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 General Caedis Scutum

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Common Sense


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PostSubject: General Caedis Scutum   Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:29 pm

[[So Caedis is going to be a pretty important player in the happenings of Daernika, so I'll be posting her Journal updates and other things here as well as on the blog]]

General Caedis Scutum

The Journal of General Caedis Scutum

8th Firemoot, 767 - Scouts from the mountain outposts rode into Arkile today. They bore news of a new Broken Spine Tribe invasion, fresh reinforcements mixed with the remnants of those who assaulted Norngard this past month. General Pambuka of the 12th is pulling his forces back from the plains to Arkile, and I’m consolidating my soldiers here as well.

10th Firemoot, 767 - General Pambuka arrived at Arkile today. He says the Tribe is four days behind him, and he’s had to send some two thousand soldiers south to avoid them. That leaves us with just eighteen thousand here. Pambuka has also relinquished command of the battle to me.

13th Firemoot, 767 - Our outriders reported today that the Tribe should arrive shortly past midnight. They estimate there are some thirty thousand monsters comprising the army. The evacuation of the outlying settlements is progressing, though it doesn’t seem like we’ll finish in time. The Mkulu and Mfumu want to conscript the peasants that fill the city into some sort of makeshift army. Even though Pambuka keeps telling them that creating any military force would be tantamount to rebellion in the eyes of the Boros, they still insist. I have two thousand men ready at all times to shut down any attempt to rebel, just in case. If we can’t win the battle, at least I won’t die a woman who failed to stop the Sandfells from turning traitor.

14th Firemoot, 767 - It’s evening now, and the Tribe’s assault has relented for today. They arrived after midnight and attacked at dawn, coming from two sides. They have the rest of the city thinly surrounded, with greater concentrations at each of the gates. We repelled the first few waves with ease and impunity, but by midday some of them had gained the walls. When the sun set, it glimmered off of the scarlet dunes, dyed so with the blood of our monstrous foes. By then, their corpses piled almost to the top of the wall. I told the men to set them afire, so they won’t have an easy time getting up here tomorrow. It’s brighter than the midday sun out there, and the heat’s enough to scorch a man at twenty paces. But, it’s war. Pambuka’s two thousand stragglers got a message to us by mage today. They’re fit to fight, and want to know how they can help. I’m devising a strategy to break the siege, but I need more time.

15th Firemoot, 767 - Another day of slaughter. Lost almost a thousand men today when the bastards claimed a league or so of the wall. We pushed back and forced them off, but at heavy losses. Some even escaped into the city - the Mfumu’s guard is hunting them down. Finally figured out a plan to break the siege, we’re going to try it out tomorrow. Been in rapid communication with the Legate of the two thousand stragglers, an elf named Estondil, all day, and his soldiers will be in position in time.

16th Firemoot, 767 - The siege is broken! I’m writing now from a tent in the desert. We’re camped for the night, but are pursuing the routed Broken Spine Tribe forces. Estondil did his job perfectly, sweeping down out of the dunes to overpower the soldiers guarding the West Gate. A sortie from us there broke them completely, and I sent two forces of six thousand each to flank the Tribe. We crushed the vast majority of them against the walls. Only seven thousand or so escaped through a crack in the pincers - that’s who we’re chasing now.

23rd Firemoot, 767 - We’re turning back. Pambuka is leading his men back to their stations in the plains. I’m leading mine back to the Sandfells. We’ve hunted down and killed almost half of the survivors of the battle, but we’re nearing the mountains and their homeland. The battle has been over for seven days now, it is past time I sent my report to General Ply and the Protector of the State.

27th Firemoot, 767 - General Pambuka has met with me to author a letter to General Ply, who is just now leading an army to put down the rebelling Norngardians. We only lost some three thousand soldiers in the fighting out of our combined twenty thousand. Now, however, there are thirty-four thousand Ajaeans clamoring to join the legion in Arkile alone, and probably a good ten to fifteen thousand more throughout the Sandfells and northeastern plains. Pambuka and I proposed the creation of five new legions from recruits among the border provinces and the construction of a wall spanning the border. We also suggested another five legions created in the inner provinces to act as reinforcements wherever needed. Pambuka and I are hopeful that Ply will embrace this letter - we shall simply wait and see.

1st Sunwane, 767 - General Ply’s response arrived today. He said he agrees wholeheartedly with all of our suggestions, and has submitted it to the Senate. He is, however, not hopeful that they will pass this resolution any time within the next five years. The Senate works at a glacial pace, especially with issues relating to massive expansions of military power. For almost five hundred years the Boros have always had sixteen legions of ten thousand soldiers. This change would break tradition and precedent - but it makes sense for a changing world. It may be the only thing that can save us.

4th Sunwane, 767 - Ply wrote again. He says the Senate has accepted our proposal, and has surprisingly advanced it quickly. It does not look as if the bill will pass, however….

6th Sunwane, 767 - The Senate has rejected the bill in a 460-40 vote. Pambuka is distraught, and has said things that border on treason, especially for an Ajaean soldier in command of ten thousand soldiers in his homeland. I scolded him, and let him know in no uncertain terms what would happen if he tried anything like that traitorous bastard Torben. My family, House Scutum, defended order and justice in Publia for centuries, welcomed the Boros into our republic, and repelled the forces of four different Tyrants from the city’s walls. I shall defend the Boros and Daernika like the Scutums have defended Publia for our entire history.

1st Redmoot, 767 - I received word today that Ply is dead. He may have been dead for quite a while - we’re getting a lot of confusing messages. What is clear is that Senator Varis has negotiated the peaceful secession of the Frostfells. The Ajaean people will not be pleased to hear of this, and neither will provinces across Daernika.

2nd Redmoot, 767 - The city is under siege from within and without! The people mobbed a patrol of my soldiers in the night, tore them apart. Within hours, the city was aflame. The aforementioned thirty-four thousand Ajaeans within the city eager to join the Boros have now formed their own army, and wage war against my troops. Pambuka and much of the 12th, more loyal to the Sandfells than to the Boros it seems, are trying to bash down the gates from without. It’s all I can do to hold the gates, the walls, and keep the Boros quarters safe.

3rd Redmoot, 767 - It’s morning. A long night of bloodshed has passed. The rebels took the Boros quarters before midnight, and I pulled my troops back to the walls and gates. I’d be surprised if there’s a single loyal civilian alive in the city. The quarters have all burned down now, and the heads of Boros civilians now sit on pikes inside the walls. They brandish them at us, try to intimidate us. We’re not likely to live through the coming day, let alone the night.

3rd Redmoot, 767 - We just might have a chance. It’s evening now. I led a vast sortie forward, seven thousand soldiers, and we shattered Pambuka’s lines. I rode right up to the bastard, put the tip of my lance at his throat, and asked him if he wished to continue fighting. Predictably, the coward surrendered. We moved back inside the gates and re-secured the walls, our forces bolstered by the remnants of Pambuka’s. I’ve now got fifteen thousand battle-weary soldiers at my command, to face up against twice that many fresh (though untrained) troops.

4th Redmoot, 767 - Victory! Some spies infiltrated their meetings, and discovered their plans to attack at noon today. So we preempted them, marching into the city at dawn and sweeping it quarter by quarter, block by block, building by building. They were spread out enough at first that we could overwhelm them in small groups due to our superior skills, and by the time they finally gathered together, it was too late. A single crossbow volley felling a couple thousand, and the rest surrendered on the spot. The self-proclaimed leaders are to face the same punishment captured Boros soldiers did - a slow death by flaying. The rest I have yet to decide.

5th Redmoot, 767 - Word reached us today that the Boros troops in the Frostfells are allying themselves with the rebels to defeat an oncoming Broken Spine horde. I say Mormont should let the rebels burn for their sins, and for their audacity, but of course he wouldn’t heed such advice. The man has always been weak. It was his weakness that allowed them to secede in the first place. That secession prompted these uprisings, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Boros soldiers, and tens of thousands of non-Ajaean Boros civilians. Mormont should be tried for their deaths.

6th Redmoot, 767 - I presented the surviving Ajaean rebels - the rioters - with an option today. There are almost thirty thousand still living. I told them they would be executed unless they joined the Boros legion. I told them that if they joined us, they would have the privilege of protecting their city from the Broken Spine tribe. Almost all of them have. I’ve replenished the ranks of the 12th and 13th legions, and they are now entirely made up of Ajaeans. And I have created two new legions, the 17th and 18th. The 17th has the remnants of the old 12th and 13th, as well as Ajaeans, and the 18th is fully Ajaean. I plan to deploy the 12th, 13th, and 18th along the border with the Broken Spine Tribe, and spread the 17th throughout the Sandfells and the steppes that the 12th used to patrol.

