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The Cross, the Crescent, and the Dragon


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Anhuajing, Present Capital of the Yellow Empire

It was always a spectacle when the emperor walked from his residence to the dragon throne. The streets of the capital were thronged by servants of the imperial household, diverting foot and cart traffic, sweeping the streets, and preparing the Toujian Way for the Son of Heaven. The procession numbered over 300, mostly scholars and soldiers. In the center, shaded closely by vast silk parasols, was the emperor himself. Qian Fukou, regnal name Qian Piaojian, was the 5th scion of the Qian dynasty to hold the empire's teeming millions under his rule. A younger man, only 35, but nonetheless an able plotter and commander. His was not a weak dynasty; he would not be a weak emperor, either.

The scholars lined the steps leading to the throne room; they were not permitted to enter, unless called upon by the high ministers or the emperor himself. As the sovereign climbed the huge granite staircase, a herald read his titles in auspicious ordering. "The Son of Heaven, Qian Piaojian, King of the Rising and Setting Sun, Lord of 10,000 Banners, Born of the Great Dragon, Appointed of..." There were 88 in total, a sign of prosperity and stability. By the time the herald had finished, Qian Piaojian had finished his ascent, and as the parasols were drawn away to allow the sun to shine on his back, a great drum sounded once, twice, three times. Almost silently, he entered the vast chamber and took his seat upon the dragon throne.

A testament to the feats of artistry in the country, the dragon throne of the Yellow Empire stood nine feet tall at its highest point, a construction of gold, amber, tiger's eye and lemonwood. It depicted the Great Dragon, Da Long, rising from the earth as the sovereign sat atop its coils below. In one claw, the Pearl of Heaven, a symbol of just rule. The other was empty, claws outstretched toward the enemies of the nation. Its eyes were egg-sized sapphires, cut beautifully by the finest jewelers in the realm. By all accounts, an awe-inspiring creation. As the emperor took his seat, the hundreds of courtiers in the courtyard bowed in unison. Qian Piaojian did not waste time.

"Bring me my master of oracles."

The order was hurriedly relayed through shouts and whispers alike, until the man himself soon kowtowed before the throne.

"What is your wish, O my lord?"

"We have last evening received from a Socklander spy this proclamation from the island barbarians. Translated, it is a declaration of war upon ourselves and the Swordlanders, claiming many crimes against their people and worshippers. It is the will of Heaven that you divine upon the outcome of this declaration."

"It shall be so, great king. I require fire and water."

A brazier was lit in front of the old seer; into it he would occasionally throw chips of bone; supposedly those of the qilin, snake-turtle, phoenix and tiger. His milky eyes did not blink as he took a handful of water from the jar and cast it onto the fire. As the steam rose, so did his lilting voice over the sputtering flame; every ear strained to discern, for even the most veteran scholar struggled with the archaic phraseology of Oracular Huang.

"In the East, five great winds gather strength. Their names are Famine, Strife, Discord, Overthrow, and Death. The winds soon will blow to the heart of the dragon, and seek to overturn his place in Heaven. The very gates of the Jade Palace are shaken by their force."

Qian Piaojian considered for a long moment, then inclined his head very slightly forward.

"It is so. I shall gather six harmonious winds to blow away the five evil ones."

The emperor lifted his right hand, palm downward, the hem of his golden sleeve barely hovering above the floor.

"I say: These six will be brought before the dragon throne: Ma Bingpo, Wang Gufeng, Yu De, Boshan Yilin, Fang Rong, and Bai Caoying. So it was said in heaven."

"Ma Bingpo! Wang Gufeng! Yu De! Boshan Yilin! Fang Rong! Bai Caoying!" The courtyard reverberated with the unanimous echo of the scholars and the soldiery. The Yellow Empire was a slow and bureaucratic machine, but its enemies would be wise to mistake this preparation; the land of the dragon was on the march to war.

Edited by Fulgistan (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

POPE GREGORY IXEpiscopus Servus Servorum DeiDECREES 

 

Vincere Malus 

 

To defeat evil, the armies of righteousness are called upon to combat the forces of Satan.  Man raises its sword, and with the grace of God beats evil back down into Gomorrah and Sodom, where it shall burn for eternity as their punishment.  For while Christ taught peace, when Christendom and its people are threatened, Christ Himself takes up the sword to strike the wicked down.  

