1865-12-14: The Last Stand of Avondil
Title
Summary: The fall of Avondil, and the realization the Tirian horde is larger than expected.
Date: 1865-12-14
Related: Related Logs (If there aren't any, use None. Don't this entry leave blank. If there is a log, use full URLs, like MemoirTitle)
Players:
Nadine  Elrick  

They had come, Elrick was afraid of this scenario but he had relaxed slightly when word of t'Fleur's fall had reached Avondil. He had initially shared his worries with his cousin that the plan that was found on the barbarian chieftain was a fake, to split and lure some of the Northern forces away. But when the Lord General received word of t'Fleur lands, that put a rest to the idea. Then the scouts brought news of the barbarian army approaching.

It is night but Elrick's camp is busy, the heir himself inside his pavilion giving instructions to his knights who are commanding either the Irregulars or the levies, "Sir Garm, you will be in charge of the reserve group. Keep them mounted, you must be ready to assist at a moment's notice. Not just our lines, but any other near us if they need it. We must hold, we must buy time."

The flap to the t'Tremaine pavilion is pulled open, and Nadine steps in, already fully armored and armed, though she is carrying her helm at her side. Her hair is tightly braided to her scalp, and she looks grim.

Grimmer than normal.

"Any of your men who aren't ready to sortie," she says quietly, without preamble, "need to begin breaking down the camp. Focus on the most important items first." Outside, the noise of the camp at night has gotten louder, the sounds of movement, shouts and calls and things being stacked and sorted.

Sir Garm bows his head at the command issued by the heir, signifying his understanding and acceptance of the matter. It appears that this long period spent in the north, this frozen war, has earned Elrick the respect of his men with his ability to command and ability to kill, ruthlessly and effectively. If there were questions within the men coming into this campaign, they will be leaving with no doubts, if they live.

Hearing the flap open, the men turn to see who the new arrival is. After seeing Nadine, Elrick and the rest bow respectfully, "Commander." He greets at first, then nods to the rest, "You heard her, you have your orders. Keep the men's spirits up and we will be victorious. For the One and for our House!" A sharp acknowledgement in unison with matching salutes from the knights is the reply and as they file out of the pavilion, they offer a final bow of departure to the Lady Knight, closing the flap behind them.

Nadine gives Elrick a brief but tight smile. She moves towards him, leaning up and kissing his cheek lightly— the only concession she seems to be willing to make to their relationship, such that it is. After, she is back to all business.

"The numbers are greater than we thought," she says quietly, meant only for his ears. "The General has already ordered the townfolk of Avondil to prepare to move towards Valetta." It would be a hard march for them, and strange to do— unless the numbers were truly that overwhelming.

Without addressing that further, she says quietly, "The forces are already moving out to escort them to the fortress. Avondil will fall by morning." Very grim. "We will buy them time to get those who cannot defend themselves to safety."

The urge to wrap his arms around Nadine is there but Elrick manages to temper said urge, it does help that she is fully armored and armed with pointy things. A similar, thin smile does appear after he is kissed. "Greater? Damn… what did they bring with them to take Tirhold?" A rhetorical question, one where the answer is meaningless at this point with the savages knocking on their front door. "The Lord General, I hope he has already departed?" Their Liege must not fall, not this soon and if he lingers, so will the t'Tremaine forces.

"He's leaving with the next to last group," Nadine says. The Lord General wasn't the sort of man to be unwilling to risk himself, but he was also prudent. "We form the rearguard," and she lifts a brow. "I heard you had made request to hold the rear line, and I will not let you do so alone." A brief smile ghosts across her lips. "Besides, being a shield for the north is my duty."

There is traces of worry when Nadine lets him know that she will be joining him at the rearguard, something Elrick is unable to avoid despite her fame with her byname. "Snowshield… we will need your shield tonight. My Irregulars are trained for this, they can move swiftly." There is a pause before he adds, "If my men on foot are separated from me and the other cavalry, I have ordered my men who command them," Mainly the levy and soldiers on foot, "To seek you out and follow your orders. They will be yours for the remainder of the campaign until I return."

Nadine frowns momentarily, but says nothing, simply nodding. "Well…" she steps back slightly. "I just wanted to tell you." She could have sent a messenger, fo course, but seeing him— that was really what she had wished. And that's clear enough. She looks… less than confident for a moment or so. If nothing else can give Elrick a sense of the forces that are closing on Avondil…

…that might.