8th Redmoot, 767 - Received much news today. Dwarf kingdoms violently revolt, Wavenlon begins negotiations for peaceful secession, the 7th legion shattered in the west, and a half-dozen other revolutions throughout Daernika. Most pressing, however, is another Ajaean uprising. This one is not by the citizens of Arkile, but by their desert-dwelling counterparts. These people, living in the harsh deserts, with cannibal halflings, sandsharks, and slavers the least of their problems, are said to be hardened warriors. Nothing like the urban rabble we crushed four days ago. Of course, this urban rabble makes up the 13th, 18th, and much of the 17th. These are the three legions I am bringing with me to cleanse the desert - and hopefully to recruit more soldiers for yet another protective legion. I have left Pambuka behind with the 12th to guard Arkile and the steppes.

Hopefully we will have these rebels whipped within a week. From there? I do not know. The dwarflands perhaps, to put down those revolts. Norngard, maybe, to surprise the Norngardians after their battle with the Tribe (assuming they win). One Legate of mine, Estondil, whispers that I should turn my sights on the capital. But things with the Senate are not that bad yet. I suppose we shall see how they react to my creation of these new legions. I am sure they will be understanding.

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:47 pm

The sand got into everything. Grain by grain it infiltrated armor, scabbards, even slipping under the thick veil covering her mouth. Caedis grimaced, and lifted the cloth to spit a wad of phlegm and sand to the ground. With a heavy sigh, the Boros general brought her telescope to her eye to watch the progress of her soldiers.

It had been a hard day of fighting. The dune upon which she now stood – mounted, of course – was littered with the dead and dying. Some Boros corpses were present, practically baking in their iron armor beneath the searing Ajaean sun, but the majority belonged to the rebelling desert warriors.

The battle had started at sunrise, with the newborn sun shining in the eyes of their foes. Five volleys of arrows tore through the Ajaeans defending this dune, and wedges of heavy infantry broke the survivors. The Boros had reformed in the narrow valley between the sand hills as the rebels dug in at the top of the next one.

Then the wind had kicked in, swirling and striking at the less-well-armored archers preparing their barrages. The sand had blinded many of them, and whipped the first flight of arrows far off course. Caedis’ high mage was certain it was desert sorcery, but he couldn’t figure out how to interrupt it.

Now the steel-encrusted Boros warriors had to fight their way uphill without the cover of the artillery they had enjoyed earlier in the day. “Have them move up by squads,” Caedis instructed a nearby messenger. The small man saluted, then scampered farther along the dune. This seemed the logical strategy, a slow but sure advancement. They didn’t need to win the battle today – with strong supply lines stretching back to Arkile, they had all the time in the world.

Behind the cover of several large hide shields waited two burly men, a massive pair of drums, and an equally-huge horn. Moments after the messenger had disappeared into the whirlwind, the horn bleated a complex set of notes, conveying Caedis’ orders to the soldiers in the valley below. Then the drums began to beat a steady rhythm, and the troops began moving in time.

The various cohorts, battalions, companies and platoons broke down into squads of twenty soldiers. Then the first row of squads began to advance, marched steadily up the dune. In response, rebel warriors rushed to the crest and began to fire arrows and hurl javelins down. As the missiles closed, the Boros troops halted and fell to one knee, with their large square shields held before them. Only two projectiles slipped through the shield wall.

As the first row of squads stopped its advance, the second marched forward, taking advantage of the cover provided by their comrades in front to hustle up the slope. They passed their fellow soldiers and made it ten or so more paces up the dune before assuming their own defensive positions. The third and final row then rushed forwards, passing the first, then the second, and falling to their knees halfway up the slope.

The Boros soldiers continued to make their way up the dune, suffering minimal losses and gaining ground steadily, albeit slowly. Caedis turned at the sound of approaching riders as one row reached just twenty paces from the top of the slope.

Behind her, three horses faded in from the sandstorm. Their eyes rolled wildly and tongues lolled – they had clearly been pushed hard. The riders wore light leather armor and the white tabards of the Boros Legion atop them. Scouts, Caedis deduced, from their armor, mounts, and lack of serious weaponry. “Report!” she barked.

“General Caedis,” one began, saluting as he dismounted, “We are ambushed!”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Another army of equivalent size marches from the east. They bear the heron-crest of the rebellion, and seem angled to flank us within the hour, ma’am.”

“How is this possible?” Caedis demanded, her eyes narrowing angrily. “The other armies of the rebellion are all in the Northern Aja.”

The scout shrugged. One of the general’s advisors made his way forward then, and rested a reassuring hand on her leg. “It will not be a problem, general,” he promised, “We can call in reinforcements from Arkile and crush these newcomers between us, assuming we disengage now.”

“No we cannot, you dolt!” Caedis growled. “If they are marching from the east, they have cut our supply and communication lines. We are isolated from all help. Now give me a moment to think.” Those present sat in silence for a moment, then started as Caedis bent down and slapped away the man’s hand. “And don’t touch me,” she snarled.

“Apologies, general,” the now pale-faced advisor said, before shrinking away.

After a few more seconds of thought, Caedis sat straight. “Give the order to charge,” she said. “And order the cavalry wings to swing around the dune and crush the fleeing soldiers. Tell them I want a rout, not a slaughter.”

As a messenger rushed off to do the general’s bidding, several of her legate advisors came forward. “Is this the wisest strategy, general? It is something of a risk.”

“We must smash this army we face today, or at least cripple it so that it poses no serious threat for the time being. Hopefully we will then have enough time to swing around and stare down the approaching force without being taken in the rear by these enemies.” As she finished her explanation, Caedis turned her horse forward once more to watch her orders carried out.

New notes trumpeted forth, a simple quick triplet repeated over and over. The beat of the drums quickened as well, and the heavy infantry responded immediately. Those in the bottom row stood and charged forward. As they passed their comrades, those squads also uprooted. As they reached ten feet from the crest of the hill, the third row joined them, and as one armored wave, they fell over the enemy soldiers.

The charge was not without loss. Although only ten bodies adorned the slope below the halfway mark, above was smeared red and coated with the dead. Perhaps some fifty soldiers had perished in the ten seconds it took them to crest the dune. Now many more were dying in the brutal melee at the top. But the Boros soldiers were clearly winning out, their steel armor proving difficult to breach and their superior tactics encouraging the enemy to rout. After perhaps a minute of battle, the fighting disappeared over the other edge of the dune.

The thunder of hoofbeats – and a cavalry charge thundered even in the desert – provided a new focus for the general’s attention. And this may well have been the largest cavalry charge Daernika had ever seen. Certainly it was the largest in Boros history. To each side of Caedis’ dune, the desert floor was obscured by cavalry almost to the horizon. In total, ten thousand riders made up this charge, and as they swept around the far dune and out of sight, Caedis was certain that nothing could withstand their charge.

Sure enough, just ten minutes later the infantry and cavalry began to troop back in neat squares and wedges. Messengers flocked to Caedis, describing the defeat and humiliation of the enemy. The calmer ones estimated that perhaps a third of the enemy had been killed or captured. The rest, broken and scared, would reform somewhere in the desert, but not for several hours at least. The general listened to these reports stoically, then rattled off orders for the reassembly of her army facing east.

The infantry made up the bulk of the force, easily fifteen-thousand strong. Formed into a massive square, they covered the desert for several hundred paces in every direction. Two wings of cavalry floated nearby, one to each side. Each wing consisted of five thousand men, mostly Ajaean – in fact, almost the entire army was Ajaean. The remainder of the three legions, 2,500 archers and 2,500 light infantry, remained behind the heavy infantry, mostly on the eastern slope of Caedis’ dune.

As the enemy had been broken, the sandstorm had mostly abated. The sun was now close to setting, and so although the shadow of the dune covered much of the Boros army, the coming Ajaean rebels were still brightly illumined in scarlet light. All told they made up perhaps forty thousand soldiers, outnumbering the Boros by a legion’s worth of men.

And they marched with no real organization, simply a horde of leather-wrapped soldiers bearing ferocious weapons. Above them rose the banners of the rebellion, some smaller, some so large as to take ten men to carry. On each was emblazoned the Ajaeans’ symbol. A heron in flight, wings spread majestically, beak poised to strike.

