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HFQ Official Snippet #20

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HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by runsforcelery   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:45 pm

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Here you go. The intervals between snippets are being stretched by Real Life events, so I'm making them a little longer.


And, allowing for Mahkynty’s most recent loss, nineteen pieces of artillery.

“Do what you can, Ahlfryd,” he said. There’d been a time when his relationship with Makyntyr had been icily formal, but that time was long past. One thing about unmitigated disasters, he thought mordantly; they put pettier concerns and conflicts into perspective. “Go ahead and pull your remaining dragons off the ammunition carts. The guns are more important than they are, and we’ll settle for the ammunition on the limbers. Once you’ve got the traction you need for all of them, turn the other dragons over to Shulmyn and lay fuses to the carts.” He quirked a bitter smile. “No point leaving all that powder lying around for the heretics.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Makyntyr’s unhappiness was apparent, but he didn’t even try to argue. No artillerist liked to be told his reserve ammunition had become irrelevant. There was no point pretending it hadn’t, however, and Sir Shulmyn Rahdgyrz’ remaining supply wagons were vastly more important to the beaten army shambling its way towards what it hoped might someday be safety and survival.

A hunger-gaunt horse trotted up beside Ahlverez, and the captain in its saddle touched his chest in salute to his superiors.

“A courier just came in from Colonel Ohkarlyn, Sir,” Sir Lynkyn Lattymyr said. “The Colonel’s reached Malys. He says it’s deserted, but he’s pushing a section out towards Kostyr and one of his companies has established a blocking position on the road to Thyssyk.”

“Any word from Colonel Tyrwait?”

“Not since this morning, Sir.”

Ahlverez grunted in acknowledgment and unfolded his miserable excuse for a map, wishing for no more than the ten thousandth time that he had a better one. For that matter, that he had any maps of this Archangels-forsaken stretch of the South March. The best he had was this rough sketch, with an unreliable scale and so-called details in which he dared not place much trust. Worse, he had to assume any heretics hunting his command to finish off what was left of it had much better ones than he did.

What he did know was that the miserable, narrow, muddy tracks connecting the tiny hamlets thinly scattered across the almost three hundred straight-line miles between the village of Sygmar south of the Kyplyngyr and the larger town of Malyktyn on the high road between Roymark and Cheryk were the closest thing to a road net the Army of Shiloh’s remnants had. The only hope that any of Ahlverez’ men might ever see home lay on the far side of Malyktyn, and they had precious little chance of getting there.

The farm tracks had never been intended for the traffic required to support even a routed army, especially in winter. They existed primarily to haul crops to market after harvest, when the weather was dry and the dirt roads offered firm going for farmers’ wagons. In winter, soaked by the all too frequent rains and plagued by nights when the temperature dropped below freezing, the going had been anything but firm even before hundreds of thousands of feet and hooves churned it into muck. Even as their strength steadily diminished, the half-starved draft animals had to work twice as hard to haul wagons and guns over that treacherous surface, and men who were themselves half starved struggled to place each weary foot in front of another in mud which was often knee-deep.

Sir Rainos Ahlverez was a nobleman, accustomed to looking down his aristocratic nose at the commoners who provided the Royal Dohlaran Army’s enlisted soldiers, yet every one of his surviving men — even the wretched Desnairians who’d attached themselves to his command — had become precious to him. Not simply because they represented the dwindling fighting power (such as it was) under his command, either. No. He knew what these men had done, what they’d suffered and given for God and king, how many others had lost their lives already. It was his responsibility to get them home again; he owed them that for the price they’d paid. And it was a responsibility he knew he was unlikely to meet.

But it wouldn’t be because he hadn’t tried, he reminded himself, inhaling deeply. He was just as happy none of the Army of Shiloh’s senior Desnairian officers had made it this far. While it would have been intensely satisfying to be able to shoot them out of hand, he had at least a chance to get some of their men home without them to hinder him.

