Chapter Sixty

July 14, 2012


3rd of Harvestmonth


                As we sit around the fire that night, we discuss the mysterious nature of the map and how it came to us.  Briggette thinks it might be the ropers trying to help her, remembering that when we were in Nevers, they were very careful to imply that she did not exist.  Ulric thinks it might be the noble lady who tried to seduce him when we were there.  Those are the only two possible positive sources we can think of.  Any other origin would be someone trying to set us up for ambush.  It is decided that we will set up a watch on one of the routes to test the accuracy of the information, then make plans from there.  The scouting party will consist of Brianna, Korvinean, and myself.  We will also ask Boffin to join us.

Korvinean suggests that we send as many men as possible that night to go out and raid the woods for any and all game they can find.  We do so, and gather about 400 pounds of rabbit, squirrel, deer and other small game.

Our small scouting group heads out about a half day ahead of the larger group.  On the fourteenth day of the march, the 18th of Harvestmonth, which is Loki's day, as we scout ahead to the main road, we spot a small force of thirty light cavalry sporting Neverese colors.  They don't have any supplies with them, and appear to be, like us, scouting for a larger group.  We make our way back to our men and tell them what we've found.  We are able to determine that if they are traveling toward Tulcea, they will be there in seven days on the 25th.  That is one of the dates on the map, and this corresponds to one of the routes. 

We decide to set up at the crossroads and fortify the area.  Ulric sends us out to scout again and wants us to try to draw the scouts into an ambush so they don't have a chance to warn their men. 

As the group rides up, they catch sight of our encampment and turn to run back from whence they came.  Imagine their surprise when they come up on our light cavalry and horse archers behind them on their retreat.  Again they turn and head back toward the crossroads, frantically looking for an escape.

Our archers let loose their first volley and take out half of their number.  The remaining men split into three groups and scatter in different directions toward the woods.  Another eight of their men are felled before they reach the woods.  Our men lay chase to the remaining seven men.

Ulric sends our scouting party back out to see what the main group has with them, so we head back that direction.  After about four miles, we come across their main force.  They have about a hundred wagons, three quarters of which are covered, two groups of light cavalry with about a hundred men each, about 400 heavy infantry with long spears, and roughly a hundred crossbowmen, each with his own shield bearer.  The cavalry all bear the colors of Nevers, but the infantry are in no notable livery.  The crossbowmen are mostly in black, and likely are part of a mercenary group.  I notice a very odd sight in front of the wagons--a halfling leads the group wearing plate mail, and the men seem to treat him in a deferent manner.  Brianna picks me up in the interest of speed and we quickly move back to camp.

We report what we've seen to our group, and after about two hours, we see five men approach waving a white flag of parley.  Ulric, Briggette, Baron Voda, Sir Reginald and Sir Sebastian ride out to meet them.

"Welcome to my crossroads," Ulric opens.


"Sir Ulric."

"I am First Sergeant Ferdinand.  My master would like to have open discussions with you.  He would like to ride past the sentries in your woods."

"I would like to meet him," Ulric replies.

"What are your terms?"

"He may bring whatever men he likes, and meet me a hundred yards past the woods."

"An honor guard and . . . say, twenty horse?" he asks.  Ulric consents, and he turns to Briggette, who is wearing her helm closed, "Sir?"


He looks confused but holds his tongue as he rides back to his group.

Ulric gathers Gustav, Boian, Sir Finn, Brianna, Korvinean and me.  Briggette takes Wren as her standard bearer.  We also take fifteen light cavalry and five mounted archers.  As we approach, we see the halfling heading toward u with his honor guard, which includes a woman in half plate wearing a helm with a horse mane embellishment and another woman bearing the symbol of Hextor.  He has twenty light cavalry with him as well.  Gustav steps forward from our group and makes an appropriately lengthy and noble introduction.

"I am Master Edda."

"I apologize, I am not familiar with that title," Ulric replies

"I don't know if there's an equivalent," he replies.  It is a title of my House.  I understand you have a large force camped across the road."

"That is correct."

"It is Zurwald, is it not?"

"That is also correct," Ulric affirms.

He pauses.  "An interesting choice.  But you are not Lord Zurwald?"

"No, that's my father."

"Well, the Western Army seems very far north."

"The west is well in hand at the moment, thanks to my father and a knight of the black order.  What is it you wish to negotiate?" Ulric asks.

"I wish to negotiate your withdrawal back to the west," the halfling says simply.

"Now, why would I want to do that?"

"I have broad discretionary powers.  I can guarantee the west would have the support of the baronies for the next fifteen years or so.  If you would like independence for the west, I'm sure that could be arranged.  Or perhaps support in clearing out several problems you currently have to the south?"

"I do not speak for the west, I speak for His Grace, the Duke," Ulric clarifies.

"That's a very good choice for you, Zurwald.  That is what I would expect.  A direct bribe would be too crass.  You are the former ambassador, are you not?"

"Yes, I was."

"I didn't have the chance to meet you then.  You know, you and your retinue could come back to Nevers, and you could have a home, a nice life," he offers.

"I am not as easy to sway as some ambassadors."

"Oh, he was easy," the halfling muses before continuing with his offer.  "I could give fair compensation to the people of Zurwald for your loss.  I know the Zurwalds are very fair people.  A couple hundred silver for every person in Zurwald goes a long way."

"I will not have my people shackled in their own lands," Ulric states.

