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Operation Hydra: Day 25

by Alex Benson

Force A: The siege continues. However the Thyatians have lost must of the festival attitude of the previous days' matches. By dawn, all have been told of the battle plan and to them the Hardball match is but an anticlimax. As a side note, the elimination of the Thyatian team has diminished much of the enthusiasm that the Thyatian troops had held. Few attend, being content with hearing periodic scores. Only the Alphatians, the other Thyatian team members, and a scattering of enthusiasts attend. With this being recognised, Helena orders the bombardment begun.

With the exception of the artillery barrages, the Hardball match goes as expected with Fregnoss' team decidedly beating Morcrynn's. The match was fairly close for its first half, but after that Morcrynn's teams just seemed exhausted and could not keep up. Adm. Helena begins awarding the prizes. Third place goes to the Alphatian team eliminated the day before. Second place is given to Morcrynn's team. Lastly first place is awarded to Fregnoss' team.

The Thadders on the walls, both military and spectators, are taken completely by surprise and those that survive the initial volley scurry for cover. For their part the Thadder teams outside the walls have moved into position. Minutes after the Thyatians begin bombardment, they too begin their assault. Split into teams of five, they each focus on specific targets. Supply depots, siege towers, and troops tents all draw their attentions. They manage to do some damage before they are spotted by troops of the 12th Cohort. Discovered, the Thadder troops begin moving back towards the city's walls. However, the Thyatian barrages had destroyed any hopes of coverage from the walls. Cut off from the city, the Thadders make a dash for the countryside. Only six humans and seven elves make it to safety and teleport back into Min City.

Undaunted by the attack the 6th Cohort awaits its orders to storm the outer keep. Siege towers are laboured up to the walls to bring further missile fire upon the ramparts. Within an hour Helena orders a tentative attempt to scale the walls. A company of the 6th Cohort rushes for with scaling ladders. The attempt is turned back by the Thadders who brave the enemy fire and cast off the ladders. However, they suffer horrendous casualties at the hands of the siege towers and artillery pieces.

After four hours of continuous bombardment, the keep's walls still stand bearing few signs of the amounts of fire they had absorbed. Cursing the stout dwarven craft defences, Helena orders the artillery to focus on the keep's gate. Though the walls may be of dwarven masonry, the gate doors and portcullis are still of common oak. The use of flammable projectiles doing the most damage. As darkness falls the Thyatians bring up a battering ram and begin pounding at the remains of the gates, clearing the way for entry. Their efforts are hindered by the Thadders who rain arrows and stones upon their heads from above. The 6th Cohort is ordered forward into the breach. They meet a horrendous volley of missile fire from the Thadders. The Thyatian charge is further complicated by the confining nature of the entryway. Still their press is too much for the defenders and the Thadders begin falling back across the Hammerspan to the City Gate. Pursuing them, the Thyatians themselves are pushed back into the outer keep by the retreating Thadders and the support of their fellows manning the inner gatehouse. The length of the Hammerspan causeway is littered with the dead and wounded. For now the Thyatians must be content with the outer defence keep.

The barrages on the SeaGate are meeting with less success. The distance provided by the waters of the Alphatian Caldera have had the artillery operating at the extreme limits of their range. By the time the outer keep falls, the SeaGate bears but deep gouges and some burnt and shattered boarding to attest the artillerists' efforts. Even the use of flammable projectiles has had little effect. Most land short, leaving the waters ablaze. Those that do strike the doors are quickly extinguished by the Thadders from the ramparts above.

Helena summons her officers to discuss the battle. Gen. Aromatelli, of the 27th Cohort, cites plans to bolster the assault upon the SeaGate and moving artillery pieces to the battlements of the keep. Helena agrees and orders it done. She also orders the battle weary 6th Cohort to stand down for the remainder of the night. The fresh 12th Cohort will work in shifts to hold the keep and maintain a harassing volley of crossbow fire on the ramparts and gatehouse facing the keep. Aromatelli returns to the matter of the SeaGate. He points out that even if the gates are ruined there will still be a great deal of wreckage to contend with. Unlike the keep, clearing that wreckage will be difficult. Helena agrees but has no immediate solution. She tells Aromatelli to pierce the gate and she will deliver the admittance.

