The Enemy Within

A very civilised war...

Marktag, 13th of Brauzeit, 2496 IC

The party leaves the tent and clambers aboard the cart, leaving the young Magda to finish closing Fritz’s wounds. Caibre stalks on ahead. The air is chill and a light dusting of snow covers the ground where it hasn’t already been churned into a treacherous, muddy slush. It is early evening, and the autumn sun is just beginning to fade. You are amongst the filthy rows of tents that make up the encampment of The Wolfbach Irregulars. You recognise some of the soldiers and camp followers that trudge amongst the tents, cloaks pulled tight around them in a vain attempt to keep out the chill. Above the distant clamour of battle you make out the familiar sounds and smells of the camp around you, muffled conversation, coughing, drunken singing, the braying of a cow, the stench of the latrine trench, the rasp of Tuchtiger the smith’s grinding wheel.
Muenchbek informs you that the captain was on the right flank, fighting alongside Lord Kreb.
With a shout, Albrecht gets the pony moving and the cart squelches through the mud behind Caibre. You quickly reach the gateway in the timber stockade, and the guards let you pass with a shout of “Raynald’s luck, you’ll need it!”.
You recall that Lord Krebs has his own private physician, a Doktor Eschelmann and wonder why Schweiner’s services are suddenly required instead. Until now, the Krebs household troops have largely kept to themselves, and none of their noble elite have ever set foot in the Wolfbach camp before – apparently mixing with mercenary types isn’t the thing for a nobleman of Stirland to do
You hand the boy a wine skin which he gulps from gratefully, before asking him about the physician. “Who?” The young lad hasn’t heard of the physician, having never been anywhere near the Baron until this afternoon. There’s talk of enemy outriders harassing behind the lines so it’s possible that anyone from the household encampment can’t get through. He explains that Von Schirach heavy cavalry hit the right flank out of nowhere. He doesn’t know what Lord Krebs, the idiotic bugger, was doing up on the front line today. His bodyguard of greatswords were hit hard but were eventually able to repel the horsemen with the help of (your) Captain Anwalt and the Marienburger detachment. It was carnage, and hard fought (it looks like it from the state of the boy’s armour) but Baron Krebs was unhurt. Then the stupid bastard climbed up onto his horse to cheer at the von Schirachs as they finally withdrew, which is when he took a crossbow bolt to the eye. So the Captain sent Muenchbek off to fetch the butcher. Bloody Krebs is probably dead already by the lads reckoning.
Muenchbek urges you to hurry up though as he doesn’t want to annoy the Captain.. and injured nobles might be generous to those what save them..
The cart rattles out of the crude gateway. The battlefield in all of its miserable glory spreads out before you. A number of mercenary camps such as your own sprawl along the hillside. The Krebs household encampment is beyond the ridge line to South, in the direction of the town of Marburg. In the distance, beyond the skeletal burnt out remains of several farmsteads and the heaving press of fighting men, the river Stir can be seen, wending its way through the Great Forest. At this point in its course the river crosses a large bar of sand and gravel, splitting it into many smaller, channels, and it is here where the Von Schirach forces crossed and established their beachhead. Their camp sits like a cankerous bulge on the riverbank. The clash of steel and the screams of the dying assails you from the battlefield. Hundreds of men-at-arms, pikemen, archers and cavalrymen are engaged in a deadly bloodbath. The corpses of the slain, some now well bloated and feasted upon by crows cover the ground between you and the river. Huge, black tears in the earth bear witness to the horror of the Von Schirach rocket artillery, and as you watch another barrage screams over from the distant encampment, exploding deep in the thick of the fighting, dismembering friend and foe alike with its powerful blast. You’re thankful that they miss more oft than they hit.
Muenchbek shouts and points over towards the right flank. The Krebs household battlestandard can just be made out amid the carnage of war. Caibre jogs back to the cart and informs you that there are two likely routes. One that avoids the front line but would entail fording one of the river channels, and a more direct route that passes close to the fighting in the centre. Caibre gauges that the Krebs men in the centre nearest the route have lost their sergeant and may break soon, and he’s also spotted movement in the tree line opposite the ford that the first route would take.
Deciding that the chaos of the front line was the lesser of two evils, and offers the quickest route to Baron Krebs, Albrecht steers the cart across the muddy wasteland towards the fighting.
A fierce and desperate close quarter battle unfolds before you. Filthy, exhausted men press into the melee and you are assaulted by the screams and clamour of battle, and the stench of the dying.
You follow what remains of an old farm trail running behind the front line. Ahead of you, a column of freebooters from the south, Barstein’s Buccaneers, trudge wearily towards the front. You exchange some ‘pleasantries’ as you pass. The track veers to the right in the direction of the Krebs family standard where the fighting appears to have started anew.
The cart rattles and bumps uncomfortably along the slush logged remains of the track as you approach the fighting. You pass the skeletal remains of a burnt out farm house to your right. Two rotted and charred corpses hang from the eaves. They dangle ominously above the track, swaying in the cold breeze. However, it still strikes you as odd that no Krebs men have taken up position here.
Up ahead, on your left, you can make out a unit of Krebs spearman locked in bloody combat with Von Schirach militia.
Caibre is still moving ahead of the cart. He realises that the situation at this end of the line is dire. The spearmen are heavily outnumbered by the enemy and their sergeant lies dead. The men at the front fight on in desperation, but those in the rear ranks appear at breaking point. As the elf watches, two men drop their spears and begin to turn away from the fight. Caibre and Albrecht both realise that a break in the line here could be disastrous, especially without reinforcements at the farm. Not to mention that there’d be nothing between you and a score of bloodthirsty Von Schirachs.
Caibre’s arrow thumps wetly into the militiaman’s leg and he falls to the ground crying out in pain. Men stumble over him amid the melee.
Schweiner tries his best to encourage the Krebs men, but his words are drowned out by the din of battle. Luckily, Berthold spies the von Schirach standard bearer through the gap left by the fallen man. Frost forms on his brow as he channels the aether around him. “Drop” he commands! The standard bearer stiffens momentarily as if struck, and the heavy flagpole falls from his spasming hands.
Sensing the enemy troopers begin to falter at the sight of their colours being trampled in the mud, Caibre roars at the Krebs spearmen to press forward. Hearing his words, the men fight with increased ferocity, surging forward and driving the von Schirach scum before them.
However, four of the enemy militia, desperate to escape, make a run for the cart. They shout for Albrecht to stop as they bear down upon him..
Three of the militiamen wear leather jerkins and are armed with makeshift hand weapons, but the fourth wears a metal breastplate and carriers a two handed axe…

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Skampaw

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