It appears the vast army that Hendrick Van Rhychard has brought to Profanity East has some... internal divisions.
Leaving aside the fact that the vast majority of the soldiers are in fact Gnolls, or Mameluks, or Free Islanders of various stripes, there are sixty under the command of Raoul Fremont - who has recently turned into a snake - that look distinctly Freiboden, as do their officers Sergeant Schwartz and Corporal Joseph Baeur. Despite the best efforts of Lady Justine and Riddl, the two sides of the army remain very separate, and competing patriotic songs can be heard issuing from their camps late into the night.
Soon they head out to the hill country to the north and become embroiled in some kind of long-running and unpleasant conflict with the Artemans, who have understandably gone to ground when nearly six hundred troops marched into their backyard.
Isn't it a beautiful and touching display of unity? Sergeant Schwartz and Corporal Joseph Baeur, skipping hand-in-hand through fields of daisies with Hendrick Van Rhychard, Ruud Van Driver and Jacques Valentine, marching side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder to destroy the bad thing....
...well, no. It's not much like that at all. In fact, it's all Raoul Fremont can do to keep the sixty staunch revolutionaries under his command, and their troublemaking officers, from organising an impromptu firing squad against the Traitors to the Revolution, and it isn't helped by the fact that the Mill'enese take every opportunity to sing 'Dupont Square' - or, when they're feeling particularly frisky, a rousing chorus of 'Mister Potato-Head'.
./~ Mister Potato-Head listen to me
I’ll tell you now, how it is going to be
The land that you thought that the League did own
Is now a new part of the Mill'enese home ~\.
And it's all Lady Justine can do to keep her countrymen from putting their own unpleasant plans into action. The camps have to be kept separate. The food and the water has to be guarded, in case the other side decide to piss in it, or worse. And it's not just her countrymen, either; there are few enough of them in the bulk of the Mill'enese army, which appears to be mostly Gnolls, but the adopted countrymen are - if anything - even more fervent in their dislike of the 'revolutionary scum'. At least the Mameluks of the Schwartzedorne Guard are too sensible and focussed to get involved.
./~ We know that you are revolutionary scum
and think you're not worthy to come kiss my bum
You say we’re all equal, I call you a liar
I wouldn't piss on you mate if you were on fire ~\.
As the mismatched army marches out of Mill'enese territory and into the lands of the Sawnee, it is clear that actual trouble is coming. Lands and buildings reclaimed by the Sawnee have mysteriously returned to working for the Arteman cause. Someone is doing bad things around here somewhere. But first things first; the Pillar of Blood and Bone. Zan Li's directions are still accurate; the small column of bone and flesh isn't even particularly hidden.
That piece of unpleasant business concluded, and no vast undead or myrmidon armies in sight, the troops are becoming increasingly restless under the influence of the oppressive necromantic taint that hangs heavy over Profanity East. Hendrick Van Rhychard finds himself rather occupied attempting to keep the Gnolls under his command from engaging in recreational brawling, so it falls to Jacques Valentine to get a good picture of the local area. Taking some of the Chevalier's men, he politely requests entry to the tallest building in the area - the College Le Cassidy.
It's no watchtower, but the immediate Profanity East area is completely flat, although the hills rise up each side.
And there - that's interesting. A rough column of... well, you could call them soldiers, if you were in a particularly generous frame of mind. And in front of them, a suspiciously familiar figure, a living crystal studded with crystalline chunks. Although - it's a bit on the large side for Ponderous? It's more the build of...
...of Jacob Arteman, who the locals are adamant was just here securing the area, but didn't bother to knock down the obvious Pillar of Blood and Bone.
./~ Your daughter's a monster, your son is a div
Is it your sister that you’re breeding with?
Your mothers' a drunkard, your father's a whore
I couldn't get a Bushel if I sold them all ~\.
"The Artemans? Are they really a threat?"
"Remember that Ponderous was an Arteman once."
There is some incredulity in the ranks as Jacques descends swiftly from the roof of the college and calls them to arms; they're going to shoot a bunch of inbred hicks? At least it is something that both camps can agree on - whatever the merits of washed up, inbred Mill'enese traitors to the revolution or unwashed, ill-bred Freiboden revolutionary scum, the tales of the Artemans and their obvious legacy that surrounds them definitely points to 'worth killing as a hygiene exercise'.
Riddl remembers the Artemans at their height, and attempts to dampen the overconfidence of the soldiers, but to little avail.
Eager for some action at last, marching order becomes a significant issue. Chevalier Henri-Francois Lasalles' 'A' Troop, Royal Dragoons Regiment, naturally feel that they should be leading the way, as the most proper Mill'enese army units, despite being primarily musketeers. Marcus Gaius Trevalian's Legionary Detachments then point out that they have almost as many true-born Mill'enese, actually have a polearm line, and that their commander outranks the Chevalier, especially as he has recently turned into a snake or something? At which the Onontakhan in the First Legionary Detachment asks what, exactly, is wrong with that...
