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Topic of the Month: Not So Quiet on the Southern Front
[The below document came into the possession of this publisher through mere chance. As to its authenticity, one can only speculate as there has been neither denial nor confirmation from the limited contact this publisher has with people of the Heldannic Order. Ed.]
An analysis by Hauptmann Lars Säjer and Oberleutnant Otto von Langer.
As recorded by Adelard Bohm.
With the victory at Polakatsikes and the current crusades elsewhere, I am ill at ease to report this due to its possible affects upon morale. However, a matter has come to our attention that needs to be addressed. As you are aware of, recently we here at Her Most Holiest Domicile were subject to a series of raids. These raiders originate from a nearby indigenous people known as the Meghaddaran. To eliminate these raiders, a heavily armed patrol was dispatched. This patrol of fifty Heldannic Knights and infantry were led by the promising Herr Dietrich, nephew of the renown Urnst and Greta Dietrich of Freiburg. Accompanying the patrol was the noted huntsman, Dieter von Kleindorf, nephew of Brother Lars Wittman.
The patrol departed and was not heard from again for several months. Since the Meghaddaran raiders resumed their activities shortly thereafter, it was naturally assumed that the patrol failed at their task. This assumption was proven incorrect on Eirmont 6, AC 1016, when a mere handful of survivors were intercepted by a patrol. The survivors were questioned and re-questioned to answer the interrogations that their absence and reappearance had produced. From that, we have a reasonable understanding as to what transpired and how it transpired. Dieter von Kleindorf proved especially helpful in the reconstruction of events and also deserves praise in his efforts throughout the ordeal.
Herr Dietrich's troops followed the Meghaddaran raiders for several weeks, following their trail ever westward into unexplored regions of the continent. We are pretty certain that sometime during this pursuit, the group of Meghaddaran divided their force. One raider force continued leading our troops westward, while the other headed back east. This would explain the continued raids upon the farmers, which contributed to the assumption that Dietrich's troops had been destroyed.
On or about Ambyrmont 3, AC 1016, Dietrich's truppen discovered the remains of the Meghaddaran warriors that they had been pursuing. They had been attacked in their own campsite by a third party. The sounds of the attack were actually heard by Dietrich's forces and were what drew the troops to the encampment. As such, the time of the attack and the discovery of the slain warriors were in close proximity, maybe an hour at the most.
While examining the dead and the encampment, Dietrich's forces came under attack. This attack was initiated by a series of well-directed volleys from crossbows. These volleys raked the ranks of the truppen, taking a heavy toll on Dietrich's own crossbowmen. This was obviously a planned tactic to minimise our comrades' own ability to provide counterfire. After three or four volleys, the attackers began to show themselves. They emerged from the surrounding brush, as well as from the tree branches. Several mounted knights formed up to charge the emerging attackers. This charge was met and the mounted knights slain.
After this point, details of the battle become sketchy. What we do know comes from compiling the individual accounts and observations of the survivors. Uniformly, the survivors do note the chaotic nature of the attack. Several note that this chaos was not indicative of disorganisation by the attackers. Instead, they vow that the attackers were very well organized and it was their tactics that caused the knights to become disorganised. As Sister Hedda, a veteran of six battles, stated "if anyone had complete control of their bearings and wits, it were these attackers." She added that "we ourselves were in a purely defensive position from the start and honestly enough were as effective as an orc swatting at a swarm of angry hornets."
The attackers themselves were human-like in physique. In stature, they were consistent with a human too. A peculiar oddity was that they had a tail, similar to an animal's, protruding from their backsides. Details on facial attributes are scarce as the attackers wore helms with face shields. However several survivors note the eyes, seen through eyelets, were slotted and had an animalistic look to them. Sister Hedda reports feeling the face of an attacker. While grappling with him in close combat, she slid her hand up under her opponent's helm with the intent to gouge at the eyes. She noted a humanistic face devoid of facial hair. She also noted being bitten for her attempt. Her scarred hand denotes the attacker had a set of canine-like teeth.
The attackers wore an armour that focused protection on the torso. The arms and legs were mostly unarmoured except for the use of shin guards and bracers. Though concise details are not known, the torso armour can basically be categorised as being of two primary types, leather and a variant of banded armour. Over this was worn a short hooded cloak of cloth dyed with mottled earth tones. The camouflaging properties of the cloak and the dull hue of the armour are pretty evident.
In combat, these attackers proved to be highly skilled and agile in their attacks. Brother Ruffus, another veteran, remarked that they reminded him of gymnasts or some of the more agile gladiators of Thyatis. Ruffus compared the melee as being akin to a pack of wolves attacking a grizzly bear. For all its brawn, the bear is too slow to beat down the wolves as they dart in to strike but fall back out of paw reach before receiving a counter blow.
In regards to weapons, the attackers were very well equipped. The survivors tell of a great variety of weapons being used. Most of the attackers carried two or more types of weapons. Despite the variety of weapons, individual weapon types seemed to be fairly consistent in design and construction. Sister Hedda noted that the attackers "gave the impression of being specialised to certain tactics, and therefore carried different weapons to fill a specific role."
