Fall of Vienna
From Field Observer Team Sanjar
Location Lion Throne Siege camp west of Vienna city walls.
Time High Noon when the sun is at its zenith
Master engineer! Direct hit on Vienna city wall. Confirmed a section of the wall destroyed over 60 yards wide. The impact could be felt even in the siege camp which was over a mile away. Will attempt to make accurate measurements when breach is no longer used. As of now, breach is being stormed by our forces.
-Message brought by messenger Hawk to the Aurora Tower.
Jill wept and wept. Her eyes sore she saw a familiar face approach her and Jack’s mangled corpse. It was her uncle Albecht. Her uncle took care of Jill’s family when their father died. Visiting and giving a portion of his pay to Jill’s family. Albecht was a veteran city watch whom fought at and survived the last two Lion Throne sieges.
“What’s happening uncle Al?” asked Jill bravely, finally composing herself after seeing so much.
“No time to explain, bad men are coming. You and your sister must get to the inner walls.” Albecht took Jill’s arm and lead her to her older sister. The people in the neighborhood were still dazed by the earthquake that happened earlier on and the flying fragments of buildings that rained on their homes. A civilian, recognizing Albecht’s uniform, approached him and casually asked him what’s going on. Albecht ignored him and continued to lead Jill to her sister.
Bells began to ring, the warning sign that the civilians associated with an incoming enemy artillery barrage. Many of the civilians quickly ran back inside their homes and nearby shelter. Albecht knew better, the civilians’ assumptions are wrong, a fault they would come to regret soon enough.
Gretta came out of their apartment supporting her frail mother. Albecht helped her. Their mother was silent, too weak to even care why she was being hauled out of bed in a hurry.
Albecht instructed Gretta, “I have a friend who’ll help you get to inside the inner walls. Stay safe. I’ll be back when this is over.”
Gretta realized why this is being done to her and asked for confirmation “Has the enemy breached the walls uncle?”
Albecht quickly hushed her and checked if anybody else heard her. The streets were empty save for some bands of watchmen running towards the city wall.
“Pray for salvation.” Albecht could not lie.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alexi Macini rushed into the Prancing Pony tavern. It was noon time and the tavern was filled with patrons looking for a hearty midday lunch. That yearning however was replaced with confusion as the mini earthquake that occurred earlier jostled plates, food, and patrons to the floor. Some chairs and tables were still being turned upright when Alexi arrived. Some patrons recognized him and Alexi’s harried expression. Some asked him if something wrong happened. Alexi ignored them and continued to the darker area of the tavern where he usually finds his sergeants. In the furthest corner where light from the open windows or the lit lanterns barely reached, he found them. Six gruff looking heads looked at Alexi and nodded in respect.
“Assemble the men, full gear. I’ll wait for you at the south-western chapel. Move quickly.” Alexi’s soft young Obello voice was not what you’d expect of someone commanding an entire company of mercenaries, but his past actions have earned the respect of all the men under his employ. The sergeants quickly stood up and put on their helmets, picked up their swords, and some last morsels of food before following their captain out.
The Macini canton has forever lost its holdings in their homeland of Bermia, taken from them by Laurian oppressors. Its last heir Alexi Macini decided to fully contract his company into expatriates of the Holy Swadian Empire, becoming full time soldiers who have foresworn complete loyalty in exchange of pay, shelter and recognition.
Julio, Alexi’s first sergeant and long time friend tapped Alexi’s shoulder. “Let me guess: they’ve got siege towers bearing down on the walls and those brutish landsknechts couldn’t handle them Filaharnist tin cans?”
Alexi smiled, “No, you’d wish that that is what’s happening.” Alexi stopped and turned towards Julio, he whispered so that no one could hear: “The mighty Vienna city walls aren’t so mighty.”
It took Julio a moment to piece that statement and the mini earthquake to understand what Alexi was implying. He’s not the brightest of fellows. Julio’s jaw dropped at the realization.
Alexi placed both his hands on Julio’s massive shoulders in a brotherly gesture. “Yes… Now gather your men, quickly.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Martyr’s scars itched as his irritation grew. He saw the hot headed Second Deva stealing the task assigned to him: Be the first to storm the breach. Impressed as he was of the destruction wrought by the Aurora cannon, his awe was quickly replaced by consternation when he saw Zalera’s force rush into the breach. Yes, the destruction must have taken the enemy off guard and a quick storming of the breach is in order. But a proper disciplined entrance is required, not this. Not what Zalera is now doing: Rushing in semi-order towards the breach. Zalera, as the Second Deva, outranks Sir Rugale the Martyr. Complaining would only bring about Zalera’s infamous temper. Filaharn. Rugale has heard of the Second Deva’s brash and bloody rationale, he always thought of it mere gossip, he was proven wrong. The martyr could do nothing but watch and scratch the scars on his face that seem to itch whenever he felt angry.
