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A Tale of Shadows (Change of Pogrom pt 2). (Cutlass 9/19/18)


Robeire Renee Rouseau had returned to Mainz with Tomas de Marchand to update Henri le Violeur on the events in Montpelier, while Nemo McMoridin, Paul Klee , Jasc Bonadventure and I remained to help with cleanup and reconstruction. Jean LeBeouf, an associate of Nemo and myself, accompanied by a man named Rolfe d’Ambray had been traveling on their on their own business via Montpelier and decided to join in the efforts. Louis Brighteyes, another soldier of the Vert Valliant, had arrived bearing Jasc Bonadventure’s Major’s commission and authorization to take over the remaining soldiers in town and their official assignment as garrison to Montpelier.

The extra hands proved providential, for the Serbian invaders, thought defeated, proved to be the vanguard of a larger force assembled in the nearby woods, and one morning the village unexpectedly was stormed. The three-hundred fifty, or so, remaining villagers (Including the Elders of the Anti-Baptists) were quickly herded to the town heights while the fresh invaders claimed the entrances to the village and began a press into the interior. Our two-hundred eight remaining soldiers were vastly outnumbered by the six assorted infantry, cavalry and artillery companies pushing forward.

Our initial response was uncoordinated. Jasc’s troopers hadn’t adjusted to him being their official commander yet, and the new Major’s troops nearly broke morale from the false feeling of riding to battle without a leader. My own attempts to inspire the men fell on deaf ears. Nemo took the initiative and began forming his own sub-company to skirmish forth, while Louis Brighteyes Ordered the remainder of the company. It was Jean who discovered the Serbian agents planted in our own forces. Thrown into momentary disarray the agents were disposed of, but the men needed to be Rallied back to action. The Serbian infiltration seemed a sign from above that the battle would be doubly bloody.

Rolfe d’Ambray was the first to order his squad and venture forth against the Serbians. His initial charge pushed a Serbian infantry unit from High Town. Paul Klee organized a unit of pike and pistoleers. The selected soldiers proved sound marksmen, and Paul's soldiers routed the Fasci Friars directing the Serbians from High Town. Louis Brighteyes charged his warriors in scattered the Serbian infantry and completed to recapture of High Town.

The Major led troops towards Low Town. His attempts to dupe the artillery force setting up in Low Town into redirecting their fire. To his chagrin he discovered that while cannon in narrow streets have limited arcs of visibility, shattering stone debris in close quarters is as deadly as any bouncing ball. Some forty soldiers lost their lives and the Major was forced to Rally his unit. Nemo finally succeeded in Rallying his squad, led a lightning raid through the enemy lines to flanks behind the Serbians in the Market. Nemo stealthy slew the unit commander with a skillful dagger thrust, then circled back through the narrow streets to emerge in Low Town where his flanking attack cleared the Serbian cannon crews. Jean LeBeouf pressed against the Cavalry that surrounded the town Armory. He held his line, sending half of his men through alley and byway to execute a triple-pronged action which disordered the foe. LeBeouf’s actions completed clearing the north, east and west quadrants of Montpelier. All that remained was the south, where the remaining Serbian cavalry and cannon occupied the Market.

Rolfe d’Ambray received a message with orders to disengage and lead soldier and civilian alike out of town. The signature could not be verified, for Rolfe tore the order in twain and trampled it in the mud. It was then his nose detected the telltale odor from the freshly-wet mud. During the prior assault, levees had been breached to flood the streets. The Serbians took that strategy a step farther. The sewage system had been holed, and raw offal was flowing through the streets. The filth added a new element to the battle by increasing chance of infection and death from serious wounds. Yet, Rolfe pushed into the Market. His screaming attack surprised the Serbian Cavalry, and the invaders were quickly unhorsed. The French defenders were unable to fully capitalize on the disrupted Serbian formation. Seventeen defenders fell. Paul Klee’s squad entered the Market. Confronted by a swirling mass of mixed uniformed fighting in a close quarter swirl, Paul’s unit was faltering and fearful, and in momentary danger of falling into disarray.

Louis Brighteyes marched his men towards the Market for what was shaping up to be an exceptionally finale to the battle. His plan had been to engage, feign retreat, then rotate around the enemy cavalry. Confronted with the wild melee his troops instead positioned around the perimeter streets. The Major also moved his troops into the Market. Jasc quickly assessed the situation and directed his men to grab the milling Serbian horses, and just like that, our infantry became cavalry while the Serbian cavalry became infantry.

Nemo’s troops had also redeployed to the Market and taken advantage of the newly-available horses. He attempted to motivate his men with promises of foreign gold and charged the Serbian cannon set up in the Market. The Serbian cannon belched fire - the rounds missed Nemo’s unit, but the balls tore through the buildings at the edge of the Market to fall and explode on the heights. We later learned over one-hundred twenty innocents were slain in the blasts.

