The Battle of Tusk Grove

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I, Brother Cadica, scholar monk of Curia Militum, do commit this event to pen from my first hand observations in this, the month Septima in the 604th year of the Lion Age. Herein lies my true accounting of the Battle of Tusk Grove, wherein heroes of mankind did bring battle upon the foe of humanity in the form of the loathsome warriors of the Kuarlite heresy.

The battle lines were drawn in the Tusk Grove, a region of hills to the Southeast of the ruined and cursed city of Stragosa, wherein His Imperial Majesty, Siegfried von Herkheist, has declared his special interest, and named House Heidrich to hold safe this Reichsgrafschaft. The Graffin of that House, Hezke von Heidrich, brought forth her army of Stragosa to war – some ten units of brave Gothic men and women brought forth and doing their holy duty through the honor of the levy. These soldiers were cataphract shock cavalry, lightly armored dragoons, and archers. Though they were many, I do confess that I feared for their safety to come under direct assault of the heretic foe, who have been known to be terrifying fighters, having sold their immortal souls and humanity both, and in that place within the spirit of every man, where once was virtue and purity, only found now is hatred and malice, rage and war.

I must confess that having arrived in the Stragosa Valley only shortly before with the Witchfinder Brigade commanded by Inquisitor Zephriel, I had heard but rumors of the presence of Kuarlites, and the reports of their gathering in great numbers – perhaps even the greatest numbers recorded since the early Lion Age in the time of the Executioner King. If the heretic foe truly has gathered such a force, doubtless the combined forces of the Emperor’s finest and the brave soldiers that have been the torch of God in the darkness of the frontier would be enough to drive this evil back to the darkness of history where they belong. I prayed unto Mithriel that this be true.

The Lady Heidrich was present at the field of war, though I did not see her at first. Instead I saw the approaching host of the other loyal warriors of the Stragosa frontier. From positions all along the forest perimeter that separates the land controlled and worked by Stragosa from those despoiled by heresy, they came. Marching in rigid line, Rogalians bearing the burning wheel of House Drake, the crowned Skull of House Baines. These did hold their giant longbows beside them – those dusk clad soldiers who bore the crowned skull each wearing metal plates, even for their archers, and some of them even wielding heavy bows made themselves from metal – somehow still able to draw and spring and firing enormous, heavy arrows. Wonders of war forged in that terrible land, being put finally to righteous use in service to mankind. Yet even more Rogalians arrived, two units of heavy cavalry and one squadron of archers riding under the crescent moon banner of Ascalon. I heard from one soldier that their commander is a reformed heathen come far from the desert, taken to the ways of Holy Benalus and sworn a knight’s oaths of Valor. If this is true, we must find this Sir Tulius, for he is an example for his errant people.

Then came the Hestralians, bearing the saber and spyglass of House Scordato – a full company of hardened marines and a squadron of those Spotters that that House has made famous.  The marines enjoined equally with the Heidrich and Sonnenheim forces and lent their swords and speed to both of the two fronts of the forming battle lines.

The rest of the host had already arrived, these being Sonnenheim men bearing the sunburst of Weiterland were already bloodied and in good cheer, for they had arrived already victorious, harrying dark riders from the north who had tried to breach the walls of Portofino weeks before. Their commander, Reinhart von Sonnenheim, was there riding upon his destrier, and setting his soldiers to support formation. After he and the visiting captains entered the command tent of Commander Heidrich, the combined army began to march.

It was not long before I was able to put to some truth the accounts of the unusual numbers of the heretic. While, as expected, the numbers of the heretic force that we had heard were greatly exaggerated, surely these were the largest gathering of the foe seen in the modern century. Twenty of the surviving dark riders had limped to join the entrenched heretic, who themselves numbered one hundred-thirty; huge men armed in interlocking red plate, all spiked and holding mighty weapons. Before them they had lashed to leashes of twisted wire, horrifying manlike creatures who ran upon all fours. They brayed and stamped as animals, and I could see through my spyglass that in their mouths were held bits to keep them from biting out. I prayed for the souls of these benighted and enslaved spirits, their bodies twisted, and prayed only that their hearts remained pure somewhere locked in that terrifying prison of flesh. I did recall a Praedium account of kidnappings over the mountain in Kronenland last year, and wondered if these were the unfortunate reapings of those events. These miserable wretches, tugging at their leashes, numbered in the hundreds, perhaps perchance five hundred, with each Kuarlite handler holding at bay some twenty by the strength of his arm before staking them into various places like horses at the trough.

