M4 Margueritte: Watch and Rescue, part 1 of 3

Ragenfrid moved some men out before dawn to test the hill between the castle around the Paris gate and the edge of town where the diverted Paris Road entered the town.  That was duBois stronghold, and he was not fooled.  He wanted to give fight but was held back as the goblins and a few trolls had some fun.

At the same time, Talliso tested the south end of town where Bedwin waited behind a barricade with his men ready for the fight.  Again, they held back to allow the dark elves a free hand to chase off the men of Anjou.

The third test, still under the cover of darkness, came from LeMans.  He sent fifty men secretly to the small copse of apple trees outside the postern gate, but by the time they arrived, the dawn came upon them.  The goblins and the few trolls there got a few soldiers and scared enough more so they ran.  That turned out fortuitous for the men of LeMans, because Lord Birch, the old fairy lord, had his archers ready to fire as soon as the sun broke the horizon.

Though all three sorties were easily driven back in the dark, Ragenfrid decided to attack in the morning.  “Besides,” he said.  “Those infernal demons dare not come out in daylight.”

He waited until the sun came fully up and in his enemy’s eyes, then he concentrated on the town.  LeMans with two thousand men got sent to the castle wall around the postern door, and their job was to break in, if possible, but if not, to keep the castle defenders busy in a place where they could not concentrate on what happened in the town.

For three days they watched guardsmen walk the castle walls.  They saw all the activity associated with evacuating the town, but they saw no such guardsmen in town.  Margueritte, of course, had her little ones put up glamours to disguise her intentions. The town looked minimally defended, and as is true with all good glamours, Ragenfrid’s men were encouraged to think wrongly about the truth.  They imagined Margueritte pulled the majority of her men inside the castle to defend the walls, which is what they would have done, so they did not look at the town too closely.

In truth, if Margueritte did not have her little ones to defend the castle, she would have shifted King David’s two thousand men toward the castle to hold the Paris Road, would have moved duBois and his three hundred against the short wall. Michael’s five hundred would have been the only ones she would have taken inside the castle, and that was it.  She would not have changed Peppin’s position at all.  Three thousand men would have still defended the town, and Ragenfrid’s men would have still been surprised.

As it was, Ragenfrid ignored the Paris gate altogether, and massed two thousand men under Creasy to strike up the Paris Road to town.  He let Talliso with another two thousand rush the hill which petered out at that end of town.  They were to turn the defenders and press them back to the short wall that Ragenfrid knew faced the town.  They had ladders to scale that wall, and groups set to attack the Breton and Paris gates from the inside.  Ragenfrid figured once the gates were open, it would only be a matter of time before the castle fell and all opposition ceased.  He had orders to leave the manor house alone so he could take Rotrude, Margo, Margueritte and the other women and children alive, but realistically, in the heat of battle, he did not know what might happen.

Needless to say, things did not go as Ragenfrid planned.

Talliso ran into a wall of Breton, equal to his numbers.  He almost retreated as soon as he arrived.  Bedwin nearly turned Talliso’s flank, and in the end, they became two armies, just within bowshot, staring at each other across an open space, the Breton taunting, and the men of Anjou frustrated.  Talliso would have to do some serious rearranging to break through into the town.

Creasy found his approach to the city equally blocked.  Though duBois had only three hundred to Creasy’s two thousand, the way Creasy came up the Paris Road made it hard for his superior numbers to have an impact.  Creasy also had to rearrange things and send several companies into the area between the road and the Paris gate.  It spread his men, but soon enough his numbers began to tell and duBois had to slowly pull back.

LeMans came up to the corner of the castle where the little postern door looked inviting, and the small group of apple trees appeared to give some cover against any arrow fire from the walls.  His men had big ladders, and a battering ram to pound the door open.  He actually thought he might breach the defenses, but the castle shape appeared deceptive.

