Battle of Vimer Ridge
The request for assistance came in several forms. For those with links to the Imperials, the appealing note was written in formal terms and countersigned by Marshal Cassius. For those with links to Caelwyn, it was personal requests, or letters. For those of the Muster, the lure was simple - cold hard cash. In every case, though, the help needed was simple enough in context - in potential field actions somewhere on the East Bank. Travel was arranged beforehand - by heavy rotor-flitter, to catch up with a moving military column, it seems. But two things were not mentioned, nor given - the location of the operation, nor the target, til the fateful day. Operational security around the mission was high, with Li Halan intelligence agents working hard to keep matters in the dark.
What limited rumours there were relate to the departure of the Dragon Kegion and its entire logistics train on the road leading south from Akko a couple of weeks ago, and perhaps, the mysterious departure of the Port-Admiral's Squadron on 'manouvers' in the gulf at around the same time.
The flitters collect those of you from Akko and from Remle - and you journey swiftly southwards, the destination presumably being somewhere in the Teldam campaign area of the wild coast, around the battles in Johburg. Reaching Teldam and refuelling at a Li Halan military cantonment north of that town - it seems Countess Johburg has surrendered an element of her sovrenighty for assistance against the Kurgans, for the encampment is heavily fortified but flying the Li Halan flag, you have a few minutes to stretch your legs before the flitters take off again, but rather than flying further south, as you might expect, they arc out to sea and begin flying directly across the gulf, keeping low to the water to avoid coastal radar. You are heading directly for Rabaq, the coastal province that currently has its troops teeming in Johburg, and which Johburg claims at his own. Yet it seems the Countess' forces know nothing of this.
Sundiata is laying near on the ground staring up at the sky as he waits to see what is going to happen next. He looks down at his pendant containing his energy shield for a few moments, before deciding to stand up and do a few stretches. After taking a few stretches, he adjusts he practices sliding his rapier out of its scabbard a few times, and does the same with his medium revolver. His dragonfly is still on the ground as he continues with his stretches, "I knew I should went with another type of armor. I always feel clammy in this type."
Idonea is not exactly unused to such modes of transports and so, decked out in her Muster Plate and with her assault rifle on it's three-point harness she just sits smoking a roll up and waiting for the off. The only thing marking her out from many others of the guild on the planet being the crudely painted jumpgate cross on the front of her helmet. She's checked her weapons, checked her ammo, checked her squawker and fusion torch, checked her boots so all that's left to do is sit and smoke.
Naima rides in the flitter with the dust of Remle still on her heavy boots. The young Amalthean is armored for battle, field medic style. Compared to the young woman that departed Akko at the beginning of the campaign, she is perhaps shockingly thinner, battle-lean even in her face. Her medkit is pouched on her belt, and she even has a field knife strapped to her thigh--though it's mostly hidden by her cloak except for when she's moving.
Trisje is reasonably lightly armored looking, all things considered. Though the fact is she probably has her energy shield and replacement battery ready. And she does have a surprising number of pouches, all well strapped for mobility, but also easy access. She seems ready to take on an army. Aside from her usual plethora of knives - including an Ukari style Kraxi knife, she has a sniper rifle along as well.
The flyers move low over a beach and over the enemy coast. Below, the shattered remains of some field defenses can be seen, along with the cleared-up remains of a beach landing by a heavy force. It seems the local militia, confident that Johburg had troubles on its own shores, were not expecting anything of this nature to happen, and paid the price of overconfidence. Those familiar with warfare, however, might notice the great swathes of the beach turned to black glass - the hallmark of Firecracker Rounds, terrifying incendiary devices from the Emperor Wars, normally proscribed for use against any but Symbiots by Church edict.
Idonea finishes her roll up and grinds out the butt under the heal of her boot before taking a moment to look round the faces of the others in the transport. Naima gets a brief nod and a reasuring smile before she says quietly, "you need someone to keep an eye while you do stuff just let me know okay?" Then to Trisje, "not really the time to go into it now, but when we're done here I could with a word with you about some bandits I believe you were dealing with a while back. I'll come find you once this is done."
Linnea, having finished a final inspection of the ever-present medical tent and seen to a small host of logistics and supply issues despite the hour, lifts her eyes to the dark sky briefly as though to gauge the time, but no, her ears have picked up the throb of blades set to rent the air - the flitters en route and landing just on time. Gone are the find silks and filigree metals of her city attire, given over in favor of sturdy and protective clothing more suited to resisting mud and blood and air-borne toxins, the slippers and sandals of court exchanged for boots almost as heavy as the young woman herself. Smartly, she turns on a heel and heads to where the Lord General is likely to be attending other preparations.