These then, the enemy of mankind. The marching to this place of battle, what I heard from a soldier was called the Tusk Grove, took most of the day, and the sun was already beginning to set when the two armies reached one another. I could see the remains of great beasts, perhaps indeed the bones of some Age of Heroes shagged gaja that found their way to this place before dying. Among the bones of whatever beasts left these specimens, the Kuarlite foe had set the field. I could see Commander Hezke giving a speech to her men, kicking her horse back and forth along the front lines, whipping up their resolve for the coming fight. I beheld their faith kindling, and though I could not hear the words, I know well the look of men being ordered to win or to die, that victory here is worth any cost – that these men should accept death before breaking against this army of darkness. I heard it then, blasting over the rolling hills – the clarion warhorn of Heidrich, and the Rogalian bugles answering in complex orders to begin the battle. The sky was red with the anticipation of the blood, but even that crimson stain had no claim over what was next.

The Heidrich cavalry roared out in front, picking up speed for a head on charge against the enemy. It was then that I saw a figure cut straight ahead of the force, thundering forward on their huge, armored warhorse. Lady Hezke von Heidrich roared straight into the front of the battle, her cavalry feeling the passion of her spirited charge and picking up her battle cry as they roared toward the foe. The Reichgraffin meant to lead this attack personally, and I knew then that the Emperor had chosen House Heidrich for more than just their knowledge. I felt the passion of the battle there upon the command hill with the other observers, even as the dispassionate Heidrich calculator notched notes and figures right along with me, confirming arrow trajectories and sending dispatches to secondary runners. My heart sank as I saw what happened next.

The heretic quickly shifted into a strange formation, allowing some of the steeds to pass them, and my eyes took in the rapid falling of horses even before my ears received their cries. The wicked men of the red host expertly received the charge, but even their counterplay, their numbers so few, could not fully blunt the cavalry attack, and the Heidrich cataphracts began to knot up against the Kuarlite host. Somewhere in the dust of the battle and the red sky, Hezke was lost to my sight in the melee and dust.

I saw now Reinhart von Sonnenheim leading his men with great order and care into a frontal charge – his men seemed unafraid, serious and dour. No green lads were in this army, their courage already hard tested in the weeks before. I had heard that of all commanders, Sonnenheim had sacrificed the most for this campaign, and was eager to take righteous reckoning. His sword glinted red against the sky as he signalled the advance to quicken, the man himself there at the head of his column.

Heidrich archers were deployed on the nearby hills, and even as they fired on choice targets that remained unengaged at that early moment, squadrons of Kuarlites moved with incredible alacrity up the hillsides and into the midst of the archers. To their credit, they maintained discipline, firing down the hill at the mass in order to break up their formation for the next charge of dragoons, buying time for Sonnenheim heavy infantry to form a knot against the Kuarlite host. I felt joy to see their great number, far greater in size than our wicked adversary, engage so many of the remaining enemy before they could further butcher any more of the archers.

From over the furthest hill, arrows traced the darkening sky with fire. The range of the Rogalian longbowmen could not be overstated – they fired huge, incredible arrows down, the size of broomsticks. I watched as even the heretic’s formidable and frightening armor was pierced, punctured, again and again. Heretic blood hit the rocks. But it was then that the hounds were loosed.

Those twisted and scabberous creatures ripped free from posts and tusks where they had been lashed, and fell all over the Sonnenheim swordsmen, their numbers were so great that they spilled well over the line and, sniffing the air, scrambled with great speed up a nearby hill where the Drake longbowmen lay firing. The arrows kept falling, and just then the Ascalon horsemen rounded the Southern flank of the foe, smashing into their back line. Finally, all the forces were on the field, and though the battle lines were all chaos, Sonnenheim unable to completely envelope the devils he fought, the sheer number of heroic soldiers seemed a worthy start.

