On January 3rd, 2044 the first knoll forces came within sight of the walls. At first just a few divisions of regular military and a dozens hulks. An hour later columns of their serfs started meandering in. Wes had left strict instructions to leave them be even though troops in route were still being harassed by elements of the Tornadoes and my own clan mates. By the time the sun faded away on the 4th perhaps 20,000 knolls were encamped in the area. On the 5th they started showing up in mass.
I was charged with the defense of the docks. My orders were simple, "make them bleed, get out and leave no boats on the west side of the river." Simple enough when the order was given. I had just about decided the evening would pass without incident, when knoll horns started sounding. From within their camp thousands of untrained and barely armed knolls began to move. It became apparent they were being driven by whip wielding members of the regular military. I quickly gave the order to my crossbowmen that they were to be the first targets.
At two hours to twilight we found that they were coming our way. It seems my command was going to be among the first with a shot at glory. My best count was 40,000. Perhaps I write this to save face, perhaps to relieve guilt. We held for half an hour. The docks had never really been built to be defended. All we had a low wall of packed mud and a couple wooden watch towers to hold them back. Some of those watching from the main walls of the city, say a thousand knolls died in the attack. Considering we numbered less than three hundred, I guess that's pretty good. I fear many of those died either from bow fire from the main walls; or by their own archers and catapults.
I shall forever be impressed at the rare death dealing carnage embodied in Byron and the ancient minotaur Old Grey. After the first wave of knoll serfs withdrew in panic, a second wave of regulars was close behind. Knoll catapults had already destroyed one of our towers; General Wes was still holding back. As I ordered the withdrawal to begin, Byron began complaining about the confinement of fighting behind a wall. A moment later, one of them called to the crossbowmen to cover them and they were in the middle of a thousand knolls. Blood spilled by the barrel as the danced amid the carnage. As they grew tired they made their way to the boats and the knolls were glad to be done with them.
The following is based on orations and interviews of Hagar Bone Axe of Clayton (later killed on the Isle of Storms)
Do ya think they picked me to lead them forces because I'm so fucking pretty. Maybe you think it's because I'm a military genius blessed by Tothis, Biona, and Omadin. They came right down and said, "Bone axe, you're hereby the reigning bad ass general of the Muldav. Ha, they choose me because I'm the most stubborn man ever conceived by a dwarven lass. Wes looked me right in the eye and said "Hagar, we can loose the docks, we can loose the river, we can even loose Clayton, but if the Western Heights fall, we will loose The Point. "Hagar," he said, "we will not loose The Point." Well, no bunch of dog faces was going to get by me. I made that pledge right to the general, and I didn't mince words about it.
That first night [the 5th] was rough for my men. They saw the docks fall and I know they want to be in the action. That night I sent out my sneaky troops. You see, the fight I planned to defend the bluffs put a lot of sneaky folks under my command. Scary bastards that you don't see coming. I knew they'd bugaloo those knolls, dodging in and out of caves and crannies. I started sending them out a few at time and I kept them going in shifts all night. Sometimes just a few tigara bowmen to harass them. Sometimes I'd send out a few of those shifty brownies with a few explosive vials to wreak a little havoc. Those dog faces didn't sleep so good.
The next morning [the 6th] they started to form up. Gods, it took them a long time. It's a miracle that Biona didn't strike them all dead for the sin of military incompetence. It was hours before they actually started moving to attack. By then everyone knew what they had planned for their first assault. The first attack on Clayton was a feint for sure. What they really wanted was to get across the river, and to make a stab at The Heights. I just smiled. Wes was holding back the longer range catapults, but soon they would be shredding knolls by the cart load. Some kid that works for T&L says that 75,000 regulars were lined up behind about as many townies. That boy was dead by evening, Agz bless his innocent soul. They had a bunch of giants too [mungo's, not elementals]. Fearsome beasts to be sure, but I was sure looking forward to getting them on uneven ground.
Finally they came. The sound was deafening. Knoll trumpets and drums mixed with our own bugles, gongs and drums. My first kill was nothing to brag about, an old half-naked dogface with sagging tits and a club. She threw her hands up for protection as I came down on her skull with my hammer. For half an hour I paced my self. Many died well before they got to my spot on the narrow trail. We defended every side trail and flat spot in small groups, always leaving a direction to retreat. Mountain folk and other climbers lured them to dead ends, while our gnomes and dwarves led them into the caves and fought them in the darkness. Meanwhile our archers looked down on the whole affair, picking and choosing their victims.