To defeat evil, courageous and pious men are needed to fight- to take up his own cross, walk the path of the Messiah while the wicked spit upon him and seek his ruin, and finally, at the Hill of Redemption, strike down evil in a single stroke. For it is this brave path that men must walk to ensure the protection of Christendom, and therefore, his families and neighbors salvation and wellbeing. 

To defeat evil, devout and God-fearing women are needed to grow the family- to wipe the face of the man carrying her cross, to bear his children, and to raise them in such a way that the Holy Mother would- with care and tenderness, faith in her husband and God that they will protect them.  For the woman is truly the center of civilization, and without holy and gracious women to care and further the family, then there would be no more courageous men or devout women, and so humanity and the hope for salvation itself collapses. 

To defeat evil, the family of God- His most holy and universal Church- must rise up and fulfill their most righteous duties- to take up the His most holy call.   

To defeat evil, all of Christendom must put aside their petty squabbles and differences and unite under the Sign of the Cross, to defeat the most wicked forces of Satan and to ensure the salvation and safety of Christians across the wurld. 

Satan rears his ugly head with many faces, those being the nations of the wurld that exemplify his wickedness, the evils of heresy and hedonism, the denial of Christ and his most holy kingdom, in favor of the promise of Satan.  While most people are simply misguided, led astray by the temptations of evil, some continue to ignore the Logos and pursue evil- these are the people that must be stopped at all cost.  Especially if these people not only threaten the salvation of other non-believers and their future family, but the salvation of Christian themselves. 

The Yellow Empire displays these evils, Satan having corrupted this nation long ago.  A most holy crusade shall be waged against them for their heinous crimes against God and Christendom as a whole: 

For the repeated persecution, killing, and raping of Christians living under the Yellow Empire, 

For the conquest of rightful Christian lands,  

For the continued repression of the Yellow Empire’s Christian tributary, Amhara, 

For the forced conversion of Christians to heretical and false beliefs, 

For the raiding of traders and merchants that hail from Christian lands, 

For the destruction of holy relics, icons, and other sacred imagery, 

For the continued threatening of Christian lands and territory, 

For the continued mistreatment of Christian missionaries, and finally, 

For the cultivation and encouragement of evil, including demon-worship, sodomy, and heresy in the lands of the Yellow Empire, as well as encouraging these heinous acts amongst the Christian populace within the lands. 

For these reasons, His Most Holiness Pope Gregory IX of the Salvian Church, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of Peace, Diarchic Pontiff of the Universal Church, Archbishop of Deopolis, declares a most holy crusade to reclaim these lands and defeat the most unholy and evil Yellow Empire. 

 

Issued on the 4 of August, Year of Our Lord 1551, the 13th year of His Holiness’ reign as Vicar of the Most High. 

 

Salvia Catholicae Ecclesiae Episcopus, 

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Edited by Sancti Imperii Catholico (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

New Salvis, the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum Overseas Colonies 

August 22nd, Year of Our Lord 1554 

Provincial Palace  

Flavio Burgellio sat at the head of the War Council, leaning back in his chair with his head rested on his knuckles, reminiscing on the steps that were taken to get .  A nobleman’s son, he was brought up in the royal courts of Deopolis as his family vied and played the political game, hoping to replace the current Colombo dynasty.  The Burgellions had come close to placing Flavio on the throne, having the support of most of the nobles, but needed the last necessary piece to claim the Salvian throne- the support of the Church. Flavio was thus put in charge of the crusade by the Salvian king and Pope Gregory IX. 

The eastern sun illuminated the palace board room, reserved usually for the business of the governor.  Today however, it was reserved for the final preparations of the First Crusade. 

It had been just over threeyears since the crusade was called by Pope Gregory IX and his Iverican counterpart.  Since the decree, the Church had roused support amongst the people, and while the Salvian king had sent a part of the army to accompany the crusaders, many of the fighters were a massive collection of volunteers, ranging from pious commoners, explorers wishing to see the world, prisoners hoping to earn their freedom, nobles like Flavio seeking political gain, and everything in between.  The needed funds were contributed by noble families like Flavio’s, the Church, and other Christian nations- most notable of which were the Ivericans.  These funds would pay for supplies, weapons, and the basic training that was sorely needed for the untrained masses that came.  Many sold most of their possessions and left their families to embark on the crusade.  These supplies, men, and weapons had been ferried across the Adlantic over the last three years, gathering their strength and preparing for the final crossing into enemy territory. 