He frowned down at the dogeared sketch map. Malys lay southwest of the Kyplyngyr, at the intersection of no less than five of the miserable, muddy excuses for roads available to him. The fact that Ohkarlyn, commanding one of his last two semi-full strength cavalry regiments had secured the road junction was good news. But to offset that, he’d still heard nothing from Tyrwait, who commanded the other one of those regiments. Tyrwait was doing his best to screen the main column’s western flank, and he was supposed to be scouting towards the village of Zhonstyn, eighty miles south-southwest of Malys. Hopefully, he was also finding a place for at least a temporary blocking position on the farm road that led from Malys, through Zhonstyn, to Thesmar, although Ahlverez hoped to Langhorne it wouldn’t be required. If it was . . . .

His position at the moment was over three hundred miles as a wyvern flew from Thesmar, at the mouth of the Seridahn River. Given everything else that had happened, he was certain the heretic Hanth had been heavily reinforced since Duke Harless’ bloody failure to storm Thesmar’s entrenchments at the very beginning of the Fort Tairys campaign.

It was obvious the Army of Shiloh had been not simply outfought but out-thought. It had been sucked into doing exactly what the heretics wanted. There was no point pretending otherwise, and the heretics who’d baited the trap would scarcely have overlooked the potential threat Thesmar represented to that army’s rear. And as Mahkynty had quietly pointed out to him, the Charisian Navy could easily have landed another ten or twenty thousand men in Thesmar Bay.

Ahlverez still couldn’t figure out how the heretics had managed it so smoothly, but it had become painfully evident that Bryahn Kyrbysh had died in the same massacre as the rest of the Fort Tairys garrison. All his dispatches detailing the starvation and demoralization of the heretic Eastshare’s understrength army had clearly come from someone else, and Ahlverez felt his teeth grinding once more as he visualized the grinning heretic duke dictating those lying messages.

Just how inaccurate “Kyrbysh’s” reports had been had become obvious when Eastshare’s “starving, ountnumbered” army attacked out of Fort Tairys to trap the Army of Shiloh between his healthy, well-fed, numerous troops and the second heretic army which had marched clear across Cliff Peak without being spotted.

The fact that the heretics had been able to produce that many troops — that many Charisian regulars — was frightening in more ways than one. A defeated army always tended to overestimate its opponent’s numbers. Ahlverez knew that, but by his most conservative estimate, there must have been upwards of a hundred thousand men involved in springing that trap. Mother Church had assured him the Charisians had nowhere near that many available for service in Siddarmark, and if the Inquisition’s information had been so thoroughly wrong about that, what else had it been wrong about?

There was no way to answer that question — yet, at least — and it didn’t really matter as far as his current situation was concerned. What mattered was that he had no idea how many of those hundred thousand-plus men were marching hard to overtake him. He had no better idea of what the Earl of Hanth might have been up to, but in the heretics’ place Ahlverez would have been doing his utmost to crush what was left of the Army of Shiloh between the Thesmar garrison and Duke Eastshare’s pursuit.

Sure you would, Rainos, he told himself, glowering at the bland, uninformative sketch map. But how much of that is because you realize just how exhausted your men are? It’s obvious to you that the logical step would be to finish you off, but you don’t know what other problems might seem more urgent to them. There’s still that arsehole Hennet’s cavalry at Cheyvair, for example. And truth be told, the Army of Shiloh’s already been “finished off.”

His stomach churned as he admitted that, yet truth was truth, and the one luxury he absolutely could not afford was self-comforting delusion. A third of his men no longer even had weapons. His artillery train — what little of it had escaped the heretics’ initial trap and the destruction of the rearguard he’d left to delay the pursuit — was laughable. His men were sick, starving, with worn-out, leaky boots and uniforms indistinguishable from beggars’ rags, and their fighting spirit was virtually nonexistent. The truth was, he admitted bleakly, that it might actually be to the heretics’ advantage to let what was left of the Army of Shiloh go. The men who’d escaped the nightmare of the Kyplyngyr Forest had been brutally traumatized. Letting them go home to tell their fellow soldiers what they’d endured was probably the surest way to undermine the morale of any new army the Kingdom of Dohlar might put into the field.

