The Lost, Part 2
Château de Selvilles
40 Juillian, 597 Année de Paix
The raven arrived much as the previous one had: unexpectedly, from the west, wings beating hard against the frosty air. This time, however, the message was not entirely a surprise. Jean-Pierre had been expecting a message for several weeks, and was somewhat relieved that it was finally here.
There was a part of him, though, that had hoped for the letter to never arrive. Hoped that he would remain waiting for eternity, never having to know whether or not the war on the mountains had been successful, never having to deal with the fallout of deaths and defeat and casualty after casualty.
But that didn’t matter now. The raven was here.
Jean-Pierre coughed roughly. The illness had been flaring up as of late, but the doctor had prescribed him a root powder to dissolve in his water, which seemed to be helping a bit. It was hard to tell. It might have been his imagination. He took a sip of the bitter, medicated liquid while waiting for a servant to bring down the letter. When it arrived, he quickly unfurled the scroll and read.
Monsieur le Comte,
Please find enclosed in this letter the outcome of the campaign conducted against the Mountain Dwellers earlier this year.
Per your instructions and assistance, we were able to muster one thousand fighting men, as well as the one hundred men of the Mountain Guard.
Beginning on the second day of Amilaus, we began our campaign against the Mountain Dwellers. The campaign involved a thorough march through the mountains by several divisions of soldiers, and the establishment of a central base camp on the mountains for more effective transport of supplies. The first phase of the campaign went according to plan, with no casualties and an efficient use of time and resources.
Surprisingly, however, our initial explorations did not reveal any Mountain Dweller camps, nor any Dwellers themselves. At this point, suspecting that our presence had scared them off, I dispatched a third of our number to the southern edge of the mountains; over the course of the next month, we systematically worked our way to close the gap between our forces and thereby squeeze out any Dwellers.
We did not encounter any Mountain Dwellers though this strategy. This is concerning because it suggests to me that they have established a hidden base of operations somewhere in the mountains. Obviously, this presents a problem for us. While the Mountain Guard attempts to keep a detailed survey of the mountains, it is impossible for us to navigate every nook and cranny, and we will never know the area as well as the Dwellers do. The men we mustered from the lowlands would fare even worse. The mountains are dangerous at the best of times, and it is likely that the hiding place is located in a remote, inaccessible location that would be reachable only by the most experienced Guardsmen.
With that in mind, and with the Dwellers seemingly contained, I have called an end to the campaign. The Mountain Guard’s next steps will be to increase surveillance across all fronts, attempting to locate this hideout and, hopefully, capture it.
I hope you will forgive the failure of this campaign. I accept full responsibility for the outcome.
One final thing. While we experienced no casualties due to battle, we did lose several men to the elements. They were mostly inexperienced commoners who disappeared during blizzards. Unfortunately, no bodies were able to be recovered. In total, fourteen men were lost in this manner.
Jean-Pierre cursed under his breath, and then went into a coughing fit which lasted longer than he would have liked. He wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and dropped the letter on his desk.
There was something strange going on here, and he could not put his finger on it. As a nobleman, Jean-Pierre knew history — military history and otherwise — and the Mountain Dwellers had never done anything like this. They were a simplistic people, with aggressive tendencies and poor tactics. They did not negotiate. They did not hide. They did not learn. They killed, and they were killed, and that was all.
He would find the answer eventually. He always did. It was only a matter of time.
Jean-Pierre coughed again, wetly, and he could taste something metallic in the back of his throat. He let out a sigh. Perhaps in this instance, he thought, time mattered a little bit more.