A war map was hung on the opposite wall, showing the full extent of the Yellow Empire and its area of influence.  While the supplies and men began to gather on the island, the leaders of the crusade- military generals and several nobles- met in the winter of 1551 in New Salvis to begin discussing the strategy.  A week before the final landing, the strategy was being reviewed one last time. 

Flavio snapped back into reality as he sat up in his chair.  The leaders of the crusade were ready to begin at Flavio’s command.  He cleared his throat and motioned his hand towards the general on his right, who stood up and walked across the room towards the map.  As he did so, Flavio addressed the leaders, “Good morning, men.  This is our last meeting before we see each other once more in heathen lands.  I turn the attention to General Cassius.” 

The general nodded before continuing, “In a matter of a few days we will cross the strait in into enemy lands, setting up a base camp at the foot of the Eastern Alharun Steppe.  Lord Phillip, you will oversee the construction and upkeep of this base to ensure that the supply lines to Salvia and the outside world will be kept open. 

Generals Marcus, Godwin, and Lords Wade and Theobald, you will lead the men already assigned to you south and sweep through below the Steppe.  Theobald and Marcus will eventually split from this group to curve northeasternly towards the Amharan capital, Godwin and Wade will continue the southernly push.  The rest of us- Lords Randall, Otto, Leo, and Flavio, will move directly from Phillip’s base and make a push to the Amharan capital, where we will link up will link up with Theobald and Marcus.  If necessary, help will be delivered to Godwin and Wade in the south.  

Most of the territory we are liberating are tributary states, so resistance should be small, especially in the south.  Only strongholds that are loyal to the Yellow Empire should provide resistance. 

If by now the Yellow Empire has not surrendered yet, we will regroup once more on the border of Amhara and Yellow Empire proper, before making our final campaign in towards their capital, Anhuajing.”  Cassius finished with a nod towards Flavio, and he nodded back. 

“Thank you, Cassius.”  Cassius moved to his seat and sat down.   
“The fine details of this campaign are entrusted to you, men.  Each and every one of you are capable leaders, and I trust all of you to step up to God’s call and lead these men on a most holy crusade against evil.  Prepare not only your plans but your soul as well.  Take up your own cross” 

The lords and generals rose from their seats.  A priest carried a large crucifix and stood to the side of the doorway.  “You are all dismissed.  Deus Vult!”   

The gathering repeated the phrase after Flavio before heading towards the doorway, kissing the feet of the Savior before exiting.   

Every one of them knew that the other was not here for religious reasons or out of piety.  They all were here for personal gain and they were all beginning to scheme.  Flavio knew he needed to be ahead of them if he wished to rise to the throne. 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

OOC notes because I felt like they didn't fit in this post but I feel should be mentioned:

1) Christians from other nations are (obviously) present, but the majority are Catholics/Tacolics 

2) Each lord/general is in charge of their own small army- a mix of their personal armies, the standing Salvian army, and volunteers thrown into battalions and assigned to a lord/general 

3) Most funding comes from nobles and lords attempting to gain something from the venture- many of which were promised something by the Burgellio’s if they contributed.  The rest is provided by the Salvian Church 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Eastern Alharun Steppe, the Yellow Empire 

September 12th,Year of Our Lord 1554 

Fort Alcober 

 

Flavio walked outside the palisade walls, contemplating.  The crusading forces had arrived a couple days ago to their designated point at the foor of the Eastern Alharun Steppe.  Even though he had walked a decent distance away, he could see men working on the outside of the fort, the ground without any bumps over a couple feet in height.  While he could still see the multitude of soldiers bustling around the fort, he was isolated with his thoughts, alone. 

