brigand archers hurried from the northern wall to occupy the corner tower, thus allowing the Brabanzon’s veteran men at arms to clamber onto the wall using the same ladders …
… while Baron Garoy ordered his knights to turn about and prepare to receive the inevitable charge from the Ironguts hurtling along the street behind.
The damsel Perrette summoned another burning orb to throw at the enemy, slaying two of the bulls massed behind the fallen stones, just as the small Brabanzon gun felled a third. Moments later a huge round-shot from Granite Breaker caused the wall by the gate to collapse, killing another pair of ogres in the fall. The brutes’ dying cries, the foul stench of burning flesh and the sight of bent limbs reaching from the rubble only made the rest of the bulls angrier, more determined to stand their ground.
From the tower’s vantage point, Wurgrut’s lieutenant looked down on the battered bulls below.
He sensed their frustration at simply standing to receive shot after shot, both magical and mundane, being ingloriously whittled away. So he shouted: “Go on then, go!”
This was all it took for the bulls to yield to their inbred desire for a fight, and they scrambled over the rubble to charge into the Brabanzon spearmen.
The fight was quick and nasty. Lodar somehow avoided facing the bulls’ champion, and instead cut deep into the flesh of two other bulls while the spearmen’s sergeant dodged the champion’s powerful blows. Despite her injury, Perrette spun with an elegance learned from a dancing master in her youth to avoid another huge club. Had it hit, it would have crushed her entire body to a pulp. Six spearmen died, half of them perishing from the mere impact of the hulking foes, while only two ogres were slain. The Brabanzon had the weight of numbers, however, and pressed on aggressively, presenting a wall of sharp, jabbing spear tips before them. When the remaining two bulls realised their mistake, they foolishly attempted to return to the defences. They never reached them, and the Brabanzon stepped over their corpses to come right up to the rubble.
Wurgrut summoned magical lightning to fry three of the brigand archers in the northern corner tower, then the arching lines of burning light shifted their fury to the men at arms approaching below, killing another four. Up on the still-standing walls and tower the leadbelchers were re-loading and firing as fast as they could, killing several of the Dwarven Longbeards and Warriors drawing ever closer to the breaches.
Just as the knights had managed to re-order themselves, the Ironguts came smashing into them …
… to begin a bout of hacking and slashing from both sides. Thick skin, metal armour and the protective blessing the knights had prayed for before the battle, all conjoined together to prolong the fight. Here and now Baron Garoy was learning what a real fight was like, and it was a lesson he embraced with open (mailed) arms!
The men at arms upon the nearby wall now attacked the Ironguts’ flank, some striking down from the wall itself, and although they lost two of their number in so doing, their intervention shifted the odds significantly. When one Irongut was cut down, his blood spattering all around, the remaining pair staggered backwards, looking for a way to escape. Baron Garoy laughed as he and his knights spurred their horses on to follow fast, thrusting their lance tips through the enemies’ grey flesh and riding right over the ruins back outside the city!
The most northerly quarter of the city was now overrun, but the ogre garrison was not yet beat. Wurgrut moved into the ruined tower by the similarly ruined gate while the leadbelchers above moved to re-position themselves all the better for the fight yet to come. Wurgrut conjured a powerful blast of wind to blow the men at arms from the wall in the north, but so agitated had he become he lost his hold on the winds of magic and allowed them to dissipate before he could spin them into a new spell. Somewhat dazed, he now watched the dwarven warriors approaching hesitantly (Game Note: Failed charge), while the Longbeards began climbing, in a similarly cautious manner, over the rubble to his left.
Behind him, the Brabanzon spearmen had already entered the city and were making their way along the street running parallel to the wall.
A stone from the trebuchet landed amidst the remains of the last regiment of bulls, killing another of their number, while the rest of the allies’ artillery merely chipped grey stone and bloodied grey flesh here and there. Granite Breaker’s huge ball ploughed deep into the earth, whilst the score of quarrels that clattered all around Wurgrut merely nicked and pricked at his grizzled flesh.
Game Note: This was the end of turn 7, thus the end of the game. According to the siege game rules, based on the relative numbers of wall and tower sections controlled by each side, the result was a draw! Neither a minor victory or victory. This meant that the next campaign turn – which will be turn 1 of the next season, Autumn IC 2403 – the besiegers would still be attacking, and the defenders would still be defending.