I had led my men into the Market, and those brave solders closed ranks with the Artillarists. I leapt from my force, engaged the Serbian unit commander, broke the leg lock he attempted, then pinned him to the dirt with the point of my rapier. Le Boeuf’s horsemen thundered through behind mine, cutting down the Serbs with uncontested thrusts of their daggers. Rolfe and Paul brought their units into the fray, but were unable to effectively engage. Louis Brighteyes was the Cunning commander able to exploit the weaknesses in the enemy re-deployment and finally rout the Serbians once and for all. The Serbians turned out to be an Elite unit and Louis was justly renowned for the final victory!

In the aftermath, Major Jasc Bonadventure assembled his remaining company of some hundred-fifty French fighters and dubbed them the “Legion de Fer, Garrison of Montpelier.” Then began the cleanup of the carnage and the continuation of reconstruction. While disposing of the Serbian corpses it was discovered that the first unit commander cut down by Nemo McMoridin in the Market was Sem, known as the “King’s Protector” (to the Serbian monarch), overall commander of the Serbian forces. Nemo’s action was more significant than it seemed at the time, for the loss of their Major explained how quickly the Elite forced invading Montpelier were so quickly defeated by a new Company still exhausted from the prior engagement.

With the defeat of the Serbians and the completion of battle it seemed all that remained was to seek the final disposition of the Bishop. Yet the man proved surprisingly hard to reach in the denuded town. The townsfolk, impressed at the sight of Rolfe’s initial charge to battle chose to throw a celebration in his honor. Montpelier’s Lord High Mayor, Leblanc, was jealous of the attention paid. Could Leblanc have whispered words in the ears of the town’s remaining ruffians? Frank Lowe and his gang were notable in Montpelier as a thug and one outspoken against the Anti-Baptists. “I used to own this town until you showed up,” he sneered. Paul listened to the braggart’s words, smirked, grabbed a lit torch from a nearby sconce and waded into the gang. Faced with a madman wielding open flame Lowe’s associates chose the path of better valor - a deed which brought much esteem to Paul from the town. Louis Brighteyes placed a pistol round into the dirt in the heels of the fleeing thugs, dismissed the lone Lowe and ambled off to find a drink. Surprisingly, Lowe chose not to retreat with his gang. Instead he lunged for Jasc’s throat. The two men tumbled to the ground. Nemo and I drew our pistols and waited while the Major broke Lowe’s grasp. Nemo stepped forward, catching Lowe’s eye, distracting the vile thug. I emptied my pistol into a second floor windowsill, dropping stone and brick on Lowe, and laid him low in the befouled mud.

Of course it was at that moment when a patrol of the Legion de Fer, then charged with keeping the peace, arrived. Brawling was an offense subject to arrest in those days of reconstruction. We assumed the soldiers would drag Lowe away and that would be all, yet the patrol failed to recognize their Major through the mud caked on his uniform from his tumble. Fortunately for those loyal soldiers, Nemo was able to correct the error - for it’s an impediment to a soldier’s career to arrest his own commander!

The Major stopped off for a change of clothes before meeting us at the inn where the celebration was in full swing. The townspeople still remembered the skill with the bow Jasc had displayed on our initial visit to Montpelier - indeed, many still called him “William Tell” - and his troops wished to see their Major’s prowess for themselves. Instead of shooting at a target standing atop a horse, the men wished Jasc to reproduce the feat of the man who’s name had become Jasc’s; shooting an apple from a man’s head. Thomas de Marchand, freshly returned from Mainz, was the only man with the combination of bravery, foolishness and inebriation to volunteer to be the target stand. Tomas held his hat held ready to “swat aside the arrow” if need be, but the questionable precaution was not needed. Jasc’s shot was true. The inn erupted in cheers of “Major Bonadventure!” and “William Tell!” and coins were showered upon Jasc in celebration. Jasc, laughing, gathered up the bounty and bestowed it upon Tomas for being a willing participant. This combination of martial skill and Lordly grace greatly impressed all so much that Antoine le Chapeau, former commander of the newly renamed and reformed Legion de Fer pledged his loyalty to his new commander and led the assembled revelers in a new round of toasts. In a move that could only cement the Legion’s high opinion of Jasc, he named Antoine le Chapeau as second in command.

The following morning, with the revels ended, and the tired and hungover soldiers and citizens returning to the work of reconstruction, we were finally granted an audience with Bishop Absalon. The Bishop seemed indifferent to our success. Despite our aid in saving Montpelier from perishing in an un-winnable battle, and despite the new-found feelings of camaraderie between all the townsfolk, Anti-Baptist and other, His Excellency groused that our initial contract was to remove the Anti-Baptist Elders from his parish. The fact that the Bishop still had a church and a flock to attend was enough to “curb his ire,” but we were not to expect more in the way of gratitude.

There’s just no pleasing some people!


   Hugo Marque Lamarr

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Mission 25, Fear the Smiling Foe pt. 1 (Cutlass 9/19/18) -- Hugo Marque Lamarr (posted: 9/23/2018) 
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