I, Brother Cadica, scholar monk of Curia Militum, do commit this event to pen from my first hand observations in this, the month Decembris in the 604th year of the Lion Age. Herein lies my true accounting of the assault on the Red Abbey, wherein a heroic coalition of mankind did bring battle against land entrenched by the foe of all humanity, the accursed and hated warriors of the Kuarlite heresy. These are by my own witness, and from the accounts of those I have spoken to.
The last gasp of Autumn was giving way to Winter, and the winds that had been blowing so fiercely for these past weeks upon the road had gone from merely gusting to also gusting bitterly cold. The frost stays upon the ground longer each morning, and before long, the snow shall come.
The commanders’ tent stood in the shadow of the monstrous Fortress Monastery, this so-called Red Abbey. It squatted upon the nearby mountainside, just on the eastern side of the river that cut through the ancient rock. A superior defensible position, to be sure. I shuddered to imagine what terrible deeds these walls had been raised to protect and hide from the sight of God.
Outriders had reported that the enemy had taken up inside the walls in preparation for the righteous reckoning that was at hand. Already I could see additional palisades and fortifications being placed upon the fortress walls, periodically adorned with sharp ironwork or a human skull placed out in warning. This design was familiar to me, as it would be to any Brother of Curia Militum, for it was a standard of the Gothic Codex Militum to perform such reinforcements without delay. Surely whichever accursed being was in command of that blighted monument was once a soldier of Gotha, to the shame of all mankind.
Scouts had mantled the higher crags across the river to attempt a count of the forces within the fortress. When the reports were gathered, Sir Reinhart concluded that there were around ten dozen of the damned within, as well as three cadres of those dark riders that had been seen months before at Portofino. It seemed that all of the monsters of the region had taken up shelter in this bastion of evil. A climactic battle here could destroy the entire Kuarlite Force, though given the haste at which the armies arrived, an encircling position was not yet established, and there yet remained possible escape routes away from the fortress.
The haste of our fighting force was notable, but perhaps understandable. By the time the soldiers of mankind had set up for the assault on the Red Abbey, they had already been out of supply for weeks. Some disaster had clearly befallen the supply carriages, and the men had become tired and hungry.
In attendance were the Fafnir Dragoons, under orders from Sir Lilian, the fearsome Blood Dragon and under the direct command of their Captain, Otto; Sir Hezke von Heidrich had arrived next, personally leading her Stragosa Strike Force – two units of mighty shock cavalry, three units of dragoons, and four hundred archers – these who had proven so effective at destroying Kuarlites in the past at the Battle of Tusk Grove, who rarely are seen to field archers themselves, preferring, it seemed, to do the killing at close range. The Black Company winged Huszars had arrived, with Lord Herulf von Corvinus, five hundred mighty horsemen and their steeds. All of these arrived disheveled and bedraggled, long since deprived of stores and provisions. When the men and women of the army saw the huge crimson walls, bedecked in spikes and skulls, a thick, stinking smoke billowing forth from somewhere behind the walls, many were losing heart already. Morale was very low, and it was clear that despite their great numbers, the intimidating fortress and its damned defenders were causing the men to waver in their faith. Many of these had expected to be joined, or even lead, by the zealots of the pontifical armies – but these, like many others, had failed to arrive at the battle by the expected time.
In contrast, Sir Garrick von Trakt arrived with his First Wing, 2000 soldiers recently levied from Woefeldt, and these shining peacekeepers were fresh and healthy, with crisp uniforms and in good order – it seems that they had been controlling and measuring their rations from the start, long before whatever incident at the supply lines, in anticipation of the possibility of disaster. Aleric Museldorf, the House Heidrich calculator, had done his job admirably, anticipating all of the possible permutations of the campaign.
Finally, Sir Reinhart von Sonnenheim, the Lord Marshal himself arrived. His force of heavy cavalry had been to the South of the city, having only just arrived, and had been spared the loss of materiel. There was rejoicing that the Lord Marshal had arrived safely, and given the dire circumstances around provisions, he called for the attack to begin immediately.
