Ch. 6: A Change of Plans
It is an absolutely gorgeous evening. It is partially cloudy but there is just enough of a break for a couple of stars to sneak through for a peak.
On the horizon though are what appear to be ships with lanterns, lots of them to be exact. More and more fires are lit until it appears as though the sea’s horizon is full of them. Marco rushes to his room to grab his telescope. He pears over the horizon.
“You are gonna want to see this.”
Each of you takes a turn looking through the telescope. The lens reveals an armada of Bairing ships, armed with catapults, trebuchets, and balistas preparing to fire.
“It is going to be a long night, and not the kind that I usually like.” Marco says.
Drums beat and horns blare as the alarm is sounded to man the defenses. You must not have been the only ones to see the fleet off the coast. Soldiers pour out of the different barracks and they take up positions manning the defenses of the capital city. Trebuchets, catapults, balistas are loaded and you can hear the grinding of gears and the scurry of the defenders.
There is a knock at your door. You answer it and it is Vizier Elsen, “The king requests for you to join him in the war room.”
You quickly grab your weapons and armor and follow the Vizier to the King. The king has numerous generals giving orders and writing messages for their officers. As you enter the room the king sees you and motions for you to join him.
“Thank you for coming. We have a change of plans it seems. It appears that our alliance will face its first test. Would one of you please write a message to Emperor Fortis asking him to send aid? I did not believe that the Bairing Islands could have such a fleet. There must be a hundred ships off the coast.”
Player response. One of the players needs to write the message out and then give it to the messenger. It will be sent by raven to Fort Navaro and then from there to Imperial City.
“Are any of you knowledgeable in the art of war?” The king asks your group.
“Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Take them to commander Antarius’s wall.” King Acre motions for the officer to take you.
You are escorted to the lower levels of the palace where there are secret tunnels that can be used to get to the walls of the city. As you descend into the basement you pass by the furnaces that are used to heat the palace during the cold nights in the desert, quite the luxury for the time. Gib notices that they are shoveling some kind of rock into the furnace for burning. He stops quickly and asks one of the workers what it is.
“It is a rock we call charcola. It burns very slow and gets quite hot. However, they have informed us that we will be heading to the walls to fight. No need to run the furnaces tonight. Things will get hot enough.” The workers throw down their shovels and head out. Gib may take some Charcola if he chooses.
The tunnels run up to a cellar in one of the barracks built into the city defensive wall. You exit and the officer takes you to the commander of this part of the city’s defenses.
“You gentlemen aren’t from here. State your business, as you can see we are going to be quite busy.”
“We could use some help in a number of areas to be honest. The city hasn’t been under siege like this during my lifetime.” The commander brings you over to a table that has a map of the city and its defenses on it. “As you can see the city has an outer wall protecting it. This is our main line of defense. There are only five gatehouses, two on the side that face the sea. There probably isn’t much we can do to protect the harbor and ships and shops there. The people of that area outside the wall are being drawn back behind it. However, we do have a number of ships that will launch momentarily to try and destroy any Bairing Raiders possible. They will be outnumbered but we have no choice. The generals have said they believe we will be bombarded and then a landing party will assault the wall. That is where we must hold. If they break through that we can fall back to the palace, but the rest of the city would be lost. Tell me, do any of you have skills piloting a ship?”
“Then perhaps you could try and delay them as long as possible. Just sink or damage enough ships to buy us a little more time. Don’t get yourself killed, as soon as you think it prudent, head back to land and help man the wall.” The commander signals to a man talking to a group of soldiers. “Jacopo, this man will help command the Zatara with you, please make sure he makes it to the ship and give these Bairing pirates hell.”
________________ and Jacopo head out to the docks and board the Zatara, a small Sah’ra war ship armed with two ballistas. There are 5 Sah’ra warships that will head out in your party.
The commander turns his attention to the rest of you. “How about the rest of you? I could use some help with the siege equipment, my men have never seen combat before and may be a little nervous there. I wouldn’t suppose any of you have any experience would you?”
“Excellent. Make your way up to siege equipment. Along my part of the wall we have 2 ballistas, 2 catapults, and two trebuchets. Help out wherever you can.”
Gib exits the headquarters and makes his way the siege equipment.
“I could use some extra help along the wall. I highly doubt we will be able to stop them from landing. We will need skilled fighters to beat back the attacks at the wall.”
“Then follow me. I am heading to the walls myself. I didn’t get to introduce myself; I am Commander Antarius, a pleasure to meet you.”
With that you follow the commander to his post on the wall.
An uneasy tension fills the night sky. The glow of the Bairing ships with their lanterns and weapons lit up makes it appear as if the sun is rising on the horizon, truly a sight to see.
Marco mans the help of the Zatara, the lead ship in the small flotilla that will try to delay and inflict as much damage as possible. Archers man the decks of the Sah’ra ships and the ballistas are ready to fire. In order to inflict as much damage as possible Jacopo has you plot a course for several of the Bairing ships with trebuchets. The ships are larger to support the massive siege engine and will make for an easy target. As you begin to move in the Bairing ships spot you and know what you are attempting.
After the small Sah’ra flotilla’s gallant effort installing the Bairing fleet fails the fleet moves into position to begin its bombardment. The sight is awe inspiring as ballistas, arrows, trebuchets, and catapults launch their ordinance at the defenders. The projectiles smash into the wall sending shrapnel and debris flying.
