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Operation Hydra: Day 24

by Alex Benson

Force A: The siege of Minrothad City continues. The tedium is broken by the Hardball teams continuing their tournament. The day's two matches are watched by most Thyatians and a goodly number of Thadders from their vantage point on the walls. Unsurprisingly the two advancing teams are both Alphatian.

Fregnoss's team decidedly beating the other Alpher team and the Thyatian team being humiliated by the team headed by Morcrynn. Despite the strong showing, Fregnoss remains the favoured team for the finals. Both teams request another day to rest up for the big game. However, Helena wants it to end the tourney tomorrow to accommodate her own plans.

Helena calls her staff to meet. She divulges her plan to begin the assault at the conclusion of the Hardball finals. Over the weeks of idle siege, she has had much time to contemplate her attack plan. As is, the Thadder capital is assailable only through the outer keep. Capture of that entryway is seen as the only way to gain entrance for the assaulting troops. Once captured the keep will be used as a staging point to gain entry into the city itself. That day will see the beginning of a continuous barrage from the artillery of the 27th Assault Cohort. Attentions will be focused upon the city's outer defensive keep. However, portions of the artillery will be diverted to bear upon the SeaGate. That avenue of entry may become useful if the gates can be breached. The honour of the initial assault will be given to 6th Cohort. The 12th will be held in reserve. The plan lacks any semblance of tactical brilliance, relying on brute force. Casualties are expected to be high, but it is seen as the only way to gain entrance.

Helena contacts the rest of her forces to get a daily update. Nikkos' reorganisations are going well. They should be ready well before the forces from Harbortown arrive. She is pleased to hear of the rapid pace that Gen. di Ciciero has reformed and assembled his troops. Personally she had not thought it possible for another two or three days. Her conversation with Adm. Perdry further strengthens her resolve in taking Min City quickly. If a battle with the dwarves can be avoided it would be best.

Adm. Helena contacts Eusebius privately. He updates her on the situation on the IoD and the planned negotiations. He reiterates the need to bring a hasty end to the war in Minrothad. He goes as far as to tell her that accomplishing this feat will garner her a noble title via the Senate. Then, he tells her, they can marry without criticism. (note- in OpHydra the empress perished giving birth in AC1015 and Eusebius and Helena have had an affair since).

Force B: In Harbortown, the Thyatians continue in their occupational duties. Gen. di Cicero rushed efforts to get the forces reorganised and prepared for departure have resulted in their readiness by midafternoon. After officially turning administration of the city over to Valicius, he and his staff board ship and depart. The 26th Assault Cohort, 9th Cohort, 17th Cohort, and13th Fleet are all under way to meet Nikkos forces at Open Island.

Force C: Gen. Nikkos is startled when he is told that Gen. di Cicero's forces were enroute to meet him. Like Helena he had thought di Cicero's planned deployment impossible. He estimates their arrival in about four days. He is determined to be ready and waiting for them and not hold up the planned assault on Seahome.

The troops of 28th Kerendas Cavalry Cohort and 4th Cohort continue preparing.

Force D: Adm. Pentalon's fleet sails a steady course for Harbortown. After encountering the ships of Serpico, they pass within sight of Bright Cliff before heading on towards Harbortown. Serpico offers to escort the supply vessel bound for Min City. Pentalon turns down the offer. At Bright Cliff they are hailed by the war galleys stationed there with requests for supplies. Though its not in his orders Pentalon obliges the request. This transfer is done at sea to limit the amount of time needed. Pentalon will escort the supply ships there, then will take half of the vessels to supply the Thyatian forces at Min City. This manner will cost the supply effort at Min City a couple days but it will give Pentalon the credits for delivering supplies to both.

Force E: Capt. Ostenphius and his troops continue their lonely vigil at Bright Cliff. The sighting of the supply convoy and the supplies bolsters them somewhat. News of the NACE offensives on the IoD is a surprise. No one had thought to inform the troops of Bright Cliff.

Group F - Captain Dregarius orders his mini-fleet onward, keeping Serpico's within sight. They move slightly northward to await the approaching supply ships.

Group G - With Pentalon's supply ships spotted, Adm. Serpico orders his ships (and Group F) to move to the west to Harbortown. The outbreak of plague has been quelled by the clerics. Serpico plans to replace his tainted supplies. Given Pentalon's stop to supply Bright Cliff Serpico's vessels should easily beat him to Harbortown.

Group H - Capt. Xappellus and her ships continue their hunt for shipping. Their hunt is interrupted by the discovery of additional damage incurred from the previous day's storm. One vessel, The Sea Bitch, has developed a breach in her hull. Overnight the trickle has formed into a steady influx of water. The crew hastens to bilge the water out and plug the hole. It becomes necessary to call upon the assistance of the other vessels. The crews eventually win their battle with the seas and the ship is saved. With the day wasted, Xappellus makes offerings to Protius and rests her crews. She does take the precaution of having the officers personally inspect their vessel for anymore surprises that may have been overlooked.