The land the fort was on, at least according to legend, was holy ground.  The first missionary to the area, John Alcobar, had come to the land some 125 years before.  After preaching his message in a nearby town he was carried out and stoned.  Flavio paused for a second.  He was always reserved, often holding his judgement back. He was mistaken as disabled or mute many times throughout his life.  But this was the time to burst out.  Chosen by God to lead a holy mission, he would liberate these Christians or like Alcobar, spill his blood trying. 

Gusts of wind blew strongly over the steppe as he walked back to the fort, the sound of the flapping of the flags being carried by the wind.  The grass seemed to bow down in his direction.  Truly, he was chosen by God. 

 

*              *              *

A letter from Lord Bergio Theobald to his wife in Salvia, written on the 16th of October, Year of Our Lord 1554 

 

My dearest wife, 

I hope all is well at home and trust that both the estate and our children are doing well.   

Since we landed in Alharu two months ago we have met no resistance in crossing the southern portion of the Yellow Empire.  While the number of cities is small, the places we have met on our way have either immediately surrendered after seeing the size of our force or have thrown open their gates in celebration that a liberator has finally marched through their lands... 

...the southern force consists of some 30,000 souls and has only grown in number as native auxiliaries have joined our forces to fight back against their oppressors... the northern force consists of some 45,000, although I am totally unaware of the level of resistance they have met on the way... 

...I have a feeling that most of the leaders here are fighting for totally secular reasons, which if revealed to the armies would cause soldiers to abandon this most holy endeavor and thus is the only reason that I will not reveal the fact.  For I truly believe that this war is just and holy, and to see the leaders of this fight leading for an unholy motive tarnishes the war in the first place... 

...I hope all continues to be well at home.  Please pray for our souls and mission. 

Written by my own hand, 

Your dearest husband, 

Bergio Theobald 

Edited by Sancti Imperii Catholico (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

"You are to hold and delay the advance of the foreign invaders at all cost. Do not allow him to consolidate all of his forces into one against us, and above all do not allow him to penetrate into the North and West beyond the desert."

The words of the imperial missive echoed in the mind of Guo Wei, Marquis of the Second Rank and Supreme Commander of all the forces below the Ivory Cape, the peninsula that marked the end of the old Huang territories, and south of which lay the vast swathes of tributaries, colonies, allied tribes, and now, crusaders. Even before the missive reached his hands, Guo Wei and the Southern Army had been on the move to join battle with the enemy. They had marched 110 li* in only three days, and had left behind their baggage train in order to meet the enemy at this critical juncture: at the edge of the rocky plateau that preceded the desert. Thanks to the swift actions of Guo Wei's allied Boshan scouts, the headquarters of the army had deduced that the crusading army could only be making for one place, the wealthy border village of Anchang, and its fertile fields, ripe sorghum stretching for many hundreds of acres.

"Assume the fourth defensive formation!"

Along the edge of the settlement, ditches had been dug, some wooden palisades hastily erected. It was not enough to stop an advancing army, and perhaps not even enough to inconvenience them much. The Southern Army was by far the weakest force of the Huang; the career soldiery loitered around the capital, or else manned the canal-forts of the desert, meaning that Guo Wei's army was one of convicts, conscripts, tribesmen and pirates. He had no heavy cavalry, no shock infantry, few muskets and only five artillery pieces. The strength of the Southern Army normally lay in its ability to traverse the terrain quickly, and to hold off an often primitive enemy with bow and crossbow fire. They would not have the luxury of an unarmored foe today. As the infantry marched into position, and the horse archers began to trot out past the flanks, Guo Wei gave the order to the mortarmen.

"Kai pao!"

*110 li = 45 miles

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The gathering of lords and generals sat silently atop a nearby hill, watching the battle finish below.  It was a relatively quick affair, much more time being spent on mustering the men and readying them for battle then the actual combat.  As the enemy fled into the city, the crusaders followed them, and soon flames and smoke could be seen rising above the settlement. Flavio called over an aide after a realization.  It was September- there would definitely be late-season crops in the fields, if not harvested already.

 

“Yes, m’lord?”

 

“I want you to ensure that the fire does not spread to the field or the storehouses.  Sir Fernando from the Iverican company would most likely be your best bet for aid.” The aide saluted, mounted a nearby horse, and rode off.

 

Lord Otto stated out loud to no one in particular, “They’ll almost certainly be able to muster up a force again.”

