The Crusade Against the Witch King


Both Eliza and Brother Chalk provide astrological charts which give information on troop movements, unexpected currents, and greatly help the invading forces take minimal losses. Specifically, their charts prevent a military misunderstanding which would have caused French and English troops to find themselves in conflict by mistake, among many other useful activities.

The entire crusade does not rush off hot-headed to the Vatican, despite certain people's wishes. The regiments are not marching within a month of court, but soon afterwards the armies assemble and, with appropriate logistics, move off.

The Admiral of the White, commanding a few squadrons of Navy ships together with a small, prepared force of Marines is sent to the Adriatic. As a precursor to the main strike on the Vatican the Admiral, perhaps rashly, chooses to attempt engaging the enemy without adequate support. Striking at the outlying positions of Rome, the ships are assailed with the defences of the city and barely a company of marines is able to land before the assault is called off in failure. Unfortunately whether due to poor seamanship or simple over-confidence the Admiral's flagship runs aground near one of the Roman hills. A great wave of undead swim to it and swarm over its sides before the other ships can manoeuvre to its assistance in the treacherous shallows. The marines and soldiers hold out as long as possible, but before long the ship is ablaze and the skeletal attackers are returning to their posts ashore. The flagship's powder stores soon detonate and the Admiral of the White is killed before the main battle has even been joined.

Franz and his forces, along with O'Farrel and his other covert forces, infiltrate Rome in small numbers before the main event. Franz attempts guerilla warfare throughout the city, while O'Farrel's forces gather information concerning the disposition of forces. Franz regularly reports back to Major-General Devereux at HQ. These actions are effective in undermining the command structure of the undead army, and destroying key members, while gathering useful intelligence for the Crusade at large.

Prince Richard and the King stay away from the front lines, under the advice of the Court Astrologer. Both are heavily involved in the organisation of the military action, but it is very clear that Prince Richard is very upset not to see action.

The Horticulturalists, under the direction of Alexander Gray, prepare for the Crusade; they recruit both manpower and creatures, drill extensively, and build a new dragon barge. The Horties are at full strength and ready for anything by the time the main force departs.

Walter Devereux trains troops throughout the army, ensuring that they're all ready for an extended campaign in foreign climes, as ordered by the Lord General. Much of the training is spend practicing sea-borne assault and fighting in such a large alliance as to be gathered. Major-General Devereux personally visits Navarre to oversee the levy there raised under the command of Don Inigo Arista. The force raised is well-equipped and even if largely inexperienced, a formidable addition to Albion's forces.

The Ottoman Empire has sent troops to support the allied nations but takes no part in the fighting. The prospect of Muslim soldiers in another of the Holy Cities of Christianity is deemed dangerously inflammatory. Instead the few survivors of the chaos in Rome are escorted through the Ottoman lines as has been agreed. They are cared for and fed by the Turks before being returned to the Italian states for more permanent refugee accommodation. The Ottomans continue to lend what humanitarian and medical support they can during the course of the battle, and their ships well clear of waters claimed by Rome send the undead back to their graves.


At the army's cue, the Black Sun Rising makes a swift and cunning strike into the heart of the Vatican. One of the French magicians step in at the last moment to make the craft invisible, replacing the efforts of Isabel Meredith who is sick with the flu.

The ship is crewed by Ambassador Lang, Captain Smashing, Randolph Blenham, Gwen verch Morcant and Lieutenant Altair. They fly to the heart of the Vatican, where stands the Witch-King, wreathed in black flame on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, waving his hands and cackling madly.

The undead armies are meanwhile being distracted by a planned assault from European troops and warships from the allied nations, who are pinning them down on the walls and preventing them from going to their master's assistance. Admiral the Lady Hamilton is now the most senior member of the Royal Navy present and takes charge of her naval forces while Major-General Devereux is in command of the frontline elements of the Dragoons. The considerable problems of properly a combined arms assault are only made worse by the squabbling Babel that is the allied command. Nonetheless the planned diversion seems to be a success.

Some of the Undead who do place themselves between the Witch-King and the English assailants are dealt with most competently by Gwen verch Morcant, who uses some unknown witchcraft to cause them to dissolve, although this effort appears to tire her greatly.

Prince Lang leaps to the fore, blade shining like the sun, and cuts down the rest of the Undead troops on all sides with a display of swordsmanship the like of which England has never known.

Randolph Blenham stands on the Black Sun Rising wearing a large, bulky weapon linked to an enormous backpack. He rests this on the edge of the ship, which stays stable enough for him to fire directly at the Witch King. This seems to discomfort the Witch King severely, although doesn't seem to be damaging him. However, he seems rooted to the spot, unable to take any kind of action.

Just as the party confront the Witch-King, weapons in hands and prepared to remove this vile scourge from the earth once and for all, out of the shadows leaps a dark-cloaked figure1) with an oddly shining ornate dagger in one hand. The figure plunges the dagger into the Witch-King's back; the creature utters an unearthly scream which freezes the blood of all who hear it, and - more importantly - falls to the ground, clearly weakened. The party promptly descend upon the body with various methods of extreme violence, and only return to the Black Sun Rising when the Witch-King is but a bloody smear upon the ground.

