IMW: Chapter 1: The Northern Strikeforce
The Iron Moon War
Chapter 1: The Northern Strikeforce
The march west had been longer than they thought. Helian heavy drafts carved through the wood, establishing what their main supply road while simultaneously driving them forward. It seemed each time they expected to face the enemy there was still more forest to traverse, this all ended when they spilled from the treeline into a large clearing and then onto a well traveled road, the markers were unmistakably orcish. The army marched the road until they were finally faced with their foe.
Three thousand orcs were lined up against them, protecting a crossroads beyond. It didn’t take long for the Helian lines to form, at twice their numbers. Cavalry mustered and the pathfinders scattered through the ranks for ranged support. There was no meeting between the forces, neither side offered terms but both knew what was at stake. The orcs were the first to make a move, a great green wall of metal, hide and axe, like a forest of violence. The orc were easily a head taller than any Helian and had the strength of any two of them, so even while the Northern Strike Force outnumbered them by a far margin the battle would not come easy for it.
The initial clash looked to be in the orcs favor, bodies were flung into the air as shields were bent and broken behind the contact. But that momentum was short lived as the Helian shield men stepped in to fill the gaps. Spears and pole swords appeared in the shield wall and felled orcs with a brutal efficiency. The Helian onslaught was met again by another surge of Orcish ferocity that seemed to fracture the lines but it was all planned. Helian companies parted with a clear purpose to allow the Heavy Cavalry a lane straight through the middle.
The cavalry hit the Orish line and thundered through, some were felled on the flanks by the sheer strength of their enemy but there was little to truly stop the press of the mounted attackers. The orcs were forced to fall back, their momentum drained. The cavalry were completely disrupting the center of the retreating orcs allowing the main Helian lines an easy press into their fleeing enemy.
Spirits were high in the Helian lines, and command felt they perhaps had mustered a force too strong for their enemy, that the battles they thought would become only massacre. This though, was a thought short lived.
In the midst of the battle, there was a sign of chaos and then horses and men were flung every which way, and then twice the size of a man, a red furred wolfman rose. His howl stopped the battle around him, and it was mirrored by the howls of three more wolves who seemed to spring up from nothing on the battlefield. The orcs still fell back, leaving the wolves to fight their battle for them.
Spears and swords skipped across the fur and flesh, drawing blood but leaving no marks in their wake as the creature healed more quickly than they could do damage. The attacks were met with a response from the wolf that was far in excess. Swipes that rent men in two and send their parts flying away like boulders into their brothers who came into fill the gaps. Even in the face of this horrible foe, the Helian’s did not bend. The infantry fought just as hard, a monster like this would only become more dangerous if cowards were to flee.
The Knight Valiant rode down into the battle with the arrival of the wolves, although of the ten true knights who were there, only three even stuttered to engage. The commanders quickly tried to spur the others on, but were met with indifference and a response that the three and their squires were enough for four wolves.
The three Squire Valiant took one wolf, their combined effort of their charge enough to stagger the creature. Conventional weapons were cast aside as they drew their consecrated blades in perfect unison. The blades began to glow a bright white and then burst into flames. The squires engaged and slashed away with their flaming swords and the wounds they produced did not heal so quickly and those that were deep didn’t heal at all. The three were much smaller than the wolf and dipped in and out like wasps striking until the creatures wounds were too great and it's stamina too weak. The most senior of the three finished the wolf with several chops to the neck that eventually removed the head.
Each Knight Valiant engaged their own wolf. Even in the face of such a massive creature, the Valiants were almost equals in size, perhaps only slightly smaller. One Valiant though, was famous even among his peers, Sir Valiant Dormer, The Crashing Bells. He was known as such because his weapon of choice was a steel mace whose head was a bell. The first strike of his weapon rang out so loudly it practically knocked those around him to the ground. The mighty blow caused the wolf to momentarily black out, only to come too and be struck twice more. The wolves arm and hip shattered by the strength of the blessed blows. A single werewolf was little match for a knight of The Crashing Bell’s ability. Its healing was quick as it tried to stitch the wounds back together but the following blows to the crippled monster turned the joints to paste and dust. The final blow came from over head destroying the creatures head.
The other two knights, Sir Valiant Quinn, The Radiant Garden, Dame Valiant Alia, The New Moon were equals to their brother, their exploits sure to be told but notoriety remained with the Crashing Bell.
By the time the Valiant were done, the battle that had been a sure thing had taken a pendulum's swing. The final moments, where the wolves were present, had seen more carnage than the entirety of the route they had produced prior. With the orcish threat pushed back beyond view and a forward guard placed in case of a return action, the reserves stepped in. The Wolves damage required a different kind of triage. The spread of the plague that are werewolves was something they had to stop quickly. It is something that can spread quickly and be utterly devastating and on a scale far beyond the battle that had just happened. Anyone with a wound from a claw was sequestered for treatment. Those that could be transferred back to Omar’s Respite were sent, while those who could not be moved were treated near the battlefield. That treatment was more often than not, a slow knife to the back of the neck or heart. A call was sent back to Hyperion for more of the church and for more supplies to treat the change.
Commanders did not want to see their march halted so quickly, and they knew they had to press at least to the river if they were going to build any safety for the wounded. The force was still mobile and within a day the remaining army was marching, this time with the Valiant leading the charge. They had expected to encounter the river first, but instead scouts confirmed a village, the force was split, with a phalanx force sent forward to the river to halt any support while the bulk went to the village.
Emotions were high among the rank and file. And that frustration and desire for vengeance was played out in full on the orcish village. There was not a real force there and almost no civilians as they had been pulled back when the battle first sparked. Where many expected to face yet more werewolves, none were met in this village.
The phalanx force who went to the river found that they could not make any progress even if they wished it. The bridge was heavily fortified and the island fortress on the other end would not be sieged so easily. For the Northern Strike Force, the war was at a stand still.