The winter was drawing out like a blade. The old knight had had his plans dashed, along with the bulk of his Force, some months ago by the blood thirsty Hollow-Song. They’d come through like a tidal wave, crashing through his lines and scattering his men like so much chafe. Their march back to town had been uneventful, and the rest of the forces of Runeheim, he found later, had all abandoned their individual pursuits to likewise fall back.
He had wanted to winter his men at the land-bridge. To squat there on the maddening shores. To send word to the Overturner about the security of the mythical bridge. To perhaps enjoy a quiet cup of coffee on the hills.
No sense crying over spilt milk, as his mother would say. Sven was stuck in town. And the defenses were poorly maintained. He should have trained the Marshall’s men before leaving the first time. And, squatting in town as he was, he had taken control of the war effort. The commanders had agreed his voice would carry. They had spent weeks going over the particulars of the defensive strategy. They had taken the weakness of the forces into account, the frailty of their commanders, the sum of the tactical knowledge available about their enemies. They had read and studied and prepared. Soon they would take the field.
Though not with Sven himself. His men were… aggressive. And what remained of his center line was Gothic, not known for their snowshoes. So he would stay and coordinate the defensive efforts. The Templars had said they would arrive to our defense come the Spring. They just had to hold the enemy in place. Just… tie them up long enough for hope to arrive. They could do that.
The battles had been infuriating. Skirmishes and dread battles happening *miles* away. Scattered reports coming in. Some, finely drafted and proper, as with Sir Ingvar. Others, sloppily delivered vocally, like with the Avalanche. The forces had divided neatly into two. Sven and the Lord Marshall’s forces in Runeheim, along with the mercenary captains forces. They weren’t as well fortified as they seemed, but there were enough bodies on the battlements to ensure the enemy wouldn’t see them as an acceptable target. The offensive force had formed up around Sir Ingvar’s strong center and archers.
Into the woods they had poured. The Hollow-Songs, still reeling from the loss of their commander couldn’t muster an effective assault. They were pushed back twice, deeper into the woods. Sven had summoned back Ingvar’s forces, the design to reclaim the archers for Runeheim in case the Iron Bloods designed to take advantage of their relatively weak defensive stance.
The Avalanche and Stoneskin were left in the woods. A powerful force of Gorm’s Lionslayers was north of the river. Another was in the woods, and they’d lost track of it. The old knight had surveyed the landscape again and tapped an area of plains north of the Land-bridge.
“There’s going to be trouble on this one. Not much in the way of farming up there; if I was in the Rime, I’d have planted something here to hold the line,” he muttered, rubbing his chin. “Tell the Branded to cut off pursuit and prepare to spend the rest of winter in the trees. Those raiders will be back; we need a screen to dissuade them.”