Passing out orders to all of the captains and commanders, the true prowess of the Order of the Shining Sun became obvious. The Sonnenheim maxim is “We are a Light”, and the truth of these holy words became obvious to my eyes as I beheld what happened next. The tired, dirty and hungry men who had shivered in the shadow of the dark fortress began to light up, and like a single candle spreading its flame from wick to wick, Sir Reinhart passed through the camp delivering orders and speaking with the common soldiers until the force’s spirit was alight like a flame. Reinhart was the torch that relit the hearts of men, and before long, it was clear that this brilliant flame of humanity could drive back the shadow.
Forming into battle lines, Sir Reinhart insisted on leading the attack, and thus his force of heavily armored horse took the vanguard position. Behind him, the main body of the Trakt’s First Wing arrayed themselves in assault formation, followed by the Fafnir and Heidrich cavalry forces, Sir Hezke taking command. Finally, the Black Company and Lord Corvinus remained in reserve to crush the enemy when the opportunity arose, the hammer to this anvil. The uneven forest terrain had the many horses present stamping and braying, uncomfortable making fast charges. The fierce Autumn wind whipping at the proudly flying white eclipse banners had the Heidrich archers repeatedly testing the air with wet thumb, trying to judge the right wind, but looked uneasy. Dirt still clung to the boots from the long, tiring march of most of these brave heroes, but the Trakt infantry and Sonnenheim cavalry in the front of the battle held their poise, and Sir Reinhart blew the warhorn to signal the attack.
The thunder of Sonnenheim hooves roared across the ground, and arrows began flying freely from the walls, whistling through the air above. Sir Reinhart’s plan was to draw their fire by charging the walls to give time for the infantry to reach it with ladders. Arrows struck all around, with few of them coming close to the horsemen in their furious charge. The autumn wind was knocking their arrows of course just as badly, buying precious seconds for the rest of the battlelines to approach. Black fletched Heidrich arrows loosed in return, also skipping and dancing off of the hard stone of the walls without much report. The wind was playing hell on the arrows, and Reinhart chanced a glance over his shoulder, checking on the progress of the rest of the cavalry. Late – the uneven forest slowing them. Speed was critical; Reinhart cursed and whipped his horse faster, but he knew he could rely on the brave men and women trained by Commander Trakt to follow their orders and hold their line. The thought alone of them renewed his stalwart steadfastness.
The Trakt soldiers fared better – taking quickly to the fortress walls with siege ladders, they flooded around the sheer stone three and four ranks thick. Arrows and oil rained down upon them, but their swift climb was already disabling some of the capabilities of those defending the walls – locking up their murder holes with thrusting spears and sheer righteous audacity. Some of the men were already reaching the ladder tops, though none had mantled the top yet. A Trakt ladder came crashing backwards to the ground, men groaning and rolling, but got up quickly, determination less cracked than their ribs.
Elsewhere, the cavalry were catching up to the battle – surrounding the walls and making use of their superior numbers over the Kuarlites to make them defend more ground. Captain Otto fixed his sallet visor into place and scanned the battlefield to assess. A disruption happened at the center of the huge Trakt infantry force near the wall. It seemed that they had already made it through the huge front gate, much faster than expected. As he swung his horse around to get a better look, he reared back, and quickly ordered his horsemen to set up for a rescue charge.
The enemy had opened the front gate themselves and the Trakt forces had charged the breach into the inner bailey. Screams echoed from within – screams of pain, but also screams of righteous zeal. They remembered the advice of their Blood Dragon cohort, and used their stalwart courage to show the enemy that they had made a grave error in inviting them within. Those outside couldn’t see what happened within the walls, but a terrible melee was clearly ongoing and the Trakt force was making the enemy pay full price for every drop of blood they gave to the cause.