The rebel army came to a rolling halt as they approached the Boros lines. Then their ranks split, allowing three riders to come forth. Although their horses were massive, the riders themselves were tiny. Caedis recognized them instantly, understood they were not halflings or dwarves, but truly were human children. One boy, two girls, she saw. They children surveyed the Boros ranks, talked briefly among themselves, then rode back into their army.

Moments later a horn sounded from the back of the rebel army, and the soldiers broke formation. Caedis narrowed her eyes, wondering if this was some trick. But no, the Ajaeans seemed to be setting up camp. So be it. There would be no more fighting for today. Caedis turned to her messenger and gave a similar order, then dismounted for the first time since morning. The sun had set even farther since she last noticed it. As she strode up to the crest of her dune, her shadow stretched out behind her, now dwarfing both armies. The sun slipped beneath the horizon, but the desert still glittered red.

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:30 pm

That night, Caedis spent many hours planning with her fellow generals and advisors. As the strategy meetings at last came to an end, she left the command tent and strode into the cool night. She briefly surveyed her army, spread in two camps around the two dunes she controlled, then continued on to a nearby campfire. Her high mage sat there, along with some other ranking officers, warming their hands over the flames.

She talked with him briefly about the sandstorm, and why he could not combat it magically. He suggested that perhaps it was because the sorcery was not borne of a wizard, but rather of a celestial entity. After all, the leaders of the seven armies of the rebellion – six of which were gathered here, three to either side of them – were each allegedly imbued with part of the spirit of a warlord sixty-years dead and the power of an eldritch desert God. They were the children she had seen earlier, barely out of infancy now.

The warlord in question was Korbolo Dom of the Western Aja, a man who, decades before the Cataclysm, waged war on the East and Boros alike. Though the Boros prevented his secession, they did nothing to stop him from conquering Arkile and the Eastern Aja and uniting them into the single province of the Sandfells.

Dom was of the heron clan – Fuko Mbeza, in Western Ajaean. When, at the age of seventy, he launched his final failed rebellion, the Boros put him to the death when they captured him. They nailed him to the walls of Arkile, and planned to let the vultures eat him alive. But each day when the vultures came, they found their prey guarded by a flock of herons.

As the days passed, still Dom did not die. It was only after two weeks that the locals realized the herons were bringing him small amounts of water in their beaks, and food as well. No one told the Boros this. The local soldiers grew increasingly confused as Dom proved still breathing each sunrise. As the weeks passed, the Ajaean people began to gather each morning to ensure he stilled lived. For seventy days, Korbolo Dom hung from the walls of Arkile, protected by his spiritual guardians.

Then, on the seventy first, as the sun rose, a young Boros lieutenant atop the wall slipped past the herons. In full view of the watching crowd, he unsheathed his knife and slit Korbolo Dom’s throat. The people of Arkile say that Dom’s blood sprayed forth and touched every member of the crowd, and that all those touched by the warlord’s lifeblood lived long and happy lives.

An undisputable fact is what the herons did next. First, they swarmed the Boros soldier, pecking out his eyes, scratching and stabbing and clawing him. At last, they threw him from the wall. He hit the ground and snapped his spine, but was still alive. The people of Arkile did nothing, and said nothing, and left him in the dust to die. Even the Boros, frightened of the repercussions from the herons or Ajaeans, did nothing to help their fallen comrade. It took the lieutenant seven days of agony to die, there on the ground beneath Korbolo Dom’s rotting body.

But his body was no longer what was important. For, after attacking the lieutenant, the present herons – there were seven – each took one part of Korbolo Dom’s spirit. Normally when a chief of Fuko Mbeza died, a single heron took his spirit. The commoners were afforded no such luxury, with few exceptions. But it took seven herons, seven great hearts, seven massive wingspans, seven sharp beaks to contain Korbolo Dom’s spirit.

And each of those herons had imbued the spirit in newborn children some seven years ago. This rebellion, to many of the Ajaean people, was prophecy. It was their destiny. Caedis intended to prove otherwise. This rebellion, and its impending doom, was her destiny.

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:42 pm

The Boros Legions pushed westward, advancing rapidly towards the unstable army they had fractured the previous day. The heavy infantry led, with cavalry wings to either side. A smaller force brought up a rearguard, warding away the army behind.

Caedis’ spies – and it turned out that she had many embedded in the rebel armies – reported each of the two forces was made up of three distinct armies, each led by one of the seven Children of the Apocalypse, as they styled themselves. One Child had taken up a sort of supreme position in each of forces.

That to the west, which they had shattered in battle yesterday, was led by Amaka. And the one to their rear, which they had not engaged, was commanded by Onyeka. Both girls were not quite seven years old, yet contained within them the cunning of the greatest warlords, the wisdom of the oldest shamans, and the power of the strongest sorcerers.

As Caedis expected, Amaka’s troops broke rank as the Boros approached, and began an orderly retreat across the desert. They would proceed this way until the western army could find a place of strategic significance for a stand. Then the Boros would be crushed between the two armies.

Caedis truly had little choice but to go along with this. While her forces might be able to repel a simultaneous attack in the middle of the desert, there was no certainty. Neither side wished to take the risk. Her forces could certainly take one of the armies, but the other would then rush in behind. So Caedis had no choice but to wait until the rebels found a suitable spot, then try and break through one of the armies.

Her best chance was at the Adasi River. It was in truth little more than a stream – ten paces across at its widest, sluggish and shallow. It would be there that Amaka made her stand. If Caedis could break through one of her virtual captors, she could lead her armies to an oasis farther up the river, a strong defensible point, and a place where they could recuperate.

The river was two days away, however, and the general had no doubt that her enemies would raid and harry her army throughout their travel. Indeed, as if on cue, shouts arose from the rear of the force, followed by a complex series of trumpet notes. As she mentally compared the sounds to the Boros procedures, Caedis spurred her horse towards the commotion. The trumpet repeated its message as she neared, and this time she divined the message: 300 Enemy Cavalry Harassing South Flank.

By the time she arrived, the battle was almost over. Several hundred pikemen guarded the archers on the flank while her light cavalry split the enemy into two groups. One was forced towards the pikes, where the horses skewered themselves and their riders were summarily butchered. The other was herded east, back towards their own army.

One rebel warrior, seeing the ornaments on Caedis’ armor and her nearby standard-bearer, broke free of this second group and sped towards the general. He let loose a war-cry at twenty paces and hurled a javelin, before unsheathing a short and simple sickle. The missile flew over Caedis’ left shoulder – the woman didn’t even flinch – and pierced the sand with a soft sound.

Caedis remained motionless as the Ajaean neared. Finally, at five paces, she burst into motion. Pulling her sword free of her scabbard and bringing it across in a single smooth movement, Caedis decapitated the man before he was close enough to use his short-bladed weapon. The horse, panting, slowed as its rider’s corpse slid off to thump onto the ground beside the javelin.

The ranking officer, leader of the cavalry battalion that was just now reforming into orderly ranks, rode up to Caedis. He was Ajaean, and wielded a short sickle similar to the dead rebel’s sat scabbarded on the right of his saddle. An appropriate sabre adorned the left of his saddle, and he wielded a Boros-made lance and buckler.

He executed a flawless salute as he closed with the general, despite the weapon in his right hand. “Commander Tenga, General,” he introduced himself.

“Commander,” Caedis greeted, nodding her head slightly as well. “Tell me what happened.”

“The rebels sent a few hundred light cavalry our way. Our forces reacted admirably, two battalions of pikemen falling back to guard the rear flank while my battalion wheeled out and around. We then charged the approaching rebels, fracturing their force into two. One section was pushed towards the pikemen, where we made short work of them. The other was forced back, and eventually into a rout. It seems one rider escaped from that group,” Tenga noted, gesturing to the headless corpse behind Caedis, “And I apologize for that.”

“No apology necessary, it’s war,” Caedis noted. “You did good work, Tenga. I imagine you’ll have to do it again before the day is up.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the commander replied, before turning his horse about and returning to his battalion, already barking orders.

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:11 pm

Caedis had gathered her various advisors somewhere near the center of her army. The strange, three-army procession had reached the Adasi River the night before. Amaka’s army had immediately begun preparations, as had Onyeka’s. Caedis did not sleep, but spent the entire night planning the coming battle. She knew well that these next few hours would determine not just her own life, but those of thirty thousand soldiers under her command.