The most readily seen weapon was a sword. The weapon had a narrow three-foot blade. The handle had a lengthened handle with a rounded pommel at its end. The sword proved to be light and well balanced. The fluid-like ease that the attackers handled the blade says much for their weaponsmiths. It also proved to be a deadly combination when used in conjunction with their apparent agility. Brother Ruffus noted that he saw at least two knights fall after their opponents had dodged and parried their way in close to the knight and plunged their weapons into the weak areas of the plate mail such as the armpit and vision slots of the helms.
The weapon that infused itself most vividly upon the survivors' memories was a type of battle-axe. With a long slightly curved handle and with a narrow axe head, the weapon proved devastating to the knights' plate armour. Sister Hedda noted one mounted knight, believed to be Leutnant Gerta Eiker, which was slain by a blow that sliced cleanly through her helm's faceplate and into her skull. Another death, witnessed by both Hedda and Ruffus, sees the long handle being used to parry blows before being planted in the chest cavity of an infantryman. Though it was not seen by any of the others, Herr Dieter makes mention of witnessing the battle-axe being hurled at a mounted knight, striking him solidly in the shoulder and knocking him from his saddle.
The knight that Herr Dieter saw dismounted by the battle-axe was finished off by another weapon. As mentioned, the attackers carried more than one weapon into battle. The one that struck down the knight was no different. He fell upon the fallen knight and finished him off with a version of a short sword, the short but thick blade being forced through the knight's eye slits. Upon further reflection most survivors recalled that most if not all of the attackers wore these short short-swords on their hips.
The attackers also utilised missile weapons. The type of crossbow they wielded differed from our own in appearance. Instead of a solid stock, it had what Herr Dieter described as being skeletal in appearance, a solid framework with the stock's interior cut out. This was probably done to lessen the weapon's weight. Another difference was that the weapon had a bracket of sorts attached to it to hold a half score of bolts. With projectiles close at hand, the weapon could be reloaded quickly.
The attackers utilised this weapon with a great deal of skill. Herr Dieter remarked seeing it being used from a distance, as well as a few feet away. This reminded Sister Hedda of the Ethengar's use of the bow as not only as long-range weapons, but also as a melee weapon. The crossbow reaped a heavy toll on the troops. Brother Ruffus, himself wounded by a bolt, noted seeing a fellow knight being surrounded by attackers. They raised their crossbows and sowed his breastplate with bolts, killing him dead. Upon reaching Sanctuary, Ruffus' wound was treated. Examination of the recovered bolt head indicated a metal of substantial quality, at least equal to most Brun nations'.
Strangely enough, some of the attackers wielded a less glamorous weapon. These were wooden staffs. Though an ancient type of weapon, usually associated with mages, the attackers used it with great proficiency. Though it was less affective against our heavy plate mail, it was used to disarm knights and trip them up. Brother Degar saw his cousin, Brother Thedrel, knocked from his horse by a staff-wielding attacker.
Another weapon that was used was the blowgun. Though the dart projectiles did not pierce the knights' plate mail, they did penetrate the leather armour of the light infantrymen. Several survivors noted the darts sticking into their shields and ricocheting off their armour. The darts themselves cause little bodily damage. But these darts had been treated with poisonous substances. Brother Terrel discovered this in his recent examinations of a dart found wedged in Brother Ruffus' shield. Handling it carelessly, he pricked his finger and perished. Examination of that dart and several others recovered showed two different substances being used. One was a fast acting poison. Another was anointed with a sleep or possibly a paralysis agent.
Even clerical magic did not win the day for our forces. When Her Grace's clerics cast their spells, they were responded to by spells from the attackers. Given that the casters were seen in armour and carrying weapons, it is believed that these are clerics. And the attackers did not fear the knights' spells. Instead it seemed to embolden them more and it drew added attacks toward the clerics that had cast spells.
These attackers are a mystery to us. Herr Dieter has told us that he has heard stories of the "furry-tailed devils" from the indigenous peoples. Given that these people are the same Meghaddara that desecrated Her Holiest Place, we are taking their legends with a great deal of scepticism. According to them, the pelzschwanzteufeln (as we have begun to call them) have been on the continent since the beginning of time. The Meghaddaran seem to view them as something akin to forest spirits that are able to meld with the land and even the air to strike at intruders as they wish. These legends could be embellished to try to strike fear in us. However, Dieter made mention that the Meghaddaran bear a great fear towards the pelzschwanzteufeln and will rarely venture into the areas where they are said to live.
I think we need to know more about these devils before taking any actions against them. We know far too little about them. Given recent events, I doubt that the Meghaddaran would be willing to offer too much information about them. I also am against sending added patrols west to try to gain any. Herr Dieter has respectfully refused to venture back into the region. The other survivors have also stated their unwillingness to repeat such a venture.
The priests here have attempted to commune with Her Grace to gain some of Her wisdom on the matter. So far, She has not been forthcoming with any information. Perhaps She has plans of Her own. Perhaps none of us are worthy of Her guidance. Perhaps She does not want us to proceed inland. Neither I nor the castellan knows what to do. At the present, these pelzschwanzteufeln are far enough away from Her Abode as to not pose an immediate threat. However, with the crusades going on to the north I fear that our supply lines could be endangered should a threat present itself from the west.