 

Flavio shrugged.  “It won’t matter. We’ll fight them again.”  The flames and smoke grew more intense as the din of battle shifted to a din of murderous screams.  He continued to face the village, “We’ll need to find a better way to face those horse archers. They’ll prove much more deadly in future conflicts.”  Turning to the group, he finished, “We’ll discuss that once dusk settles. You all are dismissed- see to it that your men set up camp.”

 

The assembly of lords and generals walked off while Flavio remained.  

 

*              *               *

 

The rhythmic din of feet marching along a dirt road mingled with the sounds of chatter and metal clanging.  Lord Theobald, atop his horse, trotted alongside his men. The crusader army had been traveling southwest along the main highway, with several detachments splitting up and sweeping the coast while the larger army continued its slow march southwest. The forces had now joined up for the crossing of the Tes River.

 

The chatter picked up as the army rounded a bend in the road and summited a large hill.  Straight ahead of them, to the southwest, stood a large and fortified settlement, resting elegantly on the Tes River.  Theobald halted his horse as sat upright, observing the city and surrounding countryside. This would be his army’s first challenge.  And hopefully not its last, he thought.  

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Jianmen, Southeast Yellow Empire

March 13th, Year of Our Lord 1555

 

The spring sun shone brightly as Theobald heard the large explosions of the bombards to his right as he surveyed the troops forming into battle positions on top of a hill.  They had besieged the city of Jianmen several months before. A city and port on the Tes River in the southwest of the Yellow Empire, it was critical for the crusaders to take- not only to defeat the heretics and claim victory for God, but in order to continue the Southern Campaign across the south of the Yellow Empire.  Jianmen, the “Steadfast Gate” as it was translated, held a fitting name.

 

Another volley fired off.  The last month had seen Theobald fully encircle the city and the crusader navy flush out the Tes River and reach the city’s port, fully blockading the city.  Although the crusaders had superior ships compared to the heretics, the river proved to be tight and limited the fighting capacity of the gunpowder ships. Nevertheless, the crusaders would prevail and take the river.  The lords and generals of the Southern Campaign, however, knew that they could not starve out the defenders. The city had food storages that would last for months, the generals had surmised, plenty of time to amass an army to break the siege.  Theobald had then instructed Marcus, Godwin, and Wade to take command of a section of the army and to fully surround the city. Marcus would take his force to the hilly north and serve largely as a diversion, the main attack coming from the flat south led by Theobald himself and the river fleet, where Godwin had snuck his army under cover of darkness.  

 

A third volley from his own bombards fired off shortly before the first volley from the hilly north fired off.  Shortly after that, the artillery pieces from the ships in the river fired off, and the east followed that. The bombardment, another one of many that had occurred in the last few months, strategically targeted sections of the outdated walls, gates, and cannon armaments and towers that dotted the walls.  Several months of cannon fire directed at these targets would finally come to fruition this day as the targets were destroyed. After the artillery had fulfilled that task to the satisfaction of the generals, the gunners turned their fire into the city itself, hoping to cause chaos, destruction, and casualties.  Once the artillery ran out of ammunition, the army finalized preparations before waiting for the final blessing.  

 

The Bishop of Trinity, his cathedral being the site of the calling of the crusade, rode out on a horse in armor.  His left hand held a red square banner with the Virgin Mary and Joseph holding baby Jesus, who held his right hand out, index and middle finger pointed up and thumb going out to the right, ring and pinkie finger tucked into the palm of his hand.  A cross went behind the Holy Family, with the letters “JMJ” above the cross in gold thread. In his right, he carried a crosier made from gold, a symbol of the bishop being a shepherd of his own flock. In a booming voice heard by the entire southern force, he blessed the crusaders, “Men of God, you come to the heretic’s gates to deliver a most worthy victory to the Savior.  Therefore, go forward, and grant God this most holy victory! Deus Vult!” After this, he made a sweeping Sign of the Cross towards the army, the thousands of men cheering and shouting. The formalities over, the men began to march towards the city gates. Theobald, still on top of the hill, already saw in the distance the eastern force engage and messengers begin to hurry towards him with reports.  The battle had begun.

