Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Kingdom in Despair: Fort Ranik

The ground beneath my feet began to rumble, quietly at first, so quite that you wondered whether you heard it at all. It gathered volume all too soon however, until it was almost deafening. Immense crystals began to fall from the vast blue sky, they looked beautiful from a distance, like blue-green rain. When they began to crash down it was all too apparent that rain, and whatever foul sorcery conjured this, was completely incommensurable. Where rain brought life for crops, these brought only death, chaotic, meaningless, and seemingly without end. The walls of Ascalon, walls that had stood for hundreds of human lifetimes, started to crumble and crack like old dry paper.
"Where rain brought life for crops, these brought only death, chaotic, meaningless, and seemingly without end."
The towers that had punctuated the great wall fell also, adding to the massacre. Grasslands that had once been peaceful and lush had become no more than scorched earth, cities were burned to the ground and hundreds of thousands were left dead, no one now living had seen anything like the scale of death that was on display here, many of those not yet killed were simply losing their minds, wandering around as the world shattered around them, eyes hollow and mouths agape. We retreated back into the old bunker where we watched with awe as our homes were torn to pieces, and left wondering if anyone would survive, it crossed my mind time or two that this may have been the end, we could all have been crushed into non-existence. Once the storm had ended, we gingerly headed back into Ascalon City to inspect the damage caused, or more aptly to salvage what was left. To our surprise there were many survivors left to pick up the pieces and start again. That's exactly what we did, we began to recruit more soldiers, build new houses and restart the community within Ascalon. When our children died, we had more, when we starved, we ate roots and thorns, we were resolved to endure, perhaps not so much out of a love of life as a white hot hate for the Charr. Every person was responsible for their own survival now. All Prince Rurik seemed to want was revenge and for the Charr to pay for what they had done to the kingdom of Ascalon and I didn't blame him, I wanted it too. We began creating new patrol routes and rebuilding defences at the great northern wall which was also mostly intact.

Two years later and we were still going strong, or at least as strong as possible given the circumstances. A Krytan had come to aid us, to give us a new home back in Kryta, his name was Ambassador Zain. King Adelburn, with the Guild Wars still fresh in his mind hated Zain and wanted him dead. The King believed in Ascalon, he believed that even after the searing we could fight and survive if we hid behind the great northern wall using its size as protection. His son, Prince Rurik felt otherwise, we were in the worse state we had been in many years and he felt that we had two choices; take Ambassador Zain's offer and head for Kryta where the humans could gain shelter and safety or push the fight to the Charr and show them that the humans of Ascalon will not be bowed by anything short of total annihilation.

North of the Great Wall

I was assigned to a small force given the task of scouting for Charr forces north of the great northern wall, we left after gathering supplies and ensuring our equipment was all in order. It was very dangerous north of the wall as it was littered with all sorts of creatures which had surfaced since the searing and were hunting for food. Charr war bands were also scouting the area, no doubt probing carefully for a weakness in our defences, a piece of wall that hadn’t been rebuilt, or a guard post badly manned, the Charr were always so fucking meticulous. We had been suspecting an attack for some time, the Charr caused the searing which weakened our defences but we were still very much alive behind the wall. It was only a matter of time. We moved out, aggressively making ground and slaying any creature that stood in our path. The terrain was difficult to traverse and the waters that once allowed beautiful plants and wildlife to flourish were turned to tar. The entire of northern Ascalon had been turned to nothing but rubble, an irreversible change; this made me think about the Prince's opinion further.
"The journey to Kryta felt like the only option after seeing the state of this now desolate wasteland."
Was there anything here left to defend or to live for? The journey to Kryta felt like the only option after seeing the state of this now desolate wasteland. Our party continued further, moving far from the wall and off to the west. The number of Charr scouts had increased as we moved, possibly a sign of a bigger force ahead. The path became thicker and thicker with Charr forces, slowing our progress considerably. We teared though them, group by group, leaving no survivors to report back until I saw a sight which sent shivers down my spine; a massive Charr force was approaching the wall at an alarming pace, as the Charr always did on their lithe cat like limbs. They were heading right for us, all we could do was run for our lives toward the wall to alert the others but they followed briskly on our tail. They were faster than us and were gaining on us but we moved as fast as we could south across the old bridge toward the wall, running, hearts racing and bodies aching. We felt their approach, the ground began to shake, dust filling the air from their heavy footsteps. Some of my men, so gripped by terror they could not see the many burnt roots that protruded from the scorched and scarred earth, they fell, and were no doubt enveloped by the massive Charr host, killed on the spot…or worse.