Meanwhile Sergeant Schwartz and Corporal Joseph Baeur have already got their men together and marching, with Raoul Fremont - also recently turned into a snake - being equally unimpressed with the quantity of argument occurring over trivial matters while the enemy is getting away; Raziel walks with them.
On seeing this 'blatant insubordination', several members of 'A' Troop, Royal Dragoons Regiment, roar in incoherent rage and start aiming their muskets at the Freiboden formation. One would surely have shot Schwartz or Baeur had Ruud Van Driver not swiftly reacted to call upon the power of the Maelstrom and knock him off his feet, sending the musket shot uselessly into the air.
The sound of the gunshot seems to have a sobering effect on the assembled, especially given the expression on Hendrick and Jacques' faces; it is clear that no more of this nonsense will be tolerated. Subdued, the Royal Dragoons are assigned to one flank, the Legionary Detachment to the other, and the front is populated by heavily-armoured or spear-wielding gnolls (and Free Islands Mokosh, Beartstadt Guard, 3rd Company would be quick to point out), backed up by pistoleers and musket-toting mameluks.
It is never going to be a stand-up fight, however. There are precisely one hundred and seventy-three under-equipped and unarmoured Artemans in the travelling column that Jacob Arteman is leading, and the Mill'enese advance is not exactly subtle. The Artemans quickly go to ground in the hills of Earth's Riches, and whilst Hendrick and Jacques can spot or reason out where they've holed up, their erratic tactics actually make the job of smoking them out more difficult...
./~ Mister Potato-head's going to cry
Well Mister Potato-head, fuck off and die ~\.
"One of the lads is missing."
A frantic search later, Corporal Joseph Baeur is presenting Raoul Fremont with a corpse featuring distinctly suspicious axe wounds.
"It's gotta be those furry bastards in Royal Heavy Infantry, 1st Company. No-one else in this fight is usin' hand-axes, or at least not ones that are proper made for fightin'."
On hearing this, the rest of Bauer's Free Company immediately start running; hoping, it seems, to be out of earshot before Raoul naturally countermands them. Raoul is pretty fast, but half of them manage to get away; he knows where they are going, though. Over to the section of hills they saw the Royal Heavy Infantry assigned to, off to get their revenge.
The Corporal is not best pleased either; it's all their necks on the line if the Royal Heavy Infantry end up with a scratch on them from 'friendly fire'.
As they race over the crest of the hill, the situation is much more confused than they were expecting; it looks like the Royal Heavy Infantry are facing off against a good fifty Artemans, and to their credit, Bauer's Free Company are firing in the right direction.
Raoul takes stock of the situation, sees how many furry bodies are on the ground, and sprints off to fetch Lady Justine to the scene; speed might be of the essence here.
At the end of the skirmish, too many of the Royal Company are down for Justine to save them all - but it is indisputable that none of the dead contain any musket shot, and as for those who successfully had surgery, well, who's to really say?
./~ From 80-odd paces I’ll fill you with lead
I’ll aim for your eye to ensure you are dead
I’ll scythe out your legs and I won’t miss a beat
And smile as your face crushes under my feet ~\.
Suspiciously, not one of 'A' Troop, Royal Dragoons Regiment gets themselves killed in the awkward hill-country skirmishing, despite their earlier demands to be in the thick of the action; they claim it is simply due to their obvious superiority, but plenty of the other soldiers mutter about cowardice and not getting stuck in.
The Fantassins De Vert lose one member - and they're pretty sure it happened when he dropped back to, ahem, refresh himself behind a nearby bush.
The other Mill'enese casualties are mostly from the Legionary Detachments; the Fourth loses four soldiers and the First loses one too.
And one of Schwarzer Shutz is just never found.
The one lad from Bauer's Free Company is the only casualty the Freibodeners take, although quite a few get sewn up; the gnolls of the Schwartzedorne Guard rumble quietly amongst themselves about favouritism among the friends of surgeons.
The Gnolls (and free island mokosh) have taken more of a beating - twelve dead from the Beartstadt Guard, four of the Schwartzedorne Guard, four of the Royal Heavy Infantry, one each of the First and Fourth Legionary Detachment. Three mameluks of the Schwartzedorne Home Guard have also been beaten to death by Arteman, and one of the wemics of the Foreign Legion Siege Engineers.
And forty Artemans are still unaccounted for; Jacques sees some of them heading over the hills further to the north, towards Fletch's lot at Sacred Place.