Now she clambered onto a wooden platform that had been constructed in the night, a roughshod affair that would nonetheless grant her a good view of the battle to both sides. She was flanked on either side by her two other generals. General Duncan North, a foppish nobleman from the Capital who knew little about military strategy and even less about anything else, commanded the 13th legion. And General Adaeze Okoro, once a brave legate of Caedis’ old 13th, now lead the newly-formed 18th legion. Caedis only officially commanded the 17th legion, but was also in charge of this entire expedition due to seniority and expertise.

She turned to see Adaeze peering westwards through a telescope. The sun had yet to rise – its warm glow was just now touching the eastern horizon – but much of Amaka’s movements could be discerned by the various campfires and torches her army used. The same rule held for the army they faced to the east.

The sun was key here, as it would blind Amaka’s forces in the western battle, but would similarly disable the Boros troops in the eastern one. Caedis’ solution? Commence the latter battle before the sun had risen, gaining not only the advantage of surprise, but also sweeping Amaka’s ranks with confusion and winning valuable ground before the handicap crested the horizon.

“Give the order for the eastern forces to advance,” Caedis said.

Moments after the corresponding orders were trumpeted out, the Boros troops to the east began to move. Heavy infantry advanced in tight squares, the front ends bristling with pikes and the sides protected by tower shields and broadswords. This whole block of soldiers was flanked by spear-wielding light infantry, who would sow confusion in would-be flankers ranks until cavalry reinforcements could arrive. Finally, advancing at an even slower pace, came the archers. Some thousand bowmen waded three quick steps forward before halting, drawing their bows, and firing a flight of arrows into the unsuspecting rebels.

As the missiles whistled down to strike their targets – most still groggy from the early hours and restless nights – and screams of pain wafted into the dry air, the battle was begun. The archers continued to advance in this fashion – three steps, stop, fire, repeat – while the infantry made ever more headway across the thousand-or-so paces separating the Boros and rebel forces.

Glancing west, Caedis could see the rapid movement of torches in Amaka’s camp. Clearly her soldiers were confused and worried by what they heard occurring on the opposite side of the Boros army to their kin in Onyeka’s army. After a few moments of chaos, two patches of light ventured out from Amaka’s army, arcing wide around the Boros. Scouts, holding torches for light, trying to discover what was happening to the other side of the dune.

Caedis barked a quick order. Moments later, the twang of bowstrings echoed nearby. The torches to either side wavered, then flickered out. Her archers had eliminated the scouting forces.

A great crash and cry from the east jarred Caedis, and she turned to see that her forces had engaged with Onyeka’s. The front ranks of the rebel army had collapsed due to the surprise, confusion, and pure fear at the sight of five thousand Boros soldiers, bristling with an array of polearms, axes, and blades, and protected by steel armor that flashed like lightning in the unsteady torchlight charging forwards.

But the ranks behind held firm, jabbing forward with spears at charging foe and fleeing friend alike. The speartips, rough things of black iron from the steppes, nonetheless managed to punch through Boros mail and savage the soldiers’ insides. A great cry of pain rose up from the Boros as some two hundred soldiers fell in a span of seconds.

Then the Boros were halting their charge, casting forward one last time with polearms before slinging heavy tower shields off of their backs and unsheathing steel broadswords. Now the Boros presented a solid defensive formation, and waited for the rebels’ next move. To their right and left, Onyeka’s forces began to close inwards, attempting to flank, but a flight of arrows to either side and a charge from the light infantry discouraged that.

Caedis turned her attention back to the west as the first fingers of sunlight crept over the dune to touch the waiting Boros troops below. While ten thousand waged war against some forty thousand to the east, Caedis had concentrated twice as many troops here. Defeating Amaka’s soldiers, breaking through and pushing North along the river was their only hope. Even in the event of a victory, Caedis wasn’t sure that any of those to the east would make it out alive.

She shrugged. She had never been a particularly morose leader – certainly not one to cry over the lives she had ended – but she did have a sense of moral responsibility. And right now, that responsibility instructed her to mourn over lives lost after she was done saving as many as she could.

A quick survey of the twenty thousand Boros told her everyone was in position. More than a thousand archers formed a long line at the foot of her dune. Directly to the north waited two thousand cavalry, and another troop of three thousand horsemen stood to the northwest. A third and final troop waited at the south west point of the archers, a mirror to the three thousand above.

Between these cavalry forces waited the heavy infantry, split into three blocks. One thousand stood in formation just north of the southmost cavalry block. Five thousand, consisting of the main force, stood in a square near the center of the battlefield. And four thousand, with closed ranks and fewer banners than normal, so as to trick the rebels into underestimating their numbers, waited to the north of the battlefield.

The disposition of Boros forces at the Second Battle of Adasi River.

Caedis turned to her advisors, who one by one nodded silently, expressing satisfaction with the troops. Then Caedis too nodded. The signal went out and the soldiers lurched into motion just as the sun hauled itself above the eastern horizon. It flashed down into the eyes of Amaka’s troops, who in response calmly lifted veils from their sides and fastened them around their heads. Caedis cursed – she should have expected the desert-dwellers to be prepared for the blinding sun.

“Threaten a cavalry charge to the south and increase the main block’s speed to double-time. Hold back the north block,” Caedis ordered. A messenger ran off.

Moments later the southmost cavalry block kicked into motion, crossing much of the battlefield in a matter of moments. Cries of surprise echoed from the rebel ranks, but those shouts stilled as a battalion of pikemen rushed out to confront the cavalry. The horsemen curved expertly, riding down alongside the pikemen before turning completely and speeding back to their previous position. The final horsemen drew his sabre as he turned and sliced off the tip of the forwardmost pike with a laugh that somehow sounded above the clanking of the heavy infantry, who had since begun to jog forward.

The infantry used the same strategy as their brothers to the east, charging and tearing into the front ranks of the enemy force. However, lacking the surprise and perhaps themselves confused by the veils their foes wore, the Boros troops made next to no headway. The front row of each army crumpled and died, and the ranks behind prepared for a slower battle.

Caedis turned back to the east, where her own troops were advancing slowly but steadily. Each soldier had a partner. While one lashed out with a broadsword, the other would protect their vulnerable spots. Then they would switch. Thus, the heavy infantry suffered minimal casualties as they carved a dent in Onyeka’s forty thousand. They were wary of advancing too far, however – arrows and light infantry would only keep so many at bay, and if they were surrounded on all sides by tens of thousands, even the two thousand cavalry in reserve wouldn’t be able to rescue them.

To the west, once more, Caedis saw her troops performing similarly admirably. Amaka’s soldiers were more spread out, which meant a thinner line they had to breach to make it to the river. It also meant a greater risk of being flanked and destroyed, but Caedis hoped the thousands of heavy infantry and cavalry she held in reserve for the western force would discourage such a risky maneuver by the rebels.

“Send in the thousand,” Caedis ordered. The smallest block of heavy infantry advanced quickly, linking up with the embattled one ahead and pushing forward to widen the swath of destruction. Caedis scanned the disposition of the enemy troops, and was happy to see there seemed to be little organization of any sort. These children may be accomplished sorcerers, but they knew nothing about battle.

Then her eyes alighted on a large pile of boulders sitting just north and west of the Boros troops, who continued to advance cautiously. “There!” she shouted, pointing at the rocks. “When our troops pass south of there, have the northernmost thousand break off and take that point.”

Messengers ran off. General North, who continuously padded his sweat-soaked forehead with a now-dampened handkerchief, strode over. “An admirably sighting, General,” he complemented.

Caedis looked down at the nobleman and could barely hold back a sneer. Instead, she turned abruptly to the east after a curt nod of thanks. The troops there were progressing well, so she refocused on the west once more. That was, of course, the true battle.

As the soldiers followed her orders, some breaking off from the main force and moving to take the pile of boulders, General Okoro walked up to her. “General Scutum,” she began, “Something troubles me.”

“Yes?” Caedis asked.

“These rocks. A very strategic position, yes. But why did we not see it last night? And if we did, why did we not factor it into our plans?”

“Well,” Caedis began, not really focusing. Then she realized she was supposed to be answering a question. “Why didn’t we factor it into our plans? I don’t think we knew it was there.”

“But General, why not? Was it even there last night?”

“The boulders?” Caedis turned now to look her fellow commander in the eyes. Then she gasped, and a chill ran down her spine. “Did anyone see those boulders last night?” she shouted out to her assembled advisors. As one, they shook their heads.