Group I - The Seahome Elves finally acknowledge the presence of the Thyatian 14th Fleet. The early light of dawn reveals a flotilla of six vessels of various sizes rapidly approaching the Thyatian formation. From the elven vessels come a flurry of magical spells and normal missiles. The Thyatian ships Tarrous and Timult bear the brunt of this attack. Through concerted artillery fire from the Fleet, the elven vessels are turned back. Though several Thyatians ships pursue them, they must break off after coming within range of the Seahome defences. The Tarrous is demasted and has some repairable hull damage. Also her crew has taken some heavy casualties. The Timult is in far worse shape. Half her crew, including the captain and first mate, is dead and she is listing heavily. The remaining crew and Marines struggle for hours to keep her afloat. However, eventually the order to abandon ship is given. The vessel's crew are transferred to the Tarrous. In a move to keep the Thadders from getting the credit, the Thyatians fire into the crippled vessel sending her to the bottom.

Group J - Adm. Corso's ships continue on through the northern sealane.

Group K - Horatio's ships sail on through the southern portions of the sealane. By nightfall, Bright Cliff is but a few hours away. Not wanting to risk the reefs and rocks, he anchors his vessels until dawn's light.

Group L - Adm. Perdry's 23rd Fleet continues its vigil off the coast of Fortress Island. As with the previous day, a lone vessel arrives and Capt. Ironsides meets with the Thyatian admiral. During their light conversation, Perdry brings up the possibility for a separate peace between Thyatis and the dwarves. Ironsides does not dismiss the idea. However he does cite that it is too early. If and when Min City falls, such an agreement may be possible. The two speak for about an hour more, mostly about the NACE offensives on the IoD. When Ironsides does leave, Perdry contacts Helena and tells her of the conversation regarding the separate peace.

Group M - Arogast continues his cruise at breakneck speeds. As his vessels round the western point of Trader Island they spot a grouping of Minrothad vessels. Though considered a daredevil, Arogast is not foolish enough to pit his handful of ships against more than a score of Thadder vessels. He signals the vessels to flee, his intentions to report their discovery and live to fight another day. However the Thadders pursue and with their better seamanship and spells quickly bear down upon them. Using their greater numbers, the Thadders move in on the Thyatians and systematically dismantle their rigging. Then it is but a matter of time. The Privateers outright sink two of the vessels. They offer no quarter to the survivors in the water, dispatching them with missile fire. The Thadder and Ierendi vessels board the remaining vessels. Arogast is unable to get off a message to Adm. Helena before he falls to the affects of a Careen spell. For their victory, the Thadders paid dearly. In boarding the Thyatian ships they had lost several irreplaceable Marines in the fighting. Seeing their fellows cutdown offered the Thyatians the motivation to fight to the death. Though they had captured two repairable vessels, they lacked the time and crews to make the needed repairs as to utilise them for their own fleet. With some regrets, the Thadders strip the vessels of its weapons and valuables and scuttle them. On a more personal note, the actions of the Privateers against the surrendering Thyatians strikes a disturbing chord with the Ierendi and some of the Thadders. There was no honour in shooting defenceless sailors. Honour and morals aside, any captured Thyatians probably could have been coerced into repairing and manning the captured vessels. Delorno is furious at the whole matter and almost pulls his forces out. Reporting to Ierendi officials, he goes on record condemning the atrocities and identifying the perpetrators. Secretly he and his fellow Ierendi vow to report the incident to the Thyatians if they survive this quest.

In Minrothad City, a few hearty fellows brave the walls to catch glimpses of the Hardball tourney. The Thadders make it no secret that their support goes to the Alphatian teams. Tales of the matches continue to be retold in the city's pubs and taverns. With the big match the next day, numerous bookies have risen to handle bets. Like the Thyatian gamblers, the Thadders favour the team of Fregnoss.

Oran and Warheart meet to discuss the war. Both are discouraged by reports that the Thyatians and NACE are to begin negotiations on the situation on the IoD. Unless they break down, there is little hope for Thyatian troops to be diverted to that region from Minrothad. Warheart suggest sending orders to Blue Eels in Redstone to try to disrupt the talks, even intensify things if possible. Though the idea of promoting war is distasteful to Oran he agrees and has the orders sent.

Reports of the victory against the Thyatians is received with mixed blessings. Delorno's displeasure in their conduct has drawn disapproval from the Ierendi mercenaries and their government. The Ierendi government has even threatened to withdraw support. Oran manages to calm these threats by pointing out that the Privateers committed the acts, not regular Naval personnel.

Back to war matters, Warheart points out that since the Thyatians are making no deviations from redeployment they must be setting the stage for another invasion. The dwarf surmises that it is either Fortress Island or Alfeisle. Not that he wishes war on his fellow dwarves, but he hopes that it will be the Stronghold. Warheart knows that Stronghold will force the Thyatians to assault the dwarves directly. There will be no landings down from the city's defences. Such an assault will eat up the Thyatian forces. For those same reasons Warheart feels that the Thyatians will strike next at Alfeisle where they can land troops in more favourable areas and dictate the war in their own terms.