After sustaining several rounds of fire Commander Antarius receives the signal to fire back, he looks up to Gib on the ramparts with the siege weapons and yells “Give them a volley!!”
The bombardment continues but begins to ease up and you can see the silhouettes of the troop transport ships landing on the beaches and moving into the docks. Luckily, your brave efforts in piloting the ships and aiming the siege weapons bought the people living outside the walls enough time make it inside.
The gatehouses have set up their defenses and the greatest amount of Sah’ra troops have be concentrated there. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t try to break through in other places. Commander Antarius paces up and down the ranks of his troops giving words of encouragement and trying to prepare them for the coming fight. He has divided his soldiers up evenly to start the battle and has held some back off the wall as reinforcements. Antarius has asked Lazarus and Lucius to each help command one of the groups.
The time has come and the Bairing ships launch one last volley towards the defenders of the wall. This time however, instead of being flaming projectiles it is severed heads. The raining of heads sends a chill down every man’s spine. This will not be a fight for treasure or honor. It will be a fight for survival.
Bairing soldiers and archers line up in ranks. Instead of the drab barbarian like warriors you remember fighting, these men are decked out in armor and weapons. They pound their shields with their weapons and let a terrifying scream. Siege ladders are moved to the front and the mass of humanity begins its rush to the wall.
The bodies pile high at the foot of the wall and on its ramparts. However, the defenders are not broken and the sun begins to rise. While you take joy and solace in the fact that you have held against the first assault the grim reality that there is a Bairing armada off the coast is ever present. They will be back. You can see ships bring in new troops and supplies along the shore. It is only a matter of time.
A messenger arrives for Commander Antarius. The commander quickly reads over the message and signals for your group to come over to him.
“The king requests your presence in the war room. You will follow this messenger. If our paths do not cross again, it was an honor to fight alongside you.”
With that your group follows the young messenger down into the secret tunnels that run underneath the city. You arrive back at the palace and are taken to the war room. There you find King Acre, his daughter Isla, and several generals.
“Please come here gentlemen.” The king motions you to join them around the table. “Our defenses have held… at least for the time being. However, it does not appear that the Bairing scum has any plans of leaving soon. So we must make our next move. I am open to suggestions.”
One of the generals steps forward. “Our defenses on the seaside walls are in poor shape after the bombardment. I do not know whether or not we can withstand another attack like the one we endured last night. We just don’t have the man power.”
Another general jumps in. “I do not understand where these barbarians got their weapons. Never in all of my years have I seen Bairing ships so big and with massive siege weapons too. Their soldiers are wielding weapons that are new, swords and shields that have been well crafted. Finer than what many of them typically wield. And as if that were not enough, they are more organized than ever and employing sound tactics and strategy. Where did they learn that?”
The king stands up from his seat, “Do not concern yourself with these things generals. We cannot change that. We must decide how we are to defend, not wonder about where they got their weapons of war.”
Another messenger arrives in the doorway and holds a message up. “My king, messages from Ayos and Jifra.”
The king motions for the boy to bring him the letters. The king opens them franticly and reads them. After doing so he hands them to his daughter standing behind him.
“Last night, after the fleet was spotted three messages were sent. One to our allies, the Fortis Empire, and two to our other main cities. In the messages to Jifra and Ayos I asked them to send reinforcements with all possible speed. I have unfortunately just read that no reinforcements will be coming. Those cities are under attack just the same as us.”
The generals look at each other stunned and silent. The king slouches in his chair and looks as though he as just seen a ghost. However, a new face and voice finds strength to step to the forefront.
“Hope is not lost gentlemen. Our people still have a chance.” Isla says in a strong and clear voice.
One of the generals grunts and responds, “And what hope is that? I would believe that after the shower of heads that surrender is not something that the Bairing thugs would consider.”
“It is not surrender that I propose, it is retreat. A change of plans. Live to fight another day. If it is true that the Fortis Empire is truly our ally now and we believe Emperor Fortis to be a man of his word, then help from them and the Beinn will be on its way. Perhaps this will even end the bickering in Vallos and finally get them to help against the Bairing Islands. The problem is surviving long enough for them to help. Here we cannot do that, but there is one place that we can.”
Isla’s father rises from his seat, “Are you suggesting that we give up our cities, that we retreat to the Scorpion Fortress?”
“It is our only chance. It is a fortress far superior to the defenses here or the other cities. It is in the middle of the desert, it will negate the Bairing fleet, it will force them to deal with the desert on our terms, and we can withstand a siege for a month there with the water and provisions stored.”
“My daughter, you are asking much of me to abandon the cities of my forefathers, but I agree we have no choice.” The King looks at your group and asks “Tell me, in our hour of greatest need, will the forces of the Fortis Empire or of the Confederation stand with us against these invaders?”
“Marco Medici, you are from the city of Jeros are you not? Could you write a letter imploring the Confederation to send aid?”
“Very well, see to it as quickly as possible. Generals and Vizier Elsen, let us begin drawing up plans for a retreat. Send a message to Jifra and Ayos letting them know of the plan. Send another message to Fortis and McMasters as well.”
The room is abuzz with activity as everyone moves on the kings words.
Isla, moves over to you and pulls you to the side. “Thank you so very much for your service, if we survive this I will make sure you will be well compensated for your service. I suggest you head to your room and get some rest. If the attacks begin again you know your way around by now and you know where the fighting will be.” With an amazing amount of grace and elegance she turns and heads out the door down the hallway.