In front of him, Zalera’s men were climbing through the ruble which used to be a considerable portion of thick Ellisian-era masonry that constituted the outer city walls. When his brigade was halfway through, the defenders on the wall managed to regain their wits after the shock of seeing a section of their mighty walls falls. From the edges of the wall, archers, crossbowmen, and hand gunners fired a ragged volley at the encroaching invaders. Zalera’s men were caught in the crossfire. Dozens of men fell before they could even raise their shields up. Zalera harried his men further. The auxiliaries, Khara-khitan archers and Gunther-Piedmont gunners returned fire, but Zalera stopped them and instead ordered them to continue inward. Zalera was at the thick of it all, he marched his warhorse inward as scores of men die around him. Then the Swadians atop the wall began lobbing black orbs towards the Papal forces.
“Bombs!” yelled a Gunther-Piedmont Gunner.
There is no space to scatter; the auxiliaries could only rush faster, while the Brigadiers raise their shields nonchalantly. The bombs bounced off the shields and slid into the side of the brigadiers’ column, where the auxiliaries stand. Nevertheless the bombs exploded and decimated anyone regardless of armor.
Rugale peered closer, watching as Zalera was surrounded by numerous explosions. He just rode there and raised his sword arm to cover his face as more and more men died around him. Fragments and body parts flew around him, as shrieks of agony rise to match the intensity of the explosives. The sparks from the explosions casting reflective light unto Zalera’s armor transforming its steel sheen into shining gold. Miraculously Zalera passed through the thick walls unscathed. Not much is to be said about his men around him. More and more crusaders enter the breach; the Swadians could barely stop them with their ragged fire. They furiously rang their tower alert bells in hopes of getting help. To Zalera, the sound was irritating. Inside he quickly barked orders at his men.
“Split into three forces, capture the two nearest towers and clear the walls. The third force will follow me into the city. Brigadiers lead the way. Filaharn Vult!”
The brigade split into three, one rushed north alongside the walls headed for the nearest tower, likewise another force was doing the same to the tower south of the breach, while the third formed up around Zalera, ignoring the missiles that rained on them from atop the walls. The auxiliaries followed suit.Brigadiers lead the way.
Unlike most soldiers, Brigadiers are actually given education on tactics and strategems making them rather easy to command even when sergeants or captains are missing. In order to share the brigade’s quick reaction time to the other soldiers of Filaharn, the auxiliaries are attached to individual brigadier squads instead of being separate. This further strengthened the flexibility of a brigade by adding specialists into the brigade. A lesson learned when an entire brigade was nearly decimated when they were wrongly matched with their weakness unsupported back in the battle of Shiri Malik Fields. Zalera could still remember that day. So many brothers lost. Unlike now, the auxiliaries were formed up into their own companies. The Lion Throne used to command many separate armies instead of a mixed one. When arrayed on a battlefield the brigade will take the center while other non brigade companies would get their own sections of the line. On Shiri Malik, the brigade became isolated on the center, the Gunther-Piedmont and Ellisian companies too far away to provide proper anti-cavalry support. Zalera was there. He saw in horror his fellow brigadiers get repetitively mowed down by Khergit Heavy Lancers.
Later on, when brigadier numbers continued to dwindle in the Calradian expedition, Mondo the First Deva devised a new system of organization: That of permanently attaching the auxiliaries into the brigade itself. This brought together the power and discipline of the brigade with the much needed ranged and support power of the varying auxiliaries that compromise the Lion Throne army: Ranged Khara-khitans and Gunther-Piedmonts, mobile Ptians and Mylesians, Stoic Ellisians, and Aggressive Lowlanders.
The swadian defenders finally managed to bring up their boiling pots of oil to pour at the invaders. But they were too late as the last of Zalera’s men enter the breach. Zalera and his most elite brigadiers, an unprecedented ninety propugnators followed by three hundred brigadiers and over five hundred mixed auxiliaries of Ellisians, Lowlanders, Khara-Khitans and Gunther-Piedmontese began to enter further into the city. Zalera could hardly believe the results of the Aurora Cannon. It was humbling, to see entire city blocks leveled to ruble. Ahead of Zalera the ramshackle buildings of the poor district where lain to ruin. He could even see a small chapel that was strong and far enough to survive destruction. And that’s something, with the fact that it’s over five blocks away from the destroyed wall section. A chapel.
Zalera’s mouth curved into a wicked smile. A chance to show his love to Filaharn by destroying the house of other gods. Plus, whenever there’s a house of worship, there are young seminarian boys.