At a lull, I looked down on the plains below. Ten thousand knolls still kept up the farce at the city walls. It was a massacre, but I suppose all armies have to sacrifice men to win the war. Wes had loosed the catapults. Stone and fire flew. Below the bluffs, near two-hundred thousand knolls milled about, some trying to retreat, some advance. Fire and stone crashed into their midst, killing dozens at a time. A priest came to heal my wounds, I panned east. By the gods, the river was red. Knolls beyond my ability to count, and giants and hulks too, were pushing across the water and dying for it.
That was the end of my rest. A dozen knolls and a very wounded armored hulk were charging. Ah, the regulars are here. The hulk hurt, my second was killed almost instantly, andI woke up under the priest's hands. Ouch. Well, up and at 'em again, what else was I going to do. A few minutes of fierce fighting and two hulks later, I had a moment to take a report. My forward positions were beginning to fall, and the Tornado chiefs had been sent to support our position. Hmm, Chad had better not be thinking of taking over my little corner of heaven. I ordered those forward positions to fall back. I had a total of six fall back points, I didn't really expect to hold the outskirts. I'd take them back tonight.
The next few hours were a maelstrom of attacks and counter attacks. My limited need for warriors to hold a line allowed me to rotate fresh arms in. Despite that we steadily lost ground. Now the knolls were racing the day. I think they knew that if the had not taken The Heights by darkness they would loose everything they had gained. So it came that at one hour to darkness 500 Kelds stood on a broken platue standing our ground against the horde. Wes's words weighed heavy in my weary mind. I picked my spot and I wasn't moving. They came by the hundreds. No more knolls townies here, just regular military and armored hulks. Old Grey and Byron had found a spot on the left flank. The Tornadoes clustered on the right. All the finest people were there. We switched out in six waves, sometimes not so smoothly on the creviced ground. All the while, arrows blotted out what was left of the day's sun. I figure 100,000 knolls died in, around and below the heights that day and the following night.
As for taking back the heights, I was right. My tigara and brownies had them on the run by midnight. They next morning the knolls found themselves back where the started.
An account of the battle for the East bank of the river during the knoll siege of 2044.
Torrance of Parn Silia, Temple Priest and Head Priest of Heloy
They came in numbers that shook the very ground. Six hundred thousand dog faces, and with them their giants by the thousands. They were a pleasure to watch, milling about like the fools they were. If not for their vast numbers, the next few days would be no more dangerous than a day at the gladiator arena. The edge of their camp was well within range of the city's newer catapults. That was a mistake General Wes would let them make. The Mon-qui general is as patient as a elf fishing for bay carp.
The night of the 5th they made their first assault. It was an impatient lunge at a weak, but well fought target. The Western Docks fell quickly, but the knolls paid far too much for it. No less than 10,000 fell in that massed attack. The night brought a quieter death for our enemies. Our rahna'yen allies crept out of the river to raid any knoll camped to close to the water, while stealthy warriors crept silently among them. All the while quick night-eyed tigara harassed the edges of the vast camp with bows.
After that night the knolls were in no mood to make a long fight of it. By two hours past dawn, we knew they were coming our way. General Geiring expected it and he was right. The forces from Parn Silia were placed to prevent a river crossing. Even the knoll's feeble wisdom told them they had to attack the city from as many directions as possible, or their numbers would do no good. The forces under Geiring were impressive. The militia of Biona was the strong center with the Martyrs holding the far left flank. Forces closer to the city were not so seasoned, but would have the support of fire from the city walls. In reserve were 200 centaurs and pteradons from Menelia. They were new to our ways, but eager to prove them selves great warriors. All this even was not the strength of our forces. In the river itself, lurked 1,000 rahna'yen and a dozen water giants. Yes, we had giants of own.
As I gather notes and interviews, I have found an interesting thing. No one knows how our far flung heroes heard of the attack. I've found the giants in possession of a note warning of the peril descending on Clayton. It would have to have been sent well before anyone on the mainland could off known. Letters also arrived in Camburg and Canal City. They were too late, but still arrived before they could have been sent. In Parn Silia we were warned of the coming attack a day before riders came from MP with the news. Then there is the case is the mysterious magical map. The strange thing worked just long enough to show a massive movement of knolls north. There is a mystery yet to be unfolded here.