The pace increased further as we had almost reached the wall, we jumped down the final broken section of the bridge back to ground level and raced through the giant doors toward the captain. I briskly explained to him that the force was approaching. There were too many for us to hold back, the captain ordered a retreat to the only place left which would be able to give us any chance of survival; Fort Ranik. We informed as much of Ascalon as possible and headed to the great fort. The Charr were not going to give up easily however and it was inevitable that there was a war at hand, it would seem fate had out of nowhere presented us with a pivotal moment in the survival of our species. Weakened and already beaten by previous wars; we had to defend against this force or Ascalon would be wiped clean off the face of Tyria. This was one of the dangers of an inter-species war, everything the other side was planning and putting into operation behind closed doors was a complete and utter mystery to the other, as no Charr could pose as a human, and no human could be sent to the Charr as a spy.

The Battle of Fort Ranik

They approached the wall, again the ground began to shake, our rangers unleashed their first rain of arrows piercing into their front-most ranks, the Charrs heavy armour deflected many of the arrows, however even over the Charr war drums and the barked orders one could still discern the yelps of the odd arrow that had found its way to an eye, a neck, or an underarm. Our catapults flung giant rocks smashing down groups of them. They were still approaching, their pace slowed not one bit as they drew up ominously towards us.
"...to leave our humanity inside the gates, and grind the Charr into submission."
We continued again and again to fire off flurry after flurry of arrows to thin out their ranks as much as we could but they were relentless. Some hours later, the battle still raged on but the tide began to turn and we had changed what we thought was the end of Ascalon into the chance of a great victory, a chance to put the Charr cause back years. They had not yet broken through the wall as they lacked the usual siege equipment that the Charr were known for, they must have left the heavy machines behind, looking to take us by surprise and catch a quick and cheap victory. I joined up with Master Armin Saberlin and his force ready to charge from the main gates and engage the enemy head on. The gates began to open and the light shone though as the large fort doors parted. We were scared for our lives but knew that if we didn't win this battle; it could cost us more than our lives, but also the future of Ascalon, we owed it to our children, and their children, to steel ourselves, to leave our humanity inside the gates, and grind the Charr into submission.

We charged out, smashing into the remaining Charr forces. Slashing, stabbing and hacking we began to push through them and move from the fort gates, Spreading out to give each soldier room to swing his weapon. At this point they were moving backwards, but still in good order, pushing and pushing we forced them further back. I fought forward, bleeding from half a hundred wounds taken by blade, tooth and claw, I couldn’t feel them, none of us could, we were so caught up in the slaughter. It was hard to believe that we were starting to win this battle. The Charr were much larger than us in both size and build; they have massive sharp paws, thick fur with large metal plate armour and are able to move almost the same speed as us on horseback. With all of that against us, we were moving forward and forcing them back. Far north of Fort Ranik at this point and our aim now was to force them back north of the wall and out of our territory, Armin Saberlin was leading the force. We pushed further still but they had stopped moving backward just south of the wall and fortified their position. There were some broken trebuchets nearby which had been pulled from the south, they only needed some key parts and our engineers had found replacement parts on the battlefield. Once we had our siege weapons in place and ready; the fire order was called, large chunks of rock debris flew through the air and came down slamming groups of them to the ground, charging in for a second time we slaughtered many of the Charr forces. They were by this time disjointed and their formation was broken, they retreated north of the wall but took many wounded soldiers as prisoners as they fled. The Great Northern wall was ours again, the Charr now knew the fury of humanity, the lengths to which a person will go when all other options are exhausted, they knew now our will to survive may have been greater than their will to destroy. Our homes were razed to the ground, our armies were weak and they had breached our only defence, yet we still stood our ground and forced them back away from our loved ones. We had held the line, and pushed it forward for the first time since the searing battered our forces.
"The time for action has come. No more cowering behind this wall! From now on, we take the fight to our enemies, Ascalon will live in fear of these beasts no more. We march to the north, to free our brothers and take back that which has been taken from us." - Prince Rurik