The lads have finished up taking back Profanity West and Profanity East; some stuff's got knocked over, but two colleges ain't to be sniffed at, and you got the church back in one piece too; it ain't even deconsecrated, though there ain't hardly no-one left to preach to. An' they've obligingly left a bunch of food what Jeshur had claimed in the Cussin Warehouse, not to mention all the gossamer, what Bendul-Dolum thought they owned; damn thing is burstin' at the seams with the stuff.
It's just as you are headin' out to mosey around Earths Riches and take back Profanity North that the most enormous army you've seen in the New World to date - well, there's about six hundred of them, but they're all armed to the teeth and there's hundreds of heavily armoured gnolls and there's Schaffen siege engineers with repeating ballistas and there's at least a hundred musketeers - shows up in your back yard. And they're led by the unmistakable figure of Hendrick Van Rhychard, and you're pretty sure the fancy guns he's got can drop any of your sorry excuse for troops in a single shot.
And marching with them is the best surgeon in the New World, Lady Justine D'agnac; and some snake with a catapult and a flamethrower who looks suspiciously like Raoul Fremont, except you were pretty sure he was a wemic - but you used to be a human, too. And a couple of sharpshooters with especially sharp eyes - Ruud Van Driver clutching a string of mana and Jacques Valentine bedecked with telescope and coracle. And... Riddl. In his warform. With the hair. And some other angel, too; a native, probably, proper angels don't normally look like that. And somehow they've got a whole bunch of Freibodeners in traditional Freiboden uniforms marching with 'em as well.
Like fuck are you going near them, or letting any of your totally untrained grunts go toe-to-toe with that lot.
It goes okay for a while; you herd the Profanity Guard north-west, the Mill'enese make a beeline for some Pillar of Blood and Bone that Ponderous has decided to stick in Profanity East and smash it up. Maybe they're not gonna tangle with you after all, even though you hear half of them are in bed with the Sawnee and turnin' themselves into snakes.
And maybe you can fly to victory on the back of a mystical fucking unicorn. As soon as they're done with the Pillar, they head over to Profanity West and gank your poor unsuspecting boys trying to pick up the pieces there, and then they start marchin' out determinedly towards where you're headed - nope, it's closer than that, they're absolutely headin' for you.
Profanity East is as flat as a pancake and it's where they're startin' from; you double up the pace and head for the hills.
These Artemans of the Profanity Guard might be completely untrained in the art of warfare, but they're still Artemans. They know exactly what to do when some poncy fuckers are huntin' them through the hills with muskets. You lose track of most of 'em pretty much as soon as you hit some ground someone could plausibly hide 'emselves in, but frankly that's a good thing. If you had a prayer of finding 'em, then Hendrick - or Jacques Valentine, by the looks of him, with his telescope and sextant and big staring eyes - would know right where they were and probably already filled 'em full of musket shot.
Like bloodhounds on the scent, under Hendrick and Jacques' direction, the Mill'enese army - and hangers-on, I mean, actually there are probably more Gnolls than Mill'enese and are those mameluks? Yes, those are honest-to-goodness Amusar mameluks, and they've got them toting swords and muskets and more repeating ballistas that you're damned if you'll give 'em line of sight to use - scour the hill country for signs of resistance.
Well, signs of resistance they get. You don't see all of it, and you'd love a really good sword so much right now, and you're mostly tryin' to get the men to give up an' head north to the real target, that place the Sawnee call Sacred Place, but it doesn't all go the way the Mill'enese would like. There's no way to do a good count in this proper hill skirmishin' malarky, but you stumble across a good few ambushed Gnolls, do a bit of your own ambushin', and even bag yourself one of Benedict Delano's Fantassins De Vert when he somehow thinks that stayin' behind his group to take a piss is a smart move.
By the time y'all get out of the hills and into the woods, and that dogged Hendrick bloke finally gives up the chase, what's left is in a pretty sorry state. There ain't one of the 5th or 7th Profanity Guard left standin'. Out of the others, well, there's thirteen of the 1st, one of the 2nd, two of the 3rd, twelve of the 4th, two of the 6th, three of the 8th, one of the 9th and six of the 10th that make it back to you.
And if you don't miss your guess, there's snakes in these woods…
Hendrick Van Rhychard and Jacques Valentine lead over half a thousand Mill'enese in scouring the area around the destroyed Pillar of Blood and Bone at Profanity East for any sign of its creators; Jacob Arteman has reclaimed the area, and is discovered marching north-west with a mismatched crowd of Artemans pressed into service without decent weaponary or armour. But they are still Artemans, and they know how to head for the hills and harry a superior force; whilst there was only going to be one conclusion to this confrontation, the Artemans make the Mill'enese pay dearly for their victory, and many still slip away northwards.