After dismissing her staff, she begins going over the day's reports. Most is of little importance. What is noticeable is the lack of contact from Arogast's Group M. He had been overly indulgent in reporting his position. For Helena the silence is deafening. Looking at the map, she plots his last known position along the southern coast. Suspecting the worse she dispatches a message to the naval contingents near Harbortown of her suspicions that the junior captain had found the Thadder ships.

Before retiring for the night, Helena contacts Eusebius to inform him of the capture of the outer keep. He congratulates her and her troop's efforts but presses for the capture of the city itself. To emphasise the need he informs her of the "concessions" Thyatis had made regarding the IoD (described further below) and the need for the Empire to come out with Minrothad intact and in Thyatian hands.

Force B: In Harbortown, Valicius settles into his new administrative duties. His predecessor, Gen. Di Cicero is well on his way to meet Nikkos' forces at Open Island. Valicius' thoughts of easy duty are quelled by the arrival of Serico and Dredgers' ships. Valicius mobiles his forces to aid in their resupply. Later after dark news of the disappearance of Arogast's ships increases the pace of the resupply. Using his own forces and local labour, the resupply effort is carried out throughout the night. Serpico plans to head back to sea in the morning. Under Serpico's direction, Valicius has the ships stationed at Harbortown readied as well.

Force C: Gen. Nikkos is pleased to report that the reorganised forces are ready and waiting for the arrival of di Cicero's forces. While he is waiting, Nikkos begins going over strategies for the Alfeisle campaign. As the senior officer he rightfully expects to oversee the operation.

Force D: Adm. Pentalon's fleet sails a steady course for Harbortown. The late arriving news of the possible Thadder fleet in the area terrifies Pentalon. Though he is confident in the abilities of his ships, he knows that any battle would be complicated by the supply ships. He also fears how losing any of these vessels would reflect upon his career and future. Pentalon places his men on alert and sails on. They should make Harbortown by midday the following day.

Force E: Capt. Ostenphius and his troops continue their lonely vigil at Bright Cliff. The day does see the return of their riders from Harbortown.

Group F - Captain Dregarius (along with Group G) arrives at Harbortown to top off their supplies. They report the impending arrival of the supplies. This news quickly spreads through the city, raising morale. With the late arriving news of the Thadder Fleet, the resupply effort is hastened to allow the vessels' departure.

Group G - Serpico's ships arrive at Harbortown. Like Group F, they begin restocking their supplies. With the news of the Thadder ships possibly being in the vicinity Serpico unofficially assumes command of Dregarius' vessels. Technically this move disbands Group F and Dregarius' command. Serpico also suggests that Valicius has the vessels stationed at Harbortown readied for possible use. Valicius agrees with the naval officer.

Group H - Capt. Xappellus and her ships continue their hunt for shipping. With the news of possible Thadder activity south of Trader Island, she half expects to be redeployed to that area. However the order never comes and she is not about to risk her career on not following orders. She will await her morning report to Adm. Helena for more information.

Group I - In response to the attack the previous day, the Thyatian 14th Fleet sail precariously close to the defences of Seahome. The act is one of defiance, to show that the Thyatians were not intimidated by the sea elves' attack. Missing from this sweep is the Tarrous, still undergoing repairs under the watchful eyes of two other Thyatian warships.

Group J - Adm. Corso's ships continue on through the northern sealane. With news of the possible Thadder presence he is undeterred from his orders. Personally he sees no reason to deviate. The incident could be a diversion or be the result of just part of the remaining Thadder Navy. Also there are Thyatian naval forces already on scene and he is sure that Serpico has the situation well in hand.

Group K - Horatio's ships sail within sight of Harbortown before heading back in a northeastern direction. Receiving word of Arogast's vessel being missing, he decides to set sail for Fortress Island. Horatio believes the Thadders may be trying to make their way to the dwarves' island. The trip there is also an excuse for the captain to see his cousin, Adm. Perdry.

Group L - Adm. Perdry's 23rd Fleet continues its vigil off the coast of Fortress Island. Ironside's daily visit is uneventful and rather brief. The dwarf and Thyatian do not discuss the separate peace. Perdry does not want to press the matter too much.

Group M - With the destruction of Arogast's vessels, Group M is technically no more. However, until a ruling comes from Adm. Helena the designation stands.

