|Mike Sullivan||Chris Warren
A couple of hours later we arrived at the first tree. It was REALLY big, maybe 6 feet in diameter. It would take basically an entire day to move the thing, and there were four more after that. After a bit on consulting we decided to give up on getting this one to the front in any hurry and instead head for the more southerly one. We trumped Adria back and let her know and asked her to scout out the southern one as well. Then we back tracked a bit and took the southerly fork of the road. We road fairly hard and several hours later Adria trumped us back and told us that there were two trees in the way. We had her send a cutting crew to the nearer one. We rode for a couple of more hours and then rested for the night in a smallish roadside inn. Well, we mostly rested. Tom and Janna slept and I spent a couple of hours scouring nearby shadow for things that might be of use to us in moving really large trees out of the way. I found a supply of chain that would be strong enough, but no way to get it to the tree in time to be useful, so I eventually just settled on a set of good quality double bitted axes.
The next morning we continued on our way. We passed the first tree just as the cutting crew was arriving and continued on towards the second. On the way we debated the possibility of simple leading the supply wagons on a short cut through shadow that would bring them around one or both of the trees, but it looked liek that would not be any faster than just the straight forward approach of cutting the top off the tree and dragging the trunk to the side. We finally arrived at the tree and hadn;t come up with any particularly clever way out of doing alot of work, so Janna and I set to cutting up the tree while Tom looked through nearby shadow for a good strong chain and pulley system.
While we were busy doing this stuff, the other were busy trying to keep the fron from collapsing. Earlier that morning, Merlin and "The Dude" (Fiona's son, yet one more cousin...) had shown up at the front. They had been sent there by Random to fix the whole lack-of-communication problem. Also, they spent alot of time talking with Martin about things arcane since Martin and Adria had noticed a few strange things while looking over the enemy forces. So, they chatted for a while, and then Merlin and Dude spent several hours making this sorcerous contraption that was basically just a field telephone system. When it was done, the Dude cast a spell that brought him and half the comm thing to the main city. When he arived, he tested it and showed the locals how it worked. They were pretty thrilled with the 'tele-the-Dude-and-Merlin', as Merlin christened the thing. With that device now in place, HQ was able to quickly communicate with the home base, and Adria was able to relay our requests for cutting crews straight through to the people who could actually send them out. The thing wokred quite well.
Unfortunately, during all this the rebels decided to mount a major assault. The Creswali army held for a few minutes, but then broke and ran. All our careful planning went for naught. The attack caught most by surprise and none could deal with it's ferocity. People started by backing up, but then just turned around and ran. Total catastrophe. In a single day the Creswali army lost as much ground as they could cover at a full run. They didn't stop running until it got too dark to see where they were going. At least they were running towards the food.
So, after several hours hard work chopping through this tree, we were finally about finished. Just in time too, since the caravan train wasn't much more than half a mile away by then. Tom had returned a little while before with a good chain and a mediocre pulley system and there wasn't any significant delay for the caravan by the time we got the log pulled far enough aside for the wagons to pass. We were beat at that point (it was getting towards the late afternoon) so we headed back north and stopped at the first inn we passed to spend the night.
The next morning we trumped back to the front and found out that the rout was continuing. In the morning the Creswali troops, instead of turning around and making a stand, just picked up their stuff and continued South as fast as they could. Well, not much point in us being there, so we just rode north til we got to the major river, the logical place to turn and make a stand. By the time we got there, the field HQ had been re-established on the souther bank of the river and the Creswalians were (some of them anyway) calming down a bit and setting up defenses again. At this point we reported in to Random. He let us know that help was slowly on the way, but it was clear to us that it wouldn't get here in time. After that, we trumped Julian (who was leading the Amber armies) and had a quick talk with him. The Dude went through and started working on a spell gate to allow an elite squad of Julians people through.
