The Wounded Witch by Jeramy Goble (Part Three)
Two weeks passed after King Baralli’s event at Orchid Square. At the closing of his announcement, the only specific order he gave was for the infantry to immediately report to their respective lieutenants and captains, or to Colendra and her immediate subordinates. And even then, the only order issued was for Nurudia’s forces to assemble again in two weeks, supplied and prepared for sea travel, at a temporary staging area established at Vortolia’s docks. The only detail revealed to the majority of Nurudia’s forces was that they would be boarding ships and sailing for war. The remaining specifics would be provided once they were underway.
Vortolia whipped into a frenzy during those two weeks. Wagon after wagon of food, water, and weaponry rolled to the docks. Blacksmiths and armorers worked night and day to repair or complete replacement armor. Men and women raced to finish tasks and chores or see to the indefinite need of their children while they were gone. And one by one, the substantially increased fleet of Nurudian ships sailed in and crowded Vortolia’s harbor. Months of preparation had paid off. Experts of Nurudian war and magic set sail.
The massive Nurudian force departed Vortolia with a replenished hunger for conquest. The wind hit the sails immediately and shoved them towards their unknown target. But once Vortolia had disappeared on the horizon behind them, each ship’s captain gave a signal to the commanding infantry officer or Gift Warrior on board to reveal their destination and plan to the entire ship. Onboard the Ludisia, Nurudia’s flagship, King Baralli made the announcement.
“Gather round, everyone. Gather round. Get everyone up from the lower decks.”
Some of the crew raced around, popping down a few stairs or yelling down. More Nurudians quickly streamed up onto the top decks and packed in tightly to hear their mission.
“All right, now. It’s time! It’s time to solve the mystery for you all.”
The king grinned mischievously as he spoke.
“I apologize for the secrets and the whispers. I truly do. But as I’m sure you all can appreciate, we needed to take great care to minimize the chances of our intentions being revealed to those with less than friendly inclinations.”
The men and women, with their eyes locked on their king, grunted and exclaimed statements of agreement.
“So, with that, my friends, it’s time for the reveal!”
The king looked around again, the mischievous smile still on his face.
“We will be on the seas for approximately five weeks. Does anyone know where that might take us?”
One of the regular seamen stepped up and raised his hand eagerly.
“Ah! None of the sailors can answer,” the king admonished playfully. “They study these matters every day!”
“Do any of my infantry know? Any of my masters and mistresses of the Gifts?”
There was no response.
“Ha!” The king chuckled. “Fair enough. All right, young man,” Baralli said, gesturing at the eager sailor. “Come here, friend. Whisper to me where it is you think we’re going.”
The young man stepped sheepishly towards the king, gripping his hat tightly. As be came within arm’s reach of the king, he looked to the king’s guards with a fearful brow. His head lowered. But no one stopped him. He stepped next to the king and leaned into his ear. No one heard the sailor’s guess, but the king leaned away and shot his arms up into the air.
“Correct, young sailor!” the king shouted, pleased. “You’re absolutely correct.”
“My fellow Nurudians! We set sail today for the fertile continent of Kynpahl, and the coasts of Fordail!”
The crew, sailors, infantry, and Gift Warriors alike cheered and whooped. Across the fleet, similar speeches were given, and similar reactions were received. And while the speech and reaction were similar on Colendra’s ship as well, she watched her ship’s announcement unfold from the false safety of a shadowed corner.
The subsequent five weeks on the seas were mostly calm. Casualties from sickness and disease were low. Morale held steady, and the wind rarely faltered. The weather was tame for the most part, with only a few major storms popping up along their way. By the end of their trip, out of two hundred and twenty-five ships, only three ships had been lost.
On some ships, the infantry helped with ship duties, while others did nothing but deplete their rations of ale. Nurudian engineers spent many of their days partially assembling siege equipment, to be rolled off and completed when they reached land. Colendra and her Gift Warriors, a smaller contingent in comparison to the infantry, spent the majority of their time in study, and reflection. This reflection gave Colendra time to realize that the success of their previous campaign on their home continent, as well as the comparable ease of their voyage, had sparked a flame of premature confidence throughout much of her ship. She feared it was similar throughout the fleet.
From the planning done before they left Nurudia, and the communications while underway, the strategy for the first siege was solidified. Through a combination of semaphore, carrier pigeons, and mirror signaling, each Nurudian onboard their respective ships would know the plan and be ready to wage their assault.
Before long, the time had come. The relative peace of the past few months had been extinguished. The Nurudians had returned to war and brought it to Fordail.
The Nurudian fleet entered Fordail’s waters just past midnight. By four, the Nurudian ships were within yards of the docks.
The siege ships dropped their sails. Towed by massive ships of war, the siege ships began launching devastating volleys of flaming projectiles hurtled from catapults on their top decks. They had achieved the element of surprise, but soon after the first few bursts of flame struck the city, the horns of Fordail’s capital city, Henessa, sounded. The attempted Nurudian conquest of Kynpahl had begun.
The surprise night-time attack was merciless. As ships docked and as floods of infantry and archers streamed out into the outskirts of the city, the veteran, battle-hardened Nurudians ripped through the initial resistance. The flaming projectiles devastated the city’s defenses and civilian structures, and while Henessa’s defenders were easily repulsed, the bulk of Nurudia’s forces made landfall and marched on the city.
Henessa was in flames. The Nurudian projectiles were too large and too constant for the citizens of Henessa to defend against. By sunrise, smoke suffocated the area. By noon, the bulk of Henessa’s defense had been crushed. Before dinner, Henessa had surrendered and Fordail’s soldiers were being led from the city while some Nurudians worked to put out the fires they themselves had started.
The start to the invasion was the epitome of war strategy. After just three days, the Nurudian army set out from Fordail with their sights on Hignriten, the neighboring country to the north. It also fell rapidly.
The Nurudians next set their sights on Acorilan.
END OF PART THREE