Having her here, any doubts that Elrick may have had in reserve had evaporated. He does sense her uneasiness, his smile growing as reaches out to take one of her hands, "I am glad, Nadine, that you will be with me. My spirits have been renewed and no matter how many they throw at us, we will butcher them on our fortifications." There is a pause before he adds, "And I won't remain a moment longer than necessary, I don't plan on dying here in the North." His House still needs him though that is a secondary concern right now, with the horde bearing down on them.

Nadine shakes her head slightly. "They might," she murmurs. "But One willing, we won't be here to see it. We are the rearguard— but we are not to hold unless we must. We withdraw to Valetta at dawn."

Yes, that means holding Avondil, perhaps, as the horde surges upon it, until the light breaks the horizon, and then a ride while fighting and holding back the horde to the fortress some six hours ride away, after a night of no sleep.

"Your irregulars and men afoot will be released to travel to the fortress as soon as we can spare them," she says quietly. "Otherwise, they will be overrun."

"They know their duty, they will hold until released." Elrick says with a nod, his confidence in his men absolute even if the levy may not be as firm in their conviction. He can only hope that the knights that lead them will either rally their spirits or put enough fear in them that turning their backs to the barbarians will mean certain death, not just for themselves but everyone else. "I look forward to first light." He knows that even if they pull back and withdraw towards Valetta, there will still be fighting while in transit.

"Eat something," Nadine advises. "And make sure your men do, too. One watch over you, Elrick." And she departs the pavilion before he can respond.

Her sudden departure was a surprise to Elrick, but he doesn't call out to her. He knows that duty have set their course, any personal feelings that they may have for each other, now is not the time. Duty, the ever heavy mantle they wear. Her suggestion makes sense though, food will be good as he does not know when he will have time to eat again. "The One shield you as well, Nadine. May he watch over us all."

Only a few short hours had passed, and the camp outside of Avondil was a ghost town, empty, though a few tents and other bits of the hastily broken camp remained to mark its place. Avondil itself was all but abandoned, with only a last remaining group fo troops holding the fortified town… though fortified as it was, it was not built for what approached.

At least a thousand barbarians approach Avondil, viewable already from the high walls in the clear crisp moonlight. The Snowshield herself stands at the top of the wall by the gate, staring out into the distance. Her mount is already saddled and by the western exit of the town, for their inevitable retreat.

Should they survive that long.

"We must hold," she says quietly. "And buy the rest of the forces time to get to a more defendable position. One's Mercy on us all… I did not know the vitch queen called so many! How can she send this many against us, and yet have the forces she has at Tirhold…" More to herself, she speaks, at the last.

The number was much greater than Elrick had thought possible and like Nadine, he had thought the Ice Queen splitting her forces towards Tirhold will lessen whatever blow happens here. It has not, and the sea of men that approaches looks like a wave that can't be stopped. But stopped it must, at least until dawn breaks. The t'Tremaine heir's own steed is closer, as is a group of mounted heavy horse that await their riders on the wall. He will ride withing Avondil to buy time if he must, but for now he mans the wall with the rest of his men.

"Men! Tonight we fight to Vitch Queen herself! She has decided to honor us with her presence, and we shall be the proper hosts!" Elrick calls out to his men and others who may hear, "Let us show them the difference between men of Couviere and the uncivilized savages she chooses to throw at us! I want these wals to bleed red with barbarian blood, I want those that have yet to climb to walls to drown in heathen blood! The One will guide our blades, the One will shield us! We fight for our brothers, our sisters! Our fathers, our mothers! Our sons, our daughters! We fight for those who are south of us! For t'Tremaine, for t'Cadri!"

The men respond with a cheer, though it is one of determination, not pleasure. Nadine keeps her gaze out of the approaching barbarians, as if carved of ice herself.

One of the barbarians strides forth, pointing at the closed gates… and then to the sides of the town. A large group of the barbarians on horseback looks to be breaking off and heading past the town towards Valetta.

"No—" Nadine looks pained for a moment, then looks to Elrick. "Go. They cannot be allowed to bypass us. There are too many afoot tonight, and they will stand little or no chance. Go. Stop them, Elrick. May the One be with you and your men."

That the barbarians would choose to split their forces and actually bypass Avondil was a surprise, Elrick's gaze narrowing as he watches the development. When Nadine commands him to intercept them though, he shoots her a glance and nods his head. "I will, Nadine. They will not ride an inch closer towards Valetta when I have engaged them." He knows that he will have to harry them, bleed them, delay them as long as possible. Barbarians on foot chase slower, on horse? They can be devastating.