Naima is largely innocent of all but some of the the surviving human remnants of warfare, so her grey-green eyes look down on the glassed beach with a degree of wonder and curiousity at water moving over something so shining and dark. Her gaze moves from the viewport to Idonea as she speaks, and the young woman offers the Muster Chaplain a shy smile in return. "I will, thank you, Sister." she replies quietly.
Trisje nods to Idonea. "Aye. I can do that." The questing knight says. Even as she starts to look outside, curious, her brows raising at what she sees and her head starting to shake back and forth. "That is probably going to piss of the Kurgans. Presuming they engage in similar holding back to us." She muses.
The flitters, who are full of assorted specialists, Imperials, muster personnel and of course, our heroes, have flown a jinking path through the landscape, keeping well away from townships that are currently defended only by static militia - the equivalent of the armsmen of the lands of the known worlders that huddle behind their walls while their great lords have taken the bulk of their armies to fight for land elsewhere. So as it has happened to the Known Worlders, so it is now happening to Rabaq. The rotorcraft set down at dusk outside a field encampment in an area of lightly forested hills, the air is fresher than in many places on Yathrib thanks to a breeze coming down towards the coast to the mountains. The camp is significant, and clearly only the main overnight camp of a large field army, with Li Halan and Dragon Legion banners flying overhead.
The muster troopers disembark, making their way towards their paymaster officers, past rank after rank of tents, past rows of tanks and armoured cars with the heraldry of the Twisted Spire blazoned across their flanks, and past artillery tractors bearing the sigil of Fallingfire on their bonnets and on the faceplates of the howitzers they tow. The others of you are gathered up and escorted to the command tents beneath the largest banners, where anti-aircaft cannon trace the skies. The actual command post is in fact not in those decoy tents, but in a dug-out in the copse of woods, and you are led on from the tent to this location where you are met by the Li Halan General Caelwyn and his seneshal Linnea. He nods to you all, formal and ice-featured, and waits til all are settled into chairs amid the rest of his officers before the briefing begins.
With nothing yet specifically to do, Idonea sticks herself to Naima's side, protect the healers and all that. Glancing round the encampment she uses what she can of the light to get a feel for the layout and strengh of the force assembled, whistling quietly to herself as she does so. "This is going to be an awefully big surprise for someone soon," she mutters before falling into step behind the waiting escort.
Trisje starts to head towards the Command tent, making sure to smile and offer assurances to the regular troops she sees. She even distributes some Questing Knight Cards! Seems someone understands the importance of symbolism to morale. The Emperor is on their side, and his finest are represented!
Sundiata scratches his head as he wonders why there are no knight-errant cards, or at the very least charming al-Malik investigator posters." Sundiatta riases his arms in a shrug, and slings the rifle around his shoulder as he makes way to the tent.
Naima still brushes her hood discreetly over her face as they disembark, even though it's under cover of darkness. She does observe carefully however, as she walks alongside Idonea. "It seems so," she agrees with her Sister quietly, deft fingers smoothing the fall of her cloak. As she reaches the bunker, her eyes widen as she spies Linnea at Caelwyn's side, for a moment her features animated rather than neutral-serene, though as Caelwyn bows so does she, and more deeply. And not half-bad, for a non-Li-Halan, before settling into a seat near the front.
"Sister Naima," Linnea murmurs softly, and, to the Void with propriety and the solemn occasion, the tiny Torenson moves to embrace her friend and offer a loving kiss to the priestess' cheek. She positively beams as she adds, "Bless the Pancreator for bringing us back together! But darling, you look like you have not eaten since I saw you last. Let me get something brought for us all."
With no apparent sign of imminant violence, Idonea releases teh chin strap on her helmet and removes it, placing it on the floor infront of her so tha she can rest her feet on it during the briefing. Or what she's asusming is going to be a briefing anyway. In a similar line of thinking she digs into the pouches on her belt and withdraws both a pre-rolled smoke and her lighter before proceeding to light up once more.
Naima's arms wrap around the tiny Torenson as well, her lips lingering warmly on Linnea's cheek. "I've missed you, azizati," she says softly. "Blessed we are that you've returned safely." She touches fingertips to Linnea's cheek, as if making sure she's still there. Though mindful of the others she settles into silence again, though her lips curve into a smile that lights her eyes. She brushes the hood back from her face as she resettles.
As he makes his way towards the camping ground, Sundiata eyes spot an ammunition dump that is under heavy guard. Sundiata taps his foot a few moments as he takes notices at the unusual high amount of guards that are watching this dump, and that they are all wearing anti-gas gear. Sundiata lets out a frustrated sigh, "Oh, Sunny boy, what you got yourself into this time?
Trisje merely gives a flourished bow to Caelwyn and then stands to the side to let matters get explained and others to greet those they seem to know. The woman just a bit late due to the morale aiding she did on the way!