Of course, if I just stopped the story at this point it would be a VERY odd ending, as the attackers look very much to have the upper hand. If they simply carried on as they were already doing victory would almost certainly be theirs. But ‘rules is rules’, and my players are playing competitively, which in turn drives the campaign’s story. Both sides knew the victory conditions and had been playing to achieve them. And so I was now left with the need to write an at least vaguely convincing story ending which explained the fact that the attackers had failed to take the city, thus prolonging the siege.
Here is that story ending.
The brigand archers peered over the parapet of the tower they had captured …
… watching as their Brabanzon comrades made their way down the street below. They could see also that the dwarven Longbeards were clambering across the tumbled-ruins of the wall.
Immediately below them the young baron led his knights back over the ruins a third time to re-enter the city, their mounts bucking and rearing at being forced yet again to traverse such precariously difficult ground.
One by one, however, the brigands realised something had changed – the artillery had fallen silent. They turned to look across the field before the walls and could see the guns were still were they had been, with full complements of crewmen. They were not being troubled by attackers. They had ceased firing for some other reason. Perhaps, suggested one of the brigands, they don’t want to harm the soldiers now entering the city? Or, said another, maybe they have run out of powder?
The truth was that the cannon imperial’s chief gunner had commanded a cessation in firing. There had been something about the sound of the last shot and the gun’s bucking, shaking movement in so doing, that concerned him. Something was not quite right, which foreboded ill.
The ancient gun had done good service, and no doubt if she were to continue in like manner, she could take down the last of the city’s eastern defences. But he had not liked what he had seen and heard, and a torrent of thoughts were now tumbling through his mind. He was not at all a superstitious fellow, so his concerns all had a very practical bent: Had the tarnishing of the barrel over the years somehow weakened it – either its bronze fabric or the runic wards protecting it? Was the powder they were using too potent compared to the ancient powder Granite Breaker’s barrel was forged to withstand? Had the journey down the road weakened the carriage dangerously so that the next shot would bring ruin to both the great gun and those who tended her?
He would not risk it, and so had signalled a stop with a crossed sweep of his arms.
Inside the city Perrette and the men she was with suddenly came to a halt.
Before them was a sight that sapped every ounce of will they had to advance any further, and they could clearly see the dwarven Longbeards who had been climbing over the rubble ahead were of a like mind. The last few of the ogre bulls up ahead had fallen back from the wall, moving a little way down a street leading away from the wall. In so doing they had revealed the brutes further on, each and every one clutching a cannon barrel, standing ready to fire.
To approach any closer, down such a narrow, stone street, would surely mean certain death. Men and dwarves halted, while the enemy watched and waited. One Longbeard scrabbled back to see why the artillery had ceased its efforts, while the Brabanzon spearmen shouted up to the brigands behind to ask what had happened. Within moments, both men and dwarves realised that there would be no further barrage to blast the walls and towers beside this monstrous battery of barrels.
Perrette studied the enemy through narrowed eyes, knowing she had no more magic in her. Her rage had been transformed into fear, and the loss of blood from her wound was beginning to make her feel faint. The soldier by her side dropped his spear to take a hold of her instead. Up ahead one of the brutes was smiling cruelly. With one hand raised he crooked a finger to beckon them on, while in his mouth he held a smouldering match dangling over his piece’s pan.
“In the morrow,” came a cry from the dwarfs, who began to back away. This was all the Brabanzon needed to make up their mind, and they too left, scrambling as fast as they could over the fallen masonry and between the ragged edges of the torn walls. Before long all the other attackers had left the walls, towers and streets also, to return to the siege lines.
There was to be a lull in the assault, at least until the guns were ready to recommence their brutal barrage. Not one man nor dwarf thought they had lost the battle, for soon, victory would surely be theirs. The city could not escape and its garrison was without a doubt mortally wounded. But it would be a victory without needless slaughter amongst their own. They needed their strength if they were to take the other Campogrottan settlements, to recapture the realm of Ravola for Baron Garoy, and if needs be, to face whatever army Boulderguts brought back with him from his plundering of Tilea. Besides, as the Brabanzon declared by their fires that night, “What use is plunder to a dead man?”
They knew had the right tools for the job. They simply had to wait until the time was right too.
Next installment: Part 20