Stop that! he told himself harshly. Yes, you got reamed. They were three moves ahead of you — a dozen moves ahead of that idiot Harless — every step of the way, but that’s no excuse to just throw up your hands and give up! You owe Mother Church and the Kingdom more than that. And however badly they may’ve outsmarted you this time, there’s always the next time. There’s that old proverb about the burnt hand, isn’t there? Well, you got your hand burned right down to the bone, Rainos. What matters is what you learned from it.

He looked at the sketch a moment longer, then back up at Lattymyr.

“All right, Lynkyn,” he said, his voice level, “we’ll keep pushing on to link up with colonel Ohkarlyn at Malys. After that, unless Colonel Tyrwait reports that something’s headed our way from Thesmar, I think we’ll have to assume our good friend Hanth has other fish to fry. Probably General Rychtyr, I’m afraid.” He grimaced. “If that’s the case, though, they’re going to be pushing towards Evyrtyn and then up the Sheryl-Seridahn toward Thorast and Reskar.”

He paused, and both Lattymyr and Makyntyr nodded in grim understanding. It was barely three hundred and forty miles from Evyrtyn to the Dohlaran border.

“I don’t see a lot we can do about that,” Ahlverez admitted. “On the other hand, if that is what Hanth’s up to, he won’t be looking our way. In that case, our biggest worry is the damned Charisians moving down the high road from the Kyplyngyr towards Cheryk. And, of course, the possibility that there really is someone coming after us from Sygmar. There’s not much we can do about that, either, except to keep moving as quickly as we can in this slop and be sure we’ve got the closest thing to an effective rearguard we can come up with.”

Makyntyr was nodding more emphatically, and Ahlverez shrugged.

“The way I see it, our best bet is to strike northwest from Malys, through Thyssyk, across the high road, and then through Fyrnyst and on up to Fort Sheldyn. Once we cross the high road, we break almost due north for Alyksberg.”

“That’s a long way, Sir,” Lattymyr pointed out in a painfully neutral tone, and Ahlverez barked a laugh.

“‘A long way’ is putting it mildly, Lynkyn. Or maybe I should say tactfully!” He shook his head and began rolling up the tattered sketch map. “Either we’re going to find out I’m wrong, and the same bastards who punched out Brahnselyk and Roymark will be waiting on the line of the high road up ahead of us, or else we’re going to march an extra two hundred miles or so with stragglers dropping the entire way. But at least this way we’ve got a chance of getting some of the men home again. If we march towards Trevyr or Evyrtyn, we’ll be walking right into Hanth’s arms. If this army were fit to fight a battle, coming up behind him might be the best thing we could do, but it isn’t. And do any of us really think that after putting together what they did to us at Fort Tairys Eastshare and Cayleb wouldn’t have provideded Thesmar with the same damned sort of portable angle-gun they used on us? I hate to say it, but if I were Hanth, the one thing I’d want most in all the world would be for us to be stupid enough to attack him in the open field.”

His two subordinates looked grim, and more than a little anxious. Not simply because of the additional miles he was proposing to march his exhausted, army, but because marching to Alyksberg instead of moving to the sound of the guns might well be taken by the Inquisition as defeatism.

Ahlverez understood exactly what they were thinking, and they might be right. The last thing he needed as the senior surviving officer of the Army of Shiloh and the one who’d handed the initial message from “Colonel Kyrbysh” over to Harless, was to give Zhaspahr Clyntahn additional ammunition when it came time to make examples. On the other hand, if that was how the Grand Inquisitor was thinking, there was already an enormous target pasted to his back. Nothing he did was likely to change that, and if the Inquisition was going to make an example out of him, then he would by God and all the Archangels save as many of the men under his command as he could first.