Once everyone is seated, Caelwyn nods to one of the aguillette-shouldered operations officers, who raps on a large map of the Gulf with his swagger stick and then moves to another board on which a smaller image, looking like a starship or satellite shot has been blown up to A1 size, showing the immediate fifty miles around the encampment. Caelwyn nods his head to the officer, who steps into place to point out things at his General's command, and the Li Halan nobleman begins to speak. "Officers and men and women of the Known Worlds. As you now know, after our landing one week ago, we are currently one hundred and eighty five kilometers into the coastal Emirate of Rabaq. As yet, this information is not widespread outside of the milita forces that have been unfortunate enough to encouter the formation." The officer raps on the red X on the larger map.
The Li Halan general continues. "To all intents and purposes, we have maintained strategic surprise and a reasonable proportion of tactical surprise. Our target is the township of Castle Peak, a strategically vital location for the relief of Revelation." The adjustant taps on the map. This seems to be an unlikely thing, given how far away the town is from the Holy City and the fact it's on the other side of a giant mountain rage, but the Li Halan officer sounds entirely convinced of what he is saying.
Idonea frowns faintly as the claim about Revelation is made, but then she's not actually overly bothered about the why of this operation, just the how, the when and the where. One of which has just been answered well enough. Taking a drag on her smoke she continues to flick her attention between Caelwyn and the map as called for, not yet starting to make any notes.
Caelwyn continues. "The local defenses forces for this province, under a local commander by the name of Bighaz Muhammad al-Derj, have managed to rally themselves and are preparing to try to meet us in open battle. Our strikes on their communications structure have as yet prevented them from achieving this. Their numbers are not equal to ours, but we cannot afford to be bogged down in protracted combat, for if the Kurgans were to successfully divine our final objective, they would be forced without question to reinforce it, making our assault on Castle Peak all the more bloody. Speed and concentration of force have brought us this far, and we must maintain the momentum. Accordingly, tomorrow we will be launching a pre-emptive attack in the sector in which they are massing their field force, in an attempt to shatter its coherence and allow us to rapidly continue on to Castle Peak. Are there any questions at this stage? I will be outlining the battle plan momentarily."
The half-Kurgan Amalthean, laces her fingers together as she listens, though she seems to watch Caelwyn as much as she does the visuals. She tilts her head slightly as she regards the mountain range, biting lightly at one corner of her mouth as she regards the mountain range. Naima remains silent for now, her posture uncharacteristically still.
Trisje listens carefully, lips pursed in thought as she does, studying the map. For some reason she gets an almost amused smile on her face, as though some thought came to her at the last second. But then it sobers as the plan starts to be described and Trisje looks to Caelwyn with a more sober expression. "If this commander is a rallying point..." She takes a deep breath, "Is it something we should deal with?"
"Yes," replies Caelwyn in an impassive voice. "One team of Ishwin commandos has been assigned to sabotage the enemy headquarters and, if possible, eliminate the commander. Your particular skills, Dame Trisje, would be of particular use in that area, and I would like to offer you command of that element of the overall plan." Caelwyn's words are a direct escalation, as strikes on command elements and logistics are a hallmark of the Emperor Wars, not the so-called 'just wars' of Yathrib. He tilts his head, waiting to see if she will accept.
Trisje nods to that. "The Ishwin? That'll be a first." She says, a sad smile on her face. But a nod as well. "I'll do it." She takes a deep breath then. leaning back into her chair and crossing a leg over the other.
Caelwyn nods to the duty officer, who moves the satellite map forward on its tripod stand. "The enemy force is mustering at present as their troops trickle in, and is split into three field amps on the other side of this terrain feature - Vimer Ridge. The first is set up in centrally in and around this farm complex, and that contains the HQ element. The second is here, in this area of broken rock and rugged ground around the creek bed where it crosses what passes for the north-south pilgrim road, and that holds the majority of their infantry in a scattered encampment. The third, which provides their scouts and pickets, is the cavalry encampment, although they also retain an infantry/dragoon element similar to our armsmen."
"Our plan is relatively simple. While the sabotage element under Dame Trisje engages the HQ under cover of dawn and assassinates their commander, our armoured forces along with the allied crusader element will begin its assault on the infantry encampment. Sir Sundiata, Sergeant Idonea, I had intended for you to accompany this force, since it will contain both muster and crusader elements, which you are familiar with. You will not benefit from artillery cover during this assault." He pauses to let the noise go through the room, then explains. "Our howitzer company will be deploying FASCAM into the terrain between the infantry encampment and the HQ camp during your assault. Your job is to stampede, horrify and force the infantry to make their move and fall back onto the HQ. Into the minefield that is being laid in front and atop them."
While Caelwyn speaks, and such damning, terrible words they are, Linnea turns her dark-eyed attention to the gathered guests. Each face is searched, reactions weighed and noted in silence and without hiding her intense measure. Whatever the diplomat may be seeking, she offers nothing in the way of indication if it is found, merely returns her impassive gaze back to the Li Halan General after that time.
