The country of Slothjemia sits at the crossroads of the continent. To the south are very different cultures and peoples than can be found to the north of the kingdom, and the relatively small nation that sits between them serves as a very effective buffer between powers that would otherwise clash quite badly. It gives Slothjemia a bit more breathing room to do as it pleases, but also restricts the manner in which it can expand its borders.
The morning reveille was a couple hours away when Grundoon was awakened by a loud frantic pounding on his bedroom door. “What do you want?” He bellowed.
“General, there is an urgent message from High Command.” Grundoon didn’t recognize the voice but it sounded frantic. At this hour whoever it was had better be frantic.
Grundoon sat up and shook his head to try and get his eyes open. “Hold on” he yelled. While he was struggling to wake up, he heard Jandle’s door open and the clicky-pad of the kobold’s feet scurrying across the dark room to answer the knocking.
Jandle threw the door open and blinked in the torchlight from the hall. It was one of the junior mages assigned to the garrison, a human lieutenant that the general was unfamiliar with. There was no salute, just a desperate sounding man doing his best to not speak too fast.
“Sir, we just received word from High Command that Romillia has launched an attack on the coreland. Their skycruisers struck Summit Village. Air Commandos seized control of the defenses and we have lost contact with the garrison there.” The lieutenant paused and caught his breath. He was able to speak more clearly and calmly now that the message had been delivered. “High Command will be sending us more details and battle orders soon. Major Hemlock is monitoring the communication crystal now; I am supposed to return to my post there after telling you what happened.”
The mage stood awkwardly in the doorway while Grundoon digested this information. Jandle looked at the lieutenant, and back at his master. The general took a deep breath and released it slowly.
“Ah. Thank you, lieutenant.” He gave a dismissive wave and scratched his head. “Tell Hemlock I am on my way.” The lieutenant muttered something and took off back down the hall. Grundoon motioned for Jandle to close the door. “Fetch me some pants Jandle. Looks like a helluva day just kicked into our happy lives.”
As the general was getting dressed he told Jandle “Wake up the senior staff. Have them meet in the communication hall, don’t tell them the reason why. Just get them there quickly.” Jandle saluted sharply and took off to carry out his mission. Grundoon put on his boots, grabbed his tunic and headed off down the hall himself. He didn’t bother buttoning his uniform. He rubbed his head as he walked, his mind running a hundred miles an hour. There had never been a war between Romillia and Slothjemia. In fact, the two countries had hardly had any interaction at all. Their border ran along the eastern peaks of the Kragalian Alps, and there were only a few passes in the mountains through which commerce or an army could cross. And while magic and monsters made most anything possible, it was the belief of most in the military that this border was as secure as it could be, and easily the most secure border Slothjemia had. To have war break out changed everything. This sounded like it was not a raiding party so common elsewhere in the realm. To attack one of the cities of the coreland was going to shake Slothjemia.
This was big. Grundoon paused, standing in a corridor near a window. He looked out of the window, and a smile crossed his face. He almost laughed aloud. This was going to be a distraction. The biggest distraction possible. He savored this revelation. Seeing the stars twinkling in the wee hours of the morning Grundoon felt utterly refreshed.
Jarred back to reality by the sound of others bustling towards the communication hall the general resumed making his way there as well. Even though the 6th Army was stationed way over in the southwest corner of the country it was not unreasonable to think that the High Command would send them towards the battlefield. If in fact there was a battlefield. Certainly Summit Village would need to be recaptured, but in a war with skycruisers capable of dropping enemy troops anywhere they wanted it wasn’t going to be a conventional campaign.
Grundoon fairly burst into the communication hall. Major Hemlock was there, standing behind the lieutenant that had earlier visited the general. Now the junior mage was sitting at the small ornate table in the center of the room intently watching the crystal globe sitting in the middle on a graceful golden stand. Hemlock looked up when the general entered, nodded and said simply “Nothing yet.”
The general looked around the room and saw that a couple of his senior officers had already arrived. They were chatting quietly near a large wall map of Slothjemia. Somebody had made a big red circle around Summit Village with faerie fire, and it shimmered in a fashion that was both enthralling and disturbing. This was where the war started thought Grundoon. Where though might it end?
The other officers made it to the hall over the next ten minutes. All went right over to the large map and studied it while they talked. Jandle had been instructed not to tell them what was going on, but they had been told by Hemlock and the lieutenant about the first message. After they had all gathered, Grundoon had Jandle close the door to the hall and secure the lock.
The general cleared his throat and the other officers stopped chatting and turned their full attention to him. “The High Command has informed us that we are now in a state of war with Romillia.” He pointed at the map. “They have attacked and taken control of Summit Village, as you see located very near the border. Skycruisers dropped in Air Commandos. A sneaky trick.” The officers looked at the map, and then back at Grundoon. He could tell that they were expecting more information. “That’s all we know for the time being. I ordered you here, so you could be present when more details were sent.” There was silence for a bit, and then the officers began talking in earnest amongst themselves. Grundoon walked over to Major Hemlock and put his hand on the old lizardman’s shoulder.
“I’ll be here should there be more contact with anyone further up the food chain.” He said. “Let’s do what we can to keep rumors from circulating and make sure the garrison is kept fully informed.” He turned to Blackcowl and said “Wake up the junior officers. Have them meet in the assembly hall and tell them what we know, so far. Everyone will need to stand by in case we are ordered to deploy outside of Vorkelburg.”