"Cavalry, with me!" Elrick calls out to those that have been trained as such, including both the heavy horse and the light cavalary. The rest of the Irregulars who are more mounted infantry will remain on the walls with the levy. As a portion of the t'Tremaine armsmen descend from the walls to their steeds, the heir himself lingers for a brief moment, his gaze returning Nadine. "Bleed them, Nadine, but do not stay longer than you need. Live. My men are yours." They have orders to keep her alive as well if it comes to that, even if she protests. With a final gaze held for a moment longer, Elrick turns and descends the wall as well to his trusted war horse.

Nadine breaks his gaze, and as soon as he and the combined forces of calvary, both some t'Tremaine and some t'Cadri, have left to harry, she turns and addresses the rest of the men— noble and common alike. "We are the shield for those who have gone before us. We hold the north."

Her words are quiet, but powerfully spoken. "We hold the north!" her voice carries through the night air.

"WE HOLD!" the men cry back, drawing steel and bow.

Her eyes narrow as she looks over the incoming wall of barbarian infantry.

"Fire." That single word, pitched to carry.

And it does, across the lines of bowmen along Avondil’s upper walls. The twang of strings and the sound of dozens of arrows flying fills the night. "AGAIN!" Another line of arrows.

Men fall, but more take their places.

The mounted men depart from Avondil ride, the thundering hooves clearly heard in the night. Their destination? A spot in front of the barbarian riders, Elrick does not have them riding at the heathens but to cut them off.

A small portion of the outriders have bows and they will be used, once. Certainly no where enough to down a portion of the barbarians, but perhaps enough to make them shy slightly away from the clash. Enough for Elrick's heavy horses with the t'Cadri addition to smash into the heathens.The light cavalry and outriders would then descend on the flanks, quick strikes before moving away, constantly harrassing while trying to minimize their own losses.

The purpose is to bleed and delay them, to bloody their nose and then disengage when the opportunity avails itself, then to hit them again. Elrick would not allow himself and his men to be bogged down into a bloody slugging match, one he may lose.

She should be on her own horse, riding with Elrick's contingent— but Nadine has a duty as the ranking commander left at Avondil, and she will stick to it no matter what she prefers. As the barbarians approach the town's walls, the archers continue to pick them off…

Until a group of them behind the initial push all pull out bows, nicking their arrows, and fire up at the men and women on the walls.

"SHIELDS!" Nadine calls out as soon as she sees the bows, but her orders are not carried out quickly enough by everyone, and several archers are struck down by their counterparts. The others draw down and fire again, now doing better to try and take cover between shots.

Still, they are far outnumbered.

The war cries ring out in the night as the Couviere cavalry ride into the barbarians. The ring of steel, cries of the wounded, all echo in the knight. At a series of blows are delivered, Elrick calls out, "Disengage!" So that their mounted forces do not cut too deep into the barbarian cavalry, becoming ensnared in bodies. His focus now is on the heathens here in front of him, fully trusting Nadine with the walls of Avondil, with holding until dawn. He has his own duty to fulfill and soon enough after separating from the barbarians, he calls out again, "Reform!" Then, "Charge! For Couviere!" And the clash repeats. Bleeding, both sides continue to carve into each other. Seconds, minutes, continue to tick away.

The walls are met— the wall of barabarians with the walls of Avondil. Arrows fly, and the gates are beseiged quickly, the town itself surrounded.

Nadine's voice grows hoarse as she calls out order, directing men and women to fill one breach or another, her own swords already bloodied as she has had to assist in driving back barbarians who had made it up the scaling ladders that they had brought.

This town is simple, and has no siegeworks, no boiling pitch or oil. Only arrows and steel and the determination of those holding it.

After drawing her lightsilver blade from a barbarian's chest and shoving him back and over the wall (hopefully onto his companions), Nadine looks to the east, for a moment, praying for the sun's rays to creep over the horizon.

"Disengage!" Elrick calls out before his attention quickly returns to a barbarian who rides at him, trying to prevent the withdrawal. The heathen's blade swings down quickly, too quickly and the t'Tremaine was unable to fully parry the blow. It bites into his heavy plate, enough to cut and bleed him, but that is all. With a roar of anger, Elrick's own blade removes the offending rider's head, sending it into the masses. Pushing the body away, he disengages while parrying another blow from yet another barbarian.