Naima's hands remain in her lap, though her fingers are tightly laced, almost white-knuckled, their tips digging in to her palms. Her expression remains rigidly serene, but she closes her eyes as he speaks and keeps them that way, her breath catching and shallow in her chest. For the moment, though, she remains outwardly silent.
Idonea starts taking notes once the map of the ridge is brought forwards. She makes a sketch map of her own, noting on it points of interest but particularly those at the infantry site since it looks like that's where she'll be fighting. Being basically a career soldier, she's all for effective plans rather than ones that get her killed in the name of making sure that the ruperts can hold their head high in society afterwards. Nodding silently to indicate she understands she plan she offers a couple of questions for clarification. "How many enemy are we expecting at that location and what sort of readiness or resistance on their part can we expect?"
"Another amazing plan basically comes down to me being part of a force that goes charging the enemy." Sundiata quips as he points in the direction of the ammunition dump, "All right, what is with all the people wearing gas masks outside. How does that fall into this little party?"
Trisje just nods, looking at the map carefully, the woman seems to be rather deep in thought right now.
"We expect that there will be between four and five hundred militamen in the encampment. You will be moving in with equal that force in ground troops, and the armour elements - a company of medium tanks and two of armoured fighting vehicles," replies Caelwyn to Idonea.
"The remainder of our truck-mobile ground forces will be moving to set up to drive off the cavalry element. Having them retreat will suffice, they cannot keep up with our convoy for long enough to concentrate to do more than harrying damage. Lady Linnea, Sister Naima, the medical station will be just behind the ridgeline, where the artillery will set up. There'll be a company of security troops to look after you."
He pauses at Sundiata's question and makes a sideways motion of his hand. "In this battle, Sir Sundiata, it does not. This is more than one battle for the fate of the world. The hard parts will come later."
Idonea nods in acknowledgement to that answer as she makes the appropriate notes alongside the sketch map, then adds a note as to where the healers will be stationed as well. THen it's time for hopefully her final question, "how up to date is your information? Do you have men watching them an dupdating you of their movements or is this the picture as of some period o time ago?" It's not an acqusatory question, or an agreesive one, she's just running things through in her head and wants to know how likely it is that things willbe close ot as pictured or if they've had chance tomove and change.
Naima remains quiet and still, eyes still closed, though her body language is attentive. Her hands still curl tightly in her lap. As she is named, her eyes open and she looks at Caelwyn again. "Understood, Your Excellency," is her soft reply.
Caelwyn, unlike some noble officers which lack chins, actually seems to consider this a perfect valid question from Idonea. "We have a recon platoon scattered along the ridge-line, and two LRRPs in the sector watching for reinforcements."
"I will want to see those reports too." Trisje says then, still looking thoughtful. "And obviously anything the Ishwin have gathered and their current plan of attack as well." She looks between the others with interest.
"Well, I am glad this is one of those easy parts in the fate of the world." Sundiata pulls his burnus over his head, "I guess all that is left to do is to tell the cooks to roast us some kippers, because we were be back after breakfast."
Idonea seems satisfied with that answer and nods once to indicate such and settles back into her chair to follow the rest of the briefing.
The night after this passes fairly quietly, as the preparations for the dawn raids get under way. The camp-beds that are provided are almost comfortable, and the tents are for a wonder, private. Quite a few of the muster company take advantage of Idonea - in that they go to get shriven. There are quite a lot of chaplains in this army anyway, but familiarity is key in such matters.
Trisje is shown the data regarding the movements of the pickets and sentries, and the defenses around the HQ camp, and the best places to potentially snipe the enemy commander from, and so forth. The mostly silent native-american-esque Ishwin do not seem resentful of Trisje being put in place over them, but then, they might not feel resentful if punched in the face, either.
The allied Crusaders, small units of ten or fifteen men under indiviual knights and lords, numbering around four hundred, make Sundiata welcome, and also try to get him drunk. In the pre dawn darkness, they form their men up.
The artillery is towed into position, and the medial camp is dug out and sandbags filled, following Naima and Linnea's instructions.
Despite the influx of the suddently faithful that always happens before battle is joined, Idonea does manage to get some sleep, having long ago perfected the trick of sleeping where ever she can close her eyes. With dawn appraching though she's back on her feet, armed and armoured and sat having a last smoke and cup of khaf with the rest of the Muster contingent. Were it not for the vast amount of plate and weapons around it could almost be a merely social gathering given the relaxed nature of it. There's a job to do, and some of them won't be coming back from it, but no point in worrying about that now after all. The Pancreator's Will will be done.