Already an hour into the battle, and arrows continued to trade over the wall from the Heidrich positions – peppering the inner bailey where they could make the shot. The sky screamed with missiles as the melee at the inner gate quieted, more Trakt soldiers suddenly having room to push inside. The Fafnir and Heidrich cavalry knew that signaled a catastrophic loss of life inside, and horns were blowing to signal the Trakt infantry out of the way as they charged two and three abreast through the open front gate to engage the enemy with saddle-swords. Sir Hezke adapted the battle plan for her division, and recalculated to take advantage of the chaos of battle – there wasn’t room to charge, but fighting from horseback would still be an advantage that could grant the Trakt soldiers relief enough to rally back up.
It was the Fafnir cavalry that entered the gate first. Captain Otto pulled the valiant but inexperienced Trakt infantry back out of the gate, where a good number of the Kuarlties pursued to do battle outside the wall – where fresh victims could be found. Counting on this, the Fafnir forces kept them occupied just long enough for the full company of Heidrich and Corvinus cavalry to smash into the back of the Kuarlite formation. Despite their size and mass, red armored bodies careened through the air head over heels as the enormous armored horses smashed into them and through them. Kuarlite bodies lay broken in the dirt, sliding down the rocks and hills at the base of the fortress.
When Sir Hezke raised her sallet visor to survey the results, she saw that it had been costly – all the Trakt ground infantry were routed, and the Fafnir dragoons that had made the critical charge possible were unhorsed and bloody, their unity shattered. In just those moments where the Kuarlites had taken the bait, almost half the Kuarlite force were destroyed, but so were the Fafnir and Trakt forces. Sir Hezke caught sight of Sir Reinhart’s banner from the top of the wall. The remaining Trakt soldiers had taken the tops, killed all the defenders, and Sir Reinhart’s group were opening all the fortress gates and slipping down the inner wall. As the sun began to slip to the horizon, the sky bled crimson. Sir Hezke wheeled her squadron around for another charge through that bloody gate as the air screamed with arrows and wind once again.
Sir Reinhart was signaling his remaining Trakt allies that had taken the walls with he and his soldiers to get down the inside wall as quickly as possible. I, myself, had climbed the walls behind the heroes in order to take account of the battle, and I offered to hold the ladder for Sir Reinhart as he descended, such that no soldiers need be left behind. With a seeming reluctance to trust the strength of my monastic arms, Sir Reinhart allowed me to hold the ladder and slipped down. As he climbed, he could already see Sir Hezke smashing into the remaining Kuarlites in the bailey, and recognized their banner right away, for it was his own. The Kuarlites holding the center of the line were his own men – men he had drank with, trained, encouraged. Some of them weren’t surprising – rowdy and reckless men, with a cruel streak, but others were thoughtful and formerly kind. In their midst in acting command was Alaric, the Lord Marshal’s former First Captain. As Sir Reinhart finished his descent, he called a rally to the men with him into fighting formation. The cavalry had been extremely effective when allowed space to do their work, so he knew he must reform the anvil for them to smash against. The Kuarlites seemed distracted with something, standing around a huge burning pit of bodies, black smoke belching forth – the time was now.
Sir Reinhart clashed face to face with his former lieutenant, raining blows on him and calling out indictments while the traitor seemed almost as if he couldn’t be bothered to fully engage. The torn and blood spattered Sonnenheim banner stolen from its company stood high on a pike next to the great fire – and Sir Hezke and the Stragosa strike force were somewhere beyond the black smoke, which was obscuring everything now as the wind whipped it around the field.
From my vantage, I could only see moments of the battle where the smoke cleared – I saw Heidrich horses being skewered on huge crimson lances – I beheld many of the Heidrich forces now in full retreat as the far company of Kuarlite heretics wheeled on them, one leaping up onto the horse itself to tear its head free – I witnessed Sir Reinhart, swords crossed with Alaric, take some kind of battering injury to the shoulder, and fall backwards into the deepest haze, his foe nowhere to be seen. From then forth I could see no more – a hateful cyclone seemed to take up the acrid smoke and push it every which way. I knelt then and did what I could still do, to pray with all my soul to Mithriel, entreating Him to bring us victory in this most righteous of battles. It had already been five long hours of fighting, the sky long since turned as black as the soot that poured through the air, and I did not know how much longer the strength of the righteous spirit of the Lord God could endure in these tired and poorly nourished bodies, facing now such protracted and persistent evils.