“I’ll discuss it with Father Sulyvyn this evening,” he continued, tucking the rolled up map back into his saddle bag. “I feel confident he’ll agree it’s our best option, though, so go ahead and start passing the orders now.”

“Yes, Sir. Of course.” Lattymyr saluted again, turned his horse, and trotted squelchingly back the way he’d come.

“Sir,” Makyntyr began, “I think —”

“I’m pretty sure I know exactly what you think, Ahlfryd,” Ahlverez interrupted with a twisted smile. “Unfortunately, it’s what I think that matters, isn’t it?”

Makyntyr gazed at him for a moment.

“Yes, Sir. I suppose it is.” He held Ahlverez eyes for another moment, then inhaled deeply. “I’ll just go see about redistributing those draft dragons, Sir.”

His tone said something very different from his words, and Ahlverez felt a faint stir of surprise as he realized how much hearing that approval from the ex-naval officer and ally of the Earl of Thirsk meant to him.

“You do that, Ahlfryd,” he said, climbing up into his own saddle once more. “I’ll see you at supper.”

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by Joat42   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:46 pm

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A snippet!

Thank you RFC! :D

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Anyone who have simple solutions for complex problems is a fool.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by Bahzellstudent   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:53 pm

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Thanks RFC - a very happy fan here!
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by Henry Brown   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:12 pm

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Thank you. 8-)
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by XofDallas   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:46 pm


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Thank you, RFC!

And yet again, you've provided us with an option that hadn't been discussed seriously before. Fort Sheldyn and Alyksberg, huh?

It'll be fascinating to see who and what he runs into on the way!
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by n7axw   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:56 pm

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Thanks for a great snippet. So much for throwing pontoon bridges across the Seridahn. Oh well, Don proposes, RFC disposes... :lol:

Wow. He's outlined himself quite a hike. Does anybody remember if Ft. Sheldyn is in allied hands? If so, that could be the end of Ahlverez's walk...

If he makes it past the high road and Ft. Sheldyn to Alyksberg, I wonder if he'll still have an army with him...Bet not more than half of current strength.

When any group seeks political power in God's name, both religion and politics are instantly corrupted.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by Down Under   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:09 pm

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Thank you, MWW. :D
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by Undercover Fat Kid   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:36 pm

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<snooooort> Ahhhhh...that's the stuff....
Death is as a feather,
Duty is as a mountain
This life is a dream
From which we all
Must wake
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by SYED   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:41 pm

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You know it would not be too bad a plan. Alykberg is remote enough that any future advance by the enemy would be in a while. THey would be more concerned with potentially advancing into dohlar and securing that branch of hte canal system.
The issue is they are moving so very slow inc omparison, that their enemies may even overtake them, even if they have to secure all those other regions. ALso, with acces to the seijin, thier plans and location are already known. So they might be allowed to get to their goal, but discover the enemy is right there waiting. By then, all their supplies would be gone, and htey would be exhausted by the march, so many might be willing to surrender peacefully.
I actually expected them to be nearer to the border. I had not realised the shher difficulty of moving an army in winter.
Do we know how far they have pushed from thesmar? It might be easier to guess whn the two forces meet up.
We know there are logisticall issues for the dohlar front, all those men arriving at once would strip a location of all its supplies, so easier to capture.

this is a link to the specif map of south march. ... 0329015924
Last edited by SYED on Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #20
Post by tootall   » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:41 pm

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Well, I have to admit how wrong I was about the condition of his troops.
I recall that he took his supply train with him when he began his retreat and that he had several "intact" units left from the disaster. I assumed that he still had a "force in being". Guess not.
And given the state of his men, I don't know how they're going 300-500 miles more.
To quote another who sometimes posts here:


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