Naima moves about in quiet preparation, almost as if in ritual--though the dark-haired healer does not sleep. She gives gentle instruction, checks everything twice, though once everything is as prepared as it is going to be, she finds a perch atop one of the sandbag walls, still protected from view, and within sight of the horizon where the sun will eventually rise. She watches the sky and stars as if seeking some sort of sign, her drawn face solemn, and a white silk scarf trailed meditatively through her fingers. She occasionally brushes a saint's medallion at her left wrist, winding the scarf about her right.
Sundiata does spend sometime among the allied Crusaders telling some pretty outlandish tells involving Sundiata solving century old mysteries for a Hawkwood Countess, before going to spend the night writing messages to the administrators to Gant, and another to his noble sister in Aylon. He goes the sleep without drinking in alcohol, so he can start the day with his usual pre-mission routine. When he awakens, he makes sure he has enough ammo him, and batteries charged for his shield. He takes out a small razor and mirror, and touches up his facial hair, before rejoining the crusaders.
Giving over command of the medical area to Naima, Linnea makes herself available to each of the guests, ensuring everyone is as comfortable and content as can be in such a brutal atmosphere, before she too retires - but not to her bed, sleep will come later for the Seneschal. There is -always- something needing doing in the Command tent, and so that is where she takes up the last of the night's hours, resolving minor mishaps, updating reports and so forth.
Trisje seems to be in her element with the Ishwin, silent or not. She is as well. But definitely seems to be asking them what their plan is and ready to work with it. Pointing out a few little things here and there, but seemingly willing to trust them otherwise. But the fact is, this is her element. And she has become rather somber, even if she seems comfortable.
The Ishwin commandos prepare earlier, along with Trisje, for they have to be at work before dawn comes. The plan is not overly complicated - they will infiltrate the outskirts of the HQ camp, plant explosives and sabotage devices, and then use recoilless rifles to strike the sleeping commander's tent area while the bombs go off. Then, once he rushes out - Trisje can introduce him to a bullet. The Ishwin are unusual soldiers - natives of a free tribal confederacy, sworn to various families of the Li Halan in order to secure nomadic rights. The three tribes sworn to Caelwyn send warriors each year as tithe - their best hunters. They all carry jumpcrosses aroudn their throats, but also leather medicine bags and strung coyote teeth and eagle feathers on their dogtags.
Many say it is always darkest before the dawn, and Trisje seems to be using this to the fullest effect. Complete with nightvision goggles to help her lead the way and hold up a hand to guide the Ishwin. Very serious business now! And despite the patterns of guards, she somehow manages to slip by and find the right path in. Ducking spot lights, hiding against walls. Somehow, they make it seem easy. Even if it really, really shouldn't be.
Sometimes, objectives change. And when things seem to be going very well. It is best to make certain the mission succeeds. Especially when those explosives are expensive and might be used elsewhere. Even while trying to look forthe best places to set the explosives, other options appear, the skeins of fate intervene. And Trisje changes the objective. No, this is going to end with the knife. And while the bodyguards continue to do their thing, Trisje and her team still somehow slip through, rapid, silent as the night breeze.
Through a fold under the tent. Trisje slips in, just as silent as before she makes it to the bed and draws that wicked knife, and even as she covers his mouth and gives him a new, crimson smile, she is whispering sadly. "I am sorry. May the Pancreator accept you into his arms." Yet then it is done, and she turns to slips back out, leaving only a single card. A Black Hand upon it. Her expression now immensely saddened.
The Ishwin and the Questing Knight-turned assassin exit the set of hastily-fortified farm buildings and leave in their wake quiet incomprehension of what has just occurred - a set of lethal surprises, and one career in the service of lord, the local people, and the kurgan faith brutally cut short. No saint was Bighaz Muhammad al-Derj, but no great sinner either, and his blood slowly pools beneath him. Without his co-ordination, however, and his skill, the battle will be far harder for his leaderless men. Taking up a defensive position in a pre-prepared 'hide' in a large formation of thorny scrub on the Kurgan side of Vimer Ridge, the ishwin and their long-gun-wielding companion hunker down to wait for chances to swing the battle.
The minutes tick down to dawn, the men deploying into their vehicles and starting their engines, the foot soldiers and petty cavalry forming up into their loose skirmis-formation ranks. The order has gone out that bans banner-poles for each Crusader's retinue, which means that roughly a fifth of the force is now able to use a weapon rather than carry a flashy flag. Sundiata and Idonea board their rattling and growling tracked transports, the muster company forming up independently of the crusaders with the remit to force the infantry not to retreat up the creek bed but to turn aside if they try - a holding action.
With the order to move out the helmets go back on and the kahf gets left behind and while no smokes are extinguished prematurely, no new ones are lit. Check armour, check equipment, check the guy next to you's armour and equipment. It's a long standing routine and one thats completed with little fuss or hassle before the nod is given that all is set and the Muster take up their position ready for the off.