“Onward soldiers of Filaharn! Today this wretched city falls!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mondo stood beside Rugale and the rest of the gathered lords, watching as the last of Zalera’s forces disappear inside the city. Mondo was fuming.
“Why did you let him go first!?” Mondo snapped at Rugale.
“He reprimanded me. Saying that his larger and more experienced brigade will do better in storming it.” Rugale kept his tone leveled, his earlier anger washed in meditation and prayer.
“I thought we already made it clear at the war council last night that you will go first!”
“Tell that to the bloodied one
.” Rugale was referring to one of Zalera’s many reputational names.
Mondo growled in anger. “Well we better follow suit lest he gets himself killed.”
Rugale raised an eyebrow at the statement; he felt a gesture of worry in Mondo’s angry tone.
“Meaning we have to save his arse again?” Rugale was an old friend to Mondo, moments of levity was never lost from them.
Mondo nodded. His anger unturned by Rugale’s attempt.
“I don’t understand why you have to risk your neck every time that pompous boy gets into situations like these.”
Mondo slowly cleared his breath. “Because I owe him my life.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Gretta was clutching her little sister who was still crying. She got tired of trying to stop her an hour ago. Gretta herself could barely stifle her own tears from flowing down her dusty cheeks. It has probably been an hour or two when their Uncle Albecht left them in the care one of a man that owed Albecht a favor, a cloth vendor named Leomar. Riding behind Leomars cart, they have ridden as fast as they can towards the inner city gates. Behind Gretta, their mother lay on top of several stacks of Marienburgen cloth, asleep and apparently very hot to the touch. They have left home so quickly that Gretta hasn’t even managed to prepare at least a wet towel for her mother. She hoped they’d get to safety soon so she could minister to her mother’s ailness.Pray for salvation.
What were supposed to be calming words by her uncle turned to be a spine chilling phrase. It made Gretta shiver. Pray for salvation from what? Aside from stopping her younger sister from crying, Gretta also gave up praying half an hour ago. She had prayed for salvation as her uncle had said. Prayed for protection, for safety, for deliverance, for salvation. Repeating every prayer she had ever learned since she first went to church. Which wasn’t much since she rarely went to church when their mother stopped walking properly. So she repeated what few prayers she knew, over and over until Jill started asking her questions amidst her sobs. “Gretta, why does God hate us?”
That silenced her.
“Gretta, why does.. sob.. God hate us.”
Gretta had no answer for that.
A few minutes of silence later, save for the sobs of Jill and the occasional groaning of their mother and the constant tolling of the city bells, the cart stopped. Leomar glanced back at his passengers and said, “You must hide if we want to go further than the inner wall gates. Get under the cloths and stay quiet. And would you please shut your sister up.”
Gretta tried to calm Jill, which wasn’t that hard since she’s been crying for probably an hour now, and no one could cry that long.
“Why? What’s wrong? Are we not allowed to enter into the inner walls?”
“Normally everyone is allowed but for some reason, the guards are barring the entrance to all lowly commoners like you,” said Leomar as he began to cover Gretta’s sleeping mother with a layer of cloth, smoothing them out so as not to be shaped like a person.
“How are we to get in?”
“Do I look lowly to you? Now be quiet and stay down, the sooner this is done, the sooner I could leave you inside, the sooner I could get out of this doomed city.” He began to cover Gretta and Jill with several layers of fine Obello linen.
“You’re going to leave us?” cried Gretta “Why not bring us along?”
“Getting you inside is difficult enough! Besides, my deal with your uncle is to bring you to a tavern and leave you there. Now shush!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“They’re coming! Run for your lives! Our doom is at hand!” An old beggar covered in dust from head to toe runs for his life in the direction of the inner walls. Seconds later a ragged mob of civilians were fleeing towards the heart of the city. Some still carrying what’s left of their possessions. A young child no older than five walks while the others run.
“Ma! Pa! Grandma!” Covered in dust and oblivious from the fleeing crowd, the child walks.
“Ma! Pa! I’m scared.”
Around the streets filled with fleeing people, there is nothing but rubble, ruined buildings and watching eyes. Behind a door which used to possess a building Capitan Alexi Macini of the Expatriate Bermianese of the Holy Swadian Army watches. He pitied the boy, whom he recognized as being a fellow Bermianese immigrant. He wanted to help him. This single boy who walks while others run reminded him of himself. When their villa was burned to the ground by evil men, while others ran and a young Alexi walked. Wandering and wondering where his mother was. He wanted to help..
“Capitan” Alexi was shaken from his reverie. It was sergeant Puzio.
“All men are in position.”
Alexi nodded. He looked back at the boy. The child was still walking while the fleeing mob was already far away.
“Mama! Mama!” Alexi walked, he felt the heat even when he was from a safe distance away from their burning home. A group of men were running towards their home. Alexi recognized their garbs as one of those worn by the protectors of their house.