The gnoll saluted in his casual manner and smiled. “You got it general. We’ll be ready.” Jandle unlocked the door, and Blackcowl left the room, barking orders at the soldiers on guard duty outside the hall. Jandle closed the door and stood by should it need to be locked again.
It was almost time for morning reveille when the crystal once more sparked to life and the crackling disembodied voice of the Lord High Marshal filled the room. The officers snapped to attention, including Blackcowl, who had already filled in the junior officers on what was happened. Grundoon may not have snapped as sharply as he did when he was younger and of lesser rank, but his undivided attention was on that crystal, and the missive it was delivering. The booming voice low and commanding said:
“Attention all military units of the Slothjemian Empire. We are at war with Romillia. Repeat, we are at war with Romillia. The 1st Army is to report at once to Four Corners for deployment towards the Romillian frontier. The 7th Army is to secure all passage through the Helbert Pass in the Duchy of Barokovia. The 4th Army is to secure the city of Reichstanta and keep the port out of the hands of the enemy. All other units should secure their garrisons and maintain diligent patrols throughout their designated region in accordance with the needs of the local nobility and securing the assets therein to establish the peace. All volunteer militia and every reserve unit should make contact with the Lord Cleaver’s office to receive further instruction for immediate deployment. Note every instance of Romillian airships over our domain and be aware of enemy threats throughout the country. The Crown expects all in uniform to defend our nation and defeat our enemies. That is all.”
Major Temlar was the first to speak. “I didn’t hear us mentioned. Do we get to fight?” The other officers chuckled nervously.
General Grundoon laughed. “We will fight. If those Air Commandos find their way to Vorkelburg, we’ll fight.” The other officers laughed too. “Let’s get everyone roused and into formation in the courtyard. Then I think we need to have ourselves a conference.” He turned to Hemlock and added “Tell me if there is any other word from the Lord High Marshal or the Herzgraf.”
The officers headed off to their respective units to get everyone awake and into uniform. Jandle followed behind Grundoon as the general made his way to the small balcony overlooking the great courtyard. The general didn’t say a word while he waited for his soldiers to assemble. He just leaned on the rampart and thought about his options. There was not a lot of wiggle room. He had to keep Vorkelburg secured. But this corner of Slothjemia was not where the war was going to take place. If Grundoon wanted to see actual battle he would have to go to where the fighting was and not just wait to see if the fight came to him. There was little question about his troops wanting to fight. They were in the Slothjemian army. By definition they were spoiling for a fight.
The reveille horns were blown throughout the citadel and the junior officers, already alerted to the war but unaware of the recent details, herded their soldiers to the courtyard and began forming up in ranks. There were almost six thousand in the garrison and they ranged from the smallest kobolds to the mightiest ogres. When standing in ranks they were a motley bunch to be sure. It took a few minutes to get everyone in place and there was far more murmuring in the ranks than there normally would be. Grundoon held his hands up as a sign for the assemblage to quiet down.
All troops gazed upwards at their commandant. His harsh, gravelly voice carried nicely in this open space. The citadel’s courtyard offered amazing acoustics, and all who were there heard Grundoon clearly. He transformed his voice from its normally low tone to a booming roar.
“Good morning, lads and lasses! I hope you slept well last night.” He motioned to the burned out remains of Hossler’s funeral pyre atop the eastern bombard tower. “Last night’s revelry will be the last taste of peaceful festivities you will have for quite some time, I reckon. We are at war with the dwarves and humans of Romillia!” Several gasps and exclamations arose from the troops. Grundoon motioned for them to be quiet. “Yes, yes…. Our long peaceful friends to the east have decided for whatever reason that they want to fight with us. And may their gods be merciful to them…. Because we shall crush them like maggots in a rotten apple!”
The soldiers roared their approval and applauded. Grundoon again motioned for them to be still. “Never has Slothjemia been attacked when she did not respond with overwhelming and crushing force! Never have we stood idly by to let our people suffer the indignities of loss or destruction! We are a people cast out of nations that deem themselves too good for us. They think that because we take in their so-called garbage that we are weak. That we will not fight when we are insulted! They clearly have not learned from our history!” Another roar of applause and hollers from the gathered soldiers.
Grundoon continued with increasing gusto. “Let everyone here now be alerted that though this war may seem far away to our beloved garrison, we will not wait for the enemies of our land to come to us for a fight! We shall deliver this war to them! We shall take this battle that they asked for, and we shall well and truly cram it down their throats!” The crowd went wild. Not a great orator, Grundoon was nonetheless extremely commanding in this element. “If they hunger for war let us serve them death by the cartload!” The citadel had never heard such rapturous thundering of approval. Somewhere in the mass of ecstatic soldiers Lieutenant Kozzurd, an urdish wizard who insisted folks call him ‘Kozzurd the Magnificent,’ called out “And for gravy let them have blood!” The garrison was all but unhinged with fervor.
The general gave them some time to calm down a little and then closed his comments with “So go now, prepare your weapons and tend to your armor. Gather up food and provisions for extended patrols, and ready up drayage for transport. To arms! To arms! For her Imperial Majesty, Queen Reichsha the Countess of Slothjemia, and all that she rules, to arms!”
With that he turned and made his way purposefully to his office. He barked out at a passing junior officer “I want all senior staff in my office immediately. Go!” He wanted Jandle close to his side. It was time for the squire to make his master ready for war.