I also must give credit to our allies who most regretted missing the battle. The Gen suffer more than we can know, not being a part of our society. Their very blood ties them to us and yet they are stranded in a foreign land. Nearly 200 genies died in a futile attempt to overwhelm the seals that bind them to Odessa. They gave their lives in a vain attempt to honor an allegiance we did not ask for, but do hold in unmatched regard. Hail to those great Gen who so deeply seek to share glory for all Kelds.
Oh, how I digress. There is story of battle to be told.
For hours they sent untrained and undisciplined shock troops. I must admit though, more than a fewmade it to the west shore, only to be picked apart by spear and sword. Then came the real attack. No less than five companies of regular troops with hulks and giants. With better troops in place they were able to mass their bow fire. By two hours past noon they were even able to lob a few stones from their catapults into our ranks.
It was truly a day for heroes. Irving and Mighty Joe worked in tandem to clear the beach of hulks. Sylvan sent deadly arrows into any giant in range. Lord Fijj of the water giants stood toe to toe with one plains giant after another. How many knolls died just because they got to close those battles we will never know. The very water turned red with the blood of our enemies. The first assaults were beaten back with relative ease, but finally their numbers began to wear down our valor.
While the battle raged the knolls had crossed farther south. At the worst possible time a thousand regulars and five times that number in serfs were spotted coming up from down river. As they closed to bow range the Red Stripe was engaged with remnants of a regular company. Many of our cohorts had fought to near exhaustion. Meanwhile the dog faces were keeping just enough pressure on the city walls to keep any hope of reinforcements at bay. Worse yet messengers had let us know that we should be ready to pull back. The Western Heights were in danger of falling. Without a thought Geiring ordered Cary, priestess of Agamar; Arlene, priestess of Omadin; and Santiago of the centaur cohorts to charge. It was a tense time. Five thousand of our own troops were left on a limb with the same number battling ten times their number in knolls. The knolls fought like they new exactly what was at stake.
Was this where the whole battle for Clayton pivoted. Hulks were as deep as a hundred feet from shore and knoll serfs were everywhere. Many of them kept on running, apparently eager to make the plains of Arista their new home. Make no mistake Geiring could attack or run and he choose right. Most of those knolls were archers. The centaurs took every advantage of their chance for glory. The noble beasts tore the soul out of that force.
I recall the moment well. A dozen of us were protecting a small dug out med station. It was just one of a thousand small personal battles that took place that day. We were all tired and weary. Most of the knolls who came our way just wanted to keep on going and were in no shape for a fight. Few had weapons. But from time to time an organized batch of 20 or so would come against us. All the totems were empty and our station had become nothing more than a place for wounded men to congregate and get a bit of water. I played when I could, but the attacks were just frequent enough to demand my attention.
I was prone, tripped by a dog-face soldier. He was doing his best to get by me to attack the wounded. As he put his spear into an unconscious brownie, I had regained my feet and put an arrow in his back. At the same time another of the wounded shoved a short sword into his gut. I turned to find my next target, but all my men were clear. Most on a knee, near exhaustion, or at the least with weapons hanging low. I scanned a bit further, but in the fading light I could see no signs of melee. I walked a bit among the bloodied and beleaguered men and women of Parn Silia, each was coming to realize what I had. The East Bank was still ours.
The knolls lost no less than a hundred thousand souls trying to cross that river. Our losses were just as hurtful. Scully and Bretta of the Martyrs died that day, both battling giants who had managed to cross the river. We lost over 2,000 hard working, hard fighting townsfolk who's names will find a place of honor. Our job was not over, though many of us were reassigned to the city, the knolls continued small attacks in attempts to put a larger force across the river for the length of the siege. They never again came in a head long mass though. From our camp 1,000 feet south of the walls we continued to stage nighttime raids against the dog-faces.
The ghosts of Parn Silia's lost warriors will long stand watch on the East Banks of a river that once ran red with the blood of their enemies.
This is the last great battle of iron. That is my vision. Already balls of fire and streaks of lightning, called down by our priests and mages, tear into the enemy. I do not think they will replace the sword and spear, but the combination will change the face of battle. The knolls and goblins of the world will stand no chance against a force made up of the noble races. Today our walls are the equalizer against there numbers, but tomorrow we will take our walls wherever we go. Walls of fire and magic to make way for the weapons of iron.