Now out and in position to offer harassing fire and of course, that other shocking and explosive surprise, Trisje looks to still be sad. Her nightvision removed, her hide set up and a shot loaded. Now it is just the waiting game. Plenty of time with her own thoughts, alone even with the six Ishwin accompanying her mere feet away.
Her duties as discharged as they can be at the moment, Linnea adheres herself to her Guardian's side as much as he will permit, exchanging the occasional murmured word, pointed glance, helpful suggestion. As Caelwyn's Seneschal, she has her own set of instructions to follow once the Lord General has departed, but it is clear that the young Torenson is loathe to be parted from him until absolutely necessary.
Sundiata checks his armor, and weapons again. "Like a drunk guy in a bar fight. It is always comes down to rushing someone." Sundiata looks over at the Crusaders, "Always an honor." Sundiata turns on his energy shield, and prepares to fight.
With everything in the medical tent at the ready, and only time before her, Naima stays in her solitary vigil. Her gaze moves towards the area she knows that the attack will take place in, though it's likely hidden from her view. Her eyes are wide, as if the bear witness, and alone she sings a prayer softly, fingers brushing against the cross-and-grail pendant nestled at the base of her throat. She lifts her thoughts heavenward and outward, tears spilling down her cheeks, even as her tone is one of praise.
Caelwyn clambers into the cupola of his command tank, the radio aerials whipping the air from the back of the turret, lifting a hand in salute and farewell to Linnea, and motioning her back to the medical station. He cranks the seat up, to let him sit shouders and head out of the TC hatch. Communications silence is broken, and the orders go out over the squawkers to the heads of groups of crusaders, to tank commanders and truck convoy leaders. Engines roar, breaking the pre-dawn quiet. Horses whinny and buck, and the racking of bolts on rifles fills the air like a rapid-fire threshing machine turned on for a brief minute. Dust flies in the air as the treads hurl the vehicles forward, scudding across the ridge and down the slope towards the infantry camp, whose sentries begin to sound the alarm even as the chainguns begin to fire. Idonea's muster company bounces in their trucks and transports to the blocking position in the stream-bed, while Sundiata's footsldiers begin their quick march down to combat range, ready to drive the enemy before them.
Idonea is not in the vanguard as the Muster troops pour out of the trucks and into position along the stream bed, but that doesn't mean she's hanging back. Most people may call her 'sister' but there's also that 'sergeant' bit in there too and she's using it now as she gets the newer recruits moving and 'encourages' them to keep focused. There's certainly a good stream of words there that she wouldn;t use on consecrated ground, but then this is another kind of work and if it keeps them alove then she's not going to be sorry for it.
Maybe it's becuase this isn't her company and so the troops aren;t used to the way she handles things, or maybe they didn;t have their breakfasts this morning, what ever the reason though, the troops with Idonea just don't seem to be taking to her that well. Nor infact, does she seem to be on top form either as a spray of bullets from her rifle go wide of their mark causing a few more muttered curses and then a quickly improvised apolgetic prayer, just in case.
Crack. Trisje has seen a sergeant who seems to be rallying some of the defenders. And with the slightly flick off her finger, a bullet ends that little charade even as the Kurgans duck, not knowing what is happening. You paged Fiamma with 'So if I understand how to best defend the Federation, then I'm doing my duty!'
With the trauma tent and safely surrounded by her guardsmen and the soldiers standing watch over the medicos, Linnea peers out across the way, trying to see what she can see of the unfolding skirmish whilst listening to the com chatter - a difficult goal, but necessary. The first shells of the morning flick an energizing switch in the tiny Torenson. Gone is the faint gaiety of her usual demeanor, and the vague worry from the departure, this Lin is all brisk business and efficiency.
There that familiar rush of ecstatic bliss that comes over him once the battle finally begins, and Sundiata sinks his rapier into the first man he sees. He strokes the back of the man's hair as he pulls his rapier from him and he lets out a gleeful shout to his comrades "Let their blood marked our victory! Onwards!" The crusaders that are close enough to hear his shouts press forward with more determination.
Her hymn finished, Naima pauses for a moment after the noise of the shells. She remains poised for a moment, then soundlessly dries her face with the scarf, keeping it against her lips for several calm heartbeats, before tucking it back into her tunic. She turns away from her perch, slipping down from it and driving towards where Linnea is, a quiet presence.
The assault crashes home into the Kurgan infantry camp as it begins to rouse to the sound of their sentries' alarms. The crack of hidden rifle fire eliminates opportunistic officers wih grim precision as Trisje strokes her trigger, and the Crusaders, full of the urge for first blood - and also the chance to plunder the camp full of soldier's loot - hammer into the kurgan lines. The kurgans recoil, trying to regroup and falling back to regroup again, the 'tide' of the battle shifting to flood troops towards the creek bed, where the muster wait to hold the line. However, the press of the enemy against their ranks is greater than expected, and even in two ranks of rippling rifle fire, bodies begin to fall, wounded or killed, as the blockign force is pushed back and back.