West of the door, the wall ran a short way to the completed tower that had long stood near the manor house, where the workmen and Redux the old blacksmith lived.  There, the wall turned ninety degrees and marched down the hill to the farm field before it turned again due west at a half-finished tower.  That stretch of wall sat within bowshot of the back door, and the tower gave a strong redoubt against any enemy who might make it up to the top of the wall with ladders and ropes.  The unfinished wall in that place stood nine feet tall, at the point where Ronan got ready to build an enclosed inner hallway.  Ropes and ladders were going to be the only way up, if LeMans wanted to test it.

East of the door, the wall curved out until it met another, unfinished tower.  Inside the castle, that curve allowed for a space behind the manor house and beside the kitchen where a great vegetable garden could grow.  Though not ideal for a garden, being on the north side and behind the manor house which would block some of the sun, Margueritte had been assured it would suffice for vegetables.  On the outside, the curve in the wall allowed another group of archers to draw a bead on whoever might approach the gate and being able to shoot at an enemy from both sides as well as from the front made for a withering fire of arrows. LeMans found this out, too late.

Childemund had thirty men on the door itself, and the oak in that door, being little one designed, proved far thicker and stronger than LeMans imagined.  His tree trunk of a battering ram did not even shake it, and they did not get many whacks before they had to retreat.  They left a dozen dead, being hit, as they felt, from all sides.  Heurst had his kobold archers on the wall section that dropped down to the field.  Ringwald had his brownies on the curve in the wall.  Childemund’s men cheered when LeMans retreated to the trees, which were, in fact, apple trees in full bloom

Birch had his hands full on the front wall facing the enemy.  Fortunately, Ronan started building the section in the front that would eventually make a six-foot arch for the hallway.  What they had was three feet of extra wall on the front quarter, with regular spaces where the arrow slits would be built.  Birch and his fairies had to be in their big size to fire arrows on the enemy, but the three-foot sections allowed them to fire from the opening and curl back for protection.

“You should build evenly spaced sections like that at the top of the wall when the wall is finished,” Elsbeth said.  The women had gone up to the top of the manor house to watch.  Margueritte had built a small third story room off the corner of the servant’s room where the ladies in waiting, as Margueritte called them, lived in dormitory conditions.  She put a flat roof on top of the third-floor room where people could go and get sun, or see the view over the walls, or take in the stars at night.  Right then, Margo, Elsbeth, Margueritte, Calista and Melanie were watching, and well out of bow range.  Rotrude and Jennifer preferred to stay underground with the dwarf wives and the children.  Neither wanted anything to do with war.

“I think the wall is going to be too big for this tower to see over,” Margo said.  “When it is finished, I mean.”

Margueritte sipped her tea.  “I know.  I was thinking of adding a fourth room, maybe with open arches and a bell, like a church bell tower, and another flat roof on top of that.  what do you think?”  Margueritte felt nervous.  She again wondered how Greta managed to watch everything with such calm.  She decided Greta was fine until she got in the middle of things.  Then she panicked.  She did not do well in Panic situations.  Margueritte, quite to the contrary, did well when she felt part of something.  She had good instincts and good reflexes.  But just sitting and watching got nerve wracking.

“What is that?” Elsbeth noticed.  It looked like dots in the distance that rapidly got bigger.

“Shit!” Margueritte swore.  “Down in, now.  We have to get underground.”   A dozen rocks the size of cannon balls crashed into the house and courtyard below.  The roof of the house got three big holes, and down below, the women and few men they brought in from LeMans’ camp on the farm field screamed in panic.  People got hurt and one or two maybe got killed.

While Calista helped Margo and Elsbeth down the hatch, Margueritte leaned over the railing and shouted, knowing the gnomes would hear her despite the noise and screaming.  “Grimly, Pipes, Catspaw.  Get your friends and get these women and men out the barn gate and into the woods for their own safety.  Hurry.”  Then it was her turn to get down the hatch.