“Call off our soldiers!” she cried, before raising a telescope to her eyes and looking west. Her soldiers had just cut a path through the rebels, who were falling away… too easily. As the first man rested his mailed foot on the rocks, they began to tremble. The trumpet ordered the troops back, but it was far too late now.

Sand and stone shot into the air as the rocks raised themselves up. As the dust cleared, something vaguely man-shaped began to appear. Man-shaped, and thirty feet tall. “Mwala munthu,” Okoro muttered under her breath, while making a ritual gesture.

“Rock golem,” Caedis breathlessly translated.

The monster brought its arm sweeping across, throwing twenty Boros troops into the air. Then it punched downwards, crushing another score against the ground. The remaining soldiers fled the only way available – back down the wide open path to their allies. The golem pursued, its massive steps shaking the earth so that even the dune beneath Caedis’ feet trembled.

The main Boros force, still close to five thousand strong, had only moments to pivot before the golem was upon them. Screams, the clash of steel, and the shuddering earth echoed out, silencing all out. Then the monster opened its mouth and roared, releasing the rumble of an earthquake, then the crash of an avalanche that nearly deafened Caedis.

The soldiers closest to the golem had fallen to their knees, clutching their heads. The rest fled as the monster and its rebel allies pursued. Caedis barked orders even as she mounted her horse. As she rode down the dune, Caedis watched the four thousand reserve infantry jolt forward, providing a buffer to slow the Boros retreat and prevent it from snowballing into a rout.

At the same time, Boros cavalry arced towards the pursuing rebels – though remaining well clear of the golem. Some companies smashed into the enemy flanks, sowing discord, while others merely nipped at their foes, slowing them but not stopping them.

As Caedis reached flat ground, a volley of arrows sped out from the long line of archers before her. About half of them found their mark, striking the golem. A few managed to wedge into cracks in the beast’s skin, but the rest chipped and fell to the sand. The golem roared again, this time only serving to disrupt its allies, but seemed otherwise unharmed. Five hundred arrows had struck the monster, and yet on it came.

Caedis was not the kind of general to ride into battle to rally her troops. But she understood intimately that if the heavy infantry broke here, by sunset there wouldn’t be a single living Boros soldier for fifty leagues. That included herself.

As she approached her fleeing troops, Caedis lifted her full helm from her saddle horn and fastened it onto her head. She felt the wind tug on the red feather flume as she urged her mount ever faster. Behind her, she was sure, her ragged blue cloak flapped in the wind as well. That would be how her troops would recognize her – she was known for the thing, and most of them had seen her wearing it on the walls of Arkile during the siege just weeks ago.

Reaching the infantry, Caedis now slowed, and guided her horse through the chaotic lines. The soldiers, stumbling, exhausted, some dragging wounded comrades, stopped their flight as she passed between them. Their gaze turned to follow her as she nudged her mount out into the flat field beyond. The golem was still some two hundred paces away, and distracted for the moment as it smashed a lagging Boros platoon into the ground.

“This isn’t some legend,” Caedis shouted to her troops. There were maybe eight thousand men and women before her, and every single one of them was looking at her, straining their ears to hear her words. It was her job to convince each of them not to run, but to turn and fight and die.

“This isn’t some legend, and I’m not some hero who’ll make an epic speech and lead you to victory. This is the desert. The middle of bloody nowhere. Do you want to die in the middle of bloody nowhere?”

A resounding cry returned from the soldiers: “NO!”

“Neither do I! But if we turn our backs on that thing,” Caedis gestured over her shoulder to the golem, “Then we’re guaranteed to. If we face it head on, we can win. Some of us may die, but that is the Boros way. Fulfilling our duty. Fulfilling our duty together, side by side. We are all soldiers, we are all comrades in arms. Let us fight, and die, united. Strength through unity!”

As the assembled infantry repeated the three-word Boros dictum with a roar, Caedis wheeled her horse about to face the golem, which looked up at the noise. Unsheathing her hand-and-a-half sword, gripping the hilt tight beneath the crucificial crossguard, Caedis shouted once more, “Strength through unity!” She jabbed her blade forward, pointing straight at the golem, and her horse reared at a nudge from her heels.

The Boros infantry began to storm past her, but Caedis kicked her mount into speed and quickly outdistanced them. As she approached the beast, she let her visor drop down. The golem now faced her, and was winding back to swat her away.

At the last moment, the general swerved to the right, riding under the creatures arm and swinging hard with her blade. The tip connected with tip of the golems left thumb and chopped the digit clean off. The stone, as big as her forearm, hit the sand with a light thud. Behind her, the Boros soldiers shouted victoriously, then slammed into the golem.

Others streamed past, racing for the oncoming rebels who were already almost at the breaking point from the harrying of the Boros cavalry.

As the golem smashed and swatted and roared, and as Boros troops died by the score, Caedis watched with pride every small victory. A finger here, several chips of stone there. Some ten dwarf soldiers weaved in and out between the creature’s legs, using their natural experience fighting giants to their advantage.

Then the final flight of cavalry, some two thousand horsemen, swept down from the north to flank the golem. More volleys of arrows smashed into the creature, the cavalry jabbed at it with spears and lances, and those dwarves chopped away steadily at its left leg. Finally, after many minutes of bloodshed, the leg cracked. As the monster fell, it crushed beneath it all of the dwarves and two score others besides.

A silence dominated the battlefield. Then the creature began to writhe. Whether in pain or fury, Caedis did not know. To her enormous surprise, something crawled out from under the monster. One of the dwarves! With her axe by her side, the solid Boros soldier clambered onto the downed golem and strode up to its shoulders. Another loud crack, and the writhing seized.

Those survivors of the battle with the golem cheered happily, then hoisted their weapons and ran for the rest of the battle. Already, the rebels were falling back in disarray – they had overextended themselves in their pursuit of the Boros. Caedis turned and made hard for the dune.

By the time she arrived, her soldiers to the west had breached the enemy line and were preparing a corridor through which to transport soldiers and supplies. The battle to the east, she was happy to see, had remained uneventful. “Sound an orderly retreat to the eastern troops,” Caedis ordered.

“The day is ours.”

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Wed Aug 26, 2015 2:59 pm

Caedis grimaced as the sweat gathered at the rim of her helm. Then it dripped down, some of it glancing off of her round nose, the rest striking the hot sand with a soft hiss. She found herself eyeing it thirstily, then shook her head in self-disgust – sending more sweat cascading into the air.

Her army was dying. Every step they took, every word they said, drained them of precious energy. The water was almost out – every member of the army, officers and generals included (to the noble Duncan North’s indignation), was limited to three swallows a day. At that rate, they’d be out of water within the week.

The oasis her maps had pointed out, just a few days’ march north of where the river battle had occurred, had been a disappointment. The residents of the trading village at the small water body’s shore had abandoned it, presumably to join the rebel armies. Before leaving, however, they had made sure to foul the water. Some three dozen bodies, all those of Boros soldiers, had been left to rot in the lake.

And three leagues to the west, where a ford across the Adasi River lay just south of a dam, more Boros corpses stuffed the dam, fouling all water to the south. These soldiers, they had discovered, were from the garrison of a local town – also abandoned, she presumed. Even the water to the north of the dam ran brown with blood and bile. Somewhere many leagues to the north, she guessed, more Boros bodies clogged another dam, or otherwise leaked their rot into the river.

So Caedis had led her armies westwards, crossing the dam. She had hoped they would make it to the Old North Road, from which they could choose to strike north towards Norngard, south towards the Capitol, or continue west to the Deadwood Hills. Somewhere in this desert, she had thought, there had to be enough water to sustain their escape.

As every day passed, it looked increasingly likely that she was wrong. Reports were now filtering up that the common soldiers had begun to conserve their own piss, for when the water ran out. Caedis would not stand for this. She would not have her soldiers die in indignity. No, she knew she had to force a battle, and soon. She did not think the Boros had any chance of winning, but it was better to die fighting for order, for unity, for strength, than to perish choking on your own filth.

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:30 pm

The stone formations jutted from the sandy dunes abruptly. They looked distinctly out of place, but Caedis did not care. Strategically, they were perfect. Some were narrower, only a few paces in diameter, but three or four of the rock figures stood like massive plateaus, hundreds of paces wide and sheer on all sides. If she could get her soldiers up there, she might have a chance.

The beating of hooves and the neighing of horses caught her attention, and the Publian general turned to see her outriders return. One slipped out of his saddled and came to attention, saluting with her back straight as a rod. Then, at a nod from Caedis, she began her report.