Trisje is still obviously sad if the Ishwin can see her face. But despite that, it is almost methodical. Pull the trigger, eject the shell, load. Start aiming again, adjust. Find the target. Pull the trigger. Repeat. Even with the chaos of battle, that is the thing she perpetuates. Chaos.
As the battle starts to rage, the casualties begin coming in, arriving at the medical station on the back of cloth stretchers carried by sweating men and women as they rush back and forth into the crucible of battle bringing out the wounded and the hurt, the ripped and the dying. The grim business of the butcher's bill.
Linnea has her sleeves up and her expression set into the Torenson's neutral mask, ready to take in the injured as they are delivered. A barked word, a gesture, an occasional regretful shake of her head - these are the fates of the soldiers coming in for attention, delivered between bouts of bandaging and other stop-gap care. No Hippocrates, the Amalthean-trained diplomat still works efficiently and smoothly, even as she moves around the small space with Naima to reduce the bodycount as much as possible.
As the casualties start rolling in, and the medical tent moves into its chaotic-seeming coordination, Naima sees nothing but those who are brought to her when they clear the first hurdles of triage. Her expression is openly compassionate, even as she must set bones and stitch before anesthetic takes effect, staunch arterial blood, cauterize, snip--and then move on to the next, stripping off gloves and sanitizing as best she can and leaving other attendants to do the cleanup. Her rhythm is a prayer, even as she sees every soldier brought before her, loves them, sends them on.
Idonea isn't so much as holding a position for now, moving moving up and down the line, hauling wounded back or offering support (verbal or ballistic) as required. One thing she's not doing though is shutting up, whether it's a shout of encouragement here, a reprimand for loosing focus there, or even a reminder that that lot over there are a bunch of heathens that need stopping for the good of the Pancreator. Whichever way though, there's language in there colourfull enough to make even a hardened sailor blush. It seems to be slowly working though as the push back slows and the mercs mamaged to check the forced retreat and start to dig in.
And even as things continue, Trisje spots another Kurgan leader - a subcommander who is rapidly helping to push thing into a cohesive line, rallying the forces and making the right calls. But he is wearing armor, and armor has holes. And it is one of those that Trisje shoots into, dropping still another of the officers who might have saved this day.
Sundiata is having a more difficult time with his next opponents, until he finally finds the only vulnerable part of his opponent's body. After a quick thrust of his rapier, another Kurgan is castrated. Sundiata's gleeful laugh as he steps over the man to pursue another opponent does not help to rally those close by him.
The trio of heavy tanks crashes through the thornbush perimeter of the cavalry camp, smoothbore guns belching flechette canisters and the hull and turret coaxials spitting rapid fire death, the TCs, Caelwyn included, swivelling their pintle-mounted machine guns to hose the area. Appalled at the sudden appearance of seemingly invulnerable metal monsters, the weapons to breach such steel behemots in the HQ encampment , the cavalry break and run, scattering themselves in an uncohesive mess across the landscape as they desperatly try to escape the battle.
The kurgan infantry are starting to stiffen but are in a fighting retreat, just as desired by the battle plan. If the muster forces can hold the line a little longer, they will deflect the retreating troops currently being harried forward by Sundiata's crusaders into the waiting minefield.
A troop of fleeing Kurgan cavalry, however, wheel towards the nest in which Trisje and the Ishwin are lurking, seemingly guided by one of their number who has stiffened in his saddle and suddenly pointed unerringly to the launcher of the murderous sniper fire, and they gallop at full pace across the plain, crashing into the bushes with sabres and pistols.
Sundiata is already swept up in this ballet of death. He sticks his rapier deep into the eye of his opponent, pulls the remains of the eye and brain matter off his rapier, and tosses at his next opponent, before he closes the distances and guts the kurgan. Sundiata lets out an orgasmic howl, "The Lord General wanted them to fear us! I cannot smell their fear yet!"
And then come the Cavalry! Unfortunately, even they are not enough before the Ishwin and the Questing Knight. As suddenly the slender woman is amongst them like some sort of graceful dancer, slicing her way through with her knives and launching others to stop the sortie trying to end her reign of death, only to become the latest victims...