It is during this line of discussion that an aide brings in a report from Seahome reporting the sea battle. The loss of one Thyatian vessel and another heavily damaged is greeted warmly. However, the report also bears some bad news. In the battle Merchant Prince Vaneer Malloasa was slain by a Thyatian ballistae bolt. Also coming out badly was Merchant Prince Dorell Conditor and his son Erkrell. Dorell took an arrow in the eye and was blinded. Young Erkrell had a piece of rigging fall on top of him breaking several of his ribs and his right arm. Oran sends his condolences to the Malloasa family and his well wishes to the Conditors for speedy recoveries. The death and injuries to two of Seahome's prominent merchant families is surely to hamper morale.

Oran has the naval victories announced to the capital's populace. Any victories are beneficial to keeping morale up. However, he omits the details about the atrocities, Ierendi disapproval, death of Malloasa, and the injuries to the Conditors.

Warheart puts before Oran a plan to disrupt the Thyatians. Tomorrow during the Hardball tourney attentions will be focused upon the match. With them as a diversion small groups of Thadder troops could wreak havoc among the camps. Likewise, the expected masses of Thadder spectators on the walls could be used to cover a heavy archer presence. Though he dislikes the use of such underhanded tactics, he sees the rationality behind it. He offers his support for the venture.

Warheart summons twenty elven troops and twenty human troops. He briefs them on the mission. After nightfall they are to covertly leave the city and make their way out beyond the Thyatian camp. Out in the countryside they are to stay in hiding, avoiding Thyatian contact until the Hardball match is fully involved. They will then attack targets of opportunity, preferably ones that will hamper the Thyatian war effort the most. Warheart offers them each trooper three potions of fiery burning and one potion of explosions. The elves each receive six arrows of detonation and scrolls of teleportation to allow the ease of access back into the city.

In Thyatis City, the Blue Eels continue laying low and focus on info gathering. Theor fellows in other countries have forwarded to them news of the planned negotiations between NACE and Thyatis. Later they are informed of troops mobilisations throughout Thyatis. They hold off reporting the mobilisations until they can determine where they are bound. The Eels are not happy about being tasked with disrupting the negotiations in Redstone. However, they oblige and send word to their sole operative in Redstone. That Eel has been operating under the guise of a palace servant so she does have access. Whether or not she can pull it off is another matter. Redstone is not really known to boast a great deal of Minrothad sympathisers. And given the short amount of time, organising something will be difficult.

In Redstone, Terari and Demetrion arrive almost simultaneously. Over the next hour they are joined by the arrivals of various officials. Though everyone is present well before dark, there are actually no official talks initiated. Both sides meet with their countrymen to discuss matters, strategies, and the like for the actual discussions. Terari and Demetrion do speak informally for some time in private. Though the subject matter is unknown, both meet with their fellows in private. Deep in debate, each are interrupted with news that Kendach had surrendered, following Countess Marie Kendach being captured. The news is a blow to the Thyatians, who now want to begin negotiations immediately. However, the NACE contingent will not begin discussions until morning. Both sides retire for the night, with intentions to begin talks at dawn.

Eusebius is told of the fall of Kendach. He is not happy as nothing keeps the Alphatians from striking at Redstone and West Portage. He demands a report on the status of the mobilisation of the Cohorts and Fleets. He is told by an aide that-

The 24th Cohort in Hinterlands can be at sea within three days. However it will take at least three weeks of sea travel. The 5th Cohort in Tel Akbir can be on landed at Redstone within a week. The newly formed 30th Kerendas Cavalry Cohort is not up to strength and lacking in both weapons and horses. Even if they were equipped there are no transports available. The 2nd and 4th Fleets can both be at sea within a day or so. Both can be off the Redstone coast within a week. The contingency mobilisations of the 13th and 17th Cohorts has also met with problem. There are not enough transports available to get both cohorts to the IoD. Also the bulk of 13th was suffering from a case of dysentery contracted while on manoeuvres. It would take weeks before it could be readied for combat. The 17th was up to strength and properly equipped, however its ranks were almost entirely filled with raw recruits.

Eusebius cancels the deployment of the 24th. That would take too long. He also cancels the deployment of the 30th Cavalry Cohort. They are not ready. The 5th Cohort will leave for Redstone immediately. As for the 17th, they are too green and will march north to Tel Akbir to fill in for the 5th Cohort. Eusebius will instead send his own 2nd Imperial Cohort. The able bodied members of the 13th Cohort will assume the duties of the 2nd Imperial Cohort. The deployment of the 2nd Imperial Cohort is a resounding sign of Eusebius' resolve. However, it will still take three days to prepare for the venture and another week to get to Redstone.

Eusebius contacts Stefania and Anabaxius to tell them of the impending deployments. They are to forward this information to Demetrion and the Thyatian representatives. If the talks go badly, perhaps knowledge of the impending reinforcements...especially the Imperial Cohort... will give the Thyatians added bargaining power. He has them relay another message. Priority is to go towards maintaining Redstone and West Portage. Try to get as much land back as possible but retain Redstone at all costs.