Admiral Volker did not need to command his army to continue the advance as everyone knew to do so. The enemy stood their ground, obviously satisfied with their deployment. He would be too if he were one of them, thought Volker, for despite the basic and limited nature of their defences, they had used them well.
Volker did, however, shout across to Arcabar, then pointed towards the archers lurking in the orchard.
Arcabar nodded and lifted his staff to signal to Vedus further down the line, advancing with the pikemen.
Vedus did not really need the encouragement, for they had been the target of his last spell. Forcing himself to ignore the blaring horn being sounded beside him, he fixed his eyes on the archers and once again began his incantation.
This time twice as many flaming orbs coalesced from the ether, already in motion as they rent their way into the material realm to course at speed towards the trees, trailing blue sparks. Upon hitting the branches, they spewed sheets of fizzling flames which rained down on the men cowering behind the stone wall below, incapacitating half a dozen and causing the remaining handful to leap, smoking and screaming, over the rear wall and through the men at arms on the other side. They only stopped when they reached the building over the street.
(Game Note: The men at arms, having no character to lead them, were in danger of fleeing too. But they rolled snake eyes for their Panic test!)
As he squinted to look through the smoke and ascertain how well he had done, Vedus suddenly noticed a coiling eddy of excess magical energy coalescing above him, at the very spot where the fireballs had crossed the seam dividing the realms. He had badly misjudged the etheric force drawn into his spell and clearly failed to control even half of it. His squint turned into a wince, less than a second before the broiling energy folded itself inside out then exploded with an exponentially magnified power (yet no sound at all). The blast sucked the very air from his lungs and he struggled to stay upon his feet. When he finally managed to draw a choking breath, his throat blazed with pain at the heat of it. Opening the one eye he could, he saw that many more than half the men he had been marching with had fallen to the ground, lifeless or senseless, while those few still on their feet, like himself, reeled and wheezed in shock.
(Game note, a miscast roll of 4, Dimensional Cascade, killed 15 pikemen! Remaining casting dice lost.)
The blast’s soundlessness meant that Volker noticed the horror on Arcabar’s face before he spotted the confusion amongst the pike. It appeared that the company had stumbled into a patch of potholes and so taken a tumble, and for a moment he entertained the thought that the enemy might have dug more pit-traps around the village, but then the look on his wizard’s face made it obvious that something much more serious had happened. When Arcabar spat the word ‘Fool’ out, Volker knew Vedus was to blame.
First the cannon, now Vedus. It seemed neither powder nor magic were to be relied on today! Yet the next few moments suggested that powder, with which his army was plentifully supplied, could still contribute to their success. First, an iron roundshot punched through the hedge before enemy’s gun to smash into the gun itself, disabling it and badly wounding its crew. Then the surviving four handgunners out by the river, their comrades lying dead or dying around them …
… fired their pieces to throw three more pistoliers from their saddles. The horsemen turned quickly around to gallop away somewhat quicker than they had come. Not quick enough to outrun the shots of the swivel gunner’s in the trees, though.
Not wanting to miss out on the sport, the swivels also fired and another three horsemen died. This only hastened the pistoliers’ frantic retreat!
The swivel gunners now found themselves somewhat at a loss, for with the only enemy they could see galloping away, it seemed there might be little else for them to do.
“Wait” shouted one of them in jest towards the last of pistoliers. “Come back! We’ve still got powder!”
The cannon on the Sartosans’ right fired chainshot into the halberdiers in the village, tearing three of them almost in half! Fearing the recently rallied crossbowmen might once again falter at the sight (and sound) of this, Father Vettorio now ran ahead to join them at the barricade.
There he prayed that Morr would curse the wizard in white, and indeed could sense his god’s will manifesting though him, but this momentary hope was dashed as the enemy’s countermagic proved too strong. Disheartened he found himself surprised by the sudden snaps of the crossbows as they brought down four of the goblins now charging at him. There were so many goblins, though, that it was doubtful the rest even noticed, and the next moment Vettorio found himself suddenly close to the greenskin mob!
Volker had begun to order his own regiment to charge the crossbows, but that had faltered as Farq’s mob hurtled by, blocking the way. When he spied the four trampled goblins left in their wake, quarrels piercing their corpses, he found it quite easy to console himself at the lost opportunity. Better them then my boys, he thought. Still, knowing the goblins, his boys might yet have to do the real work. Farq’s boast of the previous night, that he and his lads would get stuck in first, might well have proved true, but that did not mean they would stay ‘stuck in’!
Arcabar, having apparently spotted the damage done to the halberdiers by the chain shot, was obviously intent on seeing what he could do to further their misery. He conjured up a shower of burning blue bolts to equal the cannon’s tally. The halberdiers, however, were apparently made of strong stuff, for they took this as they had taken the chainshot and stood their ground.
Vedus and his shattered pikemen were now very close to the men at arms, but their will had been sapped and they came to a halt. For now, the thought of ditching their pikes to cross two stone walls and assail the armoured professionals massed on the other side, seemed like madness. Apparently, the men at arms understood the pike were no longer a threat, for not a one of them even glanced at Vedus and his comradees, intent instead on watching how the crossbow fight against the goblins up ahead.
One of the pikemen was shouting something about going around the orchard, but what with the resumption of the horn’s incessant blaring and the continued confusion of his thoughts since his dreadful miscasting, Vedus failed to respond either by word or deed!
(Game Note: I know, I know, Jamie, you chose not to charge the pike attack simply because you believed they would fail and so pointlessly endanger your wizard, which is no good thing in a campaign game. That wizard might be needed for moving on to capture the city, where the real loot lay. But when a picture comes out like that, and after what the wounded wizard had been through, this ‘spun’ version of events seems utterly undeniable! Look at the guy shouting and pointing!)
While the handgunners and swivels fired yet more bullets at the broken pistoliers, killing all but one, and the two remaining pieces of ordnance shot chain to fell a handful of halberdiers as well as some of the men at arms, Captain Farq and his horde fought the crossbowmen at the barricade.
Several goblins died as their shoddily maintained pistols blew apart, while Bagnam Farq himself malingered in the second rank trying to look busy without committing himself to any real fighting.
(Game Note: The campaign list rules re: ‘Robbed Pistols’ and Farq’s ‘goblin merchant boss’ rule ‘Not the Bravest of Sorts’ came into play here. These guys truly are nearly all bluff and bluster!)
It was a bitter fight, and despite the fact that the casualties were pretty much even on both sides, the sheer weight of numbers was on the goblins’ side.
Father Vettorio and the crossbowmen, no longer numerous to defend every part of the barricade, broke, to be cut down almost immediately by their whooping and baying foe. Sheer press of numbers meant the goblins burst right over the barricade and within moments had slammed into the men at arms, calmly awaiting their arrival.
(Game note: You can probably see from the penultimate picture above that the goblins pursuit carried them into the three leftmost men at arms. More than a mere clipping. As per the rules, or certainly as we have always played them, we then maximized the number fighting on both sides and thus the full-on clash of the last picture.)
Half way through Turn 3!