His numbers dwindle, but not as quickly as that of the barbarians. Even so, at this rate, there are still too many barbarians, pointless to count. A quick glance is shot back at Avondil, as if trying to see how fair the forces there, how fares the fair Commander. Then his gaze returns to the task at hand, "Again! Charge!"

How long had it been? Long enough that their numbers had fallen gravely, still they fought on.

The gate falls, and the defenders are driven to fighting in the streets, though Nadine orders them to keep the western gate open. They will retreat. They will survive this…

They have to.

Streaming blood from many wounds, her plate cracked and dented from numerous blows, still, she fights on, rallying the men and women of Couviere, even as their companions fall around them. Step by step, they are driven back towards the western gates.

…and then a single ray of sunlight breaks the eastern horizon.

The sky was no longer midnight black, purple, the shade slowly turning lighter. But Elrick dares not withdraw, not yet until he can clearly see the first ray of sun. So he and his mounted companions continue to clash with the barbarians. A risk is taken though, one that the t'Tremaine heir made on the fly, he will hammer them this time, hard, deep. Like a surprised sally from a besieged force, the intent is to shock the barbarians, buying more time for them and a potential reprieve. "Hammer them!"
Heavy cavalry slams into the heathen riders, carving in deeply, lives sent to the One for final judgement and it works for a moment. When the momentum slows, the Couvieri riders fight fiercely and soon enough, Elrick knows that he must withdraw or they will reach the point of no return. "Withdraw!" Is called out, the orders echoed by other knights and they extract themselves just as the sun peeks over the horizon.
A most beautiful sight for the northern forces. However, a full retreat is not called yet, Elrick assessing the barbarian forces that he had been tangling with, as if to judge their current state and actions. Then his gaze moves to Avondil, Nadine and the men she leads will need help pulling out.

"Retreat!!" Nadine calls to the remaining men and women, who are making their way to the mounts. Hurriedly, they mount and rush out the gates— all but a few that gave their lives that the others can be bought time to mount up and escape.

A burst of calvary and levies upon the last few mounts left… enough had fallen that there was mounts for everyone, even if a couple of smaller sorts ride double.

"RIDE!!" Nadine calls at the back of the column. "RIDE TO VALETTA!"

"Day has arrived!" Elrick calls out to the northern cavalry, as if those words held more significance to the mounted knights and cavalry, a cue perhaps of what is to come. Pointing his bastard sword towards the barbarians riders, a grim smile appears under his visored helm as he roars out, "Charge!" Words are echo'd by the mounted men but instead of riding into the heathens again, the wheel about and begin riding towards the retreating Avondil defender who are now making for Valetta. The ruse done to perhaps by them more seconds to put distance between themselves and the barbarians. Elrick will continue to scan the surroundings though, watching for pursuit coming out of Avondil.

Pursuit comes, hot on their heels as the barbarian cavalry maintains pursuit. Smoke goes up behind them as the town seems to be set aflame— though whether apurpose or accidentally is unsure. Spurring her warhorse forward, Nadine surges through the survivors. "RIDE!" and if there had been plans of skirmishing retreats, they are all but lost. "The Duke must be warned!" she draws her mount up besides Elrick, her eyes weary and her expression grim. "Pass the word. One of us must make it to Valetta." She looks to her side, spying one of the remaining Winged Knights, and gestures to him. "Take ten men with you, and ride for Murnord as hard as you can. The Duchess must know as well, their numbers are at least three times our earliest estimate…" and she glances back to Elrick as the knight salutes and breaks off with a mixture of both t'Cadri and t'Tremaine men with him.

"Elrick…" she reaches up to lift the mask off her dented helm, so he can see her expression. A trickle of blood crosses her face, unremarked or dealt with for now. She gives him a smile that doesn't quite make it up her face. "You held them back. You did well."

Hearing and knowing just how dire the situation is with the surprising numbers that the barbarians fielded, Elrick tasks some of his own as well to assist in riding to Murnord, "Sir Valerie! Take Stellan with you, make sure the message is passed." This order given not only because he wanted to ensure the Duchess knows, but to preserve the t'Tremaine line, at least in good hands. If he falls at Valetta, Stellan should be next in line as he has no younger brothers.

Elrick removes his own helm, steam rising from within his armor, perspiration dripping down the side of his temples. "We held them back, Nadine. The One was with us, both of us. But it is not over."

Nadine glances over her shoulder at the Tirians following closely behind. And her tone is grim. "No."

"No. It's not over."

-=FIN=-

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