Surely the Hessians and Iterians and the other heretics yet to be discovered, have already begun to make these same discoveries. The wars of the future will be fought on both sides with magics we do not yet know. Whole new strategies and methods will have to be developed, but one key ingredient remains. Smarts nor strength is enough. The true warrior must hone all his abilities to become the best Keld to lead our faith to victory.
Fuck ya, everyone was surprised. Not only had they not done anything for two days, the dog faces had never managed to get a real attack going before noon ever. I was on the wall for some light duty. They said I was acting squirly and should get out of the fight for a while. So much for that shit. It wasn't ten minutes after I got comfortable and arrows started flying. I couldn't even see anything. A few minutes later two poles popped up against the wall right in front of me. So I just started hacking away at anything that came up that ladder.
We finally figured out what they had been up too. It was beginning to look like they were just going to let us whittle them away night after night. They must have had a hundred ladders on the walls before we really got organized. Horns and drums were being sounded everywhere. You couldn't make a damn bit a sense out of what they were supposed to be signaling except that the dogfaces were coming. Once we got a few poles on the walls to push back the ladders, things calmed down. Before that though, I thought we were going to loose it before the sun even perked up. Whew, there was one time I looked up and had two knolls on either side of me. They weren't too agile though. I just set my feet real stable and started pushing.
As the sun started to brighten we saw it wasn't just ladders, they had battering rams to. Those knolls must have had some thinkers among 'em. Man the catapults laid into those things. Problem was that let the other dog faces come right up to the wall with hardly a scratch. We'd been told to lay off the bow fire, 'cause their weren't many arrows left. Wasn't long though somebody said to just let 'em fly till you run out. Some of the kids made a game out of seeing who could get the most good arrows out of ground and bring 'em to us. Funny thing is that by noon, half the ones they brought were our arrows the knolls had shot back at us.
I felt like we were in trouble about noon I guess. The knoll catapults had really weakened the west wall in places and now they just hammered were it looked bad. They kept running troops at us, but we could see all those regulars back there just waiting for the wall to fall. Well what do ya do, we just kept killing knolls. It was dingy overcast winters day, nothing better to do.
There were buildings on fire everywhere, all those nice apartments people had just bought. Well they could afford to rebuild them. I was on a bucket line trying to contain the fires. I heard the bells at some of the temples going off. Liked to give me a heart attack, I was so close. Someone said that was the signal for the Parn Silia people to get back to the walls.
It was about noon I guess, and I was on my third turn at the gates. You know, you hear about our great heroes, but until you see someone like Byron in action it just ain't real. Him and Old Grey looked like nothing could even touch 'em. Every time a giant even got close to the wall they and a few others would climb right down one of the knoll ladders and go after it. I swear I saw Bryron take a giants arm off with one of those axes he uses.
It came down like a stack of bricks. What a mess. It must have been an hour past noon. A twenty foot section I'd say. Most of it fell right into a burning tenement. It was up and down from their. First we were getting ready to pull back. Then we were being ordered to defense points around the breach. For a while it was better for us. I was in an alley. Ruble beside we were a building had collapsed. There were about eighty of my men around nearby to hold a 10 foot space. I didn't see a single knoll arrow for a good half hour. Then the hulks came through in force and it all went to shit.
I'll never live it down. I'll have to move to Canal City anyway and now you want to write the fucking thing down. Fuck, I don't know anybody that can read anyway. Some fancy trumpeter let loose a string of bleats and honks and I thought a full retreat had been sounded. So did what I was supposed to, I got off the wall and headed for the Point. I had got about 20 feet when I realized no one was following. They were all still on the wall laughing at me. Well fuck! It was just a recall of NON-combatants. As if any Keld is a non-combatant anyway.
It was about 2 when I got my men in place. We held up pretty good for a while. We were holding a spot at the second breach on the West Wall. The Doomed, I think were mostly to the South. It was more open where we were so I could get my men in formation. Most of the folks from PS had been sent to the South Wall or left on the east side of the river. Ya, we held up well.