In Minrothad City, the populace is in a near state of panic. The Thyatian presence had been somewhat accepted by this point as being "normal". But with their barrage, assault, and capture of the outer keep the dire nature of the siege has come full circle. The retreat in to the city has further strained food supplies as large quantities of foodstuffs had to be left behind. The city will have to depend even more upon the teleported shipments from the elves. The loss of the keep and the pounding at the SeaGate are foreboding signs of the city being cut off.

Oran and Warheart meet all night to discuss the war's progress. The news from Redstone is most disheartening. This is only outdone by the later loss of the outside keep. Despite the setbacks, Warheart is confident his forces can hold out. As is, he can focus his troops to meet the Thyatians at their only point of entry. The wideness of the Alphatian Caldera bolsters their resolve in the improbability of attacks from other directions. As for the SeaGate, Warheart sees it as a diversionary tactic possibly intent to thwart any Minrothad departures from the harbour. The damage so far has been slight. And if need be the Gate can be reinforced by the vessels inside. Warheart is certain the Thyatians will focus on Hammerspan and the City Gate. Warheart is willing to trust the defences for now. He admits that a lot depends upon Delorno's vessels and their ability to do some damage to the Thyatian war effort.

To quell the fears of the populace, Oran dispatches an announcement. In it he calls for solidarity and stout hearts during this time. He also recalls the historic defeats of the Thyatian fleet during their earlier attempt at conquest. He cites the sturdy dwarven defences and the Minrothad will. The speech does some good. It at least provides some hope that the war is not lost.

In Redstone, the Alphatian and Thyatian representatives begin meeting. The talks were almost interrupted by assassins intent. Fortunately, both sides were wary of each other and had cast numerous wards. These wards had detected the assassins' presence. Once discovered they were quickly subdued or killed. Further use of magic uncovered the foundation of the plot. Delayed by the investigations, the talks are finally begun around noon. The two parties meet behind closed doors. A few hours after nightfall the sides emerge with an agreement.

The NACE will retain control of all of the lands that its forces have conquered. The Alatians are to become NACE properties as a whole. Dunadale, Kendach, Westrourke will likewise remain in the NACE fold. West Portage and Redstone will both become independent monarchies.

The agreements are shocking to the general public as it effectively give NACE dominance on the IoD. However there are numerous contributing details that will only become known over the coming weeks. First and foremost is the awkward position of the Thyatian forces. The Thyatians are quite adamant in preserving Redstone. However the NACE seems quite content to continue the war to gain these through right of conquest. The divulgence of the NACErs use of skyships and magic to provide their forces such rapid deployment further emphasises the grave nature. Allotting it (and West Portage) independence is a compromise by both sides. Furmenglaive and Caerdwicca are not officially addressed in the agreement, however NACE is given a free hand in both kingdoms. The bulk of the agreement was ironed out by Terari and Demetrion. The general idea is to separate the two peoples from each other and offer each the means to develop their own spheres of influence. Thyatis will expand its interest on Brun while the Alphatians will focus on IoD, Bellissaria, the Alatians, and the coast of Skothar. In its divided state, the IoD will always present a clash of interests between the two. Neither Demetrion nor Terari desire to see a continuation of the Great War. Eusebius is furious at the agreement and fears the loss of the IoD could jeopardise his throne. Demetrion states the consequences of doing otherwise. He also points out that the addition of the Minrothad Islands is far more economically beneficial that the accumulated lands lost on the IoD. He also points out that if Thyatian is to expand it should do so on Brun. As for Eusebius' hold on power, Demetrion quells the fears by the existence of the independent monarchies. Had the NACE continued in their expansions, the resulting military losses and escalation of war could have farther reaching consequences. Eusebius openly agrees with the Imperial Mage. However, he secretly consoles himself with the future prospect of retaking the IoD. The NACE offensives should curb future opposition to added military spending.

Eusebius summons his advisers and begins crafting the public announcement of the agreement. He has them play up "overwhelming NACE strengths" and "heroic Thyatian resistance". He also assigns blame for the disaster to the military commanders on the IoD and the conquered kingdoms. Most perished in the fighting, the survivors will just have to be sacrificial lambs. Eusebius is adamant that the spin doctors play up the status of Redstone and West Portage as not being conquered. He also has them hint that "proper funding" for the armed forces could have prevented this.