“General, two of the plateaus have stairs carved around the back of them. They seem to be unoccupied. The stairs can support soldiers, but we’re not sure about horses. Definitely none of the supply wagons or carts.”

“Those are almost empty, anyways,” Caedis said with a shrug. Then she motioned for the scout to continue.

“The third and fourth biggest do not have steps. The third is sheer on all sides, and the cliffs seem to be made of some sort of fragile shale. I worry that they would fall apart entirely under too much pressure, and send any soldiers climbing them to their deaths.

“The fourth is only a hundred paces in diameter, from our crude measurements, but has some solid footholds and handholds on the side closest to us. The rock also seems stable. We could certainly position some soldiers up there, though of course not with nearly as much ease as the first two.”

Caedis nodded, deep in thought. Then, realizing the scouts still stood at attention, she gestured for them to leave. “You have done well. Get something to eat and get some rest, soldiers,” she instructed.

As the scouts mounted up and trotted off, Caedis turned once more to regard the stone fields. Many thinner pillars stood tall from the sands, reaching even higher than the thicker plateaus. And the ground amongst the formations was littered with sharp stones from fallen and shattered figures.

“General Okoro,” she said suddenly, turning to her Ajaean advisor.

“Yes, General Caedis?” the woman asked in reply.

“What is this place called?” Caedis nodded towards the rock formations.

“Nkume Akpiri Onwụ, General Caedis. Roughly translated, it is the Shard Valley of Death.”

Caedis snorted. “Fitting,” she muttered. Then she stalked towards the command tent, to begin preparations for what would be the final battle of this rebellion, one way or another.

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Mon Sep 07, 2015 2:42 pm

They began in the dark of night, when the wind tore across the flat desert, flinging sand in their eyes and leaving them shivering in its wake. Moving quietly in their creased, worn leather armor, the archers brought what supplies remained to the top of the two plateaus. Then they brought their own equipment, and settled down for the night.

Next, the engineers began their move. Hauling logs – taken from the oasis – up the stone stairs as quietly as they could, they took up most of the rest of the night. By the time the engineers and their gear were atop the plateaus, the sun had begun to rise.

The heavy infantry now rose, and began to hustle towards the plateaus. Behind them, seeing the positions their enemy had taken, the rebels awoke hissing with rage. Shouts from the Ajaean camps echoed across the sands, but in the Boros camps, all was quiet except for the clanking of armor.

The cavalry ranged wide to screen the infantry’s movements, and the archers prepared their first volley if the enemy made a move too soon. But Caedis was overall confident she could get her soldiers where she needed them.

At her command, the light infantry began to move in their more heavily-armored comrades’ wake, providing a secondary screen and warding off light cavalry. Two companies broke off from the rest and sped towards the one stable pillar of rock. Shouldering and sheathing their weapons – which now included a shortbow or crossbow for each soldier – they began the steep ascent, setting ropes and guidelines along the way.

Caedis had by now made her own journey to the top of a plateau. This was the easternmost one, the one closest to the enemy lines. Though she usually preferred to remain back, farthest from the front, this position afforded her the best view of the battle. She would need every advantage she could get if she was to win this encounter.

A shout from the archers on the north side had Caedis galloping towards them. A captain stood and pointed towards a massive cloud of dust. “The enemy cavalry is on the move, General!” he cried out.

Peering closer at the figures within the dust, the general realized they were all heavily-armored – even their mounts. “There must be thousands of them,” she muttered under his breath. It was clear that the force was going to ride around the two plateaus and strike the light infantry in the rear.

“My man Squint has the best eyes and the fastest counting in all the legions, General,” the captain began, “and he estimates there’re some three thousand horse warriors down there.”

Caedis sighed, and turned to ride towards her advisors. Before she left, however, she peered over her shoulder. “Thank you Captain…?” she inquired after his name.

The archer captain – surprisingly a dwarf – muttered through his iron-shot red beard, “Captain Fiddler, General.”

“Thank you, Captain Fiddler,” she said, then kicked her horse into a fast trot. Moments later, she was surrounded by panicked advisors. “We have some three thousand heavy cavalry poised to strike our light infantry in the flank. They’ll break through our own cavalry easily enough, and are staying out of arrow range until the last possible moment,” she briefed them.

“Have our archers ready to release a well-aimed volley – we’ll only have one before they’re tangled in with our own troops. Make sure the light infantry is ready to take the hit, though we’ll surely lose many of them. Ensure our cavalry do not engage. Have a few thousand form up into two wedges, and strike the enemy in the rear once they’ve reached our infantry. They should leave a wide escape path for the enemy – we can’t hope to annihilate this force this early in the fight, but hopefully we can rout them for a time.”

Messengers ran off to follow her orders, and one by one her advisors calmed down. Sometimes the general wondered why she even had advisors, if she had to think this all through herself. “High mage,” she barked at last.

“Yes, General?” the eladrin asked, his hands hidden in the voluminous sleeves of his robe.

She bade him walk with her, and the pair strode to the south-eastern end of the plateau, and there overlooked the beginning of the Nkume Akpiri Onwụ, and the enemy forces arrayed before it. “Last time, they sent a rock golem at us. What will their sorcerers do now?”

“That is not something I can predict, General. However, I can tell you that, with their armies combined, their numbers are now doubled. They have had plenty of time to prepare spells and rituals over the past weeks. And this place is thick with the disgruntled spirits of the dead, and magic of the earth.”

“Can we take advantage of that residual magic?”

The eladrin frowned. “No, General. The spirits and earth belong to the Ajaeans, and regard us as invaders. They would fight my attempts to control them at every turn.”

“Then we shall have to settle for interfering with their magical attempts. Ensure your mage cadre focuses on this high mage, for if they unleash even two golems, we may well be finished,” Caedis ordered sharply.

“Yes, General, we shall do our best. But, may I suggest you prepare some more… mundane… ways of dealing with the golems?”

Caedis smirked. “I am indeed preparing such methods, but you shall be the first line of defense. Now, return to your comrades, and begin your magical interference.”

The mage nodded, and moved off. The horns on the other plateau grew louder, suddenly, and Caedis realized the enemy cavalry was about to strike. Even as she rode towards the north-western end of her own formation, she saw a volley of arrows spring up from her archers. The sky blackened, momentarily, and then the arrows arced gracefully downwards. The screams of men and horses confirmed her soldiers’ accuracy.

A moment later, a great crash of metal rose up. Caedis arrived at the edge of the plateau and watched as the Ajaean rebels carved a bloody path through her infantry, then turned and rode out again. Just in time to charge the dual wedges of Boros cavalry. The Boros formations splintered apart, and the skirmish fell into unorganized chaos. Caedis directed more reinforcements be sent, then turned and rode once more to look down on the main enemy armies. They had begun their movements.

The rebel infantry surged forward in a wild, shrieking mass. Flights of arrows leapt from the archers atop the plateaus and descended to deliver death to the Ajaeans. Hundreds fell, and were trampled by their comrades, their plight ignored. Still the rebels came on, unbroken, even unfazed.

They would reach the southern plateau first, Caedis surmised. The bottom of the ramp there was securely held, and the enemy cavalry had not yet moved down to engage this force as well. Boros heavy infantry readied their weapons, and watched as two more volleys from the archers decimated the enemy ranks, but failed to rout them.

When the Ajaeans hit the Boros lines, the charge halted. It seemed to Caedis that the world was holding its breath, as those rebels behind the front line skittered to a sudden stop. Then the dark mass of soldiers seemed to swallow her own iron legions, surrounding them completely. The Boros fought hard, but the general knew they needed immediate relief if they were to survive this encounter.

Fortunately, the cavalry commander was thinking on his feet, and led a two-pronged charge. They sheared through the rebels on two sides, scattering them and allowing the infantry to reform into tighter ranks. Now the troops suffered the enemy onslaught, standing firm.

“General Caedis!” a shrill voice cried out. Caedis turned to regard her approaching high mage.

“Yes?” she asked, coldly.

Worry flashed in the eladrin’s usually-cold eyes. “We disrupted their sorcery for as long as we could, but we are faltering. They have already succeeded in casting one spell,” he said.

“What sort of spell?” she barked.

“Summoning, general,” he admitted.

Caedis scowled and wrenched her horse to the left. Trotting along the southern lip of the plateau, she reached the engineers, who were just now finishing their construction. “You’ll be ready soon?” she asked the half-elf captain.