He tugged at one of them.
The big man shone his lantern at Alexi. “It’s master Alexi! We have to get him to safet…”
The big man was cut short and toppled forwards. An arrow was sticking at his back.
“Here they come sir.” Whispered Puzio to Alexi, waking him up once more from his nightmare.
Alexi looked at the boy. He did not notice a group of men running by. One of them fell right beside the boy, an arrow sticking from his back. The boy froze in terror. One of the men returned to pull the boy away, but a volley of arrows flew right at them. The man was shot in the head and chest, while the boy was hit in the stomach. The poor lad shrieked in agony, the high pitched sound very distinct throughout the silence, and fell to the ground. The Bermianese of the Macini Canton whom witnessed the bizarre act gripped their weapons tighter, Alexi gripping the tightest.
No sooner did the boy fall, the sound of heavy footsteps could be heard further down the street in the direction of the outer wall. It was almost silent, except for the distant toll of all the bells in the city and the boot on concrete tapping of a marching enemy. Alexi has made plans of ambushing the enemy on the event that the enemy did get to enter the city. And it seems that event has come. But the plan however required the assistance of a main body of city troops preferable Landsknechts. The nearest barracks was dozens of blocks away while most of the troops will probably be concentrated on the city walls. So Alexi improvised. He planned to draw the enemy instead into a susceptible ambush site. Hiding among the ruble are all of his crossbowmen: Forty experienced bermianese marksmen.
The enemy was just about two dozen paces away now. Alexi could see a mixed force of nomad archers, gunners in brown garbs. He recognized the Ellisians clad in chain mail, the barbaric lowlanders, and at the middle of it all, those Lion Throne tin cans known as brigadiers. Seemingly taller than the auxiliaries because of their pointy helmets, the brigadiers seem to emanate a heroic and at the same time intimidating facade.
Alexi made a last glance at his men. “Archers and brownies first. On my mark… Shoot!”
Amidst the ruins, a hail of crossbow bolts suddenly flew from everywhere as if the ruined block itself was one of the murder areas found on castle gates. Precise shots pin cushioned Khara-khitan archers and Gunther-Piedmont gunners. Two dozen skirmishers fell to the ground at once.
“Ambush!” yelled one Ellisian.
“Where are they coming from?” asked a lowlander.
“Cowards.” growled a brigadier.
Alexi and his men quickly reloaded their weapons. The Bermianese crossbow. Such a beautiful weapon, compact and small, but its string was powerful, its aim was true, its range was far. In no time the Bermianese reload and fired another hail of bolts. Alexi need not give another command. Doing so would give away their position. Another dozen fell, mostly skirmishers, as the brigadiers, ellisians and lowlanders have formed a shield wall. The different array of shields from the long oblong Ellisian shield, the round shields of the lowlanders and the distinctive square shields of the brigadiers almost looked comical and out of place with each other.
Behind the body of men that marched the street, Alexi could see a lone figure riding atop a warhorse, barking orders at the men in front. He has to be a commander, maybe even a deva. Alexi lined his shot, the rider was far away to promise any hit, but Alexi was a marksman. When the next volley of bolts flew, one particular bolt flew higher. It flew past above the shields, past above the high helms of the brigadiers, past above the head of the warhorse.
“Lowlanders! Break off and scour the rubble now!” Zalera barked, as another volley of crossbow bolts appeared from the ruble a few paces ahead of them. Zalera saw one bolt flew straight at him, his experience telling him its flying for his head. The Second Deva tilted his head to the right. The bolt missed his face. Were it an arrow, it would have bounced off of Zalera’s Officer Barbuette. But what hit him is a high quality bermian crossbow bolt. The bolt hit his helmet at the left side of his temple and penetrated a few centimeters deep. Zalera’s head jerked to the left with the impact momentum, but quickly returned his gaze to the front. The brigadiers around him looked in terror.
“Lord Deva, are you alright?” asked a worried brigadier.
The Second Deva looked at him with a friendly smile. “Filaharn protects.”
Zalera grasped at the imbedded bolt and yanked it away. He felt immense pain as the blade of the bolt grazed through his temple. Zalera stifled a cry of agony. The bolt must have penetrated my helm, thought Zalera. He looked at the bolt and saw it dribbling with blood. He felt warm blood trickling down the left side of his face. The brigadiers around him looked in fear when the Second Deva’s cool collective face was lost to a furious snarling face. They recognized that look, awe and fear mixed as the brigadiers collectively braced themselves for what is to come.
They heard the Second Deva mutter something not in the cheery and respectful voice of the Second Deva, but of a slow sinister tone that chilled the brigadiers to the bone, “It is on…