I did the best I could in terms of organizing the Creswalians into a decent defensive force. It was easier than it could have been since we had the river as a good defense, but the troops were really disheartened and feeling already beaten. Luckily, they had gotten enough of a lead on the rebels that even the rebel van guard didn't show up til the late in the day. The rebels made a not terribly whole hearted attempt to cross the river, were beaten back, and then just settled in and waited for the main army to arrive. The hope of the Creswalians was somewhat restored by their success at stopping the first crossing attempt. I didn't bother to tell that that it wasn't a real attempt as most ofthem already knew that but were just ignoring it to make themselves and their companions feel better. I figured at this point we would hold out okay for a day or two until the bulk of the rebel army was at the front lines again, but after that the Creswalians would need a more skilled commander than I to pull their chestnuts out of the fire, and I knew there was only maybe one other of my generation as good as I at such things.
As dusk began, a shimmering gate suddenly appeared in the camp, and out came a squad of about 25 heavy lancers, led by Julian himself, and followed by the Dude, stumbling in his exhaustion. Julian nodded hello to me (somehow implying in that single gesture that I was some how solely responsible for the rout the previous couple of days) and took charge. I hung around for a little while to see what he would do and to see how the Dude was doing (just drained from all the heavy duty spell casting), and then, when it became apparent that he was doing things for reasons I couldn't understand and wasn't going to explain any of it, I took off. I decided that I would try to start doing what should have been done probably been started 5 years ago - I was going to go find a place for myself in Arjans movement in some as-of-yet not rebelling shadow and see what I could learn form the inside. So, while Julian directed the organization of the defense and the others helped, I simply took off to Fivaria which I judged as a pretty likely place for the next uprising to occur. People didn't particularly take notice of when exactly I let or where I was going. During this time, Adria disappeared as well.
I arrived in Fivaria and in reasonably short order learned of the Arjan Trading Corporation. The ATC was hiring pretty much anybody and had a repuationas a fairly aggressive company that in which a newcomer could go far, if they had the skill and the drive. In pretty short order, I found a recruiting office and got my self signed up as a low ranking employee, my first job being as a caravan guard for food shipments going form Desden to the rebel army in Creswali. It seemed suitably ironic. The ship to Desden wasn't due to leave until the next day, so I found an inn to spend the night. After a reasonable dinner, I trumped Dad (Benedict) to let someone know where I was and what I was doing, just in case. After a brief exchange, he decided to come through and we ended up spending the rest of the evening talking about the war in Creswali. He did a critique of my performance there, and explained that he himself would not get involved since it was a metter between family members and did not directly threaten Amber. I pressed him a bit to find out what more he knew about who Arjan was, but he wouldn't tell me. We also spent some time speculating on the long term goals of Arjan. A fairly pleasant evening as such things go. I'll have to remember to do it again in another 5 to 10 years. Eventually he left and I cought a coupleof hours of sleep before heading off to Desden where I spent the next while helping to deliver supplies to the army I had just previously been trying to figure out how to defeat.
While I was off doing my own thing, the others (except for Adria) were back in Creswali trying to hold the river against the rebels. They were doing a fairly decent job of it for a few days, but then with almost no warning, the rebels made an assault on the very section that Julian was himself patrolling - the head quarters. It looked like it was going to be okay for a few moments, but then the rebels let loose a bit of sorcery and managed to get a foothold across the river. Julian's elite force was pretty hampered becasue to the dense wood and the Gezaro bowmen were takingtheir toll on the defenders. The head quarts and in fact mnost of the Creswali line picked up and started south again, though this time with a bit more organization - an actual retreat as opposed to just a running away. Some folks stayed at the front fighting and holding off some of the rebels while the HQ packed up and retreated. During all the confusion, someone saw Janna confronted by a superior opponent and taken prisoner.
Also, the Dude cast some strange spell or other and floated off as the attack was beginning. When the line had begun to stablize an hour or so later and a couple of mile further south, Merlin trumped him back in and the Dude went to the HQ to report the activities he had seen while hovering up there. They duly recorded his report, but didn;t do much with it at teh time because everything was in too much confusion. At this point, the Dude and Merlin took their leave and headed back to the Courts. Things looked more settled for a while, maybe even like they'd hold until the main Amber army arrived, so most people took off to tother things. Tom muttered something about loking for Adria, and Jamie and Gwyneth left for some relaxing shadow or other to recover a bit from the battle. Martin vanished for who knows where, leaving Julian to handle the Creswali.