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"Commander Yang, the barbarians have breached the outer gate.They are tens of thousands, and we cannot repel them."

Yang Qiu turned his helmed head to face the sentry. The commander was a Northerner of forty summers, and wore a patchy beard on a round, sincere face. His armor was in the style of the south coast, a coat of mail and small plates worn under a silk jacket and trousers, and his helmet had a boar carved in ivory on the crest.

"I see. Soldier, tell the garrison to prepare to fight to the death. Any man who is wounded will be expected to either fight if he is able or commit suicide if he is unable. In the cellar magazine, there are thirty sealed crates of imperial firebirds; I had kept them here for General Guo, but now I fear he shall never get them. Distribute them among the troops on the interior wall."

"Yes, sir!"

Night fell on Jianmen quickly, and the fighting continued in the city. Civilians ran screaming from every building, and both man and beast lay dead in all the streets of the town. The crusaders were hacking their way through barricades of carts, barrels, and bodies, thrown up by what remained of the retreating garrison. Yang Qiu watched from the wall.

"Soldiers! Prepare the firebirds!"

The harrowed troops rushed to their positions. Nearly to a man, they were covered in soot and blood; their own and others'. They pulled their last resort from slim wooden crates lined with straw: the firebird rockets of the Xida Imperial Arsenal. They devices were about one and a half meters long, 16 centimeters in diameter, and constructed of a long bamboo tube filled with gunpowder and an outer layer of metal fragments coated in tar, intended to serve as both shrapnel and incendiary. The tube was guided by two large silk wings along the length and a genuine feather tail in the rear; the entire assembly was decorated with motifs of phoenixes and fire. The firebirds were propped up against the parapet, crusader bullets and arrows whistling all around. Yang Qiu raised his sword, silhouetted against the red, smoky sky.

"Prepare!...Fire!"

Three hundred rocket tubes sprang from the inner wall of Jianmen almost without warning, illuminating the area even across the river. Many fell long or short of their mark, starting yet more fires in the doomed town. But most of the rockets, aided by the delay of the crusader troops, were able to strike their mark and send the besiegers formations into disarray, at least temporarily. Horses screamed and bucked their riders, men were crushed under falling masonry, and a whole company of crusading archers raised in Limonaia were blown to smithereens in front of the Fisherman's Gate. After almost a full minute, the thunderous sound and brilliant flashes subsided for a time. Commander Yang turned to his men once more, picking up a shield.

"Jianmen is lost. Each man must do his duty."

 

Elsewhere...

......."Jianmen is lost. Each man must do his duty. "Jianmen is-"

"Lord Guo? My lord, are you awake?"

Guo Wei pried his eyes open, seeing a familiar face. It was Jing Kao, one of his bodyguards from the Duchy of Baiyu. Jing Kao's particular class were aristocratic poets and literati who also trained in the arts of war to serve their clan, and the Dragon Throne; in fact, not very different from many of the barbarian crusaders, whether he knew it or not. Like all his people, he was tall, slim, and very dark of face. He wore armor of steel, covered by lavishly decorated gold, green enamel and ivory, featuring the insect motif of his clan, the Jing, who wore the mayfly on their sigils and helms. He held a drinking gourd in his hand, offering it to Guo Wei, who took it and drank thirstily.

"You did not wake for three days, my lord. I though you would certainly die. A barbarian mace struck you in the temple and dazed you. I had to grab your reins and ride us both away from the battlefield before we were killed."

The Baiyu spoke a devilish dialect of Huang, very foreign to the ear of most nobility, but Guo Wei understood enough.

"Our army is defeated. Jianmen is lost. We are surely defeated in the south."

"Jianmen, my lord? I don't understand; I have heard no news of Jianmen, how can you know this?

"I dreamt it, and I know it to be true. I awoke just now with the taste of sulphur in my mouth, as if I had been there to see the firebirds fly."

There was silence; a stream burbled gently nearby, and the pair's horses grazed next to the men. Guo Wei saw now that he was laying under a tree in his undertunic and trousers, his silk robe folded under his head as a pillow. His head was bandaged, and throbbing. Jing Kao spoke again.

"You must rest awhile somewhere, my lord. I am sure we can slip away into some mountain manor unnoticed. You may hide there until we can escape to the capital, or the province is liberated."