R6 Gerraint: Fort Guinnon, part 3 of 3

The Scots had plenty of archers to fire cover as men dragged up a great battering ram.  They tried to use their shields to protect themselves from overhead, but had limited success.  Arthur’s men wasted some arrows and soon turned to rocks.  They had some success with rocks.  Mostly, the fairy archers who crowded at the corners of the fort where they would not violate the orders to stay at the sides of the fighting, found a very easy shot into the side of the men on the ram.  It took some time and a hundred or more dead Scots before someone figured out to bring in a line of men with their shields held out to protect the sides.  They, of course, were then vulnerable from overhead, so it did not make the perfect solution.

The bang inside the fort sounded horrendous.  Men had to be forced to stay at their posts at the rear of the fort, because that was where the real action was going to take place.

The men at the back had three more catapults, and these dispensed with the pine and went straight to stone.  Every time a great stone hit the wall, some of the trees or a tree would chip away and that whole section of wall would shake, but the fort had been well built and would take some serious pounding.

The men at the back also had a battering ram, but the men there had much more trouble than they did out front, just getting it to the door.  Pinewood got his people to strike from the sides as soon as it rolled within range, and the men on the wall learned from the front and had big stones stockpiled by the time they arrived.

The difference between the front assault and the assault at the back seemed the numbers of men involved, and the ladders. The three towers got brought up on sleds over the mud and thin snow that covered the ground.  Pelenor confessed he had not thought of that.  And the men charged, and they had twenty-foot tall ladders, easily tall enough to reach the top.

Arthur’s men became hard pressed to keep the men and their ladders off the wall.  Some Scots broke through in a couple of places, at least temporarily.  Some made it down into the fort, but they did not last long.  Arthur had the men from the town, mostly farmers, merchants and craftsmen standing in reserve to defend their own women and children who were cowering in the Great Hall, the barn and barracks.  Kai’s young wife, Lisel, showed great courage in keeping up everyone’s spirits.  They sang hymns and spiritual songs and prayed.

Pinewood finally could not help himself.  He gathered his people on the back wall, facing the three towers.  As soon as they came within range, Pinewood sent barrage after barrage of flaming arrows into the green wood structures.  One burned and collapsed before it reached the wall. Men jumped for their lives.  One reached the wall, but it became a burning, unusable husk.  All it did was set that portion of the wall on fire.  The third reached the wall and spewed out some men, but it had also been set on fire and would not last long.  Some brave Scots climbed up the ladders and followed the first out of the tower door, but soon enough, that became impossible.  Pinewood and his fairies got small and zoomed back to their posts on the side, at the corners, only now they had to fire sometimes down into the fort itself, when they found a good target.

Gerraint waited until the main force of Scots charged. He had eight hundred men on horseback, ready.  Pelenor swore, ready to attack the Scots from the rear, but Peredur and Tristam kept him in check.  Gerraint took the three hundred footmen in their group and charged the catapults. It did not take long to end the resistance, and then he turned the Scottish catapults against their own men who got all bunched up beneath the wall, trying to scale ladders and get up the towers.

Boulder after boulder smashed into the Scotts while the majority of Gerraint’s footmen erected some quick entrenchments against footmen and possible cavalry, as the Scottish horsemen finally figured it out. They were holding back, ready to rush the gate once the gate got broken, so they had a more objective look at the whole battle.  They turned as a group, about five hundred, and prepared to rush the catapults.  They only had a second thought when they heard a resounding shout, “For Arthur!” and eight hundred lancers came pouring out of the woods.

Up front, the wood walls of the fort were in flames everywhere, and despite the years of weathering and flame retardant stains, the flames looked to be spreading.  The front wall had to be abandoned in most places.  With that, it looked certain that the Scots would break down the gate.  Kai got his men ready for the inrush of the enemy, and he rounded up as many horses as he could, not an easy task.  The horses were in a panic over the flames and smoke.  The great stables were untouched, but the barn was burning and there looked to be holes in the roof of the Great Hall where the fires got put out. When Arthur met Kai at the stables, he looked excited.

“Tristam is out back with maybe a thousand riders.”

“But I fear they may break in the front door,” Kai countered even as a fairy zoomed up to their faces with a message.

“Percival is out front.”