I have seen battles against ordinary foes, especially those against forces of mismatched size. Rebellions, skirmishes in Rogalia, even the hunting of Orc, and I thought I knew what should happen next. Surrounded, their resolve should melt away, the circle tighten, and the route begin. That is not what happened. It is strange indeed to see a surrounded force begin to overwhelm their captors, yet the hard corp of warriors in the center of the mass began to do just this. I saw one group of dragoons fall from their horses, then another, then another, routing broken from the battle and giving way to the Heidrich line. The Heidrich archers tried to open fire on their pursuers, but I swear I watched as arrows were batted from the air by sword and axe, or crashed into splinters against the spiked armor the fiends wore. The Sonnenheim infantry began to be physically pushed back, their line bulging, though they did not break. I glimpsed Lord Reinhart cry for his men to rally there and push for counterattack. It was plain he knew that if that line were to break, the Rogalian strikers would be chewed apart in the ensuing carnage. As if answer, the next volley of Rogalian arrows fell on the Kuarlites. More of them died. Then more. Lord Reinhart held, and the arrows kept falling.

I swear unto God what I saw next is true. I believe that the Warriors of Kuarl, for all their terrible strength, possess a coward’s heart. Who but a coward would abandon their humanity for prowess in battle except those cravens who would give anything not to die. They seemed unused to seeing their kind begin to fall. They seemed unnerved by the endless rain of arrows, and the Drake and Baines forces who maintained discipline and kept firing, many of them stationed far enough away that none of the Hounds could reach them. I do declare that these vaunted terrors faltered in their resolve, and in that instant, I saw Sir Hezke rally her forces to push back into the enemy lines, and Sir Reinhart do the same. More Kuarlites lay dead, though it took a terrible toll. The Heidrich shock cavalry were torn from their horses, and I beheld bedecked but riderless horses fleeing the field in great numbers. The last of her dragoons were afoot now, acting as a personal honor guard for the Reichsgrafin, even as the Heidrich forces had completely shattered and fled the field besides.

The Hounds had circled back around the field and had begun to chew their way through the Sonnenheim infantry from every direction. I espied the Heidrich archer stations, all of which had gone dark. No more arrows fired from where the Hounds had completed their terrible work. It fell only to Sonnenheim and the small force of Lady Heidrich to hold the line, even as arrow after arrow still fell from the Rogalian archer positions and the Shadowvale steeds still harried and harassed the back line in repeated charges.

The next was pure chaos, the battle lines completely dissolved in the flatland below between the hills, as the entire space filled with arrows. Unit after unit of the Sonnenheim wall fell back, even their legendary morale failing – I saw them there, the Warriors of Kuarl, their eyes now glowing red like coals in the dim gloaming of the evening – men fairly flew from their swords and axes like children’s dolls, the fury of battle truly on them now. Every time they struck, Sonnenheim blood soaked the stones. I watched in horror as the Hounds, now themselves dwindled greatly in number, fell upon the last two and only two Sonnenheim units of heavy infantry. There was no longer any semblance of cohesion to the battle plan. In this final desperate hour, I watched the Drake Captain reposition his troops, and call for a direct volley straight into the Sonnenheim infantry, which he must had judged already doomed. Drake arrows pummelled man and hound alike as the limbs were ripped from shoulders by the ferocious strength of the frenzied crowd. Utter madness, but the shrewd command of that Captain may have turned the tide of the day.

The one single inviolate company charged forth from the melee, racing forward out of the kill zone with Lord Reinhart and Lady Hezke and their small surviving honor guard. These last six dozen or so soldiers who had not fled in terror or died a bloody ruin in the killing field smashed bodily into the last of the enemy, and in this moment, the queer red light left the eyes of those soldiers of Hell. They dropped their jagged swords, they tossed down their maces and axes, and by God, they broke. In that moment the daemon prince of bloodlust tired of his coward soldiers, and abandoned them to their righteous fate. They fled in their multitudes, the Hounds yipped and bayed as they took into the hills in every direction. The Shadowvale steeds, the only intact cavalry remaining tore through the enemy as they fled, and the Rogalian longbowmen and heavy archers flying the crowned skull and burning wheels proved their valor as marksmen with expert arrows placed one after the other in the backs of our panicked nemesis. The battle was won, humanity’s heroes rejoice! The Kuarlite force is routed and in disarray, falling back into the East with those who yet live in defiance of the righteous doom that awaits them.

I pray that God bless Stragosa and its heroes. God Bless the Throne, and God bless mankind.

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