“The Gran Flamm – Windhill War”
The offensives of the Great Alexandros Empire and the Windhill Kingdom started at the same time in an obvious show of coordination. This was yet another condition of the treaty between two, one that would leave the old capital temporarily vulnerable. All the same, both countries were wary of betrayal and aware that the upcoming battles would decide the future relations between them. Erwin wanted to destroy the remnants of Gran Flamm and, using the strength thus gained, to march on against Hashu and Orcus. This was the only way for him to reduce the difference in power between Windhill and Alexandros. The battle between his armies and those of the King would be joined inside the lands of Viscount Oakley, in the northern reaches of the eastern territories.
It would be a tough fight for the loyalists – they numbered barely twenty thousand while Erwin brought thirty thousand total. The King managed to muster fifteen thousand regular soldiers, three thousand of local militias and reinforcements of a thousand each from Hashu and Orcus, who surprisingly both answered Gran Flamm’s plea for troops. Some members of the government had pretty mixed feelings about the overall lack of strength of the relief troops, but they were hardly in a position to complain.
These same officials were even more bewildered by Prince Alexander’s of Orcus first words upon entering the command tent.
“Oh my! Your Grace! It is such a pleasure to see you in good health.”
“…It has been a long time, Prince Alexander.”
The target of such a lavish greeting was Ariel, invited to take part in the campaign due to her outstanding magical prowess. Prince Alexander’s presence managed to instantly sour her mood.
“My, my. Such a stern face. Your Grace is lovely as always and the scorn in your beautiful eyes makes my body and mind both burn with desire.”
“Outrageous. Keep saying such things and my h…”
Ariel managed to bite her tongue in time. She nearly invoked Rion’s name here.
Ariel stopped her words halfway. She had almost brought up Rion’s name
“Fortunately for me, Prince Frey is not here at the moment. I can woo Your Grace with impunity without having to fear for my life.”
Alex seemed to know what Ariel was about to say and, judging by his reaction to Ariel’s probing gaze, also knew that Rion was alive. This kind of scene had happened in the past during the Prince’s visits to Camargue, not once. He would make advances towards Ariel, she would complain to Rion, Rion would react with murderous, bloodthirsty, barely-restrained jealousy.
“Unfortunately, though, we have to postpone our glorious reunion for later, Your Grace. Duty calls,” he said turning towards the King. “Alexander Dante, Second Prince of the Kingdom of Orcus greets His Majesty the King of Gran Flamm. Behind me is Stiehl Loew, a general of our kingdom.”
The middle-aged man indicated came forward and made a shallow bow. The whole room breathed with relief. Stiehl was one of the most important military men in Orcus, having him posted here meant the relief forces would fight for real.
“We are Edward, the third of the name, King of Gran Flamm and We are grateful for your presence here. These gentlemen are Marcus Ostlund, the Marshall of the Crown, and Frederick Dawson, Commander of the Royal Order of Knights.”
“Where are the soldiers from Hashu?” asked Prince Alex completely ignoring the King’s reply. “I was sure they would arrive by now.”
“And we have.”
The answer came from behind the Prince, from two men of roughly the same age as him.
“…Hah,” Alex said, turning to face the pair. His carefree attitude momentarily gave way to an expression of challenge. “So you have come.”
“It would not do for anyone to steal a march on us. Now then…” said the stranger moving his gaze towards a different person. “…I am Harold Waltham, the second prince of Hashu. My most sincere greetings.”
Ariel startled realizing the Prince was looking at her.
“Viscountess Ariel Frey,” she said in reply. “The pleasure is mine.”
“Our Kingdom is greatly indebted to your husband. I am ashamed our first meeting comes so late.”
“There is no need, Highness. We have likewise received much help from your father and we still remember you stood with us during the Merican war.”
Harry’s Kingdom had mobilized its army to assist Rion during his Merican adventures and it was largely that action that dissuaded the Kingdom of Orcus from betrayal during the last engagement of that campaign. Ariel considered herself to be as indebted to Hashu, as Harry seemed to be to Rion.
“Thank you for such gracious words and, if I may be presumptuous, a measure of trust?”
“There is nothing presumptuous in that, Prince.”
Harry seemed to be satisfied with this conclusion and only now turned his attention to King Edward.