He sighs, "You know, we could just go around you."

"You could try.  You know as well as I do that is not an easy road.  I could leave 500 men to defend the crossroads and it would still be very unpleasant for you."

"I don't think they look like they're needed very much around Tulcea, anyway," Briggette says.

He turns to her, "Knight Paladin, I know there's no way we can make peace with you."

"Certainly there is," she says sweetly, "you can throw down your allegiance to this false god you've all embraced and come to the light of Cuthbert."

Again he sighs and shakes his head slightly.  He takes a moment to carefully look at everyone in our group.  "Interesting livery.  I've never seen it in the hair before."

"We were chosen for a very specific purpose; we do not worship false gods," Ulric educates him.

"I don't care who you worship."  He speaks for a moment about Nevers and the setup of their meritocracy, before continuing.  "So there's nothing I can offer to get you to withdraw your army?"

"Your surrender," Briggette replies.

"You can make all the offers you want," Ulric speaks at the same time.

"We are all persons of action here, correct?" he pauses.  "I think we would all prefer an open fight, except maybe your demon friend here," he gestures toward me.

"She's not a demon," Briggette corrects him.

"You can't educate those unwilling to learn," I say.

"Well, battle it is then," he says.  "I would offer battle by champion, but if you fall, I don't think your men would stop, and if I fall, I know mine will not."

"How about your best five against my best five?" Ulric asks.

"That's tempting," he says, and he stops to think for a moment.  "I have to go talk to my council.  I trust that if I send a messenger, he will be treated appropriately?"

"Of course.  I trust any messenger I send will be treated the same way," Ulric replies.

"Of course," he replies, and he and his group leave to head back to their army.  We head back to our camp, as well.

About ten thirty that evening, Gustav wakes Ulric and Briggette.  "The messenger is here."  He helps them don their armor and go out to meet him.  When they arrive, they find First Sergeant Ferdinand waiting for them.  I follow in the shadows to find out what is going on. 

Ferdinand hands them a scroll which says, "After a long discussion with my council, it is to be battle.  I will not attack you before the morrow, that would be rude."  Here the message stops and there is a spot where the ink bled as he considered his next words.  "Your house is well known.  Should you fall, I will see to it that your body is treated with the respect it deserves and is sent back to your family.  If I fall, I trust you will do the same."  His large, flourishing signature takes the full bottom third of the page.

Ulric hands the scroll to Gustav and turns to Ferdinand, "Tell you master that if he falls, his body will be treated with the same respect.  I also ask the courtesy is extended to my wife."  Ferdinand and his men turn and ride off, while Ulric and Briggette head to Baron Voda's tent.

Voda's herald welcomes them and wakes the baron.  Voda offers some mulled wine, and they discuss the coming battle.  "He's gotta have something we don't know about," Voda offers his assessment of the situation.  Ulric asks that Boffin is sent out to keep an eye on the troop movements, and offers to send Korvinean along with him.  They discuss the overall plans and make polite small talk for a bit, then Briggette and Ulric head back to the tent for some much-needed alone time, lest this be their last night to live.

The next morning, just as dawn is breaking, we hear Finn's horn.  We place our light and heavy cavalry in the light woods, our longbowmen behind the wall, crossbowmen on the wall, and disperse the others around the area.  Finn, Brianna and I go with the infantry into the woods, while Ulric and Briggette lead our heavy cav to fight.  The rest of our men disperse among the battlefield and prepare to fight with various groups.

When the enemy lines have come within fifty feet of the wall, Finn blows his horn and the hundred infantry with us charge directly into the side of their ranks.  We see a light ballista device mounted on a wagon behind their lines; this dangerous-looking device is called a scorpion.

Across the field, Ulric, Briggette and the rest of the heavy cavalry charge toward the edge of the line, they plan to go around toward the cleric of Hextor that is behind all the rows of men.  As Briggette almost meets her in the charge, she notices that the woman is carrying a billet's cudgel.  She smites and drops her lance just in time to push its tip through the hole on her visor, through her head and through the back of her helm.  Briggette keeps riding through and the woman's head, helm and all, slide unceremoniously off the end of her lance.  A man near her with a longspear turns and sets to take her continuing charge, but once again, she manages to bury her lance in his head, killing him instantly as well.

The scorpion operators turn and fire toward Chancellor, landing a solid hit in his front flank.  Ulric manages to reach the infernal device with his charge and annihilates one of the men on the crank.  He fights through and kills two more of them almost immediately.

The crossbowmen, having seen two of their strongest people fall in such short order, break and run in all directions.  Behind us, we hear bugles sound and turn to see our men on the wall spinning to face an attack from behind them.

I see the halfling crossing the field toward Ulric, and fire at him with my bolt with white fletching from Boffin.  I am unable to tell if he had any magical protections or whether they were effectively removed from the blow.  As he charges, he fires at Ulric, but doesn't appear to harm him.  Ulric ignores this onslaught and takes out the last person manning the scorpion before wheeling Alabaster around in the direction of the halfling. 

The men on the wall are holding their own, with Korvinean leading the charge, firing three arrows at once with more of them finding purchase than not and thinning the numbers of the enemy infantry.

Briggette charges the halfling and hits solidly, but he leaps from his pony, flips in the air, and, at the same time, pulls a short sword and a punching dagger, landing on Briggette at the end of the aerobatics.  Ulric still manages to hit the fiend with his lance, and pins him to the ground, killing him on the spot.