Guo Wei rose, his head lighter than air.

"No, brave Jing, we must continue the fight against the invaders in the south. How many of our men survived the battle?"

"Perhaps two or three hundred. Not many at all, many of them scattered and probably running for home, hoping not to get swept up by the Northern recruiting columns. All but one of your other Baiyu bodyguards are dead, the artillery has been captured, and the regular infantry for the most part slaughtered in the crush and by the barbarian cavalry. That leaves perhaps a few dozen real troops, and a significant number more who only nominally owe you allegiance. They may agree to fight for you, they may not. You may be duty-bound to execute some of them if they have turned to banditry. It is a senseless proposition, my lord; you should retire from the field and save your life with honor. However."

Jing Kao lifted a painted wooden mask to his face, and fastened it into the hooks of his helmet. It was a man's face, but with a long cranefly's nose and articulated golden eyebrows. The wooden jaw, another piece, was square and narrow, and clacked with every word, a pointed false beard articulating Jing Kao's already sharp features.

"I have sent the other survivor, my cousin Jing Fei, to the home valleys. If he arrives in time, he will bring reinforcements. If he arrives too late, he will bring a funeral shroud. Your horse is ready, Lord Guo. Let us make haste."

 

Edited by Fulgistan (see edit history)
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  • 2 months later...

Co-authored by @Fulgistan

Central Yellow Empire
March 2nd, Year of our Lord 1555 

 

The sun rose red over the town of Chamiao. Geese and ducks called loudly in the streets as the townsfolk went about their morning errands, dust scattering from the wheels of ox-carts, the straw sandals of litter-bearers, and the galloping hooves of a lone horse. The young man rode west, the rising sun at his back as he leapt from the saddle, rushing through the bronze-studded gate of the county yamen.

“A report for Baron Qi, from Captain Wang of the White Company!”

The courtyard within already had a few soldiers milling about, including the Baron himself, who had risen some hours before. Qi Hu was an experienced commander, a veteran of many local feuds and a formidable soldier in his own right. Although one of his hands had been replaced by a silver prosthetic, his command of martial arts was reportedly fearsome. The Baron wore plated armor of the capital fashion, steel plates covered with paint, enamel and gems depicting Buddhist demons and monsters. From his seat at a table in the center of the courtyard, he motioned to an orderly, who accepted the messenger’s scroll with a deferential bow.

“Take your ease, soldier.”

The courier kowtowed gratefully and left to find some refreshment as the orderly opened and read the scroll aloud, his off-beat cadence piercing the morning air.

“Captain Wang of the White Company reports to Baron Qi of Wei: The barbarian army is encamped in the hills at Zhuyang Commandery near the Luo Family Village. They bring twenty big guns and a number of musketeers. The bridges at Horse Square and Li Family Village have been destroyed according to your orders, but the enemy will certainly ford the river nearby.”

Qi considered for a moment. The forces he had gathered in Chamiao would be insufficient to defeat the crusading army in the field; he was waiting on reinforcements from Bogd Gioro, and they were at least a week away. He had to foil the plans of the invaders before they could crack Chamiao and move into the rest of the northeast.

“We’ll have to attack them when they’re on the move. No time to unpack the artillery train; it’s our only hope against such a force.”

A sergeant of the infantry stepped forward from the eaves of the yamen courtyard and saluted.

“Sir! I’m from Zhuyang Commandery. There’s only one place to ford the river there, and since the bridges have been built it is accessible only through a disused road, not suitable for a baggage train. We could lay an ambush near the ford and defeat their divided forces.”

Baron Qi rapped his silver hand on the table with a thunk, rising quickly from his chair.

“Very well! We’ll move immediately to intercept the barbarian column; prepare my horse!”

As the dawn progressed to a bright, clear morning, a narrow column of men and horses set off from the red gates of Chamiao, moving with all haste for Zhuyang Commandery and the unsuspecting foe.

 

*                    *                   *

 

The cries of both man and beast swirled with the chaotic din that was the pitched battle as cracks of gunpowder weapons and crossbows sounded out.  While the actual ambush had only targeted the middle section of the marching column, both the front and back secured the flanks, fearing another ambushing force.  With no such attack forthcoming, more men were sent to aid the ambushed crusaders.  