“Harold Waltham, Your Majesty. This is Fred Dobson, our ranking commander here.”
“…Is that so. We appreciate your presence here.”
The manner in which he was treated might be less than optimal, but the King decided to turn a blind eye to it. He could ill afford making the relief forces abandon his army and potentially also turning their home countries hostile. Having Hashu and Orcus as enemies at this juncture would be a terrible idea.
“May I have everyone’s attention?” prompted Marshal Ostlund. “Now that everyone has gathered, shall we start discussing the battle plan?”
“…Everyone, you say?” asked Harry voicing an objection. “Sir Blau is not coming?”
“Baron Blau…” the Marshal’s voice trailed away without finishing. The man wasn’t actually sure if it was fine to discuss the subject in the present company.
“Do you happen to be acquainted with Kiel?”
Arnold picked up the conversation without a moment of doubt, however, answering Harry’s question with one of his own.
“How could people of Hashu not know a Bandeaux Clan Head?”
“Reasonable enough, I guess. Kiel is currently… otherwise occupied.”
“Already deployed to the battlefield then. Fine. We can proceed.”
Harry immediately understood what Arnold meant by his words, especially when one considered the strength of the retinue from Bandeaux. Still, this exchange taught him to be wary of Arnold. The Crown Prince of Gran Flamm came across as someone like Alex of Orcus.
“Let us commence then. As everyone knows, the enemy numbers thirty thousand. A third of that number is the former standing army of House Windhill and those soldiers are the elite that will spearhead our enemy’s effort. That elite will be our focus and once we crush it, the battle will easily tip in our favor.”
That was easy to say. The problem was in achieving that result.
“To that end, we will deploy ten thousand of our knights in the center of our formation and array the remaining five thousand of Gran Flamm regulars to our left. We wish to leave the right flank to our allies from the east.”
At a first glance, the formation was clearly unreasonable.
“You would have our two thousand face ten?”
Harry was not convinced. The Windhill army was expected to divide its forces equally between the center and both wings. Even if the elite troops of the enemy would most likely end up in the middle, fighting at a five-to-one disadvantage would not be an easy thing to do.
“You will be given our militia as well but, even then, I can only implore you to hold no matter how insufficient the numbers may seem.”
“Assuming we agree and manage to hold. What then?”
“We will win.”
The Crown Marshal clearly had a strategy in mind but was rather stingy with details. That was not improving the mood of the delegations from Hashu and Orcus.
“You do understand that seeing our flank as the weakest, the enemy will try to press their advantage there, right? You do know what it means?!”
It was natural to aim at the weak point, thus it was very likely that Windhill army would move resources to attack harder on that flank. And once the enemy prevailed there, the outflanked knights in the center would be doomed too, no matter how strong they were as a formation.
“Yes, yes I do. And I do not demand that you hold for long.”
“…Is that so.”
This meant the right flank would be bait, weakened on purpose to invite the enemy to concentrate their efforts there. A move the very strong Clan forces could exploit. Still, Harry was left with one doubt – just who would fall for such a painfully obvious stratagem?
“Who is the enemy commander?”
“Erwin Windhill himself is leading the army.”
This was a do-or-die moment for Erwin’s newfangled kingdom, he was pouring all the resources into this war.
“What of the previous head of the House?”
Erwin was young and lacked experience. Harry thought it would be natural for somebody else to take the actual command.
“Lord Windhill withdrew from political life and took residence in Camargue.”
The only desire of Ariel’s parents was to spend their remaining days leisurely watching their granddaughter grow. To that end, he decided to live with their daughter in Bandeaux while ignoring the political storm raging around them. They would help neither their son nor the Kingdom of Gran Flamm. It was almost certain that right now they were together with Fleur.
“Would Erwin really fall for something so simple?”
If Erwin really was the commander, the chance of the trap being successful rose considerably, but nothing was ever certain when it came to war.
“If they do not, and choose to be wary of our right wing instead, that will be fine as well. Enemy keeping more soldiers in reserve means we have to face less of them on the front line.”
Marshal Ostlund was fully convinced that in an even-numbers fight his side would win. But Harry wasn’t the only one with concerns, Prince Alex also had a worry of his own.
“I have a question as well.”
“Does the Kingdom of Windhill also possess those ‘firearms’?”