The hooded, cloaked figure, after ensuring that the Witch-King is dead, disappears without a trace and is not seen again in Rome.

Altair's part in the assault is particularly noticeable for his use of a sword either so keen-edged or wielded with such force that it seems to meet no resistance as it passes through cloth, armour and flesh.

The Assault on Rome

Once the Witch-King is dead and his vile magics have to some extent made the job of the European forces possible - if not easy, since the Undead are attacking with renewed vigour and fury, intent on slaughtering everything living - the assault begins in earnest.

As the troops prepare to attack, a convoy of European Alchemists led by Prince Ali and Lady Hamilton prepare a magical assault. When questioned on the effectiveness of maintaining Rome's treasures despite the water, a few of the Vatican's alchemists ensure the armies that the spells surrounding the centre of Rome, if they have not been breached, will maintain the integrity of the artefacts.

Taking the lead in this alchemical assault are Prince Ali Omar Al-Malik and Admiral the Lady Hamilton. The former has developed a potion which he pours into the waters around Rome, a safe distance from reprisals from the besieged undead forces. It stains the waters and spreads towards the land as if drawn there. It is impossible that such an enormous slick should come from such small stocks but nonetheless soon the shores of the Roman islands are coated with it. Observers begin to report that the islands have begun to tremble and that the undead soldiers look almost as if they are patrolling in heavy surf, their gate uncertain and unwavering. After only tens of minutes it becomes clear that the waves are dashing over the sea-defences and ramparts of the dead defenders, damaging their entrenched positions.

At the same time Admiral Hamilton is seen to stand on the prow of her flagship and stare fixedly at the islands ahead. At first small waves are seen to be emanating from her flagship, like stones dropped into a pond. But as she signals the allied fleet to withdraw from her position the waves grow ever larger. Soon they are the size of an Atlantic swell. The ships of Albion, France and Spain easily weather these waves, but the Mediterranean galleys of the Italian states and Ottomans must withdraw rapidly. Finally with a great clap of her hands the flagship drops several dozen yards into a great cavity which opens in the sea. Sailors later report the hull scraping the bottom in water twenty fathoms deep.

Surging towards Rome is an enormous wave of water which breaks almost at the peak of the island hills. Hundreds of the undead, unprepared for such an assault are carried out to see and out of the battle. The Lady Hamilton simultaneously collapses and she and her flagship retire from the battle, exhausted and possibly damaged.

Devereux coordinates Albion and Europe's forces, ensuring that there are no spats between the various nationalities and that everyone attacks in concert. The English troops are armed with axes, hatchets and other weapons suitable against the Undead. They are accompanied by what appears to be some sort of alchemical cross between a dragon and a horse. This monstrosity takes several dragoons to control, but does considerable damage when unleashed upon the ranks of undead, breathing fire and trampling those in its way. It is generally understood that this is a new pet of Prince Richard's.

His Majesty King Matthew leads the English troops, and the respective generals and monarchs of the other states pile in.

The undead army is a motley affair, consisting of semi-corporeal spirits in military costume of all eras, and nationalities. On many are clearly visible the wounds that ended their lives, though these do not seem to impede them. With sustained effort it is possible to fight them, however blows often simply pass through them leaving no mark. Fortunately, the same is true for their strikes, though unreal blows do cause rather more distress to the living than the dead. Much consternation is caused by their ability to fade into the ground and through walls, however communications between the undead do not appear very good since the death of the Witch King, with what are clearly orders being shouted in many different languages all at once. This means that the groups passing through barriers are usually small enough to be dealt with swiftly by the massed armies.

Venice are a great help with intelligence; their Bathyscaphes travel unseen to Rome, and examine the troop dispositions of the Witch King. They are also made available to Johannes Franz, to take him and his people secretly to the islands of Rome.

However during the main assault the Venetians truly come into their own. Despite only fielding a small force, they carry vials of what looks like Alchemically purified fire. Where the standard troops have difficulty causing enough damage to stop a semi-corporeal spirit, the Venetian Fire destroys large numbers of undead at a time. However, Venice is only a small city with a small militia; their forces are directed to areas of heavy fighting and entrenched enemy units, where they are a huge asset.

The French army, led by Marshall Pierre Guillaume, Duc de Bourgogne, provide a solid core of soldiers to assist in the massed assault. Their cavalry in particular, though normally mounted, make use of their versatile training to fight on foot or from boats. The elite grenadier companies, veterans of the wars that France has fought, come armed with sturdy hatchets with which they set about fighting the undead. They strike deep into the heart of Rome and cleave a path for the other armies to follow, allowing the infantry to fight in a more conventional manner than the formed ranks of the undead might have allowed. Eventually it is the Duc de Bourgogne, on foot, accompanying the battle standard of France, that leads one of the major assaults through the streets of Rome.