On the periphery, mounted knights began to push back the light cavalry, while demi-lancers harassed the Huang missile infantry that hid behind the infantry.  In the center of the fight, however, chaos ruled. Iverican musketeers and pikemen, stuck in close-quarters combat, drew their swords to fend off the Huang infantry as unhorsed Salvian men-at-arms and knights came to their aid.  Some musketeers were able to get away, load their guns, and fire into the Huang mass-- others weren’t as lucky. While the heavier Salvian infantry fared better against the more medium-armoured Huang, the repeating crossbows that fired off behind the medium infantry scored dozens of kills a volley.

After waiting for an attack from the north, Flavio brought his bodyguard detachment of heavily armored knights into the fray, but by then, most of the ambushing force was in retreat.  The Iverican musketeers, now reforming, began to fire volley after volley onto the retreating Huang-- the deadly Huang crossbowmen did the same. Any chance for the Salvian cavalry to run down the Huang or kill the crossbowmen were cut short by more volleys from the Huang crossbowmen, although the musketeers and the newly arrived Bergarmian crossbowmen certainly punished any Huang sticking around.  The ambushing force began an organized retreat in full, and the crusading force set camp and began to lick their wounds.


__________________
 

General Cassius approached Flavio, who stood atop the hill the Huang had just ambushed from.  It had been several hours since the attack and dusk was beginning to settle in. The two shared a drink of water as they watched the camp bustle.  The river, relatively calm with the lack of rain recently, was heard to the pair’s left as they gazed south. The two sat in silence for some moments.

The long silence was broken by Flavio.  “How is Lord Otto faring?”

“As well as he can be.  Thank the Lord, however, that the bolt struck at an odd angle- he has a couple broken ribs and a nasty gash, but a scar will probably be all that's left, come a couple years.”  Flavio simply nodded at the news. “And the rest of the lords have their men organized? How is Leo treating the Iverican company?” Cassius swallowed another mouthful of water before continuing, “Randall and Leo have their companies organized for the night.  The engineers are also at work on transports to carry the artillery over, but they say the river is indeed fordable.” He swallowed another mouthful before giving the canteen back to Flavio. “The Ivericans took a beating, that they did, but they will be quite alright I believe.  They really took the brunt of the ambush. Leo is treating them well for their service, I have no doubt.”

Flavio nodded once more.  “Good. Their loyalty to us is essential- they proved their worth in that ambush.”  He looked at Cassius for the first time since he had climbed up the hill. His right arm was bandaged, but otherwise looked fine.  He supposed a veteran like Cassius would be less fazed by combat than others- many of the men appeared beat and sore, while Cassius stood with the same calm energy he always possessed.  A man in his early fifties, Cassius had seen combat in a variety of theaters, although Flavio doubted he had fought in the deserts and plains of Alharu before this crusade. The pair had in fact met before the crusade was called, during a war in the northern territory back in Salvia.  While Flavio considered Cassius a good friend, the two were both equally reserved and talked little. Looking east at the river,which glistened in the sunset light, Flavio realized for the first time that he did not even know much about Cassius. The pair were not close due to familiarity with each other, but rather due to circumstance, as brothers in arms.  

 

“Cassius, could I ask you a question?”

“Fire away.”

“Why are you here?”

Cassius was slightly taken aback by the question.  “Why, I suppose the same reason you are here, friend.”  Flavio turned back to look at Cassius, “Is that really it?  You could’ve retired to a nice estate in the south, with your own workers and with family close by.  Yet you decided to travel across the Adlantic to fight some vague evil that we were both told was wrong.”

Cassius met Flavio’s eyes while raising a brow.  “Careful what you say, figliocho*.  Those are dangerous words to say while doing the Popes’ work.  But… you are not incorrect.” Cassius looked back towards the camp and drew a deep breath in through his nostrils before continuing, “Retirement is not for me quite yet, I’d like to believe.  One more conquest, something more foreign than Salvia’s backyard, would be a fitting end for a successful general’s career. How about you, Flavio?”

Flavio simply shrugged.  “Something larger than that, I hope.”


 

* Salvian word for friend, particularly someone younger than you or who you have authority over

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