“We… do not believe so.”
There was much less certainty in this reply. The possibility that Lancelot had lent Erwin some of his new weapons occurred to the Gran Flamm high command, but the investigation launched to make sure hadn’t turned up anything yet. All that could be said for sure was that the Windhill army hadn’t been seen with a firearm yet.
“Your words lack conviction, but that is fine too. If Erwin has firearms, our wing will not be the one to face them.”
Any guns in enemy possession would almost certainly be deployed in the center to decimate Gran Flamm’s main strength – the knights. Once the strongest formations of the loyalists were shattered, their cause would be doomed since they would never be able to replace those losses.
“Can I take this as everyone agreeing to the deployment plan? Good, let us continue.”
There were still many unresolved issues to discuss, but the meeting proceeded at a brisk pace. The battle was upon them and they had to steel their hearts for the upcoming fight. There was no time for pointless fretting.
In the end, Erwin did fall for the trap hook, line, and sinker. His army went for an all-out attack against the Gran Flamm’s right wing, but that rush was stopped in its track when the first lines of the formation were ripped to shreds by a wide-area offensive spell. Then, when the confused troops stopped to regroup, they suffered a charge from Hashu and Orcus cavalry making all order collapse.
“Hold the left flank!” yelled Erwin, fully intent to go onto defensive for a while to regain his army’s footing. “Do not falter!”
Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get the chance. At this exact moment, his right wing was unexpectedly attacked from the side introducing even more chaos into his formation. And when he was almost about to contain that, Bandeaux Clans showed up attacking his rear.
This was the secret strategy of Marshal Ostlund – poke at both flanks at first and, once the right was secured with the help of magic, grind down the enemy by focusing on the left, then center. As things had unfolded, almost everything worked out as the loyalists wanted. Almost, because to the high command’s surprise, the right flank was also hotly contested.
“They are strong. Too strong…” said Marcus, observing the events unfolding on the right anxiously. His army might have been winning, but it was also vastly exceeding expectations. Nobody expected the two former vassals of Gran Flamm to be that strong. This was a blessing as long as they remained friendly, but if that ever changed, the Kingdom would have to worry about its rear. The five thousand troops left as a garrison in Bandeaux would not be enough to repel an invasion from the east.
“It’s not just them,” replied the Knight Commander.
“Fair comment, the militia from Bandeaux is there too.”
“I did not mean them. What occurred there, happened largely thanks to the prowess of Lady Frey.”
Ariel’s magic was the reason why Erwin’s army couldn’t bring its numbers properly to bear against the Kingdom’s right flank. Whenever a large formation of troops attempted to assemble, a magic assault would be launched in that direction, and then as soon as those soldiers dispersed to limit casualties, cavalry would savage their loose ranks.
“…As expected of Rion Frey’s wife, I guess.”
“And yet we still seem to have underestimated her. Even though we knew they were both in battles together and he was always happy to trust his back to her.”
This was the moment the Kingdom had at last recognized Ariel’s worth.
From where the two of them stood, the battle looked as good as won to Marcus now, so he turned to issue the final order.
“Proceed with the attack against the enemy center.”
But Frederick reached out to stop him.
“A while longer, Lord Marshal. The enemy is bound to make one last, desperate move. Then we can go all out.”
“…Let it be so.”
They didn’t have to wait long.
A reserve formation of royal guards could be seen leaving Erwin’s headquarters in the direction of his left flank. Erwin himself would be joining the fight.
“Your Majesty, please, stop! A king should not risk his life in battle!”
The young king’s former butler, Will, now a Commander of Royal Knights, was desperately trying to dissuade his liege from this course of action.
“If I do not, the battle is lost!”
“It will be just one loss, Sire! There will be other battles to fight and win!”
Fortunately, none of the soldiers heard those words. There was nothing more effective at destroying soldiers morale than a commander that admitted the battle was lost. It was a bit early too, after all, the respective army centers had not engaged each other properly yet. Any impartial observer would judge that Will was not capable of executing his current duties, and so it was in reality. He was, as ever, simply Erwin’s caretaker and guardian.
“I don’t care about losing! Have you not seen the nobles?! How shaken they all look?!”
