Battle of the Wicked Delta
From the Scribblings of Count Andor
I was, at this point, making arrangements for my departure to new lands, but the realm of DarGarth was as exciting a place as ever. War had been brewing for some time in the First Realm. The two largest and most powerful countries were courting allies for an inevitable and singularly large war to settle small debts of honor that were accrued. This was a good thing for our realm, a chance for new recruits to be baptized in battle, a chance to bring out old banners and call in old favors. Unfortunately for me, I owed everyone on all sides favors, and could not be involved. Noblesse Oblige.
The Explorers Guild was more than an old ally, I co-founded it. And Mardur was my kith in equal part, and had served the realm in many, many ways. I cautioned both sides against turning our first large conflict, and hoped that whoever was the unfortunate leader (we take turns, Hail Eris) of my country on that day could steer Moot out of the conflict.
The offer came in from Commander Sir Froste first, who contacted me personally, a politeness few human leaders follow these days. He asked if Moot would like to attack with Mardur and stand up to the bigoted oppressors of the Explorers. I regretted to inform him that, witch hunt on my brother Jebb notwithstanding, we needed to place our small light assault brigade with the lesser of the forces, if at all.
(Though… I was leaning towards siding with Mardur, because of the recent unpleasantness of the blatant fabrications of a kangaroo court which had singled out my brother, who reads a lot and never hurt anyone really and besides was quite new to the realm.)
Nox and Cragon, emissaries of the guild, informed me that Kendric’s bitter hunt of my brother Jebb for recent unpleasantries was called off. They asked for us to fight against Mardur with them, and I cautioned that Moot would only go where Discord led us, that we would fight for fun and for the side that needed swords most.
(Though… my brother’s persecution no longer an issue, we wished to remain apart from the upcoming unpleasantness, and focus on making even more friends among the folk of Dargarth)
On the day of the Battle of the Wicked Delta, I was indisposed. Had to prepare for my upcoming move, catch up on the ledgers, that kind of thing. I called in a favor from a Gnomad named Thingle to look after my brothers, and gave him a few resurrection potions. (I later found out he tipped one of them for some purple sweetwater because, he said, ‘it was very hot and the Dwarves’s sweetwater is just that delicious’. Kindly Thingle, more than the other gnomes from that side of my family even, is gentle and trusting to a fault, but that part has not happened yet)
On that day, both sides again approached Moot for aid. We said we’d just as soon go exploring with Bitter Peak. We ought to have. While Legion and Bitter Peak, the next largest powers of the realm, grow – in honor, stature, and numbers – the two countries work to strike each other down. Legion fought fully a PACK of Dragons that day. Moot, unfortunately, felled only old friends.
Both sides asked again, and by now, Moot had gathered enough information to realize that the array of ships was two against one, and at this point my cousin Thingle had already, so far as he thought, infiltrated Mardur to steal a ship. Tingle isn’t bright, but he is ambitious. Discord had arranged it – we would go to war with our allies, but we might leave it without them. I wish I could say my countrymen planned it out well, but the truth of it that I know well is that it just happened, and that it seemed like a good idea at the time. The Five-fingered hand of Eris moves us all in strange ways. And sometimes it hands you a boat.
The two Mardurian ships (their names were once known to me! good, sturdy ships that had seen battles, storms, and sea dragons before) drifted calmly toward the Guild caravel – the wind was as indisposed that day as I was. Baron Bran had insisted the Mootians be placed on the same vessel, the flagship Frigate. The rowers and gunners were all above decks with bows – and when the glow of Archemage Kendric’s eyes were clearly visible to the Mardurian archers, the well-timed attack began. The more powerful spellcasters hurled their lightning bolts, fireballs, and warps wood as hard as they could. The apprentices magically mended their ships, stammering, hands and voices timid. The archers slew many, and the seas cared not at all, because the seas do not form alliances.
The Guild ship was heavily beleaguered, naturally, by its two assailant vessels. At some point, I can’t say when, an arrow was loosed from one Mardurian ship that felled a hero on the second. Or so it is told. The two Mootians used the ensuing moment of chaos to execute the archer, along with, in the ensuing more-chaos, the rest of the ship. It was not long before most of the Mardurian crew was either dead or tossed to waves. I try to imagine how the Mardurians felt in that moment. They had committed no slight, no past infraction, no betrayal. Moot was, until that moment, only friends. Had they not paid enough? Were they not cheerfully neutral in all of this? Why? I don’t have answers. Already some Mootians tell me that Two v One is no good and a Three-for-all is better. It seems jingoistic and a bit tacked on. I think it is more like to say that fate dragged us into the combat, and Moot did the all-too-obvious thing that it had sworn to both sides it would do from the beginning, and still wound up being very surprised when that was what happened.
At any rate, the tipping point was sprung. General Froste, perhaps as angry as an Orc ever has been, dove into the water and sprang upon the pilfered ship. He fought bravely but was overcome. As the desperate battle raged on, Thingle (Eris keep him, knowing that as my agent he ought to behave by the laws of naval diplomacy) quickly formulated a plan: He would raise Sir Froste and offer a knight’s parole, the right of a gentleman to conduct his affairs at sea after a defeat. He could not drag the general Froste’s body by himself, gnome that he was, to the Mardurian boat. But he would drag the Orc-lord’s gear, negotiate with the other Mardurians, then swim back and use a potion to resurrect Froste and allow him back to his ship. Thingle, upon trying to board the remaining Mardurian caravel, uttering the words “I come to offer terms for the Parole of General Froste”, was cleft in two by an Orcish polearm. As I noted, he is trusting. And perhaps not all Orcs are aware of the finer points of conduct of naval engagement and Maritime Law.
Meanwhile, the ship-to-ship conflict raged. For every fireball tossed at Mardur’s ship, the Death Knight Thrax tossed a conscript’s shield to intercept and nullify it. Arrows loosed back and forth, and the odds dwindled. Though it was fought to the bitter end by tooth and nail, and only a handful remained alive, the Guild had taken as a prize the other Mardurian ship.
The day’s leader of Moot, Bran, did indeed steer Moot out of the conflict – on a new frigate, financed with bloody coin from two sides.