Sundiata's progress seems to have given the Kurgan's facing the Muster a fresh wind and despite the hail of bullets issuing forth from the mercs their line is starting to buckle once more under the pressure. Spotting the weakness forming, Idonea pushes back up the line yelling abuse and encouragment in similar doses and firing off a few (largely inneffectual) rounds into the oncoming forces. As she reaches the critical point in the line it becomes apparent that someone has been taking lessons from Trisje as all the officers and sergeants for that section are down. Muttering a mixture of curses and prayers together she watches for a few moments as the corprals fail to regain the cohesion required before figuring that there's only one thing for it and steps up to be the gobby fucker in the line of fire herself. It seems to be slowly working, but not quickly enough and so for extra added motivation she scrambles for their unit banner and plants it firmly in the ground a yard or two infront of the line. "I'll take the name and nuber of any fucker found abandoning that standard," she calls, laying down a bit more fire into the Kurgan lines as she does so. Maybe it was the prayers, maybe she just scared the enough, but it seems to work and teh line solidifies around it's new position in time to deflect the kurgans into the artillery fire. Trisje's opposite number has the last laugh though as the flag planeting had been enough to pain a great big target over the chaplain's brestplate which rapidly becomes peppered with fire. It does a grand job all told, stopping most of them, but there's only so much one piece of armour can manage and in the end several rounds smash through it before she drops.
No rest for the wicked, or those that stitch up the wicked when the wickedness is temporarily finished, and so Linnea slogs through the waves of injured, dying and dead. For such a frail noblewoman, she is nigh inexhaustible and does not shy from of all the gore and filth of her work. When the patients start to turn up Kurgan, she speaks to them in their own tongue as they are treated with no stint of her modest skills. As the wounds come in more and more horrific, bandages and balm are set aside in favor of waxen cord and needles, hot irons and tourniquets. A particularly mangled leg is marked for removal with a colored tie; that patient ordered to join Naima's slowly growing pile. And then, Idonea is spotted, and delicate little Linnea proves all those years on the battlefront have left their mark on her tongue by dropping a bit of a verbal bomb, and calling for Naima, stat. The Kurgan about to lose his leg can wait.
Naima strips off her surgical gown underlayer in exchange for another with little modesty in the medical tent and accepts a cup of water in the very brief lull, as well as a cloth to wipe the sweat from her dusky forehead. Then it is another softly murmured prayer, as she preps the surigical area again. She offers Linnea a brief kiss to the cheek as she passes, touches a few hands here and there, as if she gains strength from reaching out to others as well. Tools are laid out, bandages and sponges prepped, the next round of anesthetics prepared for the very lucky and rare few.
Once the first waves of Kurgans come through she will speak words of quiet comfort in Kurgan, even to those unconscious, as she works, her comforting touch no less than it was towards her father's people. But her focus is on what is to do, what must be done, and what she can do. At Lin's voice she looks up immediately, and moves to her side. Her clinical expression softens, and she touches the chaplain's forehead very gently and tenderly before beginnning her work.
As the medical teams work their best effort on friend, and as much as they can give on foe, for the Li Halan teams are bringing in the Kurgan wounded, although lower down the triage lists, the artillery continues to bark. The retreating Kurgan infantry have stumbled into the middle of the perfectly targeted artilery-spread minefield, and the howitzer-fired projectiles blossom into orbs that burrow into the ground and throw out tripwires, only for them to be sprung by kurgan feet to leap up to launch ball-bearing blasted death at waist height. For all intents and purposes, as the HQ units retreat, the cavalry are utterly routed, and the infantry shocked, appalled, and degenerating into an any-man-for-himself scramble, the battle is over.
Naima takes a moment after the surgery is done, and even slips the Muster an analgesic--and without asking for risk of a refusal. She tucks a blanket gently over covered stitches. "You'll have to try to not curse for the next few days. At least nothing with any hard consonants," she teases her. "Don't undo all our hard work. And get some rest, dear one. I'll make sure you get a full report when you wake."
Trisje and the Ishwin come back to the camp, walking in, bloodstains on their clothes and even on their faces. But like vengeful demons they walk in like they are merely returning from Sunday brunch. Trisje's face the one that's odd, despite the blood spatter, it almost looks as though there might be tear trails as well.
Sundiata is wiping his rapier on the ground while chatting to a fellow crusader, "Yes, I think the Kurgans learns that beneath this charming and handsome exterior beats the heart of a ruthless, and sadistic maniac." Sundiata starts to count the number of kurgans that he killed, "I hate ending on an odd set of numbers. I hope the battle was worth it, and the spoils are worth it too.
From his tank cupola, the heavy vehicle sat atop the ridge line, Caelwyn surveys those that have fought bravely and boldly, fiercely and well, in pride, and in sorrow, in heartache and in triumph. While the Kurgan are scattered, there are no few Known Worlders on the field that will not breathe again, from muster troopers dying for their pay, to crusaders that have fought their last fight for the Pancreator atop this ridge, to those that slaver over the impending plunder, and those of the Li Halan so far from the garden worlds to fall on a nameless field. In the annals of the crusade, however, this place is now and forever Vimer Ridge, and these are the men and women that fought and died there, saints and sinners both - in the cause of Holy War.