“Aye, general. We’re ready now, two set up here, two on the other plateau.”

“Good. Keep an eye on the enemy forces, you’ll see your shot soon.”

“Yes, ma’am!” the captain saluted, then turned to bark orders to his troops. They in turn began to winch back the thick gut string, and slip the massive quarrel into the chamber of the siege crossbow. The bolt was easily as long as a man’s leg, tipped with a wicked barbed steel tip, and feathered with the tailfeathers of some massive bird. Caedis had declined to ask her mages what manner of beast they had procured the feathers from.

Now the captain was adjusting various gears and levers, slowly turning the device towards the enemy troops. And just in time. The rumbling roar of a stone golem echoed out across the valley. The monster scraped its way out of the ground down below, emerging in the midst of the enemy archer corps. The engineer captain began to shout as he rapidly adjusted more settings, zeroing in on the golem.

“Fire!” he screamed. Two soldiers hauled back on a massive lever, and the gut string snapped forward. The bolt shot forward – as did another from the second siege weapon. The second slammed into the ground ten paces short, blasting through five archers before it came to a skittering, sticky stop. The first, however, was on target. It crashed into the golem’s midriff, cracking the stone. Then it shot through the monster, and obliterated three troops behind it. With a weak roar, the golem collapsed to the ground.

“Alright, let’s start repairs and reloading!” the captain shouted. Caedis turned to see the wood of the crossbow already splintering in some places. The half-elf turned to her and shrugged apologetically. “The wood from the oasis isn’t optimal for weapons like this general. But no worries, we’re skilled at field repairs, and were expecting this,” he told her.

Caedis nodded, satisfied, and rode to the other end of the plateau. There it became apparent that the chaotic skirmish at the foot of the other plateau was still in progress. It was impossible to tell who was winning, but she was glad to see the Ajaeans had not reinforced their battered cavalry. Turning to look at the bottom of her own command structure, she saw that her heavy infantry still stood, and was perhaps the only thing separating the rebel infantry from her unprotected army.

A great shout distracted Caedis. She turned and watched in shock as her mage cadre fell to their knees. Moments later, fire rushed through them, and half collapsed, burned badly. The other half began screaming in agony, writhing on the ground as medics hurried over. Caedis thought about attending to her high mage, who she saw was one of the survivors, then shook the thought from her head.

Instead, she galloped back towards the engineers, who had just finished reloading the crossbows. “Our mage cadre is downed, which means were aren’t disrupting their sorcery anymore,” she explained. “Get ready to have a lot more targets.”

Sure enough, a great roar rumbled through the valley, followed by another, and another. Soon she could barely hear herself think, and watched with horror as ten- no, twenty, thirty, forty golems rose from the ground amidst the enemy forces. Two quarrels soared out, smashing two apart, but the others charged forward, crushing their own troops in their fervor.

Ten angled for the cavalry skirmish to the north, while twenty moved to reinforce their own infantry. The remaining eight ran straight at the sheer plateau cliff. She expected the whole structure to shake when they hit, but instead they simply… faded into the rock wall. Her eyes widened as she realized what was happening.

Then Caedis turned her mount and began to flee. Once at the center of the plateau, she called for everyone to rally for her. They looked at her, confused, then gasped as the eight golems rose up out of the stone near the edge of the plateau. One turned to smash the crossbows while the others began to wreak havoc. The engineers drew their broadswords as one and charged the creature nearest the lip. All twenty through themselves at the golem, slashing, growling, even biting. Overbalanced, the monster stepped backwards and tumbled off the cliff.

For a moment, all was silent. Then the soldiers ran towards Caedis, and struggled to create some sort of defensive formation. Caedis eyed the golems critically, watched as they slowly moved to surround her. No, this would not do. “To the stairs!” she shouted, drawing her hand-and-a-half sword. The Boros began to move, but were cut off by one of the golems.

Once more, Caedis galloped out from the safety of her screen and slashed at the creature. Her soldiers rushed after her, some forty staying to take on the golem while the rest followed her towards the stairs. She dismounted there, knowing her horse could not make the treacherous journey downwards in any reasonable time. Then she led the way, hoping to meet with the heavy infantry at the bottom and rally some sort of resistance to the onslaught of the golems.

As she ran downwards, she saw that the command atop the other plateau was acting similarly, fleeing four golems. Caedis scowled. They had lost the high ground, but it wasn’t necessarily over yet. If they could assemble the army into a solid force, they just might be able to scrape by.

Soon she reached the foot of the stairway, where an infantry commander waited to give his report. “General, we’re being beaten back by the golems. We’re glad for your reinforcements,” he said.

“This isn’t reinforcement. We’ve got six or seven golems up there, we’re simply relocating the command,” she snarled.

The commander’s eyes widened as he took in the implication of her words. The high ground lost. Then he shook off the fear and nodded. “Aye general. Welcome to the battle.”

Caedis nodded and took command. She began to redistribute the forces, turning the front lines into a solid rearguad while orienting her force northwards. They were going to move to the reinforcement of the cavalry and light infantry – not to mention the soldiers from the top of the other plateau – while simultaneously retreating from the enemy behind them.

Within the hour, she had accomplished this, though she’d lost some three thousand troops in doing so. Her soldiers now consolidated, Caedis began to orchestrate the battle from a position of relative strength once more. She concentrated her troops wherever the golems struck, taking them apart before they could do too much damage. Soon, the Ajaeans withdrew the golems, and focused merely on conventional forces.

Still, the sheer numbers of the enemy they faced was not sustainable for the much smaller Boros force. Again and again, Boros positions were overrun when the enemy had simply build a wall of their own corpses to surpass the earthworks. The fights to retake those – which even Caedis had joined occasionally, to increase morale – were brutal and bloody. And, invariably, the positions would fall once more in just a couple of hours.

The ground began to shake beneath Caedis’ feet just after one of these bloody battles, and she turned with horror to see the remaining score of golems charging forward as one force. At the same time, a shout from the north told her of approaching soldiers. The Ajaeans were going to flank them! And there was nothing she could do about it.

Caedis let the tip of her blade droop to the ground, and sighed dustily. The battle was lost. There was no way she could recover from this. The golems smashed through the scattering Boros troops, sending bodies flying. Then they splintered off in different directions, fracturing her carefully arranged formations. One came charging towards her, most likely attracted by the red feather plume that still sprouted from the top of her battered full helm.

It raised its arm as it approached, and Caedis readied her sword. Still, she understood that she had no hope of surviving this encounter. The monster was too big, too fast. It was ten paces away when it roared, releasing a sound that pushed Caedis to her knees. She looked up to see the golem poised to strike. Then a steel-tipped crossbow quarrel slammed through its head, sending rock shards flying.

As the golem collapsed backwards, Caedis looked up to the nearest plateau. A battered figure saluted her. She knew it was the half-elf captain, though she had no idea how he had survived. With a grunt, the Boros general clambered to her feet. Though her life had been saved, the other golems still rampaged through her army, and more soldiers were still approaching from the rear. Gripping her sword tight in her gloved hands, Caedis trotted towards the back of the army. She wanted to oversee this new front while it lasted.

She arrived just as figures became clear from the dust cloud in the distance. “They must have ridden some ways, to be coming from so far. Why’d they go so far around?” she asked herself aloud. Three soldiers, cleaning weapons and looting rebel bodies nearby, looked up. Then, realizing she wasn’t speaking to them, they returned to their grisly work.

Soon, the sound of hoofbeats on hard-packed sand reached the ears of the Boros rearguard. Far too many hooves. Some half of the enemy cavalry had been destroyed in the fighting by the time Caedis had rallied her troops, and the rest were certainly too exhausted to ride such a distance. Who were these newcomers?

She got her answer a few moments later, when the cavalry swept past the Boros troops without harming them. The red-and-white tabards of the Boros legion glimmered on these soldiers – clearly, they had not been in the desert for long.

One horse peeled off from the rear, and was soon followed by four more. The leader trotted quickly towards Caedis, and a grey-haired man dismounted. “General Scutum,” he said, nodding his head.

“Commande- no, Legate Mormont. I heard you were promoted,” she responded.

“You heard correctly. Although, I’m actually General Mormont now,” he answered with a grin, thrusting his chest – and the accompanying general’s medallion – forward.

“Well, General, it seems you arrived just in time.”

“Aye, we’ve ten thousand with us. We’ll make short work of the rebels now. My mages have already begun dismantling their summoned monsters, and I’ve deployed my three best to take out their sorcerers,” he explained, still smiling cheekily.