Kai danced for a moment before he gathered what horsemen he could.  Arthur did not dance, but he gathered his own.

Percival, having seen the smoke, charged from nearly two miles down the road.  He never stopped, sliced through the line of Scotts waiting to charge the fort once the front gate opened, trampled the Scottish archers who were drawn up originally to keep Arthur’s men pinned down on the wall but who were being picked off one by one by the fairy archers in the corners, and stopped, temporarily, when he sent the men on the battering ram running off in panic.  In fact, the whole thousand Scotsmen in the frontal attack decided that escape would be preferable to death, and ran.  Death looked certain with Percival’s arrival and no one stopped to count and see that they outnumbered the lancers three to one.

The front and back gates opened at once. Arthur and Kai rode out with more than a hundred each at their backs.  While a band of RDF rode to shut down the catapults out front and accept the surrender of whatever remained of the Scottish command group after the Elves finished with them, Kai and the rest joined Percival in driving the Scots back toward the wall, and they showed no mercy to any Scots who were slow.

Out back. the Scottish army started to withdraw, but it became a route when they saw their horsemen downed everywhere they looked.  They lost their towers, made little progress with the ladders, the gate held up to their pounding, while they were being pounded from above.  Now, with their cavalry destroyed, and Arthur and more enemies pouring out of the fort, they gave up.  Out back, it became nearly a thousand men on horseback chasing almost three thousand on foot, and they also showed no mercy on the slow.

Gerraint, meanwhile, had figured out where the Scottish commanders were.  They were on horse, at the back of their cavalry where they could keep an eye on the progress of the battle.  When Deerrunner got contacted by the fairy scout Gerraint had assigned to Percival’s traveling troop, he sent word to Bogus, lest the dwarf be upset at being left out of the fun.  Deerrunner and his elves knew it was not fun.  It was serious business, but dwarfs were strange ones.

Once Gerraint ascertained where the commanders were, he set Bogus and his dwarfs to encircle them, using whatever glamours and disguises they needed to get in close.  He did not want the Scots to get away, and became willing to use the phrase, dead or alive.  When the Scots began the withdrawal that became a route, the commanders were the first who tried to ride off and escape.  Bogus sprang into action.  Dwarf axes chopped off most of the horses at the knees, which Gerraint later called a great waste of horse flesh.  He felt less concerned about the twenty men who died to those same dwarf axes, and actually felt pleased with the five that the dwarfs let surrender.  He never knew how dead or alive might be interpreted, but he suspected goblins and ogres and trolls would rather interpret that as dead.

When Ederyn and his foot soldiers showed up around four that afternoon, he set his men immediately to help put out any remaining fires, check on the survivors, and in small groups, scour the immediate countryside for any lingering Scots.  Arthur, Kai, Percival, Tristam, Bedwyr, Pelenor and Peredur would not return until the following evening.  When they did, they found everything in as good an order as possible, and Gerraint and Ederyn had almost a hundred prisoners, including the leaders of the Scots. Fort Guinnon had sufficiently burned to where Arthur suggested tearing it down and starting over.  Kai agreed, and then he found Lisel among the dead. Three Scots broke into the Great Hall, and she stood in the way so the women and children behind her could escape into the back rooms and out the back door.

Arthur considered several ways of dealing with the prisoners, but in the end, he left that decision in Kai’s hands, knowing full well what Kai would do.  Kai had them hung and left on the one standing wall of the fort, the wall that faced north, and the Scots stayed there for weeks for any Scots who might be tempted to know what happened to their commanders.  Then he said he was going to build a true Caer, like Caerleon, big enough to hold a whole legion.  And he was going to build it out of stone, not like the wooden disaster the Saxon pirate Hueil built at Cambuslang.  He went to a growing port on the bay made by the Clyde river, and he thought he might name the Caer after his wife.  That building would take him the rest of his life.

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MONDAY

A misunderstanding with the Saxons need to be settled before the challenge of meeting the Scots and Danes, who appear to be working together.  Until then, Happy Reading

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