There was a problem lingering at the roots of the Windhill Kingdom. When Erwin had assumed the role of the head of the House, the former Lord Marquess had cut all his ties with his son. This had caused a great deal of commotion among the subordinate families. Viscount Austin, the strongest of them all, had only barely managed to quell that with great difficulty. The subsequent successful surprise attack against the Gran Flamm seat of government and founding of a new nation had been supposed to settle that to bed once and for all, but it just hadn’t had the effect.
At the moment, the only internal ally Erwin could count on was Austin Lange, his own prime minister. Some of his vassals, secretly or overtly, wished for the return of the old Lord.
The resulting division led to the nobles aligning to either a small “former lord’s” faction, bigger “king’s” faction, and a neutral faction dwarfing both of the other two. Right at this moment, the number of those moderates, unaligned, and undeclared seemed scarily large. And Erwin had nothing to sway them to his side. Not even prestige, that was meant to come as a result of this war.
“There is no need for this! We can still sway them!”
“This is why I am trying to win! Just shut up and follow me! We are almost at the front already!”
By winning, Erwin did not mean the battle, he wanted to triumph over Ariel. The amount of damage her efforts had inflicted on his army had not gone unnoticed amongst the nobles in the command tent. And it evoked quite a reaction.
Ariel, a tragic heroine that had risen from the depths of despair to become the wife of a Kingdom’s hero, was the pride of her former House. As long as the deeds of the couple were extolled in bars and pubs all over the land, there were plenty of both nobles and commoners happy to associate themselves with the hero and his wife. The very same Ariel was now standing against them, giving a display of awe-inspiring power that was gaining her respect and fear of all nobles associated with her former House. The very same respect and fear that was supposed to be Erwin’s.
Thus, he had to come to answer, and here he was. The only way forward for him was to show superiority over his father by killing his sister as he had always favored the girl over him. The only question remaining was – could he do it?
He focused his power and the clouds boiled soon giving birth to an enormous tornado that soon touched down and started dancing its way towards the army of Gran Flamm.
Ariel faced the monstrous irrationality without a hint of fear and raised her right hand slowly. Before long, the oncoming maelstrom was robbed of all its strength, reduced to a breeze barely strong enough to ruffle her hair.
But things didn’t end there. Soon, the wind regained its momentum, this time with Ariel as the eye of the storm. The gale was tremendous, but its scope was limited to just around the girl’s body. And then, it lifted her high into the air carrying her to where Erwin was waiting.
“…It has been a very long time, brother dearest. How have you been lately?”
Ariel’s greeting was completely unsuited for the scenery and, at first, both Erwin and his retinue froze in surprise. Once that passed, the guards tried to rush and kill her, to no avail though. All that approached were violently flung away by the wind.
“It is so good to see you. After all, I have been positively dying to ask – is Father’s blood really flowing through your veins?” she continued to ask with the sweetest of grins.
“W-What are you on about?”
“Do you not see? Your magic is nowhere close to that of a direct descendant, is it not?”
“…Nonsense! Stop this at once!”
This question dredged up an uninvited memory from far back in the past when Rion had claimed Erwin’s magic was nowhere close to what not only Ariel but even Vincent could do.
“You,” she said again, turning her gaze to Will. “Do you not agree?”
This turn of conversation drained blood from Will’s face. It was now obvious to him that this was all a great mistake. That if Rion had known the truth, Ariel would know it too. He should have never allowed those two to meet on the battlefield.
“…Withdraw. Majesty, we must retreat. Now.”
And the only solution in his panicked mind was to flee.
“Royal Guard! We fall back! Protect the king!”
Will issued the orders in a rush, not giving Erwin time to gather his thoughts and make a decision. The guard, trained and obedient, started to forcefully evacuate their reluctant king. Ariel was not pursuing, but she had few last words for her brother.
“Erwin! Brother dearest! Blade of the Blue Wind is with me, given by Father a long time ago! It is yours for the taking! If you wish to have it, that is…”
The blade was the symbol of power of House Windhill. You could not call yourself a rightful head if it was not in your possession and all of the vassals of the family knew that. Now that it resurfaced in Ariel’s hands, it would throw the entire Windhill Kingdom into chaos.
revised on 8th January 2018
Translation by Hikkinomori Translations
with the kind permission of the author
All rights to Ayato-sensei