Relief flooded through Caedis, though it was escorted by a healthy amount of shame. This was to be her battle, and now this upstart officer had taken it from her. “Thank you for your assistance, Mormont,” she said graciously, though the warmth in her voice didn’t reach her grey eyes. “And what brings you to this obscure corner of the desert? We haven’t been able to get word out in weeks.”

“I’ll admit that it was a lucky guess. The Senate surmised what happened with the rebels, and sent me to find you in the west Ajaean.”

“The Senate? They ordered you to come to my aid? The Senate should have nothing to do with military strategy, Mormont.”

“Ah, well, you see, that’s the thing. The Senate ordered me to find you for an entirely different reason. Saving your legions was just my own doing.”

Caedis’ eyes narrowed. “And what is that reason?”

Mormont grimaced. “Caedis Scutum, with the authority of the Boros Senate, I strip you of all rank and title. And, at the Senate’s behest, I am to arrest you for treason against Daernika.”

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PostSubject: Re: General Caedis Scutum   Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:08 pm

The flames licked hungrily at the parched logs. Soon the fire crackled and swelled in the small command tent. Caedis sat in a wooden chair, behind a makeshift desk. It was bare but for the arrest warrant Mormont had placed on it. He now lounged in an identical wooden chair, feigning relaxation. But the more experienced general knew he was more than nervous. He wouldn’t meet her eyes, and kept sucking on the inside of his cheek.

“I am to be arrested for the formation of new Boros legions to protect Daernika? They call this treason?” she reiterated.

Still refusing to meet Caedis’ eyes, Mormont nodded. “Aye, you know it is treason. There have always been sixteen legions. To inaugurate more is rebellion and treason. This has always been our way, Caedis.”

“Those legions are saving lives, Mormont,” she said icily.

“The law is blind to such circumstances. And either way, the Senate voted for me to bring you in. Four-hundred and ninety-two to eight. I truly am sorry.”

“But you received a promotion, right Mormont? You let the Norngardians slip from your grasp – and now you tell me Oriandall, the Dwarf Kingdoms, and dozens of other provinces are seceding too – and you get promoted. You single-handedly allowed the start of the fall of the Boros, and now you’re sent to arrest the one person who might hold it all together,” she lashed back vehemently.

Mormont fell back under the verbal onslaught. He stood shakily. “Oh come off it, Caedis. Your arrogance might be half the reason the Senate ordered me to do this. You just might be egotistical enough to wage war on them and think you’re doing it for the good of the country.”

“I have marched my soldiers across thousands of leagues of blazing desert, with dwindling supplies, harried by eighty thousand soldiers, fighting battle after battle, to preserve this country. I have bled and fought and nearly died for the Senate. And this is how they reward me?” Caedis hissed. She too rose, and stalked around the edge of her desk.

Mormont scowled. “Caedis, don’t make this more difficult than it has to be. Come with me peacefully. I don’t want to fight you, and the greatest tragedy after all of this would be to have Boros shed Boros blood.”

The Publian general drew herself up proudly, and gripped the hilt of her sword in a whitened fist. “I will do no such thing, Mormont. You know you don’t have the capability to take me. Your legion may be well-rested, but my men still outnumber yours two-to-one. Not to mention the Ajaean prisoners. They would fight for me if I asked them. Those six children that led them have bent the knee to me, saying I was an honorable opponent. One even said I would have been a hard match for Korbolo Dom himself. And besides, half of my troops are Ajaean themselves. So, counting the prisoners, I have more than seventy thousand soldiers at my command.”

“Come now, Caedis, you know your control over the rebels is not that solid. Certainly not yet. There’s still fifteen thousand rebels wreaking havoc in the northeastern Ajaean under command of the seventh child. She’s their greatest hope now, not you.”

“You’d still lose in a fight, Mormont,” Caedis growled.

“Aye, but your forces would be decimated too. Might be worth it,” Mormont shrugged.

“Leave. Leave now, I’ll permit you and your soldiers to go. Next time, I won’t be so kind. Tell the Senate everything that I have told you. And tell them I will not dissolve my legions. Tell them they have failed Daernika, and are a disgrace to the name Boros. If anyone has acted treasonously, it is they. Tell them I am coming for them, with justice in my fists,” Caedis ordered.

“Always one for flowery language. You’re not as gruff as you pretend to be, Scutum. Aye, I accept your deal.” At that, Mormont turned about and marched from the tent. Caedis followed him to the flap, and watched as he began to wake his troops and march them north. Back to Norngard.

A few hours after Mormont’s legion had departed, Caedis too left her tent. She began issuing orders to those advisors who were still awake. Within minutes, messengers were running through the camp, rousing the exhausted soldiers. Without complaint, the Boros assembled on the south side of the camp. A pile of rocks marked where a golem had been destroyed. Caedis climbed to the top and looked down at her assembled legions. And, behind them, the tens of thousands of rebel prisoners.

Torches lit the upturned faces of her soldiers. They watched her eagerly – they could feel the heaviness of occasion in the air. She watched as injured men and women limped towards the assembly, as some carried those who could not manage to walk. Pride blossomed in her heart.

“Soldiers of the Boros, today we have won!” she began, thrusting her now-gauntleted fist in the air. The soldiers cheered. Then, at a gesture from her, they quieted once more. “You may be curious as to where the 4th legion went. It turns out, they did not come to aid us in battle – that was all a ruse.” Now the Boros booed and hissed.

“No, instead they came for personal reasons. General Mormont served me with a warrant of arrest. He wanted to arrest me for treason! My crime? Creating more legions to guard the border with the Broken Spine Tribe and pursue the Ajaean rebels simultaneously. My crime was making Daernika safer – and this was something the power-hungry Senate could not stomach.

“It is now undeniable that our beloved country is fracturing. Our motto is ‘Strength through Unity,’ as if strength is the end goal. And to the Senate, that may well be true. Strength, power, greed, this is all the Senate and their dogged lackeys like Mormont understand.

“But we, who have fought, bled, and died for the Boros and Daernika, we know better. We know that the true goal is one country united. A land without rebels, without seceded states like Norngard, and now Oriandall, the Dwarf Kingdoms, and dozens more. Unity is what we seek!

“And this can only be achieved through order. Through discipline and organization. Of course, order in turn requires enforcement. This is where strength comes in. Strength is not the goal, and is not to be used for whatever we wish, but instead is merely a tool for imposing order.

“In Daernika, there are many ways to derive strength. The Senate derives their strength from control of the Boros Legions. From force, in other words. But this is not how it should be. The greatest way to achieve strength, using the precepts of unity and order, seeking only the safety of Daernika and its people, and the maintenance of the Boros, is Empire.

“Unity through Order. Order through Strength. Strength through Empire. This is what the Boros must operate on. Of course, the Senate would not accept such a selfless aim. The Senate would not accept the stripping of their power, either, and were they offered the opportunity to rule this empire, they would be so involved in power squabbles they would forget to rule – as they do now.

“And so I now ask you, who is fit to rule an empire? Who is fit to command a force that seeks only to better our homeland, that seeks selfless, unrewarded protection of those who need it?”

“Caedis!” one man cried. Then that name spread. It was her Ajaean soldiers who began chanting first. The chant swept through the ranks, and even some of the prisoners began to shout and raise their fists. Soon, all twenty thousand of her troops and a like number of the rebels were shouting her name. “Caedis! Caedis! Caedis!” they cried, their voices taking on a desperate urgency.

The once-general unsheathed her blade, and thrust it into the air. Torches wavered behind her, and to the watching crowd, her fist appeared as the Boros sigil, a fist against the red rising sun. But now a steel blade was clenched in that fist. A blade for strength. And the fist itself was mailed. Iron, for order. Now the red rising sun took on a new meaning, one of an empire as far as the sun reached. And all together, unity.

“Empress!” the soldiers now began to shout. Some even jumped up and down, so eager were they.

“Unity through Order!” Caedis shouted, and the soldiers returned the phrase with a deafening roar. “Order through Strength!” Once more, the words were returned fanatacially. “Strength through Empire!” Now Caedis screamed to be heard above the chanting and yelling, but still she managed. This last couplet was repeated with the greatest fervor yet.

Caedis pointed her blade forward now, and the soldiers veritably quivered with excitement. “Long Live the Boros Empire!” she cried victoriously, and the repeated reply rumbled across the desert.

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