Twisting in her saddle to see all about her, with a flick of her wrist Duchess Maria sent the dire wolves charging into Barone Pietro’s company of horse. One wolf was brought down by an arrow on the way, but the rest tore into the enemy with tooth and claw.
In the first moments of the immediately ensuing fight four riders and five wolves were slain.
Another of Maria’s tiny gesture sent her mounted wraiths hurtling into the fanatical dedicants nearest to them. Four Morrites were hewn in two by the partly-ethereal scythes, while they themselves could do nothing to harm the ghostly foe.
(Game Note: I had never really worked out just what these hexwraiths were capable of, in the right circumstances. I had intended them to pass through enemy units, not to engage them directly, thinking rank and standard bonuses would swing the combats. Here I discovered how capable they were of pinning down even large units of a certain kind – the dedicants had no banner and so all they had going for them was their rank bonus. This combat resolution score the Hexwraiths were easily able to exceed with their great weapons’ strength 5 attacks, and their steeds’ attacks too.)
Maria herself joined Captain Bernhardt and his little company of knights, but the magics they and the necromancer conjured had no effect. The enemy’s prayers, however, were not so weak, injuring one of the crypt horrors, and summoning a holy protective blessing upon Captain Vogel’s Reman Guard. The Urbiman crossbowmen brought down one of Bernhardt’s knights, and suddenly both vampires looked vulnerable. (Game note: No ‘Look out sir’ on the knights anymore!) Then, just when they might have fatally wounded the exposed foe, not one but both cannons misfired. Perhaps the crewmen’s fear had caused their fumbling failure? Perhaps they had lost Morr’s failure? Or perhaps the powder was just a little too damp?
The Barone and his riders cut the last of the wolves down, then watched in horror as the blue-tinged wraiths continued their apparently unstoppable slaughter of the massed dedicants defending the wall.
Maria now sensed that the tables had turned. She saw the dedicants blades sweeping by the dozen ineffectually through the hexwraiths, then noticed the gunners’ frantic activity, desperately attempting to put their eerily quiet guns in working order. She knew this moment could be her best chance, and so she ordered Bernhardt to leave her and charge the crossbowmen on the enemy’s camps’ extreme left …
… and her Crypt Horrors and ghouls to charge into the unengaged regiment of dedicants. The latter failed to reach the enemy, and so the brutes were left for now to fight alone.
The crossbowmen failed to harm their attackers with their hurriedly launched bolts, and the vampire captain and his companions inflicted a brutal slaughter upon them. The last few fled and the undead riders’ mounts clattered over the bastion to penetrate the defences. Maria cast a deadly curse upon the dedicants fighting her wraiths, killing no less than eight of them, then the hex wraiths killed two more (again, just enough to ensure that the necromantic magic animating them stayed strong).
The Crypt Horrors found themselves facing a great mass of dedicants, ensconced behind a sturdy earth and timber wall.
They were to prove no match for the frenzied hacking of so many halberds, and all but one perished in the ensuing fight.
From behind, the necromancer Saffiro could see that it would take a lot more than a few horrors to defeat such a body.
Maria was also cognizant of the situation and took a moment to consider who to command to charge next. The Hexwraiths had completely tied up the other body of dedicants, but she wanted both regiments utterly destroyed. This was the army who had killed her pet Adolfo, and they would pay for their action.
There was a pleasing sense of reassurance in the fact that she was in a position to make such choices. She was not being forced to respond to the enemy’s manoeuvres but had firmly gained the initiative. Victory, she believed, was surely hers. Many of her soldiers still had to die to achieve that victory, but considering they had died before and yet still served her, it seemed of little consequence to her.
She was so delighted with how things stood that she failed to notice Barone Pietro and his surviving riders off to her right. They had seen her though, and the barone had the mad thought that perhaps he could take her on.
And so it was they closed upon her, the riders to loose their arrows, the Barone to fire his pistols.
Yet to no effect at all. Almost idly, Maria turned to look upon them, a kind of evil euphoria coursing through her. She saw them now as nothing more than a potential annoyance. She even smiled as she wondered if they knew it themselves.
While she leered at them, her hexwraiths continued their bloody work, slaying half a dozen more dedicants, whilst the last of her brute Horrors was cut down. Then she turned away, her mind made up – the ghouls would charge next.
End of turn 3.