I remember it like I'm seeing it right now. The gate by the river was in taters, but some PS folks were holding the breach. Some minotaur and a fat-ass mon'qui seemed to be leading them. Byron and Old Grey were on the ground outside the wall. They'd been trying to keep the Mungo's away, because they had these huge bronze poles and every time one got to the wall they'd start smashing away. Chunks of wall would fly and the whole wall would shudder. I guess there was just too many, but what I saw I will never forget. One of those giants hit old grey with one of them poles square in the head. It broke one horn clean off. Old Grey just looked mad, but a few seconds later another one of them grabbed him. I guess Old Grey was the only thing around though enough to bring that wall down. That damns giant smashed him right into the wall and the whole section came down.
I saw him die. It will haunt me forever. A giant swung one of those big bronze tree trunks right into Old Grey and the old minotaur flew into the wall so hard the whole thing came down on top of him.
He had three giants on the ropes, not a one of them was glad to be there. There must have been about twenty other guys down there to keep the knolls at bay, plus all the rocks and spears and arrows raining down. One of them giants got a lucky shot though. Kicked Old Grey he did, sent him right through the wall. Before that fucker's leg came back down I saw Byron take it off clean at the hip.
I never saw nothing like seeing Lord Byron pissed off. When that wall came down and he knew Old Grey was dead he just went nuts. Little pieces of knoll and giant and hulk were going everywhere. Those folks with him had to drag him back inside the wall, where a bunch of Tornadoes were coming up to hold the line.
I had been put on med station duty because somebody said I needed a break. Whatever, all tigara get a little extra mean during a good fight. Didn't matter though. They had just called all the non-coms back to the Point when the bells went of to get out of the Eastern city. The walls would hold, but all the med-stations were to pull back. I was right next to the wall, we were holding just fine. Of course, we hadn't moved twenty feet when half a dozen knolls charged in from the apartment blocks. Then a dozen, then 50. Ya, it was quite a fight getting to the Point. Total chaos! We weren't a hundred feet till a big section of the South Wall caved in to. Whew! What a mess. At least it wasn't snowing.
So, I was basically running for my life. Twenty knolls were chasing me and this other guy up the river. All the sudden there was this explosion behind us and Dennis and Tryra and some other folks appeared from no where. Those knolls didn't last long then. I thought we were saved, but Dennis told us to hold the bridge. Fuck, there was just two of us. I looked over at the human with me and he looked like a cat who'd just found a mouse to toy with. He was grinning like someone had just handed him a Hound Blade. He picked a spot in the middle of the bridge an just stood there with some weird looking jagged edged bastard sword. He looked over and said "I'm Jacob, damn it's been a good day". Oh well, everybody's got to die sometime. We did pretty good. Those Questers left, but a few archers showed up and then some more. Then they sounded a pullback for the whole Eastern half of the city about the time that Jacob died. Crazy bastard died happy though. Finally the Red Stripes showed up with Sylvan and we could have held that bridge forever.
I saw it all when it ended. I was up on the highest station on the Eastern Face. I was told to fire my heavy crossbow at giants and hulks. Hell, from where I was, I could hardly see the little dog faces scampering around. There were fires everywhere. A lot of the knolls started looting, but most of them came on to the Point. It was almost dark, but they weren't going to quit. I guess they had finally learned that we owned the night. Hell of a sight. I wish I could paint it. Our men scampering to get where they needed to be. The dog faces trying to form up. Arrows flying back and forth across the river. Catapulted stones everywhere. The wall had collapsed in three places. I could tell some of the buildings, especially the temples, were still being defended. The knolls were pushing for the Point though. There was still probably a hundred thousand knolls outside the city when . . . What do you say? You've got to use the biggest words you know to describe what had been going on for days. It was like . . . I don't know.
I was in the top story of the Temple of Orlok and all of the sudden the ground just started boiling. It was just beyond the breach in the South wall. Rocks were flying and even knolls were being launched into the air. I had to be told what it was. It was a dragon! A real live Dragon!
It was Oberon,Spiraman of Omadin. Say's "It's my duty to protect the Point" all high and mighty. He could have showed up sooner or not at all. Another twenty minutes it would have been dark. Still though, he tore up the knolls. The rest of the giants just ran like babies. We pushed them back pretty easy and they just kept running. He didn't much hang around to talk, just said something about he was bound to protect the Point and gave us mortals a backhanded compliment on such as epic battle. Didn't say shit about section of wall he tore up or the buildings he tore apart. It was a sight though watching him in action.