Suddenly I beheld Sir Reinhart pulled free from the fighting, set now upon his great warhorse, but slumped as if injured – one of his Sonnenheim honor guard guiding his horse away by lead…but through that black miasma I did see that he clutched in his arms the Sonnenheim banner that was lost, rescued from the traitors, and thus restoring the lost Valor of his Knight Order. I thanked Mithriel for at least this most auspicious sight, though as a new tempest began to whip through the inner bailey with all of the gates now open, the smoke began to clear, and I beheld the new state of the battle.
One final squadron of Trakt spearmen heroically held their line against the Kuarlites, who had been greatly diminished in numbers, but now merely were nearly man to man with the Trakt soldiers. Lord Corvinus attacked them from the rear again and again with what were left of his horsemen – riding them through the now loosened press of the courtyard. The few, bold Trakt men, whose Order of the Broken Sword is famous for their gallantry, heedless of the odds or challenge, had pinned the Kuarlite force into position with their backs to their bonfire, keeping them at bay with their long pikes – even as the Kuarlites lashed out and snapped like animals against them in a berserk fury, sundering and breaking the long pikes they held, heavy great halberds, dropped from Huszar hands, were passed forward hand to hand by brigade to replace the broken spears and keep the pressure up. All the while the Huszars continued to sweep by in slashing wedges, taking one here in the leg, another there on the shoulder, wearing them down, and down and down. Each cleave from the mighty Huszar heavy halberds punished the enemy with heavy, crushing blows that dented the cursed steel and cracked the blacked bone they clad themselves in.
By the end, I shut my eyes and simply prayed in mute witness to the selfless valor, the flaming compassion of these men and women who faced down evil in a place of utter darkness, and did not falter, did not fear. I prayed in thanks, whatever happened next, to the Lord our God who gave us the strength to face such evils with our hearts strong and full of His strength. I prayed in thanks to Sir Reinhart, who had united this coalition with the strengths of each of his asset commanders, uniting the hearts of mankind in echo and tribute to the Prophet himself. No other man could so unite such forces of disparate strengths into so great and awesome a fighting force. For these things, I prayed with gratitude.
The clashing stopped, and a ragged cry lit forth from the bailey below. The smoke blew away, and torchlight penetrated the night, one after another, until all the gloom of the courtyard fell away. Of the forces of humanity, only a ragged squadron of huszars remained fully intact, sweating, soot covered and bloody, but every last heretic driven into darkness; their unholy master grown bored with its chosen slaves, and those that didn’t flee for their miserable lives lay dead in the charnel pit of that cursed clay. The dead were still being separated from the living; Sir Hezke was nowhere to be found. The secrets of the Red Abbey lay exposed, as the bowels of the fortress, clearly descending some great distance below the fortress proper, yawned ominously.
As the remaining horsemen rallied and reformed ranks around the fortress, hunting parties spread out to destroy any fleeing heretics that could be found, returning with godless hearts and heads on the tips of heavy halberds. The first light of dawn cracked over the sky, and as it did, a gentle snow began to fall on the fortress, sticking everywhere along the red stone, banishing the terrible past of this place in blessed recognition of the purity of those who had conquered here. What once was red now glistened with gentle white.
Those who returned with trophies reported that the survivors had fled South, to the Boneyard swamps, soon to meet the cruel answer of humanity for their unspeakable and innumerable treasons against God and His Throne.
I pray that God bless Stragosa and its heroes – and its righteous champion, Sir Reinhart von Sonnenheim, bearer of the Arbiter. God Bless the Throne, and God bless mankind.