King Philip of Spain is personally present on the battlefield, a bright mark in his shining regalia atop an enormous stallion. The Spanish force itself, though smaller than might have been hoped for, is one of the best-prepared for the task at hand, carrying small craft that are quickly assembled and easily capable of carrying Spanish soldiers over the pools and rivers formed. Some armed with pike and some with sword, they are remarkably efficient at pushing back the undead and their efforts allow others to rest at times and progress at others without fear of flanking assaults.

The German states, though speaking the same language, are amongst the most divided and least effective troops. Brave enough and more skilled than many due to long practice of fighting one another at home they seem unable to leave such disputes in their Principalities. The Lady Hamilton has spent some time trying to sooth offences and quick tempers and it is perhaps due to her good example that the small battle that develops between soldiers of Brunswick and Saxony is fought mostly with fists and not blades.

On the left flank of the English assault, meanwhile, Prague - operating mostly in hired craft and from boats - support the troops of Albion with a small but dedicated force of heavily armoured war-golems. These legendary creatures, rarely seen before in open combat, terrify and enthrall the European troops in equal measure. Armed like the heroes of story, they fight in squads of five or ten, under the direction of magicians chanting in arcane tongues and directing them to where the battle is hottest. Several golems are destroyed by the Undead during the hottest fighting, and several more apparently lost to the rising waters; it appears that fighting in the floodlands of Italy is far easier for the troops of Albion and elsewhere, trained as they are in amphibious combat and raised as strong swimmers, than these monstrous constructions of clay and iron.

During the assault the two ships sent by Lady Morag do sterling work keeping the undead out of the sea, studding those who attempt to simply walk away with grapeshot. They are also very useful in keeping the armies supplied.

At the heart of the combat, the righteousness of the united forces is plain for all to see; for a great Angel, clothéd all in light, descends from the sky with a battle-cry like unto the sound of the Last Trumpet. There is some confusion at first as to whether this Angel is responding to the entreaties of Ottoman or Christian Theurges, for it has a distinctly Moorish cast to its features, and a halo of peacock feathers upon its brow; however, it is clear that wherever its origin, it does the work of the Lord as ably and with as much vigour as the Archangel Michael himself. Smiting down upon the undead spirits with furious vengeance, this Angel cries blessings aloud in a strange tongue as it makes the water itself flame with holy light wherever the ghosts seek to escape by sea.

A much darker form of assistance, meanwhile, rides the English assault on the Aventine front. A monstrous daemonic form, dressed as a hellish parody of a soldier, wearing clothes the colour of fresh blood and armour of beaten gold which shines with a flickering scarlet light, charges about the field upon a red horse, glorying in the slaughter and destruction of the undead hordes. Whatever Sorcerer called this creature up, it puts as much horror into the ranks of its allies as it rains destruction upon the enemies, and strong men are weakend by its gaze. Nevertheless, the Aventine is swiftly taken with the support of this Duke, and delivering a final roar which echoes with the screams of the Damned, it returns once again to the abyss from whence it came, leaving behind it rank on serried rank of fallen ghosts, forms fading into the aether.

The Horticulturalist forces mount a heavy attack from ground, sea and air. Three dragon barges approach from the waters around the Vatican, and several dragons launch themselves from the ships, attacking well behind the front lines of the amassed undead forces. At the same time, a number of sea serpents rise from the waters, plucking the spirits from the bridges around the city and dashing them to the water below.

A large force of gryphons arrive, flying in formation with a number of dragons and another angel wielding a flaming sword. These forces seem remarkably well drilled, flying directly into the centre of the undead ranks with purpose in their eyes and nary a glance backwards. Many of the undead attempt to flee the flying creatures, and indeed much of Europe looks on in awe as the gryphons descend into the battle, shining with the holy light of the angel accompanying them. The French dragons, previously only seen as a means of communication for their Marhsall, appear in great number to fly on the flanks of the Horticulturalist forces, aiding them in their task.

The Navarrese levy, held back as part of the Albion reserve, are finally commited to battle to ensure success. Marching in neat ranks and singing marching songs in Basque, they advance to join the assault, led by Don Inigo Arista. Though seeing battle for the first time, the regiment fights with practiced excellence and brings fresh encouragement to the last assault.

Major-General Devereux, King Matthew's second-in-command is seen everywhere across the field - marshalling the forces of Albion, riding to advise the other Allies or dispatching communication across the whole battlefield, linking all the different forces of the different states. His efforts allow the Spanish, French, Germans and Italians to support each other and Albion effectively. However, when riding close to the very front lines, seeing the undead break through the ranks and the nearest help still on its way, he commits his retinue and fights bravely to keep the line intact for the precious minutes needed for a French grenadier company to renew the assault.

Baron Mandrake as a commodore in the Navy is now in command of rather more ships than expected, since one admiral is dead and the other unconscious. He leads two squadrons into battle, and his tactics will not be taught in any naval college they do their part and he and his crews fight bravely enough. Mandrakes squadrons rake the bridges of Rome with grapeshot, isolating each from the other and allowing the armies of Christendom to bring their numbers to tell in overwhelming force as each island falls.

1) Padre José Maria de Urbión
bonus